The aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States has placed terrorism on the philosophical agenda. While the definition of terrorism remains contested, there are different stances on whether terrorism can ever be morally justified.
Terrorism is never justified
The moral justification of terrorism is not possible under any circumstances. Terrorist acts violate the most basic rights of its victims by taking away their right to life and liberty, freedom from torture, and many more. Terrorism also includes inflicting intentional harm on innocent people, violating the basic moral principle of civilian immunity.
Terrorism violates the basic human rights of its victims
Terrorism, by definition, constitutes a violation of the most basic human rights, such as the right to life and liberty. Therefore, it is never possible to justify terrorism on any grounds.
Terrorist acts intentionally kill or injure innocent people
Terrorism includes the deliberate killing or injury of innocent people. Even in cases where terrorism is used against an oppressive regime, it disregards the basic moral principle of civilian immunity.
The moral justification of terrorism depends on the aim and consequences of terrorist acts. Consequentialists argue that terrorism is justified if its consequences improve injustice. Deontologists judge terrorism by the political and social context within which terrorist acts occur. In extreme cases, terrorism may become the only option to choose.
Terrorism is justified when it is used against an oppressive regime
If terrorism is used as a politically effective weapon in the revolutionary struggle to overcome oppression or improve the human rights of a group, then it is justified on the grounds of distributive justice.
Terrorism is justified if it eliminates more evil than it causes
Consequentialists argue that a terrorist act should be judges by its consequences. If terrorism prevents further injustice, suffering, and degradation in the world than it causes, then it can be justified on the grounds of consequentialism.