Changes in Public Policy towards Terrorism Based on Social Conflict Theory

The issue of terrorism is not only a national security concern but is one that impedes public order and social institutions. The recent assassination by suspected militants of Pakistan’s former prime minister and premiere opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has prompted riots and violence in several of Pakistan’s cities prompting military action (Masood & Gall, 2007). This has raised fears regarding the strength of the democratic processes, the attack happening only two weeks away from the country’s national elections.

For its citizenry, the concern is about being able to rebuild confidence in its economy and social institutions and addressing concerns regarding the disparities that have also led to social conflicts. The issue is particularly important to a country like Pakistan who aside from being nuclear-armed, has been as a critical to curtail international terrorist organizations and to promote peace and economic development not only in Pakistan but the Middle East as well.

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This scenario highlights the need to develop public policies that ensure security against terrorism, the protection of social institutions and the resolution of conflicts that create economic and social disparities utilized to motivate and justify violence and disorder. Using social conflict theories, it can be then theorized the political instability in many countries where terrorism has become prevalent is influenced by economic control of terrorist-linked groups. Hossein-Zadeh (2005) points out that in many instances support of terrorist or militant action is considered as political or economic statements.

Altheide (2006) supports this idea and further cites these acts to also aim to impact the public emotionally, impact social policies and force reaction from government. In an assessment made by Bergesen and Han (2005) of the influence of terrorism in public policies, they cited that it has prompted mobility-restrictive policies, justification of more intensive surveillance measures and extra-territorial policing efforts which, aside from the last extra-territorial policing, have deterred globalization efforts and confidence in international political partnerships.

West and Orr (2005) believe that this has cultivated distrust not only amongst nations but also which communities since many of the measures have created interest in cultural or ethnic groups linked to terrorist groups (Currie, 2007). On the other hand, Imai (2006), points out that this has also created views that fears regarding terrorist are motivated by efforts to limit the economic competition from countries linked to terrorism. There has also been contention that efforts are motivated to justify extra-territorial involvement by Western countries in the Middle East.

In a similar study conducted by Chancer and McLaughlin (2007), they point out that many public policies concerning terrorist and insurgent threats have, in hindsight, have proven to be more damaging than beneficial. Particular examples that their study point out to policies on developing intelligence information, for example, have invariably been questioned in succeeding administrations, showing as well variability in public opinion for such policies.

Imai (2006) believes that even though the many of such polices and related policies can be justified, they have been used, easily enough, to justify conflicts. Consider the policy reaction directly after the September 11 attacks on the World trade centers: public support for policies to pursue terrorist cells internationally has significant (Gray & Wilson, 2006). However, currently, the United States government is being pressured by many sectors to justify its actions not only militaristically but also the civil actions taken for the issue by its citizens (Neyroud, 2007).

Peak (2006) however points out that these trends in public policy, recognizing and accommodating for terrorist activities, is a necessary trend to ensure that insurgency and terrorist activities are not given the opportunity to become of consequence. With a number of researches indicating an intimate relationship between crime, terrorism and political extremism that utilize cultural, religious, social and economic vehicles to promote their cause, there is a need for policies to become sensitive and responsive to these threats (Neyroud, 2007).

Another trend that has become apparent is the consideration for social significance of terrorism: Peak (2006) points out that there is significant effort o understand the social development of terrorism and to address it as such. Hossein-Zadeh (2005) supports this perspective by suggesting the need to develop platforms for social and non-partisan exchange or communication. The premise of the suggestion is that current policies developed against terrorism are exacerbating tension between countries seen as harboring terrorists and countries that are pursuing them.

An assessment of changing perspectives in public policy development reflects the greater sensitivity of national issues to international concerns. The problem with the development of the said policies is the determination of what lies within the precepts of public good. At the same time, Imai (2006) believes that there is need to understand issues exhaustively beyond superficial difference in culture, ethnicity of beliefs. This requires that the criteria used to in developing policies should recognize and accommodate for political or economic motivations (Currie, 2007).

Bergesen and Han (2005) believe that future public policies will consider the implication of culture, ethnicity, international crime and terrorism more and more considering that their impacts are becoming just as great in the world due to intensifying globalization. In conclusion, recent events locally and abroad have highlighted the need for public administrators to ensure that policies do not impede on civil rights while still being able to support national objectives, do not exacerbate social conflicts or justify the marginalization of members of the society limiting their economic and social opportunities.