How James Feldkamp shaped my opinions on the word terrorism

(Photo by Wally Gobetz, CC BY 2.0,

During my time at George Mason University, I had the most fascinating of professors in James Feldkamp who taught us modern history. The area of this topic which fascinated me the most was the section on terrorism history of which James Feldkamp was very much an expert. Terrorism is one of the hottest topics in today’s world and we can learn a huge amount about it when we look back over the years and see how we have arrived in the position which we have. James Feldkamp really made me think differently about this subject and here is how.


Something which the professor was always keen for us to dig into was the causes behind terrorist actions. This is something which many people can overlook when they are thinking about terrorists and we only see the acts of terror which they employ. As the professor rightly says there is never a justification for acts of terror but in order to understand it better we must look at the causes which have lead to such an attack. Sometimes this can be vengeance, other times nationalism and in some cases, it can be the result of great oppression. James Feldkamp taught me to always look beyond the attack.


Another feature of terrorism is the propaganda which goes with it and in many cases, this propaganda on both sides can be so strong as to create a situation which perhaps doesn’t actually exist. Professor Feldkamp would often highlight things such as particular groups taking ‘credit’ for something which actually had nothing to do with them, as well as pointing out domestic attitudes which can be manipulated via the media, in order to seek out long term governmental goals. We must always look beyond the propaganda and into the real issues.

Revolution or Terror

The most fascinating speech which the professor gave was when he discussed the Cuban revolution under Guevara and Castro. For many years we have viewed this pair as the ultimate revolutionaries, giving the country back to its people and overcoming oppression, which they are often lauded for. When you break this down however, the pair were both terrorists, they overthrew the Batista government by force and implemented their own regime. As the professor says, whether the people wanted this change or not, the acts of the Cuban revolutionaries are tantamount to those of terrorists, something which certainly gives pause for thought.


Throughout history, we learned from James Feldkamp that terror has been far less about attacking people, and far more about instilling fear. When you have a nation or an organization which is fearful of you then you have the ability to paralyze people. Even in recent history with the 9/11 attacks, there is less need for follow up attacks because the power has been shown and the fear has gripped a nation. Terrorists thrive on making people fearful and this is something which has never changed throughout history.

James Feldkamp offered lessons on terrorism, which has made me think about it in a very different way indeed.