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Lecture 8

Lecture 8a International Terrorism II .doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 2013 II Lecture 8a International Terrorism - Three overarching questions about terrorism: - 1. Can we define terrorism in an objective way? - 2. Can we explain terrorism as a social scientific phenomenon? - 3. What are the consequences of the “War on Terror”? o Was/Is the American War on Terror a reasonable policy response to 9/11? o Said it was a military attack, so wanted to treat it as a military concern Definition: - A necessary first step before analyzing terrorism is to define it - What is terrorism? - There is a politics associated with defining terrorism - The term is notoriously loaded - For example, what is the difference between terrorism and state violence? - There are clear parallels between state violence and “terrorist” violence - 1. Both kill civilians - 2. Both are directed at obtaining political ends - 3. Both cause terror in their wake - Or what to make of the overused cliché: “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” - What makes a terrorist a terrorist rather than a freedom fighter? - Why is it that if they are successful in obtaining their goals, “terrorists” frequently are retroactively labeled as revolutionary freedom fighters? - Where the same act is considered illegitimate terrorism at one moment but a legitimate struggle for freedom at another, any objective categorization becomes questionable - In other words defining a group or an action as terrorist is an unavoidably political act - There is no obvious definition that would be accepted without vocal opposition from one quarter or another - The academic response to the definitional problem has been to either reject the term ‘terrorism’ as an objective label, or to divide terrorism into a number of forms: - A) State terrorism - This term is used to capture cases where a government will deliberately inflict violence on its own citizens in an attempt to “suppress dissent and silence opposition” - B) State-sponsored terrorism - In this case the term refers to cases where a state government will offer material “support to internation
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