Terrorism is a major threat in today's society. Due to that fact, it is imperative that nations have measures in place to combat the threats of terrorists against their worldwide interests. For the United States, those measures include numerous ways and methods that allow the nation to deter and combat terrorism on a local, national, and international level. This paper will outline those measures and methods, and will discuss their impact on the threat of terrorism. In addition, this paper will discuss the use of those methods in relation to the nuclear threat of the Soviet Union during the cold war, and the recent use of those methods as a deterrent against terrorism forces.
While terrorist threats are numerous in today's world, the methods used by the United States to deter those terrorists, help to ensure that, while some terrorism is inevitable, the attacks of those terrorists are kept at a minimum. In addition, while each tool used to fight terrorism has a contribution, there are limits to each method when used alone. By combining the use of the various methods, the campaign against terrorism can be a successful one (Pillar, 10).
There are many various counterterrorism methods in use by the United States. The first of these is the use of military force, including armed forces, nuclear weapons, and other missile capabilities (Pillar, 11). With the development of precision, guided munitions, the used of armed force is a powerful, but rarely used, counterterrorism tactic (Pillar, 10). Nuclear weapons, tested first in 1945, helped to further the use of these tactics for counterterrorism (Glasstone, "Nuclear Weapons").
The nuclear weapon as a deterrent has worked in multiple instances for the United States. Beginning with the threat of the Cold War, the United States has used the threat of nuclear weapons to thwart enemies (Keller, C6). During the Cold War, the Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, targeting the United States. In turn, President Kennedy threatened nuclear retaliation against the Soviets. The missiles were removed from Cuba later that year (LaFeber, "Cold War"). The threat of the nuclear strategy was deterrence, in that the United States showed that the nation had the ability to destroy the enemy if they did not cease their actions. According to Bill Keller of the New York Times (2001), "It is generally accepted that U.S. nuclear strength deterred the Soviet Union from raining nuclear warheads on America" (Keller, C6).
This nuclear deterrent was again used in Libya in 1986 after terrorist attacks, and again in 1996. At the time, Libya was attempting to build a large underground plant to develop nuclear weapons. In response, Defense Secretary William Perry stated that the U.S. would consider using the B61-11, a nuclear anti-gravity "bunker buster," against them. Shortly thereafter, Libya stopped construction (Friedman, "Mini-Nukes, Bunker Busters, and Deterrence").
In addition to nuclear deterrents, the general use of military force including ground troops, air strikes, and other armed force tactics has also been used to combat and deter terrorism. Following the terrorist attacks by Libya in 1986, Iraq in 1993, and Osama Bin Laden in 1998, the United States employed major military force to combat further attacks. This type of action often involves quick air strikes as a dramatic demonstration of power to deter further terrorist attacks by the enemy. In Iraq, the now infamous "Shock and Awe" campaign was used in this fashion (Pillar, 11). Recently in Afghanistan, both British and American military operations went beyond any counterterrorist actions to date. In the campaign, the forces sought not only to deter current terrorists, but also to flush out future terrorists. In this way, the use of armed forces serves both the deterrent purpose, and the purpose of forcing current activities to cease (Pillar, 12).
In addition to the use of military force, and the threat of nuclear retaliation, the use of intelligence agencies is also key to terrorist deterrence. The use of the C.I.A., F.B.I., and other information agencies provides two primary deterrent elements. One is the identification of terrorist networks, and the knowledge by those networks that the intelligence information is being gathered (Pillar, 12). Using international intelligence makes it increasingly possible to identify, locate, and prosecute those responsible for terrorist activities (National Commission on Terrorism (NCT), 18). As increasing numbers of terrorist groups are identified and stopped, the deterrent factor of this method rises.
In addition, the intelligence agencies serve to bring the terrorist groups to justice, another deterrent. By prosecuting terrorists in criminal court, the United States international fight on terrorist uses the same deterrents the nation currently uses within its own social system (NCT, 26). Obviously, by imprisoning a terrorist, one reduces the threat that the terrorist will strike again. More importantly, the prospect of being caught, tried, and punished can help deter some terrorists from attacking to begin with (Pillar, 8). By combining this with the use of intelligence agencies, international communities can come together to capture and convict terrorists. Again, the knowledge that this practice is in place can help to deter would-be international terrorist from committing acts against countries sharing this information.
This type of deterrence has been well used in the recent war on terrorism. In numerous cases, international intelligence agencies have come together to distribute information about terrorist organizations, and use that information to assist in the detention and arrest of many terrorists. Whether or not the actions have deterred terrorism is not well documented, but according to the National Commission on Terrorism, "Good intelligence is the best weapon against international terrorism" (NCT, 7).
A third form of terrorist deterrent is that of sanctions. The United States has, in the past, used a variety of sanctions to deter countries from the continued support of terrorist activities (Pillar, 12). These sanctions can include the interruption of normal trading practices between the offending country and the United States and their allies. They may also include boycotts of imports from the offending country, and embargos to those countries form the United States and their allies. In addition, any aid previously given to those countries that fund or participate in terrorist activities will stop receiving aid from the United States and their allies, including monetary funding, food, or supplies. Any overseas assets can be frozen, if those assets were gathered through terror activities (Encarta, "Sanctions").
The U.S. has used this tactic in its history, as well. In 1945, the U.S., in combination with the U.N., used economic sanctions to prohibit the sale or export of arms or strategic materials to North Korea. In 1980, the United States placed an embargo on the Soviet Union, to prohibit the sale of grain to them by any American farmer. Recently, the United States imposed sanctions of Afghanistan, and North Korea in efforts to stop their funding of terrorist networks. If a country is no longer allowed to obtain help or imports from the United States, it often attempts to cooperate fully (Encarta, "Sanctions").
Another type of deterrent is that of social deterrents. This may include limits on travel to or from countries that support terrorism, limited issuance of student visas and green cards, or a complete ban on immigration from the offending country. In the case of travel, if a country harbors or allows the travel of terrorists through their county, the United States and its allies can block those countries citizens from travel through any allied country. In effect, this practice stops the flow of terrorists internationally, and attempts to force those countries allowing or supporting terrorism into halting the terrorist activities in their countries. This is an effective deterrent, due to the high levels of international business often conducted within the allied countries. Travel bans essentially stop all external business from occurring (NCT, 13).
Bans on student visas and green cards can also be an effective deterrent, for two reasons. First, some terrorists themselves use the guise of student visas or work cards to gain access into countries they plan to attack. By banning those visas, the United States and its allies can effectively reduce the flow of terrorists into the country. If terrorists are forced to attempt other, more difficult ways to access the country, they may choose not to enter. Secondly, many countries send students to the United States for medical school, and other necessary professional training. If a country us forced to stop this practice, their health care and necessary services are reduced. This in and of its self often forces countries to cooperate with anti-terrorism efforts, thus deterring terrorism in those countries (NCT, 18).
While the use of these types of deterrence is useful in today's fight against terrorism, the combination of these methods is especially effective (Pillar, 10). For example, in the recent fight against the al-Quida network, the United States and its allies have imposed economic sanctions of the country of Afghanistan, believed to harbor members of the terrorist network. The allies have frozen assets, blocked imports and exports, including food and medical supplies, and blocked travel…