The difference between terrorism and state sponsored terror is this:State sponsored terror is simply low grade warfare, typically directed at those populations directly under the state’s control. It is a bully’s weapon -- the powerful inflicting pain, suffering, and deprivation on the weak -- but it is backed up with genuine force.
If it wasn’t, those terrorized would rapidly rise in revolt and overthrow the state.
Terrorism in the modern sense is a weapon of the weak against the strong. This is not to be misconstrued as a moral endorsement. Terrorism as practiced today is an insidious device, but its aims are not as straightforward and direct as them seem.
The object of terrorism is to provoke a massive and unjust reaction by the target against the group the terrorists are trying to motivate.
Terrorists simply don’t possess the resources to wage a direct one-on-one war against their enemies (perceived or real). To get those resources they need the support of their particular group, be that group ethnic, racial, cultural, political, or religious.
Typically their group is not openly at odds with the target.
Oh, there are doubtlessly friction points, and quite often neither the target nor the terrorists’ group as a whole want anything to do with the other, but that kind of live & let live attitude is anathema to the terrorists.
While they may have other ulterior motives, their primary aim is to get their group motivated against the target.
So the purpose of terrorism is less the actual destruction of targets of values but rather the generation of outrage against their own group which in turn will lead to their group joining the fight against the target.
It’s as if your kid sister goes to the neighbors next door, pees on their dining room table, then runs back with them in hot pursuit; her hope is that the family will protect her against the neighbors, not listen to what they have to say and administer justice on their own.
Terrorism differs from civil disobedience, nonviolent protests, and passive resistant in a very key, crucial manner: Civil disobedience is aimed at creating a disruption and irritation to the daily operation of the target, until they finally get fed up and stop doing whatever it is the protestors are protesting.
The object of civil disobedience is not to create lasting harm; quite the contrary, civil disobedience only works when it can be stopped with a single word and everything goes back to normal.
You want African American riders to stop boycotting your busses, tell them they can sit wherever they want. They’re climbing back on the busses in less than five minutes.
Terrorism is not that. There are no states or groups capable of being intimidated by terrorism; if they were, they would have already been taken over by a tougher ruling cadre that won’t capitulate.
The recent attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and other targets in France are not aimed at intimidating the French into capitulation. Rather, it’s to provoke them into a stupid and senseless reaction against the terrorists’ group, so that the group will rally together against the target.
The terrorists are willing to kill dozens of the target so that thousands of their own group will die so that their group will be sufficiently provoked and enraged to go to war against the target.
It’s a row of dominoes, and the only way to keep them from tipping over the last one is to intercept a domino before it topples.
And the easiest way to do that is that when the terrorists’ topple their first domino…
…refuse to let the next one fall.
Oh, the macho bullshit chickenhawks will throw their little hissy fits -- they always do when they aren’t the ones who have to march off to blood and disaster – but don’t listen to them.
Listen instead to common sense and common decency.
 And if in so motivating them, the terrorists also become recognized as the group’s leaders, well so much the better.
 That’s nice, but purely a bonus.
 Renegade elements of the Irish Republican Army tried a bizarre hybrid of terrorism and civil disobedience after the bulk of Ireland gained its independence. They planted bombs but called the local authorities to alert them to evacuate the area before they detonated, causing disruption and no small amount of property damage, but studiously avoiding human casualties. The idea was that the British would never been sufficiently outraged to react in a large scale, and would eventually get worn down to the point where they’d agree to the IRA’s demands in order to stop the attacks. Unfortunately, it took only one bungled phone call to wreck that plan, and the wrath of the scepter’d isle came down hard and fast on the emerald one.
 It’s a popular trope that the French are cowardly cheese eating surrender monkeys who will give up at the first sign of danger. The truth is they have a long and blood military history, one that includes being on both ends of the invaders’ bayonet, and they are reluctant to take up arms on a large scale if they can’t see an obvious benefit or a valid exit strategy. One is foolish to mistaken caution in getting involved in every fight that comes down the boulevard with an unwillingness or inability to fight if needed.