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Ethics of Terrorism

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Western University
Philosophy 2083F/G
Frank Cameron

CHAPTER 5 : THE ETHICS OF TERRORISM  Indeed, terrorism seems to be for many the very instantiation of evil  US Department of Defense: the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property o intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or a segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives  Or unlawful use of or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies often to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives  Coady offers an already classical definition: a political act, ordinarily committed by an organized group, which involves the intentional killing or other severe harming of non-combatants or the threat of the same or intentional severe damage to the property of non-combatants or the threat of the same  Sharp distinctions are not so much peculiar as strongly needed  Thinks that terrorism is political violence that at least usually spreads fear beyond those attacked  Terrorism is not just simple coercion it looks to the possibility of creating a certain psychosocial condition in a population that is radically at odds with the range of psycho-social states  Waldron says that we need not surmise that this would result literally in terror...in order to see that even the taking of reasonable precautions by large numbers of people in the wake of such experience would radically alter the way that life is lived in this country  Thus the idea of terror being necessarily a part of what terrorists aim at is misleading  Onora O’neill terror does not necessarily aim at instilling terror, she claims that terrorist speech acts aim at fear  O’Neill analysis simply does not correspond to the reality of terrorism – unrealistic when she claims that terrorist organizations have to use those veiled communications because otherwise they would give too much away about themselves and thus make their capture easier  Terrorist speech by its very nature must be elliptical – their strategy is to spread uncertainty and ambiguity, and to create a level of fear that serves their ultimate objectives  More often than not the demands of terrorists are clear enough to enable people to sta on the safe side of these demands too  The veiled character of the threats and the attempt to create uncertainty is a defining characteristic of terrorism  Thomas C Schelling, Annette C Baier the motivation behind terrorist acts such as attacks on civilian skyscrapers or aeroplanes can lie for example in the fact that these acts strengthen the enduring will of a group or direct the attention of the world to a certain problem by means of a violent provocative spectacle or of shock  Coadys definition it is not clear why there should be only political and not criminal terrorism  Primoratz emphasizes, terrorism has not one but two targets: the immediate, direct target, which is of secondary importance and the indirect target, which is really important  David Rodin – his definition of terrorism is this, terrorism is the deliberate, negligent or reckless use of force against non-combatants by state or non-state actors for ideological ends and in the absence of a substantively just legal process  A third problem with Coady’s definition is his talk of non-combatants instead of innocents. The two groups are not identical  I propose the following definition: terrorism is the strategy of influencing the behaviour, perceptions, beliefs or attitudes of others than the immediate victims or targets of its violence by the threat, made credible by a corresponding act or series of acts, of the repeated killing or severe harming of innocents or the repeated destruction or severe harming of their property. Terrorist acts are such see are attacks on innocents or their property that are part of such a strategy  Strongly reprehensible collateral damage, to use Meggles own terms – is one which such legislators clearly take  Agnes Heller has ascertained: Terror does not originate in totalitarianism it has its origin in the principal of deterrence which has also been introduced in the legal procedures of democracies  One could argue that the victims of the attack on the WTC are meant
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