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The Struggle Against Global Terrorism

The Struggle Against Global Terrorism

Professor Jacques deLisle

In early November the Law School was the setting for a panel discussion by distinguished academics trying to explain “The Struggle Against Global Terrorism: Means and Ends – Defining a Just War.” Jacques deLisle, Professor of Law, was a discussant along with Professor Richard Waldron of Penn’s History Department, following a presentation by Professor Richard Falk of Princeton. Professor Falk was introduced as one of the foremost authorities on international law, having played a role as author or editor of 47 books on the subject, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Falk began by remarking that the “apocalyptic terrorism” which we witnessed and suffered on September 11 th justified a response from the U.S. “The globality of this undertaking creates a special challenge to the normal framing of conflict,” he said. “The attacks engaged a right of self defense on the part of the U.S. that involves doing whatever is appropriate to restore safety to the world.” Falk argued that, at that point, the U.S. had crossed the line from fighting a war necessary to restore safety to the world to an unjust war that was punishing beyond the events of September 11 th . In response, Professor deLisle offered a definition of a just war as one that has “moral underpinnings and has limits to how it will be fought. A legal war is fought in self defense with the international community behind it, and one that does not violate how we treat civilian citizens.” He questioned the point of U.S. bombing – are we punishing or are we deterring terrorism? “The traditional war paradigms don’t work in this case.” Professor Waldron disagreed with Falk’s characterization of the threat as apocalyptic terrorism. “This is not without comparisons to our bombing of Dresden and Japanese cities.” He continued, “We face a threat now that is not going to go away. They’re going to come at us again. We have to get rid of them and the question is, ‘how do we do this?’ We have to fight this war to win or the world will become a far more unsafe place.” The event was co-sponsored by the Law School, the Middle East Center, Wharton School, the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, the International Relations Program, and Connaissance.