Terrorism and Just War Tradition: Issues of Compatibility
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
In simplest terms, I intend to argue in this dissertation that at least some types of terrorism are permissible within a Just War framework. There are two forms that this argument can take. There is the weak form that concludes that at least some types of terrorism are permissible within a Just War framework but leaves open the question of the justifiability of any formulation of Just War Theory. There is also the strong form of the argument that at least some types of terrorism are permissible within a Just War framework and that the Just War Tradition is the correct moral theory to govern martial actions, and therefore concludes that at least some types of terrorism are permissible. In my dissertation, I am arguing for the weaker claim and leaving open the question of the correctness of any formulation of Just War Theory. If Just War Tradition is correct and I am successful in demonstrating that at least some types of terrorism are permissible within a Just War framework, then I will have shown that at least some types of terrorism are permissible. As I have said, though, my project is not to argue to defend any version of Just War Theory that Just War Tradition is correct but rather to merely to demonstrate that at least some types of terrorism are permissible within a Just War framework. When evaluating any use of force within the scope of a Just War framework, two questions need to be addressed: (1) was it appropriate to engage in the use of force (jus ad bellum considerations), and (2) was the force used appropriately (jus in bello considerations). It is within the scope of these two questions that most of the objections to terrorism arise. In my dissertation, I argue that a terrorist campaign or action can meet key standards of jus ad bellum and jus in bello implicit in Just War Theory. I show how these standards can be met in response to two central objections to terrorism, that terrorists lack the authority to make war, and that the random targeting of civilians renders terrorism unjustifiable. iii I approach the question whether it is appropriate for terrorists to engage in the use of violent force from the perspective of a Lockean theory of individual sovereignty. I show that the authority to engage in martial activities rests with governments because that authority has been granted them by those individuals who have come together to form the community over which the government has been given authority. Individuals who have delegated authority to the government, however, have not alienated their right to engage in martial activities. Instead, they have suspended exercising their right to engage in martial activities contingent upon the governments’ using that authority appropriately. When governments fail to use their delegated authority appropriately, then individuals can once again exercise their rights. This includes coming together to form new communities—non-governmental organizations—through which to exercise their power, including their right of self-defense. I deal with the second question, the appropriateness of terrorist tactics, e.g. intentionally targeting members of civilian populations, by arguing that many more members of the civilian population are combatants than most people realize. I argue that anyone who is dangerous in the martial sense, where the martial sense of dangerousness is understood as having one’s behavior purposely directed in support or military or other martial activities makes one a combatant.
Gatliff, Jason, "Terrorism and Just War Tradition: Issues of Compatibility" (2006). Philosophy Ph.D. Dissertations. 14.