Terrorism is violence specifically tailored to affect politics through blackmailing the state and intimidating the society. Of all violent tactics, it arguably has the highest potential to do so. In the information and communications age, it is the broader destabilizing effect of violence on society and the state and its ability to affect politics that quickly acquires central importance. As demonstrated by high profile, mass-casualty terrorist attacks of the early twenty-first century, especially the September 11, 2001 attacks – unprecedented in scale, lethality, and impact – it no longer takes a major conventional war with hundreds of thousands of deaths to dramatically affect and even distort the global security agenda.
Terrorism is a threat at the interface of national/state and human security. It involves the direct use or threat to use violence against civilians (or is intentionally indiscriminate), but always goes beyond its immediate targets to serve as an asymmetrical tactic employed by a weaker non-state actor against a stronger protagonist of higher status, i.e. against a state, or a group of states, or an international organization, or the international community as a whole. The highly asymmetrical nature and disproportionately destabilizing manipulative effect of terrorism on politics explains why it will continue to pose a threat to many states and societies and to international security.