Terrorism promises to persist for years to come as the prevalent mode of conflict sometimes in its `pure” form, sometimes within the framework of civil war or general lawlessness. Nonetheless, much rethinking must occur since the terrorist acts of the past do not essentially offer a reliable guide for the future. Only an examination of the changing face of terrorism and an analysis of current trends can offer valuable insights into future outbreaks. For a long time, conventional wisdom held that terrorists were idealistic, brave young patriots and social revolutionaries drove to desperate actions by intolerable conditions, oppression, and tyranny. This assessment was not completely wrong; it was buttressed by the existence of oppression and social conflicts to which violence appear the only effective response.
While some terrorists are still patriots and genuine revolutionaries, this pattern is no longer typical. Any survey of the world map of terrorism-the parts of the world where the most casualties occur-reveals the emergence of other features. It reveals not only growing fanaticism but also the growth of indiscriminate murder, the wish to exercise power, and sheer bloodlust.
For many years, assessments of terrorism overrated the role of ideology as an original motive. Once considered the all-important factor in terrorist acts, ideology now takes second billing. Aggressive and militant individuals, not activists, tend to be those most convinced of the righteousness of their cause. For instance, the investigation into the 1997 murders of foreign tourists at Luxor, Egypt, established that the six Islamic perpetrators were not poor, desperate, or deeply religious, but simply misanthropic students from middle-class families eager to find an outlet for their aggression.
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