Terrorism is one of the main challenges that the world has encountered for several decades. It can be defined as the use of violence against civilians, primarily for political gains. September 11, 2001 was a fateful day that changed the United States’ and the world’s response to terrorism. The terrorist attack resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, and massive destruction of property. It marked a day when terrorism became a global problem. Terrorism affects communities adversely because it creates fear, insecurity, and causes political turmoil. Direct and short-term causes include the loss of lives and economic damages through destruction of property. Its indirect effects include market uncertainty, increased insurance claims, and a reduction in the number of tourists. This paper will discuss how terrorism has affected society, both in the past and at present. It will explore its economic, political, and psychological implications on communities and the society in general.
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Terrorism is a global challenge that has adverse effects, both short-term and long-term. According to government statistics, terrorists killed an average of 21,000 civilians annually for the past 10 years (Chaliand & Blin, 2016). The number has been on the rise as terrorist groups use new technologies and innovative methods to achieve their agenda. For example, in 2010, the global death toll was about 8,000 while in 2014, it was approximately 44,000 (Chaliand & Blin, 2016). Terrorism is geographically-focused, as the majority of incidents are reported in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In the US, anti-terrorism laws that were enacted after September 11 have reduced its incidence considerably. However, the public is still concerned that right-wing terrorism accounts for more attacks and deaths than Islamic terrorism. Terrorism causes massive economic losses due to property destruction and the loss of lives. The destruction of infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and businesses causes financial distress while the fear and insecurity that it elicits could lead to psychological trauma (Townshend, 2018). It is important for the US and other countries to enact stringent laws to fight terrorism in all its various forms, including local and international terrorist groups.
The first recorded terrorism case in the United States is historically referred to as the Gnadenhutten massacre. It dates back to 178 when Pennsylvania militia conducted mass execution that led to 96 deaths and 2 injuries (Chaliand & Blin, 2016). Since then, several attacks have been launched by both local and international terrorist groups. Terrorism became a serious challenge in the US after the September 11 attacks. The four attacks were executed by the terrorist group al-Qaeda, and they led to more than 3,000 deaths and more than 6000 injuries (Townshend, 2018). In addition, it resulted in the loss of billions of dollars in property destruction and the destabilization of financial markets. A 2017 report released by the US Government Accountability Office revealed that right-wing terrorism accounted for about 73 percent of the violent extremist incidents reported in the country since September 12, 2001. As mentioned, earlier, currently, right-wing terrorism is responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States. The deadliest attack was executed on September 11, 2001. Prior to that, an attack that took place on August 21, 1863 killed 204 civilians (Chaliand & Blin, 2016). In 1995, 168 deaths and more than 680 injuries were reported after a bombing incident in Oklahoma City. A Tulsa race massacre that occurred in 1921 led to between 150 and 300 fatalities, and more than 800 injuries (Chaliand & Blin, 2016). Past terrorist attacks led to deaths and economic destruction of property. In recent times, the effects are more pronounced as the global financial markets respond to terrorist in a more pronounced manner.
The past and present effects of terrorism are similar, and they include economic, psychological, and cultural effects. Past effects were not as pronounced as they are in contemporary society because currently, technology and globalization amplify the consequences. Any terrorist attack leads to the loss of lives, injuries, and the destruction of property. In addition, it elicits fear and a feeling of insecurity among the people, thus leading to psychological disturbances that could range from mild to severe.
The unparalleled September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks caused massive economic damages that included financial market uncertainty, shrinking insurance coverage, higher trading costs, increased spending on security, heightened foreign skepticism, a decline in tourists, and the destruction of businesses. The destruction of buildings, roads, factories, transportation systems, and the loss of productive workers cause huge economic losses. For example, the 9-11 attacks led to massive losses: $14 billion for private businesses, $0.7 billion for the federal government, $1.5 billion for the local and state governments, and $11 billion for cleanup costs (Combs, 2016). The impact is always negative, and it takes several years to recoup the losses. Economic resources that could have been used to produce goods and services are usually destroyed. On the other hand, increased spending on security, especially in the strengthening of the military and defense, diverts resources from other economic sectors (Combs, 2016). This move neither enhances the creation of wealth nor improves the standards of living. For instance, more than 200,000 jobs were either destroyed or relocated to other cities after the 9-11 attacks (Combs, 2016). An increase in unemployment rates is a common occurrence after a terrorist attack occurs because many businesses are destroyed completely.
The creation of uncertainty in the markets is an indirect effect of terrorism that affects everyone in the world. The amount of uncertainty that terrorism creates affects the markets adversely because investors panic and start making irrational decisions out of fear (Townshend, 2018). For instance, after September 11, the financial markets shut down temporarily and recovered partially after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (Combs, 2016). In the past, the attacks affected the financial markets of the affected countries. However, after terrorism became a global challenged after 9/11, financial markets are affected globally as they are linked together. The major challenge stems from investors’ unwillingness to invest in countries that report higher incidents of terrorism. An attack in the US affects all markets that have their currency pegged to the dollar. Research has shown that terrorism also decreases stock market returns and multiplies their volatility, thus decreasing investments.
The tourism and insurance industries are very vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The main effect is the negative perception toward certain destinations because of terrorist attacks. In such instances, tourists avoid visiting countries that have reported incidents of terrorism. Terrorists can directly affect tourism by launching attacks on the tourist infrastructure (Vergani, 2018). For instance, after the 9-11 attacks, the number of tourists who visited New York declined significantly. Surveys revealed that competing destinations in places like the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean reported a surge in the number of tourists (Combs, 2016). After a terrorist attack, insurance claims increase significantly. Commercial terrorism policies offer coverage for destroyed property, including buildings, inventory, and furnishings. In certain cases, it could include the losses that are associated with the interruption of business operations. The impact of terrorism on insurance companies is less than expected because few companies offer compensation in cases of international terrorism.
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The political effects of terrorism are primarily based on changes in foreign policies, immigration reforms, and the implementation of anti-terrorism laws and policies. Many countries that have been affected by terrorism have taken stringent measures that are aimed at stopping the proliferation of terrorist groups, both locally and internationally. In the US, anti-terrorism measures gave rise to repressive policies and laws that have adversely affected minority groups, such as Jews and Muslims (Combs, 2016). Immigration reform is one of the ways that the Trump’s administration has sued to fight terrorism. The restriction of immigration from countries that are associated with terrorist groups has affected many people who would like to travel to the US to either pursue higher education or conduct business (Townshend, 2018). International relations between countries have been strained because of connections with terrorism. For instance, the US foreign policy toward countries like Somali, Iraq, and Southern Sudan has primarily focused on ridding them of terrorist groups through trade sanctions and military support (Combs, 2016). Another political effect is an increase in nationalism and foreign skepticism. For instance, in the US and certain European countries, skepticism of foreign cultures, refugees, and immigrants has been on the rise (Vergani, 2018). This is evident from the various immigration policies and laws that the Trump administration has implemented. These political moves have a wide range of effects that have negative influences on areas such as trade and diplomacy.
Mental Health Effects
One of the main mental health effects of terrorism is the psychological trauma that people experience after experiencing a terrorist attack. Research has shown that common symptoms exhibited by victims of terrorist attacks include insomnia, the use of alcohol and drugs, anger, and nightmares (Townshend, 2018). Psychologists describe the aforementioned effects as normal reactions to an unpleasant event. However, they are highly distressing, and some victims, especially young children and adolescents, experience the distress several years after the experiences (Vergani, 2018). For instance, individuals who lose their loved ones might experience nightmares for an extended period as they undergo the grieving process. They can amplify the effects of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. Transient symptoms such as insomnia and unpleasant memories affect victims for short periods, and usually disappear as they come to terms with the unpleasant experiences (Vergani, 2018). According to research, increased alcohol and drug use were reported as methods that many victims of the 9/11 attacks used to cope with the situation.
Depression, suppressed anger, and anxiety are common symptoms that are observed among young victims of terrorist attacks. In many cases, individuals who decline to seek professional assistance after such events repress their anger and frustration that eventually could lead to serious psychological disturbances. In certain cases, some people have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the horrid events that they encounter. According to research, approximately 30% of people who are directly subjected to a terrorist attack are at a high risk of developing PTSD (Townshend, 2018). Secondary exposure also poses significant risks that could cause psychological disturbances. For instance, more than 40% of Americans reported to experience stress symptoms because of the 9/11 attacks, especially because of losing loved ones (Vergani, 2018). The rates of PTSD were higher among residents of the surrounding areas, and the symptoms were more pronounced among females and people who had pre-existing mental health issues.
Terrorism is a global challenge that has adverse economic, political, psychological, and cultural effects. The effects of past attacks are similar to current attacks. However, in contemporary society they are more pronounced because of the influence of technology and globalization. Economically, terrorism destroys property, productive workers, infrastructure, and businesses, it creates uncertainty in the financial markets, and it destabilizes the tourism industry. Politically, it increases nationalism and skepticism toward foreign cultures, immigrants, and businesses, it leads to the implementation of repressive policies, and laws, and strains foreign relations between countries. Terrorism has existed for several decades. However, it became a serious global threat after the 9-11 attack that killed and injured thousands of people. It also led to losses that ran into billions of dollars. The effects of terrorism on contemporary society are amplified because of new technologies and globalization. Terrorists can plan and execute attacks easily because communication is easier and terrorism has been embraced by local groups that aim to advance their political agendas. It is important for the government to implement more stringent laws and policies in order to protect the American people from the negative effects of terrorism.
Chaliand, G., & Blin, A. (Eds.). (2016). The history of terrorism: From antiquity to ISIS. University of California Press.
Combs, C. C. (2016). Terrorism in the twenty-first century (7th ed.). Routledge.
Townshend, C. (2018). Terrorism: A very short introduction (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.
Vergani, M. (2018). How is terrorism changing us? Threat perception and political attitudes in the age of terror. Palgrave Macmillan.