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25.1 Should states targeted by terrorism aggressively address the threat beyond their national borders?

1. How should states address the problem of terrorist threats within other states that lack the means or will to do so themselves?

  • Given the link between terrorism and globalization, many have argued that the concept of state sovereignty is no longer inviolable as states are unable or unwilling to address the global threats within them. In fact, the idea that sovereignty demands a responsibility of states over their own citizens makes states' combatting of terrorism outside of their own boarders a necessity if this poses a risk to its own population.
  • However, others warn against such measures. These voices often stress that intervening countries often do not understand the complex political, economic, and cultural terrain into which they are embarking. In fact, it is argued that, as a result of the outsider states' altering of local and regional power dynamics, interventions actually create more terrorists than they remove.   

2. Can state leaders strike a balance between proactive and reactive measures to counter terrorism?

  • Many theorists stress that proactive measures can limit the ability of terrorist groups to act freely, which keeps the homeland safer.
  • For an important counter-argument see bullet point 2 above. The idea is thus that state responses that overreact to the threat of terrorism are often more damaging than the terrorist attacks themselves.

3. What matters most when confronting terrorism: protection of the domestic population or preservation of national reputation?

  • For a discussion that emphasizes the necessity to protect the domestic population see bullet point 1 under question 1.
  • Those who warn against foreign intervention often stress that this also significantly undermines states' legitimacy abroad, which decreases their moral authority both nationally and internationally.
  • Another important question might be to ask: which domestic population is at stake? That of the intervening or that of the intervened country? If focus is on the latter, those opposed to foreign interventions stress that this makes matters worse. Another respect in which this is morally justified is in discussions about drone attacks. These are often used to target terrorist fighters abroad, but serve to create high security risks in relation to civilians.