Terrorism has become a part of modern life. Hijackings, bombings, and assassinations on different continents of the world may seem like isolated attacks, but they reflect an easy reliance on violence as a way to promote social, political, and religious change.
They are elements of a pervasive end justifies the means philosophy being followed to its most perverse conclusions. International terrorism has become the scourge of all democratic governments. These democratic governments are accustomed to dealing within a legal structure, often find it difficult to deal with criminals and terrorists that routinely operate outside of the law. However, deterrence is just as much a part of justice as proper enforcement of the laws.
Democratic governments that do not deter criminals inevitably spawn vigilantism as normally law-abiding citizens who have lost confidence in the criminal justice system take the law into their own hands. A similar backlash is beginning to emerge as a result of the inability of western democracies to defend themselves against terrorists. However, lack of governmental resolve is only part of the problem. Terrorists thrive on media exposure, and news organizations around the world have been all too willing to give terrorists what they crave, publicity.
If the news media gave terrorists the minuscule coverage their numbers and influence would decline. But, when hijackings and bombings are given prominent media attention, governments start feeling pressure from their citizens to resolve the crisis and eventually capitulate to terrorists’ demands. “Encouraged by their latest success, terrorists usually try again” -Winston Churchill Recent successes have made terrorists hungry for more attacks. News commentators have been unwilling to call terrorism what it is, Blind criminal violence.
They soften their barbaric acts by arguing that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This illusion is simply not true. Terrorists are not concerned about human rights and human dignity. In fact, they end up destroying human rights in their alleged fight for human rights.
A relatively new term for terrorism has been coined, new warfare. Yet, terrorists turn the notion of war on its head. Innocent citizens become targets in the devastating terrorist attacks. How do we define a terrorist? Is a terrorist a common criminal? If terrorists are mere criminals, then with reference to the Bible, they should be dealt with by their host governments.
In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul says; He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behaviour, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid: for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil This passage of scripture helps us make an important distinction we will use in our analysis of terrorism.
It shows us that criminals are those who do evil and threaten the civil peace. But, any outside threat to the existence of the country is not a criminal threat but an act of war, which is also to be dealt with by the government. In other words, criminals threaten the state from within. Foreign armies threaten the state from outside.
These evildoers should live in fear of government. However, terrorists do not live in fear of the governing authorities in the countries where they live. Their governments do not think of them as breaking civilian laws and thus do not prosecute them. Let us look over an imaginary situation.
If an anti-Syrian terrorist group was based somewhere in North America, we would prosecute those terrorists as enemies of our countries. This North American based terrorist group would be illegal because it would be engaging in activities reserved for the governments of the North American countries. Why wouldn’t the Middle Eastern governments prosecute these terrorists? It’s simple, because the terrorists often carry out the policies and desires of such host governments. The assumption that is made after studying a case like this is that both the terrorist groups and their host nations are truly enemies of the North American governments.
After studying this imaginary case, it is possible to see that both the terrorist groups and their host nations are truly enemies of North American government and people. When they capture and kill innocent civilians for military and foreign policy purposes, it is not simply civilian murder but, military warfare. What the world is facing is a new type of military aggressor. As explained earlier, terrorists are not common criminals to be tried in civil courts.
They are military targets who must be stopped since they are armed and military enemies of the governments whom they oppose. In the same way that it took traditional armies some time to learn how to combat guerrilla warfare, so it is taking Western governments time to realise that the rules for warfare have been revised in the case of terrorism. Diplomatic efforts have failed to convince. Meetings and negotiations haven’t been able to strike fear in the hearts of terrorists.
When we fight terrorism we need to realise we are talking about war. Military warfare is different from civilian peacekeeping. In civilian peacekeeping, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A citizen can be arrested and detained before trial but must be released unless guilt is proven.
Military warfare is different. A trial is not held for each military action. In a sense, in a just war, a “trial” of sorts is held before any action is taken. Discussion and debates among government officials usually occur before war is declared.
Fact-finding studies, presentations, testimonies, and other kinds of forethought go into a declaration of war. In a sense, when the use of the military is involved, the trial period comes before anyone is confronted or arrested. But once war is declared, there are no more trials until the enemy is defeated. And every one who aids and abets the enemy is guilty by association.
At present, terrorism is a one-sided war that the target governments are loosing. Soldiers and citizens are being killed in the war. Unfortunately, the target governments are not treating terrorism like the war it is. If we take the United States as an example, the limited war powers granted to the president by Congress are not powerful enough and are not used in a systematic way to defeat the enemy.
If we are to win the war against terrorism, we must realise that it is war. Until we see it as military aggression, we will be unsuccessful in ending terrorism in this decade. If we continue on with the example of the United States, The ability of these groups to carry out their agenda is not the issue. The fundamental issue is how U.
S. government leaders should deal with this new type of military strategy. Terrorists have held American diplomats hostage for years, blown up military compounds, and hijacked aeroplanes and cruise ships. Although some hostages have been released, many others have been killed, and the U.
S. has been unsuccessful at punishing more than a small number of terrorists. Even though international diplomacy has been the primary means used by The United States against terrorism, we should consider what other means may be appropriate. In the past American leaders have responded to military aggression in a variety of ways short of declaring war.
The U.S. Constitution grants the following powers to Congress: “To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high Seas, and offences against the law of nations; to declare war, grant letters of marquee and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.” Terrorist acts fall into at least two of the congressional provisions for dealing with attacks on the nations.
They are: (1) to punish offenses against the law of nations, and (2) to declare war. In either case, there are strong constitutional grounds for taking action against terrorists. The difficulty comes in clearly identifying the enemy and being willing to risk offending many Arab nations whom we consider allies. Congress must identify the enemy and call that group a military target.
Once that has happened, many of the other steps fall into place with less difficulty. It can be seen that, through diplomatic channels we must make two things very clear to the leaders of the host country. First, they should catch and punish the terrorist groups as civilian criminals. Or, second, they should extradite the enemy soldiers to an international court for trial.
If the host country fails to act on these two requests, we should make it clear that we see it as in complicity with the terrorist groups. By failing to exercise their civil responsibility, these countries leave themselves open to the consequences of allowing military forces hostile to the target government, to remain within their borders. Although diplomacy has its place, it is easy to see that diplomacy and negotiation do not strike fear in the hearts of terrorists. In most cases, diplomatic efforts have failed to bring terrorists to justice.
It has been shown that Romans 13 acknowledges the government’s right to bear the sword to protect its citizens from criminal threats within the country and military threats outside the country. We have also shown that military action is sanctioned by Congress “to punish piracies and felonies” and to punish “offence against the law of nations.” With these facts as background, we should now focus on the issue of just punishment. The principle here is that the punishment must be proportional to the crime.
A judge could not chop off a man’s hand merely because he scratched another man’s hand in a fight. The punishment should be burn for burn and wound for wound. In saying this, it does not mean that the target government should not go off and start to bomb the host countries’ cities if the do not do anything to stop a terrorist group that had for examples sake, kidnapped the target government’s governmental officials. However, just and proportional punishment also means that we should not apply too light a punishment.
Countries that harbour terrorists and refuse to punish or extradite them should be pressured. Punishment could come in the form of economic embargoes, import-export restrictions, the serving of diplomatic relations, or even military actions. Any excessive reaction in a situation like this would not only be unjust, bit it would also fuel the fires of an even stronger retaliation from the host country. In the most desperate cases, a strike force of counterterrorists might be necessary where the threat is both real and imminent.
This however, should be considered only as an option of last resort. Some examples of such actions are, in 1989, an Israeli special forces team successfully captured a man by the name of Sheik Obeid, and no doubt put a dent in the terrorist network by bringing one of its leaders to justice. Another example is, in 1985, United States Air Force planes were able to force down an Egyptian airliner to prevent the escape of another terrorist leader. These are acts which should be done rarely and carefully.
But, they may be appropriate means to bring about justice. In conclusion, terrorism must be recognised as a new type of military aggression that requires governmental action. It involves an undeclared war and government officials must take the same sort of actions that they would if threatened by a hostile country. There must be changes in order to prevent further terrorist aggression in this decade and in the future.
There has to be a line drawn if we are too completely eradicate this modern scourge of terrorism. Works Cited Quotation: Winston Churchill The Apostle Paul, “Romans 13”, The New Student Bible. Grand Rapides: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992. Madison, George.
(Recorder), The United States Constitution. New York: 1791. Bibliography Gueke, Adrian. The Age of Terrorism and The International Political System London: Tauris Academic Studies, 1995.
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