Al-Qaeda has declared a global “jihad,” announcing grievances against the West as its justification. It has waged its “jihad” by attacking military targets, – the USS Cole in 2000 and the Pentagon in 2001 – noncombatant targets, – the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001, a Philippine airlines flight in 1994, and two Germans in Libya in 1994 – and targets of arguably less distinct character – the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. The death toll so far includes fewer than 200 combatants and more than 3,500 non-combatants. Also, in waging its global “jihad,” al-Qaeda has made extensive and methodical use of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings (Bellamy 146-47).
Can al-Qaeda’s global “jihad” be justified according to the Western just war tradition, or even the Islamic jihad tradition? This paper will present a critical analysis of al-Qaeda’s arguments for jus ad bellum and jus in bello in the context of the Western just war tradition and the Islamic jihad tradition. It will first describe the two traditions, then compare and contrast them. Next, I will outline common justifications for terrorism. Following, it will examine al-Qaeda’s arguments for jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Then, it will offer a critical analysis of those arguments. Finally, it will offer conclusions and recommendations based on this analysis.