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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 28, 2012

Freedom, Religion, and Gender

Joan McGregor
Pages 161-166

Commentary on Nathanson’s Terrorism and the Ethics of War

Understanding the nature of terrorism is extremely important given the role it currently plays in national and international rhetoric and politics. Nathanson’s book Terrorism and the Ethics of War is a fascinating and extremely timely detailed account of terrorism. He explores what terrorism is, what makes it morally wrong, and whether there are conditions that might ever justify its use. Though terrorism is widely and universally condemned, what count as specific instances of terrorism are often in dispute. One person’s “freedom fighter” is another person’s terrorist. In this commentary, I raise some questions about Nathanson’s account and offer a friendly suggestion about an additional condition for terrorism. Beyond that I question how the term ‘terrorism’ is currently used by law enforcement in this country and suggest that law enforcement would be wise to utilize Nathanson’s analysis of terrorism.

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