Fundamentally, the insurgents are fighting an enemy with superior weaponry, technology, and resources, so therefore, must seek avenues to mitigate these disadvantages. In other words, insurgent forces out vastly outdone in the traditional aspects of warfare, so they are forced to resort to unconventional modes of attack.
Early in his book, the Army and Vietnam, Krepinevich provides the broad game plan an insurgent force must follow to achieve final victory:
As developed by Mao in China and adapted by Giap in Vietnam, contemporary insurgency is a third world phenomenon comprising three phases: first, insurgent agitation and proselytization among the masses -- the phase of contention; second, overt violence, guerrilla operations, and the establishment of bases -- the equilibrium phase; and third, open warfare between insurgent and government forces designed to topple the existing regime -- the counteroffensive phase."
Primarily, this form of warfare consists of the formation of a political party, then attacks upon remote areas under governmental control to increase the insurgent's hold upon the public, and finally a full force is assembled that most closely resembles a conventional army. Without a doubt, the most important aspect of the insurgent movement is establishing at least passive support from the surrounding population. If the insurgents are able to illicit sympathy from a significant portion of the citizenry, they will find a base for operations and sanctuary; additionally, they will become more difficult for the occupational force to eradicate. Overall, this specific distinction between insurgence and terrorism comes about when the ideological or moral goals of violence are enhanced; insurgency can certainly take the form of terrorism; but if the motivations behind it appear just, then it becomes more complicated than merely asserting that those who attack civilians are terrorists.
Conceiving of terrorism in these terms results in the recognition that it is more easy to distinguish between utterly immoral terrorist actions and those that may possess higher levels of ethical backing: "The distinction between combatants and noncombatants and its relation to the notion of innocence are problematic, but to a lesser extent in the context of terrorism than in that of warfare." Thus,
It is well-known that the earliest and most dangerous form of terrorism is State Terrorism, which first appeared in the form of 'government terror,' which essentially entailed the use of violence by the organs of the State or by groups related to it; such use of violence is normally directed against the State's own population or against the population of some occupied territory, aiming largely at the extermination of the political opponents of the government and, in due course, at the suppression of the resistance put up by the people."
So, the ultimate goals of terrorist actions can vary widely in who they apply to and who seeks to carry them out. The state form of terrorism has taken an even more dangerous shape in recent times, as government aid has sometimes been given to individuals or insurgent groups looking to overthrow particular political regimes or social orders. "As a matter of fact, the financing of terrorist groups that are active within enemy countries, as well as the adoption of unconventional forms of war tends to be considered, as of late, a particularly attractive method of low-intensity warfare." Generally, this can take the form of resistance against dictatorships, national liberation movements, it can be generated in one country and directed at foreign governments, or it can entail violence with the goal of enforcing competing democratic political proposals. In a broad sense, terrorism by the state is used to destabilize those factions which threaten it.
Internationally, members of the United Nations are legally required to make such considerations when endeavoring to back possible insurgent or strictly terrorist movements. One of the founding documents of the United Nations was the Universal Doctrine of Human Rights whose first two articles state:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
As with any organization that exists in this ever-changing world, the U.N. cannot act according to an unchanging set of rules." However, it is difficult to imagine that either of these two principles would ever be overwritten. Without a doubt, the philosophical foundations upon which these principles rest have come into question numerous times in history, and are still questioned by many individuals to this day. Justification for terrorism seems difficult to place within these guidelines for human behavior.
However Michael Ignatieff, in his book the Lesser Evil, seems to condemn terrorism from the individual perspective, while all but validating it from the position of the state aiming to perpetuate its foundations. He investigates the fundamental disparity between the principles of human rights and democracy, and the practical necessities of upholding them in the civilized world. Overall, Ignatieff asserts that, occasionally, circumstances arrive in which a nation is forced to choose between two undesirable options. He "maintains that necessity may require us to take actions in defense of democracy which will stray from democracy's own foundational commitments to dignity."
Thus, the framework for the Lesser Evil is unambiguously set. Governments should not make any pretence regarding the overlaying morality of their actions in response to serious threats, and neither should they conceal the means by which stability will be ensured from the general public. And of course, systems that infringe upon democracy must be undertaken only after all other approaches have been exhausted. Accordingly, the argument presented by Ignatieff seeks to debunk the idea that democracies are not built to formally outlaw suspensions of rights in times of need. Instead, Ignatieff makes the case that the points he develops must be adhered to if true democracy is to both survive and return following crises.
The trouble with this line of reasoning should be obvious: endorsing human rights infringements within the context of democracy sets an undue preference for the principles of democracy that might not be agreed upon uniformly. If governments are morally justified in stemming human rights in order to preserve themselves -- based upon the virtues of democracy -- then any moral cause or standpoint could also justify infringements upon human rights, and even terrorism. The numerous forms that terrorism has taken coupled with the continual transformation is essentially what raises serious doubts as to whether a workable definition can be formulated to help generate political policies. William Connolly expands on this premise:
Terrorism allows, as the state system is constituted, the state and the interstate system to protect the logic of sovereignty in the international sphere while veiling their inability to modify systemic conditions that generate violence by non-state agents; it also provides domestic constituencies with agents of evil to explain the vague experiences of danger, frustration, and ineffectiveness in taming global contingency."
Still, many people have applauded Bush's active policy against terrorism, and have supported his reasoning behind the invasion of Afghanistan. Charles Colson, having accepted the Bush approach to combating terrorism, sees no trouble in extending the implications of fighting terrorism in general to toppling political regimes that may harbor terrorists. He admits that traditional democratic warfare only justifies military action as a retaliatory measure; however, he does not believe that this tradition should hamper what he sees as necessity. "Historically... military force must be used only in response to an attack already underway. But in some cases, waiting for the other side to shoot first is tantamount to committing national suicide." He distinguishes between the morality of any preemptive actions taken by the United States and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by stating that civilians would not be killed by U.S. military operations. As a result, an invasion of Iraq by the United States could not be interpreted as a vastly more expensive version of terrorism.
To Colson, Iraq poses a very real and impending threat to the safety of the American people, and accordingly, must be quelled. He attempts to justify war in general by paying homage to St. Augustine's notions regarding Christians taking arms; however, he fails to mention that St. Augustine's words spurred the Crusades -- which brought about human suffering and moral depravity on an unprecedented scale. In short, Colson's case is weak, and his article borders upon outright propaganda.
Not everyone has been as enchanted by Bush's war on terrorism as Charles Colson. Jimmy Carter, in his speech to the Nobel committee in December of 2002 brought up a number of the problems he sees with the movement towards Iraq as an aspect of the war on terrorism. He quotes Ralph Bunche as having said, "To suggest that war can prevent war is a base play…