James Feldkamp is without question the greatest professor that I ever had during my time at George Mason university, I only wish I’d realized sooner. It wasn’t until my 2nd year at the university that I encountered James Feldkamp, who was teaching us about the history of terrorism. At the time we had only recently seen the horror of 9/11 and it was a subject which many of us felt strongly about. James Feldkamp knew this and the way in which he tailored his lectures and inspired us was simply brilliant. The one thing that James often drilled home to us was that terrorism hasn’t changed very much over the years in terms of the desires, the creation and the psychology behind what terror is.
As James Feldkamp would often talk to us about, the causes of terror are very often the same and terrorists are often borne from a small number of circumstances. The most common circumstance for terror to be created is oppression, when people have been down-trodden for such a long time that they reach a limit where they have had enough and begin to wreak havoc on the oppressor, the Cuban revolution would be a good example of this. Another reason for terror is religion like we are seeing now with ISIL, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of the world in the name of their God, although again much of this comes from the mistreatment these people feel that was caused by the western world. Finally you have people who don’t want change, people who believe that they have rightful land and people who don’t want other cultures mixing in.
Violence and Fear
Something which James Feldkamp used to speak about a lot was the way in which terrorists cause fear through violence. It is important to notice here that the actual deaths of the individuals, or indeed the injuries, mean very little to terrorists. Let’s take the attack on the World Trade Centers for example, Al-Qaida wouldn’t have cared whether 100 people died or 3,000 people died, for them it was about showing the USA that they can get you anywhere and at any time, even in the busiest city in the country. The same goes for the beheading videos which we see ISIL and Book Haram carry out, they look for the most brutal way of doing things in order to instill fear. Violence in the world of terrorism is a tool rather than a solution.
Another characteristic of terror is creating maximum damage with the smallest of efforts. Even back to the days where Guy Fawkes famously tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the UK, he was looking to use gunpowder to create a massive explosion and cause as much damage as possible. We have also seen this with landmines, roadside bombs and of course the weaponizing of vehicles which we have seen in recent years.
The point of all of this is that terrorism only changes its methods, never its goals and rarely in the message which it promotes.