Captain Artur M. LOUREIRO

United States Army

1. Introduction

The post-Cold War period has opened the doors for the emergence of old disputes between nations and peoples. These disputes, without the presence of bipolar "checks and balances" conducted between the two former superpowers, emerge in an age where the abundance of improved conventional weaponry and the surge of interest in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) allow rivalries to settle their disputes in a variety of conventional and unconventional means.

Terrorism has emerged once again as the preferred means of the minority to make itself heard in the world arena. This threat has the potential to not only spread within emerging democracies through ethnic, religious, or revolutionary armed struggle but also threatens the very nature of a democratic society and its attempt to provide the individual his "unalienable rights" as a citizen within that democratic state.

2. The Problem of Defining Terrorism

The first problem that faces states in dealing with terrorism is arriving at a definition that has consensus among all the nations. This is especially problematic when dealing with the various forms of terrorism (e.g. ethnic, religious, revolutionary, etc.). Lack of a consensual definition for terrorism makes cooperation between nations difficult, i.e., when it comes to fight terrorism or during negotiations for extradition purposes. Definitions of terrorism vary between nations and within states because of various factors.

First, political opposition occurs between agencies attempting to categorize terrorism as an ordinary crime or some other form of violence. Secondly, there is also disagreement concerning the nature of political violence and the power struggle terrorism takes against the state. Finally, specific causes resorting to political violence differ among the actors which clouds the issue of whether or not the act is political or extremist in nature.

The first component that hinders consensus in defining terrorism is the question whether political opposition is simply a crime or something else. The word ‘terror’ was first used in connection with the Jacobin "Reign of Terror" after the French Revolution of 1789. During the years 1793-1794, revolutionary terrorism broke out with Robespierre, Saint-Just, Marat, and Fouche. In this short period of time, the lives of 40,000 people were ended and 300,000 were imprisoned. A small group of men ruled 27 million Frenchman through the threat of violence. Since then, the term terrorism is emotionally charged and the symbol of the "Reign of Terror" gave birth to this new form of political violence.

Irrespective of possible definitions, terrorism has different goals than the ordinary criminal. First of all, terrorism is intended to produce fear on society through its indiscriminate acts of violence. It is a psychological act conducted for its impact upon society as a whole and seeks to destroy the vary fabric that binds society to state. Whereas the ordinary criminal is only interested in the benefits that he will attain for himself through his criminal act, the terrorist may be motivated by political, religious, or ideological objectives. Thus, terrorism distinguishes itself from other violent acts merely aimed at personal gain.

Terrorism is a term of uncertain legal content. The term itself has no definition of illegality, except when terrorism commits acts which do apply to common law. Some of the acts that a terrorist commits are murder, bombing, kidnapping, hijacking, hostage taking, and theft. All these acts have a law in the civil penal code that makes a terrorist’s activity a crime against society. However, calling one a terrorist does not make them a criminal but does imply illegality. The person or group must first commit one of the above mentioned acts before the law can prosecute the accused.

All definitions of terrorism, even though not written the same, do share similarities. In all instances, terrorism is viewed as a political act against a government and its citizenry. Secondly, terrorism is viewed as a coercive means to change some policy through the application of violence upon society. Finally, each example adheres to the unlawfulness of terrorism as a mode of political change. For the purpose of this paper terrorism is defined as "a strategy whereby violence is used to produce certain effects in a group of people so as to attain some political end or ends."

The changing methods that terrorists apply today add "a new dimension to an old threat." Terrorism still remains horrifying in its nature since it strikes at the lives of innocent people that have nothing to do with the reason for their grievances. It still provokes uncertainty through its randomness and indiscriminate attacks, but it became highly dependent of the mass media. Terrorism also remains a political act as seen in the various ethnic-separatist movements, e.g. ETA and the IRA. These groups have adapted themselves to combining violence with the political process through a political wing representing the terrorist group’s strategic agenda.

However, post-modern terrorism has introduced a new element into the equation. Recently, the world has been witnessing the rise of extremist organizations, such as AUM Supreme and other extremist millenarians. Although one can say that their objectives are political, it can also be argued that their objectives have no politics to them since they are promoting the end of civilization. These groups are extremely dangerous and have absolutely no regard for human life since it is not of their concern what effects it may have on the victim and society. Therefore, these groups are not interested in coercing society. They are interested in destroying it.

In the light of this new age in terrorism, perhaps Vladimir Lenin said it best that the "purpose of terrorism is to terrorize." Prof. Richard E. Rubinstein, Center for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the George Mason University, in May 1990 said, "…a definition of terrorism is hopeless….terrorism is just violence that you don’t like." The situation that states face is that terrorism can mean anything anyone wants it to mean dependent on their political position. The one thing that is certain is that terrorism is increasingly violent.

3. Terrorism and Western Political Thought

Terrorism’s political violence and power struggle against the state is a direct challenge to the ideas of liberal western thought. Western ideology believes that man is a free-willing individual, endowed with reason and moral responsibility. It is in this basic belief that liberal thinkers stressed the importance of a human’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Tyrannical governments that violate the rule of law which protects individual rights and liberties violate what John Locke (and others) calls the "social contract", a contract that is established between citizen and state. Does this violation justify the right of man to revolt? The medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas stated that "tyrannical government is unjust because it is not directed to the common good but to the private good of the ruler." Aquinas continued by saying that "the overthrow of such a government is not strictly sedition, unless perhaps when accompanied by such tyrannical government." This concept could become relevant to terrorists who place moral justification in their use of violence against the state and society.

But not all political philosophers thought the same way about despotic and tyrannical forms of government. Philosophers such as Trassymachus, Machiavelli, and Hobbes have argued the opposite about tyrannical forms of government. Machiavelli, in his The Prince, cannot help but admire the skill which Agathocles exercised in taking over power from the senate. Machiavelli believed that a successful Prince is one that can rule by "cunning Realpolitik" in order to maintain his power as ruler. For Thomas Hobbes the "greatest good was Order defined as a state of civil peace, and the greatest evil was anarchy, ‘a condition of warre’ of all against all." In his Leviathan, he states that all men should place their natural rights to unlimited freedom under the direct and absolute authority of the sovereign. In this Hobbesonian Commonwealth, man and sovereign have established a covenant that secures social peace. The ruler must therefore have sufficient power to establish and maintain order within society. Thus, rebellion can never be justified since society has established a Covenant with the sovereign who ensures order upon his subjects that guarantees their basic rights to life.

But guaranteeing the basic rights to life does not seem to be enough in the new strategic age and the modern liberal state. Recently, with the rise of ethnic struggle in the various nations that are no longer under the yoke of Soviet rule, we see that the desire for self-determination again aspires to be a basic political right. But does this strive for itself justify the use of violence against existing political entities in order to attain the desired objective? The theory of social contract in its various forms argues that if man were left to his own vices without any social control, he would create a state of anarchy. By agreeing to accept the rules and norms of society and accepting the obligation to obey the laws of the state, the human being exchanges certain (natural) powers and freedoms for the security and safety the state offers. "A necessary condition for the establishment of a civil society or commonwealth is the willingness of its members individually and collectively to accept its laws, adjudication’s and punishments as authoritative and binding."

4. Political Fundamentals in Civil Society and State

In western democratic states, social contract theory still has viability in modern doctrines of representation and democratic participation. "Citizens that have the opportunity to elect representatives into government on the basis of universal suffrage and free elections can be argued that such participation implicitly obliges them to abide by the decisions of a government enjoying majority support among the electorate."

Democracies must adhere to individual freedom and liberties while maintaining "the rule of law." John Locke relied on the legislative branch to be the "lynchpin" of civil government through the adherence of laws. The legislative branch was the protector of the people. It protected the people from the executive by placing it under the legislative branch’s control. Locke established guiding principles for the legislative branch of government:

Firstly, they are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favorite at Court, and the country-man at plough.

Secondly, these laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately but the good of the people.

Thirdly, they must not raises taxes on the property of the people without the consent of the people given by themselves or their deputies.

Fourthly, the legislative neither must nor can transfer the power of making laws to anybody else, or place it anywhere but where the people have.

However, in modern democratic societies there must be an institution that specializes in the interpretation of such laws, adjudicates, and administers the law. This judicial institution must be impartial and protected from political control. This control measure is essential for society to establish any operative rule of law. The principle of rule of law and judicial independence remain an essential part of both the theory and practice of the modern liberal state.

Exactly at this point terrorism sets in. For ideological reasons, the terrorist denies the legitimacy of this contract or the way it is being carried out by the state. This discontent seems to justify the terrorist’s resort to violence.

Due to their very nature, modern democratic states have always been vulnerable to terrorism. Modern democratic states serve to protect the security of its citizens by enacting and enforcing laws which are designed to protect their fundamental interests.

5. Terrorism and Modern Civil Societies

Given the destructiveness of post-modern terrorism, it is the responsibility of the state to utilize whatever means it has to protect societies’ interests against terrorism. Since terrorism is a form of war, it is also appropriate for liberal states to utilize the military as an instrument to fight the terrorist threat. However, "should the state start to use countermeasures of an illegal or unconstitutional manner, it runs the very grave risk of undermining its own legitimacy and, hence, creating a situation worse than the problem it is trying to relieve." Therefore, two underlying principles hold true for democratic states: (1) liberal democratic principles require that the state take action against terrorism, and (2) that the actions taken adhere to liberal democratic conceptions of constitutional authority.

Terrorism has changed over the years by evolving its tactics and strategy to fit the new political world arena. One important element, however, has not changed in terrorism, namely that it continues to be a method in which minority groups express their political and strategic desires through violence against the legitimate state. Throughout history, regimes and opposition groups have resorted to terrorism for the purpose of attaining political ends. Acts of terrorism have been both psychological and physical in their nature through intimidation, coercion, and repression. As mentioned above, these actions against society attempt to destabilize the regime that makes terrorism different than an ordinary crime. Noemi Gal-Or, author of a book that deals with international cooperation to fight terrorism, writes: "Terrorism is political because its perpetrators pretend to represent some segment of the political scene, and it has socio-political underpinning as well as consequences."

Post-modern terrorism threatens democracies new and old. The nature of democratic societies makes it easy for the terrorist to organize and operate. Democratic societies are open societies that promote the individual rights and freedoms of the citizens. Liberal societies also have a mass media that enjoys a freedom unprecedented in history with today’s new technological developments in communication and transportation. Democracies risk in their counter-terrorism policies of being too repressive, thus weakening democratic values. The type and amount of force a democracy utilizes in countering the terrorist must be weighed carefully prior to any sort of commitment by the state. It is important to keep in mind what the strategic goal of the terrorist is: reduce societal confidence in the state by showing the repressive nature of the political administration in power and "enhance the attractiveness of the political alternative the terrorists represent."

5.1. Tactics and Motivation of Terrorists

The uniqueness of the political violence associated with terrorism in connection with the nature of the modern state makes it an extremely dangerous threat to liberal democracies. With regard to the effectiveness of anti-terrorist policies Christopher Hewitt states that "terrorist acts are decisions made by individuals who are members of identifiable organizations with distinctive characteristics." Terrorism’s goal of political change is attained by means of subversive acts against the state.

Post-modern terrorist tactics are often related to the violent strategic framework of various revolutionary forces engaging in civil war, guerilla warfare, and international war. Political groups that employ terrorism as a strategy are often similar to other voluntary organizations such as an insurgent group. Each terrorist organization has a structure that is capable of collective decision making and there is normally a hierarchy within the organizations that often follows military rank structure. In other words, there are leaders at different levels within the organization coordinating and directing the collective goals to achieve their overall political aims.

Post-modern terrorists are very often ambitious, calling for radical changes within society through the restructuring of the legitimacy of existing political and social elites. Martha Crenshaw, an expert in issues involving terrorism, states that "the causes are numerous and varying, logical and understandable as well as emotional and irrational."

These causes can be from resistance to a foreign ruler, drives to change political and social reality to bring about revolution, or desire for some spiritual purification. Regardless of the cause, the terrorist considers himself on a moral and justified crusade against an oppressor that leaves little room for compromise. This moral "crusade" allows the terrorist to utilize almost any means to obtain his strategic objective. The most effective means that the post-modern terrorist has incorporated has been the attack on the innocent in order to convince governments to take the terrorist’s demands seriously. Post-modern terrorism not only threatens the safety of society but also challenges the very nature of the modern democratic state. Terrorism’s political violence and power struggle against the state is a direct challenge to the ideas of liberal western thought. Liberal thinkers have always stressed the moral values of the individual, as a significantly distinct part of human nature.

5.2. Theory and Practice of Justifying Terrorism

A principle of Western thinking is also that the decision to use violence or political force can only be justified if the act is conducted as a last resort of (self-) defense to preserve political justice. Terrorist groups that choose to use the tool of violence will often do so without exploring other legitimate options because they do not bring about the rapid change that is desired by such groups. The case of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (more commonly known as the IRA) provides a good illustration of an illegitimate terrorist campaign that has decided to exercise its internal struggle in Northern Ireland without seeking other means short of violence. Irish Catholics has their own parliament enabling them to participate in the decision-making process after the Irish civil war ended in 1992 and a signing of a treaty between the free state of Ireland and the British government. This, however, did not stop a minority of Catholics from continuing their struggle against England. The battle cry that has been heard by the IRA was for the removal of the British government from Northern Ireland and the union of all the provinces (IRA’s strategic political goal). This, of course, is the desire for "self-determination" and not self-defense. The British were not threatening the lives of Irish Catholics and agreed to give them the southern part of the island. Although many were satisfied with the arrangement, hard-core zealots within the IRA were not, thus splitting from the mainstream and forming the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It was not until the late 60s and early 70s that the British introduction of military force and the unfortunate events that occurred on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday, caused violence to escalate. However, the internal struggle and political terrorism conducted by the IRA is still unjustifiable because of their unwillingness to participate in the normal political process.

If ever, political terrorism seems only to be justifiable under very strictly limited circumstances. The nature of the oppression must be severe enough to warrant such a reaction. "Severe enough" can only mean that the primary level of human rights, the right to live, is immediately threatened – for example, when a political regime kills people at will in the sense of committing progroms or ethnic cleansing. Once the right to life has been threatened, government is incapable of justifying its legitimacy over society, and is by doing so severely violating the social contract.

An example that demonstrates an argument supporting a terrorist campaign against a state is the Montonero movement in Argentina after the coup of 1955. The Montoneros sought to bring back Peron, the former president of Argentina, into power. Peron was seen by the Peronistas as a leader that supported the worker through various social programs that he had established in Argentina during his reign. His social programs, however, had significant economic impacts on the country that brought severe recessions to Argentina in the form of high inflation and high interest rates. Anti-Peronistas staged a coup in order to get the country out of this disastrous state of affairs. In 1956, a group of civilian and military officers staged a demonstration against the Anti-Peronista movement that has established reforms preventing Pro-Peronistas from having any say in the electoral process. This demonstration was brutally suppressed by the state. For the first time, the state was punishing dissenters with death. Based on these circumstances, the Montonero movement began its terrorist campaign against the state, targeting predominantly military and law-enforcement personnel.

Under the presumption that no other means were available, this event might carry an idea of a justifiable terrorist campaign since the state directly threatened the lives of those who rebelled against its unjustified laws. Moreover, the terrorist campaign’s primary targets tended to focus on those that represented the state (military and law-enforcement). The movement became "discriminatory" in its application of violence, reducing the likelihood of innocent victims. These factors gave the movement a certain level of legitimacy amongst society’s less affluent and increased the "de-legitimization" of the state. The state became illegitimate in the eyes of a modern civil society because it did not adhere to the "Rule of Law" by unjustly seeking out and destroying those who opposed (peacefully at first) the state’s policies against Peron.

These principles established justice as the primary aspect and responsibility that the state owed society. Freedom in the sense of confining itself by justice, was only of secondary importance. Society could only exercise freedom as long as it did not usurp justice. This condition questions the suitability of means one uses in attempting to gain his or her freedom from the state. If the means are not just by violating the laws established within society through the social contract, then the action cannot be ethically or morally legitimized. Terrorists, more often than not, use the tool of violence not against the "guilty" but rather against the innocent. They randomly target open society in order to intimidate and coerce the state. Therefore, terrorism that targets the innocent can never be justified.

5.3. The Separation of Powers and Countering Terrorism

The "Rule of Law" that guides society, defines what is justice and grants the state the authority to govern. The principle of the rule of law and judicial independence remain an essential part of both the theory and practice of the modern liberal state. This impartiality through the judiciary’s political independence is also a key when discussing the means in which to counter terrorists from attacking the state. Once justification for the state’s use of violence against a terrorist is established by the impartial interpretation of the rule of law, society can support such actions. The antithesis to this is the state’s use of violence without the backing of the rule of law. Such actions would be reviewed as de-legitimizing the state in the eyes of society. Therefore, ways and means to counter terrorism are equally important to the state as in the decision by terrorists to conduct a campaign of violence against the state.

It has been made apparent by many scholars that terrorism and the methods of countering this threat are predominantly a law-enforcement matter.

Western democratic societies will typically adopt the criminal justice model in countering terrorism by utilizing the state’s law-enforcement agencies despite the availability of military resources. The fear of recognizing the political role of the terrorist prevents western societies from adopting the war model in countering the terrorist threat. This position was best summarized by Jeannou Lacaze during his report on European terrorism, given to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security on 02 February 1994:

As pointed out earlier, a terrorist is not a common criminal. Hence, treating a terrorist as a common criminal has two potential dangers: (1) Over-reaction by the state and (2) Refusal to take any decisive judicial or law-enforcement action against those who threaten the rule of law.

Labeling terrorism as a common crime can place state officials in a position that provokes them into making "radical and unjustified departures from conventional judicial and law-enforcement procedures. This begins to occur when law-enforcement officials in conjunction with the polity perceive that the constitutional safeguards which are built into the rule of law prevent the state agencies from accomplishing their mission against the terrorist. The rules and rights that are traditionally enshrined in the principle of due process begin to be misinterpreted or completely disregarded. The internment policy established by the British government against the IRA is a good example of this over-reaction conducted by the state. The British government stated that "…the IRA had become an inflexible, militarily autonomous organization, its violence being wholly unregulated by any meaningful political authority." Thousands of Irish Catholics were imprisoned with suspicion of being members of the IRA or abetting the terrorist organization. This policy resulted in the deterioration of the relationship between the Irish Catholics and the Royal Ulster Constabulary assisted by the British Army. This did not ultimately reduce the violence between the IRA and British forces but instead increased the animosity towards the northern government of Ireland and increased the support base for the IRA throughout all of Ireland.

The second danger in labeling terrorism as a common crime is the refusal of the state in taking any decisive judicial or law-enforcement action against the terrorist organization. In this case, law-enforcement officials hope that the terrorist organization will eventually be encouraged to adhere to accepted legal standards and practices. This is to occur by certain appeasement’s being granted to the terrorists by the state through negotiated settlements. The danger in appeasing terrorists is that the state opens itself up to additional future attacks by the same methodology utilized by other groups. This undermines public security and only encourages future terrorist threats against the state. This is best put in the words of Paul Wilkinson in his book, Terrorism and the Liberal State:

An example of law-enforcement refusing to take any decisive action against a terrorist organization was witnessed in Japan during the numerous complaints brought against Aum Supreme Truth and its leader, Shoko Asahara. It was not until the assault on the Egawa compound (after the Sakamoto murders) that authorities uncovered the cult’s interest with chemical weapons. This discovery did not prevent the attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, which left 12 people dead and injuring over 6,000.

5.4. Categorization of Terrorism

Treating terrorism as a common crime can have severe repercussions on society and its perception of the state in how it deals with terrorism. Terrorism is not a common crime, as mentioned throughout this paper, but rather a "subspecies" of revolutionary tactics or guerrilla warfare. Not all forms of terrorism can be considered revolutionary or political. For example, extremist millenarians whose only strategic objective is to destroy society cannot be considered revolutionary even though they will ultimately effect the state. These terrorists have no ideology - unlike ethnic/nationalist terrorists that promote a certain culture or political ideology. Justification in using military force can only be justified once western liberal democracies can accept the notion that terrorism is a form of warfare (low-intensity conflict (LIC) or guerrilla warfare). Western democracies will be more willing to utilize military resources once the threat of terrorism becomes more persistent and dangerous.

Categorizing terrorism as a form of guerrilla warfare has not been popular in western states. There is always the fear that by allowing the military to respond to these sorts of threats, civilian control of the military becomes jeopardized. This of course is a danger unless the political leadership involves itself with the operational planning of the anti-terrorist campaign. Treating terrorism as a form of warfare must involve both a political decision and counter-terrorist concept along with an adequate military policy to counter the threat of terrorism.

Another argument against categorizing terrorists as ‘Guerrillas’ revolves around the issue of tactics. Walter Laqueur makes an argument against categorizing terrorists as Guerrillas. He states that "while guerrillas have quite frequently used terrorist tactics vis-à-vis their enemies, the opposite has virtually never happened, for in the urban milieu there are no opportunities for guerrilla warfare…urban slums or wealthy quarters do not provide the sanctuary given by the jungle or distant mountain regions." However, it seems to be a fundamental mistake in misinterpreting the differences in terrain and the type of effects necessary to achieve the military objective of the guerrilla/terrorist.

Terrorism in the new strategic age has become much more lethal. This increase in lethality is due to new technologies in communications, transportation, and the availability of WMDs. Post-modern terrorism, therefore, poses a much greater threat to western liberal states and their respective societies than it has in the past. Terrorists are much more indiscriminate in the selection of their targets; post-Cold War period has freed ethnic/nationalist disputes in various regions of the world; and, WMD availability gives the terrorist the ability to counter superior state security forces. In this society no form of violence, less self-defense, can be morally justified.

Unlike past guerrilla campaigns that attempted to follow a Maoist tradition of armed struggle in the sense of fighting a clearly identified adversary, post-modern terrorism follows whatever strategy it deems necessary to promote its agenda and to accomplish the political objectives. Critics of characterizing terrorism as a mode of warfare say that terrorists are not guerrillas because they do not seize any terrain. Post-modern terrorism does not need to seize terrain. Instead the importance for the terrorist in the new strategic age is who, what, when, where, and how he can effect his target(s) with the least risk to his forces. In essence, terrorism becomes a war of attrition.

6. Conclusion

Terrorists conduct their acts of violence outside the boundaries of societal norms. The monopoly of violence, in Western liberal states, remains with the legitimate entity based on the social contract that has been established between state and citizen. Terrorism violates that monopoly and thus becomes unlawful. It then becomes the responsibility of the state to enforce its laws and return order to society. The methodology of the type of response must have a legal basis in order to be acceptable to society. Moreover, since it is the responsibility of the state to re-establish order through legal means, the state must also consider the nature of the threat in determining the means of violence it must apply.

The nature of today’s terrorism cannot be countered with yesterday’s methods. Governments have to acknowledge that a threat to national security exists when they become threatened with post-modern terrorism. Law-enforcement is always preferable but the Military must always remain an option. It is the responsibility of the elected officials to understand the capabilities that the military can bring to bear against terrorism. However, senior military leaders also share in the responsibility of providing the political leadership the information required in making valid strategic decisions. Counter-terrorism must apply what Carl von Clausewitz termed as the "dual-nature" of warfare.

It is through this method that western liberal states can retain their legitimacy against the unlawful, immoral violence perpetrated by the terrorist.