Terrorists and Freedom Fighters
The term "terrorism" is being bandied about rather loosely by some of this blog's commenters being used less to communicate meaning in the sense of conventional meaning in the spirit of rational argument than as weapons -- verbal grenades intended to blow up arguments rather than rationally refute them. I have blogged on the notion of Terrorism already and it remains available. What I want to do now is a bit different and deal with the distinction between Terrorists and Freedom Fighters.
The simple, perhaps simplistic, answer to the question as to how the terms "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" differ is that they don't -- at least in conventional meaning. As has been noted over and over ad nauseum is that one man's/woman's freedom fighter is another man's/woman's terrorist. And, when two terms refer to the same thing, as with "the Morning Star" and "Venus," they would normally be said to have the same conventional meaning whatever that may be. The problem we have in the case of "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" is that while we all use these terms in the same way, we do not use these terms interchangeably to refer to the same group of people.
Israelis see Hezbollah as terrorists; some members of the Lebanese community surely see them as freedom fighters. What this fact teaches us is that these two terms are useless in productive intellectual interactions -- they are, as I said, verbal grenades we lob at each other's positions hoping to blow them up. They have no other use.
In a situation like this, where our concepts/words are being used in a muddled fashion, it is useful to ask precise questions by way of evaluating the conduct of the participants in a war such as the one going on in Lebanon and Israel or in Iraq or Afghanistan. For a given group of interest, we might ask, for instance,
1. Does the group kill noncombatants?Let us look, first, at Israel:
2. Does the group target noncombatants?
3. Does the group place its military facilities where noncombatants live thereby endangering them?
4. Is the purpose of the group to liberate a population or piece of land from the control by another group and assume control itself?
5. Is the goal of the group to install a Western-style democratic government once it gets control?
1. Yes.Now, let us look at Hezbollah:
4. Yes and No. The goal is to wrest control of Southern Lebanon from Hezbollah and exert a limited control of its own, specifically to keep Hezbollah from using Southern Lebanon as a base for attacking Israel. But Israel has no interest in governing Southern Israel. It tried that once and is too smart to do it again.
5. No. As noted, it does not mean to govern Southern Lebanon.
1. Yes.When one asks precise questions such as I have of the participants of a conflict one gets a more meaningful (significant) picture of what the group is like and whether or not we should support such a group. I have been critical of Israel from time to time since 1967 when I first became interested in the region -- sometimes quite critical. However, it is clear when one runs down the list of answers to the questions in the case of Hezbollah it is clear that no moral person who values life and values Western-style democracy could possibly support such a group.
5. No. The goal of Hezbollah would be to kill all of the Jews and install a Shiite Theocracy along the lines of Iran.
Interestingly, every responsible Arab nation that has spoken on the attack by Hezbollah on Israel's soil to kidnap and kill soldiers has been critical of it and none have criticized Israel to my knowledge (I am somewhat trusting a columnist on this point in the Columbus Dispatch and might get burned). This is "a first" for a conflict between Arabs and Israel. What it tells me is that Arabs generally realize that Shiites pose a threat to the region, including themselves. One Iran is enough for them. Sadly, President Bush has set in motion events that will result in a second Iran in Iraq. With any luck, Israel will make sure this doesn't happen in Lebanon.