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Terrorism is not new, and even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Obviously, a lot depends on whose point of view is being represented. Terrorism has often been an effective tactic for the weaker side in a conflict. As an asymmetric form of conflict, it confers coercive power with many of the advantages of military force at a fraction of the cost. Due to the secretive nature and small size of terrorist organizations, they often offer opponents no clear organization to defend against or to deter. Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition. 1
That is why preemption is being considered to be so important. In some cases, terrorism has been a means to carry on a conflict without the adversary realizing the nature of the threat, mistaking terrorism for criminal activity. Because of these characteristics, terrorism has become increasingly common among those pursuing extreme goals throughout the world. But despite its popularity, terrorism can be a nebulous concept. Even within the U.S. Government, agencies responsible for different functions in the ongoing fight against terrorism use different definitions.
The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as "the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological." Within this definition, there are three key elements-violence, fear, and intimidation-and each element produces terror in its victims. The FBI uses this: "Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and 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." The U.S. Department of State defines "terrorism" to be "premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
Outside the United States Government, there are greater variations in what features of terrorism are emphasized in definitions. The United Nations produced this definition in 1992; "An anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets." The most commonly accepted academic definition starts with the U.N. definition quoted above, and adds two sentences totaling another 77 words on the end; containing such verbose concepts as "message generators" and 'violence based communication processes." Less specific and considerably less verbose, the British Government definition of 1974 is"â€¦the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear."
Terrorism is a criminal act that influences an audience beyond the immediate victim. The strategy of terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draws the attention of the local populace, the government, and the world to their cause. The terrorists plan their attack to obtain the greatest publicity, choosing targets that symbolize what they oppose. The effectiveness of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the public's or government's reaction to the act. For example, in 1972 at the Munich Olympics, the Black September Organization killed 11 Israelis. The Israelis were the immediate victims. But the true target was the estimated 1 billion people watching the televised event.
Terrorism has been practiced by a broad array of political organizations for furthering their objectives. It has been practiced by right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. 2 An abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual. The symbolism of terrorism can leverage human fear to help achieve these goals. 3
Origin Of Terrorism
"Terrorism" comes from the French word terrorisme, 4 and originally referred specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the Reign of terror. The French word terrorisme in turn derives from the Latin verb terreÅ meaning "I frighten". 5 The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BC. The Jacobins cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. 6,7 After the Jacobins lost power, the word "terrorist" became a term of abuse. Although "terrorism" originally referred to acts committed by a government, currently it usually refers to the killing of innocent people by a non-government group in such a way as to create a media spectacle. 8 This meaning can be traced back to Sergey Nechayev, who described himself as a "terrorist". 9 Nechayev founded the Russian terrorist group "People's Retribution" in 1869. 10
In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".
Types of terrorism
In early 1975, the Law Enforcement Assistant Administration in the United States formed the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. One of the five volumes that the committee wrote was entitled Disorders and Terrorism, produced by the Task Force on Disorders and Terrorism under the direction of H.H.A. Cooper, Director of the Task Force staff.11 The Task Force classified terrorism into six categories.
Civil disorder - A form of collective violence interfering with the peace, security, and normal functioning of the community.
Political terrorism - Violent criminal behavior designed primarily to generate fear in the community, or substantial segment of it, for political purposes.
Non-Political terrorism - Terrorism that is not aimed at political purposes but which exhibits "conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective."
Quasi-terrorism - The activities incidental to the commission of crimes of violence that are similar in form and method to genuine terrorism but which nevertheless lack its essential ingredient. It is not the main purpose of the quasi-terrorists to induce terror in the immediate victim as in the case of genuine terrorism, but the quasi-terrorist uses the modalities and techniques of the genuine terrorist and produces similar consequences and reaction 12 . For example, the fleeing felon who takes hostages is a quasi-terrorist, whose methods are similar to those of the genuine terrorist but whose purposes are quite different.
Limited political terrorism - Genuine political terrorism is characterized by a revolutionary approach; limited political terrorism refers to "acts of terrorism which are committed for ideological or political motives but which are not part of a concerted campaign to capture control of the state.
Official or state terrorism -"referring to nations whose rule is based upon fear and oppression that reach similar to terrorism or such proportions." It may also be referred to as Structural Terrorism defined broadly as terrorist acts carried out by governments in pursuit of political objectives, often as part of their foreign policy.
There is clearly a wide choice of definitions for terrorism. Despite this, there are elements in common among the majority of useful definitions. Common threads of the various definitions identify terrorism as:
A terrorist act is a political act or is committed with the intention to cause a political effect. Clausewitz' statement that "war is a continuation of policy by other means" is taken as a truism by terrorists. They merely eliminate the intermediate step of armies and warfare, and apply violence directly to the political contest.
The intended results of terrorist acts cause a psychological effect ("terror"). They are aimed at a target audience other than the actual victims of the act. The intended target audience of the terrorist act may be the population as a whole, some specific portion of a society (an ethnic minority, for example), or decision-making elites in the society's political, social, or military populace.
Violence and destruction are used in the commission of the act to produce the desired effect. Even if casualties or destruction are not the result of a terrorist operation, the threat or potential of violence is what produces the intended effect. For example, a successful hostage taking operation may result in all hostages being freed unharmed after negotiations and bargaining. Regardless of the outcome, the terrorist bargaining chips were nothing less than the raw threat of applying violence to maim or kill some or all of the hostages. When the threat of violence is not credible, or the terrorists are unable to implement violence effectively, terrorism fails.
Terrorist groups demand change, revolution, or political movement. The radical worldview that justifies terrorism mandates drastic action to destroy or alter the status quo. Even if the goals of a movement are reactionary in nature, they require action to "turn back the clock" or restore some cherished value system that is extinct. Nobody commits violent attacks on strangers or innocents to keep things "just the way they are."
Terrorism is an activity planned and intended to achieve particular goals. It is a rationally employed, specifically selected tactic, and is not a random act. Since the victims of terrorist violence are often of little import, with one being as good for the terrorists' purposes as another, victim or target selection can appear random or unprovoked. But the target will contain symbolic value or be capable of eliciting emotional response according to the terrorists' goals.
State Sponsored Terrorism
A government that is an adversary of the United States may apply terror tactics and terrorism in an effort to add depth to their engagement of U.S. forces. Repression through terror of the indigenous population would take place to prevent internal dissent and insurrection that the U.S. might exploit. Military special operations assets and state intelligence operatives could conduct terrorist operations against U.S. interests both in theater and as far abroad as their capabilities allow. Finally, attacks against the U.S. homeland could be executed by state sponsored terrorist organizations or by paid domestic proxies. Three different ways that states can engage in the use of terror are:
â€¢ Governmental or "State" terror
â€¢ State involvement in terror
â€¢ State sponsorship of terrorism
Governmental or "State" terror: Sometimes referred to as "terror from above", where a government terrorizes its own population to control or repress them. These actions usually constitute the acknowledged policy of the government, and make use of official institutions such as the judiciary, police, military, and other government agencies. Changes to legal codes permit or encourage torture, killing, or property destruction in pursuit of government policy. After assuming power, official Nazi policy was aimed at the deliberate destruction of "state enemies" and the resulting intimidation of the rest of the population. Stalin's "purges" of the 1930s are examples of using the machinery of the state to terrorize a population. The methods he used included such actions as rigged show trials of opponents, punishing family or friends of suspected enemies of the regime, and extra-legal use of police or military force against the population.
Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on his own Kurdish population without any particular change or expansion of policies regarding the use of force on his own citizens. They were simply used in an act of governmental terror believed to be expedient in accomplishing his goals.
State involvement in terror: These are activities where government personnel carry out operations using terror tactics. These activities may be directed against other nations' interests, its own population, or private groups or individuals viewed as dangerous to the state. In many cases, these activities are terrorism under official sanction, although such authorization is rarely acknowledged openly. Historical examples include the Soviet and Iranian assassination campaigns against dissidents who had fled abroad, and Libyan and North Korean intelligence operatives downing airliners on international flights.
Another type of these activities is "death squads" or "war veterans": unofficial actions taken by officials or functionaries of a regime (such as members of police or intelligence organizations) against their own population to repress or intimidate. While these officials will not claim such activities, and disguise their participation, it is often made clear that they are acting for the state. Keeping such activities "unofficial" permits the authorities deniability and avoids the necessity of changing legal and judicial processes to justify oppression. This is different than "pro-state" terror, which is conducted by groups or persons with no official standing and without official encouragement. While pro-state terror may result in positive outcomes for the authorities, their employment of criminal methods and lack of official standing can result in disavowal and punishment of the terrorists, depending on the morality of the regime in question.
State sponsorship of terrorism: Also known as "state supported" terrorism, when governments provide supplies, training, and other forms of support to non-state terrorist organizations. One of the most valuable types of this support is the provision of safe haven or physical basing for the terrorists' organization. Another crucial service a state sponsor can provide is false documentation, not only for personal identification (passports, internal identification documents), but also for financial transactions and weapons purchases. Other means of support are access to training facilities and expertise not readily available to groups without extensive resources. Finally, the extension of diplomatic protections and services, such as immunity from extradition, diplomatic passports, use of embassies and other protected grounds, and diplomatic pouches to transport weapons or explosives have been significant to some groups.
An example of state sponsorship is the Syrian government's support of Hamas and Hizballah in Lebanon. Syrian resources and protection enable the huge training establishments in the Bek'aa Valley. On a smaller, more discreet scale, the East German Stasi provided support and safe-haven to members of the Red Army Faction (RAF or Baader Meinhof Gang) and neo-fascist groups that operated in West Germany. Wanted members of the RAF were found resident in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.