Terror has become a global epidemic, yet the international community seems confused and divided on how to stop it. Faced with highly motivated aggressors, the perplexed stand little chance of defending themselves effectively. Let us look at some aspects of this reality.
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?
We tend to judge guerrilla actions by their goals. Many of us praised the underground operations against the Nazis, but denounce similar acts that threaten our own security. As long as political views affect our judgement, no campaign can effectively eradicate terrorism. The international community must unite in condemning tactics of terror, regardless of their motivation.
Is Terror a Weapon of the Weak?
Many developed countries have adopted aggressive economic policies and arrogant cultural attitudes, which contribute to the rise of hatred and despair. No campaign against terror would be complete without addressing its root causes. While uniting in a struggle against violent crimes, the West must also learn to respect other civilisations and offer them true hope through honest partnership.
Democratic Values in Times of War?
Liberal democracies are facing a real dilemma. Some claim that no victory can be achieved while our hands are tied. Others stress the values for which we struggle and claim that ignoring them would amount to a defeat of our own system. Both sides have a point, but seem to confuse the ethical aspects of the problem:
Law of Peace
Peace is the moral foundation of our legal system, both internally and internationally. The law aims to protect public order and provide peaceful ways of resolving disputes. Our legal system also prescribes punitive measures against those who violate its principles. This is the moral basis for both police and military activities. Our moral values are based on the principle of generality. If one breaks the rules, one cannot expect to enjoy their protection. Indeed, the law itself strips offenders of certain human rights. Prisoners, for example, are denied their right of freedom of movement, but not of their rights to proper nutrition and medical care. Similarly, international law sets rules of proper conduct even in a situation which permits an open violation of the most basic of human rights - the right to live. Terrorism falls between these two categories: Are the terrorists to be treated as ordinary criminals, or are they enemies in a state of war?
Military Conflict or Police Matter?
Military operations may be effective in destroying terrorist infrastructure and removing regimes that harbour terrorist groups. Police investigations and intelligence operations are often more effective in this campaign. Yet, neither police nor the armed forces operate under laws that are relevant to our case. Terrorism is neither an ordinary crime, nor a purely military challenge. Indeed, terrorist groups have much in common with international crime rings, where international law enforcement seems particularly weak.
Ethics of Freedom
At times of war, national interests override individual rights. As long as they act within the law, soldiers who kill enemy troops can expect to be decorated for bravery, not arrested for murder. The terrorists, who hide in our cities and turn our streets into battlefields, must be treated as enemy agents. Those who strive to destroy our rules cannot seek their protection. Therefore, terrorists must be either killed in action or stand trial for war crimes.
The 'Freedom Fort'
If the free world wishes to survive, it must unite in planning its defence. A multinational treaty should turn the free world into a haven of liberty, heavily fortified against external threats. The policies of the new alliance should include:
The establishment of a multinational task force with its own intelligence agency and commando forces that would carry out swift clandestine operations against terrorists anywhere in the world.
The same force should wage an uncompromising attack on all types of international crimes, from financial offences and drug trafficking to terrorism and modern slave trade. These are all interconnected and must be decisively uprooted.
This campaign can only succeed if the international community adapts its legal code to the new reality. Human rights should apply only to those who respect them.
Those who join the alliance should enjoy an equal partnership in the global economy and learn to respect each other's cultures and values. Countries, groups and individuals that openly oppose these rules, should be banned from the free world and all their connections with the coalition must be severed.
Thus, the free world may become a well-defended fort that respects its friends but pursues its foes with resolute determination and total faith in its noble values.
Ehud Tokatly, 6/May/2004