This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: The idea that one is susceptible to such seemingly uncontrollable and bizarre attacks certainly leads to a
heightened sense of anxiety. Another important psychological aspect of terrorism
is the terrorist’s ideological or political motivation, making terrorism akin to war.
This ideological/political aspect may engender a feeling of powerlessness in potential victims similar to the fatalistic resignation seen in soldiers on the battlefield
who are just waiting for “the bullet with their name on it.” These psychological
aspects are likely to make people more sensitive to terrorism than they are to the
much greater probabilities of traffic accidents or criminal victimization.
One might argue that the most difficult aspect of dealing with terrorism is
defining it. The word “terrorism” has been used to describe a variety of violent acts
from domestic altercations to gang violence to workplace homicide. But the popular view of terrorism does not include these acts. Just what do we mean by
Since 1983, the U.S. Department of State (2000) has used Title 22 of the
United States Code, Section 2656f(d), to define terrorism. In the introduction to
the Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism, terrorism is defined as politically
motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational
groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
This definition includes three key criteria that distinguish terrorism from other
forms of violence. First, terrorism must be politically motivated. Terrorism is
directed toward goals that are political; in other words, terrorist actions are
intended to guide or influence governmental policy. Thus, violent acts such as robbery, homicide, and kidnapping, which are committed in the furtherance of personal or criminal goals, are not included. This criterion emphasizes that the social
and psychological antecedents of personally or criminally motivated violence are
different than the antecedents of terrorist violence. The goals of the New York City
and Washington terrorists are to influence U.S. government policy in the Middle
Second, terrorist violence is directed at noncombatants. Noncombatants are
people who are not members of the military services or military members who are
not actively involved in military hostilities. This criterion identifies terrorism as
violence directed toward civilian populations or groups who are not prepared to
defend against political violence. It includes military members who are attacked
during peacetime (e.g., on June 25, 1996, a terrorist truck bomb exploded at the
U.S. Air Force housing complex Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia). Definition of Terrorism 11 The third criterion of the State Department’s definition of terrorism is that
subnational groups or clandestine agents commit terrorist attacks. Under this criterion, political violence by nation-states is not terrorism, even when there is a
probability that noncombat...
View Full Document
- Fall '13
- The Land