The Ethics of Counterterrorism  book cover
1st Edition

The Ethics of Counterterrorism

ISBN 9780367666729
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
170 Pages

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Book Description

States across the globe spend billions of dollars fighting terrorism annually. As well as strategic questions about the way in which the money should be spent, we are also confronted with a host of moral issues here, many of which are poorly understood. The Ethics of Counterterrorism offers the first systematic normative theory for guiding, assessing, and criticising counterterrorist policy.

Many commentators claim that state actors combating terrorism should set aside ordinary moral and legal frameworks, and instead bind themselves by a different (and, generally, more permissive) set of ethical rules than is appropriate in other areas. The book assesses arguments for this view, and more specifically investigates whether widely-endorsed restrictions on state action in the areas of surveillance, policing, armed conflict, criminal justice, diplomacy, and cultural integration need to be weakened when we are confronted with terrorist threats. With its novel overall framework for assessing counterterrorist strategies, its comprehensive analysis of existing practices, and its bringing the tools of analytic philosophy to bear on new questions regarding how states can fight terrorism both effectively and morally, The Ethics of Counterterrorism promises to be an important point of reference for future debates in this area.

Table of Contents


1. Terrorism

2. Mass Surveillance

3. Civil Liberties

4. Military Responses

5. Criminal Justice

6. Negotiation

7. Integration


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Isaac Taylor is a Scholar in Residence at the Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder. Recent papers have appeared in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, and Social Theory & Practice.


"Isaac Taylor offers a thorough and highly timely book-length treatment of the various ethical challenges that terrorism poses for liberal democracies in the 21st century. Throughout, Taylor provides a balanced, rigorous, and nuanced account of the various moral issues raised by counterterrorism and clearly articulates the major points of ethical and pragmatic tension within this new and still developing area of philosophical inquiry."Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"As responding to terrorism and terroristic threats has become a primary concern of states and state-like actors, a balanced and thoughtful discussion of the ethics of terrorism has arguably never been so needed. Taylor offers a balanced and comprehensive discussion of the ethics of counter-terrorism and seeks to balance a concern for responding to terrorist threats with the protections of civil liberties, procedural requirements in criminal justice, and familiar norms from just war theory. Highly recommended."Peter Brian Rose-Barry, Saginaw Valley State University, USA

"This book takes an in-depth, philosophically rigorous look at actual and possible policy-based responses to terrorism. It argues in favor of some possible responses to terrorism that are commonly discarded, such as negotiation, and against other often-accepted responses, such as withholding procedural rights from suspected terrorists. Sensitive to legal and political considerations, as well as moral issues, this book is sure to be useful to counterterrorist policy experts and academics alike."Jennifer Kling, Siena Heights University, USA