Saturday, August 05, 2006


I’m afraid that Blankpaige has strayed into some serious stuff. Hang with me, there is some lighter stuff on the way……. but in the meantime, in response to Omani’s considered comments on my last post, I offer the following.

Issue 1 : What is Terrorism?
If only it would be so easy to make the word ‘terrorist’ redundant. However, even if it was, the first issue is not that the word might become a poor descriptor, it is perhaps that the word tends to be selectively applied. Principle 1 tries to recognise that whatever the reasons for the act of terror, the apparent justification or the ‘democratic purity’ of the perpetrator, terror is defined by the effect it has on the victim. The Russian, USA or UK military bombing a poor Chechen, Iraqi or Afghan village might be part of a ‘legitimate’ war on terror, it might even be UN-sanctioned. But if a family cowering under a flimsy bed while bombs fall about them is terrified, then an act of terrorism has taken place. (Even a Munster man would accept that the rugby team are unlikely to terrorise their opponents!)

Issue 2 : Reasonable Defense
Defence doesn’t constitute terrorism per se. But any defence in which the ‘defender’ seeks to overwhelm the victim and in the process instil a sense of hopelessness and fear, is an act of terror. (It is unlikely even if on they were on the rack that Stade Francais would feel so hopeless in the face of a Munster onslaught!) By my definition any act of aggression could be classified as an act of terror. But this is the root of the problem. A failure to recognise aggression as the cause of conflict, not the response, reasonable or otherwise, to conflict. Perhaps we’d be more effective if instead of calling for an end to terrorism or the war on terror that we sought an end to aggression.

Issue 3 : Name Calling
Of course you are most correct. The terrorist/freedom fighter perspectives simply don’t help resolve any thing? Name-calling only polarises and aggravates an already dangerous situation.

Issue 4 : Giving Voice to Public Opinion
I accept the points you make about how it might be useful/desirable to have not entirely unambiguous UN resolutions so that they can be read differently by different groups. Although I have my reservations about the value of ambiguity in any dispute resolution process.

Issue 5 : Respect the Mediator
The UN provides a forum for moderate voices in any dispute. But mediation only works if all parties respect the mediating authority and agree to be bound by its decisions. The US/UK has consistently undermined the UN to the point where it now lacks all credibility. Israel has further ridiculed the UN by selectively highlighting some resolutions but ignoring others completely. Syrians and Iranians have done similar.

Issue 6 : Moral Authority
Your point is well made on our apparent need to give moral authority to a position through a UN resolution. This is the UN’s most valuable attribute. This makes it all the more important that the long term status of the UN is not undermined for some short term manoeuvring by a big or small country.

We should be guided only by the principle that aggression is counter productive. It provokes an aggressive response and without moderating voices disputes quickly escalate into acts of extreme aggression (i.e. terror). We must not be afraid to condemn acts of aggression regardless of who the perpetrator is. Failure to do so becomes interpreted as acquiescence and tacit approval.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing - Edmund Burke

A good friend tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear - Paige Harrison


Blogger Branedy said...

Very nicely written. Thanks

1:30 p.m., August 06, 2006  
Blogger parnellpr said...

V apt. Finally getting round to linking to your other post 2nite, will do same 4 this one. Saw your man Brian on the heaven and earth show. Even more devastated that he's gay now....Didn't manage to catch him singing though, i do know he was gonna sing " you raise me up" thoug. Apparently he is a bestselling author as well... Pippa

11:11 p.m., August 06, 2006  
Blogger -canuck- said...

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing - Edmund Burke

You should read that one again.

Another meaningless rant.

6:07 a.m., August 08, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Thanks Branedy & Pippa.

-canuck-, if you pursue my blog you'll quickly realise that it is full of meaningless rants - that is why blogging is such fun. You will also notice that the two posts on the current Middle East conflict are the least meaningless and least ranting of them.

It is folk like you, with your insightful and carefully constructed critique that scare me way from meaningful posts on any subject. I'm just so afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle your obvious intellectual might.

10:20 a.m., August 08, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

This is such a big topic, isn't it?

Rather than try to respond to all of it, I'll try some bite-sized chunks.

"But if a family cowering under a flimsy bed while bombs fall about them is terrified, then an act of terrorism has taken place..."

If you use the word "terrorism" to apply to all situations where one party is terrified, the word will become too generalised in meaning, I think. Certainly "violence" has taken place. Certainly "terrific" acts have taken place.

But I had the impression that "terrorism" was a word which might usefully be used to refer to a form of violence which was carried out by organisations which had neither any democratic legitimacy, nor any regard for a distinction between combanants and non-combatants.

Perhaps things are too complex for any word to be unabused.

But the view that they are all terrorists... will that help with anything more than coping with justifiable indignation at terrible violence?

2:34 p.m., August 08, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Omani, again you say it more eloquently than I. I think we are in complete agreement. It seems that terrorism can only be determined by the victim not by the scale/size of acts/justification of the aggressor. There is a convention that we call undemocratic organisations or ones that fail to discriminate between combatants/non-combatants as terrorists. But this distinction hardly helps us resolve the fundamental.

Therefore, I would argue if we can accept that no-one has a victim monopoly and that almost anyone can be seen as a terrorist in someone elses eyes, it is then time to look beyond the appropriateness of the label and look at the conflict/actions themselves. If our recent history shows us anything it is that if we "get over" the fact that someone may/may not be a terrorsit in our eyes, we still have to resolve the cause of strife.

I'd argue that to various extents Iran, Syria, Israel, US, UK, Lebanon, Hizbullah, etc are all engage in acts of terror. So terrorism doesn't distinguish them. What distinguishes them is that they are aligned on opposite sides of a regional conflict/proxy war. All parties are adding to the conflict and the killing of innocent civilians. Once we've solved the problem, we can get into a nice academic classification of which sides were really terrorists and which were not.

3:21 p.m., August 08, 2006  

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