Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. It has been utilized throughout history by criminals, military forces, political dissidents and governments. While terrorism for political purposes is nothing new, its applications and goals have changed and evolved to reflect the political, social, and technological climate of the post-World War II world.

The utilization of political terrorism increased dramatically throughout the world during the past decade. Increasingly revolutionary groups have turned to terrorism as a means of achieving a particular goal. The primary reason for the proliferation of terrorism in recent years is simple, recognition. By employing terrorism any small group of individuals can gain worldwide publicity for itself and its cause.

A revolutionary group is not a force to be reckoned with until it is recognized as such as the people and the government of the country against whom its actions are directed. A group which lacks either a strong base of support among the population or a popular cause to mobilize the population must resort to spectacular acts of violence in order to gain recognition.

The belief that spectacular acts of violence will alienate the population is not always valid. One must remember that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. An act of extreme violence, such as the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists, may be condemned in the Western world; however, such acts are justifiable in the eyes of many Arab governments which support the Palestinian cause.

The “terrorists” are regarded as heroes and martyrs by millions of supporters in the Arab world. The same is true of other groups, such as the supporters of the IRA or SWAPO causes, and supporters of the Iranian revolution. The “terrorists” are freedom fighters and their actions are justifiable acts of liberation.

In the past decade terrorists have been able to exert influence over nations and world leaders by confronting them with terrorism or the threat of terrorism. By perpetuating acts such as the kidnapping of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the seizure of the American Embassy in Iran, terrorists are able to hold hostage not only the individuals actually under their control, but also the headlines throughout the world.

By employing terrorism little’known groups, such as the South Moluccans, are able to gain instant recognition for themselves and their cause. Advanced technology has played an important role in the increase of political terrorism. Due to the increased sophistication of the communication equipment employed by the mass media it is possible to see the actions of terrorists as they are being played out. Bringing the actions of terrorists into the living room every evening on the television set increases the impact of their actions.

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