Introduction to Terrorism

Terrorism: The Problems with Definition

What is terrorism? It’s difficult to define. Today, there is no universally-accepted definition of terrorism. Even in the U.S., between agencies, there are many different official definitions of terrorism. Instead, there are only examples of what terrorism is and isn’t. However, coming up with a globally-accepted, common definition of terrorism is still important, because having one would make countering terrorism easier.

Burgess, Mark. “Terrorism: The Problems of Definition”. Center for Defense Information. 1 August 2003. 2 August 2010.


A Brief History of Terrorism

When did terrorism begin? How has it evolved over the years? Terrorism certainly didn’t begin with 9/11. In fact, the first incident of terrorism as we call it today was some 2,000 years ago with the Sicara and Zealots during the first-century Roman occupation of the Middle East. Then were the Assassins, the Thugees, and finally the 1793-1794 French Reign of Terror from which our word, terrorism, originates. After that, there were numerous other terrorist groups, including the Narodnaya Volya (NV) of Russia, nationalist groups in Ireland and the Balkans, Anarchists, the Ku Klux Klan, and more during World Wars I and II. Following World War II, many of today’s still existing terrorist organizations began, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Center for Defense Information. “A Brief History of Terrorism”. Center for Defense Information. 2 July 2003. 2 August 2010.


TED Blog Q&A with Loretta Napoleoni: The ever-changing face of terrorism

Expert Loretta Napoleoni gives an interesting overview of terrorism based on her research and experience. Having met and interviewed many different terrorist members, she concludes that: there are certain types of personalities that are more suited and likely to become terrorists; terrorism is constantly evolving and will continue to do so; terrorism can be more effectively countered economically by not considering it a national security threat, ending Guantanamo, legalizing drugs, and interrupting terrorist funding Finally, terrorism is not “basically black and white” but rather “infinite shades of gray.”

Carpenter, Shanna. “TED Blog Q&A with Loretta Napoleoni: The ever-changing face of terrorism”. TED. 14 December 2009. 2 August 2010.

Leave a Reply