Posted by: bklunk | March 25, 2007

It May Not Be Terrorism, But . .

Even if we conclude that attacks against U.S. troops could not be considered terrorism (and that would depend on the context), we might still see problems with the use of chlorine gas weapons.  I think it is problematic whether these could meet ius in bello criteria of discrimination or proportionality. What do others think?

Recent terrorist attacks in Iraq

Recently, the New York Times reported that insurgents in Iraq detonated at least two bombs containing deadly chlorine gas. Dozens of civilians were injured in the attacks, but most attacks in Iraq of this nature are directed toward U.S. or Iraqi military. I find this interesting because I think that many Americans may assume that attacks directed towards military personel should be considered terrorist acts. Richardson, the author of What Terrorists Want claims that if violent action is taken against a soldier it should be considered guerilla warfare, not terrorism. I am inclined to agree with her. I think that it is important to distinguish between warfare and terrorism because terrorists generally have a different type of culture than those who would only target other military. Perhaps if some insurgents were not considered enemy combatants, but rather enemy military, then peaceful negotiations could ensue. If some groups of insurgents would be given that status and respect, they would definitely be more inclined to negotiate. If some combatants are not technically terrorists, then it would be acceptable to negotiate with them.

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  1. I agree with you’re your take of terrorism. I understand as well that there is recognizable difference between terrorism and guerilla warfare depending upon who the violent action is attacking.

    Before my current World Politics class, I didn’t think about the technical definition of terrorism. I just thought it was any violent act conducted by one person or group of people who have a political message in mind and want some sort of change. You never, or at least I hadn’t, heard use of the word guerilla warfare. I’m not sure if this is the media’s fault or me just not being aware. I feel the word is used quite often and easily especially with our current war in the Middle East.

    I find it interesting that terrorists can be anyone, government, organizations or even one person. But, to be a terrorist, you must only target civilians not connected to the military. Furthermore, terrorist target innocent civilians intentionally, (like we saw at the World Trade Center attacks.) I feel terrorists are anyone who strikes civilians intentionally or unintentionally.

    I’m not sure I understand Richardson’s theory though. What I understand, Bush’s mission of using military in Iraq is to bring about peace. I thought our military was there to try and top terrorism or be prepared to fight guerilla warfare. Our mission with US military is not to cause or start these things. Maybe I believe the solution to this problem is much simpler than possible.

  2. I agree that groups which are given accreditation are often times more prone to negotiate. However, a principle problem that Iraq is faced with is the rapid manner in which these groups are forming or moving into Iraq. Many of the groups form and act as a reaction to the manner or lack of negotiations with existing groups guerrilla groups. The unstable state of Iraq now has made it a breeding ground for radical paramilitary groups in the middle-east. It seems to me that it would better serve the causes of most everyone involved if the U.S and allied forces concentrated on renewing or rededicating themselves to negotiations with the groups with whom our currently poor relations are spawning the countless reactionary groups that are thriving on the instability.

  3. I agree with your ascertains that there is a distinct difference between those who engage in acts of terrorism and those who are engaging in guerilla warfare. Standard definitions differ between the two based on who is the target of the violence. In the current situation in Iraq, when looking at the war from the perspective of the United States versus insurgents I believe that the distinction is clear. However if you look at the Iraq situation as a civil war, how do you decide who is part of a para-military force and who is simply an enraged citizen looking for revenge? Who becomes the enemy combatant and is there any room left or insurgency? I don’t understand Richardson’s theory either. If you give your enemy respect by changing the way you describe them, how does that lead to peace? I don’t see the link or the logic in the process. The situation in Iraq is beyond simple definitions and simple solutions, such as that proposed by Richardson. In the midst of several different faces of conflict, all definitions are rendered nil. We should not dwell on what we will refer to the violence as but we should focus on stopping it, whether it is terrorism or insurgency or guerilla war or civil war.

  4. You have made good points and raised reasonable doubts. I did not mean to say that RIchardson suggests that the United States should negoitiate with any military group, and I agree that it is hard to determine should be considered as one. One question you raised was how can giving the enemy respect lead to peace? The situation in Iraq is too complex for me to say if negotiation could lead to peace in this case, but it has happened before. The IRA, an irish terrorist group, eventually reached peace with britain by newgotiating after over 30 years of violence.

    I also agree with Andrew Kolar’s point that we should try to stop the formation of new insrugent reactionary groups by renewing our poor foreign relations. I think you are right that we should focus more on negotiating with states to gain more support, rather than individual insurgent groups. I think that the single most effective way we can combat the rise of Islamic-militancy is to try to stop recruits from joining. Seeking out and hunting down existing members is hard to do on a large scale, but with the support of foreign nations, I think we can effectively eliminate the terrorists community support. After 9/11, I think we missed a huge opportunity to gain a large amount of international support for our fight on terror. Rather than working on improving our relations, we declared a war and alienated other states from the fight.

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