It is very important for all of us, including the public, to have a clear understanding of what terrorism is and how it works. A correct appreciation of the problem will greatly help us deal with the situation more effectively. Following are some valuable lessons learned from past events:
At the outset, we must consider that those faceless cowards can choose the time, place and even the manner they would carry out an attack. Hence, all preventive measures can only somehow reduce the threat but can not guarantee total safety.
With sad reality, we must be resilient; that is, capable and always ready to surge back and restore our lives to normal right after an incident. Never should we allow terrorists to dictate on us.
In examining the nature of terrorism, we are dealing with a multi-dimensional problem. Discussion is centered mostly on the criminal justice aspects: prevention and punishment. The overriding questions are not technological or legal; they are philosophical and political.
Terrorists usually employ the weapon of fear in a complicated sort of way. By sowing fear, they can paralyze the will, befuddle the mind and exhaust the strength of an adversary.
Political considerations form the framework in which the activity of those engaged in terrorism is interpreted. We usually hear people say “ A man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter”. Simply stated, terrorism can be held to revolve around one's political point of view and this is the major impediment standing in the path of a universally acceptable definition of the term.
However, regardless of the diversity in our political, religious or social outlook, we should be one in looking at the more important issue. Motivation notwithstanding, the rhetoric of terrorists should not be allowed to conceal their true identity. They are first and foremost, criminals. No doctrine or belief could justify killing helpless, innocent people.
Because of the enormous damage they inflict, there is a misconception that terrorists are big in number and so strong. To the contrary, terrorism is the strategy of the weak, a weapon of those small band of rascals who are prepared to use violence but who believe that they would lose any contest by sheer strength.
Terrorism is means to an end, not an end in itself. Let alone, terrorism can accomplish nothing in terms of political goals; it can only aim at obtaining a response that will achieve those goals for it. Said another way, terrorist violence is aimed not so much on the target upon which the initial act is committed but to much wider audience who will view and interpret the act.
The success of terrorism is due in large part to the miscomprehension of the strategy by its opponents; which is, failure to focus on the critical issue of how to respond properly to provocations and threats.
Brutality and repression are induced responses that will alienate the government from the masses, thus set the stage for revolution. In dealing with the problem of terrorism, paramount is the rule of law and our respect for human rights.
To be able to correctly interpret events, we must clearly distinguish terrorism from an ordinary criminal act. Not all violent incidents, however terrifying, can be categorized as works of terrorists. The political and social objectives which drive terrorists to act give terrorism a character of its own.
Likewise, it is different from regular, as well as guerilla war because in terrorism, innocents are killed deliberately. Its very wickedness makes it a vulnerable strategy.
One possible purpose of a terrorist act is to create strife among the various sectors in a society. Some radicals pull religious verses out of context to suit their objective. But murder has no home in any religious faith. All of the world's major religions preach the values of love, peace, charity and respect for the sanctity of life. Hence, we must not fall into the enemy trap by institutionally faulting religion or its members for the upheaval.
Publicity tends to exaggerate the threats that terrorism pose to society. If we fail to understand its nature, possibility is high that we will make our fears very much greater than the actual threat.
Most of the victims of terrorist violence are innocent bystanders. Obviously then, terrorists are enemies of the humanity thereby making public support an essential factor in our war against terror.