We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is State Terrorism?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 24, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

State terrorism is a form of terrorism committed by the government of a nation-state. This term has attracted some controversy, as it can involve fuzzy definitions and imperfect distinctions between the legitimate use of violence and intimidation and the illegitimate use of such tactics. Some nations such as Iran and Pakistan have been routinely singled out as terrorist states, but the label has been applied to a wide variety of other governments, including nations like the United States and Great Britain.

Terrorism involves the use of violence, coercion, and threats to create instability. The instability in turn can lead to social chaos, a decline in morale, and the collapse of a government or social group. When it is committed by individual actors, terrorism is usually easy to define: a suicide bomber who destroys a school to make a political statement, for example, is a terrorist. However, when one is discussing nation-states, things get a bit more complex.

When a nation undermines the legitimate government of another country, this is often treated as terrorism. If, for example, Country A sends covert troops into Country B to destabilize its government, this could be considered state terrorism, and distinct from a legitimate act of war. Surrogate terrorism, in which one nation supports another's terrorist activities, or contributes support to terrorists active in another country, is another form of terrorism. This is sometimes referred to as “state-sponsored terrorism,” because the nation-state involved takes a hands-off approach while still supporting terrorism.

One of the most famous incidences of state terrorism, the Reign of Terror in 18th century France, involved the use of terrorist tactics by a nation on its own citizens. The French government, struggling for legitimacy in a chaotic nation, attempted to keep the populace subdued with draconian and violent policies. Many dictators use similar tactics to keep their citizens in check and to prevent protesting, although these activities may not always be viewed as terrorism.

Critics of nations which tend to get heavily involved in international politics sometimes accuse these nations of state terrorism. Countries which utilize terrorist tactics to defend themselves or gain political ground may also find charges of state terrorism leveled at them, although the charges can be difficult and finicky to prove. Because there is no clear international legal definition, it is also difficult to get the United Nations involved in suspected cases.

Although it is difficult to pin down what state terrorism is, many people agree that it leads to instability worldwide, and is therefore an issue which needs to be addressed by the international community.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments

By GenevaMech — On Dec 09, 2010

@ glasshouse- In this complicated geopolitical arena, state terrorism is hard to fight. As the article said, state terrorism is hard to prove. Finding allies who will aid a nation in doing something about these types of operations is also difficult.

The China and North Korea cyber-attacks were likely meant to be espionage attacks meant to gather some information as well as test the nation’s cyber capabilities. To be honest, the United States probably engages in this sort of operation just as often as other countries. I believe that the poorly coordinated cyber-attacks are the ones that make the news. The most effective attacks likely go undetected or unreported.

By Glasshouse — On Dec 08, 2010

How does the United States fend off a terror state? I hear talk about state terrorism against this country all the time, but it seems like not much is done unless it is on the magnitude of the September 11 attacks. There is probably much more that is done than the general public is aware of, but it seems like the international community doesn't hold some of these belligerent states accountable. Nothing was done after China attacked google, North Korea hacked our Government computer systems, or Iran has been caught funding anti-American terrorists.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.