REVOLUTIONARIES AND FUNCTIONARIES: The Dual Face of Terrorism by Richard Falk


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Falk (a Princeton professor) interprets the modern terrorist threat. As in his essays For The Nation last summer, his view is controversial, evincing a radically leftist approach. Falk plays fast and loose with the language in an overt attempt to co-opt the terms of discussion. Thus, ""terrorism"" is defined as ""any type of political violence that lacks an adequate moral and legal justification, regardless of whether the actor is a revolutionary group or a government."" It is a short step from this to his argument that ""when governments, in times of war and peace, deliberately direct their violence at innocent civilians or, for that matter, detained soldiers, these governments are engaged in terrorist activity. . ."" Falk is more forgiving of those usually considered terrorists than he is of governments. He writes: ""It is foolish moralism to suppose that revolutionary groups would be prepared to follow a higher morality than that accepted by states."" His major contribution here is an approach that he calls ""constructive counter-terrorism,"" which, in short, seeks to substitute ethics, persuasion, and nonviolent conflict resolution for reliance on ""unconditional violence"" to combat terrorism. Or, as he puts it: ""To fight fire with fire is to succumb to terrorism. To extinguish fire with water is what constructive counter-terrorism proposes."" Nothing much new here in this sermon for governmental restraint in the face of terrorist immorality.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1988
Publisher: Dutton