Preemptive Military Strikes: A Viable Option Against International Terrorism? CSC 1990 SUBJECT AREA Operations Author: Major Dirk R. Ahle EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: PREEMPTIVE MILITARY STRIKES: A VIABLE OPTION AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM? THESIS: The United States must be prepared to use military power, including preemptive strikes, in its national strategy against terrorist targets in countries that support international terrorism. ISSUE: As terrorism increased during the 1980's there was an increasing frustration among western countries in dealing with the threat. Most increased diplomatic pressures on states that sponsored terrorists. They also increased their police activities and terrorism prevention measures. Unfortunately these efforts did not yield significant results. There has been an increased emphasis on hostage rescue forces that can be utilized once a hostage situation occurs. A few countries, most notably Israel, have resorted to retaliatory strikes in an effort to control terrorism. While all of these measures have contributed in varying degrees in diminishing the threat, they have not ended the threat. There is a provision under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter that permits the use of preemptive strikes as a matter of self-defense when a nation is threatened. A preemptive strike that is conducted as an interposition vice an intervention can be legally justifiable in a self-defense situation. CONCLUSION: It is important to understand that the terrorist threat will not be easily resolved. The use of military force is not a unique solution. It must be used in concert with other instruments of national power in a coordinated national strategy to influence terrorists and states that support terrorists to cease their threat to world order. If we are to achieve security from this threat and preserve world order, the United States must be prepared to use all means at its disposal. PREEMPTIVE MILITARY STRIKES: A VIABLE OPTION AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM? OUTLINE THESIS STATEMENT. The United States must be prepared to use military power, including preemptive strikes, in its national strategy against terrorist targets in countries that support international terrorism. I. Terrorist threat and American response A. Terrorism: a definition B. President Reagan's policy on terrorism C. President Reagan's response to terrorism II. Three instruments of national power A. Effect of diplomatic and economic instruments on terrorist organizations B. Effect of diplomatic and economic instruments on nations that support terrorists C. Military power as an alternative III. Terrorism: a police or military problem? A. United Nations' position on terrorism B. Diplomatic failure of western countries C. International terrorism: a criminal activity or warfare? IV. Countries search for solutions A. USSR and Israeli response B. The use of appeasement C. Opinion of some experts: terrorism is a police problem V. Self-protection and the U.N. charter A. Article 51 of the U.N. charter B. Right to self-protection C. Retaliatory versus preemptive strikes VI. Requirements for successful preemptive strike policy A. Clear, recognizable target B. Accurate intelligence and burden of proof C. Trained counterterrorist forces D. Will of the people PREEMPTIVE MILITARY STRIKES: A VIABLE OPTION AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM? On 31 July, 1989 the evening news networks displayed on national television the hanging corpse of Marine Lieutenant Colonel William R. Higgins. This video tape was released by one of the warring factions in Lebanon. Thus ended the eighteen month ordeal of Colonel Higgins and another bloody chapter in America's futile struggle against international terrorism. This atrocity and the countless other hostage takings, bombings, and high-jackings have kept the United States and other free world nations political hostages. Most free people feel powerless against this threat and frustrated that there is little that can be done utilizing our existing laws. There is, however, one option that few countries have exercised and appear reluctant to utilize, the selective application of military force against international terrorism. The United States must be prepared to use military power, including preemptive strikes, in its national strategy against terrorist targets in countries that support international terrorism. Americans became aware of the sense of frustration and powerlessness after the seizure of the embassy in Teheran. "'There was a feeling in this country until the 444th day that it was not just the 52 but ... our very government that had been taken captive and held hostage....'" (1:16) It is this sense of frustration and powerlessness that terrorists attempt to capitalize on in order to change another country's policies. At a recent symposium on terrorism George Schultz stated "...they (terrorists) are attempting to impose their will by force, a special kind of force to create an atmosphere of fear. " (11:17). To combat terrorism, we must understand what it is, and what terrorists are attempting to achieve. The United Nations, the United States, and other world governments have not reached an agreement for a definition of terrorism. In the United States alone, there is a difference of opinion over the definition. Within the Executive Branch there are at least three definitions of terrorism. The Vice President's Task Force on Combatting Terrorism used the following definition when studying the problem. The unlawful use or threat of violence against persons or property to further political or social objectives. It is generally intended to intimidate or coerce a government, individuals, or groups to modify their behavior or policies.(4:27) The Department of Defense (DOD) definition of terrorism is essentially the same as the definition used by the Vice President's Task Force. The DOD definition also includes the phrase "violence against persons or property. "(4:27) The Department of State's definition states that terrorism is the "Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents, usually intended to influence an audience."(4:27) This definition leaves out any mention of the word "unlawful". Therefore, according to this definition, acts of terrorism could be considered lawful. A combination of these definitions will be used as the basis for this study on counterterrorism. Terrorism is "The premeditated, unlawful use or threat of violence against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents. It is intended to intimidate a government or groups to modify their behavior or policies." While terrorism may be imprecisely defined by the Executive Branch, President Reagan recognized the threat to world order posed by state sponsored terrorism. One of his major security objectives as set forth in National Security Strategy of the United States was to "deter hostile attack on the United States, its citizens, military forces and allies. .." and "... deal effectively with threats to the security of the United States and its citizens short of armed conflict, including the threat of international terrorism. "(15:4) While President Reagan did not state specifically how he would achieve these objectives, he did not rule out the use of military force. After the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, President Reagan stated that terrorists and those countries that aided and abetted them would be held accountable. During the years between 1983 and 1986 there were more terrorist actions: the high-jacking of the TWA aircraft in Lebanon, the high-jacking of the Achille Lauro, and the bombing of a West Berlin disco. In each incident American citizens were killed. During this time the American government was attempting to determine the best combination of instruments of policy to utilize to neutralize terrorism. The United States has three instruments of policy that can be utilized in our national strategy to achieve our national objectives. These instruments are diplomatic, economic, and military.(3:36) In the normal course of events, the United States utilizes diplomatic and economic instruments to pursue national interests. On occasion, however, the national strategy requires the use of military force. International terrorists are not easily influenced by diplomatic and/or economic instruments. Normally their goals call for the complete overthrow of the government or upheaval of the society that they are fighting. Terrorists organizations do not have diplomats that can be contacted in order to conduct diplomatic negotiations. Economically, terrorists are difficult to influence. Normally they are ideologically motivated and supported by outside sources (i.e. nations that support their cause). Terrorists use military style tactics against targets that are incapable of defending themselves. The countries that harbor and support international terrorists generally ignore diplomatic overtures and economic persuasion to cease their support of terrorists. While the United States has taken some unilateral economic and diplomatic actions against Libya in the wake of terrorist activities that have been linked to it, few of our allies have joined in. Former Secretary of State, George Shultz stated that "too often (friends) are inhibited by fear of losing commercial opportunities or fear of provoking a bully. "(2:59) The sad fact is that for various reasons many western countries feel that it is not in their best interests to place economic or diplomatic sanctions on countries that sponsor terrorism if the acts are not committed in their country. Where then does this leave the United States in dealing with states that sponsor terrorism? Clearly the U. S. must continue to offer diplomatic channels for negotiation of our political differences. Furthermore, while economic incentives/ retaliation do not appear to have an impact on states that sponsor terrorist organizations, these means need to be continually reviewed for possible opportunities. The U. S. has attempted to utilize these two means over the last ten years but they do not appear to be providing the solution. It is becoming clear that there will be no painless resolution to the conflicts with terrorists, primarily because the nations that sponsor them do not want a solution. What options are left? Some terrorism experts argue that international terrorism is a police problem. They argue that the use of the military could encourage vigilantism . One of the four elements in the Department of State's diplomatic strategy is a program of action... designed to bring terrorists to justice... to identify, track, apprehend, prosecute, and punish terrorists by using the rule of law. "(16:iv) This policy will work effectively if countries are able to negotiate and honor the extradition treaties needed to return terrorists to stand trial. Gayle Rivers, a New Zealand counterterrorism expert, takes exception to the judicial method of trying and punishing terrorists. "A terrorist who is allowed to live and goes to prison quickly becomes the direct cause of another terrorist act to free him. "(16:33) The Irish Republican Army terrorists in British jails serve as a symbol for the rest of the movement. One of the demands most often surfaced in a hostage situation is the release of jailed terrorists. While seeking due process for international terrorists may be the noble thing to do, it may actually exacerbate the problem. Since international terrorism is an "international" problem, it would seem reasonable that the United Nations should enact a resolution to outlaw terrorism and provide a mechanism to try and punish terrorists. Resolutions have been proposed by the United States and Israel to outlaw terrorism but they have failed to pass the General Assembly. "Essentially, the inability to reach agreement is based on the adage that `one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. `"(1:170) Even among the western nations there has been an inability to develop tough diplomatic treaties concerning international terrorism. Most extradition treaties have an "escape clause", which gives the requested nation the right to deny extradition in the case of a political act.(4:68) Italy, France, Egypt, and Greece have all released or blocked attempts to extradite suspected terrorists wanted by the United States. All of these countries have their reasons and fears, but until nations can decide to help one another we will all live with the fear of terrorism. Is terrorism a criminal activity that only requires increased international cooperation or a new type of warfare that requires some type of military solution? Premeditated criminal activities are normally motivated by an individual's desire for money or revenge. They do not normally seek to disrupt the status quo of the society in which the criminal lives nor to overthrow the government. These problems can be handled by an efficient police force and judicial system. Even when the criminal has fled to another country the police, extradition, and judicial systems function to bring the criminal to justice. International terrorism, on the other hand, has more than a desire for money or revenge as its motive. Terrorism has a long range goal, "it is intended to intimidate a government or groups to modify their behaviors or policies." If a sovereign nation were to use violence against the United States with the apparent intent of intimidating our government to modify its policies, it would probably be viewed as an act of aggression or war. The bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon was an act that curtailed the deployment of the U.S. Marines in Lebanon and undermined the U.S. policy in the Middle East.(6:2) Had this act been committed by a sovereign state it could have been considered an act of war. Some western countries have been attempting to limit terrorism through effective cooperation of police agencies, but there has been little promise of a breakthrough in this area. Once economic and diplomatic measures have been tried and have failed, and no breakthrough in international police cooperation is imminent, what options are left? The failure of these measures has forced some countries to pursue other alternatives. One approach some countries have taken is appeasement of terrorist factions. In 1985 terrorist attacks were at an all time high throughout the world and the United States proposed a multinational treaty to fight international terrorism. The proposal was accepted by several countries, but France was reluctant because she feared that "any concerted effort against Libya, for instance, would produce... `an Arab front' unfriendly to the West."(12:166) Later that same year the U.S. intelligence sources learned that Imad Mughniyah, the alleged mastermind to the 1985 TWA high-jacking, was planning to go to France. The U.S. informed the French, who apprehended Mughniyah and then released him. It was a thinly veiled attempt by the French to appease the terrorists in the hope that French hostages in Lebanon would be released.(12:167) In 1985 the United States was tracking down Mohammed Abul Abbas, the alleged leader of the Achille Lauro high-jacking. Information was received that Abbas was to leave Egypt on an Egyptair aircraft. The U.S. attempted to gain custody of Abbas through the Egyptian government, but the Egyptians attempted to deceive and mislead the U.S. that Abbas was no longer in Egypt. The aircraft was tracked and forced down onto an airbase in Sicily. American and Italian troops held a perilous standoff for several hours, and the Italian authorities took possession of Abbas and his cohorts. The U.S. tried in vain to extradite Abbas and his fellow terrorists. A few days later Abbas was released and allowed to leave the country. Countries that appease terrorists may buy a little good faith with terrorist organizations, but these countries have failed to produce a long lasting solution in their campaigns against terrorism. These nations continue to suffer from terrorist attacks and have lost face with other countries that are fighting terrorism. Neville Chamberlain was unable to buy peace through appeasement with Hitler in 1939. He may have bought Britain some precious time by trading away the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, but the end result was war. If there is a lesson history can teach, it should be that appeasement will not sway a determined foe. If appeasement is not a solution, what can be done? Israel has been living with the terrorist threat for many years. In 1988, over 29 percent of all terrorist acts were committed against Israeli targets in Israel or the occupied territories.(16:7) Since its inception as a nation, Israel has had to cope with a growing terrorist threat. They have found that the one thing the terrorists in the Middle East respect is force. They do not negotiate with terrorists and will use deadly force whenever possible to free hostages, even if hostages' lives will be forfeited. When they are unable to use deadly force, they will carry out a policy of reprisals immediately after the terrorist act.(1:140) The Israelis have been criticized by many for this policy, but their experience has been that it is the only policy that will deter terrorist attacks. They would prefer to receive the criticism and possibly suffer some civilian casualties than have the government and the people held as emotional hostages out of fear of terrorist attacks. The Soviet Union is another country whose policies should be examined. It is generally recognized throughout the world that the USSR will exact "harsh retribution" for any attacks on its foreign missions or diplomatic personnel.(8:245) After the Soviet embassy in Teheran was taken over in 1980, the Soviets sent two strongly worded protests to the Iranians that Moscow would not permit a recurrence of the incident.(8:245) When four Soviet nationals were taken hostage in Lebanon in 1985, the Soviets quickly applied pressure on the Syrians to get them released from the Syrian backed factions.(12:142) There has been some speculation that the Soviets conducted a covert military action to collect a hostage of their own, one important enough to force the involved factions to rethink their position. In a couple of days the three living Soviets were returned, unharmed. Are nations permitted to use military power to halt terrorist activities? Under Article 51 of the United Nations charter nations have the right to individual and collective protection against armed aggression. Additionally, Article 2 of the charter clearly defines what is unlawful intervention and lawful interposition. Essentially, intervention is the intrusion into another sovereign nation with the intent of changing the existing government, employing occupation forces for an extended period, or otherwise altering the ability of the government to exercise self-rule. Interposition, on the other hand, is for a "limited purpose" and "limited objective". (4:111) Interposition is a response to a country's intentional attacks or inability to prevent attacks on the interposing country by persons in the jurisdiction of that government. Once the mission is accomplished the interposing country leaves the country as it found it or changed only as much as internal forces, over which the interposing country has no control, may have altered it. Interposition is lawful only if a real and immediate threat exists to the national self-defense of the interposing country or on the grounds of humanity.(4:111) The important elements are: a response to intentional or unintentional aggression; short-duration, only long enough to stop the threat; no changes to government; and done only on grounds of self-defense or humanitarian reasons. The conditions under which acts of self-defense may be conducted are established by international law. They are preventive, not a retributive response; breach of legal duty; protection of essential rights; actual or imminent armed attack; timely response; last resort; necessity of response; proportion of response; and reasonable response. Additionally states must report to U.N. their intention to conduct self-defense action, and response must cease if security council acts effectively.(4:131-149) While a detailed discussion of these elements is beyond the scope of this paper, it is important to note that a nation has the right to interpose in another sovereign nation in order to provide for its own self-defense. This right is provided for by the U.N. charter and international law. There is another type of military action permitted by Article 51 of the U.N. charter in peacetime, the reprisal. A reprisal is a lawful response to an illegal action of another nation or "recognized international entity".(4:178) With reprisals, as with preemptive strikes, there is a set of conditions that must be met for the reprisal to be legal under Article 51. The act must be preceded by a demand to redress the wrong, taken as a last resort, and halted as soon as objective is attained. Additionally it must be proportional to injury suffered, not taken in response to a lawful reprisal, and taken with consideration of safety of third states.(4:180). It is readily apparent that a reprisal is normally an act which would be taken against another sovereign nation. It would be difficult to conduct a reprisal against a shadowy international terrorist organization. The Israelis have received much criticism because their reprisals have not, in the eyes of some, met all of the criteria required by the U.N. charter. While a reprisal could be a legal act against a nation that supports international terrorist organizations, a direct link would have to be proven and the above conditions would have to be met. Since reprisals are normally reserved for use against sovereign nations and recognized international entities, then preemptive military strikes would be the best use of military force to strike terrorist organizations. Preemptive strikes do not have to be conducted against sovereign states, they can be used against organizations operating inside the borders of a nation. Preemptive strikes are legal under Article 51 provided that the preemptive operation is conducted as an interposition and not an intervention, and meet the criteria for self-defense. The United States should keep the use of preemptive strikes as a viable and legal option against international terrorism. If the United States should decide to use preemptive strikes to control international terrorism, what must be done to insure their success? First, and most importantly, a clear terrorist target must be identified. In order to do this the U.S. must have first rate intelligence. The United States has the best photo reconnaissance satellites in the world. The level of sophistication of this asset is highly classified, but unclassified sources have stated that types of missiles or armored vehicles can be identified from satellite photography. Electronic intelligence (ELINT) is also extremely important. Electronic information was used to determine that Abdul Abbas was in Egypt and preparing to leave on an Egyptian commercial aircraft. The United States has led the world in technical means of gathering intelligence, but has degraded its ability to gather human intelligence. In the wake of the Watergate era abuses, President Carter and congress established oversights on the intelligence gathering organs, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). With these oversights and controls came a degradation of our capability to gather human intelligence (HUMINT). HUMINT is vital in counterterrorism operations. Satellite imagery and ELINT may be able to provide intelligence that a particular location is being used as a terrorist training camp or headquarters, but without reliable HUMINT it will be extremely difficult to confirm or refute the intelligence indications. All sources of information gathering will have to be exploited in order to form the intelligence picture needed to conduct a legal preemptive strike. Another prerequisite to conduct a successful preemptive strike is the requirement to fulfill the conditions set down in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter for offensive operations of self-defense. Probably the most difficult to resolve is the requirement to notify the Security Council of the impending attack. As discussed earlier, this notification allows the U.N. time to take some action to eradicate the problem. Unfortunately, based on the prior record of U.N. successes in resolving conflicts, this notification will only serve notice to the offending country, and terrorist organization, that a strike is imminent. However, if our ambassador to the U.N. could deliver a general notice to the U.N. that the United States had information that Libya, for example, had terrorist training camps located in her borders, we could argue that notification had been given when we decide to conduct the strike. Either in the notification process or in the aftermath, the United States will have to prove to the international community the necessity of the strike. There are several levels of proof based on criminal, administrative, and international law. A detailed discussion of these levels is beyond the scope of this paper, however, the following quote may help bring the nature of the problem of evidence into its proper perspective. Former Secretary of State, George Schulz said, "`We may never have the kind of evidence that can stand up in an American court of law'".(4:104) However, as one prominent terrorism expert pointed out, "The purpose of the evidence is not to prove a case in a domestic criminal court but rather to justify the actions of an injured state."(4:104) The point of the evidence is to satisfy ourselves, and attempt to satisfy the world community, that the action was necessary. Once it has been determined that the preemptive strike is necessary, an appropriate force will be necessary to conduct the strike. Much has been written on the ability of the United States to effectively deal with terrorists with military force. The U.S. with its sophisticated military has considerable options to use in a counterterrorism role. The most striking that comes to mind is airpower. Since the 1986 raid on Libya most would assume that this should be the favored response either in a retaliatory or preemptive strike. Airpower was chosen for this particular strike because of the National Command Authority's (NCA) concern to minimize collateral damage and diminish the possibility of U.S. casualties or prisoners. These are obviously going to be important factors in any future counterterrorist strike. Another option would be to use cruise missiles with conventional warheads. The cruise missile is an expensive, sophisticated piece of hardware, but it offers the advantages of being extremely accurate and minimizing the possibility of U.S. casualties and prisoners. While technology can provide some solutions in strike capabilities, other less sophisticated means should not be arbitrarily ruled out. Many nations have developed counterterrorist (CT) ground forces. These units are normally utilized in a reactive role once a hostage situation has occurred. While hostage rescue is an important mission it should not be considered the only mission for these highly trained forces. Given the proper set of circumstances, forces such as Delta Force should be considered when developing a preemptive strike. Use of a ground CT force would provide an element of surprise to terrorists who would normally expect the U.S. to use a more technological solution. Finally, it would demonstrate that the U.S. has the will to take the fight to the "enemy", and will use whatever means at our disposal to accomplish the task. The will of the U.S. is the last, and probably most important, part of the preemptive strike equation. Colonel Harry G. Summers in his analysis of the Vietnam War, brings out the importance of the will of the American people.(13:8) If they feel that the cause is right, and that we are the ones that must do something about it, they will bear the hardships. The American people must be told the importance of stopping the threat of international terrorism, and that preemptive strikes are a key ingredient in the plan. If they realize the level of the threat and that we have the ability to reduce the threat, they will support the effort. It is important to remember that the terrorist threat will not be easily resolved. The use of military force is not a unique solution. It must be used in concert with other instruments of national power in a coordinated national strategy to influence terrorists and states that support to cease their campaign of terror. Likewise the United States must not continue on the course of utilizing solely diplomatic and economic instruments against a threat to our national security. There must be a coordinated national strategy using all three instruments of national power utilizing the proper tool, in the proper amount, and at the proper time. 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