Difference Between Terrorism and War
War is a very common word that brings to mind the loss of lives, property and territory as when two nations are at war with each other. By history, there have been thousands of wars between countries and who can forget the two world wars. However, humanity does not seem to have learned lessons well after the nuclear holocaust that devastated the Japanese during the Second World War. More recently, the world saw the Gulf War, the invasion of Afghanistan and the war against Iraq. Terrorism on the other hand is also spreading its tentacles in many parts of the world and dozens of nations are victims of this heinous crime as they continue to bleed because of acts of terrorism. There is unspeakable loss of property and lives in the wars and acts of terrorism. What is the difference between terrorism and war then?
As the world struggles with the threat of terrorism in its most horrible, it is appropriate to be aware of the differences between terrorism and war. Until 9 / 11, the problem of terrorism was seen as a localized problem and the world was not united on war on terror. This was because of the definition of terrorism as local insurgencies in many countries which received support from many other countries and sympathized with the struggles of local populations and even provided the material and moral support to these insurgents. Countries that faced the wrath of terrorism were doing their own efforts to fight terrerosim them as there was no cohesive united action to deal with terrorists. But the events of 9 / 11 that shook the world and established terrorism as an international problem that must be addressed in a united and intensive manner. George Bush used thee phrase, the war on terror, shows the importance the world attaches to the elimination of the threat of terrorism from the face of the planet as the fight against terrorism has now been converted into a war full fledged war.
Terrorism and war are both armed conflicts that cause violence and loss of lives and property. There are many similarities in these two concepts, but there are differences too. It all depends on the side you stand. If you belong to the minority fighting for rights and engaging in acts of terrorism to get attention, you’d call it as a war rather than terrorism. On the other hand, if you’re on the side of the administration, you will call it terrorism. The distinction between terrorism and the war is not in the methods, strengths, the reasons for the fight, or the legitimacy of the organizations sponsoring the conflict. Those on the side of terrorism justify all the means to an end desired by them. Many times, the terrorists are so driven that they call their activities as war of independence against a government, they see as oppressors. But an essential difference between terrorism and the war is the target. In the event of a war between nations, it is men in uniform on each side which are the target of opposing forces, but in case of terrorism, the targets are mostly innocent citizens who are in no way related to any of the ideologies and the struggles.
The terrorists know that on targeting innocent civilians, the governments will find it difficult to deal with and they will be answerable to them. They know that innocent citizens are soft targets that can be easily as against government installations that are under heavy security. The terrorists accomplish their goal of striking fear and terror they believe will get them independence. On the other hand, in case of war, the targets are known and well defined.
The war has evolved through history and modern wars are carried out by the military campaigns that are inclusive of intelligence, armed conflict, troop movement, propaganda, bombs, intelligence and missiles. Terrorism is gorilla war which is furtive in nature and that believes in finding soft targets for political and ideological goals. The major objective of terrorists is to commit heinous crimes to get attention in order to be able to accomplish their goals.
Most common terrorist activities are suicide and car bombing and aircraft hijack to kill many people at once. Yet the face of terrorism continues to change and no one knows what will be the next act of terrorism. The way in which the twin towers of World Trade Center were pounded using stolen planes during 9 / 11 shows the extent to which terrorists can go for creating panic and fear in the minds of civilized societies.
War needs people willing to sacrifice their lives for their nation; terrorism also involves people who are willing to give up their lives for a cause they consider to be noble. The important difference between terrorism and the war comes from the fact that while wars need massive intelligence and mass mobilization of troops, a terrorist can do with a single or group of individuals. Then the element of surprise is missing from the wars. A country is prepared for action on the warfront against enemy forces but terrorism is full of surprise and no one is aware of who and what will be the next target of a terrorist act.
Humanity has seen so many wars and destruction caused by them that nations try to avoid wars. There are organizations in place to prevent wars and encourage negotiations and resolving things with diplomacy. Moreover, terrorism is increasing and has spread its tentacles to all parts of the world and no country is immune to terrorism today. While war can be prevented, terrorism is inevitable unless there are conditions where no community or religion feels dissatisfied and discriminated.