1515) 'Global' Terrorism: Main Reasons

I. Terrorism as an Indication of Social Problems

What is Terrorism?

Recently, with the additional effect of popularization, there has been almost countless number of terrorism definitions. The common point of all definitions was their description of terror as “illegal”, “evil” and “an unwanted phenomenon”. Its lawlessness and its merciless attacks without differentiating between innocent-criminal, civil-armed are listed as other characteristics of terrorism. Violence and blood-shedding… Lurid acts… The list of terror’s characteristics may further be extended.

Almost all evils and troubles are attributed to terror and terrorists.

From this point of view, the terror seems as if it is not belonging to our world. As if it has come from far away, from a kind of “world of darkness”… Hence, dark and ugly faces are preferred when portraying terrorists. Most of the time, the terrorist’s face or eyes are not even shown. Terror is described by extremely abstract and contentious concepts like “dark”, “monster”, “devil”, “the origins of all evils”, as if the people prefer to overlook the fact that a terrorist is a human being as well and the terror is an act which belongs to the human beings, if not humane.

To exemplify, the “terror monster” speeches, which depicts terror as a kind of “monster”, are frequently used. In Turkey, where there is the “monster” of everything, the Turks are used to such situations, but reflecting terror as a kind of monster is also common among the peoples of the world.[1] But presentation of a problem as a “monster” is not peculiar to terrorism. Today, as it had been in the ancient times, people tend to generate “monsters” in case they face unclarified, unsolved problems and it can be said that there are monsters in modern times as much as it had been in the ancient times: For instance, it is a common practice in Turkey to characterize inflation, traffic accidents and drugs as “monsters”. However, “monster” is a creature that doesn’t exist and in this regard, the human mind tends to explain the problems that are unresolved and beyond the defined boundaries in this way. Describing the problems like terror and drug as “monster” or “devil” distances, or even alienates us from the problem at first. It makes us think that we are facing a problem that we cannot solve or cope with. We are no more the roots of the problem. Now, there is a “monster” or “devil” in the root of the problem. In other words, there is an unknown, that is, “something that doesn’t belong to us”. By classifying the concepts that we don’t want to include into our world as “monster”, we alienate ourselves from the problem, we, as individuals or the society, oversee – or wish to oversee- the problem. In the case of traffic monster, we construct a “traffic monster” and blame the full responsibility on it as if it was not us who make accidents, who fail to build a good infrastructure, who make mistakes when driving etc. By this way, we acquit our friends, our families, ourselves etc.

Other concepts that are most frequently used are “dark”, “evil” and “source of evil”. The terrorist organizations are always described in “darkness” (dark side of terror), and the terrorist leaders are defined as the “dark masters of terror”. Defining terror as “evil” is perhaps the most common way.[2] Furthermore, the politicians, the most prominent of whom is the US President George W. Bush, the diplomats and the media are sure that the terrorists are conducting “evil affairs” and that their leaders are “evil personalities”. George W. Bush even went a step further and mentioned of an alliance of “evil axis”.

That is to say, terror is the root of evil. It is evil by nature. It can not be good. If it is good, it cannot be itself. When the good-bad distinction is so sharp and certain, there are not many options left in this case. The bad must be eliminated without any attempt to discuss or understand it. There are no intermediary options in this mentality. It is not sufficient to focus on the causes of terror either. While the causes, sources, methods etc. of terror are important, its elimination is essential and this can only be achieved through its own mentality, in other words, violence.

Terrorism as a Social Symptom

The statements made after a terrorist attack are full of clichés, just like there are clichés in its definition:

“They cannot attain anything through terror”, “we will win our struggle against terror”, “those who opt for terror as a goal are in a dead-end and are doomed to lose”.

However, the truth is not as simple as it is thought and said.

That the terrorists will lose may be correct to some extent. Those who choose terrorism as a method will lose because they resorted to terror for they thought that they were among the losers and that they had nothing to lose. In other words, terrorist organizations are like a “club of the weak” at the beginning. If they could have been physically or intellectually strong and could have accommodated themselves within the system, then there had been little possibility for them to choose terror. But if the subject in question is terror, then we can not talk of winning or losing. Because terrorism neither wins nor loses. Terrorism is not a rival that you can cope with. It appears when certain conditions emerge and disappears as those conditions are eliminated. But this disappearance is not forever. It will not come back as long as you don’t invite it or you don’t prepare the suitable conditions for it. So, if terrorism penetrates your life, it is you who invite it, intentionally or unintentionally.

Terrorism is beyond the perceptions which we tried to summarize earlier. It is not a monster, not a devil. It is not an enemy that you can destroy or overthrow. Terrorism in fact is an indication, a symptom. It is a clue that something is going wrong. Just like the disorders of the body are revealed by “pain”, one of the “pains” of the social problems is terrorism. Especially a terrorist movement which attains a massive scale demonstrates that there are significant problems in the society. There is no one kind of pain in social problems just like the pains in the body. Hence, terrorist activities can not be grasped by a single formula. There are no fixed, unchanged causes for terrorism. As the head ache, stomach ache or tooth ache indicate different problems, kinds of terror similarly point to different problems in the society. In this regard, struggle with the terror itself is meaningless.

Just like obstinacy won’t help get rid of head ache, which is impossible, the struggle against terror alone is not possible and accurate either.

But this doesn’t mean let it happen…

Surely not!

We take a painkiller to stop the head ache. Similarly, there are painkillers for terrorism:

The painkiller of terrorism is the preventive intervention of security forces. Police or military operations alone are interventions in the form of painkiller. But we must keep in mind that none of the painkillers eliminate chronic diseases. They only help to hide the pain and the problem. There may be more painful aches after a comfortable night. If there is an illness in the stomach, or a tumor in the brain, painkillers cause harm rather than prove useful. They prevent the solution of the problem and delay the diagnosis of the real causes. Similarly, dealing with terror only through security forces not only leads us to oversee the problem but makes the problem deeper and irresistible.

If we consider the body-society similarity, terrorism is a strong symptom for understanding the problems within the society and these problems may be solved more easily if diagnosed early. One thing to keep in mind is that terrorism is the result of the mistakes made by us, as the society. Attributing the crime to badness found in human being’s nature or to an unknown creature and then to oppress violence through violence by using security apparatus will not solve the problem. The problem lies somewhere much deeper. It is perhaps the political system, perhaps the economic system or perhaps the cultural atmosphere. And most of the time, it has its roots in tens of fields. In other words, terror stems from political, economic, social, cultural or similar fields rather than security. Therefore, a security-oriented approach to struggle against terror becomes insufficient right from the beginning. A struggle approach lacking in social, economic, political dimensions is in fact not a struggle, but it delays and deepens the problem.

Struggle against Terror – Struggle against the Terrorist

We mustn’t forget that struggle against terrorists may not end terror. Whatever the number of terrorists killed or whatever the number of terrorist organizations undermined, terror may escalate. Each terrorist killed may cause new terrorists to emerge. In this regard, the priority in struggle against terrorism is not struggling physically, by use of force. In eliminating terrorism, the priority must be given to social needs. The public opinion, the accurate use of the media and economic, social, cultural, educational means must be implemented to eliminate terror. These sentences may sound cliché or heroic. Or they may even be perceived as a “pigeon view”. There may be criticisms like “will terror stop by opening up schools?”, “will bombings stop by building hospitals?”. These reactions are partially true. But the method we mentioned above was not implemented properly. Unfortunately, not only in Turkey but also in other countries, the fight was against the terrorists, not the terror. Instead of true operations and preventive studies, bandages and painkillers were applied. The struggle against terror was taken as a contrast between “State-Terrorist”. However, terrorists and terror, perhaps reflexively, worked for persuading the people rather than the state. They did it sometimes elegantly, sometimes by use of the social problems mentioned above. In addition, the terrorists are quite content with the state’s perception of the problem as a “State-Terrorist” contrast. Because, by this way, terrorists succeed to penetrate into a structure which they can slowly damage. The state is pulled into a zone the terror prefers.

To summarize, when the states regard terror as a dark power to be eliminated and fail to see the fact that it is indeed a reflection of political and social problems, then terrorists will benefit that. As a result of this view, the states focus on elimination rather than solution. This approach is easily noticed when we look at especially the US’ and Israel’s approach to terror in the Middle East. When there are evil forces against you, then you rule out the alternatives of persuading or changing them. For worse, even the problem can not be understood clearly. As a result of this categorical approach, terror is considered to be uniform. However, as there is no uniform terror, there are also actors which sometimes use terror as an instrument, but which are not terror organizations characteristically.

II. The Global Terror and Terror in the Middle East

If we are to apply our approach that “Terror can not be groundless. Terror is the extension of political, economic and social problems”, which we tried to detail above, to the contemporary terror incidents, we will see the following setting:

First of all, the most significant reason of terror’s occupying such an important space today is the ignorance of the problem and even its perception by some countries as a tool in their foreign policies. During the Cold War, the communist and capitalist blocs supported the terrorist actions against each other, and they behaved on the basis of ideology even when they were classifying the terrorist organizations. Marxist terrorist organizations were regarded by Moscow as liberation movements against imperialism, whereas the US regarded capitalist, right-wing groups as resistance movements against communism. Turkey was the country which had been most negatively-affected country from this view. During the 1960s and 1970s, the leftist terrorist organizations in Turkey were supported by Russia and their allies like Syria and Bulgaria. If the terrorist organizations of the period are examined, it will be easily understood that it was impossible for these organizations to smuggle enormous amounts of arms and ammunitions into Turkey without outsider assistance. Similarly, the Armenian terror, focusing on Turkey’s missions abroad, was supported by Russia and some other countries. The Armenian terrorist organization, ASALA, had conducted actions in all continents more successfully than even the most prominent intelligence agencies, and it had not been caught in almost any of these incidents. Even the perpetrators of the assassinations carried out in France, Greece, US, Switzerland and in many other countries have not been found. None of the terrorist organizations can be so successful without getting the support of a state.

The right-wing terrorism in Turkey had also been backed by the West. Although the rightist terrorist organizations seemed to be established to fight against communism, the executive assassinations, which prepared grounds for military interventions in the most sensitive periods of Turkey, had been carried out by this kind of terrorist cells.

When the terrorist organizations in Turkey are examined, it can be noticed without doubt that they are supported by some states or their extensions, or they have found support circles within the Turkish state. Their second characteristic is their income generation through illegal means such as drug and human trafficking, usurpation, theft and kidnapping. It has been revealed that some states turn a blind eye to their actions and finance the terrorist organizations in this way. For instance, PKK’s drug trafficking took place as the Syrian authorities went unnoticed to this action for a long time. PKK still controls the 75% of the drugs smuggled into Europe.

Another example of not paying enough attention to terrorism and its use as a foreign policy tool has been the PKK camps in Northern Iraq. As known, PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization in the US, the EU and many other countries. The English intelligence agency MI5 even described PKK as “the most dangerous organization in the world”. Despite this situation, PKK can establish armed camps, associations, foundations etc. in the US-controlled Iraq. Today, most of the terrorist operations conducted against Turkey are originating from the US-occupied Iraq. The US, despite its pledges and Turkey’s insistence, is not closing down the PKK camps and associations. The US defines its war against al-Qaeda as the war on terror and she gets Turkey’s support for that, but her inaction against the Kurdish terrorism raises doubts.

When the terror events in the Middle East are examined in general, it will be understood that the events are not planned by a few evil personality, but are the extension and continuation of the policies pursued in the region. The US had been the leading country supporting Taleban in Afghanistan. The US, together with Pakistan, had seen Afghanistan as an important ally against Iran. However, Afghanistan was a base for terrorists in that period too. She was at the heart of drug-trafficking and was the heaven of the extremities. It was the same Afghanistan which was supported and occupied by the US. Similarly, one of the countries which supported Hamas in its first years was Israel. The Jewish state supported the Islamists with the hope that they would balance al-Fatah but now they blame even the Hamas-led government, which was elected by one of the most democratic elections in the Arab world, as “terrorist”. Hence, one of the primary and most significant causes of the terror in the Middle East is the inconsistent and double-standard terror approaches of the states.

Secondly, “the Arab world” has been continuously experiencing a humiliation. The Arab states, since their foundations, have faced imperialist interventions, have been unable to unify and cooperate. When they attempted to cooperate, this was obstructed intentionally because of the fears that it might turn against the West. The Arab states, repeatedly humiliated in Palestine, handed over Israel not only their territories but also their self-confidence as well. Following the Palestine disaster, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and its “liberation” by the Western powers have become another shame. Later on, the attack on Iraq, occupation of the country and murder of more than 100.000 Arabs during the occupation have further belittled the Arabs. The maltreatment against the Arabs in Ebu Ghraib during occupation and the silence of the Arab world to the scandal have been another source of shame. When Israel’s attitude of not recognizing the borders is added to all of these, the Arabs totally lose all their hopes. None of the Israeli actions have even been condemned by the Security Council. The reaction of Israel, destroying the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip as a response to the kidnapping of her soldier, is considered to be “temperate” by the countries like the U.S., England and Canada. Whatever the number of civilians killed by Israel, she still asserts that she is fighting against terrorism. As a result, the Arab world widely believes that Israel is the “golden child” of the West. The Arab peoples have reached the conclusion that Israel could conduct any kind of aggression and humiliation, but these acts could not be stopped by the Arab states. In other words, the Arabs have finally come to a point of despair.

The list of the reasons of despair and victimization feelings may further be extended. But more important than those is the relative backwardness of the Arab countries in many fields like education, health services, economy, politics and many more. As even for the access to the internet, which is one of the major indications of development, the Arabs lag far behind the African countries. Regarding the economic integration in the world markets, the least successful region is the Arab world. Hence, another source of this victimization feeling in the Arab world is this backwardness.

In short, the overwhelming majority of Arabs have feelings of despair and victimization regarding their relations with the West and Israel. For the masses which have nothing to lose, it is much more easier to rely on extremities.

Not only the Arabs but also Muslims allover the world think that the West is not treating justly and that the Muslims can not defend their rights through legitimate and legal ways. What is going on in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia further strengthened this thought. In this context, the Muslim world needs a miracle to trust the West again and to disclaim the use of illegitimate ways. If not, neither the terror nor the instability will end in the region.

The much needed miracle for the Muslim world can be Turkey’s full membership in the EU. The Turkey’s almost half-a-century endeavor for EU membership is confronted by a religious and racist resistance in Europe. Not only Turkey but also the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus faces a similar discrimination. Some groups in Europe are struggling to maintain the EU as a Christian club. A similar discrimination was also experienced by Azerbaijan. Although 20% of her territories is still under Armenian occupation, the EU and the U.S. has long criticized and even punished Azerbaijan instead of Armenia. In this regard, it is hard to say that religiosity in Europe is less influential than in the Muslim world. For worse, the religious groups in the West are influential enough to determine the policy behaviors of their states. In such an atmosphere, it is inevitable for Christian and Jewish religious radicalism to face resistance and to see its counterpart in the Muslim world. Unless the West acts consistently and justly towards the rest of the world, it is impossible to stop terror in the Muslim world. The best way for the West to show its goodwill is to facilitate Turkey’s EU membership and to behave not as a Christian club but as a union defending universal values. Turkey’s EU membership will significantly contribute to the elimination of polarization between the parties. Turkey, especially together with Turks, Arabs, Iranians and other Muslims numbering over 15 million in the EU, can be the voice of the Muslims in the world governance. By this way, the miracle needed by the Arabs and Muslims would be realized and the West, perhaps for the first time, would treat fairly and justly towards the East. In this case, Turkey, as part of both the West and the East and Islam, will be the first step for a sound relationship. This process and Turkey’s EU membership will be a good response to the fundamentalist mentality of al-Qaeda.

Another instrument to stop terrorism in the Middle East is definitely regional integration. This integration doesn’t have to be initiated in the most problematic areas. If countries with relatively less problems are able to cooperate and integrate, the wealth will soon spread to the neighborhoods and will eliminate the regions of terrorism and instability. Turkey and Egypt assume great roles in this case. It takes only one hour by flight from the south of Turkey to the north of Egypt. Moreover, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is between these two countries. As the two major powers of the Muslim world, the rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt will expand to other fields. The two countries also need a closer cooperation internationally. In addition to that, a cooperation channel to be established along Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt will considerably contribute to a peace settlement in Palestine. Similarly, a cooperation and integration channel must also be established between the Gulf countries and the other countries of the Middle East. Also, cooperation must be set up between Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. The lack of connection between the markets increases the costs in each country, and causes lack of communication in political field. The region can attain from a conflict-oriented mentality to a cooperation-oriented mentality only through economic means.

By the same token, economic means should be used more in Palestine. Actually, the Palestine problem is probably one of the easiest conflicts to be resolved. It is easy to see that a few billion dollars of investment in Palestine and its integration into the Israeli economy will strike a heavy blow to terror. The problem arises from Israel’s conflict-oriented approach. Despair, humiliation, unemployment, lack of education and poverty will definitely produce terror.

III. Leading Reason Of Global Terror: Gap In Representation Of Greater Middle East

The world is looking for the reasons of the Islamist (religionist) extremism and terrorism. The 7/7 bombs exploded in London provide very useful clues about the reasons:

The bombs exploded in the tube stations and in the bus once again proved how close the Western people to the terror. When a few of the bombs exploded everyday in Baghdad hit London, a hidden state of panic aroused in every country from Canada to France. The metro stations were abandoned, the routine controls in the airports turned in to extra ordinary ones. After the bombs the confusion and the facial expression of British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking “Why London” is still fresh. After the bombings during the G8 Summit in Scotland, Tony Blair made statements taking the G8 leaders and the other guest leaders near him. Thus “entire world is against terror” message was wanted to give. The support for Blair was great: The leaders of the six richest countries in the world (USA, France, Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy); Russia (included to G8 because of its military and political might); India; China; Mexico and Republic of South Africa with their relative weights in the world affairs even they are not richest or most powerful, furthermore the President of the EU Commission, President of the IMF, President of the World Bank and the Secretary General of the UN supported Blair. “The bosses of the world” were altogether in the real sense. The interesting thing was the absence of a Muslim leader in that frame. While the most important problems of the world were experiencing in the Muslim countries (Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Chechnya etc.), there were no Muslim leader among the rulers of the world and the ones asked for their opinions. There was no Middle Eastern voice in the G8 meeting and the bombs exploded. The territories that could not be represented through the legal ways, spoke through illegal ways (read through terror). Busses and metro stations were blown up. The leaders of the world were confused. They immediately tried to give unity messages. However the frame that was taken in the G8 Summit was vividly indicating the clear democratic deficit in the global governance.

As it is known, the top level political decisions on global problems are undertaken in the UN Security Council. We should admit that there is no democracy there. The five permanent members (USA, Russia, China, France and Britain) have extensive competence including right to veto. There is no Muslim country among these. Interim members are sometimes included and some are currently Muslim countries (Libya and Yemen) by hazard, but their representation power is close to zero. The main Muslim states, notably Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan or Iran, are not member of the Security Council. Turkey could manage to become the member of the Council only once and it was a half term membership.

The representation deficit is at the exorbitant in the other global bodies too. Far East, America as a continent, Europe and even Africa is highly represented in the bodies from the IMF to the World Bank; however Muslim countries are not represented or hardly represented without representation powers.

A similar occasion is also relevant for the European Union (EU). 150 million Muslims live in Europe including the former Soviet Republics. More than 15 million Muslims live in the EU countries. With Turkey, TRNC, Azerbaijan, Bosnia Herzegovina and Albania the number of Muslim countries in the (classical) European continent amount to five. The number of Muslim population in Bulgaria is more than the populations of a number of EU members (like the Greek part of Cyprus, Luxemburg and Malta). The Turkish population in the EU members exceeds the total populations of a number of EU member states. However there is no Muslim member state in the EU and it seems there will not be in the foreseeable future. Shortly even they constitute one fifth of the world population, even they are at the heart of the most important problems of the world, even they have the possession of the almost all of the world’s energy resources; the Muslim peoples are not represented in the global governance. A gigantic geography from Central Asia to North Africa, from Black Sea to Indonesia is regarded as none existing. The will of these peoples is simply ignored. The decisions taken in London, Washington and Moscow are imposed on these peoples. Extremely radical decisions including invasion are taken and implemented on Palestine to Afghanistan, without asking to the peoples of the regions. Even the views and suggestions of Turkey as an “allied” country of the West are not taken in to consideration. And if a few of the bombs exploded in the region, explodes in London or New York, the “entire world” confuses, because the Western world supposing itself as the “entire world”.

Can Turkey Represent the Region?

Turkey could be claimed as the sole country to fill the representation deficit of the Middle East and Islamic world in governance of the world, because it has a lot of common points with “both of the worlds”. Leading by the United States some Western leaders are already trying to develop Turkey as a model for this geography. However Turkey should not be a model but the voice of the region in the West and the voice of the West in the region. In other words, Turkey should represent the region, not only impose anything. It should not be only an inspiring model for the East but a model for the West in the relations with the East. Also there is no need for etiquette like “moderate Islam” or any other change to manage this. The important thing is to give importance to the region’s peoples and to be their voice as they are. The first thing to do is not moderating or softening the understanding of the region. This may be an objective for the future. In this regard countries like Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan need stronger positions among the “bosses of the world” that they could make their voices heard or extremists like Osame Bin Laden will continue this mission.

Turkey has advantages beyond “representation” in the representation of the region. Turks are one of the remarkable examples in history who could manage to make different civilizations live together under Seljuk and Ottoman rules. As the biggest “Muslim” economy and the most powerful military and political force in the region Turkey’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council, full membership to the EU, higher representation in the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions will provide a stronger representation of the region as well as quite new ideas and suggestions meaning vision of Turkey that could not be proposed by China Russia or Britain will be brought to the governance of the world.

In summary; in the G8 Summit where no Muslim leader had any seat, Osame Bin Laden had his seat by force of arms. If more Muslim leaders have their places in the world governance, murderers and terrorists will have more difficulties to occupy the world agenda.

In this framework, the Muslim countries and the Eastern countries should make pressure on the West to listen to the region. If the rest of the world can make co-operation to persuade the West to be more reasonable, the world could be a more peaceful place.

18 March 2007

[1] For examples, see: ‘Zarkawi The Terror Monster: But Does He Really Exist?’, Arab News, 26 October 2004; Lori Sturdevant, ‘The Terrorism Monster Under Our Kids’ Beds’, Star Tribune (MN), 13 September 2001; Amir Taheri, ‘Last gasp of the Monster of Islamist Terrorism’, The Times, 20 May 2003; Govind B. Mishra, And America Attacked: Monster of Terrorism in 21 Century, (New Delhi: Akansha, 2002); I.hsan Çaralan, ‘Özel Savas,: Hile I.le Yönetme Sanat?’ (Special War: The Art of Governing by Fraud), Evrensel, 20 October 2001.

[2] Sean Hannity, ‘Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism’, (Regan Books, 2004); ‘Terrorism and Evil’, Special Issue, Wickednes.net, e-journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2003.

Sedat Laciner
18 March 2007


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