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Q&A: Terrorism's ethical components

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Dr. Rushworth M. Kidder is Founder and President of the Institute for Global Ethics . A noted speaker and former senior columnist for The Christian Science Monitor, Kidder is most recently the author "How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living" .

Rushworth Kidder was interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor's online news producer, Josh Burek. President Bush told the nation last night that the United States "will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." What ethical boundaries must US leaders consider before committing to a response?

Kidder: Well, I think we need to put this into the broader context of where the terrorist activity comes from. Bear in mind that terrorism is always perpetrated by a small group of people.

They're supported by a slightly larger, but still very thin layer of people who are the ones who harbor and give them safe houses, give them money and all of that. Below that, there's a group of people who generally in some vague way, think that this is an OK idea – even that's not a particularly large bunch. Because below that, then, you get the typical factions in any kind of a group; those people who would generally be opposed to the United States but wouldn't want to go the level of that kind of appalling violence and those who are on the other side, defending the United States. So we're not talking about a large group of folks up here who are the actual perpetrators and the ones who are sustaining and supporting it.

And I think there's an interesting connection. Would you make a distinction – if you were fighting a war – between the soldiers on the front line, and the logistical support behind the lines that provides the ammunition, the movement, the food, and all that stuff? You typically don't.


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