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Author Topic: hypothetical
Pete at Home
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If you do not know what a hypothetical is, please do not read further than this line until you have looked it up and understood that this post is an academic exercise as a springboard to discussing certain ethical and semantic issues.

Hypothetical:

A western country begins to screen Syrian refugees who wish to emigrate, ostensibly to screen for security threats, but actually to identify and recruit candidates for suicide bombings against ISIS/Daesh.

Successful recruits will be surgically implanted with a bomb and their families offered preferred settlement terms depending on valuec targets eliminated. E.g Al Bagdadi nets the family 5 million, etc.

Assumption A. Assume that the western power and ISIS/Daesh are states at war with each other.

Assumption B. Assume that the targets are military.

Assumption C. Assume that the operation details are not disclosed to the public other than "an allied strike took out Daesh militants named X, y and z"

1= is the operation "terrorism?"

2 which assumptions are supportive to your determination of terrorism and why?

3= is the operation morally justifiable?

4= how if at all does your reason for answer 3 differ from your reasoning for answer #1?

5. Under what circumstances might a terroristic attack be justifiable?

6= Under what circumstances might a non terror is tick attack be morally unjustifiable?

7= if ISIS could be destroyed by identifying brainwashing and deploying desperate and mentally ill young men, is there a number of innocents that could die to make this a question of "acceptable losses?"

8. If you became aware of a hidden camera video of a group of isis/Daesh leaders agonizing over the same sort of moral calculus that you see on this page, prior to the Paris attacks, would that change your view of them?

[ November 21, 2015, 10:16 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Greg Davidson
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I'll take a shot at this hypothetical...

Not terrorism (the targets are military)

The question of morality would pivot on the degree that the person recruited believed that the treatment of their family were dependent on accepting the assignment. This strikes me as taking a person in a vulnerable state and blackmailing them into becoming a human-guided bomb = immoral.

It is very hard to come up with conditions under which a terrorist attack would be morally justified, even under hypothetical circumstances. It would probably require you to know some un-knowable things, sort of a killing baby Hitler scenario where you knew with certainty that one evil action was required to mitigate a much greater evil action. But generally you would not actually know that.

Using desperate and mentally ill young men as weapons is not moral.

I would not judge the morality of ISIS leaders based on what they discussed, I would judge them based on their actions

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Pete at Home
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I tend to agree. I have scoured a lot of history to consider this question and the only example I can find of justifiable terrorism (by my view) is John Brown's taking of civilian hostages at Harper's Ferry. Like you pointed out my calculus is retrospective and depends on facts not knowablec by Brown himself, but his own words before execution persuade me that his moral reasoning parallels my retrospective analysis.
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JoshuaD
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quote:
1= is the operation "terrorism?"
I don't believe so.

quote:
2 which assumptions are supportive to your determination of terrorism and why?
Terrorism seems to be about targeting civilians in a way that is militarily irrelevant, but creates political pressure or fear.

quote:
3= is the operation morally justifiable?
No. In order for suicide bombing to be morally justifiable, I think the target needs to be extremely high value to the enemy, and suicide bombing needs to be the only realistic way to achieve that goal.

I think suicide bombing is immoral the vast majority of the time. I am tempted to say it is never justifiable, but I can construct contrived situations where it looks like the least bad of a set of bad options, to me.

I'm hesitant to make a blanket statement. My moral beliefs are so uncomfortable with war that it becomes hard for me to talk about (or think well about) which war-time actions are morally justifiable and which aren't.

quote:

5. Under what circumstances might a terroristic attack be justifiable?

I don't think there are such circumstances.
quote:

6= Under what circumstances might a non [terroristic] attack be morally unjustifiable?

I find the just war doctrine satisfying.

quote:

7= if ISIS could be destroyed by identifying brainwashing and deploying desperate and mentally ill young men, is there a number of innocents that could die to make this a question of "acceptable losses?"

No. Soldiers should never be brainwashed, and I have a real hard time forcing soldiers into service under any circumstance short of an invasion.

quote:

8. If you became aware of a hidden camera video of a group of isis/Daesh leaders agonizing over the same sort of moral calculus that you see on this page, prior to the Paris attacks, would that change your view of them?

Yes, if I believed the video was legitimate, I would gain some small amount of respect for their belief system.

I respected Bin-Laden more than I respect ISIS. I respected Saddam Hussein more than I respected Bin-Laden.

If I saw that they were seriously concerned with the morality of killing, and their moral system wasn't so completely bonkers and I am seeing it to be (reading the Dabiq magazine is where I get my insight on their mentality) then I would be slightly more hopeful that they could be reasoned with.

I don't think it would change much practically, but my assessment of their beliefs would change a bit.

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Fenring
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I more or less agree with Greg and Joshua. I would say, though, that terrorism (or most any other act) is probably justified if your people is being subjected to an out-and-out genocide. When the death of your civilization is on the line all rules go away.

Rather than use refugees as suicide bombers your hypothetical might do better if you took people on death row and invited them to do a suicide bombing rather than face the death penalty, and in exchange their family would gain some benefit. The loss of the person's life is no longer relevant in that case towards the calculus of whether it's moral. Of course you might not want to trust such a suicide bomber, and the same actually can be said of a refugee. The reason suicide bombers in the mid-East can be trusted to some extent probably includes threats issued towards their families. Someone might go renegade if it meant their family didn't get a payout, but most wouldn't if it meant their child would be executed for it.

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Fenring:Rather than use refugees as suicide bombers your hypothetical might do better if you took people on death row and invited them to do a suicide bombing rather than face the death penalty, and in exchange their family would gain some benefit. The loss of the person's life is no longer relevant in that case towards the calculus of whether it's moral.
No I don't agree with that. I don't think you can interchange things like this and maintain moral neutrality.
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Pete at Home
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What Fenring describes is the premise to the Dirty Dozen
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Fenring
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All I meant is that rather than blackmail refugees into killing themselves if you took people whom you had already doomed to death then the component of making someone die would be removed from the moral calculus. That doesn't mean there would be no moral calculus.
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Pete at Home
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Understood. If I understand Josh, he disagrees with that premise, saying an execution doesn't swap for a suicide. The counter is that the offeree decides if it swaps. The response there is that the offeree lacks options to make a free decision.

For myself I can say that I feel instinctively more comfy with offering death row inmates a suicide mission to destroy an incoming asteroid or even a defense position holding off attackers long enough to let allies escape an invading enemy. Something about a dirty dozen style attack or a suicide bombing combines poorly, I feel, with the premise of death row recruits.

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D.W.
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1: No, unless they take out a large number of civilians in order to achieve their “pay day” for their family.
2: Terrorism to me is more about the target being non military / non strategic and more about psychological impact and disruption of day to day life of the larger population.
3: Not in the slightest.
4: It can be legitimate strategy and unjustifiable from a moral stand point.
5: If surrender meant your death or an existence so miserable that you cannot endure it, and at the same time you have no hope of winning a conventional opposition it’s understandable (and at least internally justifiable).
6: I think chemical or biological weapons on military targets where the intent is not JUST achieving a military win but doing so in a demoralizing way to the surviving force is a good example. I would also add nuking a military target is unjustifiable in most cases as even after the victory you’ve employed an area denial disaster zone for a long damn time.
7: Is this a question of deploying our own brainwashed desperate mentally ill fighters? Even if it wasn’t awful policy I don’t know how you could use them effectively. Seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. The only value would be as infiltration and I wouldn’t trust them not to program someone proven susceptible to programming…
8: Not really. (see #5) I don’t think it’s a fair assessment for all ISIS members but combine that with power seekers and religious fanaticism and the tactics seem inevitable given the current facts on the ground.

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