While I find much value in Daniel Pipes writing, he missed the mark when he wrote that it was unproductive to consider whether the Ft. Hood attack was an act of terrorism, because there are too many definitions of terrorism and attacking soldiers is not terrorism.
In response, I commented:
I disagree with this pragmatic approach that finds it unproductive to question whether Hasan’s attack was an act of terrorism. Ideas matter as is reflected by the recommended narrower focus on jihad.
While there are numerous definitions of terrorism that prevent communication on the subject, an objective definition that represents the essential elements of the concept is possible. Based upon comparison to concrete instances of terrorism and effective counterterrorism, the best definition that I have found is that terrorism is “a belief that the initiation of force against symbolic targets by a non-state organization is an effective method for achieving political change.”
Using this definition, based upon news accounts, Hasan’s attack was an act of terrorism. The military personnel were symbolic targets representing American power and the threat modernity poses to reactionary interpretations of Islam.
Focusing upon jihad alone addresses the motivation for the violence, and is part of creating a backlash policy; however, it would prevent addressing other critical counterterrorism policy issues. For example, detaining terrorist criminals require isolation to prevent efforts to recruit those disposed to violence into the organization, in this case the “true” Ummah. Further, deterrence measures need to be taken to address terrorist infiltration into our military.
A narrow focus in the name of a pragmatic consensus obscures the proper course of action by evading the objective principles involved.