David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Ethics 8 (1):37-58 (2004)
This paper begins with a discussion of different definitions of “terrorism” and endorses one version of a tactical definition, so-called because it treats terrorism as involving the use of a quite specific tactic in the pursuit of political ends, namely, violent attacks upon the innocent. This contrasts with a political status definition in which “terrorism” is defined as any form of sub-state political violence against the state. Some consequences of the tactical definition are explored, notably the fact that (unlike the political status definition) it allows for the possibility of state terrorism against individuals, sub-state groups and other states. But a major problem for the tactical definition is the account to be given of “the innocent.” In line with justwar thinking, the idea of “the innocent” is unpacked in terms of the concept of non-combatants and this in turn is treated as the category of those who are not prosecuting the harm that allows for a legitimate violent response. Problems with this approach are explored, with particular reference to criticisms made by Gregory Kavka. The recent drive to expand the class of those who may be legitimately attacked is subjected to scrutiny. Particular attention is paid to the role of “collective responsibility” and “deserving your government” in these arguments.
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