Terrorism and Democracy

Date of Graduation

Spring 1999


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Jack Crouch


Terrorism as a phenomenon may well be as old as organized conflict, but in the last half-century it has intensified to the point where some consider it the method of choice for attacking democratic societies and ideals. Democracies are both uniquely vulnerable and uniquely resilient to terrorist attack, by virtue of the openness and liberal values that underpin them. This thesis will seek to examine why terrorism is effective in democratic countries, and it will explore the range of means available to reduce the threat without destroying the liberal values that one seeks to defend. In this instance, overreacting is possibly more dangerous than not reacting at all. This thesis will examine the issue by examining definitions of terrorism, focusing on law, legitimacy and democratic values. Next, whether terrorism is a domestic crime or a national security issue will be examined. The focus then shifts to an examination of terrorist methods, exploring the differences between "freedom fighters" and "terrorists." An examination of the spectrum of possible responses to terrorism, and the dangers/advantages of each will be performed. Finally the thesis will produce some policy recommendations for the United States, and seek to draw these threads together into a conclusion.

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Herbert Frederick Wolverson