A person who has not been exposed to terrorist action finds it difficult to fully appreciate its true meaning. To live in an atmosphere of terror is to await the grenade arching over the garden wall, to search an automobile three or four times a day for detonators and a bomb, to realize that the whim of the enemy could result in the kidnapping or murder of one’s children, to keep one’s senses abnormally alert to every sound, to sleep with a revolver by the bedside and to search the face of each passerby for a sign that he, or she, desires one’s own death or mutilation.
Jacques Soustelle, the former Governor General of Algeria, described terror as a psychological weapon of unbelievable power. “Before the bodies of those whose throats have been cut and the grimacing faces of the mutilated,” Soustelle states graphically, “all capacity for resistance lapses: the spring is broken.”
Breaking the spring of resistance is the goal of a guerrilla movement. The guerrilla leader knows that each spring broken within the individual adds up to fracturing the giant spring of an established government or society or, at the least, rendering it useless by robbing it of support.