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Terrorism - Just War, Walzer.docx

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Western University
Philosophy 2083F/G
Frank Cameron

TERRORISM AND JUST WAR – WALZER INTRO  Just war theory helps us understand the wrongfulness of terrorism  First, consider the choice of terror as a political strategy, and then worry about some of the problems of combating it  Terrorism is the random killing of innocent people, in the hope of creating pervasive fear – fear can serve many different political purposes  Randomness and innocence are the crucial elements in the definition  Innocence functions in the theory as a term of art; it describes the group of non- combatants, civilians, men and women who are not materially engaged in the war effort  The opposite of innocent is not guilty but engaged. Disengaged civilians are innocent without regard to their personal morality or politics  A lot of soldiers are not actual combatants; they serve behind the lines  Meaning of membership in an army and in civilian society – the army is an organized and all its members contribute to the achievement of its ends  They have been mobilized for a singular purpose, and what they do advances that purpose – they are isolated from the general public  Civilians have many different purposes they have been trained in many different pursuits and professions  But they are a collective of another kind – they identify themselves as they commonly share a language and a history and in some prosaic sense of the term, a destiny  Jus in bello, that civilians can’t be targeted or deliberately killed – this is the deepest meaning of non-combatant immunity  Only individuals charged with specific war crimes can be brought to trial and possibly, executed. All the others retain their individual and group immunities  Terrorists attack both these immunities  They signal a political intention to destroy or remove or radically subordinate these people individual and this people collectively  State terror is also most often focused on a collective that is thought to be oppositional or potentially so-sometimes an ethnic group, sometimes a socio-economic class  Tyranny and terror are always closely connected  Sometimes, perhaps, terrorists do have limited purposes  In all those cases where violence is random, directed against innocent men and women its victims have good reason to be skeptical about claims that the terrorists have a limited agenda, random murder implies universal vulnerability  If we name terrorists by their actions rather than their supposed goals we are then free to support the goals  A decent politics often requires a two front campaign – against oppression and occupation  I don’t believe that terrorism can ever be justified – in rare and narrowly circumscribed
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