Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Terrorism

The word "Terrorism" is terrible. It's confusing. It refers to actions that don't scare people ("Terrorize" them) as much as make them angry. If emotion is your key, these people should be caused "Angrists", not "Terrorists".

Different bureacracies have different definitions of terrorism. If I have one definition and you have another, then am I communicating when I used the word? Terrorism is a method, not an enemy. You cannot make war on terrorism any more than you can make war on mechanized warfare or the cavalry charge.

The link in the article title defines terrorism thus:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
This sounds an awful lot like their definition of war:
War is a state of widespread conflict between states, organisations, or relatively large groups of people, which is characterised by the use of violent, physical force between combatants or upon civilians...
The Institute for Counter-Terrorism definition is:
The deliberate use of violence against civilians in order to attain political, ideological and religious aims.
The ICT definition would define as terrorist every pilot of a heavy bomber in the Second World War.

Terrorism is a method of warfare. Osama bin Laden and Yasir Arafat are a type of warrior. They wage war not on behalf of nations but on behalf of non-governmental organizations. I've seen terrorism defined as "Acts of war by NGO's". This is extremely close to perfect but then George Washington was waging war on behalf of a government that did not yet exist, as do all revolutionaries. Washington's army was very standard, formations of musketmen and so forth. Washington had raiders but that was secondary. Washington commited acts of war as an "NGO" but it wasn't terrorism.

When the government of Syria killed the Lebanese politician Hariri with a bomb in the street, was that terrorism? State-backed terrorism isn't usually the same as war by an NGO. Perhaps if Syria had created an NGO which waged war on its behalf, it would be terrorism? Hard to tell, here.

Lots of definitions of terrorism focus on the attacks against civilians. But during WWII the Allies bombed the cities of Germany and Japan mercilessly. Think of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Hiroshima. Also think of Coventry and London. We don't call that terrorism. The aim of war is to change a nation politically or in policy. That is the aim of terrorism. Terrorism is War, plain and simple.

Okay, not so plain and simple, but terrorism is war. It isn't mechanized warfare, nuclear warfare (so far), cavalry warfare, biological warfare or usually even guerrilla warfare. But terrorism is warfare.

The only word that is worse is "Militant". In the US, the "Black militants" were Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael and other people like that. These people were sweethearts compared to todays "Militants". The word does not fit. The word "Military" fits much better.

During the Second Intifada, the Israelis lost about a person a day to the violence, on average. The Palestinians lost about three times that. This is a slow kind of warfare. Probably both sides in that conflict lost more people to traffic accidents than to the war. The war they call "Terrorism" is Slow War. It's a better name than "Terrorism".

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