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What's the difference between warfare and terrorism?

Updated on January 29, 2010

Warfare VS Terrorism


Although easily confused as being the same or similar words, warfare and terrorism have quite different meanings and especially after reading the direct translations of them both, this can be truly seen and realized. Warfare is a conduct versus an act, it occurs between 2 opposing forces and typically escalates from aggression. This word warfare can refer to something as meaningless as a verbal argument to a full on waged conflict with armed and dangerous and would typically continue until one side accepts defeat or arbitration occurs. A commitment to or of society to any conflict involves a method of warfare that don’t always stop short of requiring armed confrontation, however still impose damage and harm to the opponent by affecting its motivation to resist, or even its economies standard of living.

Terrorism, however, is a derivative of terror which is used as a means of coercion. At present, there is no international or unified definition of terrorism. Common definitions of terrorism refer to violent acts that intend to create hostility and fear (terror). They are perpetrated for an ideal goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants. Some people define it as acts of unlawful violence and war but the history of terrorist organizations suggests that they do not select terrorism for its political effectiveness but rather tend to be motivated by a desire for social solidarity with other members of their organization or team rather than by political platforms or strategic objectives, which are often confusing and undefined. The word ‘terrorism’ is politically and emotionally charged, which makes it more difficult to put a true definition to the word because it means so many different things to so many different people. But like warfare, terrorism has been practiced and used by a broad array of political organizations for furthering objectives and goals; practiced by both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, and governments. One form is the use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.

Regardless, after reading the differences, it is easy to understand why people feel these words are interchangeable and often easily confused by using them in the same context, But it is also easy now to see how they are different. They serve similar purposes and often in the media, are used interchangeably which doesn’t help society any to see the difference.

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