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International and Domestic Terrorism L. Paul Bremer III MMC Enterprise Risk The modern wave of international terrorism began 30 years ago with a group of spectacular attacks related to the Middle East situation. Much has changed in the world since then, but today's analysts ask themselves the same four ques- tions they asked 30 years ago: 1. Who are the terrorists? 2. What are their motives? 3. How do they get their support? 4. How can we stop them? Yet if the questions have stayed the same, the answers have changed. And it is this changing threat of terrorism that I want to address today. TERRORISM AS A PUBLIC POLICY ISSUE First, I would like to make a few general comments about the unique attributes of terrorism as a public policy issue. Terrorism is a highly emotional subject, especially in the wake of a terrorist incident. People are dead or wounded, property has been destroyed, lives have been upended, and safe places have been made insecure. Yet between incidents, the fight against terrorism rarely attracts much attention. Thus, political leaders are presented with a major dilemma: how to avoid the pitfalls of overly emotional responses while retaining enough attention to the problem to ensure adequate political support (i.e., money). In other words, political leaders must find an approach to the problem that is balanced and yet can be sustained for the long run. This is particularly difficult because successes in 53
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54 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM counterterrorism are rarely known to the public, and failures are very dramatic and visible. Successes are made more difficult by two asymmetries particular to the fight against terrorism. 1. The offense has a huge advantage. In the fight against terrorism, defend- ers have to defend all their points of vulnerability around the world, while the terrorist has only to attack the weakest point. 2. The costs of defense are dramatically higher than the costs of attack. For example, defending an airport will require millions of euros, while a terrorist can do major damage with a single AK-47 machine gun or even a pipe bomb. In sum, the fight against terrorism reverses conventional military wisdom, which holds that the offense needs at least a three-to-one advantage to overcome the defense. Democracies are generally poor at planning ahead and are rarely proactive. When they do try to plan, democratic leaders tend to use words that simplify problems in ways that may actually complicate the search for effective policies, for example: · Middle East: "problem"-"solution" · Terrorism:"war"-"victory" But the Middle East is really a "situation" to be managed, and terrorism is a "struggle" not a war. There is a risk, particularly in the United States but also elsewhere, of over- personalizing the fight against terrorists to search for a single terrorist who embodies all evil. We have had Gadhafi, Abu Nidal, and now bin Laden. There are two problems with this process. First, it builds up the villain in his own eyes and in the eyes of his followers. Thus, it paradoxically may make it easier for him to recruit new terrorists. Second, it suggests that if these individuals can be dealt with, the terrorist problem will be solved. But the problem does not go away; it evolves, as it has from Gadhafi to bin Laden. Finally, it is important to avoid the Hamlet syndrome in effect seeing only the arguments against actions to fight terrorism. Some or all of the following arguments are certain to be made about fighting terrorism: · Diplomacy has its limits. · Sanctions don't work. · Covert actions are ineffective. · There is a reluctance to use the military. "What good does it do? Won't they just strike back?"
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW 55 · Law enforcement has its limits. "Don't we just create martyrs or a reason for other terrorists to seize hostages to get their colleagues released?" Each of these arguments has some validity, but the total of all of them can easily lead to policy paralysis. THE THREAT OF "OLD" TERRORISM A careful analysis of terrorism as it existed when it first burst on the internation- al stage 30 years ago shows that terrorists then had quite limited motives. These determined the mechanics of their attacks and the structure of their organizations. . Motives. Terrorists had discrete political goals, for which they sought broad understanding and support. They wanted to win "a place at the table" to negotiate for specific objectives, such as the release of fellow terrorists. · Mechanics. They killed enough people to bring attention to their cause, but not too many so as to risk alienating the broader public. Lots of people were watching, but not a lot of people were dead. . Structure. Terrorists were often described as "crazy" or "irrational," but in fact they were often cold-blooded thinkers who also did not want to get caught or be killed. They exercised tight control over all aspects of the operation, not only as a security matter (to keep from being caught), but also to be sure that the attack served political goals. State sponsorship was important. DEVELOPMENT OF A WESTERN COUNTERTERRORIST STRATEGY The West had some important successes in the fight against this "old-style" terrorism in the 1980s. Under U.S. leadership, the countries of the West devel- oped a counterterrorist strategy based on three principles: 1. No concessions are granted to terrorists. 2. States that use or sponsor terrorism should be ostracized. 3. It is important to use the rule of law against terrorists. They are criminals. European governments became serious about fighting and defeating their home-grown leftist terrorist groups the Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades, Action Directe, and Cellules Communistes Combattantes. They did this by recognizing that the "good guys" should be at least as well organized as the criminals. So the Europeans greatly increased their mutual cooperation in intelligence gathering and law enforcement (largely through the so-called Trevi Group in the European Community).
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56 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM With the constant (some might say "annoying") encouragement of the U.S. government, our friends in Europe came to support the position that states can- not legitimately use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. After our military response to Libyan terrorism in April 1986, Europeans joined the United States in putting pressure on Syria, another state sponsor, at the end of 1986. The reward was Syria' s expulsion of Abu Nidal the following July, effectively mark- ing the end of his activities. And most European states also came to agree that the Iranian revolutionary government' s active use of terror was unacceptable. However, past successes do not guarantee that the international community will be effective against the changing threat of terrorism. THE NEW TERRORIST THREAT The U.S. National Commission on Terrorism, which I was honored to chair, reached the important conclusion that the terrorists' motives, mechanics, and structure have all changed in the course of the past decade. This is a conclusion shared by all major European intelligence agencies. · Motive. The motives of current terrorists are ideological, religious, eth- nic, and apocalyptic in nature and are rooted in hatred and revenge. Mechanics. There is much less concern about numbers of casualties. In- deed, in some cases, the intention is to kill as many people as possible in a move from discriminate to indiscriminate violence. In the words of a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, terrorists "no longer seek a place at the table- they want to overturn the table and kill everybody at it." · Structure. States are still involved, but less so. Terrorist groups are less concerned about calibrating the level of violence carefully, and their structures can be looser and less hierarchical. This often means that good police and intelli- gence work can thwart attacks or at least catch perpetrators. However, terrorist groups are more difficult to penetrate and disrupt. They have become self-fi- nancing, using front organizations, companies, useful dupes, nongovernmental organizations, and drug and arms trafficking. . Facts bear out this analysis: . During the 1990s, the number of international terrorist incidents declined, but the number of casualties rose. · Today, a given terrorist attack is 20 percent more likely to result in deaths than was the case 20 years ago. · In the United States, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center killed "only" six people, but the terrorists' intention had been to topple one of the towers into the other, which would have resulted in thousands of deaths.
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW . thousands. . 57 Planned attacks on New York City' s infrastructure were designed to kill Millennium attacks were planned. · There is a steady increase in the number of terrorist attacks that are not claimed by any group, indicating that the motive often may be hatred or revenge. · An increasing number of terrorists are not afraid to die in their attacks (East African embassy bombings, USS Cole, suicide bombings in Israel). The "new terrorists" pose a policy dilemma. Their changed motives and willingness to inflict higher levels of casualties call into question the classic three-part strategy with which the West has fought terrorism. 1. There are no ambassadors to recall from a terrorist group. 2. There is no way to "embargo" a group's exports. 3. No diplomatic demarche, no matter how cleverly written by wise diplo- mats, will have an effect on these men. 4. There is no bargain to be made with them, so talking about not making concessions to such groups is irrelevant. To take the most obvious example, bin Laden hates everything America and the West stand for, just as do his protectors the Taliban. There is nothing we can offer that would change his view of us. There is no deal to be made. POSSIBILITY OF MASS CASUALTY TERRORISM INCREASING Our commission concluded, as have three subsequent national studies in America, that there is a significant threat that terrorists will escalate their attacks by resorting to agents of mass destruction chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear. This is new and troubling. During the 1970s and 1980s, counterterrorist experts concluded that there was little likelihood of terrorists turning to chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear terrorism. Their analysis was as follows: · Most terrorist groups in those years could accomplish their goals at- tacks that would generate attention and publicity for their causes more easily by using conventional means, namely bombs and machine guns. · Escalating to higher levels of violence would risk alienating the public. · Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials were not easy to acquire and were dangerous to handle. · Negotiations would be asymmetrical since terrorist groups would not be able to formulate appropriate demands in return for not conducting a mass attack.
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58 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM During the 1980s, this analysis seemed accurate. The first use of chemical materials was the attack by Aum Shinrikyo in the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The Gulf War signaled a new threat environment. It showed that even a lavishly armed conventional military force and Iraq at the time had the world's fifth-largest army was no match for a modern military force. So terrorist states such as Iraq now understand the advantages of having force-multiplying chemi- cal, biological, radiological, and nuclear weaponry to offset their conventional inferiority. Five of the seven states identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism have military programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and they have ballistic missile programs to deliver the weapons. Iraq poses the biggest danger. It is now known that before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein had programs to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Iraq had more than 100,000 people working on the nuclear program at a cost of over $20 billion. That is why UN Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991) at the end of the war explicitly required Iraq to accept the super- vised destruction of all of these materials. Iraq failed to comply with this resolution, and due to the feckless incompe- tence of the international community there have been no inspections in Iraq for more than two years. The German Intelligence Service recently concluded that Iraq could have nuclear bombs within three years and, by the year 2005, ballistic missiles with a range of 3000 km, more than enough to reach Europe. Yet terrorist groups, too, can be attracted by chemical, biological, radiologi- cal, and nuclear weapons. Many such groups are no longer bound by concerns about creating massive casualties; indeed, that may be their goal. Most experts consider biological agents to be the most tempting for terror- ists. This was also the conclusion of my commission on terrorism. · Biological agents often take days or weeks to become apparent, allowing the perpetrators time to escape. · They produce a disproportionate psychological fear in the public at large. · They could be used, as they have been in the past, in attacks on agricul- ture to cause economic and social damage. The recent reactions provoked by bovine spongiform encephalopathy and foot-and-mouth disease in Europe pro- vide a glimpse of how devastating to public morale such attacks could be. Western intelligence agencies know that some terrorist groups have tried to acquire agents of mass destruction. For example, three years ago, Osama bin Laden told reporters from Time magazine that it was the religious duty of good Muslims to kill Americans and to acquire any weapons possible for such attacks. Lest he be misunderstood, he repeated the threat two days later on American television. One of his top assistants was subsequently arrested in Germany trying
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TERRORISM AND THE LAW 59 to buy highly enriched uranium. And testimony last month at a trial in the United States revealed bin Laden' s continuing efforts to acquire uranium in Sudan. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM There is a useful but limited role for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Three issues limit cooperation: 1. The definition of what constitutes terrorism, based on the experience of the United Nations in the 1970s through 1990s; 2. The problem of sharing intelligence; and 3. The relative importance of counterterrorism rity policy. , i] PROBLEMS OF INTELLIGENCE n a country's national secu- The first requirement for an effective counterterrorist strategy is good intel- ligence. After more than three decades in the foreign policy world, I can say that I know of no field in which intelligence is so vital to effective policy and yet so difficult to collect. Thus, several of the Bremer Commission's key recommendations dealt with improving our capability to collect intelligence against terrorists. Since the goal of counterterrorism is to prevent attacks, good intelligence means knowing the terror- ists' plans in advance. But the only sure way to get that information is to have a spy among the terrorists. This is difficult to accomplish, but it can be done. Yet precisely because good counterterrorism intelligence is so hard and dan- gerous to collect, it is very difficult to share, even with close friends and allies. Most cooperation in this area tends to take place only bilaterally through special channels. Thus, there is little scope for making greater use of multilateral organi- zations, such as Interpol, in this area. PRIORITY OF COUNTERTERRORISM The relative priority a nation puts on the fight against terrorism depends on three factors: 1. The threat terrorism poses to the country; 2. The country's ability to respond to that terrorism on its own, with little help from other countries; and 3. The relative importance the country gives to the fight against terrorism as an aspect of the country's broader national security strategy.
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60 HIGH-IMPACT TERRORISM As the world's number one target of terrorism, the United States has long placed a high priority on this fight. This is the reason successive American administrations of both political parties have placed so much emphasis on stop- ping state support for terrorism. What then are the most promising areas for international cooperation, par- ticularly from the point of view of U.S.-Russian cooperation? . Cooperation on the rule of law. The United States has put considerable emphasis on mutual assistance agreements with other countries to help fight terrorist crime. Modernized extradition treaties are a good example. Information sharing among law enforcement agencies is also important. · Emphasis on enforcement of existing international treaties affecting ter- rorism. There are now 12 UN treaties in effect that directly address terrorism. The United States is party to all of these. Regrettably, Russia has failed to sign five of these treaties, including several of the most important ones relating to aircraft hijacking. I hope the Russian government will show its commitment to the fight by signing and ratifying these remaining five treaties. · Mutual assistance in counterterrorist techniques. Over the past 20 years, the United States has trained more than 20,000 law enforcement officials from over 100 countries in techniques such as hostage rescue, bomb detection, mari- time and airport security, and crisis management. · Increased technical exchanges, such as this workshop. Could our two countries, for example, cooperate on finding better ways to identify and control the specialized equipment needed to acquire, transport, and weaponize biologi- cal agents? · Continued exchanges of views on policy matters through bilateral and multilateral organs, such as the G-8 (Group of Eight). Note particularly the useful coordination between Russia and the United States in supporting the UN Security Council resolution on Afghanistan. However, we must admit that the United States and Russia have different views on how to deal with state sponsors. The most acute differences relate to Iraq, Iran, and Libya, all of which the U.S. government considers to be state sponsors of terrorism. Much of the U.S. rationale for establishing a national missile defense, broadly agreed by both our political parties, derives from this analysis. Looking back over the past 30 years, it is fair to say that international coop- eration has made a useful contribution to the fight against terrorism. Perhaps we can find new ways, through this workshop, to advance our common fight.
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