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Trying to restate the parts of this topic that I agree with.

Terrorism is a tactic, a way of achieving your goals. You can consider a heinous way of doing so, or you can call it the resort of those with unworthy goals, or a ineffective way. But nonetheless it is a deliberate method of trying to effect change.

Terrorism is not a defined enemy. A "War on Terrorism" makes about as much sense as a "war on ambushes", a "war on frying-pans" or "war on drugs". It may be useful as a rhetorical device and a power play, but it is not clearly defined in any meaningful or legal sense. And it can't ever be decisively won, since anyone can use the terror tactics, and there is no single enemy leader that can capitulate.

If war is the extension of diplomacy by other means, then terror is the extension of war by other means. An organisation that can't compete head-on against a large military force can still afford the apparatus of a few bombs, guns and martyrs.

It is not tenable to say that conventional war (whatever that is these days) with all its attendant tactics, can sometimes be justified; but terror is always bad. What is the distance from Terror to Shock and Awe? Dead is dead, and although terror has as civilians the primary targets and war has them only as collateral damage, the facts remain that in the so-called "war on terror" more innocents in the third world have died, terrified, bombed, than in the first world.

It isn't valid to claim that any organisation that uses terror has invalid goals. The ANC employed a terror campaign in the mid 1980s, and P.W. Botha was fond of calling them "communist terrorist insurgents". By the mid 1990s we were calling them "the government". This was a positive change. Irgun used terror tactics to promote Israeli independence.

It isn't valid to claim that the use of terror invalidates the goals of the user. Not unless you also want to invalidate any user of military bombardment too, and then exist in a world consisting only of blackened pots and darkened kettles, accusing all and solving nothing. Long-distance bombardment is just as one-sided, and just as terrible. War is hell. Terror is a part of this.

Terrorism is a tool of war, sometimes the last weapon left to the dispossessed and desperate. Is playing to your strengths only a good thing if your strength is having an army? Understanding the reasons for what happens is better then trying to pass them off as intrinsically evil.

How to fight terror? Like the man said, You want peace, you must work for justice. Empty, self-serving rhetoric about democracy and freedom, whilst occupying countries where the majority want the occupier to leave, and suggesting that the third world become like the first, when the first world's position is a consequence of there being a third world, is not just.

By all means, declare a legally constituted police action or international enforcement against specifically identified drug cartels or terror-using extremist organisations and individuals. But open-ended campaigns of general enforcement are part of the problem, not the solution.

Current organisations that employ terror can be examined on the basis of their goals, and some of them will be found to have radical, luddite, intolerant and impractical goals. But they will still attract support as long as there is injustice.

"A terrorist is someone who has a bomb but doesn't have an air force"

The trouble with the now increasingly common assertion that "There is no terrorism. There is only war." is that by legitimizing the deliberate infliction of maximum civilian casualties by the least powerful side in a conflict as a normal tactic of war; one cannot logically avoid legitimizing the deliberate infliction of maximum civilian casualties by the other, usually vastly more powerful side in the same conflict since this too becomes "the normal conduct of war."

Such a choice was, admittedly, tempting after school children were simply massacred in Soweto, but only because the white South African government that gunned down those children probably couldn't function without keeping most of it's black labor force alive - but precisely parallel arguments are harder to make in more modern cases.

Surely "There is no terrorism" is a less attractive political stance if it means that Israel gets carte blanche to see just how much of the Palestinian population it can kill if it exerts itself to the absolute utmost against the helpless civilian population of Palestine which hates it and considers itself at war with Israel - since the answer is probably "everybody." These aren't rules of war worth having.

Yet if deliberately setting out to cause the maximum number of civilian casualties one possibly can to the other side is perfectly excusable for nations whose names begin with "P", why then, it is perfectly excusable by nations whose names begin with "I" as well, since that is now "simply a normal operation of war" And it's hard to argue that Hamas is determined to cause far less havoc than it possibly could. Not with a straight face.

I don't relish this supposedly "new thought" as a way of “leveling the playing field” (pardon that pun) - since it is a return to WW II British Air Commander "Bomber Harris"'s ethic of indiscriminately killing Germans in night-time bombing raids. He at least had the very thin excuses that his poorly protected bombers couldn't effectively attack industrial targets in daylight raids, and that indiscriminate bombing would very slightly limit German war production by killing at least some workers along with the hundreds of thousands of elderly, children, and those infirm German citizens the Nazis hadn't already systematically exterminated themselves. But surely those excuses look quite thin in hindsight. British and Canadian night-time bombing (the Americans performed much more accurate daylight raids) wasn't then, and shouldn't be considered now, a legitimate tactic of war.

I'd rather not go back to that sort ethic or rule of war, thanks very much, despite the fact I know that it's the victors who tend to make the rules, that irregular wars do exist, that American Revolutionaries in the South successfully used executions and terror tactics to discourage Southern loyalists from joining up with British troops, and that partisans in WW II fought Nazism as "terrorists" since their other choice was to become (literal) slave labor for the Nazis.

True, if "nothing counts as terrorism" this would vastly shorten modern conflicts, particularly now that we have much less inexpensive thermonuclear weapons which are good for little except killing civilians. And true, once upon a time genocide wasn't a sideline but the often the very reason one went to war. But let's not go backward. Let's draw a line - if we can - that makes causing civilian casualties to those we don't like less desirable than causing military casualties or economic damage. Please. Some must lose their lives but do we all have to lose our souls?

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