Introduction to Terrorism
April 19, 2013 4:21 pm
One cannot avoid long-standing debates, going back as far as Aristotle, over when it is politically and morally acceptable to use unconventional tactics such as violence and fear to bring about political and social change. History is replete with the ideas of great thinkers who believed that, under the right circumstances, unconventional tactics were not only smart, but a moral or civic duty. Religious leaders over the centuries have contributed thoughts about when unjust warfare is just, when "holy terror" is justified, and military thinkers have advocated less-than-honorable tactics. Most terrorism throughout history has been directed against governments also called political or revolutionary terrorism, but terrorism can also be global or take the forms of state terrorism or state-sponsored terrorism. These latter types occur when governments turn on their own citizens, or try to stir up trouble among the citizenry of another nation. In fact, it was state terrorism that put modern use of the term "terrorism" in our English vocabulary. Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” (National Institute of Justice) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (fbi.gov) Both definitions of terrorism share a common theme: the use of force intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal. In most cases, NIJ researchers adopt the FBI definition, which stresses methods over motivations and is generally accepted by...