Accession Number:



Terrorism: Crime or War?

Descriptive Note:

Student essay,

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Terrorism is one of the most important challenges facing western democracies today. Even though democratic governments will agree that terrorism is a threat, there is no consensus among members of the international community in defining what it is. Consequently, the only response at times is a vindictive eye-for-an-eye which sometimes creates a moral dilemma for believers of democratic values and human rights. The perplexing issue facing the civilized world is agreeing on whether the act which we call terrorism and the actors who perpetrate it are criminals engaging in a crime or soldiers engaging in a legitimate act of war. If we cannot agree on a common ground there can never be any consensus on what an appropriate response should be. In addition, definitive answers to the precise legal status of terrorists will remain confused while obtaining appropriate redress within international forums such as the United Nations will be difficult. Each crisis event must be taken in context, and if it does not fit the parameters of the laws of land warfare, then it is outside the realm of warfare and falls in the realm of criminality. If that is the case, then a decision must be made as to what law or laws have been violated. Without concerted efforts by the international community to address the crime versus warfare issue more assiduously than in the past, success in responding to terrorism through the use of the law will remain innocuous. consequently, the use of military force may do nothing more than produce a catharsis which is transitory and counterproductive.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law

Distribution Statement: