# Is "terrorism" a valid war tactic?

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Motivations aside (for now), is terrorism valid? I am defining terrorism as the murder of innocents in the cause of furtherance of a political goal. I would also like to point out that the firebombing of Tokyo, Dresden, and Hamburg in WWII, and to a lesser extent Hiroshima and Nagasaki (as the political message was more direct here), were orchestrated in the hopes of demoralizing the German and Japanese citizenry to the extent that the citizens would support a radical shift in the policies of their governments (i.e, surrender).

Since all of these campaigns resulted in the slaughter of, for the vast majority, innocents, I fail to see the difference in tactics between these campaigns and 9/11. At least 9/11 resulted in the deaths (aside from public safety personnel) of those who willingly chose, however tacitly, to further the cause of their home governments; that is, the dominant rule of the US version of the "free market economy." Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo resulted in the deaths of, again for the vast majority, women and children that had the choice of either complying with the edicts of their government or dying. To be honest, given the choice of means (not motives), I would choose Al Qaeda over the US government.

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actualy, Ive often wondered that If the Nazis Had have invaded England and taken over, whether or not wede be employing similar tactics ourselves?

after all we DID have "Suicide Missions" during the war!

Im personaly dead against all that theyve done, however I can`t help but wonder if I or We would be doing the same ourselves had things have turned out differently???

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I don't think that British guerillas under Nazi tyranny would have resorted to killing civilians. I view at the firebombing issue in WW2 as a one-time (albeit massive) moral error based on misunderstandings and misconceptions, as well as technology limitations of the day. I don't believe a comparison between that and the War in Iraq is valid, because in Iraq we specifically and explicitly attempt to avoid such casualties. In short, we learned our lesson. Repetitions over the year since then have been rare, and they are the exception, not the norm.

But Al Qaeda kills civilians on purpose. Intentionally. They're not casualties of war, or accidental victims of any kind. They do it deliberately. To their own people, no less. As if to say "I hate you so bad I'm going to cut my arm off". An infantile display of pre-civilized behavior that is unworthy of attention except in terms of how to defeat it. Not something you study and attempt to gain wisdom and enlightenment from, except in the sense that it reminds us that democracy isn't automatic or easy, and if we don't pay attention we'll slip back to the stone age before you can shake a stick.

I wasn't in favor of the War in Iraq either, and I voted against Bush in 2004. But I don't find it necessary to stretch the facts into wild-eyed demonizations. Democracy means sometimes not getting your way. Just have to deal with it.

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Since all of these campaigns resulted in the slaughter of, for the vast majority, innocents, I fail to see the difference in tactics between these campaigns and 9/11.
In one case, the innocents killed are victims of collateral damage, in the other case, the innocents killed are the target.

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Is "terrorism" a valid war tactic?

I don't think that "terrorism" can be a war tactic. "Warfare" and "terrorism" are mutually exclusive aren't they?

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Motivations aside (for now)' date=' is terrorism valid? I am defining terrorism as the murder of innocents in the cause of furtherance of a political goal. I would also like to point out that the firebombing of Tokyo, Dresden, and Hamburg in WWII, and to a lesser extent Hiroshima and Nagasaki (as the political message was more direct here), were orchestrated in the hopes of demoralizing the German and Japanese citizenry to the extent that the citizens would support a radical shift in the policies of their governments (i.e, surrender).

Since all of these campaigns resulted in the slaughter of, for the vast majority, innocents, I fail to see the difference in tactics between these campaigns and 9/11. At least 9/11 resulted in the deaths (aside from public safety personnel) of those who willingly chose, however tacitly, to further the cause of their home governments; that is, the dominant rule of the US version of the "free market economy." Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo resulted in the deaths of, again for the vast majority, women and children that had the choice of either complying with the edicts of their government or dying. To be honest, given the choice of means (not motives), I would choose Al Qaeda over the US government.[/quote']

Disregarding motivations, they are both terrorist acts IMO. Just because we did it in the past, doesn't mean we can't fight against it in the present or future. America commited genocide, had slavery, etc. That doesn't mean we must allow those things to happen now.

I don't agree with your assertion that people in a democracy are more libal than those in other forms of government. Even if that were the case, there is no evidence they were targeted for that reason. There could have been war protestors in the building, there were muslims, etc.

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I don't think that "terrorism" can be a war tactic. "Warfare" and "terrorism" are mutually exclusive aren't they?

I dunno, somehow the terrorist acts committed by the American Colonists are now collectively known as the "Revolutionary War"

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I dunno, somehow the terrorist acts committed by the American Colonists are now collectively known as the "Revolutionary War"

I suggest you rephrase that, PDQ. Surely you didn't mean to state that every US act in the Revolutionary War was a terrorist act, but that is what you just said.

What is it with you and crass overgeneralizations lately, Bascule? I think you need to be more cognicent and careful about that. That's almost as inciteful a thing to say that Americans are "Nazis" just because they don't share your definition of "torture", or declaring 9 US Senators to be "assholes" because of their position on one single vote.

If you keep this up, I'm going to start demanding that you defend these assertions on a literal basis. You can start right now by explaining to everyone here how George Washington's tactics at the Battle of Trenton constitute "terrorism".

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I don't think that British guerillas under Nazi tyranny would have resorted to killing civilians.

Then what would you propose that they do? Or more realistically, put yourself into the shoes of Al Qaeda, fighting against the strongest and one of the largest conventional armies on Earth. I'm not saying that either the US or the "terrorists" are right. War is always awful, but I think the things they have done are justified in a war (considering their circumstances), although the war itself is not.

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All's fair in love and war, as they say.

Of course, that line doesn't hold up so well when the judge asks you to explain why you blew up the deceased car.

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Then what would you propose that they do? Or more realistically, put yourself into the shoes of Al Qaeda, fighting against the strongest and one of the largest conventional armies on Earth. I'm not saying that either the US or the "terrorists" are right. War is always awful, but I think the things they have done are justified in a war (considering their circumstances), although the war itself is not.

What would I propose that they do? How about shooting at soldiers instead of bombing civilians? Is that too much to ask? Sure they might fail, but shouldn't that TELL them something? Such as, oh I don't know, "Maybe this was a bad idea", or "Gosh, I guess we should have tried that bargaining table after all!"

I don't understand this notion that if you don't get what you want then you have the moral authority to escalate the conflict to any degree. That's the kind of nonsense that leads ex-husbands to kill their wives, saying "well if I can't have her then nobody else can". How do people not get this one?

Are the people Al Qaeda claims to represent really so bad off? They don't seem to think so -- most Arabs and most Muslims seem to think that Al Qaeda's actions are wrong. So what exactly are you saying here? That intolerance is a good thing? That compromise is always a bad thing? That getting along is less important than getting what you want? Seriously? I've met four-year-olds more mature than that.

If "western democracy" was some sort of dictatorship that ruled with an iron fist, enforcing military might upon its enemies and allowing no freedoms at all, then I could at least understand their zeal (if not their self-destructive methods). But in fact western democracy gives you a high degree of control over your fate, as well as the direction of society -- the highest level of freedom in human history.

You get to stand up with other people and say "this is how we want things to be done". Other people get to do the same. That means that sometimes you don't get what you want, but it also means that sometimes you do. How is that worse than living under Saddam Hussein, who never gave his people ANY choice? How is it better to let Al Qaeda get what it wants, and build a Middle East where freedom is almost as distant a memory as the sight of a woman's face?

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My overall response remains the same. I feel that their actions are justified in war. Let us question the objectives of war then. What would you want from an outcome of a war. What are the circumstances in which you are considered victorious. But these questions have nothing to do with winning the war. Bin Laden tells his generals, we're going to win this war no matter what. The generals go out and try to win the war as told. They doesn't know why they're fighting, but they just need to do as told. Motives are different from objectives.

I say again, I am in no way upholding their rationale for the war itself. I think the war is silly. I have NO idea what the world they are fighting for, but if it is indeed a war, then this is part of what you can expect. It is all to achieve some kind of victory you can say.

Sure they might fail, but shouldn't that TELL them something?

So does this conclude that if one country is weaker than another, they should all surrender? Sounds pretty easy for most western European nations to take over the rest of the world.

I don't understand this notion that if you don't get what you want then you have the moral authority to escalate the conflict to any degree.

Well this is war' date=' who sets the rules? The winning side? Again, back to the objectives of war. Differentiate objective (desired outcome) from motive (reason for fighting).

Are the people Al Qaeda claims to represent really so bad off? They don't seem to think so -- most Arabs and most Muslims seem to think that Al Qaeda's actions are wrong.

I think what Al Qaeda is doing is wrong. But what the US is doing is wrong as well. However, what the US is doing is perfectly fine if war is the case, and what they are doing is fine if war is the case. It's sad there must be war, but a losers can't be choosers. They need to target what they can.

If "western democracy" was some sort of dictatorship that ruled with an iron fist' date=' enforcing military might upon its enemies and allowing no freedoms at all, then I could at least understand their zeal (if not their self-destructive methods). [/quote']

As I stated, I also do not know why they are fighting. It's a very stupid war.

How is it better to let Al Qaeda get what it wants, and build a Middle East where freedom is almost as distant a memory as the sight of a woman's face?

Well of course, we won't give Al Qaeda what it wants. That's why there is war. People go to war for the stupidest of reasons. History has told us that, and I think 9/11 and Iraq has reinforced it. But I can't complain about their tactics. Maybe it's our tactics that are wrong.

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I suggest you rephrase that, PDQ. Surely you didn't mean to state that every US act in the Revolutionary War was a terrorist act, but that is what you just said.

I'm sorry, I assumed you could interpret my statements in a historical context and exact semantic correctness was not required of every statement I ever type. I guess I forgot that there are overly pedantic individuals who would rather nitpick away at the phraseology of my statements rather than concerning themselves with the ideas contained within.

So, your little red herring aside...

The only difference between a terrorist and a revolutionary patriot is whether or not the revolution succeeds.

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That doesn't make a lick of sense. Gandhi was a revolutionary patriot and he advocated non-violence, let alone terrorism.

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That doesn't make a lick of sense. Gandhi was a revolutionary patriot and he advocated non-violence, let alone terrorism.

I think bascule meant to say that some revolutionary patriots can be considered as terrorists who have won the war. Better phrased, a terrorist can become a revolutionary patriot if he succeeds. One is a subset of the other. It's not to say that all revolutionary patriots are terrorists.

If you don't take it so literally you can see what he means. The Indonesian government are fighting rebels and terrorists everyday. But if a day ever comes that they win independence, they will be known as liberators and heroes (atleast in their books).

Similarly, F16s dropping heavy bombs all over your town can be "terrorizing". This is probably going to get comments on the collateral damage vs intended civilian targets, but I rest.

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Oh I have no problem with the concept of victors writing history. I've read my Caesar. If he were alive today he might say "All Iraq is divided into three parts." And you won't get any argument from me about whether the war was a good idea -- I was opposed to it. My reasons may be slightly different, but I'm extremely sympathetic to your position that war is a bad thing.

My point is that moral equivalence instead of recognizing good versus evil is a dangerous, slippery slope. You carry the anti-war sentiment too far when you say that you think Al Qaeda is justified. Mind, it's your opinion, and I respect your right to have it. But I disagree.

In my view, when you lose an argument you don't pick up a stick and pound the other guy into submission. You fall back, regroup, and live to fight another day. Some you win, some you lose.

That's the one thing these terrorists don't seem to understand -- the idea that you can't always get what you want. In their world, you get EVERYTHING you want or you KILL until you get it. So they're going to take what they want, and enforce what they believe. No middle ground. No compromise. No quarter. No surrender. No retreat. Weakness in the enemy is reason to kill more, not relax and sign a treaty.

Keep on talking like you're talking, and they'll make it clear to you eventually.

In our society, in the western democracy you believe is as corrupt and evil as Al Qaeda, in that society we get a choice. In Al Qaeda's, there is none. You don't see a difference? I'm real sorry. But I do.

For fifteen thousand years we've been trying to figure this one out. We finally take a few steps forward, and people like you want to act like it's nothing new, nothing special, nothing unique, not an improvement. Hey, all I can say is, good luck with that. You want to wail and gnash your teeth and beat yourself up over the small stuff, go right ahead. The rest of us will fix the problems and move society forward.

Don't worry, there will be plenty more stuff for you to complain about later on.

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Ok, my understanding from people's replies here is that the firebombing campaigns in WWII were a moral mistake that we've learned from. To that, I would say that we have not learned anything. As late as 1989, we had nuclear weapons actively targeted at single building radar installations in the USSR. Nuclear weapons! It's like using a shotgun to take out a fly in the middle of a crowded mall. If you hit somebody under those circumstances, it no longer qualifies as "collateral damage." In fact, we might as well have filled all of our nuclear warheads with candy for all the good they would do us. Under any and all circumstances in which thousands of nuclear weapons are used, the only objective is to kill massive numbers of civilians. And for no real political purpose - Pentagon simulations of an exchange with the Russians see countries like Argentina (!) stepping up to fill the power void. And we still have 11,000 of these weapons; why? When there is no conceivable circumstance under which we might actually need more than 10.

The fact is, we haven't fought a real war since WWII. All of our latest wars have been situations where killing large numbers of civilians would be counterproductive politically due to the power differentials. The fact that we still have 11,000 nuclear weapons, though, indicates to me that we would not be averse to reverting to the moral logic of firebombing campaigns again.

And the situation in Iraq right now is not that different from France in the 40s. Not many people complain about the French resistance killing Vichy collaborators.

Ps - People in democracies are more liable for the actions of their governments as they have a direct say in the actions of said governments. Furthermore, the World Trade Center was the largest monument in the world to the Western notion of "free market capitalism." That building had been targeted for terrorism since the 70s, had a previous attack in 1993, and had armed guards in the lobby. The people that died were not working in a schoolhouse in Iowa.

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Ok, my understanding from people's replies here is that the firebombing campaigns in WWII were a moral mistake that we've learned from. To that, I would say that we have not learned anything. As late as 1989, we had nuclear weapons actively targeted at single building radar installations in the USSR. Nuclear weapons!

And when did we actually use them? If one were to compare the nuclear weapons of the cold war with the firebombings of WW2, then one would have to see some actual nuclear destruction somewhere. "Targeting" and "using" are two different things, are they not? So wouldn't that be a step forward versus WW2?

And remember, the rule of thumb there, crass and objectionable though it may have been, was "mutually assured destruction", meaning you don't do that unless the other guy does it to you first. This point was clearly not present in WW2. So that's another step forward.

This fits perfectly into my suggestion that a free society learns from its mistakes by making gradual improvements. Thanks for illustrating my point.

And the situation in Iraq right now is not that different from France in the 40s. Not many people complain about the French resistance killing Vichy collaborators.

Vichy collaborators were hardly "civilians", in the sense of an innocent bystander. The comparison is not valid. Al Qaeda, and AQ in Iraq, deliberately targets women and children, not just police recruits and military checkpoints.

Ps - People in democracies are more liable for the actions of their governments as they have a direct say in the actions of said governments. Furthermore, the World Trade Center was the largest monument in the world to the Western notion of "free market capitalism." That building had been targeted for terrorism since the 70s, had a previous attack in 1993, and had armed guards in the lobby. The people that died were not working in a schoolhouse in Iowa.

You mean the schoolhouse in Iowa that now has armed guards in front of it too? The same schoolhouse where children learn about western imperialism and capitalism and evolution and science and all those other lovely things that islamic fundamentalism want to crush from the world? You really don't believe that AQ would consider that to be a valid target? Really?

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This fits perfectly into my suggestion that a free society learns from its mistakes by making gradual improvements. Thanks for illustrating my point.

You're kind of twisting things around. A nuclear bomb is a little bit worse than a firebombing run. Whether or not it was launched had nothing to do with morals over civilian casualties, but rather had all to do with the fact that the USA didn't end up going to war with them.

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You're kind of twisting things around. A nuclear bomb is a little bit worse than a firebombing run. Whether or not it was launched had nothing to do with morals over civilian casualties, but rather had all to do with the fact that the USA didn't end up going to war with them.

I think you will find that far more Japanese civilians were killed during the firebombings than were killed with the nukes.

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As to terrorism being a ligitimate tactic in war, well if it is then certainly the use (by us) of tactics every bit as unconventional are also appropriate.

Why should we be bound by the geneva convention's rules of warfare, when our enemy is not? Because we want to think we are "better than that?"

In my opinion, it is "better" to save the lives of our citizins than to adhere to rules of war that were writtin to cover an entirely different type of conflict.

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You're kind of twisting things around. A nuclear bomb is a little bit worse than a firebombing run. Whether or not it was launched had nothing to do with morals over civilian casualties, but rather had all to do with the fact that the USA didn't end up going to war with them.

No, I am not. He made the assertion that since WW2 we haven't learned our lesson, and his example was nuclear weapons proliferation. I countered that proliferation is not the same thing as destruction. That's a logical refutation to his point, not a distortion or spin of any kind, and would be accepted as such in any formal debate setting.

The fact that no attack was ever launched only bolsters my point even further. Were the example folded over the socio-political setting of WW2, they would have been launched in a heartbeat. Clearly a step forward was achieved. Further steps forward have taken place since then, to the point where today we consider civilian casualties deplorable and unacceptable if they can possibly be avoided.

I don't understand what's so unclear about this. If you're really determined to demonize western civilization, I've no doubt you can manufacture all the straw men you need. But the fact remains that civilized society has grown as freedom and democracy have grown. Progress has been made. More progress will be made. Nobody says it's perfect, but we have the greatest society in the entire history of human existence. These arguments amount to little more than a child throwing its birthday cake on the floor because it's got chocolate icing instead of vanilla.

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For fifteen thousand years we've been trying to figure this one out. We finally take a few steps forward' date=' and people like you want to act like it's nothing new, nothing special, nothing unique, not an improvement. Hey, all I can say is, good luck with that. You want to wail and gnash your teeth and beat yourself up over the small stuff, go right ahead. The rest of us will fix the problems and move society forward.

[/quote']

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here or how you've come to a conclusion on things, but I was simply trying to make a point on the thread's topic and my stand is: Terrorism is a valid war tactic. It is effective. It works when you have no means to go to war otherwise (i.e. going one on one head on with the US army isn't going to be effective). I apologize if circumstances caused straying from the original discussion or misunderstanding of my stance.

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terrorism is a valid war tactic. it harms people. it scares people. it fits well within the confines of the definition of war

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I don't think anyone is really disputing that terrorism is literally valid, in the sense that it is effective and "fits within the definition of war". The question is whether it carries moral/ethical validity, as an option in wartime.

I'm disappointed at the positive responses along those lines. Such is your opinions, of course, and I respect that. It's just disappointing to find such moral ambiguity, obvious straw-manning and two-wrongs-making-a-right amidst otherwise intelligent people.

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