In the 21st century, it would seem that the term “terrorist” has become an all encompassing description of anyone whom civilized people feel is a threat to innocent civilians, domestic tranquility, and the everyday life that most people take for granted. Government officials declare “war on terrorism” and the like. Expanding upon, and deviating from the typical definition of a terrorist, Charles W.
Kegley’s 2002 edition, The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls, contains a chapter entitled “Is There a Good Terrorist? ”, which asserts that one nation’s terrorist may fairly be considered another nation’s patriot. This paper will maintain the argument that no terrorist is a “good terrorist”, in contrast to the presentation of Kegley in his volume. Defining Terrorism
To begin, a valid argument can be made against so-called “good” terrorists by establishing a baseline definition of terrorism. In some of his other writings, Kegley has maintained that one of the problems in condemning terrorists is that the act of terrorism itself is so hard to define; in other words, as was mentioned previously, a terrorist may not be considered a terrorist by everyone, because ultimately, some group of people or nation is supposedly benefitting from the terror inflicted on another group.
However, by fine tuning the definition of a terrorist, it will be possible to reinforce and build upon the argument of this paper- that there is no such thing as a good terrorist. In order to make that assertion solid and tenable, one must realize that the term terrorism should in fact refer to acts of violence, war or sabotage inflicted upon innocent civilian populations by a person or persons not affiliated with an organized army and outside of the scope of declared warfare.
Within this context, we are not talking about the soldier who serves his country by defeating enemies in combat, but we are talking about extremists who detonate car bombs near schools and hospitals. In using this definition, it is possible to further bolster the argument. Terrorism is about Targets as Well as Intentions A second assertion that can be made in critique of Kegley’s presentation comes from a discussion of the issue of the targets of terrorism as well as the intentions of terrorists, as earlier defined.
For example, a terrorist, for all of his claims that he is trying to free other people from the oppression of another group, change a bad situation, avenge previous wrongs and the like, is violating international law as well as the basic moral codes when the terrorist inflicts casualties among defenseless civilians, such as when terrorists launch attacks on religious centers, public places or even private residential areas, there is a tremendous wrong being done, no matter what noble cause the terrorist claims to support or advance.
Simply put, the means do not justify the end. A Fine Line between Patriotism and Vigilantism A key point continues to echo throughout this research- the fine line between defeating enemies and violating the written and unwritten laws of humanity. Indeed, one could make the argument, for example, that the founders of the United States in some ways inflicted terrorism according to our previously stated definition, for many of them were un-uniformed, taking up arms against an organized, sovereign government, no matter how noble the cause was for which they were fighting.
However, when looking at terrorists in regard to being those who step over the line of legality and morality for the sake of their causes, again the message returns that there must be at least some level of decency in the world, even among those who adamantly oppose one another, for if opposing groups are allowed to continually launch terror attacks upon each other, all of humanity will soon degrade to chaos and anarchy, serving no one’s interests.
Indeed, it is morally, ethically and legally wrong for people to take the law into their own hands; therefore, all potential or actual terrorist acts must be dealt with in the harshest possible terms. Conclusion In this paper, the argument has been made and supported that there is no such thing as a good terrorist, no matter what the intentions, motivations or goals of the terrorist, keeping in mind that there are certain criteria which define what makes a terrorist.
Therefore, it must be remembered that patriots are not those who blow up women and children, poison reservoirs or destroy public gathering places, nor are those who wear the uniform of their country and fight in declared wars terrorists. Once that differentiation is made and adhered to, all of humanity will be all the better for it. Conversely, if we allow these grey areas to exist where a potential terrorist thinks they will receive rewards, either in this world or the one to come, the death toll of innocents will continue to swell. Hopefully, this key distinction will be realized by the people of the world before it is too late.