Defining Terrorism

A couple of years ago, I came across this interesting paper titled “Defining Terrorism: Philosophy of the Bomb, Propaganda by Deed and Change Through Fear and Violence“. In those days, Afghanistan and Iraq were still the countries with the most terrorist attacks and casualties, and we had not yet reached the current weekly terrorist attack frequency of the last couple of months.

Two years later, as terrorist attacks have slowly become a part of our weekly (if not daily) lives, I believe that this paper has become a must-read for us (Pakistanis) to understand terrorism a bit better. The author, Arthur H. Garrison, who was the Director of Criminal Justice Planning and Senior Researcher at the Delaware Criminal Justice Council at the time of writing, defines terrorism as:

The use of force or violence or the threat of force or violence to change
the behavior of society as a whole through the causation of fear and the targeting of specific parts of society in order to affect the entire society.

A few more quotes worth reading from the paper:

There is a consistent ideology that connects terrorists regardless of their desired goals or social context. Although there are clear differences in political ideology, philosophy, desired goals and the social context between terrorists through history, an examination of their writings reveals that terrorists share a common understanding of the utility of terror.

Terrorists, regardless of issue or cause, hold at least one of ‘three basic concepts [about society]:
(1.) Society is sick and cannot be cured by half measures of reform.
(2.) The state is itself violence and can be countered and overcome only by violence.
(3.) The truth of the terrorist cause justifies any action that supports it. While some terrorists recognize no moral law [they] have their own ‘higher’ morality’. (Parry, 1976, p. 12)

The use of rocks, stones and suicide bombs is as much about regaining Palestinian selfrespect by not accepting the occupation of the territories by Israel and keeping the attention of the world as it is a tactic to force Israel out of the territories.

The use of terror has always been an appealing option to the young and those who espouse terror have always sought to recruit and use the young to implement terror.
Bakunin wrote in 1869, ‘the healthy, uncorrupted mind of youth must grasp the fact that it is considerably more humane to stab and strangle dozens, nay hundreds, of hated beings than to join with them to share in systematic legal acts of murder, in the torture and martyrdom of millions of peasants’ (Laqueur and Alexander, 1987, p. 67).

Read the complete paper here.