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date: 26 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

What terrorism is and how it should be understood are highly contested issues that themselves raise moral questions. Many seek to attach the labels of terrorism to the actions of those they oppose, while exempting uses of violence by those they favor from comparable criticism. Reasonable definitions and discussions are possible, however, and they are attempted here. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Moral evaluations of it, and especially of justifiable responses to it, can well be made. The chapter considers alternative moral theories with which to make such evaluations. Among other characterizations, terrorism is violence used for political objectives. Uses of violence to uphold unjust political arrangements can be less justifiable than uses of violence to change them. Responding to terrorism with massive military force is counterproductive. Terrorism is undermined as potential recruits no longer join or follow terrorist groups. We ought to aim to reduce all uses of violence.

Keywords: justifiability, moral theories, violence, war, military force, non-state groups, civilians, politics, law enforcement, fear

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