The term ‘terrorism’ really entered the public consciousness with the 9/11 attacks in New York, when Al-Qaeda, an extremist group hijacked a commercial aeroplane and flew it into the Twin Towers, killing 2,996 and injuring over 6000 innocent individuals. Terrorism is hard to define but usually refers to any form of violence during peacetime against non-combatants. Terrorism has not only leads to wrongful deaths but it is also a worsening problem, according to the Institute pf Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index, requiring countries to counter it. The global nature of terrorism makes it imperative for every country to play their part in counter it, but it is also a costly endeavour which means that countries with more resources ought to contribute more as well.
For a start, it is the responsibility of all countries to combat terrorism because no country should rest on its laurels even if it has not yet been hit by major terrorism events. Previously, the United States was the most active in trying to combat terrorism, with George W. Bush calling it the “War on Terror”, with measures ranging from increasing airport security to invading other countries. It was not until the November 2015 attacks in Paris that Europe was awakened to the possibility that major attacks could happen in their region as well. Likewise, while it is fortunate that places like Singapore have not suffered any major successful terrorism attack, vigilance is extremely important because prevention is key when it comes to countering terrorism. Thus, all countries have an equal responsibility to counter terrorism even if they have not yet suffered damages as great at the United States.
Moreover, terrorism is a global problem. Fighters from different parts of the world have joined ISIS, which has gone on to create terror in various regions. For example, Islamist groups in the region have transnational links – the group which killed 21 in Tunisia by detonating a truck bomb – had links to al-Qaeda. The Paris attacks were also planned in Molenbeek, a Belgian town. The fact that fighters originate from different parts of the world means that inter-countries cooperation in intelligence and surveillance can thus really make a difference in the prevention of terrorism attacks. For example, a Syrian-based Indonesian ISIS militant group was caught planning a rocket attack on Marina Bay in Singapore, and it was based in Batam. Thanks to coordination between the Indonesian police and Singaporean security agencies, those terrorists were foiled before they could cause harm to those in Singapore. This also means that countries which may not suffer from terrorism attacks have some responsibility to prevent the radicalisation of their own population, or to de-radicalise fighters who end up returning after leaving to join extremist groups.
However, not every country can spend the amount of money and deploy the number of human capital towards the combating of terrorism. The United States spent $2.8 trillion to combat terrorism from 2002 to 2017, a figure more than what Russia, India and South Korea spent on overall defence in 2017 combined. Countries like the United States devote 3.6% of their GDP to defence, but most countries around the world spend less than 2% of their GDP on it. However, terrorism affects developing countries disproportionately – poorer economies and conflict-ridden states are fragile to terrorism taking root because they lack strong institutions to prevent it. This creates a vicious cycle, as terrorism further weakens a country’s economic and social stability, as has been observed in places like Syria.