The war on terror has taken a different turn since the death of Osama bin Laden. There has been different arguments on the moral authority and justification behind the attacks on countries that have had different associations with terrorism. These countries are Iran, Afghanistan and other Arabic countries that have had earlier terrorist involvements such as Somalia and Yemen. After the death of bin Laden, the US did not withdraw the army from Afghanistan. Rather, the government observed this as a considerable achievement and a justification for further war against the terrorists. There has been an intensification of military personnel and intelligent services both locally and in the East. Different philosophers have taken different positions on the justification of the terrorists, as well as the governments fighting against them. The main arguments in discussion, in this essay, are those by Michael Walzer and Eric Posner.
The Plight of Prisoners
In the war against terror, there are prisoners on both sides. The terrorists capture the soldiers in their countries. On the other hand, the soldiers also capture terror suspects as well as those with an already existing terrorism records. The arguments on the treatment of both types of prisoners vary according to different philosophers. Different military and political groups try to give a moral justification for their actions. There are dangers of success and an ethical framework to justify hostile approach by different groups. These arguments also give the utilitarian advantages of the actions by the governments involved in the war against terror to the citizens of the two countries. These two arguments also relate to the everyday moral perceptions in relationship to the general decisions by the general decisions. They also focus on historical hypothesis, identifying the extremes and the normality of these analogies. The decisions made in emergencies compromise moral judgment and raises questions, which bring about a difference in arguments.
According to Walzer, there should be action to pursue the ethical framework and arguments behind hostile approaches from terrorists and the war against them. He explains about the moral argument behind the realist approach, which focuses on the dangers of success and the triumph of war. In this approach, the governments view terrorism as a reality, and not a crime. Therefore, they deal with the political problems that bring about terrorism. The governments analyze the political background of the terrorist, and act upon the original polity, other than individual terrorists. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US government considered the attack as political questions between the two governments, Iraq and the US. These approaches, according to Walzer, may cause abuse of moral reasoning by two parties, the terrorists and the politicians. These parties can justify the actions they want, making the approaches prone to deception and exploitation. The stronger governments, for example, can take advantage over the weaker economies on the pretense of war against terror. Walzer also introduces the idea of emergency ethics and also examines their moral authority. This is the use of moral arguments and justifications in times of extreme cruelty and terror. This can cause suspension and ignorance of moral standards in the society.
The justification behind this is that, in extreme danger, there is a need for action, without necessarily justifying it. This can be applicable both in the cases of politicians and terrorists. The politicians will feel the need to assure people of their protection. The terrorists, on the other hand, will feel the need to react to attacks on their nations and act on emergency. The terrorists may also argue that their actions were as retaliation to the attacks on innocent people in their countries. Walzer determines that the applications of emergency ethics should be in exactly necessary situations. This is because the effects of these ethics are always horrific. A good example is the bombing of the twin towers. His arguments also raise a question of the war against terrorism by George Bush. The implementation of the Patriot Act also raises questions on whether it was the right move against the terrorist attacks. This is whereby enemies do not have the right to defend their innocence before a justice system. The emergency ethics application by terrorists will also mean that the prisoners of war will not have a chance of liberation in foreign captivity. This is because the treatment of terrorist prisoners also forces the terrorist to implement similar laws to the prisoners of war. However, Walzer does not provide the ideal solution to this ethical dilemma. He only provides that there should be holistic considerations before any actions or judgments after hostile situations. This should be in the identification and in making the best actions. He gives different crucial decisions from the emergency ethics, such as the reactions of the Nazis after realization that they were under serious threat.
According to Eric Posner, there is symmetry and reciprocity in different decisions, during the making and implementation of laws both by the government and the terrorists. Each party in war can minimize its losses by negotiating with the other party. The decision by the parties to go to war is solely their choice. This is because there are already existing rules in the United Nations that allows parties to negotiate before going to war. These negotiations are, however, possible in theory. They are hard to implement in reality. This is because of the technicalities involved in war and conflict. The two parties have different desires and different reasons of involvement in the conflict. One of parties may also be stronger than the other, and the war would mean a difference of losses and gains for the parties. The symmetry principle only provides that the two parties must have similar losses if they were to be in a war. These principles identify the treatment of prisoners of war after the capture. For example, it would be easier to treat POWs captured in their own countries well, other than those in the enemy’s countries. Even after Geneva Convention, some of the countries still had a culture of treating the prisoners of war well. It would also be difficult for the US government to treat terrorists well after capturing them in the US soil. Different countries have different perceptions about the treatment of prisoners of war. Some believe that proper treatment of prisoners will make them surrender. Others believe that treating the prisoners poorly will humiliate them and make them demand peace from their countries.
Eric Posner also identifies reciprocity as a means of controlling the behavior of different soldiers in war. It gives soldiers a common way of acting in different war situations. He also identifies that terrorist groups act as they do due to the diverse manners different governments apply during war. Posner applies that if the states acted in a common way, then the rogue groups and terrorists would also act using diplomacy in airing their grievances. Their hostile actions would not be in existence. However, it would be impractical in dealing with terrorists by considering them as another state and applying reciprocity. This is because the terrorist groups are not a state recognized in the international community. He also gives the explanation that dealings with terrorists cannot be general in different governments. Therefore, there must be joint rules by different states to ensure a common way of dealing with governments.
Posner concludes that the terrorists are an organization similar to other independent states. The other states should determine common rules and tactics to deal with different terrorist groups. This should avoid the development of terrorist conflicts to use of military power and ammunition. He gives an example of the US and the al Qaeda, who should use common laws in dealing with their conflicts before they develop to the extent of intense military conflict. Walzer, on the other hand, concludes that states should evaluate in details different moral arguments before any reactions. The moral justification of each action should be of maximum social welfare. The aftermath of the methods that the states in conflict use should have minimal losses in both. He also addresses ethical issues in the fight against terror. Like Posner, he advocates for good treatment of terror suspects and POWs. He concludes by pointing out that all conflict should have an aim of promoting democracy, freedom and justice and improve human civilization.