Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Brian Michael Jenkins

Terrorism was a matter of growing international concern during the last three decades of the twentieth century, but following the 11 September 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it became the paramount issue of U.S. foreign policy. On that day Middle Eastern terrorists hijacked four U.S. commercial airliners. They seized the controls and crashed two of the planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Passengers fought to regain control of the fourth plane, which then crashed in Pennsylvania, missing any symbolic targets but killing all those on board. These attacks, unprecedented in the annals of terrorism and unparalleled in American history in the magnitude and concentration of casualties, provoked an equally unprecedented declaration of war against terrorism.

Terrorist tactics themselves are nothing new. Political intrigues and wars throughout history have involved murder, hostage taking, and sabotage. Deliberately savage and cruel, even by eighth-century standards, Viking berserkers spread terror throughout the British Isles. Muslim assassins provoked terror among Christian crusaders and Arab leaders in the twelfth century. Julius Caesar, King Richard the Lionhearted, and Miguel de Cervantes were all held for ransom.

The word "terror" entered the political lexicon during the French Revolution's "reign of terror" and in the twentieth century was associated with oppression by totalitarian governments. The term "terrorism" emerged in the nineteenth century when bomb-throwing revolutionaries who wanted to obliterate property and terrorize the ruling classes acknowledged themselves to be terrorists. Revolutionary terrorism continued into the early twentieth century and reemerged following World War I. From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, terrorism often accompanied armed struggles for independence, especially in Algeria and Palestine.


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See also Covert Operations ; Embargoes and Sanctions ; Intelligence and Counter Intelligence .

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