ConceptualizingTerrorism — Examining the place of ‘State Terrorism’ in themainstream conceptualization of actual Terrorism
Theissue of international security remains one of the critical areas ofconcern for the contemporary society. In part, security is consideredas one of the catalysts of sustainable development. While therelationship between the two elements have been widely accepted,exemplified by various deliberate efforts that the society is takingto safeguard security, there is still a lot that needs to be done.The issue of terrorism is perhaps of the outstanding challenges torealization of the so-desired security.
Indeed,since the September 11 attacks, the study of terrorism has beenamplified swiftly. Apart from the growing number of journals,academics, research centers and study programs within the field,every six hours a new book on terrorism is being published.1However,the growing interest in the study of terrorism has not led to moreattention for “state terrorism” as a subject of research.2
Theseverity of terror committed by the state should not beunderestimated. Duringthe twentieth century alone, states have been responsible for anestimated 170 million civilian casualties outside of war.3Another study concluded that non-state actors have killed on averageless than 1,000 people over the past 30 years.4
Withinthe academic discourse, scholars are divided whether state terrorismshould be included within the study of terrorism.5Ingeneral, the state as an actor of terrorism has been widely ignoredwithin terrorism studies because of the lack of a clear definition.The purpose of this paper is to question the place ‘stateterrorism’ in the mainstream terrorism discourse. It essentiallyadopts a revisionist perspective and argues that state terrorismshould not be excluded from mainstream terrorism discourse by anychance, a view that premises on the atrocious and gross violation ofhuman rights that typically accompany some tyrant state actions,which are inherently difficult to set apart from conventionalconceptualization of terrorism6.
Tobe able to realize the stated goals, the rest of the paper isorganized as follows. First, a brief literature review on the impactof some acts that can be potentially considered as state terrorism oncivilians is presented. The section is expected to lay emphasis onthe need to rethink the conventional approaches to terrorism.Secondly, a discourse analysis of recent theoretical developmentswith regard to state terrorism and its definition is reviewed. Thissection shall purpose to identify the questions and gaps thatunderpin the discussions and, possibly identify a framework by whichto approach or conceptualize terrorism. Subsequently, PresidentDutarte`s antidrug policy is examined. This section hopes to use thecase study to qualify the view that state terrorism is just butanother level of terrorism that warrants the attention of thecontemporary society, too.
Literatureon state terrorism is documented and essentially amplified twopoints. First is that there has been tendency for the contemporarysociety to ignore state terrorism. Second is that in thinking aboutstate and human security, the contemporary society should overlookthis subject, as much as the issue is contested.
Since the9/11 attacks, terrorism studies have gained more popularity than everbefore. The amounts of researchers and collaborative studies haveincreased significantly while every six hours one new book onterrorism (English titles only) is being published. If this trendcontinues, argues Andrew Silke, 90 percent of the entire literatureon terrorism will have been written after 9/11.7Strikingly, the opposite is true for the study of state terrorism.Within the field of terrorism studies, the non-state actor is clearlypresent but the state is largely ignored. Jackson acknowledges thisand argues, “There is a relatively small but important body ofresearch on the subject. The subject of state terrorism remainspoorly understood, theoretically under-developed, lacking in the kindof rich empirical data needed for advancing knowledge, and largelyneglected in terms of the wider study of the terrorism phenomenon.”8
Stateterrorism has been one of the most lethal and destructive actsagainst humanity in the past four to five centuries. Specific groupsand individuals, as well as the ordinary people, have fallen victimto acts of extreme violence and cruelty committed by states. Imperialpowers and (early) modern states have been able to destroycivilizations and cultures on almost every continent in the world.9
Theorigin of terrorism is derived from the type of behavior committed bythe state.10Thefirst notion of contemporary terrorism was during the Reign of Terrorinstigated by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution in1973.11Eventoday, the Oxford English Dictionary includes the state in itsdefinition of terrorism: “Government intimidation carried out bythe party in power in France between 1789 and 1794 … generally, apolicy intended to cause terror in those against whom it isadopted.”12 Ideally,for a successful transformation of the monarchy to a liberaldemocracy, Robespierre installed a dictatorship in France and had hispolitical opponents executed. Robespierre, while being at ease withhis conscience, wrote on the terror committed during his reign,“Subdue by terror the enemies of liberty, and you will be right, asfounders of the Republic.”13Eventually,it can be argued that the terror committed by the state during theFrench Revolution laid the foundation for contemporary terrorism.
However,from 1848 onwards, the significant role of the government as theperpetrator of terrorism became less relevant. Instead, during themiddle of the nineteenth century, acts of terror performed againstthe government gained importance. Jenny Teichman argues,“Terrorism in the second half of the nineteenth century wastargeted at Archdukes and Tsars and Chiefs of Police.”14Whetherthe motives were of political, economic, or cultural nature orblatantly for vengeance, certain dissatisfied individuals and groupsattacked the state by using terror. Two examples of nineteenthcentury terrorism with long-term consequences are the assassinationof Tsar Alexander II in 1881 by a young member of the NarodnayaVolya("People`s Will) and the US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 byJohn Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy. In thenineteenth century, mass terror occurred only scarcely in continentalEurope. In the US and Ireland, however, even entire cities unifiedand rose against the tyranny of the state.15 Thefollowing century, the meaning of terrorism shifted again. On onehand, the twentieth century was deeply characterized by the FirstWorld War and the Second World War. During those wars, regimesattacked millions of civilians in order to undermine the morale, anattempt to force the population to surrender. As Beau Grosscupconcludes, these tactics were essentially terrorist strategies.16
Onthe other hand, throughout the Cold War, terrorism becamepredominately an anti-government activity. Anti-colonialnationalists, who fought for independence and the overthrow ofcolonial rule, dominated the first decades of the Cold War.17Furthermore, two examples of state terrorism (outside of war) in thetwentieth century are the campaigns of political repression of JosephStalin and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. The twenty-firstcentury famously began with the September 11 attacks, resulting intothe US invasion of Afghanistan. However, two examples of stateterrorism in the twenty-first century are the oppression of theSyrian people by the regime of Assad and the bloody anti-drugscampaign of President Duterte in the Philippines. R.J.Rumellestimates that in the twentieth century, states have been responsiblefor 170 million civilian casualties outside of war.18 Despitethese sociopolitical developments, the issue of whether stateterrorism should be perceived as conventional terrorism is contested.Some scholars contend it is impossible to define the occasions in thetwentieth and 21st century as state terrorism, yet others assert theview that any excessive use of force by the state to coerce itssubjects should just be considered as terrorism.
On onehand, some terrorism experts believe that the state, as a perpetratorof terrorism, should not be included into the study of terrorism.Terrorism should solely focus on the role of the non-state actor tohelp preserve the international system of sovereign states. Statesoffer protection for their citizens and fight injustice domesticallyor internationally. Arguing that state actors should receive the sametreatment, as non-state actors would destabilize the authority of thesovereign state.19 Onthe other hand, however, this argument is largely perceived to beonly plausible if state actors never misuse their monopoly of power.Inthis view, Merriman,and DuVall note, “…itis regimes and states,with their overwhelming propensity of coercive power, whichhave shown the greatest propensity for terror on a mass scale,both as an instrument of internal repression and control, and as aweapon of aggression and subjugation.”20Although states have the duty to protect the population, it does notnecessarily mean that states respect their duties.
Conceptualizingterrorism and its correlates
As has beenseen from the preceding section, it is inherently difficult toconclude the subject because it is largely contested. Such a scenarioonly justifies the need to continue thinking. Part of the solution tothe issue would be by first revisiting the definition of terrorismand question whether acts of state terrorism can be excluded by anychance, thereby.
First, itis noteworthy that, within the academic discourse, scholars havegreat difficulties to agree on a satisfying definition of terrorism.Schmid and Jongman argue, “[Terrorism studies] fail to develop anaccepted definition of terrorism and to formulate rigorous theoriesand concepts.”21J.Horgan and M.J. Boyle agree with this view and point out the absenceof state terrorism within the definition of terrorism.“Theunderlying point of the CTS critique of current definitions ofterrorism appears to be that many other forms of violence – forexample, state terrorism – fall out of conventional definitions ofterrorism.”22 Horganand Boyle’s critique is justified. Within terrorism studies, therole of the violent non-state actor is being emphasized while thestate is neglected. Excluding state terrorism out of the definitionof terrorism is especially worrying since the state has been the mostdestructive actor of terrorism in the last four centuries. Accordingto Sluka: “If we allow the definition [of terrorism] to includeviolence by states and agents of states, then we find that themajor form of terrorism in the world today is that practiced bystates and their agents and allies,and that, quantitatively, anti-state terrorism pales into relativecompared to it.”23 Somescholars have analyzed the core aspects of state terrorism.24Partlybased on those analyzes is Jackson’s definition of state terrorism.He argues that the core concept state terrorism should alwayscontain:
“1)theremust be a deliberate act of violence against individuals that thestate has a duty to protect, or a threat of such an act if a climateof fear has already been established through preceding acts of stateviolence 2) the act must be perpetrated by actors on behalf of or inconjunction with the state, including paramilitaries and privatesecurity agents 3) the act or threat of violence is intended toinduce extreme fear in some target observers who identify with thatvictim and 4) the target audience is forced to consider changingtheir behavior in some way.”25
Jacksonargues that the target audience does not have to be political per se.This is where he differentiates himself from other scholars. “Stateshave frequently used violence to terrorize a wider audience so thatthey subordinate themselves to the wishes of the state.”26Anexample of this argument was the forced labor imposed by imperialistin colonial states. Imperialist used terror to subdue the localpopulation.27
RuthBlakely points out that analysis of terrorism‘is actor based, rather than action based, yet the essence ofterrorism is in the act. The motives and effects of states andnon-state actors may differ but they both share the corecharacteristics of terrorism.28Thispaper considers the act-based perspective of defining terrorism asplausible.
It is alsoworth noting that the issue of terrorism can be approached from theinternational law discourse. However, this position is also contestedand needs to be charged objectively29.In Walter Laqueur’s view, state terrorism should not be included inthe field of terrorism. "Thevery existence of a state isbased on its monopolyof power. If it were different, states would not have the right, norbe in a position, to maintain that minimum of order on which allcivilized life rests."30 Laqueurrightly points out that states rely on their monopoly of power.Sovereign states control their domestic affairs while externalinfluences are absent. However, as concluded in the ‘Historicaloverview’ in this paper, states have frequently useddisproportionate violence against civilians, acts that negate thevery essence of human security. The question of particular interestthen is shouldn’t the monopoly of power that should be maintainedby the state have clear limitations, then? On the utilitarian basis,the states are certainly mandated to exercise retrained to maintain abalance between state security and human security.
Indeed,this position is well echoed by international bodies in the advocacyof human rights. The United Nations notably envisages that statesshould expedite legitimacy at state level and at international levelby acceding to the fundamental rules of law that are set out withinthe international law, condemning illegitimate violence, grossviolation of human rights and terrorism, and bear responsibility foratrocities that would be committed against civilians31.
Moreover,it is also worth noting that the understanding of terrorism is, tocertain extent, constrained by the blurred boundary with genocidalacts. Here, some scholars contend that the study of state terrorismwithin terrorism studies is irrelevant, since the terror committed bythe state is already being researched within genocide studies.Genocide, in contrast to state terrorism, could be a more appropriatesubject of study. While state terrorism lacks a clear definition, theUnited Nations has defined genocide as a concept in legal terms. On9 December 148, the United Nations General Assembly adopted theGeneral Assembly Resolution 260, or the Conventionon the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article IIof Resolution 260 states: ‘Inthe present Convention, genocide means any of the following actscommitted with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’32
Accordingto Michael Boyle, both genocide and state terrorism are similar intheir aim to at least terrify or even massacre an entire group.However, genocide and state terrorism differ fundamentally in theirnature of communication. While genocides are carried out in secret,state terrorism is conducted in public.33Thisincreases the need for a clear definition of state terrorism.However, in view of this paper, there are inherent possibilities thatgenocide could be instigated by terror motives.
Therefore,terrorism should be conceived as the use of force to coerce a personor a group of people34.From this definition, it can be clearly seen that it does not set outwhether the perpetrator has to be a state or a non-state actor toqualify to be terrorism. In other words, as long as the elements ofcoercion are present, then that would qualify to be terrorism,regardless of whether the state is involved35.
Inretrospect, terrorism can also include acts of genocide — includingatrocities and gross human rights violations such as killings,excessive use of force, bombings, shootings, and torture, amongothers.
Moreover,terrorism may not have much to do with monopoly of power. If only,what tends to matter so much is the means that the state uses toacquire the monopoly. If it involves disproportionate use of force toamass the monopoly, then that would mostly qualify to be calledterrorism. The acts matter more than the position of the actor.
At least,this view is in line with the call for international law andadvocacies for human rights.
In otherwords, on the basis of utilitarian and international law and humanrights perspectives, it is even plausible to argue that the stateshould exercise due care to strike a balance between the humansecurity and state security. After all, the state cannot existwithout the people and their will.
Casestudy — A Look at Duarte’s anti-drugs policy Nowthat state terrorism has been qualified as actual terrorism, ofparticular interest is to apply the perspective to the case ofsensitive state act that can be potentially perceived as terrorism —Duarte’s antidrug policy. The question that this segment isinterested is “Is President Dutarte’s anti-drugs policy stateterrorism?
Severalsub-questions are considered critical in helping address the mainquestion and these are derived from the definitions of terrorism.These sub-questions can be broadly categorized into four and arepresented as follows.
What is the motive or objective of the policy action? Is it coercive?
What is the nature of the policy action? Does it involve excessive use of force?
How does it balance between human security and state security? Does it overlook human interest at the expense of state power monopoly by any chance?
Does it violate international human rights law?
In 2016,Rodrigo Duarte emerged victorious in the presidential election race,and promised to restore security within the country’s borders. Toachieve this, promised to kill criminals that compromise thecountry’s security status. He also acknowledged the rampant levelsof drug abuse syndicates and, as a solution to the problem, urgedpeople to kill drug addicts. He was particularly criticized by thehuman rights watch and other concerned groups and individuals acrossthe globe over his policy. Interestingly, Rodrigo Duarte’sinvolvement in acts of perceived state terrorism does not start here.While serving as the mayor of Davao City, he was criticized forinvolvement in the extrajudicial killings of hundreds of drug users,street children, and petty criminals, acts that were carried outusing a vigilante by the name Davao Death Squad36.
Since hisassumed presidency, Rodrigo Duarte is reported to have presided overthe extrajudicial killing of over 3, 500 people as far as his war ondrugs is concerned. His actions have severed relations with othercountries, including the United States. In his first interview ondrug war after becoming a president, he is reported to have stated:
"Wehave three million drug addicts, and it`s growing. So if we do notinterdict this problem, the next generation will be having a seriousproblem … You destroy my country, I`ll kill you. And it`s alegitimate thing. If you destroy our young children, I will kill you.That is a very correct statement. There is nothing wrong intrying to preserve the interest of the next generation”37.
Apart fromtargeting the suspected criminals, however, his operations have alsoresulted to the death of hundreds of innocent children and adults.While Duterte acknowledges these types of deaths coming because ofthe bloody crackdown, he is reported to have termed them as“collateral damage”38.
Therefore,based on the reports of events unfolding from the policy, severalpoints that can help address the questions underlying the subject canbe presented39.First is that the motive of acts of the policy are essentiallycoercive. Duterte has adopted a radical approach in dealing withcrimes. He reasons that the use of coercive strategies would begetthe so-desired security. Secondly, the nature of policy action isexcessive use of force. He is reported to have killed a hundreds ofpeople over the anti-drug war campaign. As has been noted, he usesthe vigilante to torture and shoot to kill without following theconventional judicial process. Thirdly, the policy tends toprioritize state security at the expense of humanity [humansecurity]. Lastly, the policy can also be considered as amounting toviolation of international human rights law. This point is perhapsthe key reason for straining international relations with the world,including the United States. Therefore, based on this analysis,Duarte’s anti-drugs policy is nothing less than state terrorism.
Inconclusion, the aim of this paper has been to question the place‘state terrorism’ in the mainstream terrorism discourse. Byadopting a revisionist perspective of terrorism, it has successfulargued that state terrorism should not be excluded from mainstreamterrorism discourse by any chance, a view that premises on theatrocious and gross violation of human rights that typicallyaccompany some tyrant state actions, which are inherently difficultto set apart from conventional conceptualization of terrorism. Literature on state terrorism has been first reviewed and broughtinto light two points. First is that there has been tendency for thecontemporary society to ignore state terrorism. Second is that inthinking about state and human security, the contemporary societyshould overlook state terrorism because of its far-reachingconsequences. Yet the review also highlighted the views on ensuingcontest regarding the illegitimacy versus the legitimacy of stateterrorism.
It was thenfelt that the objective way of thinking about the subject was tofirst revisit the definition of terrorism and tailor it to thecontext of state terrorism.
Terrorismis conceived as the use of force to coerce a person or a group ofpeople40.Such a definition does not set out whether the perpetrator has to bea state or a non-state actor to qualify to be terrorism. Such ascenario leads to conclusion that when thinking about terrorism, theacts matter more than the actors do. The discussion has further shownthat terrorism can take different forms, including violation ofinternational law, genocidal acts, mass killings, excessive use offorce, prioritizing state security over human security and killingfailing to take due care to protect the innocent civilians. A look atthe Duarte’s anti-drugs policy has presented it as another form ofstate terrorism that needs to be checked. In particular, Duarte’spolicy is coercive, involves excessive use of force, overlooks humaninterest at the expense of state power monopoly, and violatesinternational human rights law.
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J. Horganand M.J. Boyle. ACase Against Critical Terrorism Studies.2011. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.doi.pdf
Jackson,Richard, Eamon Murphy and Scott Poynting, ContemporaryState Terrorism: Theory and Practice (NewYork 2009).
Grosscup,Beau, StrategicTerror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment(Londen 2006).
Perry,Juliet and Ripley, Will.PhilippinePresident slams US, says drug war will not stop.CNN2016.Retrieved fromhttp://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/16/asia/duterte-speech-singapore/RodrigoDuterte interview: Death, drugs and diplomacy.2016. Retrived fromhttp://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2016/10/exclusive-rodrigo-duterte-war-drugs-161015100325799.htmlRummel,R.J., Deathby government. NewBurnswick 1994.
Stohl, M.The State as Terrorists: Insights and Implications. Democracyand Security2.1(2006):4–5
Teichman,Jenny, ‘How to Define Terrorism’, RoyalInstitute of Philosophy 250(1989) 64, 505-517.
Universityof British Columbia, Human Security Center, HumanSecurity Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century (NewYork 2005).
WalterLaqueur. AHistory of Terrorism.Oxford University Press, 2011.
Silke, Andrew. Research onTerrorism: AReview of the Impact of 9/11 and the Global War on Terrorism.London:University of EastLondon, London, 2008.
Merriman, Hardy and DuVall, Jack.Dissolving Terrorism atIts Roots. Hauppauge:Nova Science Publishers, 2006.
Tams, Christian. “The Use ofForce against
Terrorists.” TheEuropean Journal of International War Vol.20.2(2009): 359-397.
Nasu, Hitoshi. The UN SecurityCouncil’s Responsibility and the “Responsibility to Protect”Max Planck Yearbook ofUnited Nations Law 15.1(2011): 377-418
Jackson, Richard. TheGhosts Of State Terror: Knowledge, Politics and Terrorism Studies.Aberystwyth University, 2008.
Jenkins, Brian., Willis, Henry.,and Han, Bing. DoSignificant Terrorist Attacks Increase the Risk of Further Attacks?Rand Corporation 2014.Retrieved fromhttp://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE173/RAND_PE173.pdf
Perl, Raphael. Trends inTerrorism 2006. CRSReport 2007. Retrievedfrom https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL33555.pdf
1Andrew, Silke. Research on Terrorism: A Review of the Impact of 9/11 and the Global War on Terrorism. (University of East London Press, 2008) pp. 21
3R.J. Rummel, Death by government (New Brunswick 1994) 9.
4University of British Columbia, Human Security Center, Human Security Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century (New York 2005)6.
5R.J. Rummel, Death by government (New Brunswick 1994) 9.
6 Brian. Jenkins, Henry. Willis,, and Bing, Han,. Do Significant Terrorist Attacks Increase the Risk of Further Attacks? Rand Corporation 2014. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE173/RAND_PE173.pdf
7Andrew Silke. The Psychology of Counter Terrorism (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp 34
8Jackson, Murphy and Poynting, Contemporary State Terrorism, 229 and 2.
9Richard Jackson, Eamon Murphy and Scott Poynting, Contemporary State Terrorism: Theory and Practice (New York 2009) 1.
10Jenny Teichman, ‘How to Define Terrorism’, Royal Institute of Philosophy 250 (1989) 64, 505-517, there 508.
11Richard Jackson, Eamon Murphy and Scott Poynting, Contemporary State Terrorism: Theory and Practice (New York 2009) 1.
12Jenny Teichman, ‘How to Define Terrorism’, 507.
13Jenny Teichman. How to Define Terrorism.Philosophy, 64: 250 (Oct., 1989), pp. 505-517
16Beau Grosscup, Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment (London 2006) 64.
17Jenny Teichman. How to Define Terrorism.Philosophy, 64: 250 (Oct., 1989), pp. 505-517.
18R.J. Rummel, Death by government, 9.
19Stohl, M. The State as Terrorists: Insights and Implications. Democracy and Security 2.1(2006):4–5
20Hardy, Merriman, and Jack, DuVall. Dissolving Terrorism at Its Roots (Hauppauge: Nova Science Publishers, 2006). pp.221
21Stohl, M. The State as Terrorists: Insights and Implications. Democracy and Security 2.1(2006):4–5
22J. Horgan and M.J. Boyle. A Case Against Critical Terrorism Studies. 2011. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.doi.pdf
23Stohl, M. The State as Terrorists: Insights and Implications. Democracy and Security 2.1(2006):4–5
27Blakeley, Ruth. StateTerrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South ( Routlege, 2009), pp 23
28 Ibid, pp 23
29 Raphael, Perl. Trends in Terrorism 2006. CRS Report 2007. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL33555.pdf
30Walter Laqueur. A History of Terrorism (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp 45
31 Hitoshi, Nasu. The UN Security Council’s Responsibility and the “Responsibility to Protect” (Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, 2011) p. 418
34 Christian, Tams. “The Use of Force against Terrorists.” (The European Journal of International War) 359.
35 Hitoshi, Nasu, The UN Security Council’s Responsibility and the “Responsibility tom Protect” (Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law) p. 377.
36 Rodrigo Duterte interview: Death, drugs and diplomacy. 2016. Retrived from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2016/10/exclusive-rodrigo-duterte-war-drugs-161015100325799.html
37 Rodrigo Duterte interview: Death, drugs and diplomacy. 2016. Retrived from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2016/10/exclusive-rodrigo-duterte-war-drugs-161015100325799.html
39 Richard, Jackson. The Ghosts Of State Terror: Knowledge, Politics and Terrorism Studies. (Aberystwyth University, 2008) p. 23.
40 Perry, Juliet and Ripley, Will. Philippine President slams US, says drug war will not stop. CNN 2016. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/16/asia/duterte-speech-singapore/