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Discuss the definition of Terrorism and consider the issue of whether - as Harry suggests - Terrorism can ever be considered "ethical".

What is terrorism? Let's try and answer the question!

Postby The Prof » Fri Dec 07, 2007 7:46 pm

I perceive that there are at least TWO types of terrorism, which may have similar causes, but have very different aspirations. I (unintentionally, honest!) infuriate American military forum members by suggesting that they head to their nearest "Blockbusters" outlet, and rent or buy the movie "Micheal Collins", which tells - reasonably accurately - the story of the man who wrote the book on "How to do terrorism for political advantage" towards the end of WW1 in Ireland. He started out with an unpopular cause - the Irish were broadly in favour of self-government, but they didn't see it as an issue worth dieing for - and began a series of deliberately provocative "outrages", in the expectation that the Establishment would be forced to respond (but would have nobody specific to respond against) The government kicked down doors randomly and "rounded up the usual suspects" but in doing so achieved nothing but a smoldering sense of resentment amongst a previously restive population. The government's problem was that when you "shoot at a ghost", the bullet you fire keeps on going until it hits something. And that "something" is possibly an innocent bystander. The knack is to make your "outrages" seem as "Playful" as possible, to make the government's retaliation seem all the more disproportionate. The aim is to stoke popular anti-government resentment from a few embers into a roaring blaze; to make the country ungovernable. This requires a number of essential ingredients (like a government who are too stupid - or too arrogant - to see how they're being played, and a population predisposed to "support the underdog") The end product is a kind of "pyramid" of popular support. At the apex your gang of "terrorists", but below them a population so outraged by (what they perceive to be) government over-reaction that they're willing to help - by becoming blind, deaf and dumb amnesiacs when questioned (they saw nothing, heard nothing and know nothing) they'll make guns disappear from the hands of terrorists killed in firefights with government forces turning them instantly into "innocent, martyred bystanders" (the guns to be passed back to the organisation by tenuous links to "people thought to be in the gang".) For Collins, it was a plan that worked. Inside two years he'd turned "the cause" from merely "mildly popular" to a roaring flame: Ireland became ungovernable and was reluctantly granted home rule. Interestingly, almost 90 years on, the USA in Iraq repeated the SAME mistakes that the Brits had done before them.
OK... that's ONE kind of terrorism. I think the Palestinian (first) Intifada is a significantly different kind. It aims not at realistically achieving a desired political aim, but after a defeat, it "forces the victors to share in the suffering of the defeated.". You can't undo the defeat... but you CAN stop the victors gloating about having won; you can force them to feel scared. And the visibility of their fear makes your situation more bearable.
The Prof
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