Publications & Resources
WHERE WE STAND ANALYTICALLY
By Dr. Thomas A. Marks
In the aftermath of 9-11, the U.S. raced to implement efforts and
programs to deal with “terrorism.” It declared a “Global
War on Terrorism,” which in turn became simultaneously other
things: a “Long War” and “countering global insurgency,” finally “countering
violent extremism.” Regardless, the challenge was no different
conceptually than that faced by those of the past: how to respond
to an armed nonstate challenge bent upon achieving political change
through commission of violence directed, at its foundational level,
against the innocent (persons and property protected by the laws
This, of course, is the textbook definition of terrorism, yet immediately
there surfaced in our efforts no degree of confusion as much that
had once been called insurgency was reflagged as terrorism. As most
groups we confronted were in fact insurgents, it was as if all of
analytical history had suddenly vanished in our race to embrace hubris
and strategic distortion.
Ultimately, most of academia, the various departments of the U.S.
government, and both U.S. and international law ended up precisely
where they had begun, with terrorism essentially defined as: violence
by non-state actors directed against the innocent for political purposes.
Such violence, of course, could be either method (used by insurgents)
or logic (wherein the violence serves as an end unto itself, frequently
having propagandistic value). Despite the by now hackneyed observation
that there is no accepted definition of terrorism, in reality there
was considerable agreement with the formulation just provided, particularly
amongst the states of the United Nations.