Criteria for Defining War, Terrorism, and Guerrilla Warfare Based on Clausewitz’s Concepts of the Nature and Essence of War

Vitelio Brustolin


The definition of terrorism and its differentiation from war and guerrilla warfare has been a problem for science, international relations and legal systems for decades. This article posits that defining terrorism requires also the definition of other warlike phenomena, so as not to conflate the acts or events. Therefore, the proposed criteria for defining terrorism and guerrilla warfare are presented as a means to differentiate their definitions from that of war. The methodology is a review of the concepts of the nature and essence of war, as described in the Carl von Clausewitz book, Vom Kriege (in the standard German edition of Hahlweg and its widely accepted English translation by Howard and Paret). These concepts were cross-analyzed with recent scientific discoveries about the behavior of social animals, with a focus on humans. The resulting classification allows historical or contemporary events to be evaluated to determine what kind of conflicts they are.


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