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A Plan for War and Defense of the Nation

The terrorist attacks of September 11 immediately implicated the international law of self defense,” says Harry Reicher, Adjunct Lecturer of Law, who teaches International Law, and Law and the Holocaust at Penn Law School. “International law has long recognized a right to self defense. At its heart, this right is based on, and grows out of, the first and most basic human instinct, namely that of self-preservation. From this, in turn, grows perhaps the most fundamental obligation of the government, to protect its citizens from attack. Unequivocal recognition of this by international law is attested to by the Charter of the United Nations, which enshrines an ‘inherent right’ of self defense.”

Americans were especially unnerved by the reality that the highjackers were living among them. Though the U.S. military, with the support of its international allies, have had success in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan, in the majority, Americans feel certain that there will be another terrorist strike on our soil. Although given high marks for behaving with tolerance toward Arab-Americans, and Muslims in this country, Americans remain unsettled – a success of the terrorism campaign – by not knowing whom among us is an enemy in the War on Terrorism. Professor Reicher has written:

Because suicide terrorists are, by their very nature, extremely difficult to identify in advance, and by definition are not susceptible to meaningful threat, the most effective antidote to the horror they are capable of causing is to remove the threat from those who exhort them, train them, arm them, and give them their marching orders. This also extends to those governments and authorities that permit their territory to be used along the chain of causation. Thus, the United States is justified by international law in uprooting the sources of terrorism, and the surrounding “soil” in which terrorism festers.

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