Fighting Back: What Governments Can Do About Terrorism

by Paul Shemella (Editor)



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804777087
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 10/05/2011
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paul Shemella retired from the Navy at the rank of Captain after a career in Special Operations, and is currently the Program Manager for the Combating Terrorism Fellowship program at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey.

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What Governments Can Do About Terrorism

Stanford University Press

Copyright © 2011 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8047-7708-7

Chapter One

Introduction Paul Shemella

THERE IS NO BETTER EXAMPLE OF CIVIL–MILITARY DECISION making than a government's response to the complex problem of terrorism. Preparing for the threat requires a mix of intelligence, investigative, and emergency-services capacity; the response may well involve the application of coercive force. Governments have a wide range of civilian and military tools with which to manage both. In this volume we will attempt to explain how governments can design more effective responses to terrorism, including ways to undermine the strength, appeal, and effectiveness of terrorist groups themselves.

Terrorism has been a problem for governments for a long time. In the modern context, David Rapoport has described four waves of terrorism, beginning with the anarchists of the late nineteenth century and manifesting in our time with the rise of militant Islam after 1979. In a real sense the anarchists are back, fueled by a far less discriminating ideology. There are currently two species of terrorists confronting governments, and distinguishing one from the other is a crucial factor in crafting wise responses. The first kind of terrorist uses violence as a means to a political end, usually overthrowing a government; the second kind uses violence as an end in itself, driven by overwhelming ideological zeal. Stated another way, the former wants to change the political system, and the latter wishes to destroy it, along with many of its citizens.

Both categories of terrorists use terror as a weapon, but, as Thomas Mockaitis explains in Chapter 2, so do threatened states, insurgents, and criminal gangs. How do we distinguish "terror" the weapon from "terrorism" the phenomenon? A universal definition of terrorism is elusive because most governments, influenced by local context, define it differently. Despite wide recognition of the value of a common definition, they have so far been unable to agree on one. However, there is a large body of international law proscribing activities related to terrorism that individual states frequently use as a basis for diplomacy and justice.

Terrorists live and metastasize where governments are least likely to find them, such as remote border areas and "ungoverned spaces" where state sovereignty is weak or nonexistent. This also includes those theaters of human activity that do not belong to any single government, the so-called "global commons." Scott Jasper and colleagues have described in detail the challenges of securing the global commons, which comprise the high seas beyond territorial control, aerospace, outer space, and cyberspace.

But the fight against terrorism must extend the battlefield even farther than that. We now live in a world where what is happening in the sovereign space of one country can pose a direct threat to all other countries. Terrorists have taken the global commons global. Unaffiliated with any nation, they ignore borders and often force governments to ignore them as well. How do we fight terrorists within the ungoverned spaces of other countries?

One way we do it is to cooperate much more than ever before. Terrorists have organized themselves horizontally, testing the vertical structure of individual governments with faster decision cycles and greater mobility. They have formed international networks, aided by cyberspace, that confound established institutions. Phil Williams discusses these networks in Chapter 3: why they are so powerful and how governments can attack them. In Chapter 4 Williams goes on to discuss terrorist financing as one application of networked operations, and one that has proved surprisingly difficult for governments to understand, much less shut down.

Tim Doorey takes on the special challenge of cyber terrorism in Chapter 5. This is an area of acute vulnerability where terrorists appear to be far ahead of most governments. As governments transfer more and more of their administrative and public services to online networks, they will become even more exposed to hacking and criminal activities. Modern critical infrastructure depends increasingly on cyber control, a reality that sets societies up for disruptive cascading effects. Cyberspace is so new that laws, regulations, and security architecture are themselves embryonic, constantly playing catch-up with the next breakthrough technology. Terrorists are taking advantage of those capacity gaps.

Peter Chalk deals with maritime threats in Chapter 6, warning that political violence may become more deadly as well as more frequent. The original global commons is also ridden with piracy and smuggling that could aid the logistical designs of terrorists who wish to exploit the maritime domain. Ed Hoffer goes on to explain in Chapter 7 that weapons of mass destruction are linked to terrorism in ways that are often misleading, creating widespread fear of the most unlikely scenarios, and thereby wasting scarce security resources on the wrong responses. Hoffer's piece is a long-overdue counter-narrative that serves to warn us that terrorists can win without having actually to deploy a weapon of mass destruction.

The first seven chapters complete our description of the problem of terrorism itself, but what can governments actually do about terrorism? How can they devise national and regional approaches to preventing terrorism, at the same time that they prepare to manage the consequences of terrorist attacks that they cannot prevent? Nationally and regionally, governments must use a host of creative strategies to both increase the terrorists' expected costs of doing business and decrease their expected benefits.

In Chapter 8 Jim Petroni introduces an all-hazards risk-assessment model that can help governments prioritize the distribution of scarce resources. No government has enough resources to protect everything; all need to distinguish what they must protect from what they cannot. From there, governments must understand the specific threats they have to defend against. The next step would be to perform "net assessments" that compare the strengths and weaknesses of their institutions and societies against the strengths and weaknesses of each terrorist threat. Armed with an honest net assessment, governments can meet the very difficult challenge of how to develop effective strategies against individual terrorist threats.

Chapter 9 suggests a universal model for any government wishing to develop a comprehensive set of strategies. It argues that a government needs three different kinds of strategies—directed, in turn, at the root causes of terrorism, terrorist threats, and the government's vulnerabilities—if it is to manage terrorism effectively. Government institutions must be prepared to execute all three kinds of strategies at the same time; the neglect of one will degrade the effectiveness of the others.

Chapter 10 goes on to explain how governments can build more effective institutions for fighting terrorism. Strong institutions act as crucibles for the development of capabilities that can then be deepened to produce sustained capacity. But overreliance on a single institution, the army for instance, concentrates precious resources within a limited "capacity box" that cannot possibly deliver all the services that are needed. The key to fighting terrorism successfully is to have a network of institutions, each focused on distinct roles, and all coordinating their operations with one another.

In Chapter 11, Lawrence Cline examines how government institutions can coordinate more effectively in making decisions and managing conflict. Simply sharing information is not enough; there must be persistent coordination—and often collaboration—among institutions despite their separate identities and cultures. The habit of coordination must also extend to other governments and to the regional security structures they share. Institutions must look inward and outward at the same time. No government is large enough to fight terrorism on its own, and none is so small that it cannot make a significant contribution to the collective effort.

Chapter 12 fits the challenge of countering extremist ideas into an analytical framework applicable to all dangerous ideologies. It concludes by observing that trying to counter extremist ideology from outside the ideological grouping is a dead end. Countering extremism may be a local effort, but the effects of not countering it are global. All governments must learn to inoculate their citizens against the ideology virus. This can be done first by offering good governance as a counterweight to extremist grievances, and then by supporting moderate elements within the broader ideological culture in their appeal to individuals who have not yet shifted from strongly held beliefs to extremism.

Lawrence Cline explains in Chapter 13 how intelligence for fighting terrorism is different from traditional security intelligence and suggests avenues for reform. Good counterterrorist strategy is completely dependent on accurate and timely information. But what constitutes good intelligence when the threat is ambiguous, is covert, and does not conform to expected modes? In the absence of rules, patterns, and hardware, the intelligence analyst must rely on judgment more than ever. Put simply, intelligence in fighting terrorism is more art than science.

Even with the best intelligence, societies will continue to be attacked by terrorists. Ed Hoffer examines in Chapter 14 how governments and their institutions can best manage the consequences of terrorism that they fail to prevent. Following Jim Petroni's lead, Hoffer takes an all-hazards approach to restoring order and services. Terrorism is, after all, a disaster that happens to be a consequence of deliberate human action. The management of disaster is a comprehensive undertaking that involves a wide variety of law enforcement, public safety agencies, medical personnel, and perhaps military forces.

No government can claim legitimacy without strict adherence to the ethical standards that are the very foundation of democracy. Robert Schoultz observes in Chapter 15 that fighting ethically can be a short-term constraint, but it is a long-term advantage. He considers the worst-case context of military combat, but the ethical guidelines for using coercive force go beyond the armed forces. Terrorists understand, perhaps better than we do, that if we sacrifice our values, the most important distinction between us and them is lost. With a level moral playing field, terrorists can claim to be "freedom fighters" and make a case for violent change.

But how will we know whether all these responses are leading us to the results we want? How do we know when we've won, and what does winning look like? Is it even possible to win against terrorism? If strategy development starts by posing the question "What strategic effects do we wish to create?" then we must develop ways to measure those effects. Chapter 16 discusses how we can measure our progress toward creating desired outcomes. It also introduces a methodology for quantifying government prevention efforts, extending that template to the assessment of a state's institutional capacity to fight terrorism.

The insights articulated in the first sixteen chapters were derived largely from case studies of governments in the process of confronting terrorist threats. We considered examples from all over the world, but six cases stand out as particularly useful. We have included them here for easy reference and to set the global context within which all governments now operate. This set of cases is meant to cover the most important teaching points regarding how any government can fight terrorism successfully. Sadly, most of the governments profiled have either failed catastrophically or have yet to succeed completely. There are simply not a lot of success stories out there (although the long British campaign in Northern Ireland is certainly one). However, failure can teach us a great deal.

Somalia shows us not what governments can do but what terrorists, pirates, and other criminals can do in the absence of government. The Tokyo subway attack of 1995 takes us back to what may be the future of terrorism: improvised weapons of mass destruction. The Madrid train bombings provide a lesson in terrorist financing and remind us that terrorist actions can determine the fate of elected officials. The Mumbai attack made devastatingly clear that the maritime domain, which includes seaports, presents another extremely vulnerable border region for most governments. The long history of the Irish Republican Army provides us with lessons useful for dealing with terrorists who want to change the system, whereas the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula teaches us the difficulty of dealing with terrorists who want to destroy the system.

The concluding chapter draws from all the chapters to extract a number of strategic precepts that should guide any government's civil–military responses to terrorism. State responses to terrorism are situational, but there are certain prescriptions that seem to work in most cases. Governments can learn from the experiences of other governments, but they should not assume that what has worked for one will necessarily work for another. Terrorists are smart adversaries who learn fast. Those who are trying to stop them are on a collective learning curve to try and stay ahead of them. Acting together, governments, in tandem with private enterprise and civil society, have far more resources than do terrorists. Success can be achieved only by full cooperation and coordination among all the stakeholders.

Some of the work in this volume is biased toward the theoretical, while some of it is more practical. Taken together, these pages constitute a comprehensive course in how governments can respond to terrorism without sacrificing the values that bind their societies together. Indeed, governments that apply these precepts successfully will generate greater social cohesion and a higher quality of life for all their citizens. These are worthy goals in themselves, but the benefits of fighting terrorism successfully go further, by strengthening the crucial mutual trust between governments and their societies.

Chapter Two

Terrorism, Insurgency, and Organized Crime Thomas R. Mockaitis

TERRORISM HAS BECOME FOR THE FIRST DECADE OF THE twenty-first century what genocide was for the last decade of the twentieth: a popular term bandied about with such imprecision that it risks losing all meaning. In the years following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the U.S. government labeled all forms of nonstate violence terrorism. President George W. Bush furthered this simplistic view by proclaiming, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." By dividing the world into them and us, he revived a most unhelpful Cold War mentality in which terrorism became the new anti-Western bogyman.

This chapter begins with an overview of terrorism as it has been used by states, criminals, insurgents, and religious extremists. It is a tactic that has been wielded throughout human history by those in power as well as those seeking power. Empires and revolutionary governments have used terror to destroy residual dissent to the new regime. However, terrorism also serves the purposes of resistance to the status quo. It is a tool that criminal enterprises use to quash both competition and recourse to the law, and that insurgents and revolutionaries, who wish to overthrow the status quo altogether, use to undermine official legitimacy. It has also been a favorite tool of religious fanatics who have no compunction about killing unbelievers or those who fail to believe in the "right way."

The chapter then looks at the problem of defining modern terrorism and the pitfalls of getting the definition wrong. It goes on to differentiate the types of extant terrorist organizations according to structure and ideology. Finally, the chapter examines Al Qaeda and details why this organization is different from its predecessors, both in structure and relative impact. Terrorists choose their audiences according to their goals. Criminals want neighborhoods to pay attention so that residents don't interfere with illegal activities. Al Qaeda wants the world to watch so that it can change the course of history.


Excerpted from FIGHTING BACK Copyright © 2011 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission of Stanford University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


1 Introduction Paul Shemella....................1
2 Terrorism, Insurgency, and Organized Crime Thomas R. Mockaitis....................11
3 Terrorist Networks Phil Williams....................27
4 Terrorist Financing Phil Williams....................44
5 Cyber Terrorism Timothy J. Doorey....................64
6 Maritime Terrorism Peter Chalk....................79
7 Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Edward E. Hoffer....................99
8 Risk Assessment James Petroni....................117
9 Tools and Strategies for Combating Terrorism Paul Shemella....................131
10 Building Effective Counterterrorism Institutions Paul Shemella....................148
11 Interagency Decision Making Lawrence E. Cline....................162
12 Defusing Terrorist Ideology Paul Shemella....................178
13 Intelligence and Combating Terrorism Lawrence E. Cline....................193
14 Consequence Management Edward E. Hoffer....................205
15 Ethics and Combating Terrorism Robert Schoultz....................222
16 Measuring Effectiveness Paul Shemella....................246
17 Somalia Lawrence E. Cline....................265
18 The Tokyo Subway Attack Edward E. Hoffer....................282
19 The Madrid Train Bombings Phil Williams....................298
20 The Mumbai Attacks Thomas R. Mockaitis....................317
21 The Irish Republican Army Thomas R. Mockaitis....................332
22 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Lawrence E. Cline....................350
23 Conclusion Paul Shemella....................369
About the Authors....................375

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