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The internationalisation of the war on terrorism and making of a modern threat to the ethic of political liberalism : a conceptualisation of the current threat to global peace and security.

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The terrorist attacks in the United States of America (USA) on 11 September 2001 unquestionably caused anguish for the nation. Instead of seeking justice, the USA went on a retribution mission which led it to lose self-control as the terrorists lured it to behave like a rogue state. The stage was thus set for a cycle of violence between the protagonists, one represented by the self-centred USA, and the other by militant modern terrorists who do not value life, to lock horns in the international arena. This thesis demonstrates that the USA’s desire for vengeance led to the internationalisation of the war on terrorism, whose actions have, on numerous occasions, constituted an affront to the ethic of political liberalism which, being centred on liberty and the respect of the individual, demand justice and fairness, equality, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, and various individual rights such as freedom of conscience and non-discrimination. While there is no agreed upon definition of terrorism, this study showed that terrorism is an illegal form of warfare that thrives on the use of violence and intimidation which is targeted mainly at civilians to achieve political objectives. This study demonstrated that the USA has taken advantage of the illegality of terrorism to persuade and coerce other nations to join it in the War on Terror which it has used, to a great extent, to pursue its strategic interests all over the world. This study shows how, in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives, the USA has adopted a rapacious foreign policy that disregards international law and multilateral institutions. The superpower has not hesitated to use force where it has felt that its interests are under threat. It has lost morality as it embraces various tyrants around the world while punishing those despots who are not on its side in the War on Terror. While exercising its right to hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice, it has failed to differentiate combatants from non-combatants. The extensive abuse of suspects in secret detention camps by its security forces, which has been characterised by a gross violation of individual rights, constitutes an insult to the just war principle of jus in bello. In the war, the USA has failed to strike a balance between national security and the requirement for the respect of individual rights. This study demonstrates how it has supplanted the rule of law by the ‘rule of men’ as Arabs and other minority groups have been profiled and detained arbitrarily as public officials have denied them their freedom of conscience and the right to equality. Liberal provisions which give suspects the right to legal representation have been unfairly and unjustly dispensed with as the criminal justice system has been replaced by military tribunals. This study shows how the government, which has exhibited a lack of tolerance for minority groups, has denied individuals their liberty as it has moved them illegally from one country to another where they have been subjected to torture. This study concludes that the USA’s disrespect for individual rights and national sovereignty has made the War on Terror unjust, given its association with lawlessness, immorality and impunity. The USA’s actions confirm the thesis that the War on Terror constitutes a threat to the ethic of political liberalism and is indeed a threat to global peace and security.


Doctor of Philosophy in Ethics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2018.