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Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Nice, Berlin, Barcelona, London – the web of terror attacks across Europe is growing ever denser: “The fragments of images dissolve into each other, merging in the media perception into a gigantic phantasm – the phantasm of omnipresent violence.”  Nearly two decades after the twin attacks on the World Trade Center, the terrorists’ psychological strategy seems to work: “The fear of attacks lives in people’s minds, crawls through their imagination, and controls their expectations” (Thomas Assheuer in Die Zeit, July 28, 2016; translated from the German). 

There is a pervasive feeling of fear, in which the danger can no longer be localized. Discussions of terrorism are shaped not by the measurable threat, but by the fear of deadly attacks that could come anywhere, at any time.

The balance between freedom and security is at the core of the ethical debate about appropriate ways to combat terrorism. Both need to be carefully weighed up against each other. But the diffuse and uncertain nature of the danger makes security susceptible to instrumentalization. In political wrangling over contentious counterterrorism measures, the need for security is often given top priority – after all, the prevailing creed in the fight against terrorism is that security is a prerequisite for freedom. 

But if terrorist attacks upset the basic conditions for peaceful coexistence, because the need for state-guaranteed security conflicts with civil liberties, then terrorists have achieved one of their goals: to destabilize an order based on democracy and human rights, one of whose defining characteristics is the quality of life enjoyed by free citizens. Military patrols, travel restrictions, and ever closer surveillance are already part of everyday life in many democratic states.

The phenomenon of terrorism affects and influences every single citizen. On all kinds of levels, we have to deal with it, respond to it, and constantly re-justify our position in the debate between freedom and security.

At the same time, “terrorism” is one of the most controversial words in politics. What exactly defines terrorist activity? What mechanisms does global terrorism use? What are the causes and reasons that explain why – despite declarations of unity – international cooperation against terrorism is so difficult to achieve?

The authors of this edition of “Ethics and Armed Forces” examine these questions from a variety of academic perspectives – theology, ethics, social and political science, international law, and military science.

The articles offer readers a multifaceted discussion of the phenomenon of terrorism, its causes, and how it is dealt with.

 I hope that you will find our e-journal both insightful and informative.