Back to School Offer

Get 20% of Your First Order amount back in Reward Credits!

Get 20% of Your First Orderback in Rewards

All papers examples
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)
HIRE A WRITER!
Paper Types
Disciplines
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)

Is There an Ethical Defense for Terrorism? Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1440

Essay

With the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the issue of terrorism has acquired an unprecedented status within all facets of American discourse: on the public level, the private level and the academic level. This is certainly not to suggest that terrorism did not exist before these attacks: rather, Americans became intimately conscious of a phenomenon that had existed elsewhere in the world. Certainly, September 11, 2001, was not the first terrorist incident on American soil: the WTC bombings and the Oklahoma City bombings in the 1990s are two recent examples of terrorist attacks. Yet September 11, 2001, because of the spectacular nature of these attacks, forced a series of questions: what were the political and social conditions that led to these attacks, what was the logic behind them? This was not merely an attack without any etiology: there were apparent reasons that the terrorists attacked the United States on that date. To the more thoughtful within society, therefore, the terrorist attacks of September 11 became an event that triggered deep reflection: why did these terrorists attacks occur and in what context? Essentially, this leads to a greater question: is terrorism may be considered an ethical act when placed in the context of a conflict between political entities? If we examine the phenomenon of terrorism closely, it is irresponsible to suggest that there is an ethical element of killing civilians; however, at the same time, we must understand that terrorism is the product of certain failures in our greater theory of politics. In other words, terrorism is unethical however, there is also an unethical element in our current world political system, which causes terrorism.

Obviously, to develop this thesis we first need a working definition of terrorism. James P. Sterba, for example, in his article “Terrorism and International Justice”, employs the U.S. State department’s definition of terrorism as a jumping off point for the discussion: “Terrorism is premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” (206) As Sterba points out, this is a fairly dense definition of terrorism, with many themes operative in it. For example, terrorism is linked to a dimension of politics, it is carried out to achieve a political aim: at the same time, the definition of the U.S. State Department excludes the political entities of “states” from committing terrorist acts: note that the language used cites “subnational groups or clandestine agents.” (206) We can note that in this definition, that it implies that terrorism is carried out by a group that is not overtly acting as a political entity, such as a state, although it has a political aim; however, Sterba in his article corrects this apparent mistake, by noting that definitions of terrorism include the phenomenon of “state-sponsored terrorism.” (206) Yet even this term “state-sponsored” seems to imply that there is a covert element to terrorism, i.e., that a state never explicitly carries out terrorist activities, but rather only in an almost conspiratorial manner. This point I feel is very crucial to examining the ethical questions surrounding terrorism, precisely because terrorism itself seems to emerge as a sort of failure of politics itself: a group commits a terrorist attack because there is some gap between the identities of official political bodies and those who are not explicitly recognized as political bodies. Namely, terrorism is a particular political activity, but it falls within what is termed asymmetrical as opposed to symmetrical warfare: “terrorist tactics, such as hijackings and suicide bombings, are also considered to be asymmetrical, both because they tend to involve a smaller, weaker group attacking a strong one and because attacks on civilians are by definition one-way warfare.” (Kushner, 54) There are thus two key features to terrorism: first, it bears a political dimension, and a political dimension that does not have the standard character of politics, i.e., the relation between two nation states in the arena of conflict, since this would entail symmetrical warfare: rather, it revolves around a political imbalance and even the failure of one group to recognize a political group on a particular level. Secondly, the targets of the terrorist attack tend to be the civilian population (although the Pentagon attacks were not “civilians” in the strict definition.

When thinking about these elements together, we then begin to understand terrorism as a type of warfare that somehow speaks to an underlying failure of politics on the national and international level to address the concerns of the citizens, who then take obscene and violent measures to rectify what they conceive to be a political injustice. For what is crucial to the definition of terrorism is either a lack of balance in political power or some type of lack of political status itself. If there is an ethical dimension to terrorism, it lies in the ethical lack of how politics itself is practiced.

In his book Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Alan Dershowitz argues against this viewpoint of terrorism. He writes: “terrorism is often rationalized as a valid response to its “root causes” – mainly repression and desperation. But the vast majority of repressed and desperate people do not resort to the willful targeting of vulnerable civilians. The real root cause of terrorism is that it is successful.” (2) Hence, Dershowitz immediately identifies the possible rationalization of terrorism: that it can be justified because of some type of flaw in the political system itself. At the same time, he argues, that this is not the cause: terrorism is practiced because it is an effective political action. Accordingly, Dershowitz dismisses the possible ethical grounds of terrorism based on an argument that terrorism is merely another political tactic, essentially indifferent from any other political tactic: terrorism should thus be rejected because of the clear violence of this tactic. But Dershowitz fails to think through the particular context in which terrorism is successful: terrorism is not pursued merely because it is successful, but because the terrorist acts without a voice in the political system and is confronted by an imbalance of power. The political system itself appears to exclude certain voices, such that the only political act of the terrorist possible is an a-political act: one that lies outside the boundaries of the political, as the political itself has defined these boundaries.

Certainly, the immediate counter-argument here is that regardless of the oppression that may engender terrorism it still remains an act of violence directed against the civilian populace: it is an attention-grabber, a cheap act of political headline stealing, by those excluded from the political process. In this regard, terrorism is clearly indefensible: it is the taking of human life. However, what makes terrorism different from war, other than that those committing symmetrical warfare have the political status of a “state” and thus are able to define certain acts as terrorist, while defining their own actions as non-terrorist? This is the crucial problem, as in both war and terrorism there is the loss of innocent life: what makes war different than terrorism is the crucial question. From this perspective, both war and terrorism should be rejected as unethical, but trying to label war as ethical and terrorism as unethical because one is politically legitimate and the other is not relies upon the meta-narrative of politics as justifying any actions. But we know that there have been legally elected democratic governments, such as the National Socialists, that also performed acts of unspeakable violence.

Accordingly, the analysis of terrorism in terms of its potential ethical foundations ultimately leads us into deeper questions concerning the ethics of war and of politics. For this reason, the question itself is extremely fruitful: it forces us to re-examine our ethical commitments and some of the presuppositions that underlie our view of what is considered just behavior. Certainly, in the case of terrorism, the reliance upon terrorism’s non-political character is a poor means with which to criticize it from an ethical perspective, insofar as just because something is political does not justify its existence: this is clear to anyone who cursorily follows politics of history. Entities with “political” statuses have committed atrocities throughout human history. Accordingly, the ethical question of terrorism ultimately leads to a question of the ethical commitments of the political situation in which these acts occur: it is an analysis of the latter that will help dissolve terrorism, namely, by understanding the causes of terrorism.

Works Cited

Dershowitz, Alan M. Why Terrorism Works. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Inc., 2003.

Kushner, Harvey W. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2003.

Sterba, James P. “Terrorism and International Justice.” In: James P. Sterba (ed.), Terrorism and International Justice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003, 206-228.

Time is precious

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

Get instant essay
writing help!
Get instant essay writing help!
Plagiarism-free guarantee

Plagiarism-free
guarantee

Privacy guarantee

Privacy
guarantee

Secure checkout

Secure
checkout

Money back guarantee

Money back
guarantee

Related Essay Samples & Examples

The World’s Biggest Political Health Scam? Essay Example

In their role as a credible source of health data, nurses can impact the readiness of patients and their families to obtain COVID-19 vaccines. A [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 482

Essay

How External Factors and Stakeholders Impact Corrections, Essay Example

A good correctional leader needs to have significant knowledge in analyzing the problem and deciding the course of action. This is because the leader is [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 403

Essay

Heat and Temperature, Essay Example

The zeroth law, the first law, the second law, and the third law are the four laws that make up thermodynamics. “Thermodynamic equilibrium and temperature” [...]

Pages: 4

Words: 1024

Essay

Rogers & Boykin Nursing Theories Essay Example

In my opinion, Martha Rogers nursing theories and the Anne Boykin nursing theories provide a nurse with the caring foundation needed to excel at meeting [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 350

Essay

Ten Facts About Being Homeless in USA, Essay Example

As most people are aware, the gap between rich people and poor people in the United States is steadily increasing. Rich people have jobs that [...]

Pages: 10

Words: 2648

Essay

Clinical Article vs. Research Article, Essay Example

A clinical article often has a direct impact on the way health care and other medical services are provided because it provides the evidence required [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 496

Essay

The World’s Biggest Political Health Scam? Essay Example

In their role as a credible source of health data, nurses can impact the readiness of patients and their families to obtain COVID-19 vaccines. A [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 482

Essay

How External Factors and Stakeholders Impact Corrections, Essay Example

A good correctional leader needs to have significant knowledge in analyzing the problem and deciding the course of action. This is because the leader is [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 403

Essay

Heat and Temperature, Essay Example

The zeroth law, the first law, the second law, and the third law are the four laws that make up thermodynamics. “Thermodynamic equilibrium and temperature” [...]

Pages: 4

Words: 1024

Essay

Rogers & Boykin Nursing Theories Essay Example

In my opinion, Martha Rogers nursing theories and the Anne Boykin nursing theories provide a nurse with the caring foundation needed to excel at meeting [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 350

Essay

Ten Facts About Being Homeless in USA, Essay Example

As most people are aware, the gap between rich people and poor people in the United States is steadily increasing. Rich people have jobs that [...]

Pages: 10

Words: 2648

Essay

Clinical Article vs. Research Article, Essay Example

A clinical article often has a direct impact on the way health care and other medical services are provided because it provides the evidence required [...]

Pages: 2

Words: 496

Essay

Get a Free E-Book ($50 in value)

Get a Free E-Book

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!