One of the philosophical debates about the topic of terrorism addresses the question of what terrorism actually is defined as. Looking at this debate from Philosophical standpoint, terrorism should have the 4 main elements: agents, targets, purpose, and form or methods. All 4 of these main elements plays an important role in deciding what is actually considered ‘terrorism’. The four elements that need to be addressed in each definition are Agents, Targets, Purpose, and Method. Agents element pays attention to if the act of terrorism is state or non state.
State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against foreign targets or against its own people(S1). Non state terrorism refers to individuals or organizations that have economic, political or social power and are able to influence at a national and sometimes international level but do not belong to or ally themselves to any particular country or state,”who use violence to help accomplish their objectives(S2). Targets primarily focus on who the attack is being aimed at primary or secondary targets.
“Primary targets of terrorism are those persons to whose sense of justice the terrorist attempts to repeal and who are directly responsible for the problems that need to be changed”(S3). “A secondary target of terrorism is a person or thing that the terrorist wants to use as a means of appealing to the sense of justice of a primary target”(S3). A Secondary target is usually used when terrorist don’t have a way to get to a primary target. The purpose of the attack focuses on what the terrorist were trying to accomplish by the attack.
The last element is the method element and this focuses on how terrorists can use many different methods of attack, either by using threats or actually committing violence. Walzer, Held, and Jagger all have different accounts of terrorism all with different meanings and different elements. Walzer believes terrorism should be defined as “Intentional targeting and killing of noncombatants for the purpose of spreading fear and furthering a political aim”. Held believes terrorism should be defined as “Political violence that aim to spread violence that aim to spread fear”. Jaggar believes terrorism should be defined as “The use of extreme threat/violence directed to intimidate or subjugate govt, groups, or individuals which are directly aimed at the bodies or belongings of the innocent”. Alison Jaggar’s definition is the most clear definition put of the three. Her definition specifies that the people targeted do not only have to be civilians but innocent civilians. Jaggers definition has more advantages than the rest, starting with the fact that she includes the targeting of objects needed by citizens.
Her definition also makes it possible for the state and non state groups to be considered terrorist, this was the one thing missing from Walzers definition. Jagger’s definition does not define the specific method because everybody is different and is scared by different things, meaning no matter what was used to commit the act has nothing to with making it a terror attack only if it is aimed at the innocent. This is why Jaggers argument makes the most sense out of the three.
(NOTES) “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”(S4) This is a quote I came across while doing my research. Justifying terrorism is the same as justifying murdering an innocent person, there is no way to justify it. By justifying terrorism believe that your own beliefs or conflicts are more important than a group of innocent people who have done nothing to you. Terrorist murder people, and it can weaken a country’s economy. No matter what your reasoning is there is no way murdering the innocent is morally justifiable.
This is why terrorism can never be morally justifiable.