Why is Terrorism Wrong?

  • Carl Wellman
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Law book series (BRIEFSLAW, volume 9)


Terrorism, as best defined, has four generic wrong-making characteristics. It uses or threatens violence. It typically produces terror. It uses persons as means without respecting them as autonomous moral agents. It attempts to coerce. These make terrorism morally wrong because they involve the infliction of serious harm and the violation of human rights. Political terrorism is also wrong because it undermines trust, generates conflict within a liberal society, undermines the capacity for self-government and disrupts social order. State terrorism violates the duty of nation states to protect citizens from harm and the violation of their human rights. International terrorism threatens peace and security and violates the sovereignty of nations. Racial terrorism always violates the moral right to equitable treatment of its victims and often oppresses members of the terrorized race. Family quasi-terrorism violates one’s special moral responsibilities to members of one’s family, destroys the necessary conditions for intimacy and often causes post-traumatic stress disorder. None of these wrong-making characteristics is limited to innocent victims; innocence is primarily relevant because it excludes any justification of terrorism as a defense against wrongful aggression.


Violence Terror Using persons Coercion Harm Human rights Social trust Threat Equitable treatment Racial discrimination 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington University - St LouisSaint LouisUSA

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