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Conceptualizing Terrorism$
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Anthony Richards

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746966

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746966.001.0001

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The Evolution of the Definitional Debate: The Policymaking Perspective

The Evolution of the Definitional Debate: The Policymaking Perspective

(p.38) 3 The Evolution of the Definitional Debate: The Policymaking Perspective
Conceptualizing Terrorism

Anthony Richards

Oxford University Press

This chapter outlines the evolution of the definitional debate at the policymaking level, beginning with the League of Nations attempts and culminating in those of the United Nations. It argues that an agreed definition of terrorism remains elusive due to the subjective application of the term and the persistence of the ‘one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’ mantra which, as the author has argued, confuses the goal with the method of terrorism. The inclination of the UN has been to define terrorism as targeting civilians and non-combatants and to seek a definition at least on this basis. The chapter argues, however, that anybody (including combatants) can be victims of terrorism providing they serve as sufficient ‘message generators’, and that moral repugnance against particular forms of the phenomenon (i.e. those that target civilians and non-combatants) should not compromise attempts to reach a general definition of the concept as a whole.

Keywords:   terrorism, policymaking, definition, United Nations, freedom fighter, subjectivity

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