Essay by shantanukHigh School, 11th gradeA, November 2004

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"Terrorism" is a technique, not a country or an ideology, and having a war on terror makes about as much sense as having a war on carpentry".

Terrorism is never justified, but at the same time it's simply a tactic used in an unjust world. It's the logical method of fighting an opponent with an overwhelming conventional military advantage.

The point is this: terrorism is good or evil, admirable or reprehensible, in the same degree as a hammer or spade. It is neither. The NRA would tell you that guns don't kill people, that they are only the tools that enable people to kill each other. While overly simplistic in the gun-control debate, the analogy does apply here: terrorism is only a tool. The good or evil is in the people themselves, and their motivations, not their methods.

To answer, for my part, the first question: what is terrorism? Keep it very simple, and look only at the name: terrorism is the promotion of fear.

Many people think terrorists never have any "higher tactical or strategic objective". That statement is fundamentally wrong. Al-Qaeda, for one, has a strategic objective: to establish a (twisted) Sharia-ruled global Islamic theocracy. That objective, with its associated violations of human rights, makes the members of al-Qaeda evil. Even had Osama bin Laden never orchestrated a single terrorist act, the sincere desire to create that kind of state would still define him as evil.

Look at it this way: if Osama bin Laden commanded a million-man army backed by the nuclear weapons of the ex-Soviet Union, and consequently waged a conventional war solely against the militaries of the West, would he still be evil? Of course he would. That he uses terrorism instead is beside the point.

Terrorism is simply the technique of last resort, employed...