Can just war theory delegitimate terrorism?

Naomi Sussmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The rapidly expanding literature on terrorism can be seen to respond to the growing incidence of violent political conflict. Most of the relevant discussion is conducted within the framework of just war theory - a theory in which armed conflicts are considered legitimate only when they are explicitly announced and justified; when they take place between states and their armies; and when they are strictly exclusive of noncombatants. This article argues that framing the discussion in these terms is unhelpful: rather than help us to properly consider and delegitimize terrorism, it tends to expose the inadequacy of just war theory itself under conditions of modern violence. The purpose of this article is thus to establish that the framework of just war theory is inadequate to the delegitimation of terrorism. The article concludes by arguing, on these grounds, for the replacement of the theory of just war with a theory of justified political violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-446
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Just-war theory
  • Non-combatants
  • Political violence
  • State
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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