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University of Michigan Press
Combating Terrorism: Strategies of Ten Countries / Edition 1

Combating Terrorism: Strategies of Ten Countries / Edition 1

by Yonah Alexander


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The tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the consequent "war on terrorism" have made the question of effective counterterrorism policy a growing public concern. The original essays in Combating Terrorism offer a unique overview and evaluation of the counterterrorism policies of ten countries: the United States, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, Turkey, India, and Japan. Postscripts for each of the country chapters provide post-September 11 assessments of current counterterrorism practices. Most of the contributors to this volume have served in official governmental capacities and many continue to serve as consultants to governmental policy and decision makers.

All of the essays address the same set of questions to allow for cross-national comparison of strategies and an assessment of counterterrorism practices:
  • What is the governmental and public perception of the sources of terrorism?
  • How successful have the policies of governments been in combating both domestic and international terrorism?
  • What factors influence a government's willingness and ability to cooperate with other countries in combating terrorism?
  • To what degree are the terrorist realities and the concerns of governments interconnected with global terrorism?
  • To what degree are certain countries "natural hosts" of either terrorist groups or propensities that target Western or closely allied interests?
  • To what degree are terrorist organizations mainly concerned about winning political participation in their target countries?
  • Which counterterrorism strategies work, and which do not?
  • What are the lessons of past experiences for future counterterrorism responses at the national, regional, and global levels?

The conclusion to the volume summarizes the lessons that may be learned from the experiences of the ten countries and discusses a list of best practices in counterterrorism.

This book will be of interest to policymakers, scholars, and other individuals with professional responsibilities in the area of terrorism and security studies. Written in clear, accessible prose, this book will also appeal to the general reader who is interested in gaining insight into the array of issues facing governments that endeavor to combat terrorism, and into the possible solutions to one of the foremost threats to world peace in our time.

Yonah Alexander is Professor and Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies; Senior Fellow and Director, International Center for Terrorism Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; and Co-Director, Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, International Law Institute.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472098248
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 08/07/2002
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

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Combating Terrorism: Strategies of Ten Countries

By Yonah Alexander

University of Michigan Press

Copyright © 2002 Yonah Alexander
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0472098241


Philip C. Wilcox Jr.

TERRORISM HAS PREOCCUPIED ALL U.S. administrations since the 1970s, when international terrorists began major assaults on American interests. These attacks were directed mostly by Arab groups opposed to American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict or were carried out by various radical, Marxist, and revolutionary groups that were challenging American influence and power. Before then, terrorism was not viewed as a significant threat, and occasional terrorist acts against Americans were dealt with on an ad hoc basis. In the 1970s, terrorists began a wave of assassinations, hostage taking, aircraft hijackings, and bombings directed against U.S. interests. Washington began to view international terrorism as a national security problem that required a more forceful, effective response. Today, as the threats of nuclear and major conventional war have waned, there is an even sharper focus on terrorism. U.S. policy-makers and the public rank international terrorism high among global threats to the United States. Domestic terrorism has also become a major concern since the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The Rise and Decline of International Terrorism

The American response to terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s was varied, as administrations changed, new policies were tried, and terrorist tactics evolved. There was much debate and turmoil over what to do. Policies were sometimes ad hoc and inconsistent, and international terrorist attacks against American and allied interests continued to increase. Between 1968 and 1986, the number of international terrorist attacks worldwide--that is, those involving the citizens or territory of one or more countries--rose from 140 to 666. During the same period, anti-American attacks increased from 54 to 139. After 1987, anti-American and international terrorist attacks worldwide began to decline. In 1998, there were 247 international terrorist attacks overall and 111 attacks against American targets.

Deaths caused by international terrorism are another means of gauging the threat. These numbers have fluctuated widely, from 668 in 1979 to 221 in 1997, but the trend has been downward. There is also a declining trend in the number of Americans killed by international terrorism. Between 1990 and 1999, an average of 9 Americans a year were killed in acts of international terrorism, a relatively small number compared to those killed in other crimes of violence.

There are two geopolitical reasons for this decline in international and anti-American terrorism since 1990. When the Soviet Union collapsed, radical states and revolutionary movements that practiced terrorism lost a major ally. When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) condemned terrorism and joined the Middle East peace process in 1993, the Arab and Islamic states joined in this condemnation, giving increased momentum to a growing international consensus condemning terrorism irrespective of political motives. Another reason for the general decline in anti-American terrorism has been more effective U.S. counterterrorism policies, including greater emphasis on criminal law and law enforcement, a more unified interagency approach to counterterrorism, and more resources than were available earlier.

Defining Terrorism

For many years, ideological and political divisions hobbled international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially, prevented agreement on the definition of terrorism. Today there is less concern about a precise definition, and most states now consider politically motivated violence against noncombatants to be terrorism and treat such acts as States crimes.

The laws and international treaties of the United States do not attempt to define terrorism precisely but instead focus on the particular act. For policy purposes, the U.S. State Department defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience." Under this definition, noncombatants include U.S. military personnel who at the time of the incident are not armed or not on duty. The United States does not define war crimes or actions by states that violate human rights as acts of terrorism and treats these under separate bodies of law.

The Seven Pillars of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy

Today, there are seven basic pillars of U.S. counterterrorism policy and practice.

1. Terrorism is a crime that should be prosecuted, whatever its motivation, and the rule of law should be strengthened as a principal weapon against it. Accordingly, the United States has strengthened its domestic antiterrorism laws and supports international treaties and conventions that address terrorism in its many forms.

2. The United States does not make concessions to terrorists or strike deals.

3. Detection, deterrence, and prevention of terrorism and apprehension of terrorists require intensive and focused collection and analysis of intelligence and cooperation among intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide.

4. Diplomacy is essential to encourage international cooperation against terrorism in the form of common policies, training for countries that require assistance, and practical cooperation in apprehending and bringing to justice terrorist suspects and denying safe haven to them.

5. In order to penalize and isolate states and groups that sponsor terrorism, the United States identifies and condemns them and applies economic sanctions and other prohibitions, including criminalization of terrorist fund-raising.

6. Providing physical and technical security measures to protect buildings, aircraft, and other vulnerable installations is essential to discouraging and preventing terrorist attacks.

7. Close coordination and effective teamwork among the U.S. agencies, civilian and military, that share responsibility for counterterrorism are critical to deterring terrorism and responding effectively to terrorist attacks.

Concern about the Future

Although international terrorism and anti-American attacks declined in the 1990s, U.S. officials believe that the terrorist threat today is no less dangerous than in the past, and may indeed be growing, for several reasons. There is an apparent trend toward more lethal and massive terrorist attacks. Modern terrorists are increasingly motivated by hatred, revenge, and religious and cult fanaticism. They are less constrained by the rational political calculus that has influenced most terrorists in the past and that limited mass killing. Above all, U.S. officials fear that terrorists with these inclinations, both domestic and international, may acquire and use increasingly available materials of mass destruction--biological, chemical, and radiological--to carry out unprecedented mass-casualty terrorism.

This threat is sometimes exaggerated and sensationalized, but it cannot be minimized. Some analysts also point out that, although international terrorism has declined, domestic terrorism and political violence in places like Algeria, Pakistan, Russia, the Caucasus, and other areas of conflict may be rising, with potential spillover effects against Americans and U.S. interests.

Terrorism and Public Affairs Policy

The United States warns the public about hazards of terrorism abroad through travel advisories and applies a "no double standard" policy that obliges authorities to publicize, in sanitized form, threat information obtained from intelligence sources when the threat cannot be defended against with confidence. In discussing terrorism and issuing warnings, officials must be careful to avoid creating unnecessary anxiety and disruption by exaggerating the threat, since this enhances the influence of terrorists and the fear they seek to create. Officials must also be sensitive to the reality that the media often exaggerate and sensationalize terrorism by giving it greater coverage than other forms of violence and mayhem that may represent a greater danger to public safety. Also, care is needed in discussing terrorism carried out by groups claiming to act for religious motives, for example, the current phenomenon of terrorism by extremist Islamic elements, to avoid implying any intrinsic association between religion and terrorism.


The Costs of Terrorism

The U.S. government views terrorism not only as a direct threat to American officials, private citizens, military forces, businesspeople, and property but also as a danger to international peace and stability and American foreign policy interests. For decades, terrorism has caused great damage, for example, in deepening the Arab-Israeli and Northern Ireland confrontations and delaying accommodation. It has exacerbated and prolonged conflicts in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and Algeria. It has alienated the United States from states that have sponsored terrorism such as Iran and Libya. And it has sometimes provoked serious military conflict, for example, the civil war between Russia and Chechen militants.

The United States is also concerned about the economic burden of terrorism abroad and at home. Terrorism has periodically disrupted the economies of friendly states like Egypt and discouraged investment and economic development in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. For the United States, the costs of providing physical security against terrorist attacks on government and military installations and personnel and civil aviation, as well as security protection for the private sector, have been enormous.

The Many Faces of Terrorism

It is difficult to measure the threat of terrorism precisely because it is so varied and fluid. Terrorism has traditionally been the weapon of weak individuals, groups, and pariah states that lack the conventional political or military means to challenge their adversaries. Lone individuals, political opposition groups, and advocates of diverse causes have used terrorism to oppose repressive regimes and attract attention to their agendas. For example, terrorism has been used by ethnic and revolutionary insurgents and fanatical religious groups and cults to promote their causes.

Threat Assessment and Warning

Within the U.S. government, the director of central intelligence and the agencies that report to him are responsible for assessing the threat of international terrorism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in charge of assessing the domestic threat. During the 1990s, the United States has devoted large and growing resources to the collection and analysis of intelligence on terrorist threats, both international and domestic.

Because terrorists operate secretly, there is a particular need for clandestine intelligence in order to discover, penetrate, and disrupt terrorist groups and operations. The United States has relied heavily on intelligence for both tactical and strategic warnings of terrorist attacks, and some potential attacks have been detected and disrupted. Also, intelligence gathered abroad is often a necessary supplement to information that the FBI collects for the indictment and prosecution of international terrorists.

Threat assessments, however, should not rely entirely on intelligence for warnings. This lesson was underscored by the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. American officials had previously and mistakenly designated these embassies as "low-threat" posts, since there had been no specific intelligence warning of terrorist threats. Since then, Washington has revived its threat assessment system to take greater account of the mobility of today's transnational terrorists, of their practice of seeking out vulnerable targets in areas where they have not previously attacked, and of various environmental factors.

Today analysts focus on various categories of terrorists who have attacked U.S. interests in the past or may do so in the future. These include state sponsors of terrorism; established terrorist organizations; loose networks of transnational terrorists, some of whom are motivated by religious fanaticism; a wide variety of domestic elements that support or threaten terrorist violence; and so-called cyberterrorists, who may attack the U.S. digital infrastructure for terrorist purposes. These categories are discussed in the following pages.

State Sponsors of Terrorism

Beginning in the 1970s various states, usually weak nations in the developing world, began to carry out or sponsor terrorist acts against the United States or other nations. Radical anti-Western ideology or hostility to the United States and Israel usually motivated them. State-sponsored terrorism spread, and in 1979 Congress passed an amendment to the Export Administration Act calling on the secretary of state to annually designate states that consistently support terrorism. This law and others impose economic and military trade sanctions against such states. The State Department has designated Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba as "state sponsors of terrorism," and Sudan was added to the list in 1995. Iraq was removed from the list temporarily in the late 1980s but was redesignated when it resumed terrorist activities.

In recent years, state-sponsored terrorism declined due to the fall of the Soviet Union, which had provided political backing for some of these states, the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the early 1990s, and growing international rejection of terrorism. The U.S. law is flexible enough to allow policymakers some discretion in designating state sponsors of terrorism. It also permits designated states to redeem themselves. But all seven countries remain on the list, although their continuing support for terrorism varies from significant to negligible. Cuba, for example, remains on the list, although it is no longer an active state sponsor of terrorism. Some U.S. analysts believe that because of the growing asymmetry of power between the United States and small, hostile states, such adversaries may turn to terrorism again to redress this imbalance.

Terrorist Organizations

The Department of State also keeps and annually reviews a list of nonstate foreign terrorist organizations designated by the secretary of state, as required by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Under this law, members of and activists in these organizations are denied entry into the United States and are subject to deportation if they are found there. The law also enables the Treasury Department to seize the funds of these organizations in the United States. To date, few funds have been seized, but the law has apparently deterred terrorist fund-raising in the United States. As of the end of 1999, there were fifty-five organizations on this list.


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Table of Contents

Part INorth and South America
United States23
Part IIEurope
United Kingdom187
Part IIIMiddle East
Part IVAsia
Select Bibliography425

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