Terrorism is a tactic, not a movement

In future posts I’d like to look at a Christian response to terrorism but before I do that I’d like to clear the air on what terrorism actually is: terrorism is a tactic, not a movement.

In a pithy commentary on one blog, Bill Keane writes:

It is wrong to write of “terrorists” as if they are members of some defined static group. Terrorism is a tactic, not a movement in itself. To put it succinctly, terrorism is to militant islam what extortion is to organised crime. I’m not sure if the press is reluctant to use the word. This kind of thought is exactly the type of black/white moral simplicity that promotes a “War on Terror”, which is a little like conducting a war on violence. Terrorism is a crime that should be punished, but let’s not do it any favours by failing to see the complexity of the issue. On most people’s definition, Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.

Not a recognised source, granted, but this questioning is not limited to the online community. Elements of the military question the political rhetoric too. As the Sydney Morning Herald relates, Brigadier Kelly, the director-general of future land warfare for the Australian Defence Force has also challenged the legitimacy of “war on terrorism” language:

In a frank speech, Brigadier Justin Kelly dismissed several of the central tenets of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, saying the “war” part is all about politics and terrorism is merely a tactic.

Speaking at a conference on future warfighting, Brigadier Kelly, the director-general of future land warfare, also suggested that the “proposition you can bomb someone into thinking as we do has been found to be untrue”.

His speech appears to fly in the face of a comment by the Prime Minister, John Howard, last year that the “contest in Iraq represents a critical confrontation in the war against terror …”

Terrorists were exploiting local issues – such as ethnic wars – to pursue global ends. From a military point of view, the job was now one of counter-insurgency, he said.

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