Are Terrorism And Globalization Linked Politics Essay

While a precise definition of the term has yet to be established, many of the currently employed definitions use similar concepts. The University of Colorado at Boulder (2002) describes the global economy as one in which the main international players are corporations and lacking a structure tied to national boundaries. Refusing to assign a specific definition to the term, the World Bank (2000) describes it primarily as ??the observation that in recent years a quickly rising share of economic activity in the world seems to be taking place between people who live in different countries,?? or, more simply, an increase in international economic activities. The Center for Strategic & International Studies (2002) attempts to precisely define globalization, calling it ??a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.?? The International Monetary Fund (2000) offers the broadest summary of globalization, referring to it as ??the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through trade and financial flows,?? adding, ??The term sometimes also refers to the movement of people (labor) and knowledge (technology) across international borders. There are also broader cultural, political and environmental dimensions of globalization.?? Globalization is ??the increased mobility of goods, services, labour, technology and capital throughout the world,?? according to the Government of Canada (2005). Rainer Tetzlaff (1998) writes that globalization encompasses many aspects, including increasing international transactions, new communications technologies, an increasing complex division of labor and goods distribution, quick turnover of concepts and consumer patterns, and a significant increase in transnational institutions and political movements. Globalization is ??a process of growing interdependence between all people of this planet,?? according to the International Labour Organization (1996) and mentions economical interdependence. Even the cynical Progressive Living organization (2001) talks about globalization from an economic standpoint, calling it ??a process, well underway, which trends toward the undermining of national sovereignty, and therefore citizen??s [sic] rights, in favor of the economic interests of gigantic transnational corporations.??

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All of these definitions of the term agree on the economic aspect of globalization. The process began as one of increasingly international business dealings. However, it is ignorant to not consider other aspects of globalization. A good definition for it is an economically-driven process of business which also makes ideas, cultural behaviors, technologies, and politics global concepts and lead to greater interaction among previously separated groups and/or nations. It seems that this is the most succinct and precise the definition of globalization can be without ignoring many important aspects of it as some of the previously mentioned definitions do.

Globalization and Terrorism

In recent years, the world has seen many terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in locations other than where the terrorist(s) originated from. Notably, the majority of these attacks involved Muslim extremist groups. A Madrid train was bombed, as was a London subway. United States embassies in African nations were attacked. Airplanes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York. Australia narrowly avoided a terrorist attack. In each of these cases, the terrorists did not come from the country that was targeted.

When the media covers the fight against terrorists, people often hear that a government is doing something to stop them without sending any military personnel somewhere in response. Instead, financial assets are frozen to slow terrorists. Terrorist websites may be taken offline. Group cells may be discovered within a targeted country and be shut down by local, state, and/or federal law enforcement officers.

Considering what is known about globalization and the current situation of international terrorist activity, one could draw a correlation between globalization and terrorism. It certainly seems that the two are connected. In a speech at the World Media Conference, John O??Sullivan (2004) identified four components of what he called the ??world crisis:?? globalization itself, the mass migration of people over frontiers and the consequent spread of ethnic diasporas, the increased power of religion over secular philosophies, and the extension of the powers and influence of transnational organizations. Are globalization and terrorism linked in any way(s)? If so, how are they linked? By answering these questions, it may be possible to see if globalization causes international terrorism, if international terrorism is simply an unfortunate side effect of globalization or some of its aspects, or if no link exists between the two.

Globalization Facilitating Terrorism

Some aspects of globalization facilitate terrorism. At its basest meaning, globalization means internationalization. Something is taken from a national setting and projected across the world. Certain nations adopt this, others reject it. When most nations do accept it and adopt it, globalization is taking place.

Cronin (2002) suggests that terrorism cemented itself as an international phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s, ??evolving in part?? in reaction to the dramatic explosion of international media influence.?? At this point in time, news media was truly becoming international in scope. Many broadcasting companies maintained correspondents or sister stations in other nations, sharing information back and forth. This would lead to the first visions of terrorism for many peoples who had never seen it. Presently, the media can be responsible for perpetuating the climate of international terror. ??For example, there may no longer be?? a globally organised terror network, but?? the media have globalised our perception of terror?? (Gray, 2005). Another aspect to this concept is that the media can be used by terrorists for their purposes. Campbell (2001) reminds his readers Osama bin Laden released his now-infamous recorded statements using instruments of globalization. Many have seen video of bin Laden on American media outlets even though it was originally released to regional network Al-Jazeera.

International media certainly is not the main byproduct that facilitates terror. Perhaps the main facilitator stemming from globalization is communications technologies. There are many devices taken for granted in Western society that changed the way terrorists operate, especially digital communications device. Clansmen fighting Americans in Somalia in the early 1990s used digital phones that could not be tapped (Carmody, 2005). The internet, mobile phones, and instant messaging have given many terrorist groups a truly global reach. Leading up to the September 11 attacks, al-Qaeda operatives used Yahoo e-mail, while the presumed leader made reservations online and other members researched topics such as using crop dusters to release chemical agents (Cronin, 2002). Perhaps even more troubling is that these technologies can be used to disperse terrorists to different locations yet stay connected. Cells can stay in touch through internet communications while websites spread ideologies (Cronin, 2002). It is estimated that al-Qaeda operates in over sixty countries now as a result of using technologies inspired by globalization (Campbell, 2001).

According to Campbell (2001), many things sophisticated Western societies have adopted to become more efficient are leaving them more vulnerable to attacks. This includes policies of free trade, relaxed immigration policies, and streamlined border crossing policies. Rojecki (2005) claims the ??transportation infrastructures that had been credited by some?? had been used by terrorists.?? This includes both national and international travel systems.

Even financial systems created to make international business simpler can be used for terror instead. Cronin (2002) points out that the fluid movement of financial resources can help terrorists, citing the United States?? invasion as an example. While the allied forces closed in on the Taliban, money collected by small businessmen was moved across the border by operatives and transferred through an informal banking system to the United Arab Emirates. From there, it became gold bullion and was sent around the world before it could be seized. More concerning is the way organizations are beginning to gather funds to operate. There are many groups with global financing networks, most of them recognized as foreign terrorist organizations. Their sources include nonprofit organizations and charities (whose donors may or may not be aware of their monies?? use), companies which send revenue to illegal activities, illegal enterprises, and websites set up for donations.

??The terrorist attacks showed that political globalization is as powerful a phenomenon as the globalization of the economy?? (Na??m, 2002). To deal with ever-increasing international relations, many organizations were set up, including the United Nations, the North American Treaty Organizations, the Organization of American States, and so on. In these forums, many people can come together to share ideas. At the same time, similar forums provide a hub for ideas and processes of coordination and cooperation used by terrorists.

It is apparent that many things inspired to grow or be created by globalization have unexpectedly been used to facilitate terrorist operations. The international media has made the world much more aware of their aims and activities. Communications technologies have been used to frustrate opposition forces ore ease operations within terrorist groups. Modern conveniences and economic policies have even been known to facilitate terror in some way. International financial systems can help terrorists hide their assets or gather funds. Political globalization can help terrorists meet and share ideas and procedures. It is not a stretch to claim that there are many aspects of globalization that have unfortunately been used to help terrorists.

Does Globalization Cause Terrorism?

Although a peripheral link between globalization and terrorism has been established, it does not answer a simpler question. Does globalization cause international terrorism? Haydar Bas is quoted by Kuru (2005) as saying, ????Globalization is a concept originating from the West which has became [sic] a fa??ade to adamantly impose particular ideas on underdeveloped countries, such as the claim that the borders are removed and nations are cooperating by ignoring their economic, cultural, and civilizational differences.???? There are a few hypotheses in support of the idea. These hypotheses fall into four main categories: cultural differences, economic disparity, political frustration, and clashing market systems. There are also claims that globalization and international terrorism are not linked at all. Foreign Policy (2005) found ??little correlation between a country??s level of global integration and the number of significant international terrorist attacks on its soil.?? It even claims globalization may help countries combat terrorism. However, this study solely looks at numbers; the question to be answered here cannot rely solely on quantitative data.

Cultural differences introduced by globalization are thought of as the main cause of international terrorism. If the hypothesis is true that cultural differences cause international terrorism, then it can certainly be said that globalization indirectly causes terrorism. Cronin (2002) states, ??Foreign intrusions and growing awareness of shrinking global space have created incentives to use the ideal asymmetrical weapon, terrorism, for more ambitious purposes.?? She also says indigenous peoples blame the perceived corruption of their customs, religions, and languages on an international system American behavior unconsciously molds. The CQ Researcher (2001) mentions cultural differences as a source of conflict many times. Conservative societies are offended by the media image of the United States.

There may not be enough solid evidence of cultural differences inciting terrorism though. Campbell (2001) writes, ??Debates within [the Middle East] center only in the most trivial way on Western ??contamination,?? such as by pop music and video games, of their cultures.?? Rojecki (2005) even says the Huntington hypothesis (culture as the major source of anti-globalization) ??receives comparatively little support in [the media], perhaps because of the Bush administration??s strenuous efforts to divide?? al-Qaeda from Islam in general.?? It seems that cultural hypotheses for international terrorism lack solid support and are only popular because they take into account the most obvious differences between the West and Middle East.

Economic disparity is another source of hypotheses concerning globalization and international terrorism. The recent invasion of Iraq portrays an ??image of the West as an enlightened but militarized and muscular liberator,?? and ??recoups the reality of the global North as?? a site of mass consumption in a world of horrifying need?? (Barkawi, 2004). The CQ Researcher (2001) also explores economic disparity as a source of terrorism. ????With globalization, people tend to compare themselves with bigger and bigger groups, and if you??re in a poor village in Egypt what you see in U.S. television sitcoms are people with a lot of money,???? David Byman is quoted.

However, economic disparity alone does not seem like it would inspire international terrorism, no matter how well-off Western nations are compared to the rest of the world. There are plenty of nations that are as bad as or worse-off than the Middle East that do not engage in international terrorist activity. That point alone discredits the economic disparity hypothesis.

The category of political frustration has two different theories concerning globalization and terrorism. The first theory, presented by Kuru (2005), claims, ??Globalization challenges a specific type of state, one that aims to homogenize its citizens through sociocultural policies.?? This is true of the Middle East and untrue of Western nations. Western nations, being mainly democratic, do not attempt to lump their citizens together as one; rather, a great deal of diversity is present in them. In the Middle East, internal strife is intense, as one group of leaders tries to claim power and keep all people under its law. It does not seem that this challenge should concern leaders very much, considering they constantly struggle against internal opponents. It seems the leader could simply ban access to any international influence.

The other type of theory in this category is blaming the West for internal strife. Most of the time, this involves Western nations interfering and installing unfit leaders. As far as politics are concerned, Rojecki (2005), states, ??Globalization is a cover for reinforcing American dominance with the UN as a fig leaf?? the United States is said to support corrupt regimes that routinely violate human rights.?? Carmody (2005) agrees with this idea, saying, ??Support for repressive governments?? are likely to prove unstable as [it generates] ??blowback,?? unintended negative consequences.?? History has seen Western installation of repressive regimes throughout the world, so this point has more bearing than the former.

Despite any Western nations?? actions to install ineffective governments, it seems the affected nations are no better at helping themselves. The CQ Researcher (2001) points out, ??The Muslim world never underwent a movement like the 18th-century Enlightenment in the West, which hastened the demise of religious influence in government.?? Considering the tendency of the region to reject secular government, it seems the best government to be installed, if secular, would be rejected. Western nations, wary of Islamic terror, cannot be blamed for avoiding the installation of Islamic governments.

The final type of hypothesis considers clashing markets, a concept that has not been considered enough. Mousseau (2002) pins the problem of international terrorism solely on this aspect of globalization, stating, ??In this mixed economy, the clash of clientalist and market cultures can lead to illiberal and unstable democracy, military dictatorship, state failure, sectarian violence, or some combination thereof.?? It seems that this scenario could lead to the conditions Carmody (2005) claims are responsible for providing opportunity for transnational terrorism, ??Islamic fundamentalism?? ??failed states,?? and the lack of effective territorial control.?? Clientalist societies and market societies are naturally clashing entities. To summarize, clientalist societies see cooperation as the exchange of gifts, base trust on life-long friendships within small, approved groups, and are very hierarchical. Middle Eastern nations are clientalist societies. Market societies place less emphasis on small, approved group loyalty and encourage cooperation with new groups and base loyalty on an agreed-upon sanctity of contracts. Western nations are market societies.

??From the clientalist perspective, however, those with market values are from out-groups and thus are untrustworthy. Moreover, by expressing self-interest, individuals with market values?? appear to have no culture and are seemingly interested in little beyond the crude pursuit of material gain?? (Mousseau, 2002). When this concept is paired with the fact that when people in developing countries see the breakdown of traditional relationships and the surfacing of zero-sum anarchy, they relate them to growing Westernization of their societies, it is not difficult to see that there is potential in this hypothesis. There are two more factors within clientalist societies that contribute to international terrorism. First, privileged persons often emerge as terrorist leaders because they have the most to lose from globalization. They exploit the hierarchical structure and gather many patrons from the economically lowest parts of society. To keep their patrons?? loyalty, leaders must demonstrate strength. Second, in this society??s perspective, individuals are responsible for the actions of the entire group. Therefore, terrorist attacks that kill innocent people are justified because leaders are showing strength by killing guilty people (Mousseau, 2002).

The hypothesis of clashing market systems is the best explanation for international terrorism. It does need to be further researched and tested to confirm its plausibility, but it definitely seems to be the most rational explanation for international terrorism. Mousseau (2002) sums up his hypothesis by saying, ??The underlying cause of terror: the deeply embedded anti-market rage brought on by the forces of globalization.??


Globalization is an economically-driven process of business which also makes ideas, cultural behaviors, technologies, and politics global concepts and lead to greater interaction among previously separated groups and/or nations. Recent terrorist attacks and attempted attacks have raised the question: Are globalization and international terrorism connected? There are aspects to globalization that have inadvertently facilitated the rise of international terrorism. International media, communications technologies, conveniences, and international finances have facilitated terrorism on a global scale. The more important question is: Does globalization cause terrorism? The answer to that is unclear. There are many hypotheses, considering cultural differences, economic disparity, political frustration, and clashing market systems. The concept of clashing market systems seems to best answer the question. The theory definitely finds globalization greatly contributes to international terrorism but is not itself the only cause. However, the theory should be further tested and researched to verify its worth.