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Is assassination better than terrorism?

  1. Assassination is morally better

    27 vote(s)
    51.9%
  2. Terrorism is morally better

    1 vote(s)
    1.9%
  3. They are morally the same

    16 vote(s)
    30.8%
  4. They can't be compared (explain why)

    8 vote(s)
    15.4%
  1. Dec 17, 2005 #1

    selfAdjoint

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    For the purposes of this discussion consider assassination to be the killing of a specific individual for reasons connected to that individual, while terrorism is to be considered the killing of random individuals for reasons that have no specific relevance to the individuals killed.
     
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  3. Dec 17, 2005 #2

    turbo

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    A person who participates in a terrorist enterprise may have any number of motivations, and their "targets" may or may not be culpable.

    A person who plans an assassination is motivated to kill a certain individual, and presumably their target is culpable, in their estimation.

    Who are we to make a moral distinction between a person who kills many innocents to achieve a political end, or someone who arranges for certain specific people to be killed to achieve a political end?
     
  4. Dec 17, 2005 #3

    Pengwuino

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    I say assassination is morally better simply because there maaaaay be reasons such a thing might a good thing where as the killing of random people has no justification. It's pretty hard to compare but I guess if you have to, assassinations are a bit better...
     
  5. Dec 17, 2005 #4
    Both are immoral by any logical definition of morality.
     
  6. Dec 18, 2005 #5
    It is only the goal/result that is relevant when looking back (following the event) that matters, the way it is achieved is rather irrelevant unless it effects you personally.
     
  7. Dec 19, 2005 #6
    I certainly don't have any training in this area so please forgive my naivety.

    If one considers one and the other as amorally unforgivable as the other, then in terms of pure weight Id have to go with terrorism as it affects more people and causes more widespread despair,suffering and damage.

    Following that thought direction... What if you knew a baby, your child maybe, would grow up to be a terrorist that would kill millions. What would you do?
     
  8. Dec 19, 2005 #7
    "Following that thought direction... What if you knew a baby, your child maybe, would grow up to be a terrorist that would kill millions. What would you do?"

    Well, it depends, if it's politics were in order with mine... I would go along with it, even mentor it's outlook while it grew to hate what it would one day destroy. If it was a threat to me, that'd be one dead baby.
     
  9. Jan 9, 2006 #8
    it depends on what you think is terrorism and assassination. look whats happening today, everyone ganging up on iraq, howcome no one ever says bush or that english dude's a terrorrist?:mad: if you were living in iraq i think u would think america was terrorr country. and am starting to belive them........:frown: but thats my oppinoun:smile:
     
  10. Jan 9, 2006 #9

    russ_watters

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    Everyone makes personal moral judgements. Who are we to do that? We are people with moral beliefs that require it.
    The OP was not very specific, terrorism and assassination are different things (and because of that, I voted that they can't be compared), but certainly there are instances where assassination is not merely better, but actually morally right (under most major moral codes). The usual example: it would have been morally right to assassinate Hitler during WWII.

    Terrorism, on the other hand, is never morally right.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2006
  11. Jan 9, 2006 #10

    russ_watters

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    Don't obfuscate the issue by arguing against definitions. Definitions are definitions. Assume that the OP was using the most common/accepted definitions of the words.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2006
  12. Jan 9, 2006 #11

    selfAdjoint

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    I thought I was perfectly specific. I did not discuss different motives because that was not what I wanted to discuss. The question was whether killing one individual for some reason connected with that individual was morally different from random killing for some reason that was not otherwise connectied to the killing (or perhaps, for no purpose at all, if you can envision that). What part of this don't people understand?
     
  13. Jan 9, 2006 #12
    Assantion is only targeting one person at a time.Terroism is killing hunderds of untargeted people at time just because you hate them for reason and you don't really care who there only thats targting the gourp that you hate
     
  14. Jan 9, 2006 #13

    russ_watters

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    It isn't that it is hard to understand, it's just that the reason for just about any action is critical to determining the morality of the action. Because of that, assassinating Hitler because he is leading a war of conquest/genocide is clearly a morally right thing to do while assassinating him long before the war simply for being an anti-semite would not be morally right.

    With terrorism, the victims are, by definition, innocent and because of that, killing them is always wrong.
    It is your prerogrative since you started the thread, but not discussing different (ie, specific) motives is not being specific, it's being general. And that's why the answer isn't a simple yes or no, but a "depends on the specifics".
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2006
  15. Jan 10, 2006 #14
    "Innocent"? In whose eyes?

    After all, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

    Is terrorism different from simultaneous assassination?

    In war, I've always found the concept of "innocent civilians" to be rather far fetched, if not amusing. Is the pregnant wife of the guy who is shooting at me innocent? ...or is she "manufacturing replacement parts" for the enemy? Is the farmer who is growing food to feed the guy who is shooting at me innocent? Is the bank teller innocent? ...or is he abetting the financing of the effort to kill me?
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2006
  16. Jan 22, 2006 #15

    /0

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    I believe there should be a level of civility in common with mankind, and anything that upsets that beyond simple annoyance should be destroyed, without a second thought. I will tolerate all kinds of speech, but I will not tolerate violence towards myself, or my 'team'.

    My team is civilization.

    If we all lived by that, there'd be no terrorists, so sorry for terrorists.


    M
     
  17. Jan 22, 2006 #16
    I voted Assasination to be preferable to Terrorism.

    The use of violence towards any person is only justifiable if that person is a direct threat (per at least my own ethical standards). The ethical justification for assasination rests on just how "direct" a threat that person is. Even though an argument must be made to illustrate the directness of that threat, and such an argument may fail, at least the individual who perpetrated such an action was mindful of the ethical rule.
    One who kills people who are not even directly connected with the threat which motivates the action are in an obvious breech of the ethical rule. Considering this there is no possibility of argument for justification if we hold to the rule I postulated. Since there isn't even the possibility of justification the breech is that much more egregious.

    Hassan Sabbah had leaders assasinated and spared the people under their rule of a war. Unfortunately I think that he may have started the trend of blindly faithful suicide attackers at the same time.
     
  18. Feb 2, 2006 #17
    Is war then terrorism? because war is just killing random people; so why is then going to war against innocent people acceptable and terrrorism not? (not that i agree with either)
     
  19. Feb 24, 2006 #18
    both the act of terrorism and the act of assasination are in most situations morally wrong and therefore neither is better than the other, however sometimes assasination is morally right, the hitler example is perfect as hitler could be classed as a terrorist (he killed many innocent people for political gains) so assasinating him would have ended needless suffering therefore it would be morally right.

    and war is not terrorism as it is directed at specific countrys or governments, yes random innocent people get killed but they are not intentionally targeted, terorrism is intentionally targeted randomly in order to cause maximum terror. hence the fact that war is initiated by legitimate governments against other governments/countrys whereas terorism is not.
     
  20. Feb 24, 2006 #19

    russ_watters

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    Since when is war "just killing random people"? Typically in war, (especially when adhering to the laws of war), the targets are quite specific.
     
  21. Feb 24, 2006 #20

    selfAdjoint

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    This raises the interesting case where a nation-state directs a strike in a foreign country intended to kill a high profile terrorist or suborner of terrorism against its people. Such strike typically involve the undirected but entirely predictable deaths of random collateral innocents. The intent of the strike is assassination, i.e. the policy driven killing of a public figure, but the execution of the strike could be viewed by some as a form of terrorism, the effects on the population surrounding the target individual being an acceptible secondary policy to the striking nation (or so, again, it is viewed by some). How would we evaluate that? I consider that it is by deeply reflecting on such hard cases that we come to an understnading of the role of ethics in the modern public sphere.

    Or consider this closely related case: The UN's only weapon against nation-states, sanctions. Sanctions are intended to disrupt the nation's economy and thereby cause hardship to its people, which is hoped will induce the leaders of that nation to change their policies. But in the course of that disruption, assuming it is succssfully achieved, it is likely that people will die. Babies will die. And these deaths are part of the negative effects that the UN hopes will influence the leaders. So how is this not terrorism?
     
  22. Feb 24, 2006 #21

    russ_watters

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    Different issue, but yes, an interesting one...
    Objectively, I'd say that terrorism must have a consistent, objective definition and thus can't be an eye-of-the-beholder concept. Practically, I understand that the unintended victims of such an attack do not necessarily consider it rationally. Because of that reality, the attacker must do a cost-benefit analysis that includes the emotional response of the unintended victims. The typical example is Israel - they often attack known terrorists surrounded by civilians and I don't think they always weigh the reaction of the surrounding populous adequately in their decision-making process.
    Subjectively, I can see how the victims might percieve it that way (especially if their opinions are clouded by the propaganda of their criminal leadership), but objectively, inaction cannot be a form of terrorism. Trade and aid are actions that change the natural isolated state of the country in question and stopping these actions just returns the country to its natural state. Contrast that with actual destruction of infrastructure or a blockade which prevents anyone from trading. The lack of a positive action is not the same as a negative action.

    A clear example of this is current funding situation of the PA. Israel (and others) cannot be compelled to fund a sworn enemy just because removing the funding will force their enemy to fend for itself.

    [edit] Now that I think about it, there are lots of examples of sanctions that have had the same issue. Iraq and North Korea are good examples. In both cases, special extra measures were taken (ie, oil for food program) to safeguard the populace while undermining the dictator, but what happened? The dictator cheated the program and thrived, while the populace still suffered.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2006
  23. Feb 25, 2006 #22

    loseyourname

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    Russ kind of addressed this already and it's an old post at this point, but since this thread is still active, I thought I'd chime in. I don't think assassination is very well defined as "killing one individual for some reason connected with that individual." Murder, euthanasia, capital punishment, self-defense killings, and a number of additional acts that are not assassinations all fall under this general mode of killing and they are not morally equivalent. To assess the morality of an action, we need to know something a little bit more specific about it. Even in the case of an assassination better defined (I would define it roughly as killing a high-ranking political leader of some sort for political reasons) may or may not be a moral thing to do, under any system of morality that does not hold all killing to be immoral regardless of qualification, depending upon that qualification (hence, russ' example: sure, assassinating Hitler would have been moral - assassinating Kennedy was not). Such systems are not exactly all that widely held (I can really only think of Jainism and Pacifism, though I'm sure there are others).
     
  24. Feb 25, 2006 #23

    selfAdjoint

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    Thank you for the comment. I agree with your criticism of my definition of assassination. How do you like "killing a PUBLIC figure for reasons connected with his PUBLIC image". i.e. because he's president with such and such policies, or because he's reputed to be leader of a terrorist gang.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  25. Feb 25, 2006 #24

    mathwonk

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    this discussion seems depraved to me. at best the title should be "which is worse, assassination or terrorism?"

    Perhaps you recall the original assassins were hashish crazed bandits and murderers who killed people they did not know, at the behest of their controller. Indeed according to Marco Polo the word assassin is a corruption of "hashish", while others claim it dwerives from Hassan, the leader of the sect.

    But there is no honor in either pursuit, nor justification.
     
  26. Feb 26, 2006 #25

    loseyourname

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    That seems to work better. I would imagine there has to be some kind of legal definition out there, though.
     
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