The Definition of Terrorism

Definition of terrorism remains a task to many organizations and agencies. This is due to the fact that there is no one definition which has been agreed by all agencies. It will be realized that different organizations and agencies have different definitions of terrorism. Based on the Department of Defense, terrorism happens to be the act of violence target to people in order to intimidate or force them or to influence a certain government. Terrorists can be internal or external, meaning that they may come from the country or a different country (Godefroidt " Langer, 2018). Terrorists may carry out activities to convince people to join their cause or draw attention in order to gain support through sympathy. It can also be used for a group of people to gain political power, further their religious views or personal ideals.

The CIA defines terrorism as the acts of violence which leads to economic loss, when the purpose of the actions is to coerce or frighten targeted individuals or force a government or an organization to take actions or desist from the action (Godefroidt " Langer, 2018). Terrorism, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, is one of the methods of combats, and not a movement or ideology, which consists of planned acts of violence towards non-combatants aimed at attaining psychological impact of fright to others.

The US Department of State defines terrorism as any planned as well as politically driven form of violence which is carried out against non-combatants by groups of individuals of secret agents, and aimed at cause substantial influence to an audience (Kraft " Marks, 2016). The FBI defines it as illegal utilization of violence towards property or individuals to force or threaten the people or their government, to achieve social or political agenda.

Comparing and contrasting two definitions

Looking at the definition of terrorism by the CIA and US State of Department, there are certain differences especially on which actions amount to terrorism. These two agencies are faced with the serious problem of getting a right definition which will bring out what has to be included in the description (Herschinger, 2013). This challenge is common to all agencies which deal with security issues. Every agency has its own definition hence there is no consensus as to which definition fits all acts linked with terrorism (Marsden, 2014). In the two definitions, there is an agreement that terrorism amounts to the acts of violence committed against individuals who are non-combatant. These means that terrorists targets un-armed group people and unleash violence on them. The second thing is that the acts by the terrorists cause fear to the people. Additionally, the acts intimidate and coerce people, but the main target of the actions is government or an organization, pushing them into submission. The violence is aimed at innocent people in order to force the government or the people who defend the affected to do or restrain from certain acts.

The difference between the definitions by CIA and US State of Department is that US State of Department sees these acts as politically motivated towards achieving a certain agenda. CIA views the acts as aimed at causing economic loss in addition to being politically motivated. Out of the four definitions of terrorism, I think the definition by CIA captured many of the actions that could amount to terrorism, their consequences and the intended result. First, terrorism is acts of violence targeted to un-armed group of people. Secondly, the acts lead to intimidation or coercion to the people who the acts are directed to. The acts could also result into economic loss in situations where bombs or other equipment are used (Herschinger, 2013). Some may destroy buildings or hinder any economic activity in the area where it occurs. Additionally, the acts may result to death of people as well as causing psychological torture to the involved. Other acts lead to kidnapping of people and causing injuries to the involved. Lastly, these acts aim at furthering political agenda.

Terrorists often kidnap or beat non-combatant citizens in order to force the organization or government into abstaining from doing activities which the terrorists consider being done against their wish (Marsden, 2014). The terrorist could also be using the acts of violence to force a government to release, for example, some of their people who have been arrested through the same acts. The terrorists may also be forcing the government to give in to the demands which are politically motivated. I think this is what entails terrorism and the acts related to terrorism.

My Definition of Terrorism

Terrorism involves any act of violence meted on innocent, non-combatant group of people, which is politically inspired or otherwise, whose agenda is to instill fear, cause intimidation or coercion, resulting into economic or social loss with the aim of forcing a government to act or not to act in a certain way according to the preference of the terrorists. I think this definition covers the acts of terrorists, their actions, and consequences of their actions and the bigger agenda of terrorists forcing their demands to be met. When terrorists are planning for what they want to achieve, they target the soft areas of the government, the innocent people who have no ability stage a combat. They would look for a way in which they can force the government to sympathize with its citizens and give in into their way.


Godefroidt, A., " Langer, A. (2018). How Fear Drives Us Apart: Explaining the Relationship between Terrorism and Social Trust. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1(1), 1-24. doi:10.1080/09546553.2018.1482829

Herschinger, E. (2013). A Battlefield of Meanings: The Struggle for Identity in the UN Debates on a Definition of International Terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 25(2), 183-201. doi:10.1080/09546553.2011.652318

Kraft, M., " Marks, E. (2016). U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Marsden, S. V. (2014). A Social Movement Theory Typology of Militant Organisations: Contextualising Terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 28(4), 750-773. doi:10.1080/09546553.2014.954039

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