In an April 2006 interview with terrorisme.net, a French site, Waltzer was asked about the killing of Israeli soldiers in Lebanon or Palestine, and of U.S. Marinmes in the 1983 bombing of barracks in Beirut. Waltzer refused to call the attacks acts of terrorism. His reflections are particularly instructive in light of controversy over what to call the killings at Fort Hood in November 2009:
Instinctively, I'd say that attacks on soldiers are not terrorist attacks. That does not make them right, "terrorism" not being the only negative term in our vocabulary. I did not think that the plane that flew into the Pentagon in 2001 was a terrorist attack or, better said, it was a terrorist attack only because the people in the plane were innocent civilians who were being used and murdered. But if you imagine an attack on the Pentagon without those innocent people in the plane, that would not have been a terrorist attack--whereas the attack on the Twin Towers clearly was one.Translated, from the French, by Pierre Tristam, © 2009.
I feel the same way in the case of Israeli soldiers: whatever you want to say about Palestinian resistance to the occupation, there is a difference between attacking soldiers and killing civilians, and it is an important moral difference. There are nevertheless ambiguous cases. In the film “The Sorrow and the Pity” - Marcel Ophül’s movie about the German occupation of France - there is a wonderfully complicated moment when, after the French have surrendered, Vichy has been created, the Germans up the North, we see a column of German soldiers marching on a French country road. Their guns are not “at the ready”, just on their backs, and they march past a group of peasants working in the fields; but these are not really peasants, and as the soldiers march past, the “peasants” attack. It is the example I suggest in my Just and Unjust Wars. The Germans declare it terrorism. And you can make that case because the French had surrendered, the German soldiers were no longer engaged in war, they thought they were in a secure area, which is why they were not moving more cautiously through the countryside. But still, an attack on soldiers is different from an attack on civilians--and there were German civilians and even families in Paris and other cities and the French resistance did not try to kill them. So I would work very hard to maintain that distinction.
Terrorism.netYet in the historiography of terrorism, the attacks in Lebanon in 1983 and against the Pentagon are considered acts of terrorism...
Waltzer: I'd resist the charcterization. I'd like to maintain that distinction. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't condemn the death of those Marines in Beirut. I could even criticize the death of those German soldiers in France, even if the American presence in Lebanon was a lot less nefarious than then the German presence in France. In any case, we need to look for alternative terms of condemnation; we must have a more complex vocabulary than simply the term "terrorism."