Why does terrorism exist?

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Art
Wow, Art, it is breathtaking how badly you comprehend what I was saying (or are being silly or intentionally obtuse...). It's not that hard:

Intent is the difference between (in the reckless driving case) reckless endangerment or neglegent homicide and murder. 5 years in jail vs the electric chair (if you, say, intentionally ran someone over).

Similarly, if you drop a bomb that is clearly intended for a military target and take precautions to ensure it only destroys that military target, but by some accident it kills some civilians, it isn't terrorism. If you leave a bomb in a backpack at a cafe, that's terrorism. Even if they kill the same number of people. The difference is the intent.

Also, I think it was you who also mentioned destorying hospitals. Parking a tank under a tree in a residential neighborhood or putting a AAA battery on the roof of a hospital or a command center under it (Saddam did both) is a war crime for the person who located the weapons in a civilian area, not the person who destroyed them.

Speaking of intent, my intent with that quote you butchered and devil-fire's intent with his question was clear (clear enough, at least, that Hurkyl understood it :rolleyes: ). Whether by accident or on purpose, Art, you really are just plain not getting these discussions. This stuff is not that hard and I have a hard time trying to figure out if you are doing this on purpose or not.
Wow russ that's all pretty insulting I on the other hand would like to say I suspect you are not being deliberately obtuse.

When the US take out a 'target' in a residential area because they 'think' there might be an enemy living there, saying they are not culpable for any resultant civilian deaths because there was no 'intent' to kill them does not exonerate them. There is such a thing as disproportionate force and as I've pointed out the doctrine of strict liability.

So having dismissed that red herring you raised and moving swiftly along, once it is understood that lack of intent or rather lack of ability to prove intent does not grant a licence to commit mass murder and mayhem many actions of the US gov't and it's forces fit quite comfortably into the definition of terrorism whereby overwhelming military force is used to coerce a civilian population to bend to it's will. You seem to be under the impression that if one side is bad the other side must therefore be good. Maybe they are both just equally bad. One of the reasons I've consistantly said I dislike the use of the label terrorist for any group is that it is far too subjective to be meaningful. Do some members of Hamas commit attrocities which could be called terrorism? - Yes. Have US forces committed attrocities that could be called terrorism? - Yes. Does this make all of Hamas terrorists or all of the US forces terrorists? No.

As an example the Iraq war kicked off with Bush authorising the bombing of a restaurant where Saddam was thought to be dining. He wasn't and the resultant explosion wiped out the staff and customers of the restaurant and killed many civilians in surrounding houses. Does this pass the test you posed?
if you drop a bomb that is clearly intended for a military target and take precautions to ensure it only destroys that military target, but by some accident it kills some civilians, it isn't terrorism.
Obviously it does not pass the test especially as the attack was made before the deadline given by Bush had expired and so there was no valid military target, there were no precautions taken to ensure only the 'target' was killed and the death of civilians was absolutely forseeable and so cannot be dismissed as accidental. So in your book was this a terrorist attack?

Or how about during the recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict. Do you believe the Israelis were justified in totally destroying an apartment block in Beirut because they detected a Hezbollah member using the internet in a cafe at the ground level or was this an act of terrorism?

I think where you and I fundamentally differ is that you seem to hold an opinion that by labelling a group terrorist everything they then do is a terrorist act and anything you do to them and their supporters is justified in the 'war against terror' In contrast if a group is not labelled as terrorists then anything they do is by default okay.

I on the other hand do not see things so black and white as I'm more of the opinion the world is made up of shades of grey.

Rather than condemn an entire body as beyond the pale I believe it makes more sense to condemn specific acts and the perpetrators of those specific acts who should then be held personally accountable for those acts. This may seem at first an exercise in semantics but it is actually crucial. By declaring one's enemies to be terrorists one justifies the circumvention of the rules of war which can lead to some very nasty outcomes. The rules of war were developed over many years to minimise the impact of conflict on humanity and so any departure from them should not be undertaken lightly but unfortunately this seems to be the slippery slope we are on.

Declaring one's enemies terrorists is just another variation of the "Our cause is just" defence which is in itself a gross oversimplification of the complex issues at the heart of conflict and lends nothing to their resolution.

BTW It would help the discussion along if you made at least a small effort to keep your posts grounded in reality. How can you accuse me of butchering your comment when I quoted it verbatim? If in the light of me exposing it's fallaciousness you now wish to retract it, feel free but please do not try to weasel your way out by insulting me.

p.s. I'm curious. Is there a reason why when I direct a post to Hurkyl you answer me and when I direct a post to you Hurkyl answers me?
 
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DaveC426913
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We call such countries "rogue nations" and I don't see why their definition would be relevant here. It's a bit like asking a murderer if what he did was murder. You can bet he'll say it wasn't, but that won't keep him out of the electric chair.
I see your point, and it supplements the definition of terrorism (by adding "according to the international consensus of these X countries").

Of course, the murderer analogy is flawed. Murder happens within the borders of a country, and every citizen is subject to those laws by definition. That is open and shut. But there is no equivalent "Planetary Law", it is an agreement by a large majority of countries, which is not quite the same thing.
 
devil-fire
Intent is everything in any crime.
we are not talking about a simple crime that is contested in a court of law with legal proceedings and prescribed punishments, we are talking about the actions of organizations and nations with their own sovereignty.

the intent of an attacker means nothing when the other group is going to retaliate based on damage inflicted.

regardless of how "legitimate" an attacker considers itself, the consequences of an attack depend more on damage done then the nature of the attack.

i mean you have to see the hypocrisy of a side contesting the legitimacy of the other side's tactics in a pitched war. i mean anyone can contest anything, but its just futile if a compromise is not an option
 
Gokul43201
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Intent is everything in any crime.
Russ, I believe you asked to have this claim dismantled by going so far as to bold "everything". It's not unreasonable to imagine that someone might take that literally.

Also, there are times when pleading ignorance doesn't work. Someone that wipes out a million people because he believes the earth is flat deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail.
 
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Also, there are times when pleading ignorance doesn't work. Someone that wipes out a million people because he believes the earth is flat deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail.
I hope you don't mean to imply that it would be OK if he did it because he believes the world is round.
 
vanesch
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It's my opinion that terrorism results from communication, and the fact that there are now world-wide communication networks, combined with an aspect of human nature, which is irrational fear.

Terrorism without communication would be totally useless, because the *objective risk* caused by terrorism is orders of magnitude below commonly accepted risks, such as driving a car, flying an airplane, smoking a sigarette or doing some chemistry. The objective risk (that means, the expected number of casualties per unit of time) caused by terrorism is neglegible compared to all other risks that a human being faces. It is a very very tiny fraction of the premature deaths of human beings and as such a totally inefficient way of causing harm, if objective risk were its target.

You can see this with the most deadly and spectacular terrorist attack, which is of course 9/11: a few thousand deaths, and it doesn't occur every year, far from it. Now, mechanical transport causes about 1.2 million direct deaths a year, and we're not talking about the indirect deaths (pollution...), the injured etc...

So objectively speaking, in terms of risk, terrorism is a neglegible phenomenon. However, (and the word says it!), the main idea of terrorism is not to increase objective risk, but to install irrational fear, and to provoke as such, much more damage by fear reactions, than by objective risk. Now, if you don't know about something, you cannot fear it, so the main goal of terrorism is to get known! To get into the news and to instill fear.

As such, terrorism is a by-product of worldwide communication.
 
DaveC426913
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It's my opinion that terrorism results from communication, and the fact that there are now world-wide communication networks, combined with an aspect of human nature, which is irrational fear.
We can test this by attempting to come up with examples of terrorism preceding world-wide communications networks.
 
Art
It's my opinion that terrorism results from communication, and the fact that there are now world-wide communication networks, combined with an aspect of human nature, which is irrational fear.

Terrorism without communication would be totally useless, because the *objective risk* caused by terrorism is orders of magnitude below commonly accepted risks, such as driving a car, flying an airplane, smoking a sigarette or doing some chemistry. The objective risk (that means, the expected number of casualties per unit of time) caused by terrorism is neglegible compared to all other risks that a human being faces. It is a very very tiny fraction of the premature deaths of human beings and as such a totally inefficient way of causing harm, if objective risk were its target.

You can see this with the most deadly and spectacular terrorist attack, which is of course 9/11: a few thousand deaths, and it doesn't occur every year, far from it. Now, mechanical transport causes about 1.2 million direct deaths a year, and we're not talking about the indirect deaths (pollution...), the injured etc...

So objectively speaking, in terms of risk, terrorism is a neglegible phenomenon. However, (and the word says it!), the main idea of terrorism is not to increase objective risk, but to install irrational fear, and to provoke as such, much more damage by fear reactions, than by objective risk. Now, if you don't know about something, you cannot fear it, so the main goal of terrorism is to get known! To get into the news and to instill fear.

As such, terrorism is a by-product of worldwide communication.
I agree with your sentiments. I've mentioned previously one's chances of being a victim of terrorism are about on a par with your chances of dying through spontaneous combustion or by being struck by lightning however the other side of the coin is this irrational fear is welcomed and seized upon by gov'ts to win electoral power, curtail civil rights and create whole new industries to fleece the tax payers and so the negative widespread publicity attrocities attract often suits both the gov'ts being targeted and the people carrying out the attacks.
 
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vanesch
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We can test this by attempting to come up with examples of terrorism preceding world-wide communications networks.
The problem is that if you can come up with such examples, it means that they have been communicated well enough to survive in our common knowledge.
 
devil-fire
We can test this by attempting to come up with examples of terrorism preceding world-wide communications networks.
the effects of terrorist actions were not as wide spread before world wide communications though. terrorism is much more effective now that so many more people are able to be terrorized with a single act.
 
DaveC426913
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the effects of terrorist actions were not as wide spread before world wide communications though. terrorism is much more effective now that so many more people are able to be terrorized with a single act.
The point here is that IF that were true (that terrorism only works with mass communication) we would NOT have terrorist acts before it existed.

But if we CAN come up with examples of terrorism, then the hypothesis doesn't hold water.

Did armies never burn villages as a message to the countryfolk? Was the rape of women and the slaughter of children not sending a message?

I think terrorism was alive and well long before the 20th century.
 
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turbo
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I think terrorism was alive and well long before the 20th century.
There are well-documented examples during the last century or two, and if you want ro rely on popular writings, there appear to be many other, stretching back through times when the speed of information was limited to that of a mounted rider or a fleet courier.
 
vanesch
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The point here is that IF that were true (that terrorism only works with mass communication) we would NOT have terrorist acts before it existed.

But if we CAN come up with examples of terrorism, then the hypothesis doesn't hold water.

Did armies never burn villages as a message to the countryfolk? Was the rape of women and the slaughter of children not sending a message?

I think terrorism was alive and well long before the 20th century.
I didn't say "20th century", I said "communication". You say yourself "sending a message". Wasn't it a usual terror technique to leave a few survivors of cruel acts just to serve as messengers and to spread fear ?

My point is: the essential driving force of terrorism is communication. The more efficient the communication works, the more drives there are for terrorism. As such, world-wide communication is a serious catalyst for terrorism, but historically, although much less "world wide", there was still communication, and hence a certain, lower, level of drive for terrorism.

Terrorism without communication is pointless. That doesn't mean that cruel acts cannot be committed, but they are not "terrorism". Terrorism aims to spread fear, not cruelty, and spreading fear needs communication. The better the communication works, the more efficient terrorism is.
 
vanesch
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There are well-documented examples during the last century or two, and if you want ro rely on popular writings, there appear to be many other, stretching back through times when the speed of information was limited to that of a mounted rider or a fleet courier.
But that can be good enough !
 
DaveC426913
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I didn't say "20th century", I said "communication". You say yourself "sending a message". Wasn't it a usual terror technique to leave a few survivors of cruel acts just to serve as messengers and to spread fear ?

...

Terrorism without communication is pointless.
Right. And since we agree that there's no such thing as "no communication" (it's all about the scope - terrorism works on those within range, be it village or planet) we've shown that it's a trivial point. It's like saying terrorism only works where there's oxygen. It's not making a salient point about terrorism.
 
devil-fire
Right. And since we agree that there's no such thing as "no communication" (it's all about the scope - terrorism works on those within range, be it village or planet) we've shown that it's a trivial point. It's like saying terrorism only works where there's oxygen. It's not making a salient point about terrorism.
i think it is a vary good point about terrorism. since the terrorist's war is one of propaganda and not of actual threat, it highlights quite well how effective terrorism is in a world of global communications. terrorism is by far the most effective it has ever been in history. i would consider that to be a fairly good motive for anyone who has some strategic use for terrorism

for terrorists, the war is being fought with propaganda on a world wide network, whereas the other side is fighting the war house to house in some cases.
 
DaveC426913
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...whereas the other side is fighting the war house to house in some cases.
Well, they're definitely doing that too. I think the point is that they know they can't win that one, since their opponents definitely outgun them.

To go public with one's cause is a tried-and-true method for rebalancing the playing field.

We cannot stop the War Machine ourselves, but we can convince the driver (i.e. the voting public) to.
 
Art
Right. And since we agree that there's no such thing as "no communication" (it's all about the scope - terrorism works on those within range, be it village or planet) we've shown that it's a trivial point. It's like saying terrorism only works where there's oxygen. It's not making a salient point about terrorism.
I think it is. In fact this hypothesis has been acted upon.

During the height of the IRA campaign in the 80's the Irish gov't deprived the IRA of publicity by making it illegal for the media to carry any interviews with their spokespeople. This undoubtedly helped persuade the IRA to turn away from armed conflict in order to be heard.
 
DaveC426913
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Well I'm not suggesting terrosim isn't helped by world-wide communication, I'm merely arguing that terrorism isn't defeated without it.
 
vanesch
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I think it is. In fact this hypothesis has been acted upon.

During the height of the IRA campaign in the 80's the Irish gov't deprived the IRA of publicity by making it illegal for the media to carry any interviews with their spokespeople. This undoubtedly helped persuade the IRA to turn away from armed conflict in order to be heard.
I didn't know that, but that's a smart move. If one could convince world-wide media networks to neglect terrorism, or at least, to report minimalistically about it, this would be a major blow to it. Think about it: multinationals spend billions to get their name heard and seen on commercials everywhere, and the only thing a guy like Ben Laden has to do is to send a videotape to some official, to get worldwide coverage.

But the problem is that as well media as certain politicians obtain too much advantage from the existence of terrorism for this ever to be established, and as such, serve as the main actors in the perpetration of terrorism.
 
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I didn't know that, but that's a smart move. If one could convince world-wide media networks to neglect terrorism, or at least, to report minimalistically about it, this would be a major blow to it. Think about it: multinationals spend billions to get their name heard and seen on commercials everywhere, and the only thing a guy like Ben Laden has to do is to send a videotape to some official, to get worldwide coverage.

But the problem is that as well media as certain politicians obtain too much advantage from the existence of terrorism for this ever to be established, and as such, serve as the main actors in the perpetration of terrorism.
That strategy versus Ira: That was 1980-90 but with Internet everything changed. You really think Aljazeera will stop talking about brutalities of occupying forces, and only will report futilities like that a waterpipe was fixed in the small village xyz, and stop reporting about carbombs, etc. On the other hand I am sure the Bush-bush would like to minimalize, like they showed in the past with the coffin-photo approach.
 
DaveC426913
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I didn't know that, but that's a smart move. If one could convince world-wide media networks to neglect terrorism, or at least, to report minimalistically about it, this would be a major blow to it.
you know, this technique can be re-applied in a number of other civilization-destroying places: Paris, Britney, Lindsay...
 
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Quote from the wikipedia
Few words are as politically or emotionally charged as terrorism. A 1988 study by the US Army[1] counted 109 definitions of terrorism that covered a total of 22 different definitional elements. Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur in 1999 also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence".
We have been speaking of terrorism as if we all have a common definition for the word. How are we defining it?
 
DaveC426913
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We have been speaking of terrorism as if we all have a common definition for the word. How are we defining it?
Read the earlier posts - start at about #20.
 
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Read the earlier posts - start at about #20.
I think that it would be a good idea that after every fifteen or twenty posts we should define our central term again. Why?

(1) to make sure everyone participating in this dialog is still in agreement with a
definition or would like to amend it.
(2) to help maintain a kind of continuity with the original question "Why does terrorism
exist?"
(3) to help maintain coherence in what we are talking about.
(4) to minimize vagueness and second guessing.

(It's possible that I am the only one that sees benifit in doing this.)
 

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