Terrorism and Combating Terrorism
Terrorism is the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries. Usually, these groups are small and often lack broad public support. Therefore, they are unable to achieve their desired goals through a peaceful political process. Instead, they use acts of violence, inflicted upon deliberately chosen noncombatant targets, in order to bully and intimidate governments into changing policy or granting concessions.
Definitions of terrorism. Definitions of terrorism are usually complex and controversial, and, because of the inherent ferocity and violence of terrorism, the term in its popular usage has developed an intense stigma. Terrorism involves the use or threat of violence and seeks to create fear, not just within the direct victims but among a wide audience. In order to attract and maintain the publicity necessary to generate widespread fear, terrorists must engage in increasingly dramatic, violent, and high-profile attacks.
These have included the hijacking of aircraft, hostage takings, the targeting of marine vessels, the use of chemical or nuclear weapons against civilians, kidnappings, mass shootings, car bombings, and, frequently, suicide bombings and other forms of targeting civilians. Although apparently random, the victims and locations of terrorist attacks often are carefully selected for their shock value. Schools, shopping centres, bus and train stations, and restaurants and nightclubs have been targeted both because they attract large crowds and because they are places with which members of the civilian population are familiar and in which they feel at ease. The goal of terrorism generally is to destroy the public’s sense of security in the places most familiar to them. Major targets sometimes also include buildings or other locations that are important economic or political symbols, such as embassies or military installations. The hope of the terrorist is that the sense of terror these acts engender will induce the population to pressure political leaders toward a specific political end.