Modern society defines terrorism as the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws. Terrorist acts may vary in their forms of realization, for example bombing or attacks with biological chemical agents. However, political violence has been a feature of human society for a long time. Terrorism itself stemmed from the politics of the nineteenth and especially the twentieth centuries, when small groups of radicals sought to unsettle states and rally support by bombing buildings. Since September 11, 2001, terrorism has become the key concern worldwide. Nowadays, religious extremists continue to perform attacks around the world.

The post 9/11 period has been characterized by thoughtful disagreement over the kind of threats humanity faces now. US citizens have been among the most frequent victims of international terrorist events. The paper is predicated on the belief that terrorism in its various manifestation poses a fundamental threat to the freedom and general principles enshrined in liberal democratic political systems. The research is also concerned with the dynamic of terrorism and counterterrorism that were evoked in the late 1960s.

Due to the fragility and vulnerability of modern civilization, terrorism has become progressively more prevalent at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. The paper provides the definition of terrorism and describes its types and strategies. Further, it investigates the boundaries that limit the counterterrorism discourse, the dimensions of counterterrorism, and its connection to the criminology.

Background and Significance

After the 9/11 attacks, terrorism has become one of the most important issues that continue disturbing the globe. The most destructive assault in recorded history took place on this day. Consequently, extremism has become the defining issue of intercontinental politics of the 21st century. Schmid notes that the majority of modern literature concerning terrorism was written after the 9/11 (Schmid, 2011).

Even though the amount of literature on terrorism in academic journals has increased, the issue still remains relevant. The research on terrorism and related matters has increased sufficiently since 9/11. However, a variety of causes which trigger terrorist acts globally have not been totally defined yet. Therefore, the research on this topic is significant in the field of criminology and sociology. A careful investigation of the main causes of terrorism can give an opportunity to define the most effective methods of counterterrorism.

Literature Review

It has already been indicated that the current situation is considerably more intimidating than before. Therefore, the paper presents the results of a review of the published output on the topic from 2004 to 2015. However, gaining a good understanding of the existing knowledge based on terrorism is necessary. The relevant literature is vast and growing rapidly, hence, this chapter describes the latest views represented by a series of articles by an author who has reviewed various aspects of research on terrorism and counterterrorism.

The first papers which were investigated focus on researching terrorism, its meaning, as well as defining the crucial points that trigger its occurrence. These were such works as Schmid’s The Definition of Terrorism. There he noted that, “Much of the writing in the crucial areas of terrorism research ... is impressionistic, superficial, and at the same time often also pretentious, venturing far-reaching generalizations on the basis of episodic evidence.” The fact of key importance in his work is that there is no common definition of terrorism and its explanation depends on the context in which the notion is used.

Arguably, the most effective way to identify trends and patterns in research is to examine the literature published by active researchers. Therefore, the articles by Cronin about the effectiveness of counterterrorism and Colville, Pye, and Carter concerning the efforts to fight terrorism define counterterrorism as a state act as occasionally more dangerous than a terrorist act. Among other studied resources, those written by McCulloch and Pickering and by Lum, Kennedy, and Sherley note that the connection between terrorism, counterterrorism, and criminology exists, and that the effectiveness of implemented strategies against terrorism depends on the policy of the state.

The majority of the reviewed sources were scholarly journals. All the studied literature was sufficient in investigating terrorism and counterterrorism. Hopefully, this evaluation of terrorism can be of interest and practical value to others who would like to write on this topic. Moreover, it is assumed that the research may also help to establish a broader context in which individual research efforts occur, while illustrating how the field is evolving.

Definition, Types, and Strategies of Terrorism

Definition of Terrorism

The definition of terrorism has various interpretations and explanations. The main difficulties in defining the term “terrorism” occur in connection with the question of whether the use of violence is legitimate. Thus, some definitions of terrorism can be inherently controversial because the majority of explanations are written by agencies directly associated with governments. With conviction, these organizations are bound to exclude governments from the definitions.

The explanation given by Alex P. Schmid states that terrorism is a policy on the presumed efficiency of a specific form or a tactic of generating fear and political violence. Additionally, Schmid acknowledges that it is a conspiratorial repetition of calculated, demonstrative violent actions without moral or legal limitations, pursuing mainly civilians and non–combatants (Schmidt, 2011). According to Schmidt, terrorism as a tactic can be implemented in three main contexts. First, it can be employed for illegal state repression. Second, extremism and terrorism can become tools of propagandistic agitation by non–state actors even outside zones of conflict. The third implementation of terrorism is that it can be used as an illicit tactic of irregular prosperity employed by states or other non–state actors (Schmidt, 2011).

Types of Terrorism

If one were to take into consideration the definition of terrorism that describes it as the use of violence in order to psychologically and physically terrorize groups of people, individuals, or whole nations for the sake of enacting political change or gaining political power, the concept could be separated into eight parts. They are as followings: state, religious, right and left wing, pathological, issue oriented, separatist, and narco-terrorism (Pillar, 2004).

The first type that is being discussed in the paper is state terrorism. It is the systematic use of terror by governments aimed to control its nation. This type of terrorism is frequently implemented by groups or governmental organizations that have power at a given moment. It is considered the most common type of violence and is primarily used by dictators. Religious terrorism is usually motivated by spiritual ideologies (Pillar, 2004). Therefore, it becomes one of the most dangerous for society, because radical religions often justify and sometimes even encourage suicide bombings as a kind of self–sacrifice. Pillar also defines the right wing type, which mainly aims to combat liberal governments and preserve traditional social orders. The groups which fall within this category are usually racially motivated and aim to marginalize minorities. In contrast, the left wing terrorist organizations aim to establish socialist governments. These groups were prominent during the Cold War and planned to attack the established governmental system in order to abolish class distinctions. Pathological terrorism describes the use of violence by individuals or groups that utilize frightening strategies for the purposes of enjoyment. They operate individually and do not have well–defined political motives. Separatist terrorism intends to cause fragmentation within countries. Sometimes, the purpose of their activities is to establish a new state. This type is typical among minorities that are discriminated against and humiliated. As a result, they desire to create their own country. The last defined type is narco – terrorism. This term has originally referred to the organizations that profit from drugs trade. These groups usually possess guns and use violence in order to promote their business.

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Strategies of Terrorism

The identification of the main strategic logic that drives terrorist violence is essential for understanding and modulating effective counterstrategies. Terrorism works not only because it boosts anxiety and fear in target population, but also because it causes governments and individuals to respond in ways that aid the terrorists.

Kydd and Walter defined the five main principal strategic logics. These are intimidation, attrition, outbidding, spoiling, and provocation (Kydd & Walter, 2006). In the attrition strategy, guerrillas seek to persuade the enemy that the terrorists will lead to significant costs if the enemy continues following a specific policy. The extremists who use this strategy try to convince the population that they have enough strength to punish disobedience and the government does not have power to stop them. Therefore, the people behave according to the demands of terrorists. Another theory is provocation. This strategy outlines attempts to induce the enemy to respond to terrorism with indiscriminate violence (Kydd & Walter, 2006). This radicalizes the residents and motivates them to support the terrorists. It undermines the attempts to reach agreement by persuading the enemy that moderates are on the terrorists’ side. The individuals and groups of people engaged in outbidding use violence to persuade the public of terrorists’ inclinations. The groups are sure that the guerillas have greater resolve to fight the enemy than the opposing groups. Therefore, they claim that they are worthy of being supported. Thoughtful realization of these five peculiar strategic logics is vital for understanding terrorism and designing effective counterterrorism policies.

Dimensions of Counterterrorism

According to Colville, Pye, and Carter, counterterrorism can be viewed in various dimensions. The first constraint concerning the counterterrorism is the complexity of the relationship between background conditions and the emergence of terrorists. Even though terrorism now threatens the entire world, scholars have not produced an algorithm that prevents terrorism. In contrast to the previous century, the acts of violence and terrorism in recent times appear more frequently in free societies (Colville, Pye, & Carter, 2013). However, according to Howell and Lind, a decrease in economic development can trigger the appearance of terrorism (Howell, & Lind, 2009). Thus, counterterrorism in its various dimensions appears to regulate the conditions within a state.

Cronin defines the next dimension of counterterrorism that tells that it can never be the only consideration in determining U.S. policies that affect the economic development of foreign populations or certain ethnic groups (Cronin, 2015). The U.S. support has always been limited by a variety of interests and concerns on the political side. The effects that breed terrorism are very multifaceted and brought to bear on policies and affect the varieties of political and economic situations overseas.

The third constraint that describes counterterrorism assures that no matter how much effort is spent on finding the roots of terrorism, a core of incorrigibles will always remain (Pillar, 2004). Heath-Kelly assures that the primary reason for this is that, for some individuals, terrorism fulfills certain personal needs (Heath-Kelly, 2013). Another reason why terrorism will persevere is that, once terrorist groups and their leaders emerge, they develop personal goals and dynamics, which go beyond the causes that may have bred them.

Consequently, the counterterrorists’ work involves one or more of the elements described above. The limitation of each are potent and the necessity to address all of them together is vigorous (Pillar, 2004). However, the challenges that the U.S. counterterrorists policies face now reflect not only the limitation of counterterrorism itself (Lum, Kennedy, & Sherley, 2006). This strategy of counterterrorism should be adapted to the real world conditions, in which the terrorism threats and the U.S. as a terrorist target have evolved in important ways.

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Criminology, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism

Terrorism as Crime or Deviance

Terrorism and counterterrorism have various dimensions and approaches. One of the approaches to terrorism is the Criminal Justice Model (McCulloch & Pickering, 2009). The criminal justice method views the act of violence or terrorism as a crime. The most common terrorist tactics are kidnapping, assassination, armed attack, or bombing. Usually, the results of these actions are the infliction of injury, destruction of property, or death. All of these effects are universally prohibited in the criminal law.

McCulloch and Pickering indicate that treating terrorism as crime, rather than a special offense, has a delegitimizing effect on extremists. When the acts of violence that the guerillas commit is criminalized, the importance is not in their political or ideological purposes, but in the criminal nature of the delinquency.

The approach of defining terrorism as a crime has changed since the attacks of 9/11 (McCulloch & Pickering, 2009). Since then, many Western countries have launched special terrorist offenses, where the motive became a dominant component of the legal meaning of terrorism. These offenses also include terrorist acts committed for special purposes, membership in terrorist organizations, and helping extremists by providing them with resources, such as money, fighters, weapons, or technical expertise. Therefore, the steps taken prohibited terrorism by law and prevented the incitement to commit terrorist acts. The glorification of terrorism has also become an offense in several countries after the implementation of the steps mentioned above.

The criminal justice model also depends on bureaucracy with severe rules of governance and many cooperating organizations, which possess their own culture, language, and traditions. This model can achieve important goals in terms of deterrence, education, retribution, and rehabilitation. Generally, if terrorism is defined as a crime or deviance, the rate of terrorist acts can decrease and would be punished properly.

Counterterrorism as Social Control

According to Galli, the state frequently masquerades forms of social control or even crimes as acts of counterterrorism.  Counterterrorism usually encompasses laws, security, police, and other powers and measures, which help regulate or prevent terrorist threats (Galli, 2008). Exploiting people’s fear of terrorism has provided states with opportunities to engage in military aggression or even implement repressive laws that normally would be seen as unacceptable (Howell & Lind, 2009). Thus, the measures that the state uses to oppose terrorist acts are often more harmful that terrorism itself and can be defined as forms of social control.

States validate certain forms of social control by demonstrating their enormous power in comparison to their enemies and terrorists. Therefore, they obtain the ability use their enemies, e.g. terrorists, to make counterterrorism a convenient way to rule the people and to govern politically inconvenient groups. Counterterrorism is always considered the necessary defense against violence (Howell & Lind, 2009). Thus, the state, labeling another country as a terrorist or terrorist supporter, provides a credible basis for ruling the peoples’ minds. Moreover, it proves military invasions or even occupations of other territories to be acceptable in the current situation. In previous ages, the acts of counterterrorism have become the primary means of advancing Americas Imperial Grand Strategy. Thus, apart from using counterterrorism for reigning the humans’ minds, it can also be used to implement particular political purposes.

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Research Design and Methods

The method, used in this research is the method of systematic review. It was applied to determine the definition, implementation, and dimensions of counterterrorism strategies by studying the available scientific research literature. Moreover, the research literature helped to define the connection between counterterrorism and crime.

Research Implications

The implications for decision makers include the fragility of the strategy and planning against terrorism. Thus, there is a need to conduct research and evaluate counterterrorism measures to determine whether the implemented strategies actually work. Moreover, scientists need to be involved in counterterrorism strategic thinking, its planning and evaluation. The implication of the research is that terrorism and counterterrorism need to be empirical, using scientific principles and various methodological types. Furthermore, government agencies could assist in this work and provide access to literature, which would help conduct a more thorough evaluation.


Prior to 9/11, the study of terrorism was not developed and the funding for researchers was limited. After this horrible tragedy, terrorism has become a significant issue that changed the way people perceived certain types of activities. However, though the amount of literature on terrorism in academic journals increased, the issue still remains relevant. The research on terrorism and counterterrorism has defined the general meaning of the given notions, introduced the significance of research, and found the connection between criminology and counterterrorism. Moreover, the method of reviewing the literature and careful investigation of the main causes of terrorism have provided opportunities to define the most effective methods for implementing counterterrorism. Even though terrorism can be traced back centuries ago, the reasons for its existence and the methods of preventing it have not been fully investigated yet. Therefore, the lack of notions on terrorism and counterterrorism creates a fertile ground for further research.

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