War & Terror; this is another essay that I did for School. The topic seems relevant.
As my topic for this essay, I have chosen the subject of war & terrorism. As everyone knows, this is a subject that is front and center in our times. I hope to be able to present a balanced view on the subjects of if there is such a thing as a just war, terrorism & morality, and if terrorism can be justified.
The first topic, the just war theory, according to the essay of Douglas Lackey, "Just war theorists sometimes fail to notice that just war theory describes two sets of wars: wars that are morally permissible, and wars that are morally obligatory." 1 In theory a just war is morally justifiable after the factors of justice, human rights and the common good are weighed into. But the question is who gets to decide what is just or unjust. People argue how to fight, that there should be moral limits when war are fought, the so-called rules of war.
There are two points I could use to argue with the author on. There are clearly defined rules in regards to the use of chemical and biological weapons, they are not permitted under the Geneva Convention, however the most destructive weapons in existence, nuclear weapons are permitted. Today we use the phrase collateral damage when, civilians are killed, according to the rules of war, civilians are not allowed to be targets in military conflicts. This was not the case in World War 2, a so-called just war, when civilians were killed by the tens of thousands on both sides. People feel that targeting civilians is an act of terrorism. Which leads to the next part of this essay, terrorism and if is can be justified.
Now, according to Haig Katchadourian's essay "Terrorism, in all its types and forms, is always wrong." 2 By definition, Terrorism is a term used to describe violence or the perception or threat of imminent violence. Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur, in 1999, counted over 100 definitions and concluded that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence". 3
Terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare, and is more common when direct conventional warfare either cannot be (due to differentials in available forces) or is not being used to resolve the underlying conflict. Mr. Katchadourian believes that terrorism in any form, even to bring down a despotically regime is incorrect and should not be permitted.
He believes even when terror is used for justice for wrongs committed against a country or group of people, that it is wrong, because this does not allow for legal protection and right, it puts them into the same position as the terrorists themselves. In this regard he has a point, how hard would it be to get a fair trial, if for example Bin Laden were captured alive and brought to the U.S. for trial, or on the other side of it, if one of our main leaders were hijacked by Al Queda and taken for a trial? He stated that "Terror directed against innocent civilians is a grave injustice against them." 4 In, an ideal world this is true, but we live in the real world.
Which brings us to the point of Can terrorism ever be justified? Burleigh Wilkins seems to think so. He asks the question, "Can we ever justify inflicting violence on another person/persons in circumstances other the self-defense?"5He uses as his main point the persecution of the Jews by the Germans. He points out that terror for terror would have been a morally justifiable response, and I tend to agree. What he fails to point out is the point of what a terrorist is in one nation is a hero in another. In the U.S. we consider the 9/11 attackers as criminals and cowards, "I too share this view. But in The Muslim world, these men are considered heroes. In the Isralei/Palasitian conflict, the suicide bombers of cafes, and buses, are called cowards on the Israeli side, but martyrs and heroes by the Palestinians. As an example, British Officers are sitting in a downtown hotel café for a meeting, suddenly a explosion, the officers are killed, and many civilians as well, now if this event took place in Baghdad, today, it is the act of terrorists and killers, and the ones who carried out the attack were evil men. This event actually did happen, but in Jerusalem, in 1947, at a place called the King David Hotel, by the Jewish underground, and strange as it seems, two of the men who executed the attack became Prime Ministers of Israel. So yesterday's terrorist is tomorrow's politician.
It is hard to justify war and terror. Certainly there are times when nations need to fight; there are times when a conquered or oppressed people need to stand up for themselves. The three authors made their cases in a understandable fashion. I guess the point is there can be justification for anything including terror depending on whose side of the loaded gun you happen to be standing on.
Sources that I used:
Just War Theory, Douglas P. Lackey, pg.298
Terrorism and Morality, Haig Katchadourian, pg.328
Terrorism and Morality, Haig Katchadourian, pg.335
War & Violence; Burleigh Wilkins, pg 338
1 Just War Theory, Douglas P. Lackey, pg.298
2 Terrorism and Morality, Haig Katchadourian, pg.328
4 Terrorism and Morality, Haig Katchadourian, pg.335
5 War & Violence; Burleigh Wilkins, pg 338