State Sponsered Terrorism: Political / Religous

About two years ago, President Clinton defined terrorism as the single most important national security threat as we move into the next century, a view that was endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While some may disagree that terrorism is the most important threat, few would disagree that it certainly is one of the most important national security threats. On that the Administration, the attentive public, and the general public agree.

Terrorism complicates a national security paradigm that was designed primarily to deal with nation-states. With terrorism we confront an increasingly complex and often shadowy subject matter where you have non-state actors, tribal conflicts, civil wars, and the like. What I would like to do this morning is share how we attempt to impose some intellectual order on the complicated issue of terrorism and leave the details and the nuances for your questions later on.

It seems to me that the first task is to define terrorism. Very often the terms "revolutionary warfare," "insurgency," "terrorism," "guerrilla warfare," and so on are used interchangeably. This is a mistake since they are different phenomena. I can tell you that for the last twenty-five years, academics and people in the policy arena have debated the definitional issue and have not come up with a consensus. But there is a near consensus. And I will rely on the near consensus because it is consistent with what I generally would conceive terrorism to be, namely: the threat or use of physical coercion against non-combatants, especially civilians, to create fear in order to achieve political objectives. I think this captures most of what most analysts believe is the essence of terrorism.

Terrorism is violent behavior that is directed at innocent victims. All of us are potential victims of terrorism. Whatever the specific acts might be, in most cases the victims have no direct connection to the issues at hand. Basically, they are irrelevant since terrorists are trying to influence an audience (a government, the public, the media, etc.) situated somewhere else to do something, maybe to do many things. Since those things vary from case to case, we must guard against the tendency to over-generalize.

When we look at terrorism, in terms of the definition I have suggested, the distinguished chairman of this conference, General Lee Butler, could be considered a terrorist. As head of the Strategic Air Command, he was prepared to execute orders that under certain options would have involved nuclear attacks on urban areas that would have inflicted incalculable civilian casualties. But short of executing such a command, General Butler was threatening to do so, the major hope being that the threat to use force of this magnitude would deter the Soviet Union from doing so. We need only recall that this situation was not only referred to as mutual assured destruction. It was also characterized as the "balance of terror." Fear, of course, was central to all of this.

Historically speaking, the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dresden, and so on were acts of terrorism. Why do I say that? It sounds provocative. It is because Americans, like most people, have a tendency to deny that they have engaged in or supported acts of terrorism. No one wants to be called a terrorist. Yasir Arafat doesn't want to be called a terrorist. Indeed he has always maintained he is a freedom fighter, not a terrorist! We respond by saying to the Arafats of this world that their notion that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter is nonsense in that it is a transparent attempt to confuse ends (freedom) and means (terrorism).

Whether it is Arafat or us, the real issue is whether or not actions meet the definitional criteria. That's crucial. Once we have crossed that threshold and been intellectually honest with ourselves by admitting that in some cases we have engaged in acts of terrorism or the people we have supported have done so, we can then ask another range of questions.

The first might be whether an act of terrorism is moral, immoral, or amoral. Here you could certainly make the case that if Lee Butler had to execute the single integrated operational plan under certain conditions, it might be a moral act. Or, that the bombings in World War II were morally justifiable. Other questions would inquire whether terrorist acts were selective or indiscriminate, criminal or non-criminal, legal or illegal, rational or irrational, and so on. In effect, these are all adjectives that we can use to qualify the term "terrorism" and provide some context for better understanding it. And it is here that those who say they are freedom fighters can enter the argument. But first, they have to acknowledge if they knowingly attacked noncombatants or civilians. Then, if they did, they can proceed to make the case that that it was or is justifiable.

Once we agree on what we mean by terrorism and suggest some qualifiers, we must identify its various agents (in law enforcement lexicon, the perpetrators). At this point I have taken the liberty to go beyond what's stated on your program, because I think it's too narrow to look only at state-sponsored terrorism. We need to look at the whole picture, if we are to have a better and more comprehensive understanding of terrorism in the transmillennial age. Accordingly, with your permission, I would like to sketch out the remaining attributes of a holistic approach to the issue of terrorism.

First of all, individuals can do it-for example, the Yigal Amers and Theodore Kaczinskis of this world, the anti-abortion bombers and the single-issue people. That's important to bear in mind because, as we have seen, these "lone wolves" can be extremely deadly. Second and more important, we have states that use terrorism against their own people, usually to maintain control and quell dissent. There is a long legacy here. We see it clearly in ancient African kingdoms about which E. V. Walter has written. We have seen it in our times with Saddam Hussein and his so-called Republic of Fear. He has institutionalized terror against civilians, often inflicting physical harm on those that are known to be innocent (victims) in order to influence those who might oppose his regime (the real audience or target). So this is an age-old story. The terror that the Iraqi regime carries out against its citizens is very direct in that it is done by various security agencies. State terrorism can, however be indirect. Death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s come immediately to mind. And let's face it, it wasn't too long ago that the United States nodded and looked the other way while the feared ORDEN (Democratic Nationalist Organization) ran amok in El Salvador. Yes, the United States was an accomplice to terrorism despite the courageous protests at the time by Ambassador Robert H. White. States also are agents of terror against other states, directly or indirectly. In a notable example of direct culpability the Syrians sent an Air Force intelligence officer to plan and direct the destruction of an El Al airliner in mid-air, a scheme that fortunately was detected beforehand. The alleged involvement of Libyan agents in the Lockerbie bombing is another case in point.

The indirect use of terrorism by states relies on third parties. If, for example, you are the Syrians and you wish to achieve various objectives vis-à-vis the Turks, including getting Ankara to agree on an explicit plan to share the waters of the Euphrates River, you may wish to support terrorist attacks in Turkey by third parties like PKK secessionists or Abu Nidal. Once the Turks capitulate, you can end such support. Next we have the big area of non-state actors, and it is here that the tribal warfare that was discussed before by Dr. Marks comes into play. Non-state actors are of major concern to us. There are the old, well-organized, insurgent organizations across the world that engage in all sorts of terrorism. And then there are the trans-national groups and coalitions, the Al-Qaida organization of Osama bin Laden being illustrative. Essentially, they find people of like mind-in some cases from different types of groups-and bring them together in an ad hoc coalition for a specific act, like the World Trade Center bombing. Needless to say, this is very difficult to anticipate and deal with. On a somewhat different tack, as we look to the future, we have to ask ourselves, might there come a time when criminal organizations that have used terrorism for their own purposes, such as the Mafia, enter the political arena and use terrorism? I've talked to people who deal with gangs in California, some of which have de facto no-go areas that police are reluctant to enter. Thus far, these groups have not engaged in political terrorism. But there might come a day, if the social and economic disparities worsen, especially with respect to the Hispanic population, that some people in the criminal enterprise will take on a political coloration. Speaking in the name of relatively deprived people in the barrio, they may very well carry out acts of terrorism in pursuit of some newly defined political agenda. Experts who have spent considerable time with gangs believe this is an entirely plausible scenario.

Once we identify who it is that are engaging in terrorism, we must turn to a consideration of what causes them to do so. I will comment briefly on this and, if you like, provide more detail in the question and answer period. For now, I would simply emphasize psychological and contextual explanations. Gerald Post of George Washington University will tell you some individuals are predisposed to acts of violence because of inner drives, needs, and frustrations, regardless of structural or contextual factors. These are people that he says have split personalities-the good and the bad. They retain the good for themselves and project (or externalize) the bad onto other people. The problem here, as you no doubt suspect, is that such generalizations are hard to sustain because we have reliable data on only a handful of groups. We don't have enough information to be even marginally confident. Having said that, I acknowledge that where information is available psychological explanations can contribute to our understanding of the causes of terrorism.

A more productive line of inquiry, in my opinion, is to identify and discuss the contextual causes of terrorism. Among the possible causes here are acrimonious societal divisions along religious, racial, ethnic, or tribal lines. Sometimes class conflicts are the underlying genesis of terrorism. Particularly bad are situations where class distinctions are superimposed on ethnic, tribal, and/or religious differences as in, say, Sudan, Turkish Kurdistan, or Northern Ireland. And then there is what I would call the dysfunctional impact of social change. What I have in mind here are the psychological dislocations generated by growing populations and extensive migration from rural areas to impersonal cities that can't provide services for those populations. Especially troubling are changes in values and institutional identifications and behavior that all too frequently affect individuals caught up in this process, particularly young people who in many places in the Third World make up over 70 percent of the population.

Many sacrifice old traditions and religious values on the altar of modernity, only to find their hopes destroyed by the existential realities of poverty and unemployment. For example, in the Middle East some Muslims may ignore prayer while others compromise the fast during Ramadan because such duties are deemed incompatible with new life styles or economic necessity. And then, one day they wake up and begin to take stock of what they've given up for very little in return. Needless to say, when large numbers of people begin to feel this way, it can be very destabilizing. Psychologists and the sociologists have little trouble finding such disillusioned people on the streets of Algiers, Cairo, and other cities. They are notably present in both non-violent and militant Islamic revivalist groups.

Economic causes of terrorism are also not hard to find, especially class and group relative deprivation. Potentially very troubling are periods where a rise in prosperity is followed by a sharp decline. Finally, we should note that in some cases political factors like lack of representation, failure to allow desired participation, and downright lack of responsiveness to legitimate grievances may be contributing causes of terrorism.

Having inquired about the causes of terrorism, we can then take up the question of ultimate terrorist political goals. There is a wide variation here. Anarchists wish to destroy organized political authority while secessionists-like the very brutal Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Basque Homeland and Liberty, and the IRA-want to create their own nation-states or merge with another one. Egalitarians like the Shining Path in Peru or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia envisage a new social and political order that actualizes the value of equality. By contrast, traditionalists wish to recreate a golden age of the past in which a privileged few ruled an inert mass in the name of religious or philosophical values. Although on opposite sides of the political spectrum, both egalitarians and traditionalists thrive on the kinds of social and economic dislocations I mentioned earlier.

While traditionalists are prevalent today, owing largely to the Islamic revival, we cannon rule out some kind of Marxist resurgence, if the misery that Lee Butler so rightfully called attention to endures and intensifies. Whether in the Sierra Madre in Mexico or somewhere else, the message will no doubt be that the Soviet and Chinese versions of Marxism were ill-conceived and hypocritical. The new Marxism, by contrast, will be intellectually compelling and morally consistent. Was this not the message of the self-styled "fourth sword of Marxism," Abimael Guzman of the Shining Path? And did it not resonate effectively for a period of time? The questions are: who will be the new Guzmans and what harm can they cause?

But our catalog of ultimate aims is not complete. We must also note the pluralist organizations like the African National Congress, which, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, carried out attacks on civilians in the name of establishing a democratic order as we know it. These and historical antecedents like the People's Will in Russia have sometimes been called "liberals with bombs."

Finally, we need to mention preservationists and reformists. The former, like the Afrikaner Resistance Movement during the last phase of the apartheid system and militant Protestants in Northern Ireland in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), have sought to maintain the sociopolitical order as it is. As the British found out, the UVF and associated groups were, at times, more deadly than the secessionists of the IRA! Reformists, by contrast, are not concerned with the basic values and institutions that comprise the political system. They simply want a fair distribution of social, economic, and political benefits. The Kurds in Iran exemplify this.

But what about the future? Are there new groups and goals that merit our attention? The answer is yes. Two are of concern. The first, whom we might call apocalyptic utopians, envisages an ideal human order which will emerge out of the ashes of a violent catastrophe that they will help bring about. Aum Shinriyko is illustrative here. Despite the vague and muddled thinking of its members ("junk ideas" in the words of one Japanese theologian), they can, as the Tokyo sarin gas attack showed, be very dangerous. The second group would be the nihilistic aggrandizers who are devoid of ideas and simply want power and material resources. The incredibly savage terrorists in Sierra Leone, whose favorite tactic is to render people economically useless by hacking off their arms and/or legs, come to mind in this regard.

The general point of all this is that since the ultimate goals of terrorists vary enormously, it is crucial that we take the time to ascertain just what it is that they are seeking. Then we can turn to the short-term objectives of terrorist acts, which also vary greatly and come in different combinations. In the interests of time, I will simply take note of some of them: namely, gaining publicity, exacting ransom payments (a favorite in Colombia), obtaining the release of prisoners, undermining rival groups, enhancing the stature of one's own group, maintaining an organization that is close to extinction, provoking government repression (a preference of Basque Homeland and Liberty), gaining entry to a peace process, destroying a peace process, and revenge. The last deserves a few comments.

Revenge in and of itself may be the aim of a terrorist action, something that an American audience often finds hard to believe. Our tendency is to look for some clearly stated objective that makes an act somewhat rational. When no group acknowledges responsibility or articulates an aim we are puzzled. What our puzzlement overlooks is the fact that some individuals and groups come from cultures in which revenge is highly valued. In fact, they have terms for it, such as tar in Upper Egypt or badal in Afghanistan. A concrete example of such an act would be the infamous bombings of the Israeli embassy and Argentine-Jewish society buildings in Argentina. Hezbollah's guilt is generally accepted yet it never took credit. Why? The answer is that both acts can easily be seen as the long-promised retribution for an Israeli air attack that killed the Secretary General of Hezbollah and members of his entourage. It was, at least in large part, an act of revenge that the group felt duty-bound to carry out.

Once we have identified the ultimate and short-term goals of terrorists, we need to ask a question about the strategy of the people involved, whomever they might be-individuals, states, or insurgent organizations. Strategy is the integrated use of political, economic, informational, and violent instruments of power to achieve goals. It is, if you will, the plan or way one uses resources to achieve aims. The key questions here are: do the terrorists have a strategy? If so, what is it and how effective are they when it comes to implementing it? In general, we can say that some terrorists have no strategy and this is a fatal flaw. Others have a strategy but it is diffuse, fragmented, and poorly thought out. In yet other cases, the strategy is explicit and clearly articulated. Four grand strategies have been popular in the twentieth century: the conspiratorial; the protracted popular war, which is the Maoist approach; the military focus, which is essentially a Cuban approach (that's where it was codified); and the urban warfare scheme. These are ones you will find emulated to greater or lesser degree in many places across the world.

As we look to the future and press the boundaries of our intellectual horizons a little bit, we have to inquire whether there might be a new strategy that is in its embryonic stage. What I have in mind here is a strategy that is simple in design but potentially very deadly. It might be called "catastrophic extortion. "It would rely primarily on the use of so-called weapons of mass destruction, which we'll come to in a moment. The notion is to threaten their use to achieve specific aims and if there is no response to carry out a terrible act and threaten to do it again.

Putting the question of strategy aside, let us quickly touch on the variety of weapons the terrorists use. Weapons and bombs remain, and will probably continue to be, the weapons of choice since they are easily constructed and available. But, as we have foreshadowed in previous comments, there are new, more ominous possibilities as we look to the future. I am, of course, referring to chemical, biological, radiological, and cyber weapons. Perhaps anticipating this, one of the leaders of Hamas commented that his movement had started with knives, moved to guns, and then on to bombs. Now, he said, it was ready to turn to new things. For us, and most especially for the Israelis, the question is what are the new things? Sarin gas? Anthrax powder? As former Soviet biological expert Ken Alibeck has pointed out in lectures and his recent book, the possibilities here are numerous and shocking. It may or may not be true that the probabilities of their use in the future will be low. Even if they are low, we must still be vigilant since the costs may be high. By vigilant, I do not mean panicking the general public. I do mean committing more resources to intelligence and to preparing and training the first responders who will have to initially deal with the consequences.

Permit me to say something about the use of chemical, biological, radiological, or cyber weapons for selective rather than mass destruction, since that option may be more likely in that it minimizes the possibility of fratricide. So far, most of the discussion of these weapons has assumed mass destruction, the implication being that the casualties will be in the hundreds of thousands. I would suggest to you that there is an equally horrifying scenario, and that is using them in a more sophisticated way to create fear without killing en masse. Rather than target the citizens of Abilene indiscriminately, why not target only the people in this hall with say, a biological or chemical agent sometime today? Although there may be only a few hundred victims, imagine how quickly fear will intensify and spread in this city and beyond. In this scenario, you really don't have to inflict hundreds of thousands of casualties like Ramsi Yousef said he wanted to do if he had chemical weapons at the World Trade Center. The formula is to kill or injure a select group with an insidious weapon that invokes unusual fear. This is what I would be most concerned about.

Hypothetically speaking, if I were to ask a member of the Islamic Jihad Movement for Palestine or Hamas how he would go about it if he thought in these terms, he might say, "I'll go to a primarily Jewish shopping center at the end of Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. I'll go to the shopping center, and place a chemical or biological device there. There will be few, if any, Arab casualties but many Jewish ones. Enough Jewish ones to spread panic and fear."

There is a related and interesting point when you look at the aggregate data; namely, that the groups that are the most threatening in the future are not the old-line egalitarian Maoist-type groups that we were concerned about in the Cold War. The most deadly groups now-and probably in the future-are and will be religious and national separatist groups. Think about that. In the name of the nation, but even more to the point in the name of God, one could justify killing or maiming hundreds of thousands of people. When you read and analyze what justifications they write or say, and take note of the way they usually dehumanize and demonize their adversaries, it is not hard to understand why they consider their behavior to be perfectly moral. And they have shown an inclination to do these things.

So what then, just by way of summary, should be our general guidelines for dealing with the problem of terrorism? First, it is imperative to recognize the centrality of intelligence. We need to know about impending incidents beforehand. If we do not and a major incident goes down, the postmortems will point back and say we should have had better intelligence, or we had it and didn't share it. Technical intelligence is very important in this regard, but human intelligence is probably more important.

The next guideline I would stress is reliance on law enforcement and the judicial system. When it comes to law enforcement agencies and the intelligence organizations they must cooperate with, there can be no substitute for rock-solid coordination. The days of petty interagency bickering and distrust must give way in the face of the seriousness of the threat. Happily, there is a growing acknowledgement of this. There are a number of steps that have been taken to improve the situation, and I want to make sure that due credit is given to those who have done those things, especially in the counterterrorism centers of the FBI and CIA. However, when I go and talk to people at the working level and ask if they are satisfied with the level of cooperation and coordination on this issue and the notion that bureaucratic barriers have been overcome, without exception they have answered in the negative and suggested that there is a long way to go to try to change the bureaucratic culture, so that intelligence and law enforcement organizations-NSA, DIA, CIA, FBI, etc.-make the best use of the information a their disposal.

A third guideline is to ensure that whatever laws and policies we craft don't undermine basic democratic values and principles. There's always an impulse cut corners to nab terrorists, because they do such brutal, terrible things. We cannot do that. To draw and slightly paraphrase an analogy based on a well-known statement from Vietnam, you can't destroy the village (in this case democratic values and liberties) in order to save it. It makes no sense.

Next, we get into long-term guidelines. Lee Butler talks about increased misery. The misery index in the Third World going up. It'll continue on into the next century, and no one thinks it can be fixed overnight. This is not a prescription for doing nothing. There are many socio-economic policies you may devise and implement in order to alleviate suffering in places where you have vital or major national interests. Hopefully, whatever you do will be successful in reducing the probabilities of terrorism and political violence. But, realism and experience caution us that we may not be very successful here. In the meantime, we have to deal with immediate threats.

As for the military response to terrorism, its role has to be carefully defined. Although I think dealing with terrorism is a law enforcement and intelligence problem, this does not mean the military has no role. To the contrary, in certain cases, it may be very important. A question I have here is this: have we thought through deterrents with regard to various kinds of terrorism, like state sponsored terrorism? How do you deter different kinds of terrorists? For instance, can you use the military to try to deter Osama bin Laden, and, if so, how? Moreover, if terrorism has commenced, how can the military be used to end it? And, if the consequences of given terrorist acts are severe, what is the military role in coping with them?

Compelling its termination, of course. Managing its effect. So-called consequence management. And lots of people getting involved in that nowadays. We can come back to it.

Finally, we must note the importance of legislative and institutional reforms in the twenty-first century. This is a very important point. In Washington we have placed greater emphasis on what is called "jointness," by which we mean getting the military services to work together. Thanks to the leadership and persistence of Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, we have made enormous strides in this regard. But this is not enough, especially when it comes to terrorism. And here again, Congressman Skelton leads the way when he insists on "jointness plus." If we expect our armed services to work closely together to cope with military problems, why would we not expect the agencies on all levels of government that deal with terrorism to do the same? One arena for addressing this problem is in the vital education provided to future government leaders in elite senior schools like the National War College. In practical terms, it would mean having students from various law enforcement and intelligence agencies adequately represented in their student bodies.

To conclude, terrorism is and will continue to be a major problem for all of us. It is a complex challenge that requires a tough, sophisticated, and well-informed response that puts a premium on a precise understanding of the long-term goals, short-term objectives, and strategies, tactics, and weapons of terrorists. Within this context, the most horrific specter is quite clearly the use of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons. I think it would take a good deal of audacity to say that the current technical and political obstacles to their use will not be overcome. Lest we be too dismissive, we should recall the skepticism about things like the e-mail or the Internet. Indeed, it was not too long ago that some said they were impossible. Can we afford to express the same disbelief about the technical impediments to nuclear, chemical, and biological terrorism and then wake up one day to find out we were wrong? I leave the answer to you.