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Adversary / Threat One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Talk about (or with?) them.

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Old 09-29-2012   #21
jcustis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Freedom fighting implies an objective or goal, not a strategy. Terrorism as you pointed out is a tactic. Freedom fighters and dictators can employ terrorism as a tactic to pursue goals, so it is an equal opportunity tactic.

The FBI definition of terrorism is almost comical, since its scope is much greater than most would assume is terrorism. Almost any insurgent, state actor, that has waging a conflict with the U.S. could be classified a terrorist.



More appropriate in my view from the CIA since it focuses on non-combatant targets. I don't think an attack by irregulars against military targets is terrorism, but rather an irregular attack. When they attack civilians that is another matter.



Freedom fighter is another over used term to gain legitimacy, but as we all know not every group that claims to be freedom fighter has anything resembling freedom as its goal, unless they mean freedom to pursue their goals.
I've never seen those two agency distinctions paired together like that before. I definitely prefer the apparent clarity of the CIA definition. It remains in the eye of the beholder, however, when the discussion morphs from defining an act, to justifying it. Then it gets all sorts of silly string and stupid.
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Old 09-30-2012   #22
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I'm in the process of putting together my argument. I'm also submitting it as part of my degree, but when it's an interesting topic like this I like to throw it out to various internet forums for a bit of discussion.

This is a quote from Binyamin Netanyahu's book, "Terrorism: How the West Can Win". I thought it was appropriate.

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The idea that one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’ cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don’t blow up buses containing non-combatants; terrorist murders do. Freedom fighters don’t set out to capture and slaughter schoolchildren; terrorist murders do… it is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word ‘freedom’ to be associated with acts of terrorists.
- Mac
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Old 09-30-2012   #23
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I wonder whether Mr Netanyahu would have considered the Irgun or the Stern Gang to be "freedom fighters" or "terrorists"... I seem to recall them blowing up non-combatants on a number of occasions.
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Old 09-30-2012   #24
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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
I wonder whether Mr Netanyahu would have considered the Irgun or the Stern Gang to be "freedom fighters" or "terrorists"... I seem to recall them blowing up non-combatants on a number of occasions.
The question asked on this thread was:

Is one man's terrorist really another man's freedom fighter?

I assume by your question you suspect - in the case of Netanyahu - he may see it that way.
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Old 09-30-2012   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
I wonder whether Mr Netanyahu would have considered the Irgun or the Stern Gang to be "freedom fighters" or "terrorists"... I seem to recall them blowing up non-combatants on a number of occasions.
Yeah...the Independence narrative gets sketchy at times, but Jews did target a multi-use facility (King David Hotel) that contained a variety of civilians as well as military HQs. That the Irgun gave a warning of the pending bomb is immaterial.

Jewish political leadership at that time did step back--publicly--from the attack, but the record is full of gray areas. The wiki entry on the bombing I've read before is interesting as it notes that at the 60th anniversary, a commemorative plaque of sorts was put up (with Netanyahu in attendance) that continued to try to put the blame on casualties with the British.

The various "paramilitary" groups continued to use the full range of terrorist TTPs (bombing, arson, assassination) to advance their agenda, and they meet the definition for sure. I suppose Netanyahu would cede the notion that yes, they were terrorists, but he would muddy the definition by harping on the justification...attempting to blur the line in the process. In fact, I can recall him quoted as such before.
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Old 09-30-2012   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMA View Post
The question asked on this thread was:

Is one man's terrorist really another man's freedom fighter?
Yes, exactly. It's often overlooked that if we're talking about "one man's" terrorist and "another man"s" freedom fighter we're talking about perceptions: what that one man perceives as a terrorist may be perceived by another as a freedom fighter. Whether those perceptions are objectively accurate or subjectively justifiable is of course a question open to debate, but it's a different question.

Any given evaluation of whether ends justify means is often highly dependent on the extent to which the person doing the evaluating identifies with or approves of the ends under discussion.

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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
I assume by your question you suspect - in the case of Netanyahu - he may see it that way.
Yes, I suspect that the assessment of who's a terrorist and who's a freedom fighter used by Mr Netanyahu - one man - may be quite opposite from that adopted by, say, Khaled Mashaal - another man. I'm not making any effort to assess whose definition is right or wrong or better or worse, just pointing out that "one man" and "another" may in fact assess that equation quite differently. Whether either assessment is objectively accurate or subjectively justifiable is another question altogether.
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Last edited by Dayuhan; 09-30-2012 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 10-02-2012   #27
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Fuchs,

Do you have a source for your "Freiheitskmpfer" thing? I've put together 99% of my argument and am about to post it here, and for some reason I enjoyed that little factoid, and I'd like to slip it into my introduction

- Mac
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Old 10-02-2012   #28
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Gentleman, this is the piece I've just finished putting together. Still got a bit of editing and work to do, but it's 11pm and I've got the flu

My sources are in brackets.

I'm actually quite uncomfortable about how this turned out. I originally had a very rough and ready document which amounted to about 4,000 words, but I'm required to cut it down to 1,500 for this piece. I'm not sure I did the right thing in cutting out a lot of my case study (Chechnya) and some side points, because what I'm left with is pretty much just a re-hash of Ganor and Hughes' work, and that bothers me.

Also, Fuchs, I included your little factoid, because I really liked it.

As I said when I started this thread, I initially thought the difference between terrorism and freedom fighting was simply tactic vs strategy. This piece reflects that, but it's now being called means vs ends.

I also decided that the whole terrorism vs freedom fighting thing was bollocks, and that they were apples and oranges. It should realistically be Terrorism vs Guerilla Warfare, both of which can take place under the wider umbrella of national liberation.

Feel free to tear me to shreds (Or at least give it a try)

- Mac

(It's posted below, there is a character limit per post in this forum)
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Old 10-02-2012   #29
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Terrorism, Guerilla Warfare & Freedom Fighting

An issue that has plagued the study of counter-terrorism for decades has been the cliché comparison “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. The comparison suggests that the difference between the two groups is the eye of the beholder.

There are certainly elements of perspective that play into the debate. The words “terrorist” and “freedom fighter” are after all only words, and their meanings are still a matter of perspective and are reasonably difficult to fully capture. Indeed, the German term for freedom fighter, “Freiheitskämpfer” has a different meaning in the German language than it does in English.

Despite the inherent ambiguity in defining terrorism, especially when compared to freedom fighting, there is a strong argument that the difference can be quantified, and that there are in fact very real differences between the two groups. Counter-terror experts have had some degree of success in defining both terrorism and freedom fighting, and even the original cliché can be dissected and criticized.

There is no shortage of reasons why terrorism requires an internationally recognized definition of terrorism. In the modern world, terrorism is a globalized issue, and as such it must be dealt with on an international scale. If we are to develop and implement an international strategy, there must be agreement on what we are dealing with – a definition of terrorism. Until there is an internationally accepted definition of terrorism, operational results will be far and few between (Ganor).

Developing a definition of terrorism will assist in multiple phases of dealing with terrorism. The first phase involved defining terrorism for the purposes of legislation and punishment. Legislation requires a definition to distinguish terrorism from ordinary crime. A definition is necessary for legislation designed to curb terrorism and assistance to terrorism, as well as setting sentences for terrorists or for confiscating their financial resources and supplies. The second phase involves international cooperation, where an internationally accepted definition of terrorism is required to ensure effective cooperation between states, as well as discouraging links between states and terrorist organizations. The third phase involves public relations and terrorism, where universal definitions of terrorism can not only undermine indigenous support for the terrorist organization, but also legitimizes offensive action taken against terrorists. Importantly, an internationally accepted definition of terrorism also creates a universal distinction between freedom fighters and terrorists, and allows for legitimate action taken by freedom fighters or guerillas in the name of national liberation. (Ganor)

The use of the “terrorist” label is often applied as most suitable for meeting an individual or group’s political purposes, or for meeting individual’s personal preconceptions on the matter (Hughes). States can deny the political motivation of rebellious groups through the use of criminalizing terms such as “gangs”, “thugs” and “terrorists”, all of which undermines legitimate resistance. The leader of the communist resistance to the British in Malaya stated:
When we worked with the British during the Japanese occupation and killed people—essentially in Britain’s interests—we were neither bandits nor terrorists. Indeed, we were applauded, praised and given awards. Thus, you only became a terrorist when you killed against their interests.” (Chin Peng)

On a more personal level, there have been recent psychological studies that support the idea that terrorism is mostly cognitive in nature. Although political violence is a very real occurrence, terrorism itself as a concept is a social construction that occurs in the general population. When people apply labels, they are applying their own personal perceptions of those who partake in terrorism (Montiel). It was found that the “Terrorist” label implies an individual who is motivated by revenge and hatred, targets the innocent, refuses political negotiations and is considered the “evil villain”. (Kennedy). On the other hand, the “Freedom Fighter” label implies a person who stands passionately committed to national liberation; hits legitimate military targets only, and is often viewed as a hero or a martyr. (Harre)
The problem with states using the definition of terrorism in a highly selective and politicized manner is that it undermines the credibility of the term “terrorist” (Hughes). This is why modern academic definitions of terrorism tend to analyze the means of violence, rather than the justifications for, as the factor in deciding whether or not the act is illegitimate. In a similar vein, modern academics agree that the immediate target of a terror attack is secondary, and is only a vehicle for communicating a threat to a primary target elsewhere.

There have been multiple attempts by individuals, organisations and states to justify the means in terms of the end (Waltzer). The Arab League has previously argued that violent conflict in the name of “liberation and self-determination” cannot be terrorism, but violent conflict against existing regimes or monarchies will be considered criminal assaults. Syria has made equally ambiguous and insincere statements – it will not assist terrorist organisations, but openly supports “national liberation movements”. (Ganor) These attempts to justify the means in terms of the end emphasize not only the idea that states use the term “terrorist” as a political tool, but also the cliché that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, and that terrorism hinges on the perspective and motivations of the one doing the defining. However, terrorism cannot be allowed to be a means towards national liberation. When a national liberation group chooses terrorism as it’s means, the aim of their struggle can no longer be used to justify the use of terrorism. (Ganor) (Netanyahu)

It will be necessary to accept that the world is not entirely black and white. Although terrorism and freedom fighting are different things, a national liberation organisation can also participate in terrorism, and the concepts of terrorism and freedom fighting are not mutually contradictory. There will be cases where an organisation or movement will contain elements of both, and there is a certain area of uncertainty. So far, this uncertainty has not been properly addressed. Most definitions of terrorism fail to properly capture the dynamic nature of terrorism as an instrument and tool within the wider context of armed conflict and resistance. (Hughes)

The inability for the international community to agree upon a definition of terrorism is posing a serious issue. One popular definition proposed by Boaz Ganor states “terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims”. This definition is based on three principle elements. The first is the essence of the action. Under Ganor’s definition, if the action does not involve violence or the threat of violence, it cannot be defined as terrorism. The second element is the requirement for the goal of the action to be political in nature. In the absence of a political aim, the action cannot be defined as terrorism. The third element is the targeting of civilians, emphasizing the deliberate rather than accidental targeting of civilians. This is what distinguishes terrorism from other forms of violent conflict.

There are many different methods used by freedom fighters to accomplish their goals, with terrorism only being one of those methods. Under the wider category of non-conventional conflict, guerilla warfare is the legitimate counterpart of terrorism. I would suggest that as national liberation/freedom is an end rather than a means, that comparing terrorism to freedom fighting is a poor comparison to be making. The real comparison should be between terrorism and guerilla warfare – both means utilized by freedom fighters in pursuit of their goals. Guerilla warfare is described as “a prolonged war of attrition, with progressively increasing violence, blurred limits, a fluid line of contact, emphasizing the human factor. In the course of war, guerilla combatants become regular military forces until victory is attained and one side is defeated” (Harkabi). The definition by Laqueur focuses on the asymmetric nature of the conflict; “Guerilla warfare is a form of warfare by which the strategically weaker side assumes the tactical offensive in selected forms, times and places. Guerilla warfare is the weapon of the weak”. Even though terrorism and guerilla warfare are often strongly intermingled, their methods are distinctly different. Guerillas are noted to have the weaker side in an asymmetric conflict, usually with inferior numbers, ad-hoc weaponry and fewer strategic capabilities. However, they can and often do fight according to the laws of armed conflict, taking and exchanging prisoners, as well as respecting the rights of non-combatants. On the other side, terrorists place no limits on the means used, and tend to employ widespread assassination and the use of terror tactics upon the indigenous population. (Schmid, Jongman & Stohl)
- Mac

Last edited by McArthur; 10-02-2012 at 10:30 AM.
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Old 10-02-2012   #30
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The whole idea of comparing a tactic to an objective still seems a bit to me like... apples and oranges doesn't quite cover it. Apples and baseballs, perhaps.

I find it interesting, though in no way surprising, that states often adopt definitions of terrorism that exclude state terrorism. The eye of the beholder is a potent device.
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Old 10-02-2012   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
The whole idea of comparing a tactic to an objective still seems a bit to me like... apples and oranges doesn't quite cover it. Apples and baseballs, perhaps.
I hope I made it clear that this is exactly the stance I am trying to take...

I am suggesting the national liberation is an objective, and both guerilla warfare and terrorism are methods of achieving that objective.

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Old 10-02-2012   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McArthur View Post
I am suggesting the national liberation is an objective, and both guerilla warfare and terrorism are methods of achieving that objective.
... and are most often branches of the same tree.
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Old 10-02-2012   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Amusing little factoid:
The German translation of "freedom fighter" is Freiheitskmpfer, and unlike the English version Freiheitskmpfer is almost exclusively used on people who do/did not fight violently.
It's more often used to describe the civil rights movement people than to describe guerrillas.
As German I object your statement. :-)

People like Andreas Hofer were "Freiheitskaempfer" and fought violently :-)
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Old 10-02-2012   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulenspiegel View Post
As German I object your statement. :-)

People like Andreas Hofer were "Freiheitskaempfer" and fought violently :-)
He certainly looks like a cross between a "typical" Lederhose-clad German and a Taliban. As a matter of fact he was very religous and not too tolerant for Liberal ideas and other beliefs. But this is a different story.

From a military view it is interesting that the militas were able to be highly effective in the small war as well as able to hold their own in pitched defensive battles. Clausewitz has some interestings things to say in his chapter about the peoples war and IIRC noted that this was something very rare. Of course an important factor was terrain, which in this case aided greatly the defender and high marksmanship of a good deal of the "Shooters".
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Old 11-08-2012   #35
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This is not merely a matter of point of view. By what standards radical left wing European terrorists from the 70s (the Italian PAC for instance) could be considered "freedom fighters"? When a group executes terrorist actions against an open, free society, it is a totally different matter from another group employing the same tactics to break free from an oppresive dictatorship.
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Old 11-09-2012   #36
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"terrorist" is absolutely a loaded label designed to render both the actor and the action as illegitimate. Sometimes it is actually the best label. Often it is not.

Are most "freedom fighters"? Many certainly are. Many fight for revenge, but that is OK too, and is the primary rationale behind the US-led response to 9/11.

I think it is also important to distinguish the difference between "why men fight" and "why conflicts occur." An organization with a primary purpose of freedom or revenge will always attract a large number who are simply young and seeking adventure, or are followers, or are sadists, or just need a check, etc, etc.

On Maslow's hierarchy, why men fight is driven more by the factors at the base of the pyramid, but why populace-based conflicts occur is driven more by the factors at the top. Both fuse in the middle, so there is no clean distinction.

But our rule of law approach and love of slapping broad labels of "terrorist" or "terrorism" onto organizations and individuals may well facilitate targeting, but it is a huge obstacle to actually working to resolve the drivers of why such organizations came to exist, and why they endure despite the best of our efforts to "CT" them into submission. Bribing populaces with Development is equally ineffective; as are governance programs that focus on giving others the leaders and forms of government that we deem are the "best guards for their future security."

Labels only help when they are smart to begin with and when they are never taken too literally or applied too permanently. Unfortunately, when it comes to terrorism labels, we break all three of those rules.
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Old 11-09-2012   #37
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Always worth looking at whether individuals or groups are fighting to stop their government (or someone else) from doing something to them or to impose something they prefer - usually themselves in power - on the government.

I've never bought the idea that people fight government, as insurgents or as terrorists, because the government has failed to deliver services or economic progress, especially in places where expectations of government are very low to start with. People fight because they are scared and/or angry, because government is messing with them, or because they want to take over and advance their own goals and ambitions. Those in the latter category often exploit those in the former category, and the wise counterinsurgent will aim to disaggregate the two by addressing the cause of the fear and anger that drive the footsoldier. That won't convert those who merely want to impose themselves and their ideology, but it will isolate them.
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