In light of recent events and the current "war on terrorism” it seems critical to move away from political rhetoric and approach the issue with as much reasonable objectivity as possible. The central question that Andrew Valls attempts to answer is weather terrorism can be justified. He argues that it can in some cases when measured against just war theory. Just war theory sets moral limits on the waging of war while justifying its legitimacy. I am in agreement with his conclusion but my defense of his argument relies on acceptance of his definition of terrorism, which seems to me rather broad.
Valls defines terrorism as political violence done to persons or property committed by nonstate actors. It must be politically motivated for any other form of violence is considered crime and subject to domestic laws. He adds violence against property to include attacks that would be considered terrorism even though they do not harm people. An example of this would be the bombing of an abortion clinic. When he limits the violence to nonstate actors, he doesn't deny the existence of state sponsored terrorism. He states that this type of violence is a matter of domestic justice, and in cases outside its borders, just war theory can be applied.
With this definition he attempts to avoid two difficulties. He does not prejudge the issue by characterizing terrorism as something intrinsically wrong, which is what Walzer seems to do. How can there be serious discussion about a normative issue if it is already defined as unjustifiable? He also attempts to avoid making his definition stipulative.
I would argue that Valls' definition is too broad with respect to his contention that it is nonessential to include fear or intimidation as a deliberate strategy of terrorism. Of course if this provision were added, it would weaken his argument by disqualifying many cases of nonstate violence. Held's definition is very similar to Valls',...