Historical pre-conditions, oppressive political regimes, and socioeconomic conditions give rise to different types of terrorism. They make terrorism a multi-faceted and complex issue. This paper provides a critical analysis of the moral connotation of two types of terrorism.
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State-sponsored terrorism and non-state terrorism
According to McCauley (2007), a state becomes a terror actor when it uses repressive tactics such as imprisonment, oppression, and death against its perceived enemies. On the other hand, non-state terrorism involves rebel groups engaging in terror activities with the aim of destabilizing government operations. Both groups are morally wrong. However, from an ethical perspective, I feel that state-sponsored terrorism is more morally wrong than non-state terrorism.
State-sponsored terrorism is more morally wrong than non-state terrorism
First, state-sponsored terrorism corrupts the moral standing of a nation. A state radicalizes the minds and hearts of society when it uses imprisonment, oppression, and individual assassination to thwart non-state terrorism. These tactics do not reduce the risks of terrorism. Instead, they serve as powerful terrorist-recruiting tools in the nation. They undermine efforts aimed at fighting terrorism (Stritzke & Lewandowsky, 2009).
Secondly, the damage caused by state-sponsored terrorism outstrips the damage caused by non-state terrorism. McCauley (2007) notes that for every innocent life lost due to non-state terrorism in the twentieth century, state-sponsored terrorism causes more than 280 deaths of innocent civilians. For instance, Tony Blair lamented in 2001 that terrorists have no moral values when they slaughter innocent civilians. This message was shared across the world. However, based on false terrorism intelligent statements, Tony Blair was one of the principal architects of the Iran invasion in 2003. The Iraq war caused approximately one million deaths of the Iraq civilians. This is 300 times the number of civilians, who died during the September 11th terrorist attacks.
It is also vital to note that states that sponsor terrorism are signatories to the international human rights declarations and conventions. The engagement of these states in terrorism is a violation of their commitments in international human rights (Shanahan, 2009). On the other hand, non-state terrorists are not bound by such treaties. They cannot be charged for going against their agreements. Therefore, a state that sponsors terrorist activities lacks moral support because its terror activities claim civilian lives.
Furthermore, governments use counter-terrorist activities to deal with non-state terrorism (Shanahan, 2009). I acknowledge that terrorism is morally wrong, but the use of state-sponsored terrorism to counter non-state terrorism is also morally wrong. A state that sponsors any form of terrorism has no moral standing to criticize terrorism. Lastly, deception, secrecy, and hypocrisy compound state-sponsored terrorism. When a government is involved in terrorism, it disclaims it (Shanahan, 2009). On the other hand, if its involvement is evident, it claims to be doing it legitimately for the protection of national security. It fails to be forthright about terrorism acts. On the contrary, non-state terrorism does not need to be deceptive, secretive, or hypocritical. Terrorist groups are open and forthright, and to some extent embrace terrorism to achieve morally justifiable goals.
Non-state and state-sponsored terror sponsored terror cause sufferings and deaths of civilians. However, the latter is more morally wrong than non-state terrorism. This is explained by the fact that state-sponsored terrorism damages and outstrips damages that are caused by non-state terrorism. In addition, state-sponsored terrorism uses evil actions to beget evil, which negates a government’s commitment to the agreement of international human rights. Finally, state-sponsored terrorism is not forthright and hence fails to justify its moral standing.
McCauley, C. (2007). War versus justice in response to terrorist attacks: Competing frames and their implications. In B. Bongar, Brown, L.M., Beutler, L.E.,Brackenridge & P.G. Zimbardo (Eds.). Psychology of terrorism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shanahan, T. (2009). The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the morality of terrorism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Stritzke, W. G., & Lewandowsky, S. (2009). The terrorism–torture link: when evil begets evil. Terrorism and Torture, 1(1), 1-10.