Finding a proper, well-accepted definition of what constitutes terror Is extremely difficult.
There are many challenges that confront scholars, experts, and everyday people when It comes to defining terrorism and terrorists. Differing backgrounds and cultures of those defining terror In Dalton to differing hellholes are Just one of the many challenges facing those that wish to define terror. Furthermore, labeling a group or an Individual as a terrorist could be considered offensive, especially In today’s politically correct environment, potentially damaging those in the political Rena.However, on the flip side, labeling someone as a terrorist can also serve a political purpose as in the case of being propaganda towards a war effort, or to help define an enemy. Nevertheless, the main problem with not being able to have a widely accepted definition of terrorism is that “It is impossible to formulate or enforce international agreements against terrorism” (Canon, 300). The problem with the definitions that are out there is that they are so numerous and vary so widely, it’s difficult to determine which is more accurate. Each state, nation and government has their own definition.
According to John Horror, the most acceptable definition of terrorism is “the use or threat of use of violence as a means of attempting to achieve some sort of effect within a political context” (1). However, as he mentions, it is when we go beyond this definition is when the problems arise. Another issue is our own individual biases, perceptions, and stereotypes. In the United States, the majority of American citizens would associate a terrorist with someone from the Middle East. However, someone living in Afghanistan or Iraq could have their own idea of a terrorist as an American soldier.This goes to show that another man’s terrorist Is another man’s freedom fighter, and further proves that how we see ourselves and others is completely different than reality. These preconceived biases and stereotypes further challenge finding a accepted definition of terror.
Research Into terrorism is another challenge In defining terrorism. According tosses Rinehart, “those who write about terrorism, tend to possess a preconceived blast of a ‘problem- elution’ orientation in which he or she Is simply attempting to Justify a set of counterterrorist prescriptive” (4).This research Is unreliable at best because as mentioned previously, preconceived biases and stereotypes tend to become Involved. Furthermore, there Is little research Into the why of terrorism, and also very little research Into the psychology of terrorists by actual psychologists. The scarcity of primary, first-hand research and due to the private nature of data that Is out there, the challenge to defining terror is furthered (Horror, 37). There are numerous other Canon, there are seven major issues that need to be addressed to help define terror.These are: 1.
The boundary between terrorism and other forms of political violence 2. Whether government terrorism and resistance terrorism are part of the same phenomenon 3. Separating terrorism’ from simple criminal acts, from open war between ‘consenting’ groups, and from acts that clearly arise out of mental illness 4. Is terrorism a subcategory of coercion? Violence? Power? Influence? 5. Can terrorism be legitimate? What gains Justify its use? 6. The relationship between guerrilla warfare and terrorism . The relationship between crime and terrorism.
CITATION) Why Do These Challenges Persist? There are numerous reasons behind the persistence of these challenges. As technology continues to expand, the world continues to become more globalizes. This globalization creates challenges in its own because communication spreads, allowing information to be quickly spread. This information can include messages, propaganda, and other information that can work either for or against the terrorists’ movement. This also includes the media which is known for its sensationalism.Politicians and the media alike can and do exploit the notion of terrorism because of the sensationalism and public fear it can arouse (Rinehart, 11). Biases are another reasons there is no exact definition.
Each definer maintains their own individual biases and perceptions, allowing subjectivity to be practically impossible. As mentioned before, “another man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. ” These biases will continue to challenge the definition. Tenability by nation-states that harbor terrorists is another reason for the challenges in finding a definition.States that sponsor terror actively seek to find ways to define terror in such a way that the vague definition gives them the opportunity to deny any wrong-doing, claim innocence, and zero responsibility for attacks perpetrated by the individuals or groups they sponsor (Gang, 288). How Can We Define Terror? So how can we as a society properly define terror? Horror suggests using a balanced approach, and defines terror as, “A conscience, deliberate strategic use of violence against a specific type of target to affect the political climate” (22).He also suggests defining terror as a weapon not only limited to individuals or non-state actors, but nation-states as well.
That we must “Consider the diversity and complexity of terrorism from a variety of disciplinary perspectives” (32). Another suggestion has been offered by James Rinehart who feels that the “Definition must focus on the acts of terrorists, not simply labeling the actors and must have a “Political agenda: a specific set of grievances of demands that are of utmost importance to the actors willing to use terror” (14).Finally, Gang suggests that we limit the definition to include civilian noncombatants only, in accordance with the Geneva conventions. His definition is “Terrorism is the international use of, or threat to use, violence against civilians or against civilian targets in order to attain political aims” (294). Conclusion There will always be confusion with defining terror as long as there remains biases and stereotypes. As long we can step outside of the stereotypes and focus on real research, only then can we start to understand the full complexities of terror and what it involves