Term Paper: Just and Unjust USA War Against Afghanistan

Pages: 30 (9571 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism  ·  Buy This Paper

Terrorism

There are a number of ways to interpret terrorist attacks in the modern world. The Bush administration has chosen a particular perspective that is intended to justify the employment of the United States military as a tool for rooting out terrorism in general. However, there are many difficulties with the logical backing for such a position; the way terrorism is understood, and the sources of terrorism have been largely misconstrued. Many people have put forward criticisms of the White House's outlook -- some from particularly visible individuals -- and an equal number of alternative approaches to terrorism have been offered. but, fundamentally, terrorism needs to be understood as a means of waging warfare; usually adopted by those who possess significant strategic and militaristic shortcomings. Terrorism has existed as long as war has existed. Consequently, declaring a war on terror is analogous to declaring a war on infantry: such a conflict will occupy our forces wherever there is war.

Perhaps the most glaring trouble with formally pinpointing terrorism's position upon the spectrum between criminal activity and freedom fighting is the fact that definitions of it seem to elementally fall short. "Over the centuries, terrorists have employed daggers, guns, and bombs to kill and destroy; they have also staged kidnappings and hijackings to intimidate and coerce." This wide variety of aims and methodologies is mirrored by the variety of definitions that have often been assigned to the term. John Richard Thackrah, in his book Encyclopedia of Terrorism and Political Violence, manages to find a total of sixty-seven competing definitions of terrorism; many of which disagree upon major aspects, and some are simply contradictory.

President Bush has made his stance regarding terrorism reasonably clear ever since the topic came to the forefront of national debate. In his speech on September 17, 2002, he laid-out what he believes to be the primary function of the United States government: "Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government." This premise is not justified with any subsequent argumentation, but merely stated as if it were a fact. However, if someone accepts this idea, then the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 definitively represent a breakdown of the federal government, and warrant military retaliation.

He goes on to identify terrorism with "shadowy networks" and the forces of "chaos." To Bush, the very mechanisms of terrorism are the "gravest danger our Nation faces." The fact that terrorism is necessarily covert and inexpensive makes it a deplorable course of action, and associates it with everything that the United States acts against both within our nation and on a global stage. Bush appears to recognize the unique nature of the battle he has declared when he says, "The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism -- premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents." Still, even though terrorism is punished within our nation on the basis of the individuals who perpetrate it, on an international level Bush's response is to associate it with the political and religious settings that he perceives as breeding this violent infection. The method to preventing terrorism, to Bush, is a two pronged attack: "While we recognize that our best defense is a good offense, we are also strengthening America's homeland security to protect against and deter attack." So, deploying U.S. forces worldwide, while stepping-up the investigative capabilities of our law enforcement officials is the Bush approach to waging a war on terrorism.

Though by no means the authoritative expert upon the definition of terrorism, Bush and his interpretations are most important for their influence upon international policies. The pervasively flawed nature of the definition of terrorism allows for its manipulation and misuse in political and social forums. In short, the imprecise understanding of terrorism grants the cliche, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," some level of credence. Consequently, "Use of the term implies a moral judgment; and if one party can successfully attach the label 'terrorist' to is opponent, then it has indirectly persuaded others of its moral viewpoint. Hence, the decision to call someone or label some organization 'terrorist' becomes almost unavoidably subjective." Historically, this ambiguity surrounding terrorism has not required much particular attention because it was a largely localized phenomenon, and limited in its scope. However today, the importance of adequately identifying and reacting to terrorism has become amplified both by the lack of geographic confines surrounding its perpetration, and the almost unimaginable levels of destruction that terrorists have the potential to unleash.

In addition to the global demonstration of the power of terrorism on September 11, 2001, it has become increasingly apparent that terrorists maintain the capacity to perform equally devastating acts in other ways as well. Certainly, of all the possible modes of attack terrorists or other enemies might utilize, biological threats are one of the killers that the public is most aware of. The past fifteen years have seen numerous investigations into nations like Iraq and the former Soviet Union; all of which seeking to assess the destructive resources present in these areas. International laws have made some steps to limit the type of weaponry that can legally be used in warfare. "The great loss of lives and resources in World War I led to a popular movement to reduce the horrors of the war. The movement sought to control weapons of war that violated the customs and laws of war." In response to this general public outcry in the wake of the First World War, "The Geneva Conference for the Supervision of the International Traffic of Arms of 1925 was the first international agreement involving chemical and even biological weapons.... The conference produced the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases, and of Bacterial Methods of Warfare, which banned the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons in war." At the time of the conference no one truly recognized the destructive capabilities of biologic war; chemical warfare was their primary concern. But although the treaty limited the use of such weapons, it placed no limits on the production of them. Consequently, nations continued to stockpile and develop weapons of this nature in increasing number and with increasing destructive power.

Later international protocols limited the development of chemical and biological weapons in certain nations identified as "rogue" nations. Obviously, Iraq was one of these countries. With the recognition of potentially dangerous nations and potentially dangerous weapons, it was left up to the world's imagination to speculate specifically what diseases could serve as the most deadly agents. Anthrax was one of the first threats recognized by the media and presented to the public as a tool for terrorists, attached with the message to "be vigilant." These looming threats have magnified terrorism's ideological woes: "The increased importance of terrorism for the policy stance of the governments as well as the need to legally pursue the perpetrators of alleged terrorist acts resulted in quite a few official definitions of terrorism." Essentially, the recently reorganized position of the United States -- to completely eradicate terrorism from the face of the earth -- has made this problem both more difficult and more significant. Doubtlessly, a neutral definition of the term would facilitate its most practical application practically and ethically; unfortunately, the emotionally charged battleground surrounding terrorism almost certainly makes this goal impossible. Out of this, particular interests are often infused into what should be dispassionate formulations of political agendas.

One current example of contrasting definitions of terrorism comes from the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The United States, having undeniably chosen to side with the Israelis, is presented with a serious dilemma when attempting to define terrorism; this is because any neutral definition of the term is likely to implicate Israel as a "terrorist state." From either perspective, Palestinian suicide bombers are undeniably terrorists. This is aligned with one widely accepted definition of terrorism explained by Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir: "Whether the attackers are acting on their own or on the orders of their government; whether they are regulars of irregulars, if the attack is against civilians then they must be considered terrorists." Yet, other public officials have taken a decisively different stand regarding the particulars of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict; Kamal Kharrazi, Iranian Foreign Minister, states, "The Palestinians are resisting the occupation of their land. It is quite different from the terror attacks that were carried out in New York, which the Organization of the Islamic Conference and most Muslim countries have condemned." From this point-of-view, some forms of terrorism can be seen as aspects of insurgent warfare.

This manner of waging war often results in acts of violence, which are condemned by those nations and organizations with the power and resources to avoid such methods: "An insurgency is a protracted struggle conducted methodically, step-by-step, in order to obtain specific intermediate objectives leading finally to the overthrow of the existing order." At its core are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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