Can Terrorism Ever Be Justified
Do you think there are situations when terrorism can be justified.
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In extreme cases, in which peaceful and democratic methods have been exhausted, it is legitimate and...
In extreme cases, in which peaceful and democratic methods have been exhausted, it is legitimate and justified to resort to terror. In cases of repression and suffering, with an implacably oppressive state and no obvious possibility of international relief, it is sometimes necessary to resort to violence to defend one’s people and pursue one’s cause.
Terrorism is never justified. Peaceful and democratic means must always be used. Even when democratic rights are denied, non-violent protest is the only moral action. And in the most extreme cases, in which subject populations are weak and vulnerable to reprisals from the attacked state, it is especially important for groups not to resort to terror. Terrorism merely exacerbates a situation, and creates a cycle of violence and suffering.
Terrorism works. In many countries terrorists have succeeded in bringing governments to negotiate wi...
Terrorism works. In many countries terrorists have succeeded in bringing governments to negotiate with them and make concessions to them. Where governments have not been willing to concede to rational argument and peaceful protest, terrorism can compel recognition of a cause. Nelson Mandela moved from terrorist to President. In many other countries we see this trend too – in Israel, Northern Ireland, recently in Sri Lanka, and in the Oslo peace process that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, terrorism is justified by its success in achieving results when peaceful means have failed.
Terrorism does not work. It antagonises and angers the community that it targets. It polarises opinion and makes it more difficult for moderates on both sides to prevail and compromise. A lasting and peaceful settlement can only be won with the freely given consent of both parties to a conflict or disagreement. The bad-feeling caused by the slaughter of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people by terrorists makes such consent desperately difficult to give.
Furthermore, states or institutions created in concession to terror are often corrupt, dominated by men of violence with links to organised crime. Nothing is achieved to improve the lives of the people in whose name terror has been used.
Terrorism can raise the profile of a neglected cause. The hi-jackings of the 1970s and 1980s brough...
Terrorism can raise the profile of a neglected cause. The hi-jackings of the 1970s and 1980s brought publicity to the Palestinian cause, helping to bring it to the attention of the world. States can use their wealth and media to put across their side of the story; their opponents do not have these resources and perhaps need to resort to terrorism to publicise their cause. In this way, limited and focused use of violence can have a dramatic international impact.
All publicity is definitely not good publicity. Powerful images of suffering and death will permanently mark the terrorists’ cause, losing the battle for public opinion around the world. Furthermore, groups that resort to terrorism play into the hands of their opponents; states suffering from terrorism can win powerful support from similarly affected nations, such as the USA, in combating this threat.
Ideals like “freedom” and “liberty” are more important than a single human life; they are what gives...
Ideals like “freedom” and “liberty” are more important than a single human life; they are what gives meaning to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Of course, peaceful methods should be tried first, but when all else fails then a nation/ethnic community or other group must be able to fight for its freedom and independence.
Abstract ideals are insignificant when compared to the value of even a single life. Life is sacred, and to murder anyone in pursuit of an idea – or even the improvement of other people’s lives – is shocking, abhorrent and wrong. No one has the right to say another person’s life is worthless, or worth less than the cause which is pursued through terrorism.
Actions should be judged by their consequences. In bringing hope, popular recognition, and ultimatel...
Actions should be judged by their consequences. In bringing hope, popular recognition, and ultimately relief to the plight of a group, terrorism is aimed at laudable objectives and can achieve sufficient good to outweigh the evil of its methods.
The end does not justify the means. The consequences of any action are by no means clear. The success of terrorism is not guaranteed; it is an immoral gamble to kill people in the hope of achieving something else. And even if the goal was realised, the price paid is literally incalculable. Those who use violence in the pursuit of “higher” aims presume to be able to calculate suffering. But the fear, suffering and death caused by terrorism damage millions of people. Not just the victims are affected, with their families and fellow citizens, but also people in many different countries who are put at risk because terrorists from other countries are inspired by these atrocious acts.
The definition of terrorism depends very much upon your point of view - the proposition does not nee...
The definition of terrorism depends very much upon your point of view - the proposition does not need to defend every atrocity against innocent civilians to argue that terrorism is sometimes justified. A broad definition would say terrorism was the use of violence for political ends by any group which breaks the Geneva Conventions (which govern actions between armies in wartime) or ignores generally accepted concepts of human rights. Under such a broad definition, states and their armed forces could be accused of terrorism. So could many resistance groups in wartime or freedom fighters struggling against dictatorships, as well as participants in civil wars - all irregular groups outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions. Effectively, such a definition says that the armies of sovereign states should have a monopoly on violence, and that they can only act in certain ways. Some exceptions to this are surely easy to justify - e.g. the actions of the French resistance to German occupation in World War II, or of American patriots against the British in the 1770s.
A narrower definition would say that terrorism was the use of violence against innocent civilians to achieve a political end. Such a definition would allow freedom fighters and resistance groups with a legitimate grievance to use force against dictatorship and occupation, providing they only targeted the troops and other agents of oppression. Yet even this tight definition has grey areas - what if the soldiers being targeted are reluctant conscripts? Are not civilian settlers in occupied territories legitimate targets as agents of oppression? What about their children? Doesn't it make a difference if civilians are armed or unarmed? Don't civil servants such as teachers and doctors count as agents of an occupying or oppressive state?
States who ignore the Geneva Conventions, for example by mistreating prisoners or deliberately attacking civilian targets, are guilty of terrorism and this cannot be justified. Nor are the Conventions only applicable to warfare between sovereign states - their principles can be clearly applied in other kinds of conflict and used to distinguish between legitimate military struggle and indefensible terrorism.
Nor is it reasonable to argue that there are grey areas, and that civilians are sometimes legitimate targets - once such a claim has been made anything can eventually be 'justified' in the name of some cause. All too often the political leaderships of protest movements have decided that limited 'physical force' is necessary to advance their cause, only to find the violence spiralling out of control. The 'hard men' who are prepared to use force end up in control of the movement, which increasingly attracts criminals and others who love violence for its own sake. The original base of support for the movement in the wider population and internationally is alienated. The authorities against whom the movement is struggling also respond by using increasingly repressive measures of their own, generating a spiral of violence and cruelty.
What do you think?