Essay: Morally There Is No Difference Between Killing

Pages: 7 (2106 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism  ·  Buy This Paper

Morally There Is No Difference Between Killing Civilians With Bombs From Military Aircraft and Blowing Them Up With Bombs

Morally, is there a difference between killing civilians with bombs from military aircraft and blowing them up with bombs?

The central question of this paper raises some complex moral as well as practical and legal issues. On the one hand there is certain, if somewhat spurious, validity to the argument that justifies civilian deaths in a military action as a result of "collateral damage." The bombing of civilians in an anti-terrorist action is commonly seen in a different and more positive moral and ethical light to the actions of the terrorist or terrorist group who purposely set out to harm or terrorize innocent people by detonating a bomb in a crowded public thoroughfare. However, this raises the question of whether there is any real moral difference between these actions.

On the other hand there are many commentators and scholars who argue that a certain moral justification can be ascribed to the so-called terrorist who plants a bomb in a crowded pubic area. This stance asserts that there are conditions, such as political oppression and unjust forms of hegemony or subtle terror exerted by dictatorial governments that 'justify' these actions to a certain degree. (Nagengast C. 1994. p.120)

The difference between these two perceptions of what constitutes morally justification or acceptable action rests largely on the intentionality of these acts - and the way that this intention is perceived. Perception of intention is a crucial aspect in this debate that will be explored in this discussion.

This paper will attempt to argue that both of the above arguments are indefensible in moral terms and that military bombing and the planting of terrorist bombs that injure, kill and terrorize people are in essence one and the same thing. In the first instance it will be argued that because certain actions are sanctioned by governments or the military of a country does not make that action less reprehensible than actions by a single person to small group. In essence this suggests that the killing and terrorism of civilians any form is unacceptable.

A reading of the relevant literature on this topic has led to the following basic outline that will act as a starting point of this discussion. Terrorism can be broadly understood as an attack that is intentionally directed at civilian targets, with external aims and intentions. Secondly, terrorism is by its very nature and immoral activity. If follows from this that those who condone or are involved in deeds of terror are acting in an immoral sense.

2. The central issue of terrorism

The central issue that underlies the question under discussion in this paper is the meaning of the term terrorism. As Bonanate (1979) notes; "I cannot avoid stating that terrorism has not only been used by private groups, but also by states and governments; not just in domestic affairs, but also in international politics..." (p. 198).

This is indicative of the view that the understanding and accusations of terrorism cannot be relegated only to certain groups or individuals. Rather, terrorism should be seen as an act that is immoral, no matter who perpetrates that act. Therefore, before we can deal adequately with the argument at stake it is first necessary to ascertain what terrorism actually means and what constitutes an act of terror, whether this is a military bombing or an individual bomber.

As has already been referred to, terrorism is by its very definition is morally unacceptable. Therefore those who perpetrate terrorism are morally reprehensible. This is a point that is generally agreed upon by all theorists. However, the definition of terrorism is the subject of much argument and debate. It is also important to consider that the term terrorism is a highly emotive term that often carries with it considerable interpretive bias. As Bonanate notes, "Very often it has been the object of insults and accusations rather than of analyses, giving rise to moralistic positions rather than scholarly discussions" (Bonanate 1979, p. 197).

Terrorism is commonly defined as, "... The premeditated use of violence by a nonstate group to obtain a political or social objective through fear or intimation directed at a large audience "(Bergesen a.J. And Lizardo O. Iternational 2004, p. 38) This definition is generally acceptable - except for the word 'nonstate', which I will argue against in this following pages.

A more comprehensive definition of terrorism is as follows:

The use, or threat of use, of anxiety-inducing extranormal violence for political purposes by any individual or group, whether acting for or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such action is intended to influence the attitudes and behavior of a target group wider than the immediate victims and when, through the nationality or foreign ties of its perpetrators, its location, the nature of its institutional or human victims, or the mechanics of its resolution, its ramifications transcend national boundaries. (Livingston, Kress, & Wanek, 1978, p. 2) central aspect that this quotation obliquely indicates is the concept of relative deprivation. This refers to the comparison that many groups and individuals make with relative situations in other counties and regions. These comparisons are made possible by the modern communication channels like the Internet, as well as to the phenomenon of globalization. (Cohn, 2002) This also refers to perceived inequalities: for example between the economic and living conditions between First and Third World countries. These comparisons can act as an instigating and motivating factor for terrorist actions. As Evans (1979) states in this regard,

To understand the relationship of this process of modernization to terrorist violence, the concept of "relative deprivation" must be mentioned....political violence is a consequence of a significant gap developing between the value expectations of a given group of people and the value capabilities of the group. (Evans 1979, p. 11)

Therefore, some theorists take the stance that terrorism is a response to perceived relative deprivation and is often the only possible and feasible form of retort to oppression. This may be a reason for terrorism but it does not justify these actions in any moral sense.

There are many other variables that impact on the understanding of terrorism and terrorist acts. Primary among these is the connection between religious views and the justification of terrorist acts. This has been clearly evident in recent years in the Palestine - Jewish conflict, among others, where acts of terror are justified by the overall religious views and attitudes of the protagonists. " What has been called the new religious terrorism or holy terrorism reflects the increasing prevalence of religion in the ideology of terrorist organizations..." (Bergesen a.J. And Lizardo O. 2004, p. 42)

Therefore, a central rationale for terrorist action is that it is the only possible and effective form of defense against dominating and oppressive governments or organizations. This, for example, is one of the arguments that is used to explain the occurrence of modern terrorism and is also the rationale that is considered by some to be behind the attacks of 9/11 against the " American Empire." This is also referred to as blowback theory (Bergesen a.J. And Lizardo O. 2004, p. 45), where terrorist acts are seen as a response to what is perceived as American military and economic aggression in the world and particularly in the Middle East.

On the other hand, terrorism can also occur in the form of state or sub-state terrorism perpetrated by governments and other formal authorities. The justification for actions such as the organized bombing of civilians may be that is a 'necessary action' in the overall war on terror. However, this justification is also open to same moral criticism leveled at the individual radical terrorist or terrorist group. A number or studies have also condemned the reification of violence that is created by many government and social organizations. (Nagengast C. 1994) This social acceptance of certain types of violence while condemning other forms of violence is aligned with the concept of state terror. This also refers to the manipulation of public awareness and a certain moral blindness to certain actions, such as the bombing of civilian targets.

(Nagengast C. 1994)

3. Moral Aspects

As the above brief discussion of opposing views is intended to show, there is a certain moral ambiguity in the commonly accepted view of the terrorist act as opposed to state and military operations. This moral dilemma that emerges in the study of terrorism, especially with regard to forms of terror that are perpetrated by the state in the justification of antiterrorist actions that kill innocent people, is succinctly stated by Burham (1974). "...either the antiterrorist strategy is in itself terroristic or it is ineffective...There is no exit form this dilemma...' (Hamilton and Hamilton 1983, p. 4) This leads to a moral dilemma that relates directly to the question that the present paper is attempting to address. Phrased differently, this question could now read: while it is accepted that terrorism is morally indefensible in… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?
Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 7-page paper:  $28.88

or

2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88

or

3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Kant and Mill Term Paper


Targeted Killing Research Paper


Criminal Justice and Capital Punishment Essay


Scarface Latin American Culture Term Paper


Attempted Crime Should Be Punished Just as Severely as Completed Essay


View 161 other related papers  >>

Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Morally There Is No Difference Between Killing.  (2008, August 12).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/morally-difference-killing/11239

MLA Format

"Morally There Is No Difference Between Killing."  12 August 2008.  Web.  25 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/morally-difference-killing/11239>.

Chicago Format

"Morally There Is No Difference Between Killing."  Essaytown.com.  August 12, 2008.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/morally-difference-killing/11239.