Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Why are acts of violence so often called cowardly?

Asked by LostInParadise (18320 points ) September 27th, 2012

That was a description given recently for the people who killed the American ambassador in Libya. I can think of a number of negative terms I can use to describe those responsible, but cowardly would not be one of them.

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28 Answers

ucme's avatar

Because they come mob handed & their stealth attack gives the victim no chance to defend themselves.

ragingloli's avatar

To dehumanise the enemy.
Face it, if they were your guys, they would have been admired as skilled heroes and their actions be described as a smooth operation.
Like the grunts that assassinated an unarmed Osama Bin Laden. They call them heroes, despite the fact that their modus operandi (coming in by night in a stealth helicopter, heavly armed and armoured, taking their unarmed victim by surprise) was just as “cowardly” as the guys’ who killed the ambassador.

wundayatta's avatar

Propaganda, pure and simple.

thorninmud's avatar

Good question. It appeals to a romanticized view of conflict in which honor plays a central role.

In medieval times, archers were looked down upon by other combatants because theirs were range weapons, and crossbowmen were actually despised even by archers. The honorable way to kill an enemy was to put yourself within range of harm yourself.

Plains Indians garnered honor by touching their enemies with “coup sticks”, an otherwise pointless exercise that put the warrior at personal peril.

In modern warfare, that element of personal risk doesn’t count for much. We routinely attack from halfway around the world, and even make rifles that shoot around corners. This is not to say that guys aren’t out there putting themselves at risk, just that that’s seen as a problem to be minimized now, rather than the main point.

But we still want to think of war as being governed by a code of honor, otherwise its horror would be unredeemed by even a pretense of virtue. So each side of the conflict tries to claim the moral high ground by crying foul when the enemy won’t meet them on their terms.

Roby's avatar

Because they are a bunch of punks..

LuckyGuy's avatar

I, too, thought “cowardly” a bad choice of words. I also don’t like the word “terrorist”.
I usually say “nutjob”.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I feel that cowardly would describe a young person attacking an elderly person, disabled person or young child, and I believe in the old west it was firing upon someone who didn’t have a weapon.

In the case of the ambassador in Libya, information that the White House and BHO had a head’s up so I’m not sure exactly what happened.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Because Americans have qualms about shooting someone in the back, or hitting someone when they aren’t looking. We believe in punching it out face-to-face, like men!

So I understand calling acts of terrorism “cowardly.”

zenvelo's avatar

It’s cowardly because it is done under the cover of a mob. Probably no one else in the mob was intent on killing the ambassador, but a terrorist uses the presence of the mob to murder, and then hides in the crowd to avoid being caught.

Same when someone does a drive by shooting with an automatic weapon, it’s a matter of trying to hide.

fundevogel's avatar

Because Andrew Jackson wasn’t involved.

woodcutter's avatar

They hope the perpetrators will be so offended they will take issue with that name ,and step out from behind a burhka and get their brains shot out.

boom

Pandora's avatar

Because it is cowardly to attack people around the person you are aiming for. In this case the grudge these terrorist have is with the government of the United States. Instead of pleading for change or directly doing something to promote change in a civil manor, they attack an US embassy who is only a liaison of the United States. There is nothing to gain in killing a man if what you really want to do is kill an ideal.
They are worry in the light of day they are in the wrong so instead of fighting fairly, they kill innocent civilians. They wish to impose their beliefs by creating terror.
Look at Ghandi, and mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, and countless others. War and terror is a losers method. So they are cowards. If you really believe in something you stand in front of it. Not all the way in the back and send others to do your dirty work.

rooeytoo's avatar

It’s brave and honorable when “we” do it and cowardly when “they” do it.

Bear in mind however, that the “we” and “they” vary depending on who is telling the tale!

woodcutter's avatar

The Navy Seals who plugged poor Osama weren’t cowards. They were the reply.

ragingloli's avatar

nice line of propaganda

ragingloli's avatar

Because it ignores reality. It falsely presumes your side to be “faultless victims”.
I could easily rewrite it to “The plane hijackers that toppled the towers were not cowards. They were the reply.”
The reply to what you may ask?
The reply to decades of supporting dictatorships, political manipulation, economic exploitation killing civilians, and toppling democratically elected governments.

woodcutter's avatar

A coward attacks from a vantage point that offers complete safety to himself. It may have been considered cowardly if the navy just sent in a cruise missile from a thousand miles away and sat back and watched it all happen like in a video game. The Seals were in extreme danger all the way in, all the time there, and all the way out. They weren’t hiding behind women and children. Binladen was holed up in a city among innocents. The US helped that rat bastard drive the Soviets out of “Stan” so what was his big gripe since then? He wanted to trigger a war doing what he did (again with no personal risk to himself at the time) And by the way he was not unarmed. There was an AK within arms reach at the time he just got sloppy at the same time the Seals got lucky. It was fair play.

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t see how cowardice or heroism has anything to do with the rightfulness or wrongfulness of an act. Should we consider suicide bombers to be heroic? Are drone attacks cowardly? This can get to be a really silly argument.

ragingloli's avatar

@woodcutter
So what do you consider using drones to assassinate targets to be? Or flying a stealth bomber at night?
And if you want to talk about “danger”, then every suicide bomber, 9/11 hijackers included, is automatically a brave hero, because it is certain that they will die.

woodcutter's avatar

Ok now you are moving on to other things. It’s war you win it doing what you must. It won’t be pretty. The difference being our enemies target defenseless innocents on purpose then hide amongst them. That makes stopping them tricky. If they choose this type of asymmetric style of fighting then all collateral damage is on them.

ragingloli's avatar

”. It’s war you win it doing what you must.” That is the way they are thinking. It is the reason why they are targetting civilians. To achieve victory by political destabilisation, to make the enemy leaders lose the support of their subjects. And they have to because they neither have the manpower nor the tech to wage traditional warfare. The north vietnamese pursued the same strategy. Did not win a single battle, but they won the war, by political destabilisation of the enemy. Classical Sun Tzu.
That does not stop them “being tricky”. It makes them especially tricky.

flutherother's avatar

It is cowardly to harm your enemy without putting yourself at risk. Sniping, planting bombs, using unmanned drones are all cowardly means of fighting. The honourable way is what we call here a ‘square go’ which means you face your opponent without weapons on equal terms and may the best man win.

woodcutter's avatar

There is no such thing as a fair fight. If you are trying to achieve this…your tactics suck. No honor in losing.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@woodcutter I am with you. All’s fair in love and war, but it is honorable to at least declare war first! The 9/11 attacks came with no formal declaration of war. At least we did declare war on terrorists before we attacked them.

woodcutter's avatar

In general they who complain about cowardly tactics are the ones who just got caught flatfooted and got beat up.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@woodcutter So if I waited around a corner with a two by four, ambushed you as you came around the corner and smashed you in the mouth with it, you would not consider that cowardly? Well, I would.

woodcutter's avatar

Another name for that would be a sucker punch because i would have no expectation since I haven’t made myself known to you. But yeah that would be pretty shitty and cowardly but in retrospect you would need a 4×4 to really put me down and you would really need to make sure your actions took maximum effect on that first blow.

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