Editor's Note: What if most terrorism isn’t really terrorism? In past decades, much of what we call terrorism today would have been seen as insurgent violence, revolutionary war, or civil war: a group like the Islamic State, which uses tanks as well as suicide bombing, is a prime example of an organization that is wrongly classified as a terrorist group. John Mueller of Ohio State University and Mark Stewart of the University of Newcastle in Australia unpack this definitional confusion and argue that it leads to a gross misunderstanding of the true threat we face.
John Mueller is a political scientist at Ohio State University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Along with Mark Stewart, a civil engineer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, Mueller is the author of “Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism,” recently published by Oxford University Press.
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Editor’s Note: Blowhards and wannabes pose a dilemma for domestic counterterrorism. On the one hand, if a fool makes empty threats that he (yes, it’s usually a he) can’t make good on, it seems an overreaction to jail him and throw away the key. On the other hand, incompetent fools can and do kill people, and ignoring their rantings risks at least a few successful attacks.