The terms “lone-wolf” terrorists and “domestic” or “home-grown” terrorists/terrorism are usually being applied misleadingly as irrelevant or unnecessary qualifiers of terrorist and terrorism, particularly in regard to militant Islamists (those who commit violent acts of Islamic holy war).
“Lone-wolf” terrorists are those who commit acts of terrorism alone, as opposed to those who either act in conspiracy with other terrorists or after having been inspired by others to commit terrorism. A terrorist may act on his own, as terrorism need not be a conspiracy. For example, the Unabomber acted alone. A terrorist may act on his own, but be inspired by others. However, terrorism may not necessarily even inspired by any other individuals. Islamism and Communism are examples of ideologies that justify violence. They are also inherently conspiratorial. Therefore, although a terrorist may act alone and not even be associated with any other terrorists or those who advocate for terrorism, he is not a “lone wolf” if he commits terrorist acts to advance such an ideology, for if he does, he is necessarily a participant in a larger armed conflict and thus part of a conspiracy.
“Domestic” or “home-grown” terrorists are those who are either not acting in conspiracy with or through inspiration from foreign terrorists. These terms are not relevant if the ideology that motivates the terrorist is itself of foreign origin, such as Islamism and Communism. All Islamist terrorism is thus necessarily foreign, not “domestic” terrorism.
There are no such things as “lone-wolf,” “domestic” or “homegrown” Islamist terrorists. The lack of precision that occurs when using these terms when they are not applicable is obscuring the ideological motivations of terrorists. As I have noted repeatedly on this blog, it is essential to identify the ideological beliefs of the enemy in order to defeat it.