Typology of conflict : terrorism and the ambiguation of the laws of war
Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto and Gywnn MacCarrick
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GNLU law review, Vol. 2, no. 1, 2010, 31 p.
One of the reasons that terrorism is unconventional and viewed as beyond the pale is because it adopts an arbitrary stance. War is the predictable and directed waging of armed conflict against an enemy, where as terrorism can not be anticipated or calculated because it’s ominous and malevolent actions do not discriminate between the enemy and civilians. In deed the greater the number of civilian casualties the greater the prominence they bring to their political cause. The distinction here is that we can seek to place limits on war because both sides agree to the terms under which they fight and both stand to gain from the benefits of limitation. But acts of terror rely upon the absence of limitation (including the absence distinction, proportionality, military necessity) for psychological impact such that there is no mutual benefit of placing constraints or confines on actions taken. Thus terrorism has passed over the parameters of warfare and into the realm of criminal conduct or alternatively it is employing the methods of warfare with a criminal intent. It seems therefore that terrorists should either be thought of as criminal behavior, in which case they might be accused of violating criminal law, or they should be thought of as acting within the scope of war and peace, in which case they might be accused of violating either the law of war or the law of peace. However, they do not seem to fall clearly in either scenario thus despite being law violators, they have situated themselves in an impossible place, located somewhere outside of the law.