English (2009) in his succinct and readable book, “Terrorism: How to Respond”, deals with a number of thorny topics dear to scholars and students of terrorism studies including an analysis of the definitional problem. Most interesting for researchers is perhaps his chapter, “What can we learn from terrorism past”. In the second part of this chapter, drawing on the foundations laid by an in-depth discussion of Irish Republican activity, English suggests a number of reasons why terrorist campaigns begin,
“the vital importance of disaggregation into specific geographical and political settings, combined with a recognition of the often long-rooted history involved in the relevant conflict; the frequency with which issues of contested political legitimacy lie at the heart of eruptions of terrorism, especially when these matters surrounding religiously inflected nationalism in competition with one another, the mis-match between nation and state, and problems of self-determination and political boundaries; the intensifying role which the experience of day-to-day unfairness for a population plays into preparing people to engage in or tolerate terrorist violence as a response; the sense that violence represents a strategically necessary means of achieving justified and essential goals, a psychologically rewarding method of hitting back in reaction to prior violence, and an effective way of redressing unfair power imbalances currently in existence; the importance in many cases of foreign occupation of one’s territory and of friction between military enemies and one’s fellow civilians in the occupied area; the resources offered by ideological tradition and argument, as a means of explaining and emerging crisis and justifying terrorist response to it; and the interweaving of political with cultural, religious and economic experience” (English 2009; 89-90).
English demonstrates in subsequent discussion how these indicators can also be seen in the origins of ETA as well as al-Qaida. It is probable that they could be equally relevant in providing a framework for the analysis of terrorist violence in Algeria and Taliban activity in Afghanistan but also a watch-list for the post-Gaddafi Libya.
English, R. (2009). “Terrorism: How to Respond”. Oxford University Press:. Oxford