Liberal Democracies and Their Defective Response to Terrorism

Terrorism has been an present phenomenon for a few years. Nevertheless, the current wave of terrorist assaults related to Islamic extremism, is basically targeted on focusing on Western liberal democracies and their core values (Manin, 2008). The response to current terrorist assaults on democratic international locations has differed in some ways throughout international locations and doesn’t stay uncontroversial. This essay goals to research how the response to giant terrorist assaults on democratic ‘soil’ has affected the liberal democracy of the affected nation. Two case research will likely be in contrast for this evaluation. First, the response to (arguably essentially the most infamous) terrorist assaults on the 11th of September 2001 in the USA will likely be mentioned by analyzing the response of the Bush administration and the change in public discourse and well-liked tradition. Then, the French response to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo and November 13th assaults is evaluated by investigating political and societal penalties of the assaults. By outlining the political and authorized measures taken by the respective governments this essay goals to elucidate how responses to terrorism can erode the adherence to liberal democratic values. First, the ideas and idea used for the evaluation of the instances will likely be outlined. Then every case research will likely be individually defined and analyzed. In accordance with the evaluation I’ll then examine the responses to terrorist assaults in France and the USA, utilizing the present literature, and formulate a conclusion.

Theoretical Framework:


A broad evaluation of the event of terrorism and the way terrorism is known is past the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, to understand the implications of terrorist assaults it’s essential 

to stipulate what is known as terrorism. A preferred definition of terrorism describes it as “the substate utility of violence or threatened violence meant to sow panic in a society, to weaken and even overthrow the incumbents, and to result in political change (Lacqueur, 1996, p. 24). Nevertheless, up to date societies don’t face a single terrorism, however a number of varieties originating from totally different ideologies and origins (Lacqueur, 1996, p. 25). Moreover, terrorist threats in the present day most of the time originate from non-state actors (Wilkinson, 2011, p. 6). Though these non-state assaults have traditionally been much less deadly than state terrorism they nonetheless achieve instigating concern and disaster in society (Wilkinson, 2011, p. 6) (Lacqueur, 1996, p. 34). Whereas acknowledging that there are a lot of totally different terrorist organizations with origins in numerous concepts or ideologies, this essay will give attention to two current assaults each dedicated by totally different jihadist organizations adhering to Islamic extremism on liberal democracies. The 2 instances had been chosen primarily based on the truth that each assaults had been current, focused at liberal democracies and provoked a transparent response from the federal government. 

Liberal Democracy

On this essay democracy is outlined as “a system of governance through which rulers are held accountable for his or her actions within the public realm by residents, appearing not directly by means of the competitors and cooperation of their elected representatives” (Schmitter & Karl, 1991, p.4). A liberal democracy is then understood as a democracy through which minority rights and civil liberties are constitutionally protected (Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2012, p. 13). 

Separation of Powers

The concept of the separation of powers is most frequently attributed to Montesquieu, who wrote that “in each authorities there are three kinds of powers: the legislative, the manager in respect to issues depending on the legal guidelines of countries, and the manager in regard to issues that depend on the civil regulation” (De Montesquieu, 1949, p. 151). The three branches are additionally known as the legislative department, govt department and judiciary department (De Montesquieu, 1949, p. 151). The legislative department is worried with the ratification of legal guidelines, the manager department is answerable for nationwide safety and the judiciary department punishes criminals and solves authorized arguments between residents (De Montesquieu, 1949, p. 151). Montesquieu argues that the branches needs to be impartial from each other with the intention to be sure that tyranny is prevented as he believes that “when the legislative: and govt powers are united in the identical individual, or in the identical physique of magistrates, there might be no liberty” (Montesquieu, 1748, p. 151-152). Founding Father of the American Structure James Madison builds on Montesquieu in quantity 47 of the Federalist Papers stating that “The buildup of all powers, legislative, govt, and judiciary, in the identical fingers, whether or not of 1, just a few, or many, and whether or not hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, might justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” (Madison, 2003, p. 298). In quantity 51 of the Federalist Papers, Madison proposes a system of checks and balances so that every department can preserve the others in test and thus make sure the stability between the three branches (Madison, 2003, p. 317).

Unitary Govt Concept

Unitary govt idea is an American authorized idea primarily based on the Structure which emphasizes the facility of the manager department (Bailey, 2008, p. 453). The Unitary Govt Concept is commonly related to Alexander Hamilton who argues in The Federalist Papers 70-72 that unity within the govt department is safer for democracy because it permits individuals to increase the accountability of the President (Bailey, 2008, p. 457). Though totally different interpretations of the speculation exist, the principle premise holds that, primarily based on the separation of powers and Article 2 of the American Structure, the manager energy is vested in a single officer (Skowronek, 2009, p. 2075). This officer, the President, is argued to own in depth authority and unique duty (Skowronek, 2009, p. 2075). Which means that, in line with supporters of the unitary govt idea, the Structure endorses a unified govt department through which all individuals working within the department reply to the President, and are subservient to his or her opinion (Skowronek, 2009, p. 2077). Adherents of unitary govt idea usually current two essential arguments, also known as the “democracy declare” and the “managerial declare”, to show that their idea is in accordance with constitutional democracy (Farina, 2010, p. 373). The democracy declare implies that, because the President is democratically elected to be a consultant of your entire American individuals, the unitary govt idea permits the individuals to manipulate themselves and due to this fact satisfies the necessities of democracy (Farina, 2010, pp. 373-374). The managerial declare holds {that a} highly effective and robust President is extra environment friendly and coordinated than fashionable regulatory authorities, which implies that the manager department will likely be higher in a position to oversee the huge (inter)nationwide coverage equipment and align it with the curiosity of the individuals (Farina, 2010, p. 374). Nevertheless, the unitary govt idea and its claims are closely disputed, which is able to develop into evident within the evaluation of the 9/11 case research.

Emergency State

Whereas the unitary govt idea helps a everlasting enlargement of the President’s authority, the emergency state consists of a brief measure to extend the authority of the manager department in response to an emergency (Manin, 2008, p. 23). A state is entitled to declare an emergency state in case of “a public emergency which threatens the lifetime of the nation, and which is formally proclaimed” (Lillich, 1985, p. 1073). A public emergency refers to “an distinctive scenario of disaster or public hazard, precise or imminent, which impacts the entire inhabitants or the entire inhabitants of the realm to which the declaration applies and constitutes a menace to the organized lifetime of the group of which the state consists” (Lillich, 1985, p. 1073). The emergency state permits for the short-term deviation from larger order norms as described within the Structure (Manin, 2008, p. 23). These deviations might have a procedural character, that means a change within the institutional decision-making course of, or a substantive character, relating to the content material of emergency measures (Manin, 2008, p. 25). There are, nevertheless, sure necessities to make sure that the emergency state doesn’t enable for extreme infringement on particular person rights, similar to “The Paris Minimal Requirements Of Human Rights Norms In A State Of Emergency” and a number of other worldwide human rights treaties (Lillich, 1985, p. 1072). Minimal necessities for a state to satisfy embrace, amongst others, freedom from discrimination, freedom from torture, proper to liberty and proper to nationality (Lillich, 1985, pp. 1075-1081). 

Authoritarian and Intolerant Practices

In her article “What authoritarianism is … and isn’t: a apply perspective”, Marlies Glasius (2018) argues for a transfer away from defining authoritarianism and illiberalism merely within the context of regimes, and as an alternative proposing a classification primarily based on authoritarian and intolerant practices which might be attributed to (democratic) governments, individuals and companies (p. 523). Practices are understood as “patterned actions which are embedded specifically organized contexts” (Glasius, 2018, p. 523). An authoritarian apply, in line with Glasius (2018), is an energetic apply by a political actor targeted on accountability sabotage to the individuals by disabling entry to info and/or disabling their voice (p. 526). An intolerant apply might be described as “a sample of actions, embedded in an organized context, infringing on the autonomy and dignity of the individual” (Glasius, 2018, p. 530). Whereas intolerant and authoritarian practices usually go hand in hand, they’ll additionally exist impartial of one another, and be executed by liberal and democratic governments and organizations.

Evaluation of Case Examine

Submit 9/11 United States: Eroding liberal democracy at residence whereas spreading it overseas

On the 11th of September 2001, 19 members of Al-Qaeda hijacked 4 airplanes focusing on varied vital landmarks of the USA (Templeton & Lumley, 2002). Two of the airplanes flew into the each towers of the Phrase Commerce Middle in New York Metropolis, killing 2823 individuals within the towers and plane (Templeton & Lumley, 2002). The third airplane crashed into the Pentagon, killing 189 (Templeton & Lumley, 2002). The final hijacked airplane, which is suspected to have aimed to crash into the Capitol or the White Home, crashed to the bottom in rural Pennsylvania, taking the lifetime of 45 individuals (Templeton & Lumley, 2002).

The 9/11 assaults constituted a traumatic expertise for the USA, and a grave shock for the remainder of the world. The Bush administration was confronted with the troublesome job of formulating an applicable response to the sheer terror that had shaken the nation. 9 days after the assaults, in an handle to the joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush declared that “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom dedicated an act of conflict towards our nation” (Bush, 2001, p. 66). In that very same speech Bush declared a so-called “Conflict On Terror” stating that “Our conflict on terror begins with al Qaeda, however it doesn’t finish there. It is not going to finish till each terrorist group of world attain has been discovered, stopped and defeated” (Bush, 2001, p. 68). Whereas outstanding, this strategy in itself doesn’t pose a big hazard to liberal democracy. Nevertheless, the best way the Bush administration went about this conflict has a number of pitfalls.

To be able to allow the federal government to implement the insurance policies required for The Conflict On Terror the Bush Administration and their associates made frequent use of the unitary govt idea. In a number of memoranda written by authorized advisors to the Bush administration the unitary govt idea was used to argue in favor of granting the President sole and in depth energy to answer terrorism (Schultz, 2008, p. 213). The Yoo Memorandum, named after author John Yoo, consisted of the principle declare that the President has full management over overseas and army powers within the occasion of a terrorist menace (Schultz, 2008, p. 215). Two different important memoranda involved the therapy of detainees and suspects of terrorist exercise (Schultz, 2008). The so-called Detainee Memo concluded that, because the President has the only energy to droop and proceed treaties, Bush had the proper to briefly droop the Geneva conference concerning the prisoner of conflict standing (Schultz, 2008, 216). A memo strongly associated to that is the Gonzales or Torture Memo which states that using torture is in accordance with the Conference Towards Torture, so long as it isn’t carried out purely for the sake of inflicting extreme psychological of bodily struggling (Schultz, 2008, p. 221). Moreover, the memo argues that even when using torture would violate the regulation, it will be unconstitutional to restrict the presidential war-making powers (Schultz, 2008, p. 221). The final memo, The Wiretapping Memo, was written after it was uncovered that the Bush administration spied on Americans with out court-approved warrants (Schultz, 2008, p. 221). The Memo defended the Presidents’ use of surveillance by arguing that the President has the authority to have interaction in searches with out warrants for overseas intelligence functions (Schultz, 2008, p. 222). It may be concluded that the Bush administration used the unitary govt idea to justify and allow the actions taken in gentle of the Conflict on Terror. Nevertheless, many of those actions, such because the wiretapping of residents and using torture, are in violation of the rule of regulation, human rights and civil liberties (Brysk, 2007).

An vital coverage response to 9/11 involved intelligence info. The USA PATRIOT Act, realized on the 26th of October 2001, was an vital step in the direction of growing the authority of regulation enforcement and intelligence businesses (Schultz, 2008, p. 210). Geared toward making it simpler to detect home terrorism, the regulation additional facilitated using intelligence info by crime management officers (Schultz, 2008, p. 210). Nevertheless, by disproportionately regarding immigrants and overseas guests the Patriot Act might be mentioned to have had a stigmatizing impact (Schultz, 2008, p. 211). One other controversy relating to American intelligence operations initiated after 9/11 is the covert wiretapping of worldwide phone and e-mail conversations with out authorized warrants, finally ensuing within the spying of Americans (Schultz, 2008, p. 2008). In accordance with the classification of Marlies Glasius (2018) this clearly constitutes an intolerant apply which infringes on the privateness and autonomy of people. Moreover, after the introduction of the Patriot Act, the Bush administration restricted entry to printed, authorities and scientific info resulting in the erosion of free speech and the standard of democratic dialogue (Jaeger & Burnett, 2005, p. 475). The disabling of entry clearly constitutes an authoritarian apply and isn’t in keeping with democratic thought (Glasius, 2018). Whereas the federal government has elevated their means to assemble details about the conduct and background of people, they concurrently decreased the flexibility of the individuals to tell and specific themselves and develop into important residents (Jaegar & Burnett, 2005, p. 475). Moreover, utilizing the body of conflict, individuals who voiced their important opinion of the Conflict on Terror had been usually thought of betrayers of the nation (Butterworth, 2006, p. 109). This quantities to an authoritarian apply because it focuses on disabling important voices (Glasius, 2018). In a manner one might conclude that the 9/11 terrorist assaults fulfilled their essential function – the erosion of liberal and democratic values – by upsetting a response by the American authorities which effectuated simply that. 

France after 2015: Liberal democratic values and everlasting emergencies

In January 2015, the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo was the goal of a terrorist assault by two radicalized Muslims, ending within the homicide of 12 individuals (Połońska-Kimunguyi & Gillespie, 2016, p. 569). The assault was impressed by cartoons the journal had revealed, depicting the prophet Mohammed (Połońska-Kimunguyi & Gillespie, 2016, p. 569). Later in 2015, France was once more the goal of terrorism, when 137 individuals had been killed by jihadists in varied coordinated assaults in Paris (Neiberg, 2017, p. 25). In a speech after the November assaults, French President Francois Hollande (2015) referred to the occasion as an act of conflict. 

Shortly after the November assaults, Hollande introduced a nationwide emergency state, which might finally find yourself lasting two years (Feinberg, 2018 p. 496). The state of emergency briefly will increase the authority of the manager department, permitting for “the creation of zones of safety and safety; the imposition of curfews, visitors stops, and searches; home arrest for people whose exercise was deemed harmful; and administrative searches”, in addition to the large-scale assortment of digital information (Feinberg, 2018, p. 496). Beneath the emergency state 4469 administrative searches, 754 home arrests, and the closure of 19 spiritual areas had been carried out (Feinberg, 2018, p. 496). It was indicated that most of the measures taken had been unrelated to the 2015 assaults (Feinberg, 2018, p. 496). Though govt energy was expanded, there was nonetheless a restricted diploma of judicial assessment, which was later criticized for under performing a posteriori opinions (Feinberg, 2018, p. 501). The principle subject with the French emergency state, nevertheless, issues the temporal aspect. By repeatedly extending the state of emergency, distinctive measures are more and more normalized in society resulting in a distorted view on the liberal democratic state (Feinberg, 2018). This argument can be supported by Manin (2008) who argues that “Brief length is a essential situation for emergency measures to be according to constitutional values” (p. 33). Nevertheless, the terrorist menace posed by Islamic extremism is unlikely to vanish quickly primarily based on the historic sample of terrorism, the organizational buildings of networks as Al Qaeda and the superior use of know-how by terrorists (Manin, 2008, pp. 30-32). This could point out that the emergency state is an inappropriate response to fashionable terrorism. Within the case of France, the termination of the emergency state was enabled by the adoption of a brand new counterterrorism regulation which contained parts from emergency laws and introduced them into common regulation, creating so-called everlasting emergencies (Feinberg, 2018, p. 497). 

There have been just a few extra problematic parts to the French response. Shortly after the November terror assaults, President Hollande introduced his purpose to make it simpler to denaturalize residents who had been concerned in an assault towards the nation, even when they had been born in France (however provided that additionally they possess one other nationality) (Beauchamps, 2017, p. 48). Which means that this measure would solely have an effect on those that had been born in France however get pleasure from an extra nationality, or those that gained the French nationality by means of acquisition (Beauchamps, 2017, p. 49). This differentiation might be thought of problematic, because it generates a precept of unequal citizenship through which the proper to nationwide identification is conditional for some and irrevocable for others (Beauchamps, 2017, p. 49). Depriving a French-born citizen or new nationwide of their nationality takes away the elemental rights that include private identification (Duhamel, 2016, p. 4). Denaturalization is due to this fact problematic, contemplating the precept of discrimination and human rights. One other coverage by the French authorities focused pro-jihad web sites (Goodman, 2016, p. 229). Whereas that is, in precept, a proportionate response to the growing on-line exercise of terrorist group, the definition of a terrorist web site offered by the French authorities is simply too blurry, risking in depth censorship which might represent an authoritarian apply (Goodman, 2016, p. 231) (Glasius, 2018). Though the French response to terror appears much less radical than the American one, the unusually lengthy state of emergency normalized using distinctive measures and led to a distortion of civil liberties and liberal democratic values.


As might be derived from the evaluation of the case research, each the French and American governments responded to terror by growing the authority of the manager department. Nevertheless, the respective responses differed within the technique by which authority was prolonged. Whereas the extended emergency state in France was thought of barely extra professional than the Bush administrations’ utilization of unitary govt idea, each approaches are questionable when it involves the safety and conservation of civil liberties and liberal democratic values. As the character of terrorism has modified, so ought to our responses. Future analysis ought to due to this fact give attention to making an attempt to determine doable responses to terrorism assaults which give effectiveness and safety, whereas concurrently harboring liberal democracy and its values. This paper however implies that, despite the fact that terrorist assaults are deemed threats to liberal democracy, maybe the actual hazard lurks in how we reply to them.


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Written at: College of Amsterdam
Written for: Rutger Kaput
Date written: March 2019

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One thought on “Liberal Democracies and Their Defective Response to Terrorism

  • 28/09/2020 at 2:15 am

    Hey there Your method of explaining all in this article is really fastidious, every one be capable of simply know it, danke


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