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Terrorism: A Frightening Problem With An Intuitive Solution
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
                                 Submitted to
                               Mr. R. V. Wiggins
                    In partial Fulfillment of Requirements
                          for Written Communications
                  The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
                              Quantico, Virginia
                                 Major R. Cole
                          United States Marine Corps
                                March 29, 1984
     At a recent international convention of terrorists held
in Mexico City, a central theme which emerged was "kill
Americans."1  This message was reinforced by Cuba's Fidel
Castro and echoed by Iran's Ayotollah Khomeini.  Further,
although few countries have been spared by terrorists since
the mid 1960's, the recent resurgence in terrorist activity
has clearly indicated that westerners, specifically
Americans, are the principal targets.  Contemporary terrorism
is not a new phenomenon, rather it is a derivation of
guerrilla warfare which pre-dates the birth of Christ.
Presidents and kings throughout history have used terrorists
and terrorism to help them win battles and maintain power.
Assassination, execution, arbitrary imprisonment, mutilation,
and the seizing of hostages have enabled ruthless leaders to
achieve their political ends.
     In the modern world, governmental actions are subject to
widespread public scrutiny.  The indirect forms of warfare
are surfacing more frequently as the countries of the world
maneuver to achieve goals without requiring a vote of
confidence.  Toward this end, there is an ever-increasing
number of examples of warfare by proxy, clandestine
operations, governments supporting neighboring guerrillas
and even their employment of terrorists.
     Terrorism is a debilitating domestic and international
crisis with which government, military, and corporate
leaders are confronted in protecting U.S. citizens and
interests.  There have been numerous similar definitions
given to terrorism.  Mr. John Daly, noted member of the
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy, describes
terrorism as the use of violence, either random or selective
to further ideological or national aims.  Mr. Ramsey Clark,
former U.S. Attorney General, defines it as the use of
physical or psychological violence to force people, through
fear, to act as one wants them to.  Mr. Frank H. Percy,
former Director of the Office for Combating Terrorism, puts
it more simply.  "Terrorism is a criminal act committed to
bring about political change."  Finally, Mr. Yonah
Alexander, Director for Studies in International Terrorism,
offers a definition analagous to the others, but adds, that
what some nations identify as terrorism, other nations
perceive as national liberation movements.2  The FBI
describes terrorism as the politically, socially, and or
religiously motivated criminal intimidation of innocent
people.3  Generally, it is agreed by most that terrorism
involves violence or the threat of violence in order to
publicize a cause or create fear.  Terrorism has been
defined by many academicians and politicians, and
differentations have been made between domestic and
international terrorism.  The "international" aspect simply
involves terrorist acts conducted with the support of a
foreign government or committed across national boundaries.
Statistics indicate that domestic terrorism has been held in
check because of this country's geographic remoteness and
increased control over airport traffic.  In striking
contrast, international terrorism appears to be experiencing
a terrifying increase, and the situation may only worsen.
Statistics reveal that international terrorism is up 10%
worldwide and 25% in the mideast.4  Remember, the
terrorist's objective is to publicize his cause and instill
fear.  Have they been effective?  You bet they have!  What
American is not aware of the tragedies at the U.S. Embassy
in Beirut and at the Beirut International Airport where
hundreds of unsuspecting people were murdered?  Similarly,
who did not read of the bombing at Britain's Herrod's
Department store over Christmas and more recently of the
terrorist murder of the president of the American University
of Beirut, an American.
     Who is this modern terrorist?  Edgar O'Ballance, author
of Language of Violence, characterizes them as reasonably --
well educated, possessing a fairly high level of intelli-
gence and devoid of the human emotions of pity and remorse.5
He maintains that today's terrorist displays a high degree
of personal bravery and is extremely active in the service
of his cause.  While the activities of a few of the most
noted terrorists, such as "Carlos the Jackal," are incompre-
hensible, an analysis of the operations of an active
terrorist gang, such as the Red Brigade or Red Army Faction,
is even more alarming.  The terrorist groups seem to fall
into three separate categories.  There are terrorist groups
fighting for a political cause or belief, those who wish to
force their own extreme political philosophy on others, and
various liberation movements with nationalistic, racial, or
other special interests.  Much has been written concerning
the strength, operations, and effectiveness of individual
terrorist groups throughout the world, and, possibly more
disturbing, a perceived network of terrorist groups mutually
cooperating with each other in the business of terrorism.
Claire Sterling, author of The Terror Network provides a
cogent discussion of the interactions between some of the
terrorist organizations over the past decade.  It is her
opinion that a typical terrorist operation could involve a
Japanese Red Army member, who had been trained in Syria or
South Yemen, receiving a mission, flying to France to pick
up identification documents and money from one terrorist
group, and then on to West Germany, where he would be
assisted by members of the Red Army Faction in the execution
of a Japanese business executive.  Such is the extent of
mutual support, which from time to time has existed among
terrorist organizations.6  A detailed discussion of the
numerous active terrorist groups is not included in this
paper, but let it suffice to say that within each country
there is at least one infamous group of terrorists who
actively fight for the changes they seek.
     Terrorism is unquestionably on the upswing and we,
Americans, have become the target.  During the late sixties
and early seventies, there was an epidemic of airplane
hijackings.  Most of these incidents involved flights going
to or coming from middle east airports.  Do you think people
thought twice about flying?  Certainly the hijackings had an
unnerving affect on those who had to conduct business with
companies or countries in that region.  Mideast terrorism is
nothing new.  Hassan Ben Sabbah was a Persian, who lived in
1050 A.D., and more than any other is responsible for
bequeathing us the term "assassin."  A member of the Ismaili
sect, Ben Sabbah, gained control over much of northern Iran
and Syria through his use of political assassins.  Ben
Sabbah cultivated a feared band of assassins whom he called
the faithful or Fedayeen, "Men of Sacrifice."  The Fedayeen,
as they were termed, eagerly sacrificed their lives to
accomplish the mission and as a result they were feared by
leaders throughout ancient Persia.7  Probably the most
frightening terrorist groups today are those associated with
the Shiite Moslem sect.  Islamic experts say the Shiite
revolution is a widespread popular movement and will
eventually engulf large portions of the globe under Iran.
The Shiite form of terrorism is particularly unsettling as
they employ kamikaze tactics.  Shiite terrorists are known
to fight recklessly and even suicidally, as evidenced by the
October 1983 bombing of the Marine headquarters at the
Beirut International Airport.  This eager willingness to
give one's life is a prerequisite for a terrorist, and in
the Shiite instance is closely intertwined with religious
doctrine.  The Shiites believe that theirs is a holy war and
that to give ones life for the revolution is to guarantee
immediate entrance into the Islamic equivalent of heaven or
paradise.  Suicidal commando raids involving car or truck
bombs have recently claimed a number of lives and are a
great concern for many Americans outside the continental
United States.
     The current crisis is exacerbated by a gloomy forecast
with continued terrorist activity targeted at Americans.
As a world power, the United States is frequently at odds
with other nations on political, economic, and military
issues.  A growing number of third world regimes find
terrorism an effective and inexpensive means by which to
undermine U.S. policies and promote anti-American
sentiment.  Will this tactic of intimidation continue?  The
United States is an open democratic society, and public
opinion is a powerful tool.  Public opinion is a significant
factor, capable of mobilizing our society and thereby
blocking or affecting change.  This dynamic element has
often determined the extent of employment of U.S. military
forces abroad.  For example, the public opinion generated by
the media, concerning Vietnam, caused a president not to
seek reelection and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. combat
forces.  For instance, if the terrorist can bomb a Marine
position in Beirut, kill a tragic number of Americans, and
thereby foment a public outcry for the withdrawal of the
U.S. Marines, then the terrorist has been successful.  Let's
face it, success breeds imitation.  We can expect more
     The United States' comprehensive network of alliances
and involvement in world affairs have created several
controversial crises around the globe.  For example, if
the terrorist purpose is to counter the movement of U.S.
Pershing II missiles into NATO countries, deter U.S. efforts
to secure a favorable peace in the Mideast, or sabatoge
U.S. initiatives to reinforce pro-western regimes in Central
America, the terrorist is acutely aware of the power of
public opinion.  A parallel can be drawn between the
terrorists use of intimidating violence to influence the
people to bring about change and Captain Liddell Hart's well
known "indirect approach."  Rather than engage the superior
force head on, the terrorists use selective acts of
terrorism to mobilize public opinion to serve his own ends.
     Third World regimes and major powers such as the Soviet
Union view terrorism as a less risky alternative when
confronting the United States.  Further, recent developments
in international affairs have heightened existing tensions.
The U.S. alignment with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war will
certainly accentuate our conflict with Iran and stimulate
anti-American, Shiite terrorism.  Also, historically, when
the PLO forces have experienced periods of failure through
conventional warfare, they have resorted to terrorism to
achieve quick, visible success.
     Recently, a U.S. News and World Report article
described terrorism as "The confluence of will, means, and
opportunity."8  I have pointed out that the "will" exists,
whether it is present in extremist groups who oppose U.S.
efforts to deploy missiles in Europe or Shiites who are
dedicated to destroying the enemies of Islamic fundamen-
talism.  The "means" are also, readily available.  It does
not matter whether the means are provided by our ideological
enemy, the U.S.S.R., through a Soviet Connection, or by one
of a number of Islamic countries.   The terrorists will not
lack the means.  Finally, will the terrorists continue to
have the "opportunity" to terrorize Americans?   History
reveals that the terrorist has been able to pick his target
from many that were available.  The United States will
continue to be an open democratic society, and thereby,
people will have extensive freedoms to come and go as they
please.  Additionally, 1984 is to be a year of spectacular
events; each would be a lucrative target for a terrorist
group.  Will terrorists pass up the opportunity to strike at
the '84 World Fair, the Olympic Games or either of the two
national political conventions, all to be held in the United
States?  Probably not!  The terrorists will take advantage
of this opportunity, and the targets will be Americans.  To
paraphrase an old adage, "Kill one American and frighten
10,000!  Kill 261 Americans and modify U.S. foreign policy!
     What then, should our response be to the problem of
terrorism?  Terrorism has already been defined to be so far
reaching as to involve interconnected, mutually cooperating
groups of terrorists around the world.  Each group is
seemingly more terrible than the next and bent on achieving
its goal or self-destruction.  Whatever the ultimate goal,
each terrorist group must necessarily have four basic
components to thrive.  For the purpose of analysis, consider
a table and terrorism as the table top.  The first leg of
the table is funding or monetary support.  Most of the
funding to support terrorist operations is obtained by
terrorist groups through the execution of other criminal
acts such as intimidation, forcing unwilling gifts,
kidnapping for ransom and robbing banks.  The costs associ-
ated with the purchase of the most modern weapon systems and
explosives, and their subsequent movement throughout the
world are significant.  A counter-terrorist program which
degrades the financial base of the terrorist organization
will achieve a correspondingly direct reduction in the
terrorist's effectiveness. The second leg is sanctuary.
All terrorist groups must have a sanctuary from which to
operate.  Such sanctuaries harbor training bases, weapons,
and ammunition stores, and provide safe havens for
terrorists.  The sanctuary is most effective when it is
provided by a neighboring country sharing a common border
with the victimized country.  A counter-terrorist program
which reduces or cuts off the accessibility of the desired
area of operations to the sanctuary will markedly affect the
terrorists ability to strike at will, thereby restricting
the effective range of the group.  The third leg is external
support.  Terrorists groups depend on external support,
whether by other terrorists groups, the local population, or
neighboring governments.  If a counter-terrorist program can
be established which errodes the terrorist support base,
then his ability to strike at great distances will be
further reduced and his options limited. The fourth leg is
publicity.  Most significantly, the terrorist thrives on
publicity for his cause.  A vital component in a counter-
terrorist program is the deglamourization of the terrorist
act.  Limited coverage, matter-of-fact reporting and
disassociating the terrorist act with a particular group,
cause reduced publicity for the terrorist and support to
dwindle.  His success is a function of the public awareness
of his activity and effectiveness.  In summary, an
aggressive, comprehensive counter-terrorist program will
attack all four legs necessary to support the terrorist
table; funding, sanctuary, external support, and publicity.
     Societies and governments have suffered with the
problem of terrorism throughout history with varying degrees
of success.  Most have identified terrorism as an
international problem.  Consequently, the only lasting
solutions have been contingent upon the mutual cooperation
of the affected countries.  Periodically, formal efforts
have been made to develop a joint counter-terrorist policy
and subsequently, effect a unified response.  Most often,
they have failed because countries have different beliefs as
to who the terrorists are and further, although agreements
have been made, each one lacked an enforcing mechanism.
Formal anti-terrorist conventions were held in Tokyo (1963),
Hague (1970), Montreal (1971) and two in Rome (1973).  The
significance in each lay in an increased awareness and a
growing understanding that the struggle against terrorism
was not simply another form of law enforcement.  Several
initiatives were made for the establishment of an inter-
national court and many suggested a United Nations counter-
terrorist force.  Each effort died of a lack of commitment,
primarily resulting from varying perceptions of the
terrorist threat.  Despite the lack of substantive formal
agreements, there did evolve a spirit of cooperation, from
which like-minded countries developed coordinated responses
to regional terrorist threats and shared intelligence
information on terrorists groups and their activities.
Other countries attempted to counter the threat alone.  Most
often, nations responded in one of two ways.  In the first
response, the government of the country took specific and
widespread security measures which markedly reduced the
individual freedoms enjoyed by its citizens.  Turkey
employed this type of response, creating a militaristic
state and virtually eliminated terrorism within its
borders.  The second type of response involved a combination
of factors geared toward monitoring the terrorists
activities and aggressively pursuing them before and after
they committed a terrorist act.  West Germany and Italy are
case studies in this response and achieved notable results.
Their goal was to reduce the effectiveness of the terrorist
by taking sensible precautions which would reduce the
vulnerability of potential terrorist targets and more
aggressively pursue the terrorist.  Essentially, this
approach involved increased technology, efficient detective
work, improved security measures, and the development of
special forces trained to fight the terrorist.  The Special
Forces that were developed by other countries have achieved
some success, specifically at Entebbe, Mogadishu, and the
Iranian Embassy in London.
     Regardless of the approach taken by the governments to
deal with the terrorist, several fundamental principles are
apparent.  First, the most decisive action by each
government was the decision to resist blackmail.  Further
most western governments have developed special security and
police forces which include experienced, highly trained
security and negotiations experts.  These countries have
also had the cooperation of the media and were able to
reduce the press coverage and deny the group credit for
committing the terrorist act.  Lastly, each country has
developed a streamlined crisis management system capable of
effecting a timely response to an established threat.  These
counter-terrorist efforts have required a significant
allotment of men, money, and time in order to be
successful.  West Germany, for instance spent 400 million
dollars on counter-terrorist activities in 1977.8
     What is the United States' response to international
terrorism?  The people of the United States would not
endorse a counter-terrorist program which reduced individual
freedoms.  For this reason, western democracies are
typically slow to react to political terrorism.  During the
last several years, U.S. counter-terrorist efforts have been
hamstrung by liberal legislation such as the Levi
guidelines.  The Levi guidelines severely impaired the
ability of the FBI to investigate individual groups until
first showing that the group had committed or was about to
commit a violent act.  A catch-22 if ever there was one.
     Recently, a package of counter-terrorist legislation
was proposed which included monetary rewards for information
on terrorists and a crackdown on those recruiting or
training terrorists.  An example of similar legislative
changes took place in Britain during the last several
years.  There, special powers have been given to the British
home Secretary which exclude persons suspected of terrorist
acts from many of the normal rights within the UK legal
system, such as trial before jury and allows for the deten-
tion of a suspected terrorist for up to seven days without
being formally charged.  While many in this country are
adamantly opposed to the restriction of individual freedoms,
former Attorney General Mr. Ramsey Clark probably put it
best when he said, "The only real enforcement is the people.
The greatest tragedy for all would be if the fear of
terrorism caused us to abandon freedom."9  It is worthy to
note that such a restriction of freedom is not without
historical precedent in this country.  Abraham Lincoln did
not hesitate to suspend "habeas corpus" when in his opinion
the government risked destruction from within by people who
neither recognize the law nor restrictions on their
     The results of this analysis would support the thesis
that an acceptable response to the terrorist threat that
the United States faces must incorporate three separate
groups of initiatives.  A successful counter-terrorist
program is one that incorporates measures directed at the
terrorists, potential targets, and the establishment of a
crisis management team.  The terrorist infrastructure and
method of operation are subject to infiltration, detection,
and preemptive strikes.  Additionally, following
apprehension, reduced rights, and severe punishments,
discourage continued activity and encourage defection.
     A greater effort must be made to know the enemy, we
must study the terrorist in terms of his background, rela-
tives, acquaintances, homes, careers, employment, political
persuasion, general activities and other peculiar informa-
tion.  Our intelligence network, once reestablished, must
continuously collect information, insure accessibility and
identify potential victims.  Recently, the more aggressive
United States leaders have talked of preemptive strikes.  In
a January Washington Times interview, the CNO, Admiral
Watkins, urged that the key to halting terrorism was
destroying it at the source.11  Further, Senator Nunn said
that preemptive strikes should be conducted against
terrorist training camps.  Additional measures taken
against those countries harboring terrorist will contribute
immeasurably to reducing the terrorist's effectiveness.
Many congressional and world leaders argue that diplomatic,
economic, and military leverage must be used against
countries who are supporting the terrorist.  In this regard,
Fenwick Amendment to the Export Administration Act labels
Cuba, North Korea, Libya, Syria, South Yemen, Iraq, and Iran
as exporters of terrorism and places strict trade
limitations on them.  A strong counter-terrorist policy must
endorse the continuance of the war against terrorism by all
the means available.
     The second category involves actions directed at
reducing the vulnerability of potential terrorist target.
These include individual protective measures and general
security measures directed at public facilities, defense
plants, shipyards, and corporate facilities.  The individual
measures emphasize a greater use of bullet proof vests,
armored limousines and personal security courses.  At our
airports, we find increased security and routine search
procedures.  There are metal detectors and x-ray equipment
in constant use.  Further, at critical locations blast
walls, steel shutters, burglar alarms, bullet proof glass,
exterior arc lights, wire fencing and patrol dogs have been
incorporated into an overall defensive plan designed to
protect the unsuspecting.  Within commercial aircraft,
luggage compartments and pilots cabin have been armor
plated, and often aircraft have an armed sentry airborne.
As a result of the increased terrorist threat a new industry
which provides protection services has evolved offering a
wide variety of products to a growing clientle.  These
corporate security analyst determine the security threat,
conduct risk analysis, provide intelligence reports and
generally offer a comprehensive security program.
Collectively, the individual, corporate, and societal
initiatives have been instrumental in reducing the
effectiveness of the terrorist by promoting a general
awareness of the threat and reducing the overall
vulnerability of society.  Public awareness has had an
indirect effect as well, by placing significant pressure on
the government to pass counter-terrorist legislation and
develop cohesive response forces.
     The third category of actions is those directed at
dealing with a crisis resulting from a terrorist act.  In
this regard, there are two major considerations.  First, we
must have a totally integrated command and control system
with sophisticated communications capable of orchestrating
the efforts of a crisis action team on the other side of the
world.  There must be, within our national and state leader-
ship, a permanently designated group of people who convene
to solve such problems and a clear delineation of its
responsibilities.  There must be a single cabinet level
member responsible to head all terrorist crisis management
situations, and he must have widespread latitude and
sufficient power to be responsive to the threat.  The assets
he fights must, for expedience and readiness sake be unified
under a single commander who reports directly to JCS.  The
chopping of forces to a designated field commander has
proven to be ineffective in terms of team training,
integration of service equipments and standard operating
     The indications are that this country is making
significant progress in measures directed at the terrorist
and in reducing our own vulnerability, but is slow to
streamline a national command and control system.  Funding
was a problem, but it would seem that it is no longer.  CIA
and FBI budgets are notably increased in the areas of covert
action and counter-terrorism.  Further, the state department
counter-terrorist budget for 1984 is $46 million compared to
$31 million last year.12  Similarly, budgets at the Justice
and Energy Departments have increased from $12.9 to $13.7
million and $47.4 to $52 million respectively over the last
year.  Additionally, all of the special units throughout the
services are being established under the operational control
of one commander who reports directly to the JCS.  The
crisis management mechanism is slowly evolving, but items
such as a system of intelligence operatives will take time
to establish.
     In summary terrorism will not go away until we begin to
deal with it from a position of strength.  A Saudi Arabian
prince is reported to have said recently, "These small
countries know that the only people who have stopped the
American superpower are the terrorists.  They stopped you in
Vietnam.  They stopped you in Iran.  They stopped you in
Lebanon.  That is why they attack you.  It is the only way."
Like most problems, terrorism also can be made to go away,
but it will take a sizable dedication of men, money and time
unless we are willing to settle for a marked reduction in
our individual freedoms.  While freedom is this countries
greatest asset, it is a significant liability when dealing
with terrorism.
     1William L. Chaze, "America Next Target for
Terrorists?"  U.S. News & World Report, 9 January 1984,
pp. 24-30.
     2Ramsey Clark, Frank H. Perey and Yonah Alexander
"Terrorism What Should be our Response?", pamphlet copy of
interview held on 10 November 1981, pp. 3-5.
     3FBI Agent, FBI Academy, lecture given at C&SC,
December 1983.
     4Chase, op. cit., p. 30.
     5Edgar O'Ballance, Language of Violence, pp. 299-308.
     6Claire Sterlinge, The Terror Network, pp. 56-57.
     7O'Ballance, op. cit., pp. 45-60.
     8Chase, op. cit., p. 24.
     9Clar, op. cit., p. 15
    10Christopher Dobson and Ronald Payne, Counterattack:
The West's Battle Against the Terrorists, p. 59.
    11Admiral Watkins, CNO, "Halt Terrorism at Source,"
Washington Times, 2 January 1984, p. 1.
    12Frank Greve, "The Terror Quotient:  U.S. is Guarding
the Home Front," Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 December 1983,
p. 1.
Current News Special Edition.  "Terrorism."  Department of
     the Air Force, News Clipping and Analysis Service,
     29 November 1983.
Current News Special Edition.  "Terrorism."  Department of
     the Air Force, News Clipping and Analysis Service,
     27 December 1983.
Current News Special Edition.  "Terrorism."  Department of
     the Air Force, News Clipping and Analysis Service,
     31 January 1984.
Dobson, Christopher, and Ronald Payne.  Counterattack:  The
     West's Battle Against the Terrorists.  New York:  Facts
     on File, Inc., 1982.
Jenkins, Brian Michael.  The Five Stages of Urban Guerrilla
     Warfare:  Challenge of the 1970's.  The Rand Corporation,
O'Ballance, Edgar.  Language of Violence, California:
     Presidio Press, 1979.
Sterling, Claire.  The Terror Network.  New York:  Holt,
     Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1981.
Terrorism What Should be Our Response?  Washington, D.C. and
     London:  American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy
     Research, 1982.

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