Understanding And Combating Terrorism
AUTHOR Major S. M. Grass, USMC
SUBJECT AREA - Operations
TITLE: UNDERSTANDING AND COMBATING TERRORISM
Thesis: In order to combat terrorism we must be able to
understand a type of warfare that cannot be defined within a
set of rules or principles.
Issue: Understanding the threat that terrorism poses has
become very complex and developing a means to effectively
counter that threat is even more perplexing. Terrorism is a
type of warfare that has no limits and knows no boundaries.
It operates within a spectrum of warfare that is not defined
by a set of rules or principles. Therefore, it cannot be
effectively countered by a conventional warfare thought
Terrorism is not new. It has been plaguing societies
since the beginning of time. The terrorism as we know it
today had its early beginnings in Czarist Russia. With the
advancement of technology in transportation and communica-
tion, this terrorism has been able to spread its terror
worldwide. With this advancement in technology came the
development of modern weapons that the terrorist has employed
to elevate his violence to new levels.
Democratic regimes have the most difficult task in
countering terrorism. Democratic principles and foreign
policy has made this an even more difficult challenge. This
is further complicated by the fact the public cannot under-
stand the psychological makeup and objectives that motivate
The United States has a variety of military forces and
weapons to react to terrorism. Many of these means are
merely employed to demonstrate our resolve to utilize these
forces if necessary. These operations have been reactionary
vice being conducted within a doctrine based on the
understanding of the threat. The Marine Corps is once again
on the forefront of developing a doctrine and a force
concurrently that can be used to counter terrorism. Until a
doctrine and strategy can be developed based on an
understanding of the terrorist threat, future attempts to
combat terrorism will be futile.
TITLE: UNDERSTANDING AND COMBATING TERRORISM
Thesis Statement: In order to combat terrorism, we must be
able to understand a type of warfare that cannot be defined
within a set of rules or principles.
A. Definition of the problem
B. Nature of the threat
C. Goals of terrorism
II. Historical Beginnings
A. Russian origins
B. Propaganda by the deed
C. The spread of terror
III. Profile of the Terrorist
A. Profile by categories
B. Characteristics of the terrorist
C. Psychology of the terrorist
IV. Modern terrorist threat
A. Weapons of terror
B. Arsenals of tomorrow
C. Targets of the future
V. Terrorism and Foreign Policy
A. State sponsored terrorism
B. Soviet supported terrorism
C. U.S. policy
VI. Combatting the Threat
A. Democracy vs terrorism
B. Defensive measures
C. Military force considerations
UNDERSTANDING AND COMBATING TERRORISM
On 9 October 1983, 243 United States Marines lost their
lives in an Iranian sponsored "suicide bombing" of the
Marines Barracks, Beirut, Lebanon. Today the same powers to
be has offered a 5 million dollar bounty for the author of
the book, "Satanic Verses." These actions represent the type
of threat the free world of today faces in the form of
terrorism. The death of the Marines in Beirut, during the
peace keeping mission, not only embarrassed its leaders but
made them regretfully aware that they were not ready to
defend themselves against a type of warfare that operates
outside the rules and principles of modern day war. In a
somewhat indirect way, the bounty offered for the author of
"Satanic Verses" is a threat to one of the cornerstones of
our own Constitution, the freedom of speech. To bring this
point a little closer to home, the bombing of Pan Am Flight
103 in December of 1988, over the skies of Great Britain, in
which seven University of Syracuse students and eight Army
personnel were killed, demonstrates that Americans have
become one of the prime targets of the violence terrorism
poses. It is certainly time for the U.S. to realize that we
must be prepared to defeat a threat that has the ability to
change the way of life as we know it today.
The world in which we live has become a violent and
dangerous place. The forms of violence has many faces and
ranges in intensity from nuclear war to conventional means.
On the most primitive level, these highly destructive actions
are those of the terrorists. Although terrorism is not a new
form of violence, its recent changes in its tactics and
modern weapons have made it extremely difficult to combat.
What made this cancer on our society so difficult to fight is
that we do not understand the motivation and thinking of the
people that revert to such violent means to attract worldwide
attention to a cause that we as Americans cannot relate to.
Terrorism, like cancer, is a disease and therefore must be
removed before it spreads and infects and eventually destroys
the entire organism. Just as doctors look for new means to
defeat cancer, the U.S. must develop a strategy to bring to
an end the threat terrorism poses to our way of life. The
primary focus of this paper is centered on developing a
better understanding of terrorism in order to more
effectively combat it.
This paper will provide a clearer definition of terrorism
and trace its origin within the Czarist Russia of the l880s.
It will further explore the profile of the modern terrorist,
the weapons he utilizes and look at the terrorist arsenals
and targets of the future. This paper will explain the
relation between terrorism and foreign policy. Through this
process we should gain a better understanding of terrorism
and realize that it is a type of warfare that recognizes no
boundaries and knows no limits. In order to combat
terrorism, we must be able to understand a type of warfare
that cannot be defined within a set of rules or principles.
Finally, we must realize that terrorism operates under the
philosophy that there is no distinction between combatants
and noncombatants; both are targets.
Terrorism. The mere word brings to the mind images of
hijacking, kidnapping and violent assassinations. These
terms in no way cover all the issues within the broad
spectrum of definitions attributed to the word terrorism.
Terrorism represents a multitude of definitions held by a
diverse collection of people worldwide. The concept that one
persons "terrorist" is another's "freedom fighter" has led to
a misconception of the true definition of terrorism. Herein
lies the problem; identifying a clear definition of terrorism
and recognizing its warriors. The late Senator Jackson
provided an explanation that provides a realistic view of
what the terrorist is:
The idea that one person's "terrorist" is another's
"freedom fighter" cannot be sanctioned. Freedom
fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up school
buses containing noncombatants; terrorist murderers
do...it is a disgrace that democracies would allow
the word "freedom" to be associated with the acts of
Despite the different perceptions, there are indisputable
characteristics of terrorism, that are fact, not perception.
Among these are that terrorism is a form of political
violence with a goal of obtaining a political objective. The
second is that terrorism is clearly a form of warfare.
Therefore, operating under this definition, terrorism must be
dealt with as a form of warfare. If we accept this
definition of terrorism, then the means to best combat
terrorism is best described by Albert Parry:
To annihilate modern terrorists with their superior
methods of battle, the counterblows must be a
hundred fold smarter and stronger than the
terrorists' own ways and weapons.
In order to further define terrorism it is important to
understand the nature of terrorism. Terrorism is clearly
distinguished from other forms of violence. Its acts, by
nature, are indiscriminate violent actions used to attack its
targets. These methods include assassinations, bombings,
death threats and utilizing innocent hostages as political
weapons. The brutal actions of terrorism are not irrational
actions, but are the premeditated use of force to achieve
certain objectives. Therefore, terrorism is a goal directed
form of violence.
Terrorism is a psychological weapon and is directed to
create a general climate of fear. As one definition cogently
notes, "terror is a natural phenomenon, terrorism is the con-
scious exploitation of it."3 Terrorism utilizes violence
to coerce governments and their people by inducing fear.
Understanding this, authorities who undertake the challenge
to combat terrorism must engage in its own campaign of fear.
With a definition of terrorism and idea of the nature of
terrorism, the final step in understanding the threat is to
examine the goals of terrorism. Ernest Evans, a research
associate at the Brookings Institute, suggests that there are
five specific goals of terrorism.4 These goals are:
1. The terrorist seeks to publicize its cause on a
regional and international level.
2. The harassment and intimidation of authorities to
force them to make concessions.
3. Polarization of society to bring down the regime.
4. To aggravate relations between states or nations.
5. The terrorist work to free political prisoners and
secure monetary ransoms to finance their cause.
Terrorists will ultimately utilize any means from death
threats to nuclear proliferation to meet their goals.
Governments must be prepared to deal with this threat and
recognize terrorism for what it is; a form of warfare.
1Terrorism and the Modern World, US Department of State,
Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C. Current Policy No.
629 October 1985.
2Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1982,
3Stephen Sloan, Beating International Terrorism, Air
University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, December
1986, p. 2.
4Lieutenant Colonel Gary W. Nelson, Terrorism: The
Military Challenge, US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks,
Pennsylvania, March 1987, p. 9, 10.
The organized terror that is seen today had its origin in
Russia in the 1800s. Pressures had been building in Russia
for some time due to the deplorable conditions of the
peasants and the reaction of Peter the Greats' Westerniza-
tion. The only way that we as Americans could understand
this type of oppression is to read an excellent work about
this era in W. Bruce Lincoln's book titled "In Wars Dark
Shadow." In his book Lincoln vividly describes the harsh
economic conditions within the turn of the century Russia
with hundred of thousands of peasants from the famine
stricken villages moving into what was to become Russia's
urban slums. With this migration from the peasant villages
to the industrial environment, there evolved a cadre of
revolutionary terrorists, which would eventually create a new
order within the twentieth century Russia. Within this new
order arose the land and liberty party, of which evolved the
violent sector known as the People's Will. In the founding
conference of the People's Will, which was held from 19-21
July 1879, the decision was made to assassinate Czar
Alexander II. The Czar was the representative of those who
sapped the people's self government and therefore they felt
the Czar deserved the death sentence. Yet, this was not the
sole concern of the People's Will. Their aim was the
people's freedom, the people's good.1 This in essence was
the foundation of terrorism as we recognize it today.
From these ideological beginnings in 1877, arose a
concept known as "propaganda by the deed," which led
revolutionaries to create an even higher atmosphere of terror
and violence. This became a tool that the new terrorists
used to awaken popular consciousness. Propaganda by the deed
became a concept in which ideas were no longer contained to
paper, but became clothed in flesh and sinew.2 The
assassination of Czar Alexander was the epitome of propaganda
by the deed. This act was carried out by members of the
People's Will with a dynamite bomb which exploded in the
Czar's coach. This planned and scientific use of dynamite
for terrorist activities was pioneered in Russia and was
favored by anarchist throughout Europe. Its effects are
still felt today.
The events of terror did not contain themselves to Russia
and by 1878 waves of assassination attempts erupted all over
Germany, Spain and Italy. By 1890 these had spread to France
and the United States. The main difference between what was
happening in Europe and Russia was the organization of
terror. Zeev Ivianski, who developed a concept known as
"blow at the center," points out that with the exception of
the events in Russia, the terror which broke out across the
European continent were unrelated. They were carried out by
individuals who had no backing or support from established
organizations. However, these individuals did share a common
belief that they were backed against a wall with no
alternative left to them other than terror. These
individuals, despite their lack of backing were nonetheless
The Russian terrorists pioneered the type of organiza-
tional terrorism we see today. They took an organized body
and injected it with new ideological belief developed by the
French in 1789 which allowed them to commit any excess as
long as it benefitted the revolution. This thought process
combined with an established organization and the techno-
logical advances in destructive weapons ushered in the new
age of terrorism.
1Ariel Herari, On Terrorism and Combatting Terrorism,
Maryland University Publications of America Inc., 1975 p. 54.
2Ibid, p. 54
PROFILE OF THE TERRORIST
The ability to recognize the modern day terrorist would
be like trying to identify the child abuser or the rapist
within a crowded sporting event within the United States. It
could easily be any normal individual sitting next to you in
that crowd. The question comes to mind in regards to the
terrorist as to whether the terrorist can be labeled a normal
person. Albert Parry alleges that "most political terror-
ists have not been normal." He goes on to say, "not all
political terrorists are insane or mentally disturbed, but
most are."1 Although most people would tend to believe
terrorist are mentally unstable, there seems to be no
evidence to support this case. The mentally unstable person
is not able to function properly within a group and therefore
would be a detriment to the organization. The only means
therefore to adequately identify the terrorist is to
categorize him into some type of profile. The following
paragraphs will examine such profiles.
In order to provide a profile of the terrorist, we cannot
simply place them all into one general category. We must be
able to divide them into several distinct groups based upon
either their beliefs or their objectives. The modern
terrorists are not ordinary people. They possess distinct
and unique characteristics and qualities. The terrorist must
have a political belief or cause--otherwise, if he uses
terrorism for personal gain, he is simply a common
The modern terrorist can best be placed within a
political cause framework. The first category being those
who fight for world revolution in order to impose a certain
political philosophy on everyone and destroy those who oppose
them. Secondly, there are those who fight to impose a
political philosophy on those within their own country.
Finally, the third group are those who represent themselves
as a liberation movement. The common thread being the
devotion to some type of political cause. Categorizing
terrorist in this manner is by no means the only method, but
provides a framework in which to operate. The modern
terrorist we see today is usually dedicated to a political
cause or belief. This dedication also implies absolute
obedience to the leader of the movement. This common
denominator then assists us in both being able to better
recognize the terrorist and eventually aids in directing our
opposition to their origin.
Terrorists have many recognizable characteristics that
set them apart from the average individual. Because he faces
the dangers of personal injury and death, he must possess
personal bravery or have no apparent fear of death. Further,
in order to carry out the type of atrocities that send many
completely innocent victims to their death, the terrorist
must be completely void of any emotions or remorse. Accord-
ing to the type of sophisticated explosive devices that were
used to down Pan Am Flight 103 over Great Britain, the terror-
ist must be a highly trained and well educated individual.
We should realize though, that not all terrorists possess
such qualifications. But it is also very important to under-
stand to be a successful terrorist, a University degree is
One fact that almost in every case makes the terrorist
stands out from the crowd is that he in one way or another is
a fanatic. For example, the universal hatred of Israel moti-
vates the Palestinian terrorists in their daily attacks on
the government and people of that country. Terrorists are
definitely drawn to their profession, much as the thrill
seeker is drawn to excitement or danger, over the safe
routines of regular hard work and slow advancement.4 It
appears that terrorists seem to be withdrawn from reality and
use the mystique of terrorism as an outlet. Within this
world, they become both the hunter and the haunted and live
within a base existence with few if any personal relation-
ships. Although all terrorists do not fall within this
psychological grouping, the very nature of their profession,
allows them to accept the use of violence to gain their
ultimate objective. In reality, the terrorist may actually
live an outwardly normal life, but he does so only to cover
for his terrorist activities.
1Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books, D. C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts,
1982, p. 31.
2Edgar O'Ballance, Language of Violence, Presidio Press,
San Rafael, California, 1979, p. 299.
3Stephen Sloan, Beating International Terrorism, Air
University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 1986.
4Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books, D. C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts,
1982, p. 33.
MODERN TERRORIST THREAT
The use of terror and fear are the primary weapons of the
terrorist. Violence becomes the medium through which the
terrorist spreads his fear. To the terrorist the threat of
violent acts and atrocities become their means of
communicating with the rest of the world. The spread of
terrorism and the technological revolution in communication
and transportation have ran hand in hand. The introduction
of jet aircraft in the 1950s and early 1960s gave the
terrorist a degree of mobility and a field of operations
undreamed of by their most dedicated and skillful
predecessors.1 The use of modern aircraft has provided the
terrorist a means to spread his violence worldwide within a
matter of hours. In conjunction with the advancement in
transportation, the development of modern weapons has
provided the terrorist the means to conduct a new type of
armed conflict. This presents a magnitude of problems when
governments decide to counter this modern threat.
The terrorist has a wide range of modern weapons at his
command to employ against a variety of lucrative targets.
These weapons range from the use of death threats as we have
seen used against the author of "The Satanic Verses," Salmon
Rushdie, to the latest generation of deadly explosive devices
known as the Ibrahim-type bombs."2 With their high rates
of fire and penetration power, firearms have become the
weapon of choice of the terrorist. These weapons allow the
terrorist to maintain a high degree of mobility, are
inexpensive and easy to conceal. Small caliber rifles, such
as the M-16 with high velocity rounds are very popular due to
the weapons ability to use explosive and toxic ammunition.
Today perhaps the most popular weapon among individual
terrorists is the 9-millimeter submachine gun. Because of
the current availability, low cost and the penetration power
of its ammunition, the 9-millimeter submachine gun has become
the universal weapon of the terrorist.
Explosives, with more destructive power, are effectively
employed by the terrorist. These weapons were used by
terrorist in England as early as 1605. These weapons tend to
have a great deal of shock power and draws more attention to
the deed. Nearly 70 percent of all terrorist attacks involve
explosives in some form or another.3 The reason for their
extensive use is that they magnify the destruction and
slaughter that one individual can inflict. Explosives
provide the indirect means of killing and poses less a threat
to the attacker. Explosives and the means to set them off
are only limited to the imagination of those using them. New
plastic explosives have added a new dimension to the
terrorist arsenals of explosive weapons. Plastic explosives
have commonly been referred to as--God's gift to the
terrorist.4 These explosives can be used to destroy a
variety of targets. These targets range in size from
automobiles to aircraft and buildings.
The 1970s became the beginning of the future of the most
destructive weapons utilized against human targets. From the
use of shoulder mounted, wire guided missiles to the possible
use of chemical and biological weapons, the terrorist now has
the means to hold the entire world as hostage. The terrorist
has elevated death and destruction to a fine art. The
present advances in weapons such as lasers and microwaves as
weapons have the future possibility of bringing about an
amount of destruction that would be mind-boggling.
If I may, I would like to add a personal note to this
paper. Since I began my studies in the area of terrorism, I
have realized that the terrorist threat is very real. We as
Americans have been lulled into a false sense of reality in
that we take the security that our modern airports provide
too lightly. The terrorist, with his training and modern
weapons, has the ability to easily spread his violence within
the United States. It is my hope that it doesn't take the
fire bombing of a local elementary school to make us aware of
the possibility of our hometowns becoming targets of
terrorism. With our reliance on telecommunications centers
and electrical power plants which all lie virtually
unprotected, attacks to these type facilities are very
probable and make our larger cities very vulnerable. With
the possibility of the use of biological and nuclear weapons,
the terrorist could bring about destruction within the United
States as we've never witnessed. The very thought of
terrorist utilizing such weapons should emphasize the urgent
necessity to find an effective means to identify and combat
this threat now and prevent its spread in the future.
1Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts,
1982, p. 97.
2William J. Cook, The Technology of Terror, March 6, 1988,
3Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books, D. C. Heath and Company, 1982, p. 100.
4Ibid, p. 105.
TERRORISM AND FOREIGN POLICY
In today's world the cost of doing business, especially
on the international market, is extremely expensive. This
statement is very relevant when one considers the cost of
training and supplying weapons to the terrorist. The weapons
and training areas needed for the scale of terrorist opera-
tions we see today are far too expensive and even harder to
attain without formal support. Presently this type of sup-
port comes from nations--states who see terrorism as a means
of achieving their political objectives. These states pro-
vide weapons, training camps and technical expertise to
terrorists in order to improve the overall effectiveness of
their deeds. US Attorney General Edwin Meese, while speaking
before the American Chamber of Commerce and the Austro-
American society on international terrorism, accused five
countries of providing sanctuaries and training areas for
terrorist groups. He continues to say that Libya, Cuba,
North Korea, Iran and Nicaragua make no pretense of hiding
their sponsorship of terrorism.1 It appears that armed
with this type of information that the task of putting and
end to terrorism would be a simple operation. This is
definitely not the case. The terrorist ability to disguise
his backers and means of support are one of the tricks of his
trade. Therefore any attempts to identify the guilty party
and render the appropriate retaliatory punishment is a very
sensitive foreign policy issue.
There is a growing number of states that support
terrorism. Most of these states are found in the Middle
East, such as Syria, Iran and Libya. The leaders of the
countries have become more vocal in their support of inter-
national tyranny and have directed many of their verbal
attacks to the United States and former President Reagan.
During the Reagan presidency the incidents of state supported
violence became more and more common and forced the United
States to take serious moves to protect her interest. The
evidence that these countries also provide training camps is
unrefutable and can be considered proof of that countries
involvement in terrorist actions. Military operations such
as those conducted against Libya by the United States have
been the only effective means of deterring the threat that
terrorism poses. Without this type of policy backed up by
the popular support of a country's populace, terrorism will
continue to be a dangerous threat to the free world.
The purpose for state supported terrorism has many
reasons. The primary reason is political, but other
countries, such as Iran hide their support of terrorism
behind the cloak of religious beliefs. This type of
religious beliefs for these countries fall into the category
of the fanatic and extremist. Iran and its leader Ayatollah
Khomeini is probably the most well known of these religious
fanatics. His fanatical hold on his country has led his
people to believe that the rest of the world and especially
the United States are its worst enemy. Examining the
philosophy behind the beliefs of countries like Iran will
assist us in understanding the motivation that drives
terrorist to their destructive violence. The Shiites of the
Muslim faith, of which there are 42 million in Iran, believe
that death in a holy war guarantees them a place in heaven.
This belief provides a foundation for an extremely activist
and volatile state. William Quant, a Middle East expert at
Washington's Brookings Institute says "committing terrorism
is like achieving manhood for a Shiite."2 With a belief
system based on violence and death for the guarantee of
eternal life it is very easy to see why a means to defeat it
are so elusive.
The Soviet Union and its role in international terrorism
is the topic of sharp debate. This debate is not over the
question of Soviet support but the type of support and
exactly how much is given. The economics of conventional
warfare for the Soviets have placed quite a strain on the
Soviet government. Therefore, the Soviet Union exploits low
intensity conflicts around the world to continue the spread
of Communism. The entire foundation of the Soviet doctrine
is based on Marxist beliefs that the use of force is
legitimate for the state to use and is the quickest means to
bring another society to its death.3 The Soviet's support
of terrorism is deeply rooted in this belief and ultimately
has a lot to gain in its use. This support however cannot be
overt. The Soviet Union is a superpower and must avoid
disturbing relations with other major powers.
During the March 1989 Erskine lecture, conducted at the
FBI Academy, Ambassador Max Kamplem, former head of the US
delegation to the negotiations on nuclear and space arms in
Geneva, discussed arms control and Soviet relations. The
Ambassador stated that he felt that the United States govern-
ment treaded too softly in dealings with terrorism and outlaw
countries, such as Libya. He further stated that the United
States must deal firmly with these countries, but then must
be careful when our actions affect our relations with the
Soviet Union. The Soviet Union clearly abuses this relation-
ship that we share and will continue to support international
terrorism when it is in their best interest. To this end,
the United States should reassess its foreign policy as it
relates to terrorism. It should evaluate its vulnerabilities
in key elements of defense and security. To reinforce these
actions, the government should develop a hard line policy
dealing with terrorism, emphasizing a rapid and if necessary
brutal response to terrorism.4 But presently it appears
that foreign policy and politics will continue to be an
obstacle to the United States' attempt to deal with
1Austria, Meese Accuses 5 Countries of Terrorism, USA
Today, 11 December 1985.
2The Roots of Fanaticism, Time, 24 June 1985, p. 25.
3Merari Arid, On Terrorism and Combatting Terrorism,
University Publication of America, Inc., 1985, p. 105.
4Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism, Lexington
Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts,
1982, p. 259.
Democratic forms of government undoubtedly face the most
difficult task in confronting the problem of combating
terrorism. Authoritarian regimes have fewer limitations upon
the means of force, particularly military, they may employ to
meet the terrorist threat. Democratic governments, however,
face a much more complex dilemma in that they must not only
protect the populace and defeat the terrorist threat, but
must preserve their democratic institution and way of life as
well.1 In democratic governments it is necessary to gain
the support of the people in order for any type of mobiliza-
tion of forces to be conducted effectively. The government
and its people must have the means and resolve to use the
necessary force to defeat any threat. This is especially
true when attempting to formulate a means to deal with
terrorism as opposed to that of a major conflict.
The most important thing a government must do when
confronted with state sponsored terrorism is to realize that
it is facing a military threat operating as a form of
war.2 Democratic governments normally have to resort to
using diplomacy, economic sanctions, social reforms and
political pressures in resolving the problems of terrorism.
As proven in the past, the use of force has been an effective
arbitrator. But just as in any armed conflict, it is
critical to know the enemies capabilities, weaknesses and
objectives. This will enable the government to adopt its own
political and military objectives and methods to defeat the
threat. The democratic government, with the consent of the
governed necessary, faces major problems in gaining support
for military actions in opposition to a perceived threat.
The secure world as we have known it within the United
States will soon become as the dinosaur; extinct! An
indication of this was the attack on the wife of Navy Captain
Will Rogers Jr. on 10 March 1989 in San Diego, California,
when the car she was driving was destroyed by a typical
terrorist weapon, the pipe bomb. This attack was in probable
retaliation by individuals sympathetic to Iran as a result of
the downing of an Iranian commercial aircraft by the USS
Vincennes. Captain Rogers was the skipper of the Vincennes
at that time.
An axiom that is popular in American sports is that the
best offense is a good defense. This holds especially true
in defending against the threat of terrorism. In order to
defend against the terrorist and refuse him the means to
carry out his violent acts, the security programs of the
nation and its private sector must be well coordinated.
These countermeasures will deny the terrorist targets of
opportunity.3 Security has become a common word within the
military, but is widely misunderstood within the private
sector. Security measures to defend against terrorism must
be understood by both parties and integrated as a system.
The protection of American citizens in the past has been
the responsibility of the government. This is no longer
true. This responsibility must be shared by state and local
governments and the private sector. This responsibility
should entail an information process which stresses a public
awareness program. The purpose of these programs would be to
make the public aware of the future threat that terrorism
poses to our local communities. It has come the time that
the American public be made aware of the real threat that
will in the future become a danger to our way of life. This
would be the first step in improving our means to success-
fully defend our nation from this type of threat. Secondly,
information programs within corporations, especially those
with military contracts, and our educational institutions
could provide the necessary information to help our citizens
better recognize the potential situations that provide the
terrorists the opportunity to utilize his skills to inflict
terror through violent actions. These measures tend to be
radical and extremist, but so are the actions of the
The United States possesses a multifaceted inventory of
lethal weapons capable of defeating terrorism. The use of
military force utilizing sophisticated weapons such as the
F-111, F-18, the EA6B and electronic warfare equipment, in
the attack against Libya is a prime example of this lethal
inventory. But as operational sound and tactically
proficient as this attack was, it was not conducted from a
basis of a doctrine or strategy, but was merely a reactionary
measure to prove that the United States had the means and
resolve to use such a force. I submit that future counter-
measures to combat terrorism must be designed on the basis of
a strategy, based on an understanding of the threat.
The United States Marine Corps has historically operated
within the low intensity conflict arena. It utilized a
strategy and tactics developed with the use of the "Small
Wars Manual." This reference provided the guidance by which
the tactics and forces were formulated to employ against
hostilities encountered in Haiti and Nicaragua. These early
efforts in a low intensity environment influenced the develop-
ment of a doctrine and force that could eventually be
utilized as a means to deter terrorism. This doctrine and
force is known as the MEU(SOC) program. The MEU(SOC) is an
amphibious force that has the capability to conduct special
operations in a maritime environment.4 The MEU(SOC) has a
diverse inventory of capabilities and is equipped with
special weapons and highly trained personnel that have the
ability to conduct a wide variety of missions. These
missions range from, but are not limited to, amphibious raids
and clandestine recoveries to tactical recovery of aircraft
and extremist hostage rescues. It must be emphasized that
these operations fall within the maritime purview and do not
duplicate those of other special operation forces, but comple-
ment them.5 The MEU(SOC), being forward deployed aboard
Navy amphibious shipping, provides a rapid means to react to
problem areas and would prevent a situation from reaching
extreme proportions. Utilized in conjunction with other
services' special forces, this joint force would provide the
most effective, as well as most economically feasible force
to counter the threat of terrorism.
In conclusion, it is fully understood that these special
operation forces are not the ultimate answer to counter
terrorism, but is a step in the right direction in developing
a doctrine and force concurrently. Well knowing, that the
type of sophisticated and costly military operation conducted
against Libya, may again be necessary under certain circum-
stances, it is futile to use these type of operations in the
future unless they are conducted within a strategy based on a
clear understanding of the threat.
1Donald J. Hanle, On Terrorism: An Analysis of Terrorism
as a Form of Warfare, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey,
California, September 1987, p. 196.
2Ibid, p. 197.
3Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism,
Livingstone Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington,
Massachusetts, 1982, p.
4GySgt P. L. Cabal, Jr., MAU(SOC) Corps' Capabilities
Enhanced, Marine Corps Gazette, July 1987, p. 8, 9.
5Ibid, p. 8.
1. Cabol, P. L., Jr., GySgt, MAU(SOC) Corps' Capabilities
Enhanced, Marine Corps Gazette, July 1987.
2. Cook, William J., The Technology of Terror, U.S. News and
World Report, 6 March 1988.
3. Earl, Robert L., LtCol, Combating Terrorism, Marine Corps
Gazette, June 1986.
4. Helle, Ronald B., Major, Defeating Terrorism, Proceed-
ings, U.S. Naval Institute, July 1986.
5. Livingstone, Neil C., The War Against Terrorism.
Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington,
6. Hanle, Ronald J., On Terrorism: An Analysis of Terrorism
as a Form of Warfare, Naval Postgraduate School,
Monterey, California, 1987.
7. Lincoln, Bruce W., In Wars Dark Shadow.
8. Nelson, Gary W., LtCol, Terrorism: The Military
Response, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks,
9. O'Ballance, Edgar, Language of Violence, Presidio
Press, San Rafael, California, 1979.
10. Simon, Jeffrey D., Misperceiving the Terrorist Threat,
Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, 1987.
11. Sloan, Stephen, Beating International Terrorism, Air
University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama,
12. "Americans Are No. 1 Targets," U.S. News and World
Report, 21 October 1986.
13. "An Interview with William Casey," Time, 28 October 1985.
14. "Austria: Meese Accuses 5 Countries of Terrorism," USA
Today, 11 December 1985.
15. Combating International Terrorism. 5 March 1985, Current
Policy #676, US Dept. of State, Bureau of Public
Affairs, Washington, DC.
16. "Roots of Fanaticism," Time, June 1985.
17. Terrorism and the Modern World, October 25, 1984.
Current Policy #629, US Dept. of State, Bureau of
Public Affairs, Washington, DC.
18. Peet, Christopher H., Understanding Terrorism, History
Honors Thesis, Virginia Military Institute, 1986.
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