Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is terrorism anyway?

DISCLAIMER: I am in NO way making excuses for the terrorism of Hamas. I'm just musing on the nature of warfare.

It's interesting - Israel is negotiating with Hamas for a long term cease-fire. So even though we say that terrorism, in the form of shooting rockets into cities indiscriminately, is not legal warfare and should only be answered with force, we nonetheless negotiate with them as if they were playing by the rules.

Of course, the idea that innocents shouldn't be targeted during wartime is a fairly recent one. For most of human history, war, people expected war to bring rape, massacres, expulsion, and people being taken into slavery. That was just the way of things. The notion of human rights didn't exist.

Now, we pretend to be more civilized. Yet only 70 years ago, the United States, which is supposed to be a bastion of human rights. dropped weapons of mass destruction on innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 150,000 and 200,00 people. By all definitions we use today, that was a massive and horrific act of terrorism.

People make a lot of excuses. The say there was no other way to end the war. Or that it saved millions of lives.

But can't Hamas claim the same thing? Can't they also say that they have no other way of fighting?

In my book, terrorism is terrorism. Hamas shooting rockets at Israeli cities is terrorism. And the US using the atomic bomb on Japan was also terrorism - pretty horrific terrorism at that. But the idea of terrorism is a fairly new notion. Before that, it was "all's fair in war" and "might makes right".

How do we get to a point where all players agree that targeting civilians is off the table? Will we ever get there?

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