From the standpoint of operational intelligence there is no such thing as a truly “spontaneous” demonstration. The use of the term spontaneous implies there is no specific element that instigates an action. When some act is referred to as evolving through no initiating or organizing catalyst, the intent is to suggest there is no responsible actor creating the circumstance. This is what Barack Obama and his administration have attempted to do in regard to characterizing Islamic-based actions against non-believers.
In other words, President Obama at every occasion seeks to deflect or even exonerate possible organized Islamic religious sources from blame in such instances of conflict. Of particular priority for the Obama national security and foreign affairs staff is to not allow the term “terrorist” or terrorism” to be connected to acts proceeding from an Islamic-linked base. The objective of this practice appears to be to avoid condemnation of the religious identity as inspiration or root of the subject actions.
This policy would be a legitimate and theoretically effective diplomatic maneuver if there was any indication that such a tack would be accepted by the followers of violent forms of Islam as a peace-seeking gesture to which they would respond in kind. Unfortunately this is just not the case. The opposite is what occurs. Reasonable outreach by non-Islamic elements is viewed as weakness and something to be exploitated.
Terrorism is an end in itself. An act of terror, such as a crude explosive device thrown into an innocent crowd of commuters, establishes the chaos and insecurity that is both the device and the aim of the terrorist act. Terrorism instills fear into the target civilian community and engenders insecurity in the military or police organization assigned to protect it. This has been the motivation for terrorist acts by organizations ranging from criminal drug cartels to politically aimed insurgencies.
Acts of war are often characterized as having a terroristic objective. The firebombing of Dresden and other German cities during World War II has repeatedly been offered as an example. In turn the German bombing of Coventry has been given as justification for the British bombing of German cities. Military actions that result in terrorizing civilian populations occur in all wars. In this sense terrorist attacks can be explained away wherever conflict exists.
Terrorist tactics, however, when they are used to further religious belief or purportedly to defend such belief, have no justification in the Western cultural milieu dominated as it is by modern Judeo-Christian ethical concepts. Thus when a governmental administration refuses to acknowledge the existence of such acts, or seeks to characterize them in any form of benign manner in regard to the act itself or the motivation for such an act, that administration has unintentionally assisted the terrorist perpetrators.
What is hardest for most people to understand is that terrorists can evolve from any society — secular or religious. Furthermore, terrorist acts — and terrorism itself — is not merely the tool of the zealot or deranged. Any individual or group that believes itself to be deeply and purposely exploited can turn to terrorism as a weapon against its antagonists. It is this characteristic that has prompted the definition that terrorism is the tactic of the weak against the strong.
Societies have varying perceptions as to what is considered a terrorist act. There is general agreement among existing nation-states that any attack on an official diplomatic site of another country is not only a conscious effort to terrorize the personnel within that facility, but also intended as a message of violence to the nation represented. There never has been any leeway in the characterization of overt attacks on diplomatic missions.
The response of the current American presidency to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was an attempt to obfuscate a clear situation in fear of an adverse reaction from Islamic leadership. It was also an effort by the Obama Administration to avoid overt recognition of what is considered legally and historically a cause for military intervention at a time when part of the Obama platform for reelection is avoidance of international conflict and the material and psychic costs involved.
Terrorism is the chosen instrument of radical Islam. It is a very effective weapon when dealing with a Western nation fearful of its own power. As the famed Bernard Lewis wrote, however, in his book The Crisis of Islam, “Sooner or later, Al Qa’ida and related groups will clash with other neighbors of Islam — Russia, China, India — who may prove less squeamish than the Americans in using their power against Muslims and their sanctities.”
It is too bad that President Barack Obama chooses not to read intelligence reports nor presumably many other sources of Middle Eastern history and culture. What is and is not terrorism is well defined by the tactics that are used and the result of those tactics. One thing is clear: It’s not as difficult a decision to discern these factors as Washington politicians and bureaucrats make it out to be — unless there is another agenda driving the issue.