The threat of terrorism remains serious across different nations. It impairs the enjoyment of human rights among the citizens, which calls for more effort from government agencies in combating terrorism. This implies that more focus should be directed towards preventing terrorists from accessing finances and weapons as well as disrupting their strategies and networks and bringing them to justice. However, our response should remain within domestic and international legal frameworks to ensure proper observation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms.
This topic of counterterrorism code of ethics seems to put terror fighters in a difficult position as they argue that there is a tradeoff between the success on war against terrorism and the upholding of the established moral and legal traditions of just war. However, this cannot be used to excuse unethical behavior in counterterrorism. This paper explores different ethical issues surrounding counterterrorism and highlights the underlying differences between them and the private sector code of ethics (Moral Foundations of Military Service, 2000).
The code of ethics
To begin with, the theoretical framework forming the code of ethics addresses the right toward war. This attempts to explain the political and military circumstances that sufficiently warrant military response. Counter terror planners should not only consider the cause but also the probability of success in redressing the particular wrong by use of force. This means that military action should be taken as the last resort after exhausting all the non-violent alternatives. Considering the devastating loss lives by innocent Americans among other nationals in the recent terrorist attacks, United States is without doubt having a justifiable cause to engage her military forces. However, legitimate concerns remain regarding the hope of success.
The code then goes to address the right conduct expected in military operations. The main concern here is the discrimination of force. Terror fighters cannot retaliate in the same manner as the terrorists by harming innocent people. The code of ethics requires them to use force against individuals who are legally and morally responsible for attacks without deliberately harming others. However, a reasonable and unavoidable damage may be caused on innocent parties but this cannot be used as a loophole for behaving like the terrorists themselves. The code of ethics also allows legitimate attacks on parties who harbor terrorists even when not directly involved with terrorist activities on two grounds. First, these parties should be held accountable for activities, which were undertaken from, within their territories as they knew or should have known but did not do anything to stop them. Secondly, the attack is also meant to discourage other states from being ignorant of such malicious groups (Moral and Legal Restraint in Warfare, 1996).
Counterterrorism ethics also stress on the proportionality of the response. This is more of a common-sense requirement where the damaged caused in the attack should be reasonable comparable to the damage being caused in the retaliation. Counterterrorism planners are therefore required to select carefully their weapons and even nature of the target. For instance, where the target is a simple structure building accommodating a few people, it would be massively disproportionate to destroy the entire town where that building sits. However, there are other considerations which could alter the proportionality of the response without rising ethical questions. For instance, military necessity may force terror fighters to retaliate in a disproportionate way where they lack any practical alternatives, weapons or tactics that would result in acceptable response. It would be very unethical to confuse military necessity with military convenience. Terror fighters are obliged to assume a certain amount of risk as it regards the protection of the innocent but situations may occur where the fighters do not have any time or alternative means of responding. However, there can never be just war justification for responding to an attack with an attack of similar nature on other societies. This would not only constitute to unethical and illegal attacks on innocent parties but also erode the moral prestige and political support that the United States enjoys.
Generally, counterterrorism ethics require governments and agents to uphold values and laws that serve the best interests of both the local and the international society. Some of the general ethical expectations include exchanging of information on voluntary basis regarding terrorists and their networks, refusing to harbor terrorist and other wanted criminals especially in other neighboring countries.
There are a number of differences between counterterrorism code of ethics and the private sector code of ethics. To begin with, the private sector code of ethics advocates for compensation on damages rather than retaliation. Here, the harmed party should seek justice by use of the judicial system. This cannot be practical in the case of counterterrorism. The ethical issues surrounding counterterrorism tend to be international since they are more about the international human rights and moral principles while private sector code of ethics different from one state to another (Immaculate War 2000).. These ethics are usually used to ensure that private individuals conduct themselves without harming other citizens.
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