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Identification of Terrorism Is Productive

Reader comment on item: Nidal Hasan – Initial Thoughts on the Ft. Hood Jihadi

Submitted by Jim Woods (United States), Nov 17, 2009 at 10:03

I disagree with this pragmatic approach that finds it unproductive to question whether Hasan's attack was an act of terrorism. Ideas matter as is reflected by the recommended narrower focus on the jihad.

While there are numerous definitions of terrorism that prevent communication on the subject, an objective definition that represents the essential elements of the concept is possible. Based upon comparison to concrete instances of terrorism and effective counterterrorism, the best definition that I have found is that terrorism is "a belief that the initiation of force against symbolic targets by a non-state organization is an effective method for achieving political change."

Using this definition, based upon news accounts, Hasan's attack was an act of terrorism. The military personnel were symbolic targets representing American power and the threat modernity poses to reactionary interpretations of Islam.

Focusing upon jihad alone addresses the motivation for the violence, and is part of creating a backlash policy; however, it would prevent addressing other critical counterterrorism policy issues. For example, detaining terrorist criminals require isolation to prevent efforts to recruit those disposed to violence into the organization, in this case the "true" Ummah. Further, deterrence measures need to be taken to address terrorist infiltration into our military.

A narrow focus in the name of a pragmatic consensus obscures the proper course of action by evading the objective principles involved.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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