Efforts to define terrorism
It is not such easy to provide a clear definition of terrorism as it is on other crimes. It receives different definitions in different countries. The Germans define it as the struggle to achieve political goals through assaults on the life and property of people specifically through severe crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and arson. To the British, terrorism is the use of violence for political ends, including any violent action that inflicts feat to the public. In the US, terrorism refers to any politically perpetrated violence emanating from secret agents and sub national groups with the intention of influencing a targeted audience. Therefore, terrorism is any criminal violence aimed at civilians in the pursuit of influencing the governments conduct in a certain way (Smith 2003, 2).
The difficulties of categorizing terrorism sensibly
Terrorist crimes are both crimes and warfare. As warfare, terrorism involves violent ways of meeting political ends: interstate wars, civil wars, guerrilla warfare, and coup d’état (Smith 2003, 8). As a crime, terrorism plans aim at forcing changes in government actions, people, structure, and ideology. The illegal actions of terroristic groups are usually so adverse since they bear the characteristic of both general crime and armed combat, warfare.
The politics of violence
Terrorism’s major force emanates from the psychological impact it causes. Terrorist successfully combine fear and fascination to capture important agendas of great nations. They use bombings and mass killings to create awareness of their existence to many people. Once they attract massive attention, they now send extremely forceful messages about their needs. Since the goals of terrorists are ever in line with mainstream politics of the country, they address their messages to the center of a democratic political system: the very people who have been indifferent to the issues in which the terroristic violence originates (Smith 2003, 10). This target group includes the government and its supporting elites, potential supporters of an insurgency, and the active members of the terroristic group itself.
The effectiveness of terrorism
The intensity of terroristic actions varies with two main reasons (Smith 2003, 12). First, it can be effective when operating in a nation that is already experiencing the presence of suspicious and hostile groups. In such a case, it is very difficult to capture the members or prevent their violent actions when majority of the population backs them up. Second, terrorism thrives when a government views conceding to terroristic demands as far less burdening than carrying out anti terrorism campaigns. When a government chooses to give in to terrorists demands, it acts as an incentive for them to continue in their actions. It could even lead to the formation of other terrorist groups.
General principles of counter-terrorist strategy
The key reason behind a counter-terrorist strategy is upholding and maintenance of the rule of law (Wilkinson 1986, 121). This key reason comes first to even eliminating terrorism and any related political violence. No matter the extent of terrorism and political violence, liberal democracies should not use tyrannical techniques to reduce or eliminate it. This could easily result to a dictatorship leadership. In addition, the liberal democracies should always uphold the constitutional authority and the rule of law. Clear statements of the government’s policies and objectives should counter terrorist propaganda. It is also advisable to include all aspects of anti-terrorist and security operations under the overall democratically accountable civil authorities. In case the government uses secret coverts, the secret agents should work under the framework of the constitution and the rule of law, and should be accountable for their actions (Wilkinson 1986, 125).
- Smith, Col. Andrew. “Combating the New Threat of Mass Casualty Terrorism.” Australian Army Journal 1, no. 1 (2003): 1 – 17.
- Wilkinson, Paul. Terrorism and The Liberal State. New York: New York University Press, 1986.