Since September 11, 2001, many nations have now undertaken various steps in protecting themselves from global terrorism. While this may be the case, in reality, terrorism has been utilized among many nations and societies throughout history. In fact, looking through the different critical events in world history, some form of terrorism has played a major part in the birth and growth of a society or the decline of one.
Despite the fact that many historians have recognized the part terrorism had played throughout the course of history, ethics professionals are divided in their stand as to whether the use of terrorism is indeed a justifiable method to be used. The paper would look into the views of two authors with regards to the moral justification on the use of terrorism in modern-day society. To do this, paper would first present a summary of each of the articles in order to present their different arguments as well as their supporting evidences for each argument presented.
From here, the paper would then present an analysis of the different arguments presented by the authors in their articles. Due to the wide scope encompassed by the topic on the justification on the use of terrorism, this paper would be limited in presenting evidence from both articles pertaining to the moral justification of terrorism through the use of acts of violence among people. Wilkins’ Terrorism and Collective Responsibility
In this first article, Burleigh Taylor Wilkins opens up his argument by presenting his thesis statement that terrorism is a method that can actually be used for the benefit of many societies in certain situations despite the fact that the common perception of terrorism involves the violation of the rights of an individual, including his or her right to life (15). He had suggested that oftentimes, the use of some form of terrorism can bring about a change in current policies and standards that would have otherwise been viewed as prejudicial and unfair for the majority.
To support this, Wilkins provides the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, daughter of the respected publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Through the use of a method of terrorism, in this case kidnapping, Hearst had been compelled to changing his policies and behavior in order for those employed by his companies to gain more benefits, many of which have long been overdue (16). There is a fine line with regards to what can be considered as a morally justifiable form of terrorism and those that are not.
According to Wilkins, acts of terrorism which are considered to be morally justifiable are those which compel a group of individuals or a particular society to make amends for any form of prejudice and persecution done towards another group of individuals. This is what Wilkins referred to as the onset of collective guilt on the part of the persecuting group of individuals. Wilkins utilized the persecution done by the Jews towards the Germans after the Second World War as an example to justify this.
During this period, thousands of Jews were persecuted by the Germans as a means to eradicate what they have considered as the inferior race and instigate a white German population. This act of terrorism was done in order not just to reform the social composition of Germany during this time, but also to instill among the white Germans of their superiority as compared to other races.
As a form of response, the Jews had begun to perform various acts of terrorism against the Germans after the Second World War. For Wilkins, he perceived the acts of terrorism instigated by the Jews against the Germans to be morally justifiable since this was apparently a response to the massive persecution and prejudice that they experienced in the hands of the Germans for simply being Jews.
By performing various acts of violence towards the Germans on the grounds of simply being German, the Jewish community had been able to instill among the Germans a feeling of collective guilt among them, which, in turn, resulting to the German government and members of the German society to take measures in order to make amends for the acts of persecution they had inflicted upon the Jewish community (23-28) Wilkins recognized the fact that terrorism acts would often entail public acts of violence inflicted by one group of individuals towards another group of individuals.
However, he is quick to state that not all acts of violence towards a group of individuals may be considered to be a form of terrorism and hence, supporting his premise that the use of terrorism can be beneficial for the growth and development of a society. For Wilkins, he described acts of terrorism as a means to advocate a change in policy or behavior that has become commonplace within a particular society. Any act of violence that support agenda that are beyond this cannot be considered as an act of terrorism.
One particular example is the rape of hundreds of women during the Second World War committed by Japanese soldiers. According to Wilkins, these rapes cannot be considered as acts of terrorism because the agenda that promulgated these rapes were for personal gratification and not a means to advocate some form of change or reform within the society (17). To be more specific, Wilkins stated that there must be two criteria that must be met in order for a particular act of terrorism to be considered morally justifiable.
The first is that the acts of violence have been committed after all other non-violent methods of negotiation have been exhausted without any amicable settlement between the two groups of individuals. The second is that the acts of terrorism must be only directed to the group of individuals who have collectively been a part of the persecution and other acts of violence inflicted upon the group of individuals committing the acts of terrorism (28). Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth
In his article, Fanon looks into the acts of terrorism committed within a particular society as a means to promote peace and harmony within a particular society. Here, he had stipulated that in many nations, particularly during the period when most of the countries were colonies of European nations, acts of violence and terrorism have been utilized by the government among the people was necessary in order to ensure peace within the colonial nation (38). One method this is done is through the zoning of a particular colony where the foreign settlers are separated from the locals.
The foreign settlers are situated in places within the colony which are considered to have amicable and desirable settings where they are able to thrive and prosper. On the other hand, the locals are situated within areas that have been considered as filthy and where much of the resources enjoyed by the foreign settlers are not available. This leads to the development of envy and jealousy among the locals against the foreign settlers, and as a result, acts of violence and terrorism are committed against these foreign settlers (39-40).
Fanon stipulated that this process can be explained by the theories of Karl Marx with regards to a capitalist society. Fanon stated in his article that when the foreign settlers occupy and colonize a particular nation, they perceive themselves to have a divine right to legitimatize their settling in this colony. While there are a number of different methods that can be utilized by foreign settlers in implementing their right to settle in a colony, they viewed the most effective of these methods is through the use of violence against the local inhabitants of the colony (40).
For them, they viewed the native inhabitants of the colony as a group of individuals that not only lack values, but according to Fanon, they went as far as considering them as the “quintessence of evil” (41). On the other hand, the local inhabitants view these settlers as nothing more than just a group of foreigners forcing their ways of life into their society causing to the slow, but steady destruction of their own cultural norms and traditions.
For them, no matter what these foreign settlers may state, the fact is that they are still foreigners living and forcing a claim on a land that is never theirs. As a means to protect their own cultural norms and way of life, local inhabitants utilize acts of violence as a means to preserve their traditional way of life which they view as being destroyed by the new policies being implemented by the foreign settlers (40-41). Analysis Both articles have stipulated various views with regards to the use of terrorism by societies during from the early part of world history until the modern times.
In both articles, the authors have stipulated that there are instances where the use of violence and acts of terrorism can be considered as morally justifiable despite the fact that these acts of violence can result to the subsequent harm and death of hundreds, and even thousands, of individuals. Both authors have clearly stipulated that acts of terrorism can only be considered as morally justifiable for as long as these acts of terrorism are committed as a means of defense or response for any form of violence that have been committed against them.
Acts of terrorism have been differentiated from different acts of violence based on the grounds that the former are committed as a means to compel some form of reform or change within the socio-political policies that have been considered as norms within a particular society. In addition to this, acts of terrorism to become morally justifiable must meet two criteria to be considered as such. The first is that these acts must have been committed after all forms of negotiations have been exhausted and no amicable settlement has been reached by both parties.
The second is that the acts of terrorism must be done as a means of response in order to compel some form of collective guilt to be felt on the group of individuals the acts of terrorism that have been targeted to. In order to support this, both authors have presented supporting events in history such as the acts of violence and terrorism inflicted upon by native inhabitants to the foreign settlers in colonies and the acts of terrorism that have been done by the Jews against the Germans after the Second World War as a form of vengeance after being subjected to immense persecution.
To some extent, the arguments presented by both authors are substantial that it is easy to initially understand why there has been a rise of acts of terrorism being experienced by societies all over the world so much so that many would be inclined to conclude that all forms of terrorism being committed against societies all over the world. This is because for each group of individuals instigating such acts of terrorism towards another group of individuals would always have their own set of reasons, many of which are those that meet with the criteria presented by Wilkins in his article.
Indeed, no terrorist group would ever state that their acts of terrorism is not a result of some form of oppression that have and continue to experience in the hands of the society where their acts of terrorism are being targeted. They would always stipulate that despite forms of negotiations, no settlement has been reached and no form of apologize and amendments have been reached. Instead of being able to alleviate the rise of violence currently being experienced by societies all over the world, the inverse has actually happened.
All over the world, individuals now live in fear with the onslaught of acts of terrorism committed by different groups of individuals, many of which are done as a form of retaliation on what they perceived to be some form of injustice committed towards the latter. One thing that both articles have failed to recognized is that most, if not all, of the acts of terrorism being committed by groups of individuals are those that are done with the victims of such crimes to be innocent individuals who had, in no way, have been a part of the crimes that have been committed against the former.
Take for instance the acts of terrorism that have been inflicted by the Jews against the Germans after the Second World War. Many of these victims were innocent individuals and had not been a part of the Third Reich that caused the mass persecution towards the Jews. On top of that, those that carry out these acts of terrorism are often groups of individuals that have not been subjected to such forms of persecution and violence.
Wilkins, in fact, stated in his article that these acts of terrorism were committed against these individuals for merely being German in order for them to experience the harshness of the persecution the Jews experienced during the Second World War for merely being Jews. Conclusion Today, individuals continue to live in fear on whether they would become victims of an act of terrorism for merely belonging to a specific ethnic group or practice a particular religion.
As stated earlier, many of the victims of these acts of terrorism often have nothing to do with the persecution and prejudice that have been inflicted by one society to another. The mere fact that innocent individuals are most likely to fall victim to such acts of violence, one can beg the question on whether such acts are indeed morally justifiable as stipulated by the authors. If this is such, all acts of terrorism can be considered as morally justified.
In closing, such arguments, in effect, provide terrorist groups a supportive claim for their reason on committing such heinous acts of violence. As a result, for as long as ethnic professionals would consider some forms of violence and terrorism to be considered morally justifiable, the likelihood of the decline of such acts of violence towards a particular society is very unlikely to happen. Works Cited Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Groove Press, 1961. Wilkins, Burleigh Taylor. Terrorism and Collective Responsibility. New York: Routledge, 1992.