Although terrorism isn’t committed FOR private purposes, it is nevertheless committed BY private persons.
We have other words for GOVERNMENT compulsion by force. War. Law enforcement. That’s all the subject of a separate body of law. In extreme cases, we may even call it “state terror” (which we’ll discuss in more detail.) But it’s never “terrorism.”
[SUGGESTED EDIT: Move the period after “detail” to the outside of the closing parenthesis]
Monarch looking confident
(One hallmark of civilization is the extent to which ONLY the government is allowed to exercise force.
I have a MONOPOLY on violence, as they say.
Terrorism strikes that in the face — it’s not just un-civilized, but anti-civilization.)
“Government” X-ed out
Be that as it may, by DEFINITION, terrorism is NOT an act of GOVERNMENT.
NOT TERRORISM => Soldiers and a tank
NOT TERRORISM => Police in riot gear
Governments my FUND or PROTECT terrorist organizations, for their own reasons. They just can’t COMMIT terrorism.
(A related fact is that terrorist groups don’t exercise sovereignty over a land or its people. Sometimes, however, they can control territory and assume some government-like roles — when that happens, it is called an “insurgency”. We’ll be covering that later, as well.)
And with that, we have a useful definition of terrorism:
1. An act or threat of physical VIOLENCE…
2. committed to EXTORT…
3. POLITICAL CHANGE…
4. on behalf of a greater CAUSE…
5. by a NON-GOVERNMENT actor.
Is that the OFFICIAL definition?
No, because there ISN’T any one official definition — there are dozens of them. But this one will serve our purposes.
Perhaps, as we go, we’ll discover ways to tweak and fine-tune it.
Here are some other definitions you may have seen:
“Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
22 USC §2656f (Used by the U.S. State Department and others)
“The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”
28 CFR §0.85 (One of a few used by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The use or threat of action that
involves serious violence against a person,
involves serious damage to property,
endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, OR
is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system [Note that violence is not a necessary element!]
involves the use of firearms or explosives [Neither coercion nor an agenda are necessary!] OR
is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organization or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial, or ideological cause.
Terrorism Act 2000 (U.K.) (rephrased for clarity)
So far, we’ve only asked what terrorism MEANS. But this chapter is about what terrorism IS. There are many more questions to ask.