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The Lesser Evil$
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Michael Ignatieff

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780748618729

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748618729.001.0001

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Liberty and Armageddon

Liberty and Armageddon

(p.145) Chapter Six Liberty and Armageddon
The Lesser Evil

Gifford Lectures

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter addresses the acquisition by terrorist groups of weapons of mass destruction. If this were to occur, the state's ultimate powers of violence would pass into private hands, either those of a terrorist internationale such as Al Qaeda, or those of a superempowered loner – a lonely citizen with a grudge and the capability to hold his entire nation hostage. These scenarios would take us into a new world, in which terrorism might transmute from an eternal but manageable challenge to liberal democracy into a potentially lethal foe. The chapter considers the worst-case scenario in order to pose, as starkly as possible, the questions with which the book began: whether our democracies are strong enough to cope with these dangers, and how to strengthen the institutions we are committed to defend.

Keywords:   terrorism, terrorist groups, mass destruction, violence, state, liberal democracy

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