Monty G. Marshall
Integrated Network for Societal Conflict Research
Center for International Development and Conflict Management University of Maryland, College Park and the
Center for Systemic Peace
Draft: September 11, 2002
M.G.Marshall – Global Terrorism: An Overview and Analysis (Draft 09/11/02) Page 2 of 48 “Dulce bellum inexpertis” 1 – Erasmus Overview The subject of “terrorism” seized the world’s attention in late 2001 as a result of one fairly brief, yet highly dramatic and destructive, attack on two of the core symbols of the world’s most powerful political actor, the United States of America. The targeting of the World Trade Center in New York City, the symbol of the United States’ enormous global economic power, and the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC, the symbol of the United States’ overarching military superiority, was well planned, coordinated, and executed. The attack itself attained symbolic stature as an affront to the established global order, a challenge to the world’s dominant power, and an announcement that the prevailing US-led global order was not viewed, or valued, equally by all those whose daily lives are increasingly caught in the vortex of post-Cold War change. Of course, the problem of terrorism was already well-known when the planes struck their targets in full view of a vast, global, tele-connected audience and created their indelible psychic images of sophisticated savagery. The politics of terror, and the overpowering fear that terror produces in its wake, lay at the very foundation of the evolution of social order. And it is the ultimate irony of societal development that modern acts of savagery have attained such high levels of sophistication. In its most simple terms, terror has stood as the stark alternative to civility in social relations from the time of humankind’s earliest recorded reflections. As Hobbes explained in his 17th century treatise, “Out of civil states, there is always war of every one against every one…the nature of war, consisteth not in actual fighting; but in the known disposition thereto…and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; the life of man [sic], solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” 2 At their roots, terror, force, and violence are integral and, as such, terrorism as a course of action is hardly distinguishable from coercion as a strategy or violence as a tactic. Contemporary analyses of the problem of terrorism have usually foundered between the perceptual extremes that are inherent in the amorphous ideas of terror: conceptualizations of terrorism are either too broad to be analytically useful, too narrow to be analytically meaningful, or too complex to be applied systematically. The conceptualizations themselves are all too often politically motivated as the analyst attempts to rationalize a distinction between civil and uncivil applications of violence: (useless) terror and (useful) enforcement, (undisciplined) terrorism and (disciplined) war, and (dishonorable) terrorists and (honorable) “freedom fighters.” Conceptual confusion is further exacerbated by the often cavalier usage of the pejorative term “terrorist” to refer to any political opponent, much as “communist” was used for political effect in the West during the Cold War. Hoffman offers an example of a broad definition, “[Terrorism is] the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the
“War is most attractive to those who know nothing of it.”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, edited by Michael Oakeshott (New York: Collier Books, 1962), p. 100.
M.G.Marshall – Global Terrorism: An Overview and Analysis (Draft 09/11/02) Page 3 of 48 pursuit of political change.” 3 Hoffman attempts to differentiate his definition of terrorism from criminal and lunatic violence...