Definition of terrorism (Critical Theory by Richard Jackson)

Richard defines terrorism critically as an intentional and predetermined strategy of political violence, in which anybody including the states, individuals, or groups can use it for pursuing their personal interests (Jackson 2011). Similarly, those who apply terrorism can abandon it any time meaning terrorists can change from being violence users to peacemakers and good members of a state depending on the situation. Sometimes it is quite difficult to identify a terrorist in a country because of their changing nature. According to Jackson (2011) in his book” Terrorism”, terrorism has a political motivation and is quite different from some other forms of violence by some organized groups. The groups use violence either to extort money or just serial and mass killings of innocent individuals to terrify their targets.

The other difference between terrorism and the normal riots is that terrorism involves a predetermined thought and its execution is intentional. According to Jackson, terrorism is one form of political communication and the targets of the terror are the audiences to the violence and not the victims of violence (2011). Terrorism as a political communication chooses its victims in advance unlike the military war, whose aim is to weaken the enemies and make them unable to cause more harm as Jackson (2008) explains. Some countries may try to conceal their participation in the civilian-directed violence, and this should send an alert to the societies that they intend to intimidate. There could be some plans to get rid of their opponents from the political field (Jackson 2008). State terrorism can involve the direct killing of a union or the organizers to make it weak, cause fear or some intimidation to a union. Terrorism activities involve intentional actions to civilians, such as bombing public places to instill fear and intimidation to the opponents. According to Richard’s definition of terrorism, there is intentionality in those who engage in terror activities since they know that their actions will result in terror and intimidation (Jackson 2008). The other intention is to cause fear to the civilians by use of the crude weapons, such as the grenades, bombs, and torture. The main intention of using torture on their opponents is to terrify their supporters and make them lose faith in their preferred candidates. Richard disagrees with the other types of arguments that terrorism does not solely target the civilians. However, he agrees with Goodin that some actions allow the actors to have a claim of legitimacy for other forms of violence (Jackson & Sinclair 2012).

According to the critical definition of terrorism, terrorism must not portray a form of evil violence but should be a form of a political violence.In this case, the politicians play part in fueling the violence as observed by Jackson & Sinclair (2012). Before any counter-terrorist attack on the suspected terrorists, a country should first do investigations in their country to access the political situation and the possibility of the local politician being part of the terrorists. According to Jackson and Sinclair (2012), terrorism may take various forms, such as generic terrorism, in which the actor uses intimidation to force a government or a community to fulfill some political demands. An example is the violence attacks by the Al-Shabab terror group demanding the release of the Kenya Defense Forces in Somalia (KENYA: Deadly Attacks 2014). The other form may be religious terrorism that associates violence with religion (Jackson 2011), even when it has a political influence. Non-state terrorism involves the attacks of the civilians to submit with the aim of bringing a political change in a state or country. Finally, the state terrorism is the intimidation of the civilians to submit and is executed by a third party to instill fear in the cities (Jackson 2011).

Jackson and Sinclair (2012) observe that violence may target the police officers or the military, but it does not rule out the idea of terrorism even if it did not target the civilians. For example in Kenya, some terrorist targeted the police and the military camps, such as the one that happened in Mpeketoni attacks (KENYA: Deadly Attacks 2014). Here the terrorists attacked the police camp and burned their vehicles. According to Jackson (2011), terrorism may still involve activities such as the attack on enemy soldiers and their civilian audience even if it does not wholly target the military of that state. The other action that qualifies as terrorism is the use of the military chemical weapons, which may not be effective, are demoralizing, or simply using bombs on civilians (Jackson 2011). Some of the bombs may land on the areas that were not the actual areas of the terrorists’ targets, but still the action qualifies to be terrorism. The merits of adopting the above conception of terrorism are that it does not have any artificial or illogical limit to the nature of the actor. The definition does not limit the analysis to peace since the action of the actors in the war, where there is a concentration of the political violence (Jackson 2008). The definition of terrorism includes issues, such as the state terrorism, non-state terrorism, and the gender-based terrorism. (Jackson 2008). In most cases, researchers on terrorism focus mostly on the terrorism perpetrated by the Islamic group, such as the Al-Qaida and Al-Shabaab, as in the Kenyan case. The definition based on this view does not incorporate the violence caused by the political allies against their opponents. According to Richard, some of the terrorism scholars limit their definition of terrorism to conform with protect the interests of the Western powers, and the definitions do not focus on the political actors (Jackson 2008).

For instance, during the cold war, most of the research on terrorism focused on the non-state groups but nowadays any research on terrorism has a focus on religious terrorism, especially Islam (Jackson 2011). The main disadvantage of such a focus is that it does not attempt to eliminate political violence experienced in several countries. Some forms of political violence are very oppressive to the civilians and supporters of the politicians’ enemies. The terrorism definition by Richard is advantageous over the other definitions, as it can help in offering protection to the marginalized groups that are vulnerable to the oppressive forms of violence, especially one fueled by the politicians. By adopting Richard’s definition of terrorism, it will be possible to delegitimize all kinds of violence towards the civilians more so during war times and ethnic clashes. During the war times and clashes, politicians take advantage of the war to fight their enemies and eliminate their opponents, who they think is a threat to their political seats (Jackson 2011). Through the application of this definition of terrorism, it is possible to delegitimize all forms violence directed against the civilians, especially in times of wars. The approach also holds the state responsible for some of the terrorist attacks in a country, which many scholars do not acknowledge as acts of terrorism. Jackson (2008) explains that state terrorism is one that leads to many civilian deaths and displacement of people in big numbers. The approach provides an avenue to scrutinize practices by the state, especially during counterterrorism attacks, as some of them may result to state terrorism. Failure to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent may lead to terrorism by the state if the military actions involve the use extreme force with the aim of demoralizing and intimidating the target civilians. An example of this scenario is the actions of the Kenyan military in Somalia in the “Operation Linda Nchi”. The Al Shabaab militia complained of extreme torture to their women and children (KENYA: Deadly Attacks 2014). Some of the actions the Somali people complained about were rape for their women and children by the Kenya Defense Forces and looting of their property.

The critical approach of defining terrorism by Richard provides a means to carry out an evaluation of the actions by any actors in conflict, to enhance the civilian security by reducing the amount of violence.

Richard advises the other Scholars to adopt a more meaningful definition of terrorism that will define all kinds of terrorism activities, such as political and religious terrorism. According to Jackson (2011), majority of scholars associate terrorism with Islam, which gives loopholes for politicians to carry out their attacks on the civilians. The main approaches to defining terrorism according to Jackson should be sensitive to the politics and the actions of the politicians during war times. The scholars wanting to define terrorism should do so independently and should not lean towards the geopolitical interest of the Western states to provide a meaningful approach to terrorism. The researchers should use the Western states overseas operations as examples and case studies when researching on terrorism, but should adhere to the research ethics (Jackson 2011). Some of the Western states use torture, rendition, or the community victimization when doing the counter–attacks, to enhance the security of human beings and reduce political biases. Richard’s definition does not leave room for more violence during the retaliatory attacks by the military. The other scholars do not acknowledge the participation of some states in terrorism activities, such as the use of extreme force on innocent civilians. He recognizes both the cultural and political actions that show some forms of violence and terrorism and does not support the operations by some Western states, in which they counter terrorism with more terrorism.

Richard tries to define terrorism by acknowledging and accepting the political issues to avoid the political bias and some of the limitations experienced by the use of the other approaches.