Historical Inquiry - Terrorism
What defines terrorism or freedom fighting depends upon a number of factors. Motivation as a factor in defining terrorism or freedom fighting is particularly significant as it forms the basis of Macquarie’s dictionary definition, “someone who joins in organised resistance usually armed against the established government, or the domination of his or her country by a foreign power” . Therefore it can be stated that a freedom fighters goal is to liberate oppressed people from foreign powers. Where as the motivation of terrorists might also stem from a want of freedom but also has its foundations in other sources, such as religious conflict, more personal motivators such as anger, frustration, hatred or more minor goals such as freeing of fellow terrorists .
The U.S. Department of State defines "terrorism" as "premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” . The US also furthers this definition by defining the “influence” it will have upon the “audience”, “it is intended to coerce or to intimidate governments [the audience] or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological” . These two definitions are firmly characterized by the idea that the tactic of attacking civilian, non-combatants plays a role in defining terrorism. The random nature of civilian attacks heightens the terrorist’s ability to induce terror as it develops the perception that every individual is vulnerable . Where as a freedom fighter generally targets opponent’s armed forces to ultimately destroy the enemy military resources to transfer the military power in favour of the freedom fighters.
The legitimacy of the actions undertaken by a group can be used to distinguish whether or not each group is a terrorist group or consists of freedom fighters. But this notion of legitimacy is manipulated by perspective, it is essentially a social product, thus the only way in which we can gain an understanding of a groups legitimacy can be through analyzing the amount of support each group has, this support is shown within the organisations numbers alongside external or international support. Terrorist organisations generally struggle to attain a great number of members that are supportive of their actions on a local scale, due to tactics, objectives and/or motivations . Therefore external or international support is even more difficult to acquire, as the tactics used are perceived as unjustifiable. However, freedom fighters are generally able to develop a strong and large base of internal and external support, as their motivation and tactics are socially accepted . What defines a terrorist or a freedom fighter is a hotly debated topic that has led to the posing of the proposition that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. This proposition has arisen out of the idea that perception plays a fundamental role in forming an opinion in regard to what is terrorism in comparison to freedom fighting. Perception, as alluded to by the proposition that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a factor that plays a pivotal role in rendering an activity by a group as either terrorism or freedom fighting. All groups that utilise violence will have opponents and supporters, therefore it can be stated that each group will be labelled in accordance to the position adopted. This position will be influenced strongly by external factors and moral standpoints. Therefore it is important to take heed to other, more objective rather than subjective factors that will help to distinguish between what is terrorism or freedom fighting. These other objective factors are, tactical theory, motivation, and the legitimacy of their actions that can be defined by their base of support. These factors all contribute to our judgements upon whether groups...
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