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Thomas Andrews

October 26, 2014


Paradigm Shift Essay The Invention of Terrorism
The parties are bound to apply humane treatment to noncombatants and those hors de
combat because of sickness, wounds, or any other cause, without regard for race, color, religion,
sex, birth, or wealth.
- 1949 Geneva Convention (Convention)
In 1949, the survivors of The Second World War, that left our globe in shambles, tried to
make a change. Inhumane treatment of civilians was one of the opening issues dealt with by The
Allies following World War II in the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Masci). Although their
intentions were to protect civilians from future military conflicts, the message to protect noncombatants gave birth to a new form of militaristic strategy known as terrorism. The term
terrorism means activities that (a) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a
violation of the criminal laws [and] (b) appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian
population (Introduction). While addressing the problem of civilian vulnerability, the 1949
Geneva Convention invented terrorism by uncovering the easily targetable qualities of noncombatants and, in turn, shifted militaries focal points toward civilians.
Our earliest ancestors faced struggles over basic survival necessities such as food, water,
and shelter. As life became more organized, driven by the creation of property and ownership, so
did warfare. The similarity that has been seen throughout the ages, is casualty. However,
although one might expect for the casualties to have been between the militaries involved, deaths
among civilians are very common. So common, in fact, that civilian deaths were seen as just
another part of warfare (Masci). Although civilians of one nation were often killed by the
soldiers of another, civilians were never specifically targeted during warfare. When the 1949

Geneva Convention exposed the vulnerability of civilians, there was a visible shift in focal points
of militaries towards the vulnerable civilians of the enemy. Suddenly, groups realized that
attacking a defenseless opponent, civilians, was a more effective means of conducting warfare.
Before the 1949 Geneva Convention during the early (relative) stages of war,
specifically the Crusades around 1100 AD, combatants and civilians blended together under one
category, enemy. With the Franks invasion during the First Crusade, 1095-1099, the crusader
armies were initially challenged by the Turks at the Siege of Antioch. After over a year of
warfare, the invaders broke through the enemys lines and made it into the city. From this point,
they massacred the Muslim inhabitants and proceeded to pillage the city (First). Proceeding the
fall of Antioch, the Jews and Muslims joined forces in a last attempt to repel the Christians.
When the Franks finally overcame the defenses and entered Jerusalem in 1099, they swiftly
massacred the remaining Jewish and Muslim civilians. The reason that they were killed was
because they were seen as the enemy. The Franks did not target them specifically for their noncombatant identification; they killed them because this was war, and if you werent loyal to the
state invading, you were considered an enemy (The First). Perspective in these cases is very
important here, because wartime during this era had an unwritten script. Throughout this time
period, invading armies went through the standard four step process: break through enemy lines;
take control of city; massacre the inhabitants; pillage the city for all of its worth. The difference
between this era, and what we are seeing today is that the civilians were not the main target for
these armies. The massacring of civilians prior to 1949 use to be an afterthought in warfare; the
militaries that were committing such horrific acts were doing so because there was no
differentiation between combatants and non-combatants, everyone was just seen as being loyal to
another state.

Although warfare was still focused on military versus military fighting during at the turn
of the 20th Century, with limited specific militarily-unaffiliated inhabitant killings like the ones
seen proceeding 1949 in terrorism, the increase in technology made strategic attacks on military
factories and supply routes a must in situations such as World War II. A specific example of this
type of strategic bombing occurred February 13-15 1945, in the capital of the German state of
Saxony, Dresden. Here, the United States deemed it necessary to firebomb the city, killing
approximately 25,000 people. Their reasoning for this strike was due to the fact that the city
housed 110 factories with 50,000 pro-German war effort workers and was a major railroad and
communication center (Bombing). Although there are disputes as to whether or not this was the
United States real motive behind the attack on Dresden, this strike illustrates that there was a
shift in military strategy between the time of the Crusades and the 1940s.
As warfare progressed, armies were gaining too much technology; the only way to fight
was to attack their resources and production line. Although there were civilians killed, they were
not the main targets during this warfare. These armies, both the Allies and Axis were trying to
destroy any location and any person that was aiding the military efforts. In a sense, these people
were not technically even civilians during this time. They were aiding the war efforts, which
gave them the appearance and the identity of an enemy. It is important to understand that
this argument is based on the concept of civilian deaths from military combat, and does not
incorporate the ideas of genocide that took place during this time period. Prior to the 1949
Geneva Convention that took place immediately following the end of World War II, the majority
of combat focused on military-military fighting. Following 1949, however, there was a shift from
military versus military to military versus civilian.

In the 1949 Geneva Convention, life as we know it, was changed dramatically by the
introduction of civilian vulnerability and the idea of targeting non-combatants instead of
militaries. The entire article was established to set up the rules for war and a universal agreement
on humanity and the proper way to deal with it and protect it. A main focus of the document was
to establish human rights, basically a list of what every human is entitled to; civilian or soldier,
criminal or not, they wanted to guarantee that nothing like the Holocaust would ever happen
again (Geneva). When the atrocities were uncovered, the Allies agreed that there needed to be a
change (Masci). Unfortunately for the good-spirited motives behind these agreements written out
in 1949, there is a different perspective to viewing the documents. To some, this list is a wellthought out document of all of the rights and privileges that could be taken away from someone;
the nations who created this were revealing to the world that civilians were easy targets, and that
governments and allied nations would go through great lengths to try to put an end to the
violation of human rights. With this idea, terrorism was born. The C.I.A. defines terrorism as
premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by
subnational groups or clandestine agents (Terrorism). This idea of targeting civilians, and
terrorism as a whole, came from the 1949 Geneva Convention; groups knew that attacking
noncombatants would be both easier and more effective than going after the nation and its army
itself, and thus, the shift in warfare began.
Because the Geneva Convention paved the way for targeting civilians, many groups who
would lack the required funds and resources to attack other nations in full military battle are still
able to have a devastating impact on other nations in emotion, physical, and economic senses.
These groups do these acts because they understand that attacking civilians spreads fear, or
terror, throughout all nations. Everything during and after the event is publicized, and all of a

sudden, everyone knows exactly who these groups are and where they come from. One of the
most notable and recent terrorist strike occurred during the Boston Marathon Bombing on April
15, 2013. The two culprits were from Chechnya, and were motivated by Islamic beliefs. They
targeted a day of celebration, the Boston Marathon and neighboring baseball game, in order to
wreak the most amount of havoc possible (Moye). This idea to strike on civilians rather than the
military dates back to the 1949 Geneva Convention, where The Allies made it perfectly clear that
they were worried about the vulnerability of civilians; no matter what they tried, there would still
be times when their efforts were just not enough to stop groups from being inhumane and
disregarding human rights.
It seems as if every week or two there has been another strike on innocent people by
radicals of all sorts. Whether it be for religion like the Islamic extremist group, Al Qaeda, in
strikes like 9/11, or for territorial reasons like the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane being shot
down over the Ukraine, these groups target civilians (Gordts). They all could have been delayed,
if not prevented, by not mentioning the vulnerability of civilians. We, as a society, forced a
paradigm shift. Warfare use to occur between two militaries. Although civilians were frequently
caught in the crossfire, they were never really the main target of fighting. Until the Geneva
Convention, there was sort of an unwritten rule to keep the civilians out of the actual fighting.
Although the Crusades brought about the massacres of inhabitants following the battles, this
essay on paradigm shifts was not focused on genocide. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on
preventing something that we caused during 1949, terrorism. We, as a society, shifted warfare to
focus less on military to military fighting, and more on military to civilian fighting, with the
invention of terrorism.

Works Cited

Thomas Andrews
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