Democracy and Security

In Adam D. Moore (ed.), Privacy, Security and Accountability: Ethics, Law and Policy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield International (2015)
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Abstract

This chapter is concerned with the role of democracy in preventing terrorism, identifying and apprehending terrorists, and in minimizing and alleviating the damage created by terrorism.1 Specifically, it considers the role of democracy as a resource, not simply a limitation, on counterterrorism.2 I am mainly concerned with the ways in which counterterrorism is similar to more familiar forms of public policy, such as the prevention of crime or the promotion of economic prosperity, and so nothing that I say turns on being able sharply to distinguish terrorism from other bad things that democracies have to face. I will not, then, address the extensive debate on the best way to define terrorism.3 However, I assume that terrorists characteristically seek to terrorize people in order to secure their particular ends. What forms that terror takes, what people terrorists seek to terrorize, and what ends terrorists seek to promote I assume to be indeterminate, open to change, and a matter for empirical investigation. However, I take it that the IRA, Baader Meinhoff, and the Red Brigade, as well as certain animal rights groups in the United Kingdom and certain anti-abortion groups in the United States, are examples of terrorist groups and individuals. In short, I will be assuming that terrorism is principally characterized by the choice of means to given ends, rather than by the ends themselves, and that it is the choice of means, rather than the favored ends, that makes terrorism so problematic from a democratic perspective. However good the goal, terrorizing a population—whether or not this involves killing the innocent—is morally wrong and, from a democratic perspective, an abuse of power over the lives of others. While the use of terror may indicate that the ends sought by terrorists are such that people cannot be expected to support them voluntarily, there is no justification for supposing that the ends of terrorism must be morally or politically unacceptable simply because the means are both. It is a staple of ordinary life—not merely of philosophical examples—that people are sometimes unjustified in the means they use in order to accomplish perfectly acceptable ends. So, the ends terrorists seek are, or might become, morally or politically acceptable without in any way altering our objections to the use of terror as a tool for promoting them.

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Annabelle Lever
SciencesPo, Paris

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