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Above the gates of hell is the warning that all that enter should abandon hope. Less dire but to the same effect is the warning given to those who try to define terrorism. "It can be predicted with confidence that the disputes about a detailed, comprehensive definition of terrorism will continue for a long time, that they will not result in a consensus, and that they will make no noticeable contribution towards the understanding of terrorism." The author of this warning, undeterred by it, goes on to discuss the definition of terrorism at length.1 In doing so, he follows an honored tradition. Every consideration of terrorism begins by discussing its definition and apologizing for doing so. The discussion arises from the commendable urge to know what we are talking about, the apology from the reasonable expectation that the complexity of the subject will defeat our efforts. Discouraged from defining terrorism by its complexity, we are urged by its monstrous character to get on with the job of combating it, whether we understand it fully or not, leaving the niceties of definition for a quieter time. This may particularly be the prejudice of so-called men of action. But we cannot take their advice, for, as we have just noted, how we define terrorism will determine how we combat it. Giving in to the urge to combat terrorism before trying to understand or define it, then, may give us some satisfaction in the short term, but only at the expense of frustration later on. With terrorism, as with everything else, acting before understanding is never practical. Without apology, then, we must consider what terrorism is. This task is made less daunting by our practical purpose and our focus on the U.S. government. We want to understand what terrorism is not to develop a perfect definition but to gain the clarity necessary for effective action, and we are concerned with the actions of a particular government. The best place to begin, Bibliography: SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Abbott Kenneth W. "Economic Sanctions and International Terrorism." Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 2 ( March, 1987): 289-328. Bialos Jeffrey and Kenneth I. Juster. "The Libyan Sanctions: A Rational Response to State-Sponsored Terrorism?" Virginia Journal of International Law 4 (Summer, 1986): 799-855. Bienen Henry and Robert Gilpin. "Economic Sanctions as a Response to Terrorism." Journal of Strategic Studies III ( May, 1980): 89-98. Buckelew Alvin Hugh. Terrorism and the American Response: An Analysis of the Mechanism Used by the Government of the United States in Dealing with National and International Terrorism. Ph.D. dissertation, Golden Gate University, 1982. Celmer Marc A. Terrorism: U.S. Strategy and Reagan Policies.
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