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There has been a marked increase in incidents of terrorism – and correspondingly a growth in the study of terrorism – in Africa over the last twenty years or so. Yet a brief survey of the phenomenon in historical context reveals that terrorism in Africa has long been both complex and prevalent. There is clearly novelty, in the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, in terms of external linkages, ideologies and technology at terrorists’ disposal; this is true of both state and non-state actors. However, it is clear enough that some patterns of terrorist activity can be discerned as flowing from Africa’s deeper past. Therefore, it is important to see terrorism, in its historical and its contemporary forms, as part of the totality of violence in Africa. Connected to that, terrorism cannot be removed from the socio-economic and political conditions within which it takes place. Africans have considerable experience of state terrorism – from the slave trade and the state-building exercises of the precolonial era, to imperial partition, to the brutal excesses of authoritarian systems in the recent past. Marginalised, subjugated or otherwise dispossessed communities have sought to curtail these projections of power and resist, using whatever tools available. Terrorism cannot be segregated from wider contingencies – most obviously, economic and political aspiration and desperation, which fundamentally shape attitudes towards human life, or more precisely the taking of it, at particular moments in time.
In this chapter, terrorism is interpreted as a contested concept: as a discursive frame and a political attribution with the power to transform conflicting political, ideological or religious positions into repertoires of action and governmental practices. Terrorist events will be highlighted inasmuch as they were reported on in the Netherlands, or when threats posed by international terrorist organisations or foreign groups were mediatised within the Dutch context. We will also trace when indigenous Dutch radical groups and individuals triggered national debates – and estimate whether this was followed by national policy decisions and actions or not. As will transpire, the Netherlands were more often than not on the receiving end of international terrorism and global terrorist trends. Yet, there were some instances of terrorist groups and attacks originating in and from the Netherlands, inspired by injustice frames generated on the basis of misgivings about Dutch politics. By and large, the history of terrorism in the Netherlands did follow the trajectories of David Rapoport’s ‘four waves’ of terrorism, albeit with some national characteristics, and always situated within the specific confines of the Dutch national context. In the following, we will trace the introduction, trajectories and translations of terrorism as a concept, discourse and influence on concrete security practices into Dutch politics, society and law – and we will ask ourselves how the double-edged nature of terrorism played out in these interactions.
Russia was an integral part of the modern world’s first historical wave of terrorism, which lasted from the final third of the nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century. Some historians and terrorism experts even consider the Russian Empire to be the ‘birthplace’ of terrorism. Indeed, in Russia, terrorism as a systematic tactic of revolutionary strategy, with its own ideological justification and organisational framework, took shape in 1869–81, is usually dated back to Sergei Nechayev’s ‘Catechism of a Revolutionary’ and was developed and applied in practice by the Narodnaya Volya (‘People’s Will’) organisation. By the start of the twentieth century, terrorist bombings in British India, the Balkans and elsewhere were often referred to as ‘the Russian way’, or ‘the Russian method’. Along with anarchist terrorism in Europe, which started to spread roughly at the same time, and the early resort to terrorist means by some national liberation and anti-colonial movements, Russian revolutionary terrorism of the late nineteenth century was certainly one of the first identifiable forms and clear manifestations of modern terrorism. Placing the Russian case in a global historical context allows us to assess the extent to which its national experience forms, conforms to or deviates from global trends in terrorism.
In Peru, the term ‘terrorism’ is unequivocally linked to the Communist Party of Peru-Sendero Luminoso (PCP-SL), best known in English as the Shining Path. The PCP-SL took up arms in 1980 to unleash the bloodiest and most lengthy insurgency recorded in Peru’s modern history. The ‘time of terrorism’ refers to the years from 1980 to approximately 1998, in which Sendero launched their so-called ‘people’s war’ (guerra popular) with the ultimate goal of taking over the state and establishing the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Because of their systematic attack on all forms of organised society, some have described SL as the opposite of a social movement. Others have likened it to Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, in the light of their authoritarian ideology and methods, and their agrarian-based self-sufficient communist utopia. Today, the scars of the war are likely to be unnoticed by foreign visitors and a younger generation of Peruvians. A celebratory mood has taken over since the first decade of the twentieth century, making references to the recent past of political violence an uncomfortable truth that many have preferred not to look at. But this national celebratory mood belies scars of violence that run deep. Terrorism has a history, which should not be detached from the history of terrorism, the term. It is the awareness of this history that will free us from reproducing the state’s repressive gaze and to embrace our citizenship.
Analysis of terrorism in Pakistan has often suffered from simplifications, generalisations and stereotyping. Seen either as an extension of global Islamic extremism or worse a nursery that breeds this transnational threat, the country has regularly been ostracised and chastised by the international community. Since Islamic extremism has widely been regarded as a malevolent force that can only be perceived in apocalyptic terms, Pakistan therefore has attracted the attention of a number of alarmists and doomsday prophets. This negative attention has subsequently produced a discourse on one of the most dangerous countries in world that narrowly focuses on the security threat posed by Pakistan. Such superficial and shallow engagement with the problem is deeply unfair, as it selfishly presents terrorism in the country as a danger to the rest of the world and cruelly ignores its primary affectees – the people of Pakistan.
In the winter of 2016 I partook in a tour of the front lines facing the Dawla al Islamia, the Islamic State, in northern Iraq. Two years earlier ISIS had burst on to the world stage and conquered vast swathes of territory in a now borderless region known as ‘Syraq’. In 2014, Iraq alone suffered a third of the world’s terrorism fatalities. But not all these deaths came at the hands of ISIS or its predecessor ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’. With Sunni ISIS garnering attention as the world’s most deadly terrorist group, less attention has been paid to the terror campaign carried out by Shiite groups that was launched, in part, as a response to the terror campaign by Sunni Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and ISIS. Many observers who commented on this wave of terrorism described the spectacular rise of ISIS in 2012–14 and emergence of Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite terrorist groups as coming ‘out of the blue’. But there was a long and rarely studied prehistory to the rise of terrorism in this land that begins with the 2003 US–British invasion of this secular, Baathist-dominated country that had previously served as ‘firewall’ against both Shiite and Sunni sectarian radicalism. An understanding of this background history and the role of 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom in opening the Pandora’s box of sect-based terrorism in Iraq is crucial to explaining the origins, goals, tactics and local and global impact of the terrorists operating in this land.
Where does the Russian case or, rather, the two distinct periods of terrorism in Russia, stand vis-à-vis the world’s historical waves of terrorism, from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century? What are the key aspects specific to the main types of terrorism in post-Soviet Russia (i.e. terrorism by separatist-Islamist rebels in Chechnya and the broader North Caucasian region in the course of the first post-Soviet decades, and the more recent phenomenon of transnationalised, but home-grown, Islamist terrorism inspired by ‘global jihad’)? How specific are they, compared to typologically similar varieties of terrorism elsewhere? How does the rise and fall of terrorism in post-Soviet Russia relate to the factors of sociopolitical and socio-economic transition, regime type, functionality and legitimacy of state power, public perceptions and transnationalisation, in general and as compared to terrorism in the Russian Empire? How can very low levels of domestic terrorism during the Soviet period be explained? Finally, does history teach us anything? Can any lessons be gleaned from almost three decades of the more recent, contemporary history of terrorism in post-Soviet Russia? Have they been? If so, do they apply to Russia alone or more generally? These are just some of the questions that the angle taken in this volume raises in relation to Russia and that require both its main historical periods of terrorist activity to be addressed.
It is now a cliché to observe that, despite innumerable efforts to define terrorism, scholars are no nearer to arriving at a consensus. One approach has been to assemble the multitude of definitions produced by academics, commentators, governments and international organisations, in an attempt to identify common ground. There is much to admire in this ethos of catholicity – though the final product can feel more like a catalogue of component parts than a cohesive and workable definition. How, then, should historians approach the debate over how to define terrorism? To explore this question, this chapter begins by reflecting on the ‘genealogical turn’ in historical method – a development closely associated with the ‘Cambridge school’ of intellectual history. It will then attempt to construct a genealogy for ‘terrorism’, as reflected in existing historical narratives of this subject. And finally, it will consider what key themes emerge from such a genealogical examination.
For a long time, studies on terrorism as a historical phenomenon have neglected gender as an analytical category. In political science, and especially Gender Studies or gendered Security Studies, however, gender has become an issue since 9/11 and the growing participation of Muslim women in terrorist attacks. These studies, however, mostly interpret terrorism as a phenomenon which emerged first in the twentieth century and, if they work historically, they compare case studies dealing with post-Second World War phenomena with recent examples of political non-state violence. The important varieties of nineteenth-century terrorism are frequently neglected. Moreover, these authors use terms with a centuries-old gendered tradition, for example ‘hero’ or ‘martyr’, without reflecting the historically rooted gendered implications of these terms and without taking account of the gendered traditions of the representation of male or female political violence which go back more than two hundred years. This paper wants to address this lack of historical contextualisation. In a gendered historical perspective we ask: what role has gender played in the development of modern terrorism during the nineteenth century? What are the gendered stereotypes concerning political violence which have been constructed and transmitted since the early nineteenth century? And in what way do these stereotypes influence recent interpretations of terrorism and historical research on terrorism?
In American history there have arguably been three types of terrorism – two domestic and one transnational. The predominant expressions of domestic terrorism in the United States are rooted in ethnic and racial conflicts. Among the most important are aimed at the maintenance of racial hierarchies and specifically white supremacy. A second domestic form is rooted in the class conflicts of a rapidly expanding industrial society at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. This ‘revolutionary terrorism’ is rooted in the anarchist tradition, which garnered substantial amounts of attention but had shallow roots in the labour movement. ‘Transnational terrorism’ is likewise important in the American context. While carried out on American soil or against American outposts abroad, it’s often planned outside of it, or inspired by outside sources, and results from opposition to the United States’ global role. Richard Hofstadter observed that while political violence had been ubiquitous in American history, much of it had been carried out by groups of citizens against other groups, and that it has rarely shaken the political order. He likewise suggested that the most successful forms have been socially and politically conservative. This argument is explored in the three sections of my essay. The first two focus exclusively on domestic terrorism – racial/ethnic and revolutionary terrorism respectively. The third is more varied. Its emphasis is the transnational terrorism exemplified by September 11th, but it also explores domestic forms, notably the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and recent terrorist attacks associated with the radical right.
Conventional historical periods – ‘classical’, ‘medieval’, ‘early modern’ etc. – help us as historians orient ourselves with respect to each other and to communicate what we do to a wider public. However, traditional periodisation is also dangerous. Giving a span of time a label tends to constrain our narratives within a set of assumptions. If we try to use the past to inform our understanding of the present, we may bring those assumptions forward, to identify or contrast with contemporary events in a way that has little to do either with the past or with the present. Terrorism is a historically and culturally contingent concept; it is modern, and it is Western. Past attitudes towards violence and who was entitled to use it were likewise very different from those that prevail in the modern West. As we write a history of terrorism, we should forgo both the use of conventional periodisation and the use of the term ‘terrorism’, even in a lowest-common-denominator sense, as a transtemporal, objective object of enquiry. This does not mean that we should jettison the word ‘terrorism’ altogether. We should rather view the word itself as having a history that embraces an evolving and shifting set of ideas, and that fits into a much older story about humanity’s views of order and disorder and its uses of violence and fear.
Terrorism and responses to terrorism have repeatedly had a profound influence in shaping human experience. The mutually shaping intimacy of non-state and state violence, together with the often agonising legacies emerging from that terrorising relationship, continue to determine the contours of many people’s experience (in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Spain, the UK, Colombia and across so much of the polarised world). Given this importance within the human past, what can we say about history and the study of terrorism? In introducing the present volume, this chapter asks five central questions. First, what has been the relative contribution of historians to the existing study of terrorism? Second, what are the distinctive insights potentially brought by historians to our understanding of the subject? Third, what are the particular challenges for historians as they engage with the study of terrorism? Fourth, what are the opportunities for historians in studying this phenomenon? Fifth, given these aspects of the relationship between history and terrorism (the contribution to date, the distinctive insights, the challenges, the opportunities), what will this book decisively and originally offer?
In several respects, history is at the forefront of terrorism scholarship through challenging the domination of the social sciences and conventional wisdoms of the present that do not hold up to scrutiny once historicised. Moreover, historical research frequently accomplishes this by accessing a rich supply of primary source material that is more readily available than contemporary records because the passage of time has rendered it less sensitive. Despite these factors, there remains a broader impression, especially among governments, that terrorism’s past has little relevance to its present, hence the placing of resources into contemporary social science research instead of into the historicising of terrorism. As with terrorism, counterterrorism is not solely a phenomenon of the present day. It has a history as long as that of terrorism. Whether it is in the form of counterterrorism methods, such as the reliance on human intelligence, the difficulty in striking a balance between civil liberties, human rights and security or how to define the threat needing to be countered, the issues of the twenty-first century are, to varying extents, re-emergent, not nascent. As scholars make increasing inroads into excavating the difficult and convoluted history of terrorism, the need to exhume another inherent element of the complex equation, counterterrorism responses in both the micro and macro, grows ever greater.
There is a lack of empirical as well as theoretical literature examining the ways that terrorism spreads across different regions over different historical periods. This chapter looks to address one aspect of this deficit in the scholarship by locating the interrelationship between regionalisation and terror in its historical context. In doing so, it will examine the limitations of thinking about the regionalisation of terror in historical terms as well as the ways that the historical method enables us to understand more clearly some of the main aspects of the issue. In particular, the chapter will assess the relationship between terrorism, history and regionalisation in terms of a number of distinct but overlapping factors: the connection between the nation state, non-state actors and the ‘new’ terrorism; and transnationalism and the contribution of region-specific factors in the formation, evolution and operational effectiveness of terror groups. Despite the absence of much relevant literature, these important issues will be placed in their historical context and will be examined in terms of their historical continuity as they relate to the regionalisation of terror.
This book has involved scholars thinking historically about terrorism. In relation to the four main areas of understanding in the field – definition, causation, consequences and appropriate response - what can we therefore say that we know, and what should we prioritise next in our research? This chapter will identify some of what the contributors themselves have valuably argued, and it will consequently have a historical dimension. But it will also relate such ideas to wider understandings, findings and agendas, recognising that the study of terrorism is and should be collaborative between disciplines.
Whether in biblical times, during the Middle Ages, or in the twenty-first century, terrorist strikes were then and are now first of all communicative acts intended to get attention in particular communities, countries, regions or even around the globe. The more people witness terrorist violence or learn of horrific attacks from news reports, the more successful are the perpetrators of political violence in furthering the universal goal of terrorists throughout history: achieving the greatest amount of publicity. The one trait that all non-state terrorist groups and lone wolves have shared throughout the history of terrorism has been their quest for attention and spreading fear among their enemies, the recognition of their grievances and demands, and the sympathies of those in whose name they claimed to act. In that respect nothing changed in the maxim that terrorism is ‘propaganda by deed’. Once communication technology was invented, from the printing press, radio, television to the Internet and particular social media platforms, all terrorists have striven for and many have found alternative media to disseminate their own propaganda in written and spoken words, visuals and even motion pictures. Yet, even in the age of mass self-communication, made possible by social media, the traditional media have remained central in the propaganda calculus of all terrorists, in that old and new communication modes have complemented each other.
Terrorism is a complicated phenomenon with a long and complex history. Analytically it is a difficult issue to grasp, dissect and analyse, to evaluate and respond to. As a consequence of this complexity, different academic disciplines ask different questions on terrorism. Historians could be seen as the generalists in the field of Terrorism Studies. Motivated by many questions that are also asked in other disciplines, they are intrigued by the complexities that define terrorism, its long-term patterns, changes and continuities, but also by very detailed case studies of individual incidents, groups, responses and characters. It will be the purpose of this chapter to look at what history can offer for the study of terrorism, how interdisciplinarity can be fruitful, what new themes and approaches can be developed by venturing beyond traditional division lines of established disciplines, and finally, to assess the limitations of multidisciplinarity in terrorism research. Thereby, hopefully, this text will encourage further academic cross-fertilisation to advance all our understanding of the puzzle that is terrorism.
Since the nineteenth century, Colombia has experienced diverse, complex and mutually reinforcing forms of political and criminal violence. The ubiquity of such egregious violence in Colombia has led scholars to attest to its ‘banal’, ordinary quality. Colombia has further been characterised as a country of ‘permanent’ and endemic ‘warfare’, typified by three stages of war and violence. Firstly, a long and violent nineteenth century, shaped by civil wars between elites throughout the country. Secondly, La Violencia during the mid-twentieth century, a period of mass violence moulded by a combination of anarchy, peasant insurgency and official terror, the most evident motor of which was the viscerally hostile fracture between the Conservative and Liberal parties, which resulted in approximately 300,000 killings. Finally, a third cycle of violence imposed by Colombia’s Cold War armed conflict. The armed conflict between the Colombian state, guerrilla insurgencies and paramilitary organisations, within which cartel violence played an increasingly decisive role, began in the 1960s and is ongoing at the time of writing, boasting a homicide rate akin to La Violencia. The aim of this chapter is to understand the role of terrorism and terrorist violence within the historical context of political violence in Colombia.
‘We do not negotiate with terrorists.’ For decades world leaders have asserted this principle. The historical record demonstrates otherwise, however. Contrary to their public pronouncements, statesmen have repeatedly engaged in diplomacy with terrorist organisations, and conferring with militants has sometimes led to progress, if not to peace. Or has it? The record of government officials engaging with terrorist organisations is ambiguous. Yes, inclusive dialogue has coincided with reductions in political violence in places like Colombia, Aceh, the Basque region of Spain, and Northern Ireland. But is that the only cause of these declines? What about other locations? In the Middle East, the path to peace since President Clinton’s historic meeting with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat has been rocky, with no permanent settlement in sight. Against this unsettled background, the question arises: what does a comprehensive historical analysis of the intersection of armed extremism and statecraft reveal? This chapter’s central argument asserts that historically the interrelationship of terrorism and diplomacy has often been like entering into a labyrinth. Its conceptual apparatus consists of three supporting arguments. Some participants have accrued benefits; others have incurred costs; and they have occasionally encountered limits to the efficacy of diplomacy as a vehicle for achieving their objectives. The concepts of benefits, costs and limitations provide a useful analytical framework for assessing the experiences of protagonists at the crossroads of militancy and mediation.
History matters, very much so. For years, it has been common practice to understand the phenomenon that journalists and academics coined as the ‘Basque problem’ in terms of a violent conflict provoked by the activity of an underground terrorist group that was carrying out ‘armed struggle’ in their fight for Basque sovereignty and independence from the Spanish and French states. This simplistic and reductionist interpretation failed to grasp the complex nature of the ‘Basque problem’ and its long historical roots. A more realistic and historically informed approach to the problem must substitute any unilateral understanding with a tridimensional perspective that focuses on the three elements inherent to the ‘Basque problem’. Violence is only one of these three, the other two being, on the one hand, the century-old political conflict regarding the political and administrative relation between the Basque Country and the states; and on the other, the dispute between the various sectors of what is a pluralistic and heterogeneous society over the exact scope of Basque self-government.