An American Strategy Against Terrorism

Report Homeland Security

An American Strategy Against Terrorism

August 23, 1991 22 min read Download Report
David Silverstein
Counselor to the President


America has an unprecedented opportunity to crush international terrorism. The collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe ended the financial and logistical support for terrorists from East Germany and other states sponsoring terrorism. The Soviet Union, itself a training ground and financier for international terrorists, has reduced its assistance to these groups. The Palestine Liberation Organization, the world's largest terrorist group, has lost between $100 million to $300 million in Arab petrodollars and compulsory taxes on Palestinians working in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because PLO leader Yassir Arafat backed Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf war. (Daniel Pipes, "PLO, Inc.," The American Spectator, February 1991, p. 27.)

America's victory in the Gulf war has, for the time being, knocked Iraq out of the terrorist business, and dealt a temporary setback to Abu Abas's Palestine Liberation Front, the Abu Nidal Organization, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

The window of opportunity presented by these events, however, already is closing. The Iranian-backed Hizballah ("Party of God") terrorist network is reorganizing, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad ("Holy War") and other groups are forming to attack Western interests globally. And Iran and some other sponsors of terror have emerged strengthened from the United States war against Iraq.

Terrorism remains a constant threat to American security. Though warnings of large-scale terrorist attack during the Persian Gulf war turned out to be unfounded, 55 civilians, including six Americans were killed, and 163 wounded, in over 386 incidents from January to June of this year. (Interview with a representative of the U.S. State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, August 20, 1991.) While America and its allies averted a disaster along the lines of the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, which killed 270 people, it is not because terrorists have not been trying. A suitcase bomb, for example, was intercepted in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before it was loaded onto a Los Angeles-bound Japan Airlines flight last month.

With America very strong internationally, Washington can develop an effective anti-terrorist strategy. To do so, George Bush should:

** Declare terrorism an immediate threat to American security and enforce National Security Decision Directive 138 (NSDD-138). A presidential finding that terrorism constitutes an immediate threat to U.S. security could mobilize the nation to resist terrorism with all the weapons in the American counterterror arsenal. The plan for doing so has existed since April 3, 1984, but Bush has not acted on it. Known as NSDD-138, this plan is a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism by delegating areas of responsibility for U.S. federal agencies, assigning specific missions for offensive counterterror operations, and coordinating the actions of over 26 federal agencies. Enforcing NSDD-138 will bring coherence to the wide range of current U.S. counterterror activities and will provide a prescription for preemptively destroying terrorists and their bases.

** Make better use of American military and paramilitary units to fight terrorism. The U.S. has the technology and special operations forces, including the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Team 6, to destroy terrorist training bases and capture terrorists. These capabilities should be employed in a sustained campaign against terrorists instead of relying mainly on non-military sanctions.

** Instruct Secretary of State James Baker to announce the findings of the State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism." This document annually reports on terrorist activity worldwide and provides information on groups most dangerous to America. The State Department, excessively concerned about offending nations that help terrorists, does not publicize the document sufficiently; an announcement by Baker would focus public attention on terrorism.

** Appoint a Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs for Low-Intensity Conflict. Bush still has not appointed a Deputy Assistant to the President for Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) to the National Security Council as recommended by Congress in 1986. Among other things, this Presidential advisor would supervise enforcement of NSDD-138 and coordinate U.S. counterterrorism policies, which now are set by various federal departments and agencies including the Departments of Defense, Energy, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

** Increase U.S. intelligence operations against terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East. Intelligence is the first line of defense against terrorism, since planning for terrorism is always covert. Yet, U.S. intelligence coverage of the Middle East is weak. These intelligence capabilities should be improved by targeting and penetrating the governments of state sponsors of terrorism and terrorist networks. This requires more case officers and foreign agents.

** Impose sanctions more strictly against states identified as sponsors of terrorism. Terrorists could not operate effectively without safe-havens and financial support from Iran, Libya, Syria, and other terrorist sponsoring states. America should strenuously impose sanctions on nations that directly aid terrorists. Sanctions could include economic and arms embargoes and diplomatic pressure on terrorist sponsors and those indirectly abetting them. If sanctions fail, the U.S. should consider using force against terrorist sponsors.

** Expand counterterrorism cooperation with friendly nations. The U.S. sends some of its counterterrorist personnel to train with similar forces in Britain and Israel. This cooperation should be expanded to include basing American counterterrorist units on foreign soil or on ships deployed overseas.

** Submit new anti-terror legislation. Despite some new laws that strengthen America's ability to use its legal system more effectively against terrorists, problems remain. Legislation is needed, for instance, for the U.S. government to be able to deport suspected terrorists without disclosing important intelligence information.

Terrorism: Unconventional Warfare

The nineteenth century strategist Carl von Clausewitz, defined war as "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." He also observed that war is "an extension of politics by other means." By both of these definitions, terrorism is war, albeit without uniforms, borders, or rules of conduct.

The official U.S. government definition of terrorism meets Clausewitz's standards of war. According to the National Foreign Assessment Center of the CIA, "terrorism is the threat or use of violence for political purposes by individuals or groups, whether acting for or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such actions are intended to shock or intimidate a target group wider than the immediate victims." (Ari Orfi, "Intelligence and Counterterrorism," Orbis, Spring 1984, p. 42. The National Foreign Assessment Center of the CIA has changed its name to the Directorate of Intelligence, which is responsible for all research and analysis, from an interview with CIA Public Affairs August 12, 1991.) More often than not, the "immediate victims" of terrorism are innocent civilians, and they are all too frequently Americans.

Terrorist Warfare
Yet America does not treat terrorism as a form of warfare to be fought aggressively by American military forces, a right guaranteed by U.S. and international law. Despite the presidential directive, National Security Decision Directive 138, issued by Ronald Reagan on April 3, 1984, outlining U.S. plans for countering terrorism with military and non-military means, America treats terrorism not as an act of war, but as a criminal act. As a result, terrorism largely has been dealt with through the court system and law enforcement agencies, and through such other non-military means as diplomacy, and such economic sanctions as a terrorist-sponsor losing the right to trade with the U.S. or being limited in what it can trade. (Robert C. Toth, "Preemptive Anti-Terrorist Raids Allowed," The Washington Post, April 16, 1984, p. A19.)

Since terrorism is considered as a criminal action, and not as an act of war, the President feels restrained from using military force to stop it.

The Record of International Terrorism

Terrorism has been practiced for centuries, but it has increased in the years since World War II. Terrorism is viewed among some dictators and underground groups in the West and the Third World as a low cost and effective alternative to conventional warfare. Much of the increase in terrorism during the Cold War can be traced directly to the Soviet Union and its global proxies who supported such dictators and groups. While the Soviet Union continues to provide aid to states on the official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism such as Cuba, today threats stem from a wider variety of sources. (USA Today, July 26, 1990, p. 2A.)

While the former East bloc countries of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia, for the most part, no longer support terrorists, other countries are taking their place. Cuba, Iran, and Libya are maintaining, and in many cases stepping up, their ties with such groups as the Filipino New Peoples Army (NPA), the German Red Army Faction, and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). These countries finance, train, and equip terrorist groups and give them logistical and intelligence support. (See Richard H. Shultz, et al., Hydra of Carnage (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1986).) Six nations are on the State Department's 1991 list of terrorist state sponsors: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria. (Patterns of Global Terrorism, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., April 1991. )

Major acts of terror were relatively unknown until after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The failure of Arabs to defeat Israel by conventional force caused them to change tactics and use terror. Arab terror attacks against Israel soon became the paradigm for other so- called revolutionary struggles. The toll since 1968 includes the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; the murder of 21 schoolchildren and wounding of 65 others on May 15, 1974, in Maalot, Israel, by members of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, operating under the umbrella of the PLO; the murder of 14 and wounding of 121 civilians at the Rome and Vienna airports on December 27, 1985, by members of the Abu Nidal Organization; the November 29, 1987, mid-air destruction of Korean Airlines Flight 858 by North Korean secret agents, killing 115; and the attempted murder of British Prime Minister John Major and his Cabinet on February 7, 1991, in London by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

The State Department reports that 455 international terrorist attacks took place last year, and it warned that America "remains, by far, the most popular target of international terrorists. In the 197 anti-U.S. attacks, 10 Americans were killed and 34 injured." (Ibid p. 37.) While the number of international terrorist attacks has declined since the mid-1980s, when they were running as high as 800 per year, Western governments obviously still cannot protect their citizens completely from terrorism. (Ibid. p. 39.)

International Terrorism Today

International terrorists have suffered serious setbacks since the Soviet bloc dissolved. No longer does the government of Czechoslovakia supply Semtex plastic explosives and training to the PLO and other terrorist organizations. The former East Germany's secret police, Stasi, no longer exists to provide refuge, training, and funds to the German Red Army Faction, the Italian Red Brigades, and the many Middle Eastern terror groups it once supported.

The collapse of the communist states' intelligence services that ran support networks in the East bloc, meanwhile, not only ended assistance to terrorists, it also forced them to concentrate their men and material in fewer state sponsors or go deeper underground. Added to these setbacks was the cutoff of Arab petrodollars to the PLO because of its support for Iraq during the Persian Gulf war, and after its defeat, the virtual elimination of Iraq as a major sponsor of terror. As a result, terrorists face a difficult period.

Terrorist Nuclear Weapons? Yet attacks undoubtedly will occur again. There is the chance, moreover, that terrorists will obtain nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Many attacks presumably will be carried out by the groups that have been operating for years. Many of the most formidable groups are based in the Middle East; some of these ostensibly operate in the name of the Palestinians, including the Abu Nidal Organization, Achmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and the Palestine Liberation Front headed by Abu Abbas in the Middle East. These groups are backed by Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Other groups, now on the ascent, mix Islamic fundamentalism and virulent anti-Westernism. These include Hizballah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hizballah in particular, which is based in Lebanon with the tacit support of Syria and backed by Iran, poses a growing threat. It now has put operatives on nearly every continent by using local support "cells," or groups of sympathizers. ( Maskit Burgin, "Shi'ite International Terrorism," in International Terrorism 1989, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies," Tel Aviv, Israel, 1990, pp. 36-58; also Vincent Cannistraro, "Terrorism: Status and Prospects," National Strategy Information Center, Washington, D.C., 1991, pp.11-12.)

Latin American Terrorists
Not all terror emanates from the Middle East. Terrorism plagues Latin America, where such leftist groups as Sendero Luminoso ("Shining Path") and Tupac Amaru (MRTA) in Peru, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) bomb and attack civilians and government officials. This July 12, the Sendero Luminoso killed three Japanese engineers working at an agricultural research facility in Huaral, Peru.

In Asia, the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) in the Philippines murdered as many as six Americans last year. In August 1990, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam slaughtered more than 200 Muslim Sri Lankans. In Europe, the German Red Army Faction, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Dev Sol in Turkey, and 17 November in Greece, which are all radical leftist groups, continue to target businessmen, diplomats, and U.S. military personnel. Last April, the Red Army Faction shot the German head of the government trust responsible for selling the property of the former East Germany, proving that they have survived the cutoff of East bloc support.

The American Resposne to Terror

Before the mid-1980s, America took little or no forceful action to stop terrorists. Then in the mid 1980s, steps were taken to improve U.S. capabilities to counter international terrorism. Laws now make it easier to prosecute terrorists. The Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Anti-Terrorism Act of 1986, for instance, makes it a federal crime to murder or attempt to murder American citizens in the course of a terrorist act overseas. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 outlaws acts of violence against an aircraft and its passengers. Other laws passed in the 1980s prohibit direct air or sea travel between the U.S. and officially-designated state sponsors of terrorism, extend U.S. jurisdiction over attacks abroad against U.S. diplomats, and enable the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make arrests overseas.

Trade and other economic sanction laws also give America better legal tools to combat terrorism. The most important of these are the Anti-Terrorism and Arms Export Amendments Act of 1989, the Export Administration Act of 1989 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977.

No Foreign Aid
Each of these acts regulates exports and imposes import and export bans on specified goods and technology, particularly technology with military applications. Such goods can include high powered computers, mobile communications devices, or instruments made for U.S. aerospace projects. Other economic sanctions restrict foreign aid and credit to state sponsors of terrorism and require that U.S. representatives to the World Bank and other international monetary organizations vote against assistance to terrorist-sponsoring states. Because of these laws, nations on the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsors are denied all types of foreign aid.

America also improved its "passive" measures against terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s. These increase screening of passengers and luggage at airports, add new computerized information services to better track suspects at U.S. ports of entry, and increase security standards of airports serving U.S. carriers around the world. These countermeasures were carried out by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Customs Service among others.

Special Rescue Teams
The 1970s and 1980s also saw the creation of "active" countermeasures, including the formation of a special hostage rescue team in the FBI, and SWAT teams around the country to respond to domestic acts of terror.

The Persian Gulf war heightened American sensitivity to terrorist attacks. The Federal Aviation Administration raised its threat index to its highest level, requiring more intensive luggage and passenger screening at airports and mobilizing more security personnel to guard and monitor ports of entry. The U.S. Postal Service, meanwhile, ceased shipping mail packages in passenger aircraft cargo holds as a precaution against hidden explosives.

What the new U.S. counterterror efforts have not done is coordinate the various departments and agencies involved in the fight. On this matter, NSDD-138, promulgated in 1984, remains ignored. This plan assigns specific missions to U.S. agencies, coordinates the operations of these agencies, and provides a prescription for striking offensively and preemptively at terrorists. Because NSDD-138 is ignored, America lacks a single, nation-wide, standard for security at nuclear facilities, airports and other potential targets of terrorist attacks.

Further, because NSDD-138 has not been adhered to, its prescription for carrying out preemptive strikes against terrorists has never been followed, essentially allowing terrorists free rein.

Military Action Against Terror
America in the late 1970s began to develop and use special military units an-d conventional forces, to challenge international terrorists and their state sponsors. Called counterterror units, these included the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) Team 6. They are trained to rescue hostages, destroy enemy command posts and communications centers, and mount clandestine raids and intelligence gathering operations. Delta Force was used in Jimmy Carter's botched attempt on April 24, 1980, to rescue the American hostages from Iran, while SEAL Team 6 divers were in the water ready to assault the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijackers in October 1985, but did not have to do so.

Successful counterterror actions by U.S. forces include the October 10, 1985, interception of an Egypt Air jetliner by U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat jets. The airliner was carrying the Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists who just days earlier had murdered an American citizen on the Achille Lauro. On April 14, 1986, U.S. Air Force F-111, Navy A-6 Intruder, F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet jets bombed terrorist training bases and military facilities in Libya, and Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi's headquarters in retaliation for Libyan complicity in an April 5, 1986, bombing of a West Berlin discotheque in which two American GIs were killed. In September 1988, FBI agents and Navy SEALs cooperated in luring Lebanese terrorist Fawaz Younis into international waters off Cyprus, where he was captured. Younis took part in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in Beirut on June 14, 1985, on which U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered.

While these achievements are important, they are isolated incidents rather than the result of a sustained, coordinated and forceful effort to deter international terrorist threats.

The Israeli Experience

The nation with the most extensive experience and success in fighting terrorism is Israel. Because of the terrorist threat to daily life there, the Israeli Government treats terrorism as an act of war. This eliminates any ambiguity within the government and among the public about the nature of the threat or about the appropriateness of remedies. Israel seeks to deter terrorism through swift retaliation and to foil terrorist acts through defensive and preemptive military action. (William O'Brien, "Counterterrorism: Lessons From Israel," Strategic Review, Fall 1985, p. 35.)

Israeli military and intelligence agencies rescued 103 hostages who were being held at Uganda's Entebbe airport in July 1976, assassinated PLO military chief Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) in Tunis on April 16, 1988, and assassinated terrorists who plotted the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Routinely, Israeli units intercept terrorists heading for Israel; indeed, the Israeli Air Force and Navy have thwarted every attempted terrorist incursion from the sea since 1979. (Author's interview with former Israeli Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Zeev Almog, May 20, 1991.)

Israeli Attacks
Israeli Air Force jets and Army units have attacked terrorists or their state sponsors in Jordan, Lebanon, and as far away as Tunisia, where the PLO headquarters was attacked on October 1, 1985. The results: Syria and Jordan which once openly permitted and encouraged terrorist infiltration attempts across their borders into Israel, now do virtually everything they can to prevent them. (A. F. Bikowsky, "A Comparative Study of U.S. vs. Israeli Counterterrorism Policy: Implications for U.S. Policy,"' Master's Thesis (unpublished), The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Medford, Mass., 1988, pp. 39-59.) Only in Lebanon, where there are many different terror groups operating free of central government control or support, has terrorist infiltration continued.

Israel also employs non-military means to counterterrorism. These include public information campaigns in schools to alert citizens to terrorist threats, thorough inspection of luggage and passengers on El Al airlines flights, and a 40,000-strong, all- volunteer, Civil Guard to supplement police patrols. Israel also expels non-citizen terrorists and their supporters from the country after their cases are reviewed by the military justice system and the Defense Ministry.

Lessons for America
Clearly not all Israeli methods have relevance for America: for example, Army roadblocks and searches of suspicious cars are not necessary in the U.S. What is relevant for America is Israel's recognition of the international terrorist threat and its willingness to confront it with force. Unlike America, for example, Israel relies primarily on high quality intelligence collected from human sources rather than by satellites. Israel, moreover, puts a high priority on penetrating adversaries' governments and terror networks with covert agents. While satellites can track the movements of men and material, only human agents can discover the intent behind these movements.

Dealing a Deadly Blow to Terrorism

The collapse of Soviet control in Eastern Europe, the defeat of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the cutoff of Saudi and other Arab oil money to the PLO now make many terrorist groups and their state sponsors vulnerable to a combination of military, diplomatic, political, and economic measures.

Yet for America to lead the fight against terror, it will have to move beyond the current policy that uses non-military measures almost exclusively. A successful war on terrorism requires using both military and non-military means.

To launch such a successful war, Bush should:

** Declare terrorism an immediate threat to American security and enforce National Security Decision Directive 138 (NSDD-138). Developing an anti-terrorist plan at the highest level of government, in the National Security Council, would alert Americans to the threat of terrorism and help create a national consensus that will allow America to resist terrorism with all the weapons in the American counterterror arsenal. The plan for doing so already exists, but Bush has not acted on it.

NSDD-138 outlines a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism by delegating areas of responsibility to federal agencies, assigning specific missions for offensive counterterror operations, and coordinating the actions of some 26 federal agencies. Enforcing NSDD- 138 will bring coherence to the American counterterror activities currently undertaken and will add a prescription for preemptively destroying terrorists and their bases.

Declaring terrorism an immediate threat would enable the President to persuade Congress and the public that the U.S. military action against terrorists is appropriate. A declaration would also put terrorists on notice that the murder of Americans will trigger severe retaliation. Enforcing NSDD-138 at last would end the competition and confusion surrounding the two dozen federal agencies that fight terrorism. NSDD-138 would assign specific roles and missions to the agencies and give them a central coordinating office.

** Make better use of American military and paramilitary units to fight terrorism. The U.S. has the technology and trained special operations forces, including the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Team 6, to destroy terrorist training bases and capture terrorists. These capabilities should be employed in a sustained campaign against terrorists that threaten Aamerica. So far, Washington has made little or no use of the military option.

U.S. special operations and conventional forces should pursue and capture terrorists currently under indictment by U.S. courts. The Administration, meanwhile, should set guidelines for covertly assassinating terrorists who plot to kill Americans. And the U.S. should consider destroying terrorist training bases in Lebanon, Libya, and elsewhere if they are used to launch attacks against Americans.

** Instruct Secretary of State James Baker personally to announce the findings of the State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism." This is the annual report, mandated by Congress since December 22, 1987, that reviews terrorist activity worldwide and supplies information on groups considered most dangerous to America. Because the State Department apparently prefers not to criticize other nations, even those sponsoring terrorists, this report is very poorly publicized. Bush should order an end to this practice and instruct the Secretary of State to release the findings of the report. This would focus public attention on terrorism and the threats it poses to America. It also would unveil the complicity of Syria's Hafez al-Assad and other heads of state in terror. The Islamic fundamentalist leaders of Iran, for example, back Hizballah, Islamic Jihad, and similar groups that are targeting America.

** Appoint a Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs for Low-Intensity Conflict. Congress in 1986 recommended that the President appoint an advisor for Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) to the National Security Council. This post still does not exist. In addition to overseeing U.S. counterinsurgency and counternarcotics policy making, the LIC Czar would coordinate U.S. counterterrorism policy for the more than two dozen federal agencies that fight terrorism and enforce NSDD-138.

The LIC Czar would assess the global terrorist threat and draft a coordinated military and non-military response. Specific missions would be given to specific agencies. For example, the Justice Department would indict targeted terrorists while the CIA and FBI would collect intelligence and evidence against them. Then the Pentagon would be given the task of capturing the wanted individuals.

The most immediate threats such as the Abu Nidal Organization and Hizballah should be met with force. U.S. actions against terrorists and their sponsors might include: military actions to preempt terrorist attacks, new economic sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism, and setting common standards for securing nuclear facilities, airports, and government weapons manufacturers from terrrorist attack.

** Increase U.S. intelligence operations aimed at terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East. Collecting information about the movements and intentions of terrorists is the key to preventing them from striking. In the Middle East, where some of America's major terrorist foes are located, the U.S. has some of its weakest intelligence capabilities.

Despite America's intelligence shortcomings in the Middle East, Congress is considering cutting the estimated $30 billion annual intelligence budget. Bush should oppose this and insist on keeping current levels of intelligence funding. While the exact amount of spending for case officers and agents is classified, the emphasis on intelligence-gathering satellites in recent years is a partial indicator of the neglect of human intelligence gathering. Emphasis should be restored to training and deployment of case officers, especially for Middle East assignments, in future intelligence budgets. Bush also should order the CIA to increase the intelligence operations designed to penetrate terrorist organizations, infiltrate government agencies in terrorist-sponsoring states, and target these groups and states for psychological operations to sow fear and dissension among their members. For example, the Voice of America could broadcast the names and suspected locations of terrorists under indictment by the U.S., promising a reward for information leading to their capture. These broadcasts could spread disinformation about rival groups that would cause them to grow suspicious of each other, which could hinder their cooperation.

** Impose sanctions more strictly against states identified as sponsors of terrorism. Without the assistance of such states as Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria, many terrorist groups would be unable to operate. One way to hurt states that sponsor terrorists is to toughen and more thoroughly enforce sanctions against them. These sanctions could include increased economic and arms embargoes, and diplomatic pressure on these sponsors and those that indirectly abet them. If these sanctions fail, the U.S. should consider using force.

Though the State Department designates them as state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Libya, and Syria either still trade with the U.S. or indirectly receive U.S. aid funds through international organizations. (Cuba, Iraq, and North Korea are prohibited from receiving all U.S. goods under any circumstances.) The U.S. issued licenses for and exported $91.5 million worth of goods to Syria in 1989, including oil and gas drilling equipment, and aircraft parts. Goods totalling $98.6 million were exported to Syria from January through August 1990. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, "1991 Annual Foreign Policy Report to the Congress," January 21, 1991-January 20, 1992, Washington, D.C., pp. 12-13, 17.)

Syria, moreover, benefits from the Generalized System of Preferences program, set up by Congress in 1974 to give developing nations duty-free privileges on a wide range of goods exported to America. Yet countries that sponsor terror are ineligible for this program under the Trade Act of 1974. The Bush Administration, which lists Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, thus violates the law by allowing Syria to be covered by the Generalized System of Preferences. (19 U.S.C. Section 2462 (b) (7).)

Terrorist sponsors indirectly receive U.S. aid. The U.S. contributed over 18 percent of the United Nations' Development Project (UNDP) funding during 1987-1991. Recipients of UNDP funds during this time include: Cuba $12.1 million, Iran $11.8 million, Iraq $8.8 million, Libya $2.3 million, North Korea $17.3 million, and Syria $8.8 million. (United Nations' Development Program, UNDP 1990 Annual Report, May 1991.) The U.S. should refuse to continue funding the UNDP until these states either withdraw from it or cease their support for terrorism.

** Expand counterterrorism cooperation with friendly nations. Members of American counterterror units are frequently sent overseas to train with their foreign counterparts in Britain and Israel. Training overseas should be augmented by basing American counterterror personnel overseas, closer to the sources of potential threats. For example, the U.S. permanently could station a Navy SEAL Team 6 detachment on a command ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, perhaps in Haifa, Israel. This would allow U.S. forces to respond very quickly to terror against Americans in an area where the threat of terrorism is high. It also would allow SEAL Team 6 and other U.S. military units to train with Israeli experts in counterterrorism. A similar detachment comprised of SEALs and Delta Force could be based in the Pacific for quick reaction to terrorist acts against the U.S. in that region.

** Submit new U.S. anti-terror legislation. Through the 1970s and 1980s great progress was made in improving the legal battle against terrorism. But more remains to be done.

The anti-crime package presented by Bush to Congress this year includes the Alien Terrorist Removal Bill. This would allow the Justice Department to expel from the U.S. aliens planning terrorist acts. The expulsion would be without an open court proceeding that could disclose secret intelligence information. Another key provision would give foreign witnesses in terrorist investigations temporary residency in the America to protect them from retribution. The Bush Administration should push hard for these bills, which would give U.S. prosecutors and the FBI important new weapons in the legal fight against terror.


The world today has a rare opportunity to strike at international terrorism. The end of East European support for terrorists, the defeat of Saddam Hussein and the diminished power of the PLO have weakened the terrorist network.

America has the tools to counter the terrorist threat. First, the U.S. must declare terrorism an immediate threat to American security. Then it should prepare to use military and non-military weapons to defeat it. To do this, the President should appoint a Low- Intensity Conflict Diector to enforce National Security Decision Directive-138, the comprehensive White House plan to fight terrorism that has been neglected by Bush.

A key part of the effort to defeat terrorists will be to develop a domestic and international consensus that terrorists should be permitted no latitude in their activities. To do this the Secretary of State personally should announce the findings of the annual report "Patterns of Global Terrorism," which identifies the world's terrorists and their sponsors. This would publicize the threat to the American people and the world.

Fighting terrorism aggressively will require the use of military and non-military tools. Non-military options include expanding embargoes against nations that sponsor terror and deporting terrorists from America. Military options include deploying more U.S. military counterterror units overseas to be ready to strike terrorists quickly and to train with Britain and Israel. The U.S. too must gather the intelligence necessary to support the use of force against terrorists. Washington thus must increase the number of case officers and their agents assigned to penetrate terrorist groups and their state sponsors.

If America follows its current course of relying primarily on non-military solutions, then the U.S. casualties from terrorism may mount. Terrorists may have suffered setbacks, but terrorism is certain to return. If, however, America begins to view terrorism as an act of war, and uses the instruments of war to defeat it, Americans can cease being terrorists' victims.

David Silverstein, Policy Analyst

Heritage Foundation intern Lisa H. Saladino contributed to this study.

© 1995 Persimmon IT, Inc.


David Silverstein

Counselor to the President