Sample Political Science Essay on What is Terrorism


What is Terrorism?

It is quite challenging to define terrorism, as the definition will depend on whose views are being represented. According to the Department of Defense (DOD), terrorism is the “calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, which is intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological” (Wasielewski 13). This definition offers a connection between what the terrorists do and their goals. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, as ancient people also practiced terrorism by assassinating their rulers. Terrorism is illustrated by political violence, where basic human values are often overlooked.

In numerous cases, terrorism has been employed to carry out an act of conflict without the opponent recognizing the reason for the menace, thus, labeling terrorism as a criminal activity. Due to its nature, terrorism has become a frequent activity among people who have the desire to pursue intense goals all over the globe. Terrorists do not perceive themselves as wicked. They believe that they have the right to struggle for what they deem right; using whatever means to attain their ends.

Is terrorism a threat to international security?

The worrying fact about terrorism is that it has been on the increase for the last three decades. A more worrying fact is that terrorism is state-sponsored, where several states have joined the ranks of the “League of Terror” (Schultz 28). Thus, terrorism is a threat to international security because most of the world’s population is living in fear of being attacked by terrorists. A study carried out by Schuster, et al. (2001) indicated that 90 percent of Americans developed several distress symptoms within 5 days after 9/11 (Burke and Cooper 11). Modern terrorism has turned out to be a weapon that the feeble groups endeavor to use to topple the strong groups.

The US has termed the terrorist threat as one of the greatest challenges that it has to face in modern times. Military threats from emerging powers have never been larger than the threat from poorly governed and conflict-laden countries. The heightened fear has resulted in a decline in air travel, thus, reducing the number of tourists who visit various countries during their holidays (Burke and Cooper 5). People are held for many hours in the airports for screening. The 9/11 incident created intergroup tensions in many countries, as Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs created a gap in their countries.

In one of his acceptance speeches after assuming office, President Barack Obama declared that he would enhance the foreign policy in addition to applying more measures in response to terrorism, which is a threat to international security (Landler and Mazzetti). One of the reasons why the US attacked Iraq and Afghanistan was to destroy the terrorist hideouts and to promote international security. The extremism in the Arab world was enough to worry for Americans, as their policy towards democracy in the world would be greatly hampered. According to Burke and Cooper, Al Qaeda has attacked the economic infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to limit the country from relying on the Western countries for economic stability (7). This practice has spread to almost all countries that support the American policy, thus, creating tension in these countries.

Terrorism Goals

Terrorism can be unpredictable, but not random. Terrorists have their own purpose when they strike their target. According to Schultz, terrorists and their supports have definite goals, and violence is only a means to attain those goals (29). Most terrorism acts aim at attaining a political goal. Numerous national liberation movements employed terrorism to gain independence after WWII. Terrorism is usually a criminal activity, which affects the spectators more than the immediate victims. Terrorists employ a strategy of violence to attract attention from the governments and the local public to their cause. They specifically hit the targets that signify what they are against.

Terrorists endeavor to enforce their willpower by force. By doing so, they generate an atmosphere filled with fear. Terrorists may opt to cause violence to avenge ethnic injustices or to enforce social and political agendas. It seems as if totalitarianism is an ally of terrorism, as terrorists attack only countries that uphold democracy. They abhor democracies since they know that a democratic country upholds certain ideals that foster peaceful coexistence and promote a vision for the future. They do not respect human rights and do not want humans to enjoy their freedom. Sometimes, terrorists cause violence to gain local recognition by attracting media attention.


Terrorism is one of the greatest threats to human nature in the contemporary world. Terrorists create instability among the Western countries, as well as the Third World, thus, undermining security around the world. Although terrorism began a long time ago, modern terrorism has reached worrying levels, as world peace is greatly hampered by the act. The most targeted countries are US allies, as countries that do not practice democracy are rarely attacked. Terrorism is mainly driven by political interests, where a minority group feels that its issues are not addressed amicably by the ruling elites. All countries that uphold democracy should join up to deny terrorists a chance to achieve their goals.

Works Cited

Burke, R J, and Cary L. Cooper. International Terrorism and Threats to Security: Managerial and Organizational Challenges. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2008. Internet resource.

Landler, Mark and Mark Mazzetti. “Global Vision, Daunting Problems” The New York Times, May 25, 2013. Web. 1 April 2014 <>

Schultz, George P. “Terrorism: The Challenge of Democracies.” Vital speeches of the day 68.1 (2001): 28-32. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.

Wasielewski, Philip G. “Defining War on Terror.” Joint Force Quarterly (1st Quarter, 2007), no. 44, 2007, 13-18. Web. 1 April 2014  <