The use of military force, whether within a country or against a foreign target, is guided by two prominent principles. Jus ad bellum (right toward war) helps in determining whether the situation justifies a military response or whether there exist non-violent alternatives. Jus in bello governs the execution of military operations at whose heart are discrimination and proportionality. Military attacks should be aimed at the right targets and civilian deaths should be avoided as much as possible.
The weapons or force used in the attack should also be proportionate to the threat, so that it would be unethical to destroy a whole city if the aim was to eliminate a dozen terrorists hiding in one building (Cook, 2001). Many wars, and particularly the ongoing ‘War Against Terror’ have seriously challenged the principles of warfare, forcing the U. S. troops to use what has been described as excessive force against suspected enemy combatants and many civilians. This paper sheds light on conditions which justify such behaviour in war.
Justification for aggressive behaviour in the War Against Terror Acts of terrorism are perpetrated by individuals or groups who hold hard-line ethnic, cultural, or religious positions, and who obey no national or international war agreements or principles. Terrorists largely target civilians and civilian structures with the aim of causing indiscriminate harm and violence. Combat troops participating in the war against anti-US hardliners in Iraq and Afghanistan have been accused of flouting ethics of war for engaging in activities which have been regarded as too aggressive and unethical.
It is important to note that members of terrorist cells or groups are not state agents and are mostly non-uniformed, making it difficult to distinguish them from civilians. In order to enjoy the protection ideally accorded to civilians, the combatants hide among civilians. When U. S. troops capture a suspect, they are forced to use force to get information from the suspect as they have no other way of telling whether the suspect is actually a terrorist or not.
In societies where combatants or terrorists hide among civilians and hurt the same civilians, and others elsewhere, use of force is justified “primarily to remove dangerous people from society (domestic or international)…and to send a message to other potential criminals that such behavior will not be tolerated” (Litchenberg, 2001). The aim of the war on terror is not much to apprehend and try perpetrators in law courts as to directly eliminate as many terrorists as possible (Cook, 2001).
The fact that there have not been any other major terrorist attacks in the U. S. since 2001 suggests that the country has made some achievements in deterring such attacks, thereby justifying the means used. Terrorist operations are funded from many sources, among them legitimate governments. While many of the sponsoring organizations are known, there exists the serious difficulty of proving in a court of law that these individuals, groups and governments actually fund and harbour terrorists.
When such suspects are captured, military topguns appreciate the difficulty of proving the association between such people and terrorists in a court of law yet know that releasing the suspects allows them to support more terrorist activities in future. Such situations necessitate the indefinite incarceration of suspects in such places as the Abu Ghraib and the Guantanamo Bay where the military, and not the US law reigns supreme. Although such confinement may be deemed unethical, it justifies the end of ensuring that the suspects are not released to sponsor more crimes against innocent civilians.
Conclusion. The U. S. campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq has been unlike many wars before. The U. S. and her allies are engaged, not in retaliatory military action but in pre-emptive military crusade. The circumstances surrounding the war have driven the combat troops to take actions which have been regarded as unethical. However, careful analysis of the situation in the two countries, and the behaviour and operations of the terrorists reveals that the troops have no option but to take the same actions if they hope to win the war against terrorists.
That terrorists follow no ethical codes strengthens the argument for such behaviour among the anti-terrorist troops. References Cook, M. (2001). Ethical Issues in Counterterrorism Warfare. US Army War College. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://ethics. sandiego. edu/Resources/PhilForum/Terrorism/Cook. html Litchenberg, J. (2001). The Ethics of Retaliation. Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 4: pp 4-8.
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