On the necessary moral force of the state

Interesting to see that the great journalistic splash around the Donaldson case has brought Oliver Kamm into the Northern Ireland space, if only to illustrate an argument on morality of state force. He begins by noting Dean Godson’s remarks in the Daily Telegraph that “Mr Blair has become the prisoner of the peace process. Like a gambler who has invested so much, he has to keep heaping on the chips to obtain a return”.Kamm sets of with key statement 1: “Moral clarity on terrorism requires distinguishing the force used by the democratic state from the violence of private armies”. Secondly:

There is a difference of kind and not only of degree between disagreeing fiercely with the policies of a democratic government and regarding that government as illegitimate. There is also a difference of kind between political protest and political violence.

He goes on to quote from a lecture Conor Cruise O’Brien gave back in 1978:

Institutionalized violence is a necessary part of every organized state since without its availability any state would disintegrate. But those who make most use of the term tend to ignore the fact that the institutionalization of violence within a democratic system is the most responsible way available to us for containing violence. Democratic institutions can be altered by non-violent means; the use of violence by the democratic state is subject to scrutiny and criticism, and abuses can be punished and corrected. None of this works perfectly, but it works to some extent, and no such restrictions at all apply to other uses of violence, whether by non-democratic states or by terrorist organizations.