What Motivates Terrorists and Assassins and How Their Actions Affect Society Essay


It is obvious that since the time immemorial, terrorists’ motives and their ideological orientations have had a strong impact on society. In ancient times, in the Middle Ages period, and in the modern era, there were the killers of tyrants, the assassins of political and religious leaders, the groups of nationalists who faced oppression and felt not autonomous in their countries, and extremists who were focused on the radical, economic, religious, political or social changes (Stout, 2012). Actually, there are different kinds of terrorist mentality that stand for the so-called fanaticism and create an unprecedented threat to society.

The issue of terrorism is not a new phenomenon in our society. It has been discussed on the global level because of the wide spread of terrorism. Christopher Blake and colleagues (2012) state that “historical accounts of terrorism can be found in most countries, and when these are examined, there is evidence of many different causes of terrorism; issues that motivate terrorists have existed over the entire span of human history” (p. 2). There are many different causes of terrorism, including political, strategic, psychological, sociological, socio-economic and religious factors, which help to explain what motivates terrorists and assassins to commit crimes. The federal government has effectively responded to the events of 9/11by creating DHS that is aimed to prevent terrorist attacks on the territory of the USA. Today DHS and emergency preparedness are inseparable elements of homeland security.

Thesis statement: Scholars struggle with the notion that the events of 9/11 have created a greater amount of emphasis in the government on emergency preparedness. The major goal of this paper is to discuss the key motives of terrorists and assassins’ crimes, the impact of terrorists and assassins’ actions on society and the impact of events of 9/11 on emergency preparedness policies introduced by the government.

The major motives of terrorism and assassins’ crimes

There are many different causes of terrorism which help to better understand what motivates terrorism and assassins to commit their violent crimes. According to the recent research, the major causes of terrorism include political, strategic, psychological, sociological, socio-economic and religious factors. Christopher Blake and colleagues (2012) suggest that “many of today’s terrorists are still inspired by historical events and it is the connection between past and present that makes the study of the history of terrorism important in understanding modern-day terrorism” (p. 2). Many experts view terrorism as a strategy of the weak to gain advantage of the strongest and powerful opponents. For example, Hamas uses terrorism as a strategy not merely to bomb Israeli Jewish civilians, but to seek to leverage violent activity in order to obtain the appropriate concessions related to the established goals on Fatah and Israel’s issues (Blake et al., 2012).

According to Amy Zalman (2013), terrorists are motivated by two things: social and political injustice that leads to poverty, discrimination and oppression, and the belief that acts of violence can be effective in making radical changes. For example, Zionists who were involved in terrorist activity in1930s, wanted to create a Jewish state. In the 1960-70s, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was involved in terrorist attacks in Israel as a justifiable response to the usurpation of their territories. One more example, is Osama bin Laden’s terrorism motives described in the declaration of war on American interests in the 1990s, that stated “U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia represented an abomination to the kind of Islamic state he believed should exist in the Arabian peninsula” (Amy Zalman, 2013, para.4). Additionally, it is known that terrorism has been discussed in the context of insurgency warfare and guerrilla warfare that stand for the form of properly organized political violence by a non-governmental army. In general, many individuals, or groups of individuals, like the Vietcong, have chosen terrorism because they do not support the existing organization of society and feel a great desire to change it. Any political killing indicates the existence of the “political motivation in non-armed conflict circumstances” (Zalman, 2013, para. 4).  For example, Lincoln’s assassination was the first politically motivated and well-organized killing of the US President.

Based on the recent research on the key psychological causes of terrorism, there are different motives to commit terrorist acts. In this case, special attention has been paid to personality of terrorists. Bandura suggests that “psychological processes of moral disengagement are involved in terrorist behavior and thought” (qtd. in Stout, 2012, p. 41). Actually, psychological research on terrorists’ motives helps to better understand the nature of terrorism and the effects of human aggression. As a matter of fact, the term “aggression” can be defined as “any form of human behavior directed toward the goal of harming another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment” (Stout, 2012, p. 41). Human aggression which lies at the root of terrorism is connected with some inner factors, as well as with social environment. In many studies, aggression is associated with the major human instinct. For example, Freud suggests that aggression can be viewed as “the basic component of human motivation and anger activated by objects of hate” (qtd. in Stout, 2012, p. 41). Social learning theory explains aggression of terrorists and their motives to commit crimes. Geen has developed his ideas on terrorism motivation. He analyzed the nature of aggression and antisocial behavior of terrorists and identified five psychological processes: “instigation, social and learning history of an individual, skills in processing interpersonal information and tendencies to attribute hostile intent to others, social/cultural variables regarding the appropriateness of aggression in conflicts, and personality variables that moderate aggressive behavior patterns” (qtd. in Stout, 2012, p. 42). In general, aggression and political ideology are melded together to form terrorism.

Moreover, socio-economic explanations of terrorists’ motivation suggest that there are different forms of deprivation that drive individuals to terrorist activity. Many individuals become more susceptible to be recruited by terrorist organizations. As a rule, such factors as poverty, lack of education, unemployment, lack of political freedom motivate individuals to become terrorists (Blake et al., 2012; Stout, 2012).

Besides, many experts argue that most individuals involved in terrorism are motivated by religious issues. For example, such terrorist organizations as Al Qaeda, Aum Shinrikyo (a form of Japanese cult) and some aggressive Christian identity groups are focused on religious concepts and ideas (Martha Crenshaw, 2010). Actually, there are different religious ideas which lead to terrorism, including “martyrdom, and Armageddon, which are considered to be the most dangerous. However, it is very important to mention that these terrorist groups and organizations selectively interpret religious texts, ideas and concepts to support terrorist activity. As a matter of fact, there is no religion that can cause terrorism.

The impact of terrorists and assassin’s actions on society

It is very important to assess the impact of terrorism and assassin’s actions on society and political processes that occur in society. Martha Crenshaw (2010) states that “realistic appraisals of the impact of terrorism on society are often lost in a tide of sensationalistic exaggerations” (p. 6). Undoubtedly, terrorism is a forceful and illegal method to achieve the established goals and make changes in society. Terrorism can be viewed as a deliberate use of violence against innocent civilians, the state and its army. According to Christopher Blake and colleagues (2012), “achieving a psychological impact is ultimately the goal of those engaged in terrorism”(p. 28). In most cases, the major goal of terrorists is to achieve some political objectives. Hoffman suggests that terrorism is “ineluctably political” in its nature (qtd. in Blake et al., 2012, p. 28). Based on the recent research, dissident violence which lies at the root of dissident terrorism can be viewed as an evil committed by those who support its cause and justify their crimes defending the so-called higher cause.

The term “the war of terror” is well-known in our society as it is associated with the impact of terrorism and assassin’s actions on society in general. This term was first introduced by the US President George Bush to “indicate a global military, political, legal and ideological struggle against designated terrorist organizations and regimes, with a particular focus on militant Islamists and al-Qaeda” (Blake et al., 2012, p. 20). In fact, the consequences of terrorism are unintended, but in most cases, terrorist acts do not alter political institutions, political plans, values and behavior patterns, as well as the overall functioning of society (Crenshaw, 2010).

However, terrorism affects society, instilling fear and anxiety in citizens. Terrorist acts and continued threats of terrorism in media have raised a variety of questions about the impact of terrorism on the psychological health of the nation, as well as the role of public health infrastructure that can help to meet the psychological needs of the population (Crenshaw, 2010). Terrorist acts, school and workplace shootings, bombing, and other events will never be forgotten. It is necessary to psychologically prepare the nation for terrorist acts. Actually, this necessity highlights a variety of benefits associated with this form of preparation for terrorism that affects community members. According to the Committee on Responding to the Psychological Consequences of Terrorism (2003), “universal preparedness for all hazards (conventional explosives, biological, radiological, chemical, nuclear terrorist attacks), all segments of the population, and all phases of events should be a priority for the protection of the public’s mental health”(p. 20).

Moreover, terrorism has a strong impact on the economy of society. Harry Ward Richardson and colleagues (2008) are focused on the economics of terrorism events in the post 9/11 world, using a variety of approaches and applying them to different types of terrorist acts (e. g. on airports, highways, seaports, electric power infrastructure, at schools, etc.). The results of their research suggest that “these issues are extremely complex and that the economic costs of some types of attack are huge, but that increased understanding and estimation can be used to justify resource investments in prevention, mitigation and response” (Richardson et al., 2008, p. 5).

Besides, terrorism as a form of organized crime causes social disharmony. Actually, terrorism is associated with close inter-relationship among armed insurgent groups and identifies the existence of foreign links that bring illegal money, encouraging smuggling and kidnaping. In most cases, armed insurgent groups get money from illegal activity.  Undoubtedly, this fact means that social ties become weaker and weaker. As a rule, terrorists seek to make social and political changes, based on freedom of religious expression and providing both physical and political control. Thus, there is a necessity to control terrorism to avoid the spread of terror and pain in society.

The impact of events of 9/11 on emergency preparedness policies introduced by the government

Today it is critically important to understand the importance of the responses to terrorist acts by society and by political structures. This issue is a complex one as it requires much public attention. Martha Crenshaw (2010) suggests that “terrorist shapes interactions among political actors over long periods of time through a dynamic process” (p. 6). As a rule, in this process, acts of violence may alter the conditions that affect terrorist process.

Many scholars and experts on terrorism and international strategic affairs struggle with the notion that the events of 9/11 have created a greater amount of emphasis in the government on emergency preparedness. According to Robert Schneider (2007), “with the aftermath of September 11, 2001and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is tempting to suggest that emergency management has attained a new level of significant in the US national consciousness” (p. 83). Actually, the creation of emergency management professions, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicate to the growth of national security concerns and the increase of public awareness of the necessity to control terrorism. Besides, there is an increased political attentiveness to the functioning of DHS and other anti-terrorist organizations.

As a matter of fact, the creation of DHS has led to reorganization of emergency management, having a greater amount of emphasis on anti-terror efforts to improve the response to the terrorism threats. According to Robert Schneider (2007), “FEMA, and state and local emergency management structures across the nation, are integrated into the DHS” (p. 84). As a result, a variety of emergency management programs and initiative have been included in the functioning of the DHS divisions. American political leaders have created a new effective terrorism response structure, placing emphasis on sustainable hazard mitigation in communities. Today emergency managers work “shoulder to shoulder with military authorities in a realm of civil security” (McEntire, 2007, p. 156).  In addition, law enforcement has a strong impact on the effectiveness of terrorism prevention activities.


Thus, it is necessary to conclude that the events of 9/11 which led to the deaths of innocent people have created a greater amount of emphasis in the government on emergency preparedness. Terrorism and terrorists have existed for centuries. However, today there are critical changes in the use of methods developed by modern-day terrorists, as well as different motives to commit terrorist acts. This fact means that the US President, Congress and governmental official should enact effective policies to improve domestic preparedness and response for terrorism. In fact, the US homeland security policymakers pay much attention to planning initiatives and policies aimed to stop terrorist acts. The creation of the DHS and its functioning improved the existing situation in the country, and many acts of terrorism have been prevented.



Blake, C., Sheldon, B., Strzelecki, R. & Williams, P. (2012). Policing Terrorism. London & Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Crenshaw, M. (2010).Terrorism in Context. Pennsylvania State University Press.

Committee on Responding to the Psychological Consequences of Terrorism. (2003). Preparing for the Psychological Consequences of Terrorism: A Public Health Strategy. National Academies Press.

McEntire, D. A. (2007). Disciplines, Disasters and Emergency Management: The Convergence and Divergence of Concepts, Issues and Trends from the Research Literature. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Richardson, H. W., Gordon, P. & Moore, J. E. (2008).The Economic Impacts of Terrorist Attacks. Edward Elgar.

Schneider, R. (2007). “Hazard Mitigation: A Priority for Sustainable Communities” in Disaster Resilience: An Integrated Approach, ed. by Douglas Paton, David Moore Johnston. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Stout, C. E. (2012).The Psychology of Terrorism: Programs and practices in response and prevention. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Zalman, A. (2013). The Causes of Terrorism. Aboiut.com. Retrieved from:<http://terrorism.about.com/od/causes/a/causes_terror.htm>

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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