Is Terrorism Moral?

Statement

It’s sometimes justified to attack civilians in order to create fear and stop a greater evil.

Q1 Analysis

This is a Q1 violation if you think that ends do not justify means or you think it is immoral to kill innocents (unless you can successfully argue that the civilians you target are not meaningfully innocent).

Q2 Analysis

This is a Q2 violation if you would object to being killed as part of a plan to spur others into action against a perceived evil.

Discussion

If you are a terrorist*, then by Q2 you may have difficulty protesting the life-taking behavior of others. Because terrorists target individuals without knowing with certainty that the individuals are their enemy (by classifying entire countries or belief systems as their enemy), they essentially invite retaliation in kind. And because they often end up killing people who were not originally their enemies, they risk creating additional enemies.

Imagine that you want the government of Country Z to leave your country alone, so you start blowing up cafés where citizens of Z congregate. The army of Z locates your home and sends a missile to blow it up with the hope you will be killed. You survive the blast, but your daughter is killed. Can you hold Z morally responsible for killing your child? By Q2, likely not. Z was attempting to end an evil, just as you were, but they were attempting to target an active, admitted cause of harm. You were targeting people with only a tenuous tie to evil. It is tragic that your daughter died, but because Z’s actions are less immoral than yours, you cannot condemn their actions before condemning your own.

Following this line of reasoning, a belief system that approves of terrorism is effectively self destructive and very difficult to defend in a morally consistent way.

*For the purposes of this statement, it is important to draw a clear distinction between terrorism (attacking civilians to frighten a population into acceding to your demands) and guerilla warfare (a small military force attacking a large military force with harassment and sabotage).

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on October 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

One Response

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  1. Written by donK
    on October 14, 2010 at 11:17 am
    Reply · Permalink

    What do we gain by labeling a violent act as hate crime or genocide or terrorism or war? Are we seeking to make a distinction between killing for an insurance policy and killing for some larger, more abstract reason? Is this some extension of the grades of murder, a way to place differing blame based on circumstance or state of mind?

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