Sovereignty and ethical argument in the struggle against state sponsors of terrorism

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2 Scopus citations


In prosecuting the war on terror, the Bush Administration asserts that the protections inherent in state sovereignty do not apply to state sponsors of terrorism. I examine three elements of normative arguments to assess the administration's policies. The administration sought to delegitmize terrorism by underscoring the uncivilized nature of terrorist acts. It sought to link the war on terror to efforts to prohibit the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and to frame the invasion of Iraq as central to this war. Finally, the administration proposed new international standards of behavior by arguing that state sponsors of terrorism should be held accountable for terrorist acts planned on their territory, and by seeking to link the protections against intervention inherent in the sovereignty norm to this behavior. Despite initial support for delegitmizing terrorism, the US attempt to frame the war on terror as linked to WMD and Iraq met with skepticism, and it faced fierce competition from alternate frames with regard to Iraq. Finally, the invasion of Iraq stimulated resistance to US policy on normative grounds, with particular concern about the consequences for the sovereignty norm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Military Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007


  • Ethical argument
  • Norms
  • Sovereignty
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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