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Re: What is terrorism?
by Threehegemons
03 April 2002 00:14 UTC
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The question of what is terrorism, which it seems Kharrazi does not answer with 
any more clarity than anyone else (is he saying that because it is just, the 
Palestinian cause by definition cannot produce terrorism, or is he saying that 
because it is just, the terrorism produced by Palestinians should not be fought 
through military means?), is a subquestion of the larger category of rules of 
war.  Presently it seems there is a great deal of energy placed on branding 
tactics or entire struggles as terrorism, state terrorism, etc.  But I 
wonder--is there any evidence that states (or other actors) have been forced to 
abandon militarilly effective tactics as a result of moral-guilt tripping 
(i.e., this violates the rules of wars, is terrorism etc)?  Or, put another 
way, when do states or others obey such rules of war and when do they ignore 
them?  It would be tempting to say such rules break down during periods of 
'hegemonic crisis', 'systemic chaos', etc.  but the Vietnam War, carried out 
during the period most would define as the height of US hegemony, involved a 
complete disregard of the rules of war.  Right now it seems that most 
accusations of 'terrorism' are employed to try to rally political forces to 
one's side, and  demoralize the enemy or convince them to abandon perhaps 
effective tactices.  The US claims to be fighting a 'war on terrorism', but its 
obvious enough to everyone (at least outside the US, I think) that it is 
talking to itself, and not applying any sort of consistent standard.  But has 
anyone developed a consistent standard?  Is there any consequence to violating 
such standards, besides the pluses and minuses of the combined military, 
political, economic consequences?   Or am I overly cynical?  Is anyone familiar 
with any research on the relationship between the discourse of the rules of 
war, human rights, terrorism, etc and the behavior of armed actors?

Steven Sherman

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