What Is Terrorism

What is terrorism in the 21st Century? What is terrorism in a world of Hamas, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Israel and a renewed emerging ultra-nationalism around the world?

Here are a few thoughts that I think would be good places to start.

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.”

This is, in all likelihood, the sort of notion that commonly comes to mind when people think of terrorism and those who engage in its practice. What I think is problematic is its scope. It secures the place of the State—and unfortunately conflates the natural relationship of the State and the populace—as the victim. Also, by signifying it as an unlawful act without clarification, it strips the possibility of the moral necessity of what can be so labeled a “terrorist act.” But further, it seems that, from the simplicity of the definition, one can extrapolate that war is only a thing which can involve and be declared by Nation States. Thus, in its very definition of the nefarious and criminal nature of terrorism, it relegates all those apprehended in the act terrorism or subsequently as those subject to civilian judicial process, not the purview of any manner of military tribunal. As well, after apprehension, they must by necessary consequence, be surrendered to civilian authorities—not segregated from the law as enemy combatants—who must then guarantee and uphold their civil rights as they possess them either by right of citizenship or according to the overarching Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Another interesting development, along these lines, is that the notion of civil war becomes an un-actualizable fiction; there is only the State and the terrorist without any reference to the justness or moral necessity of the “terrorists” cause. In fact, it undermines almost all struggles for freedom and liberty against the myriad forms of totalitarianism which has and continues to this day. And though not a perfect analogy, the Continental Congress and it’s armed extension are transformed into the Taliban of the 18th century.