Armed Hostilities

The Concept of Terrorism

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Terrorism – Concept Overview
  3. Personal Position
  4. The Opposing Position
  5. Rebuttal
  6. References


The concept of terrorism is well-known all around the world. Also, it is one of the most commonly mentioned problems in modern society. Terrorism has been seen as a major threat to the world’s peace and national security in many states. It currently affects a wide range of countries located all around the globe. Over the last couple of decades, a series of powerful and terrifying terrorist attacks have shaken the cities of Europe, Asia, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the Middle East.

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News reports about new terrorist attacks appear almost on a daily or weekly basis. Terrorism represents attacks on the peaceful population that is usually put into action in heavily populated and crowded open spaces in order to affect as many people as possible. Terrorism has a major purpose of spreading terror, and for this reason, it was called that way. It always involves innocent people as victims who are used for the declaration of certain demands or intentions of the terrorist groups responsible for the act. Terrorism is one of the actions that should be punished the hardest because it takes innocent life each time no matter the justification of it.

Terrorism – Concept Overview

The concept of terrorism is used and discussed frequently; most of the contemporary people have faced it in literature, news, research, or, in some cases, in real life. Most individuals can explain what terrorism stands for as a phenomenon; however, defining this concept clearly seems to be a complicated task. As reported by Terrorism Research, the following definition was provided by the United Nations in the 1990s: “an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets” (“What is terrorism?,” n.d.).

Also, the definition of the US Department of Defense states that terrorism is: “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological” (“What is terrorism?,” n.d.). In that way, it is possible to notice that in the two definitions, the organizations emphasized that the major characteristic of terrorism is the use of violence targeting the general public. Perhaps, the definition provided by the British Government in the 1970s is the one that sums up the two previous one the best; the Government defined terrorism as “the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear” (“What is terrorism?,” n.d.). This definition also added that the political purposes are usually the primary basis for the acts of terrorism.

In addition, discussing the concept of terrorism, it is important to mention that the term originated from the Latin word “terror” whose meaning remained the same throughout the centuries (“Terrorism,” 2017). In that way, terrorism is recognized as an activity practiced for the purpose of affecting as many people as possible. In fact, there exist two major collective victims of terrorism – the group of people who are affected immediately during the terror attack and the group of people who witnessed the attack in real life or saw reports about it on the news (Zalman, 2016).

In that way, the victims of the attack, as well as its magnitude are exploited for the purpose of putting everyone in fear. Practically, the magnitude of a terror attack should be evaluated not only by the number of victims directly affected by it but also by the effect it produced on the members of general public, the political authorities, and the global society. Differently put, audience is the major stakeholder of any terror attack because without witnesses it does not carry any effect, and thus does not accomplish its primary objective.

Personal Position

Terrorism is widely recognized as a terrible act that cannot and should not be excused. It goes without saying that since terrorism aims at affecting innocent people, its acts are usually tightly connected with a powerful emotional backlash. This is the case because, for the purpose of producing the most powerful effect, terrorists tend to choose the locations and audiences whose victimization will resonate with the largest groups of the population.

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For instance, some the most recent attacks that took place in the cities of Europe targeted people during holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Christmas – the time of the year that is usually associated with peace, happiness, merriness, and with people expecting miracles but not horrible violence right at the moment when everyone’s guard is down. Also, the latest attack that took place in Manchester, England targeted the people who attended the concert given by Ariana Grande; the audience of this show included a lot of children and teenagers, most of whom were girls and your women. It is possible to state that this location was chosen because the attack on children and women is likely to have a more powerful effect than that on adult men and the former are associated with innocence.

In that way, regardless of what the premise is for the terrorists to put their plans into action, they always involve the victimization of the most vulnerable population groups at the most unexpected times. This type of crime is committed solely for the purpose of the crime itself and the effect it can make on the witnesses. As a result, any excuses that an act of terror may have are unlikely to survive a logical analysis establishing the connection between the actions of the victims and those of the criminals.

By means of hurting the members of general public at the moments when they are not protected by the government, terrorists attempt to prove to the government that their defense is flawed and can be breached. This is a tactic and a strategy of putting everyone in fear and producing proofs that no one is ever safe. By means of hurting innocent people, terrorists attempt to communicate messages to the governments. This is an action undeserving of understanding or forgiveness.

The Opposing Position

Apart from the point of view according to which terrorism is inexcusable, there exists the position that offers reasonable justifications of such acts. The first argument that could be mentioned is the one that disproves the innocence of the civilians affected by terrorist attacks. According to common belief, military agents are the legitimate targets for an attack because they represent a threat; however, the non-military population could also be a part of the threat due to their moral stand but not physical power (Saul & Gershman, 2006). In other words, an attack on the civilian population could be justified because the population is a moral threat (the supporters of an oppressive government, for example).

Another popular perspective that serves as the basis for the justification of terrorism is the understanding of an act of terror as a response to a lengthy oppression that had resulted in a lot of damage (“Justifying terrorism,” 2016). From this point of view, the acts of terrors are the actions of desperate groups of the population forced to draw to violent ways due to the lack of any other opportunity to reach the oppressor, express their dissatisfaction, and be heard (Brivati, 2009).


The legitimization of an attack on the civilian population has no legal value due to several reasons. First of all, the delivery of a punishment (even if it was deserved) is the prerogative of the justice system and not a self-proclaimed vigilante. Second of all, in order for the perpetrators of violence to be justified (at least to some degree), the guilt of the victim needs to be proved. However, even an act of crime committed for a reason of justice is punished.

Moreover, the perspective viewing terrorism as a morally-supported response to years of oppression does not free the terrorists from a responsibility to be judged for their actions and punished in accordance with the crime. Finally, using innocent civilians as instruments helping a terrorist communicate the demands for or the dissatisfaction with the government still involves harm caused to the victims and requires a punishment by law.

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Brivati, B. (2009). Yes, terrorism can be justified.

Justifying terrorism. (2016).

Saul, B., & Gershman, J. (2006). Two justifications for terrorism: A moral legal response.

Terrorism. (2017).

What is terrorism? (n.d.)

Zalman, A. (2016). There are two causes of terrorism. Web.

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