Theory of Terrorism
Austin Peay State University
Joseph D. Bishop j Joseph D. Bishop
Terrorism is often misunderstood. Like any other form of warfare it can have horrible results. But the behavior of terrorists is not mysterious. When a terrorist operation is run well, there's a purpose behind everything they do.
Warfare itself is equally explicable, and also can be horrible. But wars don't happen for no reason, and they don't always happen because of insanity. Sane and moral men can start a war if they think that the alternative is even worse. A war is fought because one side in a conflict wants something and cannot get it by diplomacy. In the great aphorism attributed to Clausewitz, "War is diplomacy by other means." But there are many ways in which a war can be fought; they're not all just armies maneuvering on a battlefield. In particular, that kind of war is only really possible if the two sides are approximately comparable in military strength. To take on an opponent that way when he is vastly more powerful than you is just a fancy way to commit suicide. But with proper tactics, numerical inferiority doesn't have to mean defeat. You can fight a guerrilla war, or a terrorist action. Terrorism is the lowest level of warfare, requiring the least resources for the inferior side. Terrorism is war on the cheap. And terrorists can win.
"Terrorism" is actually misnamed, because the goal of it is not to sow terror (though that is a common tactic). The goal of terrorism is to sow discord and disruption and to provoke reprisals from your much stronger opponent. One of the paradoxes of terrorism is that when your opponent commits a major act of violence against your people, you (the terrorist) win and you become stronger.
A war is always fought for a reason, and there are only three ways a war can end,…