Explore BrainMass

The History of Terrorism

Some scholars contend that the use of terrorist tactics has existed for centuries. Briefly describe the historic use of terrorism and its evolution from antiquity to its current form. Identify the commonly recognized categories of terrorism, and explain the difference between the strategic use of terrorism and the tactical use of terrorism. Finally, compare and contrast several definitions of terrorism as viewed by both the U.S., and the international community.

Solution Preview

See attached file for solution.

Some scholars contend that the use of terrorist tactics has existed for centuries. Briefly describe the historic use of terrorism and its evolution from antiquity to its current form.

The historic use of terror depends on the definition of the term. If terror is no more than the use of violence by non-state actors (alternatively, non-empire, etc.), then terror has always been a form of warfare. If it just refers to attacks on non-combatants, again, nearly all warfare has had terror elements.

In ancient Sparta, the phenomenon of "krypteia" was a deliberate form of state terror. Sparta was made up of a small military aristocracy that ruled over multitudes of helots, or semi-serfs in service to the Spartan Greeks. Krypteia was the use of younger Spartan trainees who would wander the countryside killing helots at will. Most hold that it was a way to keep the lower classes in line. Terror in this case is an excellent word, since, the Spartan regulars being so few, required irregular uses of violence to keep the masses in subjection and fear.

In medieval Novgorod (13-14th century), units called the ushkuyniki usually traveled though the Russia river system, attacking the enemies of the city-republic at will. These were not connected with the Novgorod state and they caused as much harm as good. They attacked Moscow, the Volga Bulgars and any other group that was considered Novgorod's enemy. Their irregular status might make them candidates for terror. It is unclear if they deliberately attacked civilians.

Ivan IV's oprichina, in some people's view, is an important step in the development of state terrorism. Ivan created a secret unit (maybe 2,000 total) of soldiers that served to harm the hereditary nobility of Russia. They used tactics sometimes not sanctioned by the tsar in order to destroy the powerful nobles with their own private armies. Here, they attacked civilians, but their orders were to spread terror only to those powerful enough to have more or less private forces and bodyguards.

Ideology created our modern concepts of terrorism. Nationalism required terrorism regularly from groups seeking to separate from larger empires. Ireland, South Africa, Algeria and Israel are just a few examples of irregular units attacking symbols of state power for the sake of independence, or at the very least, to make continued occupation very expensive for the occupying power (this was the IRA's famed slogan).

The French revolutionaries deliberately targeted civilians for the sake of instilling fear into the hears of citizens who might have been sympathetic to royalists. The US colonists used tar and feathers against loyalists. This is a form of torture both because a) the hot tar burned its victims, and b) much of the skin came off when the tar was peeled away. This was aimed at civilians, not at military targets.

Of course, nothing could match the violence of the Cheka and the OGPU after the Bolshevik revolution and civil war of 1918-1921. The whole point was to destroy any possible centers of resistance. These were local nationalists (such as Ukrainians), middle class peasants, peasants in general (who never accepted Bolshevik atheism), agents of the former tsarist government and the clergy. The fact that it was actually referred to as a "terror campaign" by Felix Dzerzhinsky makes this an excellent candidate. Keep in mind that the Bolsheviks had yet to take power, hence, they were a guerrilla organization. The Chinese Great Leap Forward saw the deaths of at least 5 million Chinese in a massive purge by Mao. There is a clear connection between Lenin-Stalin and the methods of Mao.

The 20th century saw terror based almost exclusively on ideological models. Systems of thought such as Islamic fundamentalism, Marxism or anarchism all ...

Solution Summary

The history of terrorism tactics which have existed for centuries are determined.