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Dallinga, S.J.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

The possibility of Just Terrorism Theory

In this thesis, it is argued that Just War Theory needs a modern interpretation in order to apply it to modern warfare. As soon as this new interpretation is introduced, it is possible to morally evaluate modern cases of violence. This thesis is specifically about acts of terrorism: such an act involves (the threat of) substantial harm – not necessarily death –, intentionally directed to certain individuals (the primary target), and is carried out in order to influence other individuals to make political changes (the secondary target). These acts are hotly debated in modern international relations. However, until now there has not been made a moral evaluation from the viewpoint of modern Just War Theory as introduced in this thesis. Using the original criteria of Just War Theory, the question whether an act of terrorism could be justified in some circumstances is to be answered.

It is argued that it is not impossible for an act of terrorism to be justified. This conclusion is supported by the historical example of the African National Congress and the hypothetical case called Iraqistan. These two examples illustrate that sometimes it is not impossible for an act of terrorism to fulfil the criteria of modern Just War Theory. Therefore, a new concept called Just Terrorism Theory is introduced. The main difference between Just War Theory and Just Terrorism Theory lies in the discrimination principle. Special attention is paid to the Doctrine of Double effect – a problematic exception principle that is often applied in the criterion of discrimination. How exactly the discrimination principle should be defined is an issue to be further discussed.

In any case, it is incorrect to exclude acts of terrorism in advance. This is showed by the moral evaluation in this thesis. Seeing the fact that Just War Theory has always been concerned with changes in international conflicts, this theory should also be concerned with terrorism.

Last modified:04 November 2013 1.47 p.m.