What goes around comes around. A critical analysis of contemporary western European terrorism as a prcess of tit-for-tat

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“France is at war”. These words, accompanied with a fierce military response, by then French president François Hollande heavily impacted western European counter-terrorism efforts. The French response to the Paris attacks paved the way for a Europe that engages in wars abroad in order to fight terrorism at home. This thesis analyses the extent to which contemporary western European terrorism could be perceived as a process of tit-for-tat. The dominant understanding of terrorism contains pervasive misrepresentations. Throughout this thesis, terrorism is understood as a process employed by both state and non-state actors. Applying a critical geopolitical approach and process-tracing to the attacks that targeted Paris, Brussels and Berlin reveals the causality of terrorism. Terror attacks and following state responses are interconnected and mutually reinforce one another. I argue that a strategy of retaliation, a process of tit-for-tat, is present in terrorism. However, this causality is absent from the discourses states uphold in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Attacks are framed as assaults on ‘our’ values and ‘our’ way of living. Yet, attacks appear to be violent manifestations of structural problems within European societies. In order to better understand the phenomenon we all so desperately try to defeat, self-reflection is needed.
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