Car chase. Shooting. Injured. Killed. A car chase in Washington DC ends with gunfire, a woman killed and police officers injured. But this is not linked to terrorism. Which makes me ask the question, by whose definition?
What do you call the feeling you get when a bullet approaches you, and you know it will kill you? Well, terror. It might sound like nitpicking, but the boundaries we put on definitions also puts boundaries on how we think and handle the term.
I want to define terrorism as "the act of inflicting the feeling of terror into someone else". Failing to do so, we open for the possibility that generating terror in others can be justified in specific circumstances. Succeeding to name terror as terror, we open up to approaching terror as an emotional psychological foundation that causes violence, and at the same time gain a higher threshold to committing our own acts of terrorism.
This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other, that all boils down to what you want out of life. It is a subjective matter, just like the feeling of terror itself is, indeed, subjective. What we do know, is that inflicting terror is a response to the feeling of terror. That is, a police officer may fire a gun (thus inflicting terror on the suspect) as a response to his own feeling of terror that comes as a result of the criminal pulls his own gun and pointing it at the police officer. The criminal did this because of his own feeling of terror from being chased, even though he was chased because society at large had a feeling of terror from the criminal's behaviour. The criminal may very well have been engaging in criminal behaviour because of his own feelings of terror from being in an economic hole.
Which all sums up to the fact that terror generates more terror. The question then, is whether you want to live in a world of terror? Do we want to just cap the amount of terror by reacting only when terror has reached a specific limit, or do we want to do something to practically eliminate human-generated terror, aka terrorism?
I vote for the latter. We must focus on how to reduce and possibly eliminate the amount of terror a human can inflict on others. And the way to do this is obviously to do the opposite: Instead of making others feel unsafe, which is the precursor to terrified, we must make others feel safe.