Terrorism Definitions Of Terrorism Under The U.S. Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


Definitions of terrorism

Under the U.S. Government, terrorism has different definitions, not accounting also scholars' own definitions of this concept. In a study by Mark Burgess (2003) for the U.S. Center for Defense Information, he identified five (5) definitions of terrorism, three from the U.S. Government and two from academic scholars. The common factors in each definition, according to Burgess, are the terrorists' motives, identity, and methods.

The Department of Defense defines terrorism as "[t]he calculated use of unlawful violence to inculcate fear… to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological" (para. 4). The FBI has the same definition, albeit worded differently and includes not only people, but also property as an object of violence. The State Department, meanwhile, has a more specific definition, identifying terrorism as "premeditated" and primarily "politically motivated," and identified terrorists as "subnational groups or clandestine agents." Scholars have defined terrorism as follows: (i) "deliberate evocation of dread" and (ii) "…terrorists' concerns are macroconcerns about changing a larger order…" (para. 9, 12).

Among these definitions, Department of Defense best captures a politically correct definition of terrorism. However, current literature and debates on the definition of terrorism argue that terrorism cannot be defined correctly and specifically, as this concept is highly dependent on the worldview of people trying to understand or discussing this concept. As Burgess countered, most of the terrorism definitions presented are Western it their worldview, and "terrorism" per se would be a different construct and will have a different definition when understood from the worldview of societies where terrorists have purportedly come from.

2. Terrorists' justification of their actions

Interestingly, current events surrounding discussions...
...One theory that reflects this is the "just-war theory," which is used to explain warfare and violent acts committed against terrorist groups by governments. As the theory's major proponent, Michael Walzer, discusses how war and torture is justified by governments 'retaliating' against terrorist groups (Slater, 2006:198):

When our deepest values are radically at risk, the constraints lose their grip, and a certain kind of utilitarianism reimposes itself. I call this the utilitarianism of extremity, and I set it against a rights normality… No government can put the life of the community itself and of all its members at risk, so long as there are actions available to it, even immoral actions, that would avoid or reduce the risk.

The theory's argument that the "end justifies the means" can be used, conversely, by terrorist groups themselves, with their fellow nationals and similar terrorist groups as the "community" that they intend to fight for and protect. Inevitably, the question or justified actions against terrorist groups and governments have become a gray area, as reflected and highlighted in the just-war theory.

3. Structure and organization…

Sources Used in Documents:


Burgess, M. (2003). "Terrorism: the problems of definition." Center for Defense Information. Accessed 23 April 2011. Available at: http://www.cdi.org/program/issue/document.cfm?DocumentID=1564&IssueID=138&StartRow=1&ListRows=10&appendURL=&Orderby=DateLastUpdated&ProgramID=39&issueID=138

Slater, J. (2006). "Tragic choices in the war on terrorism: should we try to regulate and control torture?" Political Science Quarterly, (121)2.

US Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2007). "Terrorist Organizational Models." In A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. Available at: www.fas.org/irp/threat/terrorism/guide.pdf

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