|TERRORISMS, TERRORIST WARS: A PHILOSOPHICAL
This is the audience hand-out for Ted Honderich's lecture at Dresden University in Germany on 20 May 2009.
(1) Zionism: the founding and actually necessary subsequent defence of Israel within roughly the original 1948-1967 borders. Right or wrong? Neo-Zionism: the taking since 1967 of at least their autonomy from the Palestinians in the last 5th of their historic homeland. Right or wrong? (2) Palestinian terrorism? (3) Why was the 9/11 attack on America wrong? Moral responsibility shared by others than the terrorists? (4) Our war in Iraq and the aftermath? (5) Such terrorism as that of 7/7 on the subway and buses in London? (6) The attack on Gaza?
A division of intellectual labour with such large questions of right and wrong, and of moral responsibility and moral credit. Analytic philosophy's part is a concentration on a general logic: clarity of analysis; consistency and validity; completeness. Against the great fact of convention in thinking and feeling. It also makes use of some progress beyond piety in moral philosophy.
Should we proceed, however, by way of some other thinking or practice? Negotiation rather than violence? International law? Human rights? Just war theory? The politics of reality?
Above all, proceed by democracy? Main justification must be its outputs: laws, policies, institutions, societies. The argument for it: two heads better than one, more heads better than two. Or many wants as distinct from judgements in the decision procedure. Argument depends on equality and freedom.
American & British democracy a system of gross inequality -- merely hierarchic democracy. Top economic 10th has at least 1000 times the political power and influence of bottom. But still the recommendation of being a decision-procedure of freedom? No. Far from liberty being separate from and somehow conflicting with equality, freedom requires and varies with equality. (Hope in Obama?)
So a principle of right and wrong needed. Principle needed for consistency etc. Start with bad lives. Defined in terms of deprivation or frustration of six great human goods or desires: decent length of life, bodily quality of life, freedom & power, respect & self-respect, goods of relationship, goods of culture.
Principle of Humanity The right thing as distinct from others -- action, practice, institution, government, society, possible world -- is the one that according to the best judgement and information then is the rational one, in the sense of being effective and not self-defeating, with respect to the end of getting and keeping people out of bad lives.
Of course consequentialist, like all moral reasons. Not the principle that the ends justify the means. The ends and the means justify the means. Of course a maximizing principle. Not all of the morality of humanity, which includes policies and practices, a view of omissions, etc. Relativity of rightness.
Not pious, innocent. Sees all moral principles not as simple truths but attitudes, including desire. So no alternative to the morality of humanity has any innate superiority. Understands relation of any principle to e.g. sexual torture of a child -- relation of mutual support of a moral datum or given and a principle.
Principle of Humanity unique. Despite being an attitude, it it is a child of analytic philosophy. It is indeed freer of convention -- and it has more support in both fact and logic. facts of human nature: (a) each person's great human desires, (b) general reasons, (c) logical inconsistency with inhuman judgments about others. A general convergence on the principle as well. Principle also superior in being clearer, more determinate, more decisive -- greatly more resistant to self-deception, manipulation etc. Cf principles of utility, retributive justice. Cf. the amoral self-interest of conservatism, the mess of liberalisms, etc. Also obscure or light stuff in theories and practices above, including hierarchic democracy.
With respect to convention, this morality asserts the need for disrespect. It does not leave implicit or explicit justifications of anything, including killing, to a political or other class, democracy, etc. [It asserts the necessity of rhetoric to its ends. Doesn't join the cant of 'unacceptable'
Terrorism defined: (1) killing and other violence, (2) smaller-scale than war, (3) political and social aim -- maybe the aim of a people, (4) against national or international law, (5) prima facie wrong. Of course includes state terrorism. Of course issues via (2) in related definition of terrorist war.
The unimportance and importance of definitions of terrorism. Cf definition that make it the intentional killing of innocent people. The implied contrast with war. What is intentional action in general? Acting with foresight. Example of double-murderer.
Factual questions harder than moral questions -- harder than defending a moral principle. E.g. judging the probable effects of terrorism. Moral uncertainty, and the necessity of judging despite it.
Zionism, the founding of Israel in 1948 borders, was right. Via Holocaust, the judgement in 1948 that the Palestininians were not fully a people, the unthinkableness of the rightness of founding Israel in a part of Germany . Zionism since justified by the existence of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. A fact to be reverenced. Neo-Zionism, the depriving of the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last 5th of historic Palestine. Wholly wrong. The rapacious violation of another people. No complex problem in Palestine. Perfectly simple. There are not two sides to a real rape either.
Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within all of Palestine against the ethnic cleansing of neo-Zionism. Also to be reverenced. (a) Legal and moral rights -- and the Principle of Humanity. (b) To have a moral right to X is to have a moral right to the only possible means to X. (c) Not leaving judgements as to killing to our hierarchic democracies or any other convention. (d) Intifadas have shown the 1948 judgement that Palestinians were not fully a people was false -- relevance of this? Compensation for error?
9/11 had as part of its end an opposition to neo-Zionism, an opposition wholly justified. But 9/11 was wholly wrong as a means to that end. Nothing like a rational means to the end of the Principle of Humanity. Iraq a result. Moral responsibility for it shared by e.g. a political class in America.
War on Iraq a terrorist war. But the definitional fact important only in countering propaganda. Not important re thinking. War wholly wrong. Of course in terms of the morality of humanity. Moral barbarism, mainly for its fully intentional since foreseen killing of innocents.
7/7 and related terrorism. The moral importance of horror? The awfulness of being selective in horror. Tavistock Square and Abu Taleb Street. 7/7 against neo-Zionism in part, and the Iraq War. Good ends. But 7/7 as wrong as 9/11, by the same argument of monstrous irrationality. So too with other terrorism against neo-Zionism outside of historic Palestine.
War on Terror: The effective enemies of such terrorism as 9/11 and 7/7? Those who act against both it and also its causes -- neo-Zionism, Iraq. Those who use their physical powers, powers of information, argument, influence, money, authority, democratic certification, prime ministerial or presidential command. Cf. New Labour's 'Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. Not heard after 9/11. Effective enemies of terrorism do not include Bush, Blair, Brown. They are effectively its friends.
Gaza. The aim of Israel was not saving lives of its own citizens from rocket attacks. It could have achieved that immediately by embracing the simple solution to the simple Palestinian problem. It could have withdrawn, without condition or negotiation, from the remaining homeland of another people. (See e.g. Michael Neumann, The Case Against Israel.) The preponderant aim of neo-Zionism in Gaza was neo-Zionism. Bestiality of the war a moral datum, like sexual torture of child.
In its neo-Zionism, Israel had no moral right to defend itself against the rockets. Whatever the instincts of human nature, the instinct to self-defence, it had no more right to defend itself against the rockets than Hitler Germany had a right to defend itself and its death camps.
Is moral justification of resistance to neo-Zionism within Palestine a case of incitement to terrorism? No, it is reasoned endorsement of that means. But is reasoned endorsement of (say) an end of 7/7 terrorism as bad as incitement to the means -- dangerous despite not being any incitement? No, condemning both the terrorism and the causes, as already said, is more effective in stopping terrorism than condemning only the terrorism.
Anti-semitism. The libel and slander against those who condemn neo-Zionism is now principally a side of that neo-Zionism or an insufficient detachment from it. Also the racial or ethnic prejuduce of semitism -- prejudice in favour of Jews.
Reading: Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7... (Continuum 2006); After the Terror (Edinburgh University Press 2003); On Political Means & Social Ends (Edinburgh University Press 2003); Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (Pluto 2003); Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair? (Pluto 2005); Stephen Law, ed. Israel, Palestine, and Terror (Continuum, 2008); articles etc at http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/
The lecture was also to be given elsewhere in Germany on May 21. For a note on how this did not happen, go to A Lecture Cancelled at the University of Muenster on Terrorism and the Principle of Humanity, published in Telepolis, the German inernet magazine, along with a half-dozen related articles. There is also an edited German translation of the note.
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