End of Chapter Question Pointers
Chapter 21 – Responding to Terrorism Non-violently
Sondre Lindahl and Richard Jackson
- How has the conception of the terrorism threat influenced the way in which states have responded to it?
- Why has the war on terror and forced-based counterterrorism been so unsuccessful in countering and preventing terrorism?
- Why have nonviolent approaches to counterterrorism been so ignored, particularly when there are historic examples of methods like peace negotiations which have been successful in previous campaigns?
- Why might dialogue and negotiations provide terrorists with an incentive to lay down their weapons?
- What can we learn about possible strategies of nonviolent counterterrorism from the experiences of nonviolent resistance, nonwarring communities, unarmed peacekeeping, and social defence?
How we conceive of terrorism determines to a great extent how we go about countering it. This is a useful point of departure when answering this question because it invites you to analyse how terrorism has been constructed and understood as a security threat, and then investigate how this conceptualization has influenced how states have tried to counter terrorism. A possible point of emphasis might be placed upon the conceptualization of terrorism as a form of “evil” violence, and how the arguments for the use of violence when countering terrorism follow this line of reasoning.
You might also want to consider the development of “countering violent extremism” (CVE) as a new approach to counterterrorism. What does this development tell us about how terrorism is conceptualized as a threat? What, if any, is the connection between narratives of terrorism and the states’ responses to terrorism?
In answering this question, it might be useful to consider the empirical, theoretical, and ethical failures of force-based counterterrorism. These three elements are integral to discern how the war on terror has been so unsuccessful. Further you might consider how the widespread misunderstanding of the relationship between violence, force, coercion, and power has simultaneously contributed to a normalization of the use of violence and closed down the space to critically evaluate the efficiency of its use. Finally, you might explore what effects the narrative of “evil” terrorists, who are undeserving of human rights, has had on the war on terror. Does torture and targeted killings help counter terrorism? And do states have a responsibility to act ethically in countering terrorism?
One way to approach this topic might be to consider how terrorism has been constructed as both a form of evil violence and a new type of warfare. In such a conceptual and policy framework, it makes little sense to engage in nonviolent political processes. Here it might be useful to reflect over how normalized the use of violence in response to terrorism has become. One might look at the concrete responses from states, speeches from policymakers and experts, and even Hollywood movies where the solution to a terrorist threat is always a violent one. An important question, in this regard, are nonviolent approaches discussed or portrayed in a realistic and fair manner? How often are conflicts in movies, tv-series, and books resolved using nonviolent approaches as compared to violent solutions?
Here you might consider how terrorism is viewed, by many, as a strategy – a means to an end. Groups might adopt terrorism as a strategy to achieve political goals in situations where they do not think that they can meaningfully engage with the state or the wider community to achieve these goals. You might also consider how cases where terrorist groups have been transformed into political parties or movements. What can we learn from these historical cases? Can those lessons be transferred and used in other cases?
The key here is to connect acts of terrorism with the broader socio-political contexts in which they occur. If terrorism is a form of political violence, with emphasis on political, this then opens up for a broad range of responses to terrorism, and knowledge from other fields of study. For example, experiences from non-violent resistance studies that show how collective nonviolent strategies can be successful in resisting terrorist groups can be useful in devising new strategies to counter specific groups, or help communities prevent future terrorism by supporting these initiatives.