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What is terrorism

With this perspective an act is considered terrorism

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Unformatted text preview: First, some people see terrorism as a legal issue. With this perspective, an act is considered terrorism only 12 Ruby if it is illegal. Governments are likely to use this perspective to interpret terrorism; however, the determination that an act is terrorism under this perspective depends on which government is doing the interpreting. Obviously, not all nations will have the same definition of what is legal. Two governments, therefore, may view the same incident differently. A second perspective is moral in nature and would consider an act to be terrorism only if it had no moral justification. Some groups are willing to commit politically motivated illegal violence but do so with the belief that it is a necessary and morally justified act. As an example, the Provisional Irish Republican Army considers its violent attacks morally justified in that its goal is to eliminate British dominance in Northern Ireland, a political condition it sees as immoral on the part of Great Britain. Thus, it does not interpret what it is doing as terrorism (or at the least, it does not attach a derogatory quality to its actions). Sometimes governments can also use this perspective. For instance, there has been much talk in the weeks since the New York City and Washington terrorist attacks about the jihad (holy war) being waged by some Middle Eastern and Central Asian peoples against evil in the world, usually seen as Western capitalism and immoral excesses. Politically motivated violence against noncombatants in the name of the jihad is considered morally justified—and therefore not terrorism—by those governments and groups who engage in it. As another example, the moral perspective was used in the 1980s when referring to the Nicaraguan Contras. There is no question that the Contras were a subnational and clandestine group who committed politically motivated violence against a government (and many collateral victims) that was not in a state of declared hostilities. Yet the term “freedom fighters” was used in describing the Contras to highlight the belief that their attacks against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua were morally justified. We have recently been reminded that Osama Bin Laden (the individual currently suspected of orchestrating the New York City and Washington terrorist attacks) was part of a “freedom fighter” group that the United States supported against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. As with a legal perspective, the use of a moral one in interpreting terrorism can result in different viewpoints concerning the same act, depending on the mores of the people doing the interpreting. Taylor’s third and final perspective is behavioral. With this perspective, terrorism is defined purely by the behaviors involved, regardless of the laws or morality of those doing the defining. In reasoning from this perspective, different interpreters will necessarily arrive at...
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