Featured Post

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials     The United States has a unique position amongst the countries of the world;...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Counterterrorism Debrief: Week 5

Counterterrorism Debrief: Week 5

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War (goodreads.com, 2015, para. 1)

The main supporting tactic of any counterterror (CT) strategy must rely on relevant and timely intelligence. Without the knowledge of who the enemy is and the why, when, where, and how he fights, the enemy can not be defeated. The use of other tactics, such as targeted killing, is less effective when not conducted with proper intelligence preparation. “The undiscerning use of force in terrorism can be as productive as cutting off one of hydra’s heads”(Barba, 2014, p.62). Once the the need for productive intelligence has been recognized, it must be recognized that successful counterterror policy relies on whichever tactics apply to the enemy at any given time, as “any effective counterterrorism strategy is likely to involve a significant number of fairly complex elements”(Weisman, 2009, p.13).

The most effective method of addressing terrorism is also the most direct; the targeted elimination, through killing or capture, of terrorist leaders and facilitators. “The literature on targeted killings suggests that their use diminishes the coercive and operational capability of violent, non-state groups in a number of ways”(Wilner, 2010, p. 312). The most counter-productive method is through negotiation. In the first place, terrorists are extremists who political raison d'etre is to control a society, not to compromise with it. In the second and more important place, negotiating political or social concessions with a group that uses murder and terror legitimizes the uses of those tactics the next time the terror group wants something from the larger society.

A sound counterterror policy must be based primarily on it's intelligence capabilities. Next an operational group must be created to act upon that intelligence, whether in an unconventional warfare or a law enforcement mode. A public relations (or propaganda) section must be detailed to fight the media battle. A legal section must take part in order to keep operations within the law, and to clarify real life to the legal community. Sun Tzu's quote applies in this sense as the CT operator must know his society as he knows himself.

There are several issues that can interfere with the creation of a CT program. The primary issue is that terrorism itself will not end. The CT program must be developed with the awareness that CT operations are an “ongoing struggle” (Levitt, 2004, p.33). A second issue is that the program must contend with political factors; bureaucratic politics related to growth complex and “turf battles” between agencies and partisan politics are just two of the internal political concerns that a CT policymaker must be aware of. Sun Tzu's quote about knowing oneself comes into play again.

The United States presents several unique problems in creating CT policy. One of the underlying ideas in American justice is the notion of due process., and it forms the backbone of American liberty. This is extremely important in dealing with domestic terrorism, but there is a great deal of political thought in this country that international law should be considered in the due process consideration of dealing with terrorists. A second issue is the prevalence of Leftist thought in our governmental and educational institution. It is difficult to establish a consistent CT policy when policy makers deny the root causes of several variations of terror, for example, Islamic terror; “a culture of denial exists on the left about the problem of Islamic terrorism” (Cottee, 2005, p.119). Finally, due to the adversarial nature of American politics, developing a consistent CT program is difficult in that the goals of the political party in charge of the program may change every four years.


Barba, P. E. S. (2014, June). Breaking terrorists’ will to fight (Thesis). Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved from https://calhoun.nps.edu/handle/10945/42721

Cottee, S. (2005). The Culture of Denial: Islamic Terrorism and the Delinquent Left. Journal of Human Rights, 4(1), 119–135. doi:10.1080/14754830590947653

Levitt, M. (2004). Untangling the terror web: Identifying and counteracting the phenomenon of crossover between terrorist groups. The SAIS Review of International Affairs, 24(1), 33–48. Retrieved January 24, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/231348224?pq-origsite=summon

goodreads.com. (2015). Sun Tzu > Quotes > Quotable Quote. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/17976-if-you-know-the-enemy-and-know-yourself-you-need

Wilner, A. S. (2010). Targeted killings in Afghanistan: Measuring coercion and deterrence in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 33(4), 307–329. doi:10.1080/10576100903582543

Weisman, E. S. (2009). Learning to win: An examination of counterterrorism in Northern Ireland. Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. Retrieved October 6, 2014 from http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1270&context=etd_hon_theses

No comments:

Post a Comment