The Psychological Impact
of Protracted Campaigns of
Political Violence on Societies
Queen's University Belfast
United Nations statistics indicate that during 1993 there were 32 major and 15 minor conflicts experienced across the US, Asia, Africa and Europe. It is estimated that over the past decade at least 40 countries worldwide have been affected by ongoing armed civil conflict (Macksoud and Aber, 1996). In situations where terrorist attacks occur in the context of a wider political conflict, there are problems with defining such attacks as terrorism. In areas where the conflict is related to the perceived legitimacy of the State and its actions or forces, one person's 'terrorism' is another's 'justifiable military action', and on the other hand what some view as 'law enforcement' may be viewed by other citizens as 'state terrorism'.
Whilst there are problems associated with constructing a definition of terrorism in situations of political conflict, the human cost of armed political conflict is evident. Increasingly, civilians are becoming the victims of political conflict. During the First World War, 10 per cent of all fatalities were civilian casualties, and during the Second World War civilians represented 50 per cent of all casualties. However, during all subsequent conflicts, civilian casualties have represented upwards of 80 per cent of conflict-related fatalities (Dodge, 1990). The psychological cost of exposure