6. war, terrorism, and the `war on terror'

Most of us agree that terrorism is always, or almost always, wrong, which is hardly surprising, since the word is generally used to express disapproval. If an act of which we approve has features characteristic of terrorism, we will be careful to deny that it is in fact an act of terrorism. For example, those who believe that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally justified tend to deny that they were instances of terrorism. So while we agree that terrorism is almost always wrong, we sometimes disagree about what it is we are condemning. To avoid misunderstanding, I will say at the outset what I understand terrorism to be. Acts of terrorism are intentional efforts to kill or seriously harm innocent people as a means of affecting other members of a group with which the immediate victims are identified.1 Usually the aim is to terrorize and intimidate the other members as a means of achieving some political or broadly ideological goal, though the aim might be different: it might, for example, be to punish or achieve vengeance against the group as a whole. Although the group against which terrorism is directed is usually political in nature, it need not be. It might, for example, be the group of doctors who perform abortions. Because the term `terrorism' is normatively loaded and therefore tends to be used by people to describe their enemies whatever their enemies may do, there is no definition that can capture all the many ways in which the term is ordinarily used. But the..
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