Armed Hostilities

Vital Issues of Terrorism and Ways to Counter Terrorism

International Terrorism and the Essential Elements of the Phenomenon of Terrorism

In the twenty-first century, when most controversial situations and disagreements among individual communities and even countries are still resolved through armed conflicts, the problem of terrorism is particularly acute. The evolution of weapons and the development of technology have led to a significant inflow of resources to extremists who, in turn, use the latest achievements of armament and ammunition. According to Combs (2017), terrorism is an international concept since not one region is at risk of attacks, but almost every country and the world community as a whole are under constant threat. The author also notes that this phenomenon is not an exclusively political issue but instead may be attributed to a range of spheres – military, legislative, and others (Combs, 2017). The reason for this assumption is the consequences that terrorist attacks carry. Not only law enforcement agencies are obliged to monitor extremists’ activities and prevent their crimes against humanity. Other interested boards should also take part in the fighting and controlling such a phenomenon. Therefore, terrorist threats may be described from the perspective of international concern.

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When considering terrorism from the standpoint of the critical elements to which extremists resort, it is possible to single out several conditions that accompany mass attacks. In particular, Combs (2017) mentions such concepts as “violence, audience, and a mood of fear” (p. 43). The first component is an essential attribute of any aggression, including terrorists. The public is usually the critical target of attacks, and the number of human victims determines the severity of a particular act. Finally, the fear that extremists sow among the population helps them create panic, thereby increasing danger. All these elements constitute the modern concept of terrorism and serve as the markers of criminal acts.

Role and Impact of Ideology on Terrorism

The forms of terrorism that are manifested in the modern world may have different backgrounds – religious, political, territorial, and others. However, as practice shows, the role and influence of a particular ideology on the emergence of extremist ideas are significant. Combs (2017) gives various characteristics of crimes against humanity and bases her classification on specific ideological forms. For instance, anarchism as one of the manifestations of an antisocial movement is the idea that calls for the destructurization of the system of power and total self-government. Quite often, such calls are accompanied by massive terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting the existing order. Another clear example of extremist ideology is Nazism that originated in the last century. According to Combs (2017), modern neo-Nazism is based on similar principles of the superiority of one group of people over others and promotes the policy of genocide. The role of ideology, in this case, is dominant, and it is the crucial cause of aggression.

Historical examples of uprisings and riots against the current system of government are the reflection of specific ideological trends comparable to terrorist ones. Combs (2017) mentions the French, Russian, American, and other revolutions when rebels fought not so much for certain rights and freedoms but certain convictions. An ability to influence the masses and direct aggression demonstrates extremist leaders’ high organizational skills. Today, when armed conflicts occur periodically in different parts of the world, many of them can also be called ideologically directed, for instance, in the context of religion. Therefore, the role and impact of specific beliefs on adherence to terrorist ideals have been significant throughout the entire period of human development.

Criminals vs. Crusaders

The psychological portrait of terrorists often reflects inadequate people with a shaky psyche. Combs (2017) calls this category of extremists “crazies” and argues that people belonging to this type may not understand the nature of their actions themselves and cannot explain the motives encouraging them to participate in such criminal activities (p. 131). The behavior of the other two categories, criminals and crusaders, has a more logical explanation. Both of these psychological images of terrorists may be found today.

Criminals are the category of terrorists whose fundamental goal is personal gain not justified by any shared goals or beliefs. According to Combs (2017), extremists of this type are often ready to negotiate with security forces for the sake of saving their own lives or obtaining safe shelters. They have a strong desire to survive, and any acts of self-sacrifice are unacceptable to them. Therefore, the methods of their attacks often involve a genuine threat in order to protect themselves from possible explosions or accidental deaths.

Crusaders, as another psychological type of terrorists, constitute numerous categories. Combs (2017) states that in the twenty-first century, this group of extremists is the largest since most crimes committed by them are based on ideological beliefs, for instance, religious ones. The key motive of their actions is a “higher cause” – the factor that encourages them to abandon their individual significance and devote lives to the struggle to achieve a precise and desired goal (Combs, 2017, p. 134). Crusaders almost never seek to protect their lives due to their belief in the importance of personal missions. Thus, the considered psychological portraits prove the difference in the motives and approaches to committing terrorist acts.

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State Terrorism

The concept of state terrorism is met in the modern world, and the implications of such a phenomenon are detrimental to the integrity of individual nations. According to Combs (2017), this form of criminal activity involves extremist actions supported by the government of a particular country or its unique factions and aimed at fighting other elites or specific members of sections. This trend is a threat to national security since those countries that are involved in state terrorism tend to have an unstable political situation. Combs (2017) identifies two forms of this type of extremism – internal and external and delimits these concepts with the boundaries of intervention. If the crimes of the authorities are committed against people or communities of the same country, this category of terrorism is internal. When governments wage a fierce struggle against elites and citizens of other countries, this characterizes the external type of extremism. Both classes are dangerous phenomena and are detrimental to people’s safety.

When mentioning the examples of state terrorism from historical practice, there are several common types of such crimes. Today, when technology has developed significantly, ruling elites can use high-performance weapons and other methods of extermination. For instance, Combs (2017) highlights the situation in Syria where civilians were attacked by chemical weapons. Also, the author cites other forms of state terrorism, for example, the practice of repression in the USSR, the policy of genocide supported in Sudan, and some other cases (Combs, 2017). All these crimes are direct violations of human rights and are unacceptable in a civilized society. Nevertheless, based on historical references, governments’ actions may have different forms and methods of aggression.

Terrorism Inc. and the Methods of Financing Terrorism

The grouping of terrorists into separate networks has become widespread today; it is enough just to maintain interaction with like-minded people in different parts of the world to create a global threat. Cooperation is the form of organizing terrorist attacks, which allows extremists to count on supporters in other regions, thereby developing an expanded system. As Combs (2017) remarks, such a principle of networking helps them to maintain the strategic planning of massive terrorist operations and contact with the members of factions abroad. The author cites examples of such coalitions as the Quebec Liberation Front, the Turkish People’s Liberation Army, and other organizations recognized as extremist ones (Combs, 2017). A vivid reflection of the interaction of these groupings was the international terrorism congress in Germany in 1986, which brought together at least 500 representatives of terrorist organizations (Combs, 2017). Therefore, it can be noted that extremist networks are developed and expanded structures.

The internationalization of terrorism has led to the emergence of resource supply chains that support the activities of extremist groups. According to Combs (2017), the sponsorship of individual banned organizations may occur through both individual stakeholders’ private investments and a single fund. As an example, the author mentions hawala, a unique system of Islamic bank transfers aimed at collecting and distributing money among separate Al-Qaeda groups and their branches (Combs, 2017). Organized cash flows come from trafficking in drugs, weapons, and other goods that are officially banned for sale. A well-established system of financing allows maintaining a stably high preparedness of extremists and creates an additional threat to the world community and the safety of civilians.

Methods of Terrorist Training

Terrorist training is a significant stage in the activities of extremists who develop attack plans and build crime strategies. Combs (2017) notes that today, various groups have enough resources to create unique sites where the members of such organizations sharpen their skills in conditions close to real ones. Moreover, in multiple countries, there are individual camps where necessary resources are available to carry out the comprehensive training of extremists. As Combs (2017) remarks, such sites exist not only in regions with heightened terrorist activity, for instance, in the Middle East but also in such countries as the UK, the USA, and other states with a strong economy and a stable position on the world stage. This indicates that the threat of the spread of terrorism is substantial, and virtually every region is in potential danger.

As training areas, terrorists study tactical attack patterns, learn to use weapons of different profiles, evaluate the range of damage through specific attacks, and perform physical exercises. Since the types of extremist activities are different, separate groups are assigned to particular tasks. For instance, according to Combs (2017), those terrorists involved in assassination activities and kidnapping undergo distinctive training procedures. Also, participants in extremist organizations learn to interact with one another, developing communication systems in covert conditions, and thinking through information transfer chains. The attack of September 11th, 2001, was the result of careful planning and engaging a large number of extremists to cause as many human victims as possible (Combs, 2017). Thus, training sites are virtual objects for terrorists, and the detection of these places is one of the priorities of law enforcement agencies.

Role of the Media in Terrorism

The role of the media in contemporary terrorism is significant due to the fact that almost all multiple attacks are covered in the press, thereby drawing additional attention to this phenomenon. Combs (2017) note that extremists themselves benefit from such interest since the publicity of coverage allows paying attention to specific groups and their requirements as part of their criminal activities. The media serves as a platform to reflect actual terrorist activities and often acts as favorable channels for the transmission of extremist ideas. Also, Combs (2017) brings the concept of destabilization to which criminal groups resort. The purpose of this approach is to sow panic among the population and create appropriate public unrest in order to make people question the quality of the security provided by law enforcement agencies. All these objectives may be achieved successfully by covering particular facts in the media.

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The concept of disinformation is also one of the tools that abet terrorists. Regardless of the degree of outgoing threat or the outcomes that a particular attack may cause, deliberately heightening the effect of danger may contribute to destabilizing a social situation, thereby dramatizing things. Therefore, many news media are often involved in scandals associated with the suspicion of collaboration with extremists. According to Combs (2017), even though there are no intentions to interact with terrorists, some press resources may act in the interest of criminals by making waves excessively and engaging in propaganda. As a result, many extremist groups use the right of journalists and correspondents to access the sites of incidents and create the appearance of large-scale attacks, thereby heightening anxiety and fear among the population.

International Law as an Instrument of Countering Terrorism

The issue of terrorism is recognized by the global legal community as a danger that requires involving significant forces to counter it and eliminate criminal groups. However, according to Combs (2017), today, there are some gaps in addressing this problem. In particular, the lack of legislative authority responsible for regulating the measures aimed at combating extremism is an omission. Consequently, the judicial system at the international level is also not sufficiently developed to take corresponding steps to bring terrorists to justice. However, there are competent authorities, for instance, INTERPOL, whose activities are aimed at identifying and eliminating dangerous criminal groups, including extremist ones. Also, international legal documents exist, determining the nature of methods to protect civilians and containing both articles on punishments for terrorist crimes and the means of ensuring the security of noncombatants. The Geneva Convention includes a spectrum of rules addressing these issues (Combs, 2017). Therefore, despite the absence of a single controlling board and judicial background, relevant regulations concerning the identification of extremist activity are maintained.

In addition, there are special services that are created to control terrorist threats in various forms of their manifestation. Combs (2017) states that to combat air, sea, and other forms of piracy, international conventions have been held, covering the most pressing issues of extremist attacks and the ways of preventing them. Activities aimed at reducing risks to the civilian population are a significant aspect of the ground security forces, and today, many efforts are made to monitor and stop any contact among different members of criminal groups. All these facts testify to the concern of the world legal community about the threat of terrorism.

Use of Force to Counter-Terrorism

High-quality national security is the evidence of the government’s in threats coming from extremist groups. Unique boards created to fight organized crime in the most dangerous forms of its manifestation are in almost all states with a regular army. Combs (2017) lists individual and elite troops that are world-renowned for their thorough training of agents and the high level of their military service. In particular, the British Special Forces SAS, the American SWAT rapid response service, and other competent quick-assignment units perform the function of countering threats, including terrorist attacks. Along with extremists, national security agencies develop strategies that include countermeasures addressing the issues of extremist activity and plan offensive operations to identify and eliminate criminal groups and places of their deployment. In some cases, this approach helps to prevent danger through the elements of surprise and force.

As a rule, reinforced squads have high-class training and access to innovative weapons developments that increase the overall potential of these troops. According to Combs (2017), strike forces are not assigned to perform routine operations. The power structures of a reinforced profile act in emergency situations, and their professionalism is the direct evidence of a specific country’s competence in solving the issue of terrorism. Combs (2017) argues that today, “the industrialized democracies of Western Europe and North America” are the most affected by terrorists, and the special forces of these countries are sufficiently advanced and prepared (p. 464). Therefore, judging by modern experience, counteracting extremism is not easy, but due to the involvement of professional militaries, the degree of national security increases, and terrorists’ plans are complicated by opposition from state enforcement agencies.

Security Measures to Counter-Terrorism

Engaging competent authorities are struggling with terrorists, and planning aimed at countering extremists are indispensable conditions for national security measures. Combs (2017) mentions various legal directives and acts of countries where there are threats of attacks and cites the example of Italian, British, Canadian, and other initiatives that regulate actions to provide appropriate protection efforts. Also, the author compares the methods of different states with regard to addressing national security issues and argues that democratic values ​​and freedoms are the fundamental objects to which such activities are directed (Combs, 2017). As a result, domestic and international centers for combating extremist violence develop under the influence of existing trends, and new forms of investigative operations are created regularly.

In addition to intensified counter-terrorism at the national level, deeper measures are also applied. According to Combs (2017), some organizations have individual crisis management systems that allow them to assess the importance of specific interventions and determine the critical areas of work. Any suspicions arising from competent authorities are not ignored, and regular reporting to the government is mandatory. Are Not only Special Forces engaged to ensure security but also specific infrastructures that are called critical (Combs, 2017). They include a whole range of information systems and platforms that help to broadcast helpful information and record particular dialogues, files, and other forms of communication that may seem questionable. These cyber-based channels are the advanced ways of maintaining control over those extremists who are under suspicion because they are embedded in banking, transportation, telecommunications, and other services (Combs, 2017). As a result, a sufficiently reliable base is formed, which allows competent authorities to track terrorist activities timely.


Combs, C. C. (2017). Terrorism in the twenty-first century (8th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

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