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Underlying Motivations of Terrorists


On September 11, 2001, well-orchestrated terrorist attacks were successfully carried out on American soil. Over 3000 people of different nationalities were indistinctively and mercilessly killed in an operation that lasted barely two hours. This event changed the world; bringing into the limelight, a new era of terrorism. What motivated such an attack of terror must be a fundamental distinction between the attackers and the victims. The simplest explanation to such an act is that the terrorists and those who supported them have a dislike for their victims. All the attackers came from Islamic countries and religious motivations seem to have been the driving force behind these attacks. This leads to a conclusion that there is something about Islamic values and beliefs that socially approves terror. An attack of such high magnitude also raised awareness for a rising need for contingency planning at all level of government to address projected crisis scenarios.


After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, a new phase of world terrorism has emerged referred to as the jihad era whose influence can be traced back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the expulsion of Soviet occupancy of Afghanistan that followed thereafter. Terrorists have drawn an attraction from spiritual and religious movements which have now almost overshadowed the leftist and nationalist revolutionary movements that existed earlier. Although religious terrorism is not a new phenomenon, it has become the platform for an ongoing modern struggle for power between the powerful and less powerful nations. Terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda and its affiliates now use religion as the umbrella under whose cover they organize attacks towards the USA and all other nations under its global system (Brunn, 2004, p.456).

Main body

Modern terrorists operate under well-organized, coordinated and financed groups, which act as a platform for expressing hidden political motives. They cause terror through highly orchestrated attacks that often result in very catastrophic events and create shock waves due to the large number of deaths and casualties. Religion to them supersedes the value for human life. Totalitarians have relied upon these organized groups of terrorists to execute their political motives; the establishment of a worldwide Islamic regime. To these terrorists, non-Muslims and Westerners must be expelled from Muslim territory in an effort to avoid any dilution of Islamic cultural and religious values. The new brand of terrorists have different sources of funding, the major one being the sympathizers of the Wahhabist movement, an Islamic group under which Al-Qaeda disguises its activities (Aubrey 8, 17-18, 47).

Global inequalities have come into place, having risen from the wide disparities that exist in the wealth and well-being of Western nations as compared to the Middle East and South Asian countries. Due to such disparities, those living under widespread poverty have developed resentment for the West that has encouraged the formation of joint terrorist groups dedicated to fighting a common cause. These groups feel left behind and therefore powerless in this era of globalization. Al Qaeda succeeds in causing so much terror because of the enormous support the organization receives from many areas that have not experienced the economic and political benefits of globalization (Brunn, 2004, p.456).

The new phase of international terrorism attracts diverse means of economic support, enabling terrorists to operate and attack targets that are sometimes very far from their base and makeing it very difficult to track such groups to their sources. Al Qaeda may not be as strong as it was before the US attack but the success of its operations will continue to be an inspiration to similar groups; creating a long term global link between Al Qaeda and associated groups. Terrorists have also taken advantage of very penetrating globalization mechanisms such as the internet, increased flow of people and goods as well as the media. Computers, mobile phones, modems and the internet enable terrorist groups to enjoy a global reach therefore enhancing their operational capabilities. Through globalization, terrorist organizations are also able to move across international boarders. International trade has necessitated dropping of certain trade barriers to allow for easy movement of goods, both good and bad among countries. Such movement has enabled these organizations to establish connections throughout the world (Brunn, 2004, p.463-466).

Contingency planning for projected crisis scenarios

In modern times, there are increased chances of terrorist attacks, rising costs of natural disaster, cyber crime and pandemics that have all led to increased need for contingency planning as organizations try to protect their assets, facilities and people. Besides, the September 11 attacks in the US, the Phuket Tsunami and Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina and Rita left devastating effects whose impact may be felt globally. In the event of such disaster, people always expect the elected leaders to act immediately towards solving the problems at hand. For such kind of response to be realized, there is need for pre-planning at all levels of government namely federal, state and local sectors. Such pre-planning must be set up in such a way that life gets back to normal in the soonest time possible. Facilities must be in usable state, records recovered and data restored. People may be in need of food, shelter, sanitary facilities and water but local governments cannot achieve all this without reimbursement from the state and federal reserves (Scott-Martinet, 2006).

Scenario planning helps planners to get a real picture of an incident and its presumed impact on an organization and helps to figure out how different components may fit together. A lack of planning will result in confusion and critical resources and supplies may also be lacking at a time of dire need. After the September 11 attack, there has been a rise in scenario futuring especially in relation to terrorism with a lot of internet material and magazines using this approach. In such a context, scenario futuring can help tremendously in preparedness, prevention and mitigation efforts (Scott-Martinet, 2006).


Religious terrorism is dangerous because it revolves around fulfilling certain commands from a deity. The terrorists consider themselves to be above secular laws and values and their driving motivation is to destroy all state systems with a Western background; they are trying to replace an entire system thus making these groups very dangerous. Fear of terrorist attacks as well as other disasters, makes contingency planning very essential for the survival and future of any organization either in the private and public sectors. Such programs can be very costly and time-consuming but without proper planning, an organization, its assets and people can be badly devastated in the event of disaster or crisis (Scott-Martinet).


Aubrey, S. (2004). The new dimension of international terrorism. Zurich: vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 2004.

Brown, M., Cote.O., Lynn-Jonnes.S., and Miller.S. (2004). New global dangers. Changing dimensions of international security. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Scott-Martinet, K. (2006). Strategic contingency planning. Web.

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StudyKraken. "Underlying Motivations of Terrorists." December 3, 2021.


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StudyKraken. (2021) 'Underlying Motivations of Terrorists'. 3 December.

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