Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Terrorist to Tyrant

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Terrorist to Tyrant

Article excerpt

"No ruling class has ever voluntarily and peacefully abdicated. In questions of life and death, arguments based on reason have never replaced the arguments of force."

Leon Trotsky 1


In a July 2010 lecture, former FBI Deputy Director for the National Security Branch Philip Mudd spoke about counterterrorism strategy and al Qaeda Ideology. 2 He addressed al Qaeda Prime, the core group of modern Islamic terrorists, and how it has influenced affiliates and likeminded groups. Their goal is the revolutionary overthrow of the Western-dominated world order and terrorism is their tactic. We are dealing with a revolution rather than simply a terror group. This article describes not terrorist organizations but revolutionary movements and their use of terror.

Revolutionary movements are a product of social protest movements. Social protest movements are usually organized and act outside of the political system to either promote or prevent change in the existing social order. 3 A revolutionary movement "uses confidential, violent terroristic activity" in order to achieve its ends. 4 The objective of the revolutionary movement is the destruction of the existing social or political order so that it can be replaced with one conforming to its own ideology. For the purpose of this article, terrorism is defined as the calculated use of violence, outside of internationally accepted bounds of civil law and conventional military conduct, in the pursuit of political or social objectives. 5 Internationally accepted bounds are those laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva and Hague Conventions. 6

Acts of terror alone do not overthrow governments and when used indiscriminately terror alienates the society it wishes to coerce. Without popular support, the ire of the state may be brought to bear on the isolated terror group; it is forced to flee or be destroyed. Those who use terror must first justify its use. Without justification the group remains an illegitimate criminal organization in the eyes of the population and international community; the population sides with the state, perceived as the legitimate upholders of society. The terror-using group endeavors to turn the support of the populace away from the state and towards itself by undermining the legitimacy of the state.

Repressive measures intended to control terrorism can alienate the public, shifting their support towards the revolutionary movement. The more popular support of the revolutionary movement grows, the more the legitimacy the state is brought into question. 7 Terror groups may evolve in capability - from terrorists to insurgents to revolutionaries - as they meet with success, ultimately replacing the existing power structure.

This article examines three revolutionary movements that used terror as a means to achieve their objectives: the overthrow of the Czar by the Russian Socialist Revolution, the overthrow of the Shah by Iranian Islamic Revolution and Hezbollah's rise to power in Lebanon. The three are compared in order to analyze whether these are separate and unique occurrences or whether these might be indicative of the successful application of terrorism.

The Russian Revolution is perhaps the quintessential revolutionary movement and one that has had a particularly large impact on the United States. In studying the Russian Revolution, I identified six developmental stages, which can be organized as a Revolutionary Terrorism Value Chain (RTVC). 8 The six stages of the RTVC are: Ideological Development, Small Group Terror, Mass Civil Unrest and Revolution, Revolutionary Victory and Consolidation of Power, Tyranny, and Export of Terror and Expansion. A successful terrorist group can evolve through these stages to gain national power.

Next, I researched the Iranian Islamic revolution, which likewise has had great impact on the U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.