Difference Between War and Terrorism (With Table)

War and terrorism are both acts of violence or any action that disturbs the peace and ambience of a limited or large geographical area. While wars and terrorism have very different reasons and the outcome of both is fear, hatred, injury and death. The difference between the two, however, can be discussed as follows.

War vs Terrorism

The difference between War and Terrorism is that they differ in their organization and ideology, and cause. Wars are usually well organized and declared and arranged by the government of the political nations participating in a war, whereas terrorism is an unorganized form of violence against the common people.

War can be described in the simplest of forms as a conflict between two or more political divisions or units for the display and acquiring of territory and to achieve the state of upper hand among the participating members of the conflict or war. It is a large scale physical or non-physical state of a clash between two parties.

Terrorism, as the word itself implies, is the act of instilling fear among the masses. It is a form of physical and non-physical conflict among people usually localized in areas with an agenda of instilling fear amongst the opposed and oppressed. Here there is no distinct political party that are the members of the conflict.

Comparison Table Between War and Terrorism

Parameters of ComparisonWarTerrorism
Type of ConflictWar is usually an organized form of conflict.Terrorism is an unorganized form of conflict.
DurationWar usually takes place for a long period.Terrorism is usually short-lived.
ParticipantsWar is usually fought between two political communities.Terrorism can involve both political or religious communities.
Area of ImpactWar usually has a larger area of impact.Terrorism usually has a limited area of impact.
Reason of ConflictWar is usually fought to acquire territory.Terrorism is usually enforced to create fear.

What is War?

War can be defined as an organized form of physical or non-physical, tactical, biochemical, mental or even psychological form of conflict between two participating members. War necessarily does not mean the use of armed men. It can also mean a nuclear war or also just a cold war between nations.

The reason for war is always multifold. A large number of reasons compiled together makes it large enough for governments to declare a war between themselves or that with other nations. Whatever the reason may be, war is always formally recognized and declared by the waging government as well as the one facing it.

The main objective of war is to acquire power by acquiring territory. This is not the only objective of war. A war can be fought for humanitarian crisis as well, but once a war is lost by a government, then its territory is usually taken by the victor and governed under their name and rules.

The participants of a war are usually trained in military tactics and operations. They make use of military technology and apparatus and are approved by the government as soldiers. They may also include the navies, border security forces or pilots. No civilian takes part in a war unless recruited and approved by the government.

What is Terrorism?

Terrorism or a terrorist attack can be defined as an unorganized and unexpected form of physical or non-physical, tactical or even psychological form of conflict between members of the same nation or adjoining ones. In almost all cases, terrorist attacks are destructive to public property and are usually physically fought.

The reason for a terror attack is not always religion, in contrast to the common notion. The reason for terrorism can also stem from political or ideological differences and detest between the attackers and the civilian. The group causing terrorism are called the terrorists. A terrorist can be a single person, or a group of like-minded people joined together to bring enforcement to their ideas by causing fear and oppression among the common people.

Usually, the participants of a terror attack are powerful people who have acquired power through political association or acquiring weapons and vehicles illegally. The participants of a terror group are not recognized and approved by the government but are always considered rogue.

Usually, the area of effect of terrorism is limited to a narrow geographical area in comparison to a war that has a wider reach. However, a war usually has less public property damage than a terror attack.

Main Differences Between War and Terrorism

  1. Wars are usually planned and executed by political entities of entire nations, while terrorism is sudden and unexpected.
  2. Wars are usually fought by trained military personnel, while terrorist groups can be joined by any commoner sharing the same ideology or even people who are forced to join terror groups.
  3. Wars usually last for a longer period than terrorist attacks.
  4. Wars usually have a higher death ratio than a terrorist attack which usually has a higher loss of public property and heritage.
  5. Wars usually do not have oppressive humanitarian objectives, while terrorism can result in such.
  6. Wars usually are declared while terrorism is not declared.


Despite the major difference in the reasons, participants and ideology of wars and terrorism, the outcome of both war and terrorism Is gruesome. Large scale injury and death and a state of emergency linger during the period of both war or a terrorist attack. The normal living conditions and necessities of the common men are compromised, and large-scale destruction of property takes place.

In any form of conflict, the peace and harmony of the area and the wellbeing of the residents are compromised, and usually, even the victor receives a heavy loss of precious life and property. In all cases, both war and terrorism must be avoided and discouraged.


  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057/9780230244375.pdf
  2. https://www.ojp.gov/library/abstracts/terrorism-introduction
2D vs 3D