Currently, it appears as though terrorism is almost everywhere in the world in some form or another, and while Islamic/Jihadist terrorists seem to be the most visible and active, they’re certainly not the only ones.
What tends to get overlooked both in dealing with terrorists and terrorism is the long-term result of such activities. The immediate result is, of course, hundreds and thousands of deaths and injuries annually, and a great deal of anger and fear. For all of the so-called idealism or religious fervor of the Islamic terrorists, the goal of their terrorism isn’t to inspire the creation of some great Islamic state. It’s to disorganize and destroy civil society, to create chaos and unrest, and to demonstrate that civil society cannot cope with terrorism. Once such chaos exists, the only way to restore order is through absolute force – and in the Middle East in particular the only unified forces that exist are largely based on some version of Islam.
But what gets overlooked in all of this is that terrorist acts and murders don’t in themselves destroy civil society. Popular reaction to those acts does. Moreover, the popular reaction is almost always the strongest in countries and societies that already have the most authoritarian and repressive societies. It doesn’t matter that the Taliban might be even worse than the Afghan warlords; the warlords are so oppressive and corrupt that there’s already little love of the civil society, especially in a land that still remains tribally fragmented. It also doesn’t matter that ISIS is even worse than the Syrian government… and so it goes.
This kind of scenario is scarcely new. In a way, the Russian revolution followed a similar path, as did China, and much of southeast Asia… and the groups that had already gathered and mustered a monopoly on force were the ones who ended up governing.
A strong civil society is the greatest bulwark against the long-term effects of terrorism, but for a civil society to remain strong requires that the great majority of people support it. In turn, the greater the degree of oppression, perceived inequality and discrimination, and the greater the perception that there is no hope of advancement and improvement for most people, the more likely terrorism will be effective in fragmenting a society… which is the first step to revolution or social chaos and break-down.
Does that sound at all familiar?