Terrorism

Terrorism is a much-used word which in practice is apt to be discredited by the cliche that one person's terrorist is another's freedom-fighter. The classic just war doctrine allows much greater precision. It directs us to ask whether the case is one of rebellion, and whether the rebellion is just or unjust. If the cause is unjust (e.g. the IRA's anti-democratic activities) then there are no legitimate targets. If the cause is just and there is legitimate authority and last resort, it still remains to ask whether noncombatant immunity is respected. In such ways, the classic doctrine brings precision to an issue which is often treated with wearisome emotionalism. A special case is that of 'state-sponsored terrorism', on which the classic doctrine's implication is clear. If the State is overtly supporting the rebellion then it is party to it, a belligerent, and the question to ask is whether the war is just. If the State's involvement is covert, so that the State is seeking to disown responsibility for its involvement, then an issue arises which is well worth connecting with the sale and transfer of arms, as follows.

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