Terrorism and Democracy

by Timothy Little

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but it is the way we address it is. As the U.S. moves forward in combating this threat, a more aggressive foreign policy is needed. Diplomacy alone is not enough to counter this, military force must be utilized. Terrorism is never justifiable and therefore the response of democracies must change. Although the Bush administration has already taken aggressive approach to combat terrorism more of an international effort is required.

The Justification of Terrorist Acts

Terrorist acts are never justifiable.The only means states can communicate this to terrorists is by never capitulating to terrorist demands. World War II taught everyone that appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive; the same applies to terrorism. Terrorists that successfully cause a state to change their policy will only become further emboldened. If the United States complied with the demands of al-Qaeda after the events of September 11th, then the U.S. would have faced greater terrorist threats at-home. This doctrine faced a major setback in 2004 with the aftermath of the Madrid bombing. After the attack on the Madrid train system by Islamic extremists, Spain withdrew troops from operations inside Iraq, thus surrendering to terrorist demands. Although Spain has not suffered from acts of terrorism since, their capitulation sent a message to terrorists that unjustifiable actions could yield positive results.

Justifiable implies a moral vindication of an action. Terrorism, by nature, is never justifiable despite any gains it may produce favorable to the terrorists. When states surrender to terrorism, they send a false claim to terrorists that their actions are justifiable. It is human nature that when an action produces a favorable result that the action continues. Therefore, states must stand unified in rejecting terrorist demands. One state cowering to terrorists creates a global setback in the war against terrorism.

The Right of All Democracies

Democratic governments have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary to ensure their continual survival. Since states should never negotiate with terrorists, the inevitable result between states and terrorists is armed conflict.

Military force is a widely accepted means to accomplish the goals of the state. What makes a democracy different in its conduct of war then other states is its propensity for being the least likely form of government to go to war. The means to defend one’s self by any means necessary implies that overwhelming use of force is permissible. However, it should be a last resort. Military force is a vital means for democracies to defend against terrorists. In fighting a war, it is necessary that democracies avoid sacrificing anything of moral value; actions in concert with force ought to follow the principles of just war theory.

Democracies must not only utilize military force, but a moral one as well. It is common understanding that diplomacy, like war, is a tool of statecraft. States have carried out wars and other forms of military interventions since their creation. However, moral credibility is also a vital tool in combating terrorism. Democracies need to win the hearts and minds of people who support terrorists. For this reason, the actions of democracies in conducting military operations require a moral scope. Democracies need to defeat terrorism on the ground while ensuring that it does not reoccur in future generations.

The U.S. and the Global War on Terror

Since the United States declared war on terrorism, the greatest action undertaken by the U.S. has been an offensive course that has brought the war to rogue states supporting terrorism while advancing the spread of democracy. The U.S. could not simply ignore external threats by strengthening its defensive capability in preparation for other attacks. Regime change and nation building is an effective facet of U.S. foreign policy. Actions undertaken in Afghanistan by NATO and Coalition forces in Iraq are examples of an aggressive foreign policy that uses hard power to achieve results.

Initial military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq to oust the ruling regime proved victorious and made the U.S. and other democracies safer from terrorism. However, post-war reconstruction to build stable democracies in those areas has not had such successes and in some instances reversed initial tactical victories.

Democracies are considerably less likely to go to war against one another and more democracies need to exist. However, how to create a democracy is highly debatable. An Islamic democracy within the Middle East would have the greatest affect against terrorism. Actions inside Iraq, despite reasons for invasion in 2003, to build a stable democracy is the most effective action undertaken by the U.S. to combat terrorism.

Despite implementation failings, the policy is a sound one and the U.S. should continue reconstruction in Iraq. It is the duty of all democracies to spread democracy to the world. A free world, sympathetic to American ideology and values is a safer world.

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