Is terrorism ever justified in advancing a just cause? Most Americans would say the answer is no, but support for the US military clearly calls this belief into conflict.
dictionary.com defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” This definition makes sense. The most famous terror attack in history, 9/11 very clearly fits this definition. So does the Oklahoma City Bombing and Charlottesville shooting.
Using such examples almost biases an American audience. With examples like 9/11, who can argue that terrorism is justified in advancing a just cause?
The US military can, and does so on a continual basis. Routinely, the US military hits targets that have an 80% civilian death rate. The act is violent by definition and is being mainly employed by citizens. The strikes are used to prevent further terrorism from taking place, meaning the strikes are intimidation in pursuit of political aims.
In Pakistan, the rate of drone strikes coming practically from nowhere has made children in the are a afraid of open skies (because they’ve noticed that’s when drones are most likely to strike). Nothing more clearly shows the “terror” angle of terrorism.
The US use of terrorism in the ironically named “War on Terror” far exceeds the actual terrorists. Less than 10,000 have died in the US from the War and Terror Attacks from 2001 onward combined. The amount dead on the other side is as high as a million.
The US military’s history is rife with uses of terrorism. The My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, and the dropping of atomic bombs in civilian targets are both some of the most prominent examples of state sponsored terrorism in World History.
Scholars have pointed out that terrorism as a tactic isn’t particularly helpful. It makes you new enemies you didn’t have before. Killing just one civilian makes an entire family hate you. Your enemies are given a just cause themselves for perpetuating violence against you. Terrorism simply breeds never ending conflict.
This is precisely the tactic being used by the US military. Bush, Obama and Trump have doubled down on a failing policy of fighting fire with fire, and now we’re set to be in the Middle East longer than any war in history. Meanwhile, the military has the highest approval rating of an institution in America.
When the answer to terrorism is more terrorism, the whole world loses.