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Discussion Questions: Research and report on various definitions of international or global terrorism. Indicate and justify what definition “components” you believe are necessary for a working definition for international terrorism. Describe why it is so difficult to attain international cooperation on counter-terrorism. Provide an example of at least one challenge found trying to gain full international cooperation on countering al Qaeda around the globe.

Note: The so called ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS/ISIL) is generally considered an off-shoot of al Qaeda internationally.


1.  This week we are discussing the many definitions of international or global terrorism.  The British Security Service, known as MI5, defines international terrorism as terrorism that occurs outside of a country based on the type of terrorism and the people and places the terrorists operate out of (MI5, n.d.).  The U.S. Department of State defines global terrorism as pre-planned violence against several countries’ civilian populations or territories (OJP, 1989).   The FBI defines international terrorism as violence aimed at endangering human life that violates U.S. law or laws of a different country that is intended to influence government policy through intimidation or coercion (FBI, 2010).

As we researched this week, getting a worldwide recognized definition of international or global terrorism is complicated.   That being said, if you take some of the components out of the three different meanings, I believe there are elements of each that could provide a working definition for international terrorism.    Of the similar elements of each definition, some key terms that can be used in a working definition of international terrorism are pre-planned or premeditated, violence against civilians or places (such as buildings or airports), and influencing a government through intimidation or coercion. 

These key terms justify a working definition of international terrorism due to the vast majority of definitions of terrorism containing pre-planned violent acts.  Additionally, there was documented pre-planning with all the reported acts of terrorism, whether domestic or global.  Whether it is an attack on innocent civilians inside or outside a structure like an embassy, most definitions also include the component of violence against people and property belonging to another country located elsewhere.   These are all common components necessary in creating a working definition of international or global terrorism. 

According to Zach Von Naumann, there are many reasons why it is difficult to get international cooperation when dealing with counter-terrorism.   As we previously discussed, one of those reasons is establishing a working definition of international and global terrorism that every country can agree on.   Von Naumann also states that to have a working and recognized definition of international terrorism, it should also include the social and political aspects of terrorists.  In doing so, it should reflect the motivations of terrorist organizations to make prosecution of terrorist acts possible no matter the organiations country’s origin or political beliefs (Von Naumann, 2013).

An example of the challenges in gaining international cooperation in countering terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS is that there have been so many more branches of terrorist groups that have been created in so many more countries like Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.  Instability in these primarily Muslim countries has sparked the growth of more terrorist groups and members within al Qaeda, and since the killing of Osama bin Laden, his replacement, Ayman al-Zawahiri,  is reported to inspire loyalty and guidance in more young people (Crisis Group, 2017). 

2.  This week we learned about multiple topics to include old versus new terrorism, state sponsored terrorism, organizational changes, terrorist funding systems, and their global networks. Although each of these topics is important and is the result of much research, as we learned in the week one readings, there still is not a solid definition of terrorism that is accepted world-wide. As I stated in last week’s post, I was taught the definition of terrorism was an act of violence or threat of violence with the intent to influence a political objective. I still do not remember exactly where I heard this, or why I still remember it, but I believe it was at a class at the United States Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) called Dynamics of International Terrorism/Responsible Officer’s Course (DIT/ROC). If you’re ever at Hurlburt Field, Florida and don’t mind a bag on your head I highly recommend it!

Regardless of my personal lessons, week one of this course taught us multiple definitions of terrorism. To begin, Hoffman believes the definition of terrorism is violence conducted by groups of people against non-combatants for the purpose of creating fear to force a state to change policy. Hoffman also stated the line between domestic and international terrorism is often blurry. I believe this is because we live in a global society where no nation is completely independent. State actors are always backed or opposed by other countries so a domestic attack is essentially an attack on the state’s allies.

If we break these definitions down into components, I think the key takeaways are fear, influence, and multi-national effects. A terrorist organization knows it can create fear in the lives of its targeted population by disrupting civilian lives with threats or acts of death and violence. These acts, then ultimately persuade a representative body to react to the threats to restore civility which influences political decisions. In the case of international terrorism, these acts simply target or influence a country outside of the originating threat.

As we learned last week, even the within the F.B.I. and the State Department within the United States have a different definition of terrorism. In order to obtain full international co-operation on counter-terrorism, we all need to have the same objectives which is not typically the case. I spent a lot of time in Turkey and witnessed this dilemma first hand. We, the United States, supported an organization who had a shared enemy of ISIL, yet that organization had conflicts with Turkey who is our ally. With a global society, this situation occurs more often than not and hinders our ability to combat global terrorism. With so many different agendas, it is a matter of perspective and we are definitely not all on the same page.

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