Discussion&Responses: Counterterrorism vs. War

Just war theory is the basis on which nation states attempt to legally, ethically, and morally justify going to war. Throughout history, we have seen that not all states follow this type of theory (e.g., Nazi Germany during World War II).

Critics of this theory maintain that morality does not exist in warfare. The basis for this argument is that “war is hell” and a nation should be able to do whatever it takes to ensure victory.

Just war theory, on the other hand, sets forth a moral framework for warfare and rejects the notion that “anything goes” during times of war. Traditionally, only nations have the authority to declare war. Wars must be publicly declared, not pursued in secret.

In your initial post to this discussion, provide your comments about whether or not you believe terrorist groups can “declare war.” If not, is the response to terrorism really war? The two replies to other posts can either be a response to a question about your analysis or to the classmate whose work you reviewed.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.

Textbook: Global Terrorism, Chapter 12
This chapter discusses counterterrorism techniques and potential issues with civil liberties.
As you read this chapter, consider the following question:

Is there an optimal balance between effective counterterrorism techniques and the protection of individual civil liberties?
PDF: National Strategy for Counterterrorism (Optional)
Read the U.S. Government’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism. This strategy sets out the U.S. approach to disrupting, dismantling, and eventually defeating terrorist threats to the United States to ensure the security of our citizens and interests.
As you read this strategy, consider the following question:

Is the United States postured to effectively disrupt potential threats from violent extremists?

Peer post 1

Terror organizations can not declare war in the traditional sense. Just like when the U.S. declared a “War on Drugs” it was not a real war; it was a government led action to curtail the effects of drug abuse. Since terror organizations do not have a recognized government entity, their announcement of war equates to the same as two neighbors who have decided that they are at war with each other over who is to maintain the cutting of the weeds around a telephone pole that sits on their property line. The United States has not Congressionally declared war on terrorism, it is a phrase used to inform our citizens and the rest of the world that our government is going to take overt and covert actions to reduce the risk of terrorism related to the U.S. and its interests.

If the United States were to officially declare war on a terror organization, it would give legitimacy and possibly rights and status that the United States is fighting to keep terrorists from gaining. (Dunlap Jr., 2016) Shortly after 9/11 Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution. This allowed the United States to use military force against States as well as organizations and persons that the President has determined planned, authorized, committed, aided, harbored such organizations or persons in connection with the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. With the specific purpose to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons. (Authorization for Use of Military Force, 2001) A declaration of war is not needed by any nation to actively pursue measures to safeguard their citizens from acts of terrorism.


Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224, codified as amended at title 50 U.S.C. § 1541

Dunlap Jr., C. (2016, August 30). Why Declarations of War Matter. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from https://harvardnsj.org/2016/08/why-declarations-of-war-matter/.

Peer post 2

Just war theory states that only nations have the ability to declare war. Based upon this theory, terrorist groups do not have the ability to declare war. They are organizations, not nations. I agree with this part of the just war theory. However, I do believe a nation has the ability to declare war on a terrorist group. Just cause under the just war theory states, “the existence of the state or the lives of its citizens must be at stake.” Terrorist groups may not represent a state, but I don’t believe that should matter. When Al-Qaeda attacked the world trade center in 2001, all bets were off. Our nation will defend itself from any threat and hold the responsible party accountable for their actions. Self-defense is just cause for war recognized in modern international law. I also agree with critics to some extent regarding the argument that “war is hell” and a nation should do whatever it take to secure a victory. Warfare is entirely different than it was a century ago. The violence is more extreme and the weapons cause more devastation. Terrorist groups are continuously adopting new ways to increase the devastation of their attacks.


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