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Terror and the Leviathan

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The article surveys the history of “terror” vis a vis the development of international humanitarian and human rights law. During the French Revolution, the word “terror” was coined to describe a deviation from the laws of war. Justified by a mixture of ideology and necessity. People who resort to terrorism either suspends or rejects the laws of war (jus in bellum) in the name of an alternative and heightened sense of truth. However, the terrorists’ strong sense of probity and mission is also an opening for re-establishing communication, arbitration and mitigation of cruelty and destruction. This paper represents International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as an “abstract Leviathan”, submission to which is the contemporary norm of pacification. From the perspective of radical terrorism, it is tyrannical. From other perspectives, it is open to criticism and change. Most importantly, it is on the side of rational arbitration rather than arbitrary ordeal. Even radical terrorism, which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the abstract Leviathan, seeks to communicate its radical messages rather than to seek victory my means of physical annihilation of its opponents.
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Keywords: Thomas Hobbes; conflict resolution; international humanitarian law (IHL); terrorism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 10, 2016

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