APOLOGISTS for terrorism (and they are not in short supply) argue that it is a weapon used by people who despair of achieving their goals in any other way. It is a cry from the depths by those deprived of a voice in the political process. The terrorist is not an aggressor but a victim, and we must disarm him not by violence but by addressing the grievance that motivates his deeds. This argument has been used to excuse Palestinian suicide bombers, IRA kneecappers, Red Brigade kidnappers, and even the mass murderers of September 11. Its main effect is to blame the victim and excuse the crime.
If you look at the actual condition of terrorists down the ages, however, you will soon discover that the excuse does not match the reality. Some terrorists have been poor and some have been victims of injustice. But those are the exceptions. The Jacobins, who unleashed the original Terror, were for the most part privileged members of the rising elite. The Russian anarchists of the 19th century were no worse off from the point of view of material and social privileges than you or me, and with grievances that were more the work of the imagination than the result of either observing or sympathising with the ordinary people of Russia. There is no evidence that Osama bin Laden’s entourage is any different, and even the IRA, which purports to represent the “oppressed” Catholics of Ulster, is very far from recruiting from those whose oppressed condition it loudly advertises. As for the Islamist terrorists who have targeted our cities, they tend to be well educated, specialists in medicine, engineering or computer science, people who might have helped to provide the Middle East with the stable middle class that it so badly needs, but instead have chosen another and faster route to glory.
The targets of terrorism are groups, nations or races. And they are distinguished by their worldly success — either material or social. The original Terror was directed against the French aristocracy — soon supplemented by all kinds of real and imaginary groups supposed to be aiding them. The Russian anarchists targeted people with wealth, office or power. The Great Terror of Stalin, initiated by Lenin, was directed against groups alleged to be profiting from the system that impoverished the rest. The Nazi terror picked on the Jews, because of their undoubted material success, and the ease with which they could be assembled as a group. Even the nationalist terrorists of the IRA and Eta variety are targeting nations thought to enjoy wealth, power and privilege, at the expense of others equally entitled. Islamic terrorists bomb the cities of Europe and America because those cities are a symbol of the material and political success of the Western nations, and a rebuke to the political chaos and deep-rooted corruption of the Muslim world.
The entire identity of terrorists is tied up in their resentment of those who have been successful, argues Scruton. And he is right, but it is not exclusive to the Islamofascist terrorist. Like people filled with resentment and hatred everywhere, they are those who choose not to create their own wealth or take charge of their own destiny; but to steal, appropriate, control or destroy that which is created by others. This behavior on their part affirms their own sense of victimhood and entitlement. Such people will naturally make common cause with the terrorist and/or enable them, since they share similar motivations in life.
Their motto is (to paraphrase Descartes) "I hate, therefore I am."