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Dear Stephen,

I am not so sure you are right about terrorists are trying to provoke a reprisal, to get the opponent of the terrorists to commit atrocities or some such. It seems to me more like that the terrorists are trying to get their opponent to give up, to quit fighting and give in to the terrorists demands.

While I agree with your statement that "Terrorists make their attacks and then fade away into the population. They tailor their attacks to inspire the maximum horror and anger from the enemy's people, bringing irresistible pressure to bear on the enemy's leadership to do something, while depriving the enemy leadership of any obvious target to do something against." It seems to me that their overall goal is a specific something. Not something directed at the terrorists so much as to make the situation seem hopeless, and therefore get the government to appease the terrorists.

This is why terrorists target civilians and non-combatants rather than military forces. And this is also why terrorists primarily target democracies, rather than dictatorships. Dictatorships are less responsive to the needs and views of its people than democracies are. If you can convince enough of the people that it is a hopeless situation, that gets the government to give up. In a dictatorship, well it's a lot harder to create that kind of political change.

Also, and you may be in agreement here, I am not quite sure, but it seems that the defining difference between the two is that a terrorists targets civilians, while a guerrilla targets the opposing military. I am not conversant enough to write about classic doctrine of Mao or Guevara, I am just looking at what I see going on. Its basic and raw coercion, trying to force your opponent to quit and run, (well pieces of him anyway.)

Your final point about how the American election campaign, and especially Kerry's inability to take a firm stand, is, well, costing Iraqi lives, is spot on. There needs to be another word though. Whether Kerry is unable to, or unwilling is immaterial. He does not. And that is the only thing that matters.

You didn't read my article closely. I said that I was using the word "terrorist" to refer to people who follow the doctrine of terrorism I described.

The reason I said that was because I was trying to make clear that my use of the term would not coincide with every case where the word "terrorist" is actually used today, whether sincerely or disingenuously.

It may well be that the people you're talking about are doing what you say, but if so then they are not following the doctrine I described, and thus would not be included amongst the people I was talking about.

And therefore every comment you make is irrelevant. If you want to define your own terms, be my guest. But in that case you can also do your own analysis.

Geez, Stephen, What is up? I did not mean to piss you off or anything. Your article got me thinking in a slightly different direction. If you don't want to talk about it, fine. But no reason to bite my head off about it.

Your site is one I read every day, because I find it useful, your insights valuable. I don't think the terrorists are actually using the doctrines you are talking about, exactly. Yes there is some commonalities, and there is evidence that it is a deriviation at least in part of the older Marxist stuff. But I think they have moved or mutated away from that.

I am not going to agree with everything you say. And if you don't want to hear my thoughts, well, just say so. I know I ain't an engineer like you are, but that does not mean I am an idiot.


There is another element to add to your discussion of guerilla war: sanctuary.

If the tactic is "tip and run", there has to be some place to run to, or some bound on the actions of your more-powerful enemy. Contrary to the romance of the guerilla fighter as a later day member of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, guerilla fighting is a high casualty operations to begin with, and one needs some kind of protection from being ground to dust. As to the guerilla sanctuary afforded by the Iraq conflict, well . . .

Very insightful, as usual.

It really depresses me that Kerry either doesn't understand what's going on or doesn't *care*. He seems to be far more interested in getting elected than in telling us what he's going to do once he gets the job.

Unfortunately, I'm being compelled to accept the possibility that "getting elected" is in fact the only real policy he cares about.

.... I'm afraid you're right.

I got the same exact vibes from Bush the elder: once he got the job he had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Definitely a nice guy, but he reached his level of incompetence at what turned out to be a bad time to do so.

If he's elected, I think Kerry will go the same way.

Longtime reader, first-time writer. Your last post made me think of something once written by an academic (still hunting around for her name, I'm sorry, will email later if I find it) at some centre for terrorism and defence studies in the U.K. She wrote, "Often, the more you understand, the less you forgive."

Similar sentiments may be found in Michael Walzer's book "Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations." Walzer's at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and is a former Vietnam antiwar activist. After several years' study of military history, he rethought a number of his previous opinions, and "Just and Unjust Wars" was the result. It was reprinted in a third edition in 2000. In hindsight, the book seems almost prescient with respect to 9/11 and Iraq, particularly as Walzer observes in the third-edition preface that "It isn't too much of an exaggeration to say that the greatest danger most people face in the world today comes from their own states, and the chief dilemma of international politics is whether people in danger should be rescued by military forces from outside." Given Walzer's previous history as an activist, the book anticipates a number of moral arguments that tend to emerge from that side of the political spectrum. Who knows, you may already have read it, but otherwise it might be worth a look.

Thank you very much for your insightful writing.

Allow me to define terrorism as deadly strikes which intentionally target civilians or civilian society at larg

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