This chapter reorganizes and synthesizes, under a number of key headings, the many ideas on terrorism in general and international terrorism in particular which were developed during a three-day symposium at Glassboro State College in 1976. A wide variety of approaches to the theme of international terrorism was presented—in academic disciplines as well as in opinions regarding the nature of the problem and the degree of its complexity. The content of this chapter reflects primarily the papers included in this book, but some material has been taken from other papers presented at the symposium. *
The fundamental and existential difficulty of coping with the contemporary phenomenon which we so easily in our daily language call “terrorism” was immediately brought into focus: it was impossible to find a universally satisfactory definition of terrorism, and the reasons for this are political rather than semantic.
Violence, and with it terror, goes back beyond the dawn of history: contemporary violence stands on the shoulders of earlier fanatics. Terrorism, however, belongs to our modern, sophisticated technological age. The French Revolution's Reign of Terror and the Revolutionary Catechism of the Russian anarchists Bakunin and Nechaev, Dowling suggested, mark important steps in the development of modern international terrorism: terror as policy and terrorism as philosophy. Wilkinson found the first use of urban guerrilla warfare in the 1848 revolutions. Gros, who analyzed terrorism in literature, found the beginning of intellectual rationalization of violence at least as early as Rousseau and spoke of Sartre's discussion of purifying and creative crime.
Within our own generation modern technology has qualitatively changed the nature of terrorism, for states as well as for dissident groups. Official government terrorism is as old as history—from the Egyptians and the Assyrians and the Incas to the Nazis and the Russians, both Tsarist and Soviet—but modern technology has made genocide possible on a truly vast scale. It has also enabled tiny groups to wield enormous powers of destruction—in contrast to a Guy Fawkes who, O'Ballance noted, in the early seventeenth century had to laboriously transfer his thirty-six barrels of
*Quotations are taken from the papers as delivered at the symposium.