This book asks several ethical and philosophical questions about terrorism, including why terrorism is wrong and why moral condemnations of terrorism are lacking in credibility. The author begins by defining terrorism. The author states that it has been difficult to come to a definition of terrorism because people making the definition have vested political interests. He determines that one of terrorism's main features is that it is "violence directed against innocent people" (5). The author then critiques this definition, discussing whether it is free of subjectivity, and examines what comprises "innocent" people and whether unintentional acts can be terrorism. He also examines what makes terrorism wrong. The author also discusses the idea that only non-governmental organizations can be terrorists. He believes that governments can also be agents of terrorism and writes, "we can see that any inquiry about the moral status of terrorism must widen its scope to include traditional wars" (72).
The author then goes on to show why moral condemnations of terrorism lack credibility from the point of view of utilitarian theory, political realism, and other schools of thought. He also uses Michael Waltzer's book Just and Unjust Wars to examine the idea that proponents of the just war theory condemn terrorism while approving of killing people in other situations, such as through collateral damage. The author then advocates the idea that it is always wrong to kill or attack civilians in war and that we cannot condemn terrorism unless we condemn all attacks on civilians. The author condemns the idea that "collateral damage," or the unintentional killing of civilians, is permissible by showing that the focus on intent is not relevant. In other words, people can be guilty of killing others even when it's not intentional.