Counter-terrorism strategy has been a key issue since September 11, 2001. Daniel Byman posits, “Most elements of counter-terrorism strategy address one of two different goals: disrupting the group itself, and its operations; or changing the overall environment to defuse the group’s anger or make it harder to raise money or attract recruits” (pg. 121). However, there are some fundamental flaws concerning these simplistic, straightforward approaches. Byman analyzes seven strategic options to combat terrorism; “Unilateral, multilateral action, containment, defense, diversion, delegitimation, and transforming terrorist breeding ground” (pg. 122). Furthermore, while Byman has made some valid observations, it is necessary to educate the public on terrorists threats, how to prevent them, and understand the threat of radical Islam. Moreover, mitigating and disrupting the financial network of a terrorist organization is essential to stopping the growth of terrorism. This essay will explore key decisions on the different approaches to counter-terrorism and determine which strategies are viable for real world application.
Unilateral and Multilateral action sound idealistic on paper, but when applied in real life it leads to blow back. Unilateral action involves direct action against your enemy. Unilateral action tends to be popular with the public. Byman asserts, “The goal is to kill (or arrest) those who mean to do harm. In practice, such an approach means going well beyond current counter-terrorism policies and using military forces to kill terrorist members and large numbers of supporters wherever they can be found. According to proponents, killing on a mass scale will both reduce the number of terrorists and intimidate those who remain” (pg. 123). Michael Scheuer, who once led the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden task forces, calls for the United States to use World War II tactics to neutralize the terrorism threat. Scheuer states, “That unchanged U.S. policies toward the Muslim world leave America only a military option for defending itself’ and that military force cannot be applied ‘daintily’. Scheuer calls for the United States to return to a Second World War-style use of force, with fast-paced killing and ‘extremely large’ body counts. 6 US allies, Scheuer contends, will not do this dirty work on America’s behalf” (pg. 123).
Even though there have been successful campaigns using multilateral force, such as, Turkey suppressing the PKK’s rebellion, the costs still outweigh the benefits. Byman points to the United States conflict with Al Qaeda as an example:
“First and foremost, the required intelligence capabilities are daunting. Because of al-Qaeda’s global presence (to say nothing of the far-flung presence of its sympathizers), the United States would need a massive intelligence presence in every country with a significant jihadist presence, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Indonesia. The US government...