Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Terrorism

How's this for a working definition of terrorism: terrorism is indirect violent coercion. The goal of a terrorist is not to influence the behavior of the target directly, but to influence others to influence the behavior of the target through violence on the direct object.

Therefore, the dropping of the a-bombs on Japan could be counted as terrorism, because they were intended to make the Japanese people (the direct object) influence the government to stop the war (the indirect object).

Sept. 11 was a terrorist attack, because its goal was to cause the American people (the direct object) to cause the American government (the indirect object) to withdraw from Muslim lands.

The Cole attack was not terrorism, because its object, the American government, was the same as its target.

The Oklahoma city bombing was not a terrorist attack, because its object, the American government, was the same as its target.

It seems to me that this is the best definition of terrorism that excludes political labeling, but it makes the rough-and-ready "I'll know it when I see it" definition of terrorism useless. Terror can happen without terrorism.

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