TERRORISM: the deliberate destruction of the vulnerable as a power-struggle strategy

Terrorism is the execution of random lethal destruction upon a society, with the intention of inducing fear as a means of extortion or attaining political objectives. Human gangs of all sizes have resorted to such action ever since territory and resources have been disputed. The drug gang that kills to intimidate locals and proclaim their authority are terrorists. The street gangs who randomly kill individuals to reinforce their territorial claims are terrorists. The religious psychotics, who murder indiscriminately because they imagine that the feelings of their god have been injured, are terrorists. Without stringent controls and restraint, policing operations can degenerate very quickly into terrorist actions.

Although terrorism is not war, never-the-less, because of the usual terrorist commitment to violence, war is ordinarily the only pragmatic response. Unless some sort of sophisticated socio-economic strategy can be implemented, engaging terrorists on a war footing is ordinarily the only course of action immediately available. Prior to a declared and recognised state of war existing between two or more groups, it is difficult to classify any aggressive lethal attack of one upon the other, as anything other than an act of terrorism. A war is the ultimate consequence of an armed terrorist invasion.

War between states is generally a mixed proportion of armed confrontational conflict and diverse reciprocated terrorist acts. At one end of the scale, battles between massed armed warriors determines the outcome, and the 'civil' population is respected and not subjected to any violence or atrocities whatever. At the other end of the scale, armed marauders on each side avoid conflict with one another at all costs, and conduct terrorist attacks on all and every undefended individuals they can find. Conflicts involving a significant emphasis on terrorist acts are generally going to last longer, if for no other reason than that the perpetrators don't get killed off as quickly as the confrontational warriors.

Suicide can be an element in terrorism, as it can be in war or life in general. As a universal strategy... particularly in the initial stages of an imperialistic attack... it is more difficult to devise ingenious indoctrination programs to persuade the suicide attackers that their sacrifice would be a good idea. The advantages of sacrificing one's own genes for the benefit of other genes is not something that has immediate evolutionary appeal. On the other hand, in the advanced stages of a conflict, when all available arms, technology and personnel are losing ground, suicide expeditions or terrorism may be more easily promoted as an option, in a desperate attempt to counter a relentless and encroaching threat. Whatever the situation and circumstances, the consequences of suicide terrorist attacks will be evaluated pragmatically, in exactly the same manner that the road toll is evaluated. Counter actions are developed and the modifications made until the casualty level is acceptable with respect to the perceived benefits.

It is an intransigent and continuing irony that terrorism almost invariably results in a consequence to the perpetrators that is other than what was intended. The intention of intimidation and coercion fails utterly on those actually killed by the terrorist act because no-one is very intimidated when they are dead. The survivors, who will be the intimates and associates of those killed, are as likely to be consumed by revenge as by any paralysis of fear. History and social memory is transmitted across many generations, so that hopes for revenge and retribution will survive for longer than the perpetrators... and what goes round comes round. The terrorism perpetrated on one group will usually be returned with interest against the other group when the military boot is on the other foot. As the history of human conflict records, cycles of reciprocated invasion and the inevitable associated terrorism are self-sustaining. Terrorists are never honoured or respected by the peoples who were subjected to their random death and destruction, so whatever their aims were, they will never be welcomed by their victims.