Crenshaw 1981

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<p>The Causes of Terrorism Author(s): Martha Crenshaw Source: Comparative Politics, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Jul., 1981), pp. 379-399 Published by: Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York Stable URL: Accessed: 04/01/2009 10:25Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p> <p>Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York and Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Comparative Politics.</p> <p></p> <p>The Causes of TerrorismMartha Crenshaw*</p> <p>Terrorism occurs both in the context of violent resistanceto the stateas well as in the service of state interests. If we focus on terrorismdirectedagainstgovernments for purposes of political change, we are considering the premeditateduse or threatof symbolic, low-level violence by conspiratorial organizations. Terroristviolence communicates a political message; its ends go beyond damaging an enemy's material resources.1 The victims or objects of terroristattackhave little intrinsicvalue to the terroristgroup but representa larger human audience whose reaction the terroristsseek. Violence characterizedby spontaneity,mass participation,or a primaryintent of physical destructioncan thereforebe excluded from our investigation. The study of terrorismcan be organized aroundthree questions: why terrorism occurs, how the process of terrorismworks, and what its social and political effects are. Here the objective is to outline an approachto the analysis of the causes of terrorism,based on comparisonof differentcases of terrorism, in orderto distinguisha common patternof causationfrom the historically unique. The subject of terrorism has inspired a voluminous literaturein recent does one find a years. However, nowhere among the highly variedtreatments general theoreticalanalysis of the causes of terrorism.This may be because terrorismhas often been approachedfrom historical perspectives, which, if we take Laqueur'swork as an example, dismiss explanationsthat try to take into account more than a single case as "exceedingly vague or altogether wrong."2 Certainlyexisting general accountsare often based on assumptions that are neitherexplicit nor factually demonstrable.We find judgments centering on social factors such as the permissiveness and affluence in which Western youth are raised or the imitationof dramaticmodels encouragedby television. Alternatively,we encounterpolitical explanationsthat blame revolutionary ideologies, Marxism-Leninism or nationalism, governmental demands, or conversely governmentoppresweakness in giving in to terrorist0010-4159/8110715-00011$05.00/1</p> <p>? 1981 The City University of New York</p> <p>379</p> <p>Comparative Politics</p> <p>July 1981</p> <p>sion, and the weakness of the regime's opponents. Individualpsychopathology is often cited as a culprit. Even the most persuasiveof statementsabout terrorismare not cast in the form of testable propositions, nor are they broadly comparativein origin or intent. Many are partialanalyses, limited in scope to revolutionaryterrorism that is a form of protestor a reactionto political or from the Left, not terrorism social change. A narrowhistoricalor geographicalfocus is also common; the majorityof explanationsconcern modernphenomena.Some focus usefully on terrorismagainst the Western democracies.3 In general, propositions about terrorismlack logical comparability,specification of the relationshpof variables to each other, and a rank-ordering variablesin terms of explanatory of power. We would not wish to claim that a general explanationof the sources of terrorismis a simple task, but it is possible to make a useful beginning by establishinga theoreticalorderfor differenttypes and levels of causes. We approachterrorismas a form of political behaviorresultingfrom the deliberate choice of a basically rationalactor, the terroristorganization.A comprehensive explanation, however, must also take into account the environmentin which terrorismoccurs and address the question of whether broad political, social, and economic conditions make terrorismmore likely in some contexts than in others. What sort of circumstanceslead to the formationof a terrorist group?On the other hand, only a few of the people who experience a given situationpracticeterrorism.Not even all individualswho sharethe goals of a terroristorganizationagree that terrorismis the best means. It is essential to consider the psychological variablesthat may encourageor inhibit individual in actions. The analysis of these threelevels of causation participation terrorist will center first on situationalvariables, then on the strategy of the terrorist organization,and last on the problemof individualparticipation. This paperrepresentsonly a preliminaryset of ideas about the problemof are causation;historicalcases of terrorism used as illustrations,not as demonstrationsof hypotheses. The historicalexamples referredto here are significant terroristcampaigns since the French Revolution of 1789; terrorismis considered as a facet of secular modernpolitics, principallyassociated with the rise of nationalism, anarchism, and revolutionarysocialism.4 The term terrorism was coined to describe the systematicinducementof fear and anxiety to control and direct a civilian population, and the phenomenon of terrorism as a challenge to the authorityof the state grew from the difficulties revolutionariesexperienced in trying to recreate the mass uprisings of the French Revolution. Most references provided here are drawn from the bestknown and most-documentedexamples: NarodnayaVolya and the Combat Organizationof the Socialist-Revolutionaryparty in Russia, from 1878 to 1913; anarchistterrorismof the 1890s in Europe, primarilyFrance;the Irish 380</p> <p>Martha Crenshaw RepublicanArmy (IRA) and its predecessorsand successorsfrom 1919 to the present;the Irgun Zwai Leumi in MandatePalestine from 1937 to 1947; the Frontde LiberationNationale(FLN) in Algeria from 1954 to 1962; the Popular Front for the Liberationof Palestine from 1968 to the present;the Rote Armee Fraktion(RAF) and the 2nd June Movement in West Germanysince 1968; and the Tupamarosof Uruguay, 1968-1974.</p> <p>The Setting for Terrorism An initialobstacle to identificationof propitiouscircumstancesfor terrorismis the absence of significantempiricalstudies of relevantcross-nationalfactors. There are a numberof quantitativeanalyses of collective violence, assassination, civil strife, and crime,5 but none of these phenomenais identical to a campaign of terrorism.Little internalagreementexists among such studies, and the consensus one finds is not particularlyuseful for the study of terrorism.6For example, Ted RobertGurrfound that "modern" states are less violent than developing countries and that legitimacy of the regime inhibits violence. Yet, WesternEuropeexperiences high levels of terrorism.Surprisingly, in the 1961-1970 period, out of 87 countries, the United States was rankedas having the highest numberof terroristcampaigns.7Although it is on from the literature politiimpracticalto borrowentiretheoreticalstructures cal and criminalviolence, some propositionscan be adaptedto the analysis of terrorism. To develop a frameworkfor the analysis of likely settings for terrorism,we must establish conceptualdistinctionsamong differenttypes of factors. First, a significantdifferenceexists betweenpreconditions, factorsthat set the stage for terrorismover the long run, andprecipitants, specific events that immediately precede the occurrenceof terrorism.Second, a furtherclassification divides preconditionsinto enabling or permissive factors, which provide opportunitiesfor terrorismto happen, and situations that directly inspire and motivate terroristcampaigns. Precipitantsare similar to the direct causes of in terrorism.8Furthermore,no factor is neatly compartmentalized a single each has a transnational dimensionthatcomplicatesthe analysis. nation-state; set producesan interrelated of factors that is a signifiFirst, modernization cant permissive cause of terrorism,as increased complexity on all levels of society and economy creates opportunitiesand vulnerabilities.Sophisticated and networksof transportation communicationoffer mobility and the means of publicityfor terrorists.The terrorists NarodnayaVolya would have been of unable to operate without Russia's newly established rail system, and the Popular Front for the Liberatonof Palestine could not indulge in hijacking without the jet aircraft.In Algeria, the FLN only adopteda strategyof urban 381</p> <p>Comparative Politics</p> <p>July 1981</p> <p>bombings when they were able to acquire plastic explosives. In 1907, the CombatOrganizationof the Socialist-Revolutionary partypaid 20,000 rubles to an inventorwho was working on an aircraftin the futile hope of bombing the Russian imperialpalaces from the air.9 Today we fear that terroristswill exploit the potentialof nuclearpower, but it was in 1867 that Nobel's invention of dynamite made bombings a convenient terroristtactic. Urbanizationis partof the moderntrendtowardaggregationand complexity, which increasesthe numberand accessibility of targetsand methods. The popular concept of terrorismas "urban guerrillawarfare" grew out of the LatinAmericanexperienceof the late 1960s.'0 Yet, as Hobsbawnhas pointed out, cities became the arenafor terrorismafter the urbanrenewal projectsof the late nineteenth century, such as the boulevards constructed by Baron Haussmanin Paris, made them unsuitablefor a strategybased on riots and the defense of barricades.'1In preventing popular insurrections, governments have exposed themselves to terrorism.P.N. Graboskyhas recentlyarguedthat cities are a significantcause of terrorism thatthey providean opportunity in (a multitudeof targets, mobility, communications, anonymity, and audiences) and a recruitingground among the politicized and volatile inhabitants.12 Social "facilitation," which Gurr found to be extremely powerful in bringing about civil strife in general, is also an importantpermissive factor. This concept refers to social habits and historicaltraditionsthat sanction the use of violence againstthe government,makingit morallyand politicallyjustifiable, and even dictating an appropriateform, such as demonstrations, coups, or terrorism.Social myths, traditions,and habits permitthe development of terrorismas an establishedpolitical custom. An excellent example of such a traditionis the case of Ireland, where the traditionof physical force dates from the eighteenth century, and the legend of Michael Collins in 1919-21 still inspiresand partiallyexcuses the much less discriminateand less effective terrorism the contemporary of ProvisionalIRA in NorthernIreland. are Moreover, broadattitudesand beliefs thatcondone terrorism communicated transnationally.Revolutionaryideologies have always crossed borders with ease. In the nineteenthand early twentieth centuries, such ideas were primarily a Europeanpreserve, stemming from the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. Since the Second World War, ThirdWorld revolutions-China, Cuba, Algeria-and intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon and Carlos Marighela13have significantly influenced terroristmovements in the developed West by promotingthe developmentof terrorismas routine behavior. The most salient political factor in the category of permissive causes is a government'sinability or unwillingness to prevent terrorism.The absence of adequatepreventionby police and intelligence services permitsthe spreadof conspiracy. However, since terroristorganizatonsare small and clandestine, the majorityof statescan be placed in the permissive category. Inefficiency or382</p> <p>Martha Crenshaw leniency can be found in a broad range of all but the most brutallyefficient states such as tsaristRussia dictatorships,includingincompetentauthoritarian on the eve of the emergence of NarodnayaVolya as well as modern liberal democratic states whose desire to protect civil liberties constrains security measures. The absence of effective security measures is a necessary cause, since our limited informationon the subject indicates that terrorismdoes not occur in the communist dictatorships;and certainly repressive military reorganizations. gimes in Uruguay,Brazil, and Argentinahave crushedterrorist For many governments, however, the cost of disallowing terrorismis too high. Turningnow to a considerationof the direct causes of terrorism,we focus on backgroundconditions that positively encourage resistance to the state. These instigatingcircumstancesgo beyond merely creatingan environmentin which terrorismis possible; they provide motivationand directionfor the terroristmovement. We are dealing here with reasonsratherthan opportunities. The first condition that can be considereda direct cause of terrorismis the existence of concrete grievances among an identifiable subgroupof a larger population, such as an ethnic minoritydiscriminatedagainstby the majority. A social movement develops in orderto redress these grievances and to gain either equal rights or a separatestate; terrorismis then the resort of an exhas tremistfaction of this broadermovement. In practice,terrorism frequently arisen in such situations: in modern states, separatist nationalism among Basques, Bretons, and Quebegoishas motivatedterrorism.In the colonial era, nationalistmovements commonly turnedto terrorism. This is not to say, however, that the existence of a dissatisfied minorityor majorityis a necessaryor a sufficientcause of terrorism.Not all those who are discriminatedagainst turnto terrorism,nor does terrorismalways reflect objective social or economic deprivation.In West Germany, Japan, and Italy, for example, terrorismhas been the chosen method of the privileged, not the downtrodden.Some theoretical studies have su...</p>


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