Definition Essay: Terrorism

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Terrorism is currently a major challenge that confronts the world. Terrorism is a frightening and horrifying event; It has the ability to take away your sense of security and leave us feeling vulnerable, causing the individuals and nations unease. This decade has witnessed some of the most notorious terrorist acts. In recent memory many can easily recall the attacks of 9/11, The day two 767 Boeing jets took down the world-trade centers. Despite, world-wide agreement that 9/11 was an act of terrorism, there remains much dispute on the specifics of what defines terrorism. The definitions provided in one dictionary differ in another. Lets take into example Merriam-Webster's definition, which states that terrorism is “the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion.”¹ The problem with this definition is its simplicity. It can applied to almost anything and sometimes things that traditionally wouldn't be considered terrorism. For example, an elementary school kid ‘systematically’ bullies a kid daily in-order to ‘coerce’ him into giving lunch money. Is this an act of terrorism? Should you agree on charging this child with terrorism? the answer clearly ought to be no. However, Terrorism is more accurately defined as act(s) of violence by an organization directed towards civilians, rather than against the military done to achieve an objective. As a our nation continues to fight the “war of terror[ism]”, It’s important to as quickly as possibly clarify this term so correct measures can be taken in identifying the who’s and what’s of terrorism. To begin terrorism is never a solo-enterprise, It requires the efforts of more than one individual to plan and carry-out those plans. In all internationally recognized plots of terrorism, there seems to always be more than one perpetrator. It’s very important to note this because for an attack to be categorized as an act of terrorism it must originate from a group rather than an individual for very good reasons. First, Individuals that do carry out violent attacks fail to fall into this definition because they fail in spreading fear. This failure to spread ‘terror’ is what inhibits them from being included in the definition. Here is a hypothetical scenario illustrating this point, A 24/7 store gets robbed in the middle of the night and the robber leaves behind a dead clerk. The authorities get on the case and the community returns to normality knowing in time the robber will get caught. A more real-life example that mimics 9/11 would be the 2010 Austin plane crash. In this incident, a distraught man named Joseph Stack who was frustrated with the IRS decided to take matters into his own hands. In a final act of vengeance Stack crashed his personal airplane at full speed into a IRS building. This attack did cause terror, it was premeditated and like 9/11 Joseph Stack had committed suicide. It sounds like a terrorist attack, but it isn't. Here’s why, Stack had no intent for coercion because he would be dead and he was not a part of a organization that could possibly gain any benefit from his death. But most importantly, His reign of terror ended with his end. Regardless of how despicable both these scenario might be neither can be classified as an act of terrorism, Because for those engaging in terrorism, there is clear intent to leave an impression after an attack, and to let the designated target(s) know that this is not the end. This can only be achieved if the perpetrators are still at large. Once again, I return back to the attacks of 9/11 to illustrate the difference. Al Qaeda wanted to spread terror, which unfortunately happened. But unlike the robber or the distraught man, They are still at large despite the death of its members. Even after a decade, The world is still in a state of fear and apprehension since Al Qaeda is free to strike while enjoying limited impunity.These are distinctions that should be taken into consideration when classifying terrorism, because for it to be...
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