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Analyzing the Nexus of Globalization, Security and International Terrorism
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In the following essay, I would like to advance the argument that in the era of globalization, terrorism seems to constitute significantly more security challenges than ever before. I was inspired by one of the arguments raised by Victor Cha in ’Globalization and the Study of International Security’ (2000) when he reasoned that although the literature is largely extensive about globalization and security, there is relatively little work written by security specialists that interconnects the two. In the first part of the paper, I would put the emphasis on examining the relationship between globalization and security, while in the second part I would scrutinize the interplay of globalization and terrorism with devoting special attention to the implication of both nexuses. In addition, I would also explore the complex interrelationship of globalization – security – terrorism and emphasize their conceptual contestations. Terrorism is definitely a serious, unparalleled security threat of non- and substate actors that cannot be tacked by an individual nation, regardless of its military capabilities. Transnational cooperation is required as old, state-centric methods with the focus on the ties between the role of military forces and the achievement of security are outdated.

1. Introduction

Due to the increasing level of fear experienced from the early 1980s concerning the interrelationship between globalization and international terrorism, both of the terms remain high on governmental agendas. The concepts have been continuously present in academia and public discourse as well. Victor Cha emphasizes that although the literature is largely extensive about globalization and security, ‘there is relatively little work written by security specialists that interconnects the two.’ (Cha, 2000, p. 391) According to Christopher Hughes, however, we should be careful with relating the two concepts without having a more complete understanding, since the process involves the theory of securitization; a shift from the realm of normal politics to exceptional politics by providing governments a larger room for political maneuvers. (Hughes, 2002, p. 4)

Globalization can be defined as a ‘multiplicity of linkages that transcend the nation states which make up the modern world system. It defines a process through which events, decisions and activities in one part of the world can come to have a significant consequence for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe.’ (Kofman, Youngs, 1996, p. 116) It can also bring about intra- and interstate changes in the current international order and impact cultural, economic, political, social, and security dimensions.

Security has undoubtedly turned into a more complex phenomenon, due to the combined effect of states’ inability to respond to the challenges of globalization individually and the transnationalization of threats. In striking contrast to states being confined to their national borders, our world is becoming more and more transnational, making it almost impossible to track down, monitor and measure security threats. (Cha, 2000, p. 394) This is the context international terrorism embedded itself in. Due to growing interdependency in the time of globalization, terrorism can have an effect on the whole international community. With the September 11 attacks, terrorism revealed its anti-globalization agenda[1] by targeting the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the former representing the economic, the latter the military and political aspects of the international integration process. By 2001, globalization and security became inextricably tied to each other throughout the entire world.

In the following I would like to advance the argument that in the era of globalization, terrorism seems to constitute significantly more security challenges than ever before. In the first part of the paper, I put the emphasis on examining the relationship between globalization and security, while in the second part I scrutinize the interplay of globalization and terrorism with devoting special attention to the implication of both nexuses.

2. The Nexus of Globalization and Security

Initially, it could be pointed out that the discussions about security were primarily dominated by the external and military dimensions of the concept. Realist scholars stressed the importance of states compared to other actors in the international sphere and preferred accentuating threats concerned with the military realm.  National security in a traditional sense could be defined as ‘the acquisition, deployment and use of military force to achieve national goals.’ (Held, McGrew, 1998, pp. 219-243) However, the emergence of new kind of threats in our globalized world necessitated the reconceptualization of security. On the one hand, there was a broadening tendency with encompassing security threats that were nonmilitary in their nature, such as terrorism, environmental degradation and refugee flows. On the other hand, deepening also became crucial with the emphasis on the security of individuals as opposed to only of the state. (Klare, Chandrani, 1994, pp. 1-17) 

After the end of the Second World War, the focus was entirely placed on traditional security. Nevertheless, between the 1970s and 1980s economic and environmental issues had been brought to the forefront, which was supplemented with the matter of transnational crimes and identity in the 1990s. The New Millennium widened the meaning of security with drawing attention to terrorism, social and cybersecurity. From the late 1980s, economic, political and social domains have started to appear alongside the traditionally-accepted military dimension. It could be argued that the broadening tendency in terms of security can be detached from globalization; however I would reason that it cannot be entirely separated, because many times the change is a direct result of globalization itself.

Victor Cha advances the argument that ‘globalization widens the scope of security’ (Cha, 2000, p. 394) by promoting development in economy, information technology and communication, while simultaneously contributing to an increasing number of threats, such as terrorism, global warming and ozone depletion. The targets of international terrorism are tend to be individuals rather than nation states nowadays, which trend is noticeable with the current wave of terrorism in regards to the Paris attacks in November, 2015 and the Brussels bombings in March, 2016.

Following the 1990s, in the era of globalization the increasing role of financial institutions, multinationals and non-governmental entities could be witnessed, whilst the importance of states began to decline.[2] Globalization seemed to have infiltrated into economic, financial, political and social domains equally, mitigating the differences between domestic and international affairs.

Besides that, globalization-induced transformation happened within the state as well. Jean-Marie Guéhenno stresses that ‘the threat is no longer another competing community, but rather the internal weakening of communities.’ (Guéhenno, 1998, p. 10) Based on the SIPRI Year Book of 2015, this argument can be strengthened. Multilateralism in the context of security governance is thought to be declining. On the one hand, the active involvement and the promotion of ‘openness’ can be highlighted in the UN Security Council with the unified treatment of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the foreign terrorist fighter recruitments, but on the other hand its ineffectiveness and slow response time cannot be ignored either in the conflicts of Israel-Palestine, Ukraine and Syria. (SIPRI Yearbook 2015, p. 1)

A connection can definitely be established between globalization and security, however whether the former contributes to an increase or a decrease in the latter remains to be in question.

2.1. Implications of Globalization for Security

Firstly, it could be reasoned that globalization points at the inability of the state to be in charge of ‘non-physical security’ matters, such as the protection of technology assets and information. However, Sean Kay accentuates the importance of the latter by stating they have an impact on the strength of the nation. Hence, a certain state that has tremendous military capacity, but lacks the protection of technology assets and information cannot be perceived as a strong power. In our globalizing era, however, the flow of information technology cannot be controlled on the level of the nation-state anymore. Moreover, due to the fact that the ‘transnationalization of threats has blurred traditional divisions between internal and external security’ (Katzenstein, 1996a), it has become obvious that individual states cannot cope with the challenges posed by terrorism, disease and environmental degradation on their own.

Secondly, globalization also constitutes a threat to economic security, since multinationals have more foreign direct investment and international activities present in local economies. As a consequence, the role of the state is diminishing domestically, which makes them significantly more vulnerable to interventions and crises in the world of growing economic and financial interconnectedness. (Held, McGrew, 1998) 

Thirdly, the emphasis must be placed on the influence of media and communication technologies with their ability to channel information to the population throughout the world. In the time of the war in Kosovo, the exceptional power of the media was revealed following the broadcast about the casualties of the conflict as well as the deportation and ethnic cleansing. Refusing to take notice of the occurrences in Kosovo was impossible after that, as there had been an enormous public pressure to intervene in the war. Therefore it can be seen that ‘if there is control on the information and media technology, powerless can become powerful.’ (Kay, 2004, p. 19) 

Fourthly, with the changing agency and scope of war, security threats are notably harder to monitor and measure in the context of globalization. Besides the role of the state, individuals, non- and substate actors – terrorists, ethnic militias, organized crime groups – can also be regarded as agents of threat. Victor Cha argues that the globalization of technological information has given rise to a ‘skill revolution’ that intensified the potential of terrorists, criminals, drug smugglers and other extremist-fundamentalist groups. (Cha, 2000, p. 394) 

Fifthly, globalization facilitates the establishment of asymmetric power relations by providing various avenues for states to obtain weapons of mass destruction and other lethal technological innovations. The danger of asymmetric strategy is that smaller powers could create a situation that threatens international security by possessing weapons or technology that is disproportionate to their size. Thus, it could be reasoned that globalization poses a two-faceted peril; strengthening states that are already powerful and ensuring the possibility to less significant countries to challenge the current international system. (Dougherty, Pfaltzgraff, 2001)

Lastly, in order to scrutinize the implication of globalization for security, I would relate the concepts to international terrorism, arguing that globalization contributed to the broadening of support for terrorist organizations. Obviously this recent process of international integration brought about both positive and negatives changes. Besides the advantages of growing financial and economic ties, a large part of population also experience poverty and inequalities. Terrorism builds itself up from mainly these marginalized groups from societies and since fragmentation in global terms tends to be constant, alongside with it international terrorism as a threat remains. (Karacasulu, 2006, pp. 1-8)

3. The Nexus of Globalization and International Terrorism

Scholars have been engaged with formulating a generally-accepted definition of ‘terrorism’ from the 1970s, however it seems like that the concept is merely a matter of perception and therefore cannot be perceived universally. Walter Laqueur argues that terrorism is ‘the substrate application of violence or threatened violence intended to sow panic in a society, to weaken or even overthrow the incumbents, and to bring about political change’. (Laqueur, 1996, p. 24) Based on a similar approach, an OSCE guidebook points out the most common features of terrorism, that include its dangerousness, organized nature, randomness with the intention of causing fear and undermining government. (OSCE, 2014, pp. 7-9)

Looking at the history and evolvement of international terrorism, it could be reasoned that in the 1970s terrorists were mainly driven by political motivations, which was supplemented by economic and religious motives in the 1980s and 1990s. Furthermore, ethnical and extremist terrorism have started to gain ground in the 1990s as well. As of 2016, what makes terrorism a well-disputed and dangerous phenomenon is that even small groups or individuals could act as international terrorists.

Crucial alternations in the strategy of terrorists are evident in the application of technological innovations, the overarching activities and movements of terrorist groups across international borders as well as the altering nature of support sources. Similarly to globalization, these trends in international terrorism are highly-intertwined and overlapping; however in the following I would deal with each of them separately in order to depict a more complete picture.

3.1. Implications of Globalization for International Terrorism

Firstly, it could be emphasized that the use of new technologies has provided an increased sphere of operations for several terrorist networks. Access to messaging services, mobile phones and most importantly the Internet has been relatively free from significant attacks from cyberterrorists. Dorothy Denning reasons that terrorists ‘still prefer bombs to bytes’ (Denning, 2011); nevertheless this is prone to change in the foreseeable future. In August, 2013 for example, the Syrian Electronic Army took control over the Huffington Post, the New York Times and Twitter, which action is destined to suggest that cyberterrorism already has the capabilities for conducting similar attacks throughout the globe. (Shih, Menn, 2013) The advantage of this ‘new kind of terrorism’ is its relatively anonymous operational technique, its facilitated international coordination and the enormous media attention it receives.

Secondly, globalization facilitated the movement of terrorist organizations across international boundaries. In the European context for instance, the establishment of the Schengen Area eliminated the need for any kind of border controls at the mutual boundaries of the European Union member states. In addition with the creation of the North American Free Trade Area, the obstacles standing in the way of investments and trade were also abolished in the North American context. Terrorists could exploit and gain from this ‘positive’ side of globalization by infiltrating into various states and setting up strongholds and terrorist cells there. (Cronin, 2003, p. 49) The coordination and cooperation between international terrorist organizations can be apparent with looking at the Singapore embassies attack plot in December, 2001. A video tape of the intended actions of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist group was found in Afghanistan after al-Qaida had just escaped from the country.[3] The free and uncontrolled flow of terrorists in the past years definitely contributed to their empowerment as well as it made their prosecution more complicated due to the different nature of extradition laws in the United States. Moreover, terrorist groups started to resemble international corporations in terms of gathering, spreading and acting on information, which makes them more unpredictable and dangerous.

Thirdly, it could be accentuated that globalization has provided a variety of ways for terrorist organizations to collect a substantial amount of money that is necessary to pay for their international operations throughout the world. Raphael Perl pointed out that in the new era of globalization terrorists have had the ability to accumulate financial resources from illegal companies through non-governmental organizations to charities. (Perl, 2003, p. CRS-6) On top of that, websites proved to be crucial in terms of raising funds. As opposed to processes of fragmentation on the local level, the increasing role of informal linkages could also be witnessed between terrorist networks in terms of transferring assets from one place to another. A clear example of this phenomenon was the cash flows between Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Afghan War, when money was first channeled to Karachi, from where the informal ‘hawala’ system facilitated its transfer to the United Arab Emirates. (Weiner, 2001, p. 3) With that I meant to illustrate that it not always technological innovations that help to move assets across international borders, it could as well be traditional methods used cleverly. What makes terrorist organizations difficult to locate is the complexity and involvement of numerous practices ranging from informal exchange and immediate currency transport to dependence on traditional financial institutions.

Fourthly, globalization altered the objectives of international terrorism. There has been a steady rise in terrorist attacks against the most dominant representatives of globalization, culminating in 9/11, and recently the Paris attacks in 2015 and the Brussels bombings of 2016. This new kind of process of international integration also has its downside in terms of the disruptiveness and fragmentation caused in local cultures, economies, languages and religions all over the world. The distortion and negative effects of modernization are usually blamed on the nations that seem to support the developments, such as the United States and the major European powers. The growing significance of international terrorism cannot be solely contributed to the technological advancement; the most important aspect is the increasing number of international movements and people who are frustrated and apt to rail at the US-led progress. Christopher Coker argues that while motives for instrumental violence between diverse groups and countries are decreasing, expressive violence is intensified as a result of globalization. (Coker, 2002, p. 40) It is exactly the necessity to declare meaning and identity against homogenization that has given rise to the latest wave of (religious) international terrorism, which might be the most dangerous in the Arab region due to the lack of human development. (AHDR, 2002) The Arab world has always felt excluded from the realizable advantages of globalization, such as the wider range of knowledge, wealth and freedom. As a consequence of their dissatisfaction and resentment in the U.S.-sponsored aspirations for modernization, the Arab nations now have more incentive to turn to the actual representatives of globalization instead of focusing on smaller, regional targets.

Fifthly, the motivations behind international terrorism could be complex, however it must be stressed that the main source of threat appears to be the growing opposition between the driving forces of globalization and the developing world. At this point, I believe it would be useful to differentiate between the leaders and supporters of terrorism in terms of their motives. The former is responsible for making deliberate, tactical decisions with the primary focus on overemphasizing the unequal power relations and therefore encouraging the population that has been negatively affected by globalization to lash out in an attempt of altering the existing status quo. It is also beneficial for them in a sense of distracting attention from local, oppressive governments. Supporters of terrorism, on the contrary, seem to operate differently ‘driven by religious concepts cleverly distorted to arouse anger and passion in societies full of pent-up frustration.’ (Cronin, 2003, p. 52)

4. Conclusion

International security in the 21st century is characterized by the growing interconnectedness of globalization and terrorism, therefore dealing with the notions separately can be both dangerous and deceptive. We are yet to see whether terrorism would have a disruptive effect on the livelihood of the world population; however it must be underlined that globalization is not a certain, continuously progressing phenomenon, so it can always be cut off by the forces of international terrorism. Vice versa, what makes the situation even more critical is that globalization also empowers terrorist groups and organizations through the establishment of networks in information technology, finance and the media.

A current trend seems to be an ‘increasing ability of terrorist organizations to exploit the same avenues of communication, coordination, and cooperation as other international actors, including states, multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations and even individuals.’ (Ibid, p. 51) Hence, the presupposition that the bright side of globalization is not at all beneficial to international terrorism remains to be nothing more than a naïve thought.

In this paper, my main argument was that in the era of globalization terrorism seems to constitute significantly more security challenges than ever before. I explored the complex interrelationship of globalization – security – terrorism and emphasized their conceptual contestations. It appears to be obvious that globalization has had numerous effects on both security and international terrorism. This process of international integration and fragmentation has changed the agency and scope of security as well as it brought about inter- and intra-state transformations. Furthermore, globalization magnified the asymmetric power relations in the international system and affected economic security. The advancement of information technology and the power of media proved to be central in both of the scrutinized nexuses. Globalization undoubtedly facilitated the movement of terrorist organizations and provided them with the possibility of obtaining more financial resources. It also altered the objectives of international terrorism and extended the terrorists global reach.

Terrorism is definitely a serious, unparalleled security threat of non- and substate actors that cannot be tacked by an individual nation, regardless of its military capabilities. Transnational cooperation is required as old, state-centric methods with the focus on the ties between the role of military forces and the achievement of security are outdated. (Cha, 2000, pp. 400-401)

Gabor Sinko is a Master's degree student in International Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark.

5. References

5. 1. Bibliography


Arab Human Development Report, ’Creating Opportunities for Future Generations’, 2002

Cha, Victor ’Globalization and the Study of International Security’, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 37, no. 3, Sage Publications, 2000

Coker, Christopher ’Globalisation and Insecurity in the Twenty-first Century: NATO and the Management of Risk’, Routledge, 2002

Cronin, Audrey Kurth ’Behind the Curve: Globalization and International Terrorism’, International Security, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2003

Denning, Dorothy ’Whither Cyber Terror?’, 2011, http://essays.ssrc.org/10yearsafter911/whither-cyber-terror/ (Accessed: 19th May, 2016)

Dougherty James; Pfaltzgraff Robert ’Contending Theories of International Relations: A Comprehensive Survey’, Longman, 2001

Guéhenno, Jean.Marie ’The Impact of Globalisation on Strategy’, Survival, vol. 40, no. 4, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1998

Held, David; McGrew Anthony ’The End of World Order? Globalization and the Prospects for World Order’, British International Studies Association, 1998

Hughes, Christopher ’Reflections on Globalization, Security and 9/11’, CSGR Working Paper No. 105/02, 2002

Karacasulu, Nilüfer ’Security and Globalization in the Context of International Terrorism’, Uluslararasi Hukuk ve Politika Clit 2, No: 5, 2006

Katzenstein, Peter ’Cultural Norms and National Security’, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1996a

Kay, Sean ’Globalization, Power, and Security’, Vol. 35(1), Sage Publications, 2004

Klare, Michael; Chandrani, Yogesh ’World Security: Challenges for a New Century’, Wadsworth Publishing, 1994

Kofman, Eleonore; Youngs Gillian ’Globalization: Theory and Practice’, Pinter Pub Ltd, 1996

Laqueur, Walter ’Postmodern Terrorism’, Foreign Affairs, September/October 1996

Murphy, Daniel ’”Activated” Asian Terror Web Busted’ and Chandrasekaran, Rajiv ’Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Reach’, 2002

SCE, ’Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism’, A Community-Policing Approach, 2014

Perl, Raphael ’Terrorism, the Future, and U.S. Foreign Policy’, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, 2003

Shih, Gerry; Menn, Joseph ’New York Times, Twitter hacked by Syrian group’, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/net-us-newyorktimes-hacked-idUSBRE97Q11J20130828 (Accessed: 19th May, 2016)

SIPRI Yearbook 2015, Armaments, Disarmament and International Security

Weiner, Roger ’The Financing of International

[1] They may be anti-globalization in nature, but they also use and benefit from the positive side of globalization.

[2] I do not mean to suggest states are not important actors, only that their role compared to the above-mentioned entities became relatively less significant.

[3] Further information can be found in Murphy, D. ’”Activated” Asian Terror Web Busted’ and Changrasekaran, R. ’Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Reach’, 2002, p. A1

Comments in Chronological order (4 total comments)

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Fri, September 30, 2016 04:29 AM (about 67106 hours ago)
Congratulation for your published papers! That is huge a mile stone in a life of a young university student. It's a very good paper your thesis statem
Sun, October 02, 2016 11:29 PM (about 67039 hours ago)
Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately I do not have unlimited space to incorporate many personal insights in the essay. I know it is unfortunate,
Mon, October 31, 2016 02:26 AM (about 66364 hours ago)
very intellectual writings
Sun, November 27, 2016 09:33 AM (about 65709 hours ago)
Thank you for reading!
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