David and Goliath: Washington's War Against Nicaragua by W.I. Robinson, Kent Norsworthy

By W.I. Robinson, Kent Norsworthy

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Sample text

It seems, however, that situational factors have a much greater role than cultural diversity in determining conduct in war. The form of government is, perhaps, the single most important factor. Some of the most severe violations of 3 0 / T E R R O R I S M A S A S T R AT E G Y O F I N S U R G E N C Y human rights in modern history have been committed by totalitarian Western regimes. Perceived necessity plays a major role as well. In fact, all states have repeatedly broken the rules of war. In almost all modern wars, civilian populations have been victimized intentionally, and the magnitude of the transgression has been determined by capability and need as much as by moral principles.

Walzer’s somewhat ambiguous verdict is that because “the variety of activities sponsored and paid for by the modern state is extraordinary . . ”35 Private persons are definitely not assassinable, according to Walzer. These cannot spare their lives by changing their behavior. Killing them is, therefore, unequivocally immoral. Walzer’s analysis leaves several principal problems with no satisfactory answer. The most important one has to do with the essence of moral judgment. The fundamental question is whether moral norms in general and war norms in particular are absolute, unchanging over time, and identical in all societies, or a changing reflection of the human condition and therefore varying across societies and perennially modified to fit new situations.

As suggested above, the customary modern usage of the term refers, at least in 2 4 / T E R R O R I S M A S A S T R AT E G Y O F I N S U R G E N C Y the West, to actions such as the bombing in midair of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988, the attacks on passengers in the Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, and the seizure of the Saudi embassy in Khartoum in March 1973. These actions represent a form of political violence different from guerrilla war, conventional war, and riots. Actions of this kind, when they are carried out systematically, constitute a distinct strategy of insurgency.

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