Respond to Zoe's discussion with a minimum of 150 words with your opinion.
Stephen Nathanson’s “Can Terrorism Be Morally Justified?” attacks the idea of distinguishing between terrorism and civilian casualties and morally condemns both acts. In particular, Nathanson criticizes those who distinguish between the two acts by citing the aggressor’s intentions in what he calls the “principle of double effect” (581). By disproving this principle, Nathanson creates a strong argument for why collateral damage should not be tolerated just as terrorism cannot be tolerated.
The principle of double effect allows for a moral action to be judged on intentions rather than the outcome of a situation. Nathanson criticizes a handful of specific authors who have used this principle to defend collateral damage. For example, Igor Primoratz in “The Morality of Terrorism” describes a military invasion of a theoretical village in which civilians were killed by the invading troops; because these soldiers did not to intend harm to the civilians, their actions are morally permissible (580). However, Nathanson tests the principle by taking applying it to the September 11 attackers. If after the terrorist attack, they had admitted that they did not intend the killing of human beings, would they have suddenly been excused from moral judgment? The answer is no. By proving that the principle of double effect can be contrary to everyday moral experience, Nathanson has shown that this principle cannot be used as a legitimate reason to excuse moral wrongdoings. Therefore, no distinction can be drawn between civilian casualties in war and terrorism. This, I believe, provide an incredibly strong basis for the argument against accepting casualties as a part of war.
From here, Nathanson must decide whether to morally condemn or excuse these acts of terrorism. While condemning the acts appears to be in line with our everyday moral experience, Nathanson strengthens his argument through the use of reason rather than assumption. Nathanson argues that because humans are unique “moral agents”, each individual has an “incommensurable value” and must be protected out of “utmost respect and concern” (580). In this way, Nathanson strengthens his argument by providing a reason for why the killing of humans is incredibly and utterly morally wrong.
Interestingly enough, in his criticism of Primoratz, Nathanson brings up a position help by Leon Trotsky who, too, sees no difference between terrorism - here phrased as revolutionary violence - and the killing of innocents in wars. However, Trotsky, rather than condemning both actions, simply states that “if wars that kill innocent people can be justified... then so can revolutions that kill innocent people”, written with a tone of mild approval of both actions (581). This approval of all forms of terrorism is never directly addressed by Nathanson. If we were to reject Nathanson’s reasoning for the value of human life, which may be done if we reject that idea that moral agents have inherent value, then we would, too, be approving of the killing of innocents. While I can assume this was not Nathanson’s intention of the piece, this singular paragraph briefly discussing Trotsky’s ideas asks a question that Nathanson never appears to directly address and weakens Nathanson’s position. Of course, considering the briefness of the paragraph it can be assumed that Nathanson never intended for this effect, but I do find this singular suggestion to greatly weaken the conclusion that all killings must be condemned.
Respond to Jazzmin with minimum of 150 words.
Chapter 17 discusses the use of political violence. One of the simplest ways to analyze the morality of political violence is by using utilitarianism. Will an act of political violence result in happiness for the majority? Alan Dershowitz uses utilitarianism to support his opinion in his essay "The Case for Torturing the Ticking Bomb Terrorist." I found Dershowitz's argument to be the most convincing. He argues that "it is surely better to inflict nonlethal pain on one guilty terrorist who is illegally withholding information needed to prevent an act of terrorism than to permit a large number of innocent victims to die (Dershowitz, 585)." I completely agree with this logic. He clarifies that torture is to be used as a last result or in emergent situations and it is not justified as a regular means of problem solving. Dershowitz uses the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 as a reference point to support his perspective. I believe this was an appropriate example to use because it would appeal to people's emotions and is an extremely relatable part of recent history that impacted U.S. culture permanently. Dershowitz discusses how things might have been different if a suspected terrorist was detained and tortured weeks before the 9/11 attack when he was reported to the government for suspicious activity. Many innocent lives could have been saved if the government decided to intervene and investigate further. He also claims more people might agree with his perspective if they stopped looking at torture as something that leads to death instead of nonlethal torture being considered a technique used to save lives (Dershowitz, 587). I would much rather inflict pain on the guilty party without killing them than do nothing and many innocent people die.