Here’s a good article on how liberals in our media have a hard time bringing themselves to use the word “terrorist” in their news reporting, the most recent example being the atrocities of Mumbai.
A coherent definition of terrorism is only possible if grounded in just war theory, which is itself grounded in biblical law. All else — UN declarations, Reuters reporting guidelines, liberal prejudices, Pentagon press releases, you name it — will simply devolve into the interests of which ox is being gored.
One of the tenets of just war theory, which Christians hold to and Muslims don’t, is that civilians do not represent a legitimate military target. This was the inheritance of the West, and in recent centuries, it has taken quite a beating. From General Sherman’s march to the sea, to the Allied bombing of Dresden, to the extermination policies of Hitler and Stalin, and the Cold War deterrent policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD), it appears that our secularist rulers (and enemies) have determined that civilians are far game. The policy of total war assumes that entire populations go to war with one another, and that it is mere sentimentalism that prevents you from recognizing the fact. In our general culture, this still sells as “realism,” provided we are doing it, and not having it done to us.
But it was this evil that set the stage for a tactical shift, the shift that gave birth to modern terrorism in the Hamas sense of the word. Mumbai is our legacy. If we can go after innocent citizens in the course of fighting with their armies and trying to demoralize an entire nation in every way possible, wouldn’t it be simpler and cheaper and easier, and more effective, to go after the civilians and non-combatants only? Given the premises, this certainly follows. The only problem with logical consistency is that the premises are evil.
It is easier to attack a pizza joint filled with teen-agers, or a little girl’s birthday party, than it is to attack an armed unit which will fight back. That’s why terrorists do it. But it is demoralizing to the enemy, and it does help to achieve the political goals, so so what?
Just war theory has descended to us in the West from Augustine, and the militant Muslims who are engaged in terrorism against us don’t care for Augustine or his biblical premises. They don’t believe or think that way. In this pluralistic world, any reason they should?
So unless they are obligated to become Christians (which they in fact are), they are not obligated to cease being terrorists. If they are obligated to become Christians, they would be obligated in the next instance to fight like Christians.
But why should we demand that they become Christians, and bring their military tactics into conformity with classical Christian theology, when we are not willing to bring our tactics into conformity with it?
Pointing out inconsistencies between combatants is a child’s game. “You started it,” or “you did it first” is the easiest thing in the world to say, and it is usually almost that easy to prove. In mortal combat, it is frequently the case that both sides fight dirty. So we must not define terrorism from any horizontal vantage point — not from the vantage of American foreign policy interests, or from the vantage of the Palestinian people. Terrorism most emphatically is not what the big army calls the little army, or vice versa. Terrorism is what God calls it. And by that calculus, the attackers at Mumbai were terrorists and evil. Are they the only ones? Not by a long shot.