What is terrorism

The idea that one is susceptible to such seemingly

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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 “terrorism”? 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 East. 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...
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