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Terrorism refers to the systematic utilization of violent terror to create fear among individuals and systems of government. In most instances, terrorism entails the perpetuation of violence with political, religious, or ideological aims. Notably, terrorism targets strategic places and always leads to enormous losses of human lives and destruction of property.
These series of violence and bombings committed by terrorists are always planned in secret before being executed. Organized crime, on the other hand, can be defined as local, national, or transnational groups of criminals that always exist to engage in illegal activities with a motive to derive monetary benefits. It is significant to note that these movements could force individuals to engage in business deals with them to drain them financially.
Therefore, they could gain financially by participating in drug trafficking or smuggling illegal goods into a country. Terrorism and organized crime are similar in a wide range of aspects including their structure. This means that they are mostly decentralized but still maintain some form of hierarchy. They are also similar in the manner they utilize corrupt individuals to conduct their activities.
Both of them engage in money laundering and transfers, they embrace secrecy in their operations to launch surprise attacks, and they are commonly formed with extremist religious views. Additionally, both terrorism and organized crime flourish in similar environments and they exhibit similar risks in the course of conducting their activities. Organized crime and terrorism also exhibit enormous differences as they operate. For instance, terrorist actions are committed for ideological or political motives while the main aim of organized crime is financial gains.
Additionally, terrorism could be done internationally while organized crime is mostly confined within one country and terrorists are logical in their operations whereas criminal organizations are technical in their operations. These groups also differ in the acceptance of the risks involved, as terrorists tend to accept the risks as compared to organized criminals. The nature of violence also differs as terrorism entails large-scale violence as compared to criminal activities.
This paper explicates the significant similarities between terrorism and organized crime incorporating some examples of these groups.
First, terrorism and organized crime are similar in terms of their structure. It is significant to note that both organized and terrorist groups are mostly decentralized, but still, exhibit some level of the hierarchy. This implies that both of these groups have bestowed authority among different individuals tailored to spearhead operations in different regions of interest. They also have the overall commander, who they respect, and who ensures that they follow the orders given by the highest authorities.
The hierarchical nature of both terrorist and crime groups would vary across different dimensions depending on the agreement of the founders of such groups. The overall matter is that both of these groups have a high level of hierarchical leadership, which they adhere to as they conduct their activities.
For instance, the Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism (2008) agrees that the Al Qaeda terrorist group was first established as a centralized movement conducting killings in different parts of the globe before gradually becoming decentralized with individual motivations to kill massively.
This implies that the decentralized nature of both of these groups can be observed in the operations of individuals as they continue with criminal activities on behalf of the groups. The decentralized nature of both of these groups is deemed to increase the level of criminal activities executed by these groups, as authorities cannot easily locate them. Again, the decentralized structure of both of these groups ensures that they easily escape from being tracked down by government authorities.
They make location extremely difficult, as their decentralized operations become a bigger challenge for governments to counter. Therefore, both terrorist groups and organized criminal groups have gone about their illegal activities in a decentralized manner ensuring their success in these operations.
Usage of Corrupt Officials
Second, both groups take advantage of corrupt officials within a country when conducting their activities. It is worth noting that as both groups conduct their operations, they seek corrupt individuals within a country on who they lean as they engage in their illegal activities. According to Abadinsky (2010), organized crime groups always aim at exploiting corrupt individuals for economic gains. This implies that they try to rely on such individuals for supplies and overall cash funding that promote their activities.
To achieve this objective, an organized crime movement remains close to the person who would be in charge of ensuring they get funds for transportation and food supplies. Similarly, terrorist groups would take advantage of corrupt individuals in a country to conduct their critical campaigns to undermine and de-legitimize the overall governance of the country.
This is commonly achieved through getting access to the secrets of the country and ensuring that there are loopholes to facilitate the illegal activities of the group. The activities of both groups would entail befriending corrupt individuals to make it easier to operate in a country.
For instance, organized crime groups would be able to traffic drugs into and out of the country with the economic benefits derived from the corrupt individuals they befriend. Additionally, terrorist groups would intimidate the government and its authorities using corrupt individuals of a country. This common goal of relying on corrupt individuals within a country has been vital in ensuring the success of both of these movements. Their activities have been able to thrive in line with the benefits and support they derive from corrupt entities and individuals within a country.
Secret Illegal Activities
Third, terrorism and organized groups are similar in the sense that they conduct their illegal activities with immense secrecy. Benedek, Daase, & Duyne (2010) assert that in most countries around the globe, both groups are commonly referred to as "dark groups" because of the understanding that they engage in illegal activities, which they try to keep off the eyes of the public.
Activities of both groups are never disclosed to the public, but the public only ends up suffering due to the consequences of such illegal activities. The secrete operations of both groups are always conducted in isolated places such as deserts or large forests. The secrecy is always kept starting from the recruitment of members, their training, and implementation of these activities. Immense uncertainty is always created by these secrete operations as countries are never able to tell when terrorist groups will attack.
In some instances, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda have been able to issue warnings of the bombing of different countries but they keep the exact timeline for such operations in secrete. Similarly, activities conducted by organized crime movements such as drug trafficking and killing of individuals are always done in secret to avert any form of pursuit from government authorities.
Accordingly, the secret operations of both groups have played an instrumental role in promoting the success of their activities. They are only able to succeed as they continue operating away from the eyes of the government and the public. With this secrecy, unprepared government authorities have been left surprised with the escalation of both terrorist and organized crime activities.
Money Transfers and Laundering
More so, the terrorist and organized crime groups are similar in the sense that both of them engage in money transfers and laundering. It is crucial to note that both groups need to engage in the frequent movement of money around the globe using both legal and illegal arenas.
This motivates both of these groups to indulge in money laundering and embrace other significant methods of transferring money. The entire process of money laundering goes through three significant steps including disassociation, obfuscation, and the legitimating stage. The process of disassociation entails the movement of money from one place to another through direct association with the crime.
Bovenkerk (2011) reiterates that obfuscation involves these groups disguising the trail of money movement to foil any form of pursuit from government authorities. The legitimating stage is the last and it entails the process of making these funds available again. Money laundering is always done with a high level of care to ensure that the activities of both groups are sustained more effectively.
Money is always moved from one country to another to facilitate significant and easier operations of both groups even as they move from one country to another to execute their operations. Most money that is transferred from one place to another is always derived illegally from different organizations or corrupt individuals.
For instance, such groups could illegally control and sell resources of a country such as gold or oil. They could also engage in drug trafficking, which still earns them large amounts of money. Therefore, both groups would indulge in money transfers and money laundering to promote their activities to wider areas of the globe. They need effective money supplies all the time to sustain their illegal activities.
Another significant similarity is that both of these movements can flourish in similar environments especially in failed states and countries with religious extremism. It is imperative to note that most of these groups can flourish in similar environments especially in countries that have an unorganized or lack effective government systems to combat any form of crimes.
Fiedler (2010) opines that this is common in most countries that are regarded as failed states such as Somalia where the Al Shabaab was a dominant group before the attack by the AMISOM army and the weakening of the movement. They take advantage of the failed and weak systems of government hence ensuring that they take overall control of the country and utilize an opportunity to threaten other peaceful states. Both terrorist and organized crime groups perceive such unorganized states as safe havens to promote their activities because of the feeling that they are more organized to take control over such states.
In the course of operation in such states, both of these groups tend to exploit crucial resources of a country leading to increased levels of poverty. In most instances, both terrorist and organized criminal groups are always drafted in countries with long periods of war hence taking advantage of these systems to promote their illegal activities. In the course of their operation, these groups are mostly funded by warlords who want the country to collapse to pursue their self-interest.
This motivates both groups to conduct more illegal activities such as drug trafficking and killings that end up frustrating development in such countries. Therefore, both of these groups can survive in a common environment, especially in war-torn countries.
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Terrorist and organized groups are also similar in terms of the risks involved. The risks of participating in criminal and terrorist activities are always similar in most instances because of the severity of the effects caused by their operations. For instance, participants of both groups always risk being arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced for their illegal activities.
Government authorities in countries such as the United States of America take the initiative to pursue the leaders of such movements to intimidate other members and alleviate the negativities emanating from their operations. The key example of this pursuit was the tracking down of Osama Bin Laden and the ultimate killing before being thrown into the sea as a sign of disgust for his promotion of terrorist activities. Most other groups, such as the Al Shabaab in Somalia, have also been tracked down and most of their members killed to discourage their activities.
Forest (2012) confirms that the US government was also keen on tracking down the members of the American Mafia hence ensuring that they are weakened. The members of such movements are always likely to be subjected to difficult tasks as punishment, once they are arrested. Members of both groups are always treated with excessive application of force to serve as a lesson to other individuals planning to engage in such activities. Both groups entail enormous risks of arrest and massive punishment of the participants to prevent the recurrence of such activities.
The key targets for government authorities are always the leaders in charge of such groups and the government is always focused on defeating their economic bases to stop further supplies. Therefore, all individuals participating in organized crimes and terrorism are always destined to face similar consequences once captured by government authorities.
Unrealistic Religious Opinions
Lastly, both organized criminal groups and terrorist movements can also be seen to be similar in the sense they employ religious views when being formed. Most of these groups, especially terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, are always formed based on religious extremism. They are always in place to pressurize their agenda claiming that they are religious movements conducting normal operations of worship. Organized movements are mostly made up of individuals with a common religious inclination to pursue economic gains within a country.
Hagan (2006) is of the view that religion is always employed to provide a cover for illegal activities conducted by these organized criminals. Similarly, terrorists are always formed in line with extremist religious views and they always want individuals to comply with their operations.
Therefore, both groups try to come up with unrealistic religious opinions and try to force individuals within the area of their operation to comply with these views. Those who comply are always recruited as group members while those who fail to comply are always murdered. Recruitment and training are essential for ensuring the continuity of these movements.
One of the most significant differences is that terrorism encompasses coercive goals and objectives typically aimed at bringing some form of amendments to state policies and/or maintaining the status quo of a country. The dual aspect of terrorism is what manifests the dissimilarity between these two unlawful groups. For instance, the Al-Qaeda members used force in terrorizing not necessarily the targeted individuals but also innocent civilians in a bid to masquerade terror and fear and ultimately force the Americans out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This was witnessed following the subsequent attacks on the United States Embassies and other terrorist attacks that are still looming on the United States??? territory by the al-Qaeda allies and sympathizers. On the other hand, organized crimes do not necessarily aim at bringing change but rather, in many cases, organized crimes seek to maintain the status quo within a social setup.
For instance, Madsen (2009) agrees that the Ku Klux Klan in the United States of America wanted to ensure the continuity of white supremacy as far as race relations were concerned. Besides, terrorism, as discussed earlier, is particularly aimed at instilling terror and fear to both the targeted population and other audiences not directly involved in the incursion. Certainly, as the United States soldiers were unrelentingly fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, the group, on the other hand, launched an unexpected attack and then launched severe attacks as a result of which hundreds of innocent civilians died.
The main aim was to create fear and terror among soldiers in the Middle East to give up their fight against this terrorist group. This incursion was retaliatory. Apparently, organized crimes are normally an initiative aimed at refuting a change and maintaining the status quo.
Also, terrorism is always undertaken purposely for political significance while the main aim of criminal activities is financial gain. In a struggle for political dominance, nations will employ the threats to intimidate their territorial rivals. Various ways are undertaken in posing these threats; the setting of blasts can be organized on targeted zones. In 1998, the US Embassy in Kenya was bombed by Al-Qaida, a terrorist group in Iraq, because of the political struggle between the United States and Iraq.
The attack led to various expeditions to Iraq territories by US military teams in the search of the then Iraq leader Saddam Hussein. Threats are always employed to intimidate the rivals to concede defeat in the political struggle. Terrorists commit crimes to create fear among individuals and governments. On the contrary, organized crimes are always committed for financial gain. These are attacks performed to achieve monetary improvements; a crime is undertaken for profit gain, and there is no political inclination unlike in terrorism.
Criminal organizations will indulge in illegal activities such as smuggling and drug trafficking. Hudson (2010) asserts that in the Indian Ocean, Somalia pirates have always attacked several ships for monetary advantage. Ships are held until monetary achievement is obtained. For instance, in 2009 a Ukrainian ship had been attacked and held by Somalia pirates until they obtained three million dollars.
Besides, there are numerous cases of looting. Human trafficking is another activity constituting organized crime. Here persons targeted are held in custody until the stated amount of money is paid. From the foregoing, it becomes evident that terrorist activities and organized crimes are undertaken with different motives. The two, therefore, exhibit differences in their motives. With the type of rulings, hence, their leadership tends to be long-term.
The Acceptance of Risk
Another aspect of differences between terrorist and organized crimes is manifested in the acceptance of risk that is inherent in each one of the two. That is to say, even though perpetrators can be apprehended, prosecuted, and imprisoned, the ability to take risks to gain success in their operation is utterly different. While terrorists are always ready and willing to accept risks even though they may appear extremely severe, and with greater certainty of occurrence, criminals are, on the contrary, certainly risk-averse while motivated with selfish and covert ambitions.
Besides, terrorists prefer to take greater risks to capture the attention and support of the majority of the population. This is because, terrorists often want to engage in terrorist attacks or actions that have greater impacts and as the saying goes, the greater the risk, the greater the returns. Consequently, these terrorists aim at making their actions look legitimate while seeking to have their voices heard. For example, the al-Qaeda terrorist group retaliated to the American???s incursion by choosing to bomb the strategic place at the heart of New York City.
Also, the risk inherence among terrorist groups as explicated is extremely incomprehensible because they do not care about losing their lives and, instead, they willingly and readily engage in a very severe decision such as acceptance to be a suicide bomber as well as other life-risking fanatic assaults.
Picarelli (2012) asserts that in most instances these terrorist groups claim to be in pursuit of human rights and indeed, some terrorists are restricted by their moral principles and values and may highly refute or oppose some of the actions such as human smuggling, and child abuse. This is because they may perceive this as a mortal wound to their own principles and values.
Furthermore, terrorism is based on certain norms and beliefs that permit taking part in a terrorist attack. Various societal norms in various cultures view the act as bravery and adhering to religious doctrines. This has made indulgence in terrorist attacks be on a high rise by those who adhere to these religious and cultural doctrines. The Islamic doctrines view retaliatory terrorism attacks as a way of protecting one`s spiritual life.
Terrorism is faith-based in the Islamic culture. This doctrine has fueled terrorism activities in Islamic nations. In the Middle East, an Islamic governed region, cases of terrorist attacks have been boosted by the extremist Islamic doctrine that forms a pillar in their life. Palestine has been undertaking a constant terrorist attack on Israel despite various interventions employed to stop the war. Besides, Osama Bin Laden, an embodiment of Islamic faith, participated in various terrorist attacks on the United States. A perfect example was the bombing of the former Trade Center on 11th September 2001.
According to him, this act was the protection of the Islamic faith. Rollins & Wyler (2012) affirm that malicious groups, on the contrary, engage in organized crimes with a major goal of monetary satisfaction. Their operations lack principles and teachings that catalyze them, for example, individuals often participate in drug dealing with the sole motive of gaining money from it but does not cling to certain cultural or religious principles. In line with this, terrorism is viewed as a community-based act, as an individual or a group will undertake an attack to protect the whole community.
Suicide bombing is a prudent example as an individual offers to die for the sake of the community. On the contrary, organized crimes are individual-based, as the driving factor is financial achievement. Also, when undertaking terrorism attacks, one of the major aims is to cause massive loss of lives. Consequently, the success of a terrorist attack is gauged by the number of deaths. Organized crimes, instead, are not focused on the loss of life, but monetary advantage.
Terrorist attacks always occur due to a struggle of two or more nations, specifically, a political struggle while organized crimes can occur within a given nation. This makes it evident that terrorist attacks cannot be undertaken within a nation but must just occur across borders. Israel has always been a victim of several terrorist attacks by Palestine. There were several cases of atomic bombs set by two sides on the rival territories. Besides, coercive military expeditions have been undertaken by two nations mainly to instill fear and intimidation to the opponents.
As a result, various nationals of the targeted nations are detained to intimidate others. However, organized attacks can always be undertaken within the borders of a country but with the main motive of financial gain. In a nation experiencing political unrest, opposing groupings can organize crimes mainly to destabilize the government financially. Ronczkowski (2006) asserts that this can be achieved in a form of human trafficking in which influential government-related individuals will be detained by these groupings.
Consequently, it can be achieved by various attacks on government premises solely for financial gain. There were numerous internal organized crimes in Syria, where a major part of the nation is in opposition to the government. In summary, the above discussion vividly stipulates a key difference between terrorism and organized crime. In connection to this, terrorists are always in opposition to a certain dictatorship form of ruling hence making leadership in a terrorist nation short term.
For example, Syria lacks a stable government due to various actions taken by terrorists to overturn various reigns that they are not satisfied with. However, criminals are not concerned with the type of ruling hence their leadership tends to be long-term.
Logical VS Technical
Terrorists are logical in their operations whereas criminal organizations are technical in their operations. They usually use systematic procedures to attain the desired goal. When preparing for attacks, they can adopt illegal activities such as drug dealing, human trafficking to get access to a targeted zone. Besides, they can employ their knowledge in the governing laws and their experience in operating against the law to achieve their main objectives.
For instance, bioterrorism relies heavily on the knowledge of drugs; this refers to the use of harmful drugs to cause massive loss of life for political gain through disease infections. During the First World War, various nations used this method to weaken their opponents. For example, anthrax was a major result of bioterrorism. On the contrary, organized crimes are technology-based. This arises because criminals always endeavor to take a low profile and so to reach their main objectives, they must develop proper strategies that constitute technicality.
Among the operations that they can indulge in are bribing their ways into various sectors and even looking for the loose ends of the governing laws. Mafia groups in Italy portray high levels of innovation in their operations. Besides being criminal groups, they participate in other legal activities that portray them as legal organizations. This allows them to understand the operations of various organizations that give way to their criminal operations. The operations of the Mafia are a perfect example of how criminal groupings are technical in their operations.
An extra intrinsic distinction between terrorism and organized crime is the kind of relationship that exists between either of the two and the governing body of a country. In some cases, terrorists prefer a symbiotic kind of relationship where the terrorists benefit while at the same time the regime benefits. In such a case, both the state and the terrorists may be viewed to benefit from one another's actions or practice.
Shanty & Mishra (2008) emphasize that a perfect example encompasses the Hezbollah terrorist group in the Middle East, which participates and benefits from the government's grant and permission to conduct social welfare functions that the state does not engage in. Consequently, the state benefits from the fact that it does not have to devote scarce resources in a bid to see the success of the functions.
On the contrary, organized criminals usually have a parasitic kind of relationship with the state in that criminals tend to depend on the state for their own selfish gains. For instance, criminals depend on food, medical incentives, and other government initiatives as public amenities to benefit and satisfy their own selfish and secrete ambitions. That is to say, the more stable and richer the state is, the more beneficial the criminals become because of the many opportunities and benefits underway.
This kind of relationship, characterized by the parasitic nature of criminal groups, unveils the unavoidable difference between organized crimes and terrorism because while the state and the terrorist group both benefit in their association, only criminals benefit from their relationship with the governing body. Also, criminals may prefer to make their identity and existence known which in turn dictates the kind of relationship that is bound to exist, while, on the other hand, criminals tend to shy away while keeping their identity secured so that they may not be flashed out and therefore, rendering them inactive.
The Degree and Symbolism of Violence
A further distinctive characteristic inherent in both organizations is the levels and symbolisms of their violence. Even though both terrorists and criminals engage in violence, the degree and symbolism of their violent actions differ significantly in that criminals only use violent means to obtain profits as well as use force and coercion to eliminate their perceived foes. Usually, the level of violence involved is relatively low and sometimes negligible because they endeavor to avoid any public attention that may lead to their exposure and they critically analyze their targets.
Certainly, their acts of violence are not or do not necessarily translate to any kind of a symbolic act nor do their actions denote any symbolism. On the other hand, terrorists normally engage in high levels of violence with a greater degree of symbolism. For instance, the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Centre at the heart of New York City was extremely symbolic as the terrorists sought to seriously impact Western economic pluralism.
According to the Department of Justice (2010), most terrorist attacks are also symbolic especially in the event where suicide terrorism has been witnessed. In such a case, the attack is intended to make the group noticed by their foes that they are certainly willing and ready to die in their course for as long as they are heard. Apparently, the act of instilling fear and terror is also inherent in the attack.
Criminals often indulge in covert affairs while trying to keep a low profile in whatever activity they partake. That is, they prefer not to be known even though their actions are noticed. Publicity to them is like suicide and they do not want that to happen at any point in their actions. Apparently, they would do anything behind the scene and in the incidences where they are close to being identified, they attempt to secretly manipulate investigations in a bid to conceal their identity. A perfect example of covert operations involving the Italian Mafia criminal group is the fact they refute any claim that they were involved in the perpetration of criminal activities even though they did.
This is the exact opposite in terrorism, where terrorists would publicly admit their participation in criminal offenses for their own benefits such as the benefits accrued to the public as far as raising the awareness both to local and international residents. Besides, terrorists believe that publicity will aid them to mobilize sympathizers as well as attract recruits to the group. Terrorists would always have a sense of pride when associated with a terrorist attack and they readily acknowledge their participation even before and during investigations.
For instance, Williams (2005) asserts that on Jan 24, 1975, a terrorist attack in New York that claimed more than 50 lives was readily acknowledged by a Puerto Rican terrorist group. Terrorists often want their criminal offenses to be received and create a heavy impact and this undoubtedly motivates them to publicly launch an assault even if it means conducting suicidal missions.
This is frequently the case in the event where they want to retaliate and make their voice heard. Moreover, terrorists significantly value their publicity, as they believe that through their public incursions, they create a momentous impact that arouses the attention of the public, no matter how severe and violent their act may look.
Notably, the difference between the duration of goals and objectives between the two organizations also brings out a clear distinction existing between the two. While terrorists often entangle themselves with long-term goals and objectives, organized criminals, on the other hand, find themselves involved in short-term goals and objectives such that, they may terminate their course of action immediately or at a later date when they finally succumb to their goals.
Besides, their organizational structure impedes and limits the pursuance of short and instant goals that are easily found because of the nature of manipulative and coercive forces used. Also, organized crimes can instantaneously be terminated by government intervention and quick stern action against their illegal activities unlike in terrorism where their well-structured military-like organization backs their aggression and determination to pursue long-term goals that may not easily be terminated.
In conclusion, the foregoing discussion has explicitly explicated the realities behind terrorism and organized crimes relevantly exhausting the similarities and differences inherent in both. Terrorism notably is a high profile criminal activity, while a criminal organization is a supplement of a terrorist group and both can engage in issues involving money laundering and money transfer.
Besides, it has been vividly echoed out that both groups engage in activities that have a certain degree of covert affairs as a means of protracting their existence and ultimately ensuring that they utterly exhaust their aims and goals without necessarily being noticed during the act. Even though both organizations are always associates with criminal offenses and violence, clear distinctions are underlying the structures and goals pursued by each organization.
While terrorists engage in committing crimes that give them a leeway to pursue more intense terrorist attacks, criminals, on the other hand, commit crimes with a view of gaining profit regardless of the means they have to use in a bid to get what they want. Often, criminals are after financial gain and inconspicuously exhibit rather egocentric and self-gratification behaviors seeking to gratify themselves.