Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is Blowing up an Empty Building still Terrorism?

This last selection for today is based off of an section from the Voices of Terror anthology by Walter Laquer on the original IRA. Terrorism as an academic discipline is usually concearned with motovations of terrorist groups and prevention of future terrorist attacks. Rarely does one stumble upon philosophical questions when discussing terrorism. I mean to most people the calculis of terrorism is pretty simple: terrorist sets of bomb, there’s an explosion, structure comes down, and people are injured or die. But the IRA presented me with a perplexing question “If a terrorist group blows up an empty building can we still call it terrorism?

The IRA has splintered into many different groups over the decades, but for this exercise we are considering the IRA that protested domination of Northern Ireland by Great Britian. The scenerio goes like this: the IRA would select a targeted building and then call in a bomb threat and say “we’re going to blow up this building in half an hour,” or something. This would than give the people inside the building time to flee to safety, while securing what we would secure a propaganda victory without costing innocent lives. But is it terrorism or criminal destruction of property?

Consider this, maybe the threat is ignored and the bomb goes off killing scores of civilians. This would definitly be considered a terrorist attack. What we have here is an attack on a specific target to protest a specific action by a government with the potential of human casualties, if you get a particularly intransagent fire inspector or police chief. There’s no way to call one action terrorism, and the other not because of the mere addition of subtraction or people.

 Every attack is a separate incident with unknown variables from detonator malfunction, failure to evacuate the building, and strength of materials, so that we cannot assure either a perfect detenation or even an imperfect one. In my opinion, the intent to committ terror is still very much alive, even if your not seeking human casualities. If the terrorist intent exists, therefore you’re a terrorist…at least that’s my judgement.

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