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Free «Counterterrorism and American Presence Overseas» Essay Sample

“How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?” Howard Zinn

It would be wrong to consider the counterterrorism strategy was not priority in the US national security before the tragedy of 11 September 2001. During the period from 1958 to 1999, there were adopted more than 40 legal acts concerning war reinforcement against terrorism in a varying degree. These legislative acts empowered state authorities and law enforcement agencies to detect and repress the acts of terrorism in the USA and abroad.

The period of the struggle against terrorism for the United States can be divided into two phases: before and after the events of 11 September 2001. The first phase of counterterrorism is related to 1980’s-1990’s. Three main tendencies can be clearly distinguished, such as:

  1. using military forces against international terrorists mainly bombing their bases and agencies; one of the samples of such policy may be Recompense Operation held during autumn – winter 2001 in Afghanistan. “We have joined with the Afghan people to bring down the Taliban regime – the protectors of the al-Qaida network – and aided a new, democratic government to rise in its place”.(Bush G.W., 2006)
  2. the defense of the United States in the IT technologies field; supervisory control and data systems which are applied in the chemical, pharmaceutical, oil and gas industries, in the water supply system, power engineering and transportation, are more vulnerable since IT technologies have been implemented. The attacks on computer networks, including non-traditional measures (such as computer viruses which are spoken about in the Armed Forces of China and Russia) will play an important role in military operations in the 21st century. In 1998 the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) was founded to unite the representatives of FBI, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation and others in improvement of information exchange.
  3. US assistance to other countries in training new agents for counterterrorism; in 1998-2001 NIPC has trained and educated more than 4000 agents at the federal and local levels, and abroad as well.



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The second phase of the struggle against terrorism has started since autumn 2001. The attacks of 11 September, when thousands of people from 88 countries were killed, have become a new starting point in recognizing the fact of vulnerability of any nation in the face of international terrorism. It has resulted in expansion of anti-terrorism cooperation between different countries. Moreover, according to Stepanova E. (2003, p. 4), those tragical events of September emphasized the need to distinguish at least two types of terrorism: the more traditional type of “conflict-related” or “conflict-generated” terrorism and the more recent, so-called “super-terrorism” or “mega-terrorism”, related to 11 September.

And the strategy itself has got new tendencies to follow. According to Paul Pillar, CRI agent working on Middle East countries and South Asia, “the campaign against terrorism must be as diverse as terrorism itself”. He distinguished the following counterterrorism measures:

  1. Diplomacy that doesn’t recognize borders between the states.
  2. Bringing terrorists to justice. The prospect of being caught and punished may deter terrorists from the action. However, even if it doesn’t have much effect, those declared on the wanted list, will be more constrained in their behavior.
  3. Financial tools by means of blocking of financial assets that belong to terrorists, their groups or the states sponsoring them; a ban on financial support of terrorism. The problem is that cash flows aimed to fund terrorism, is extremely difficult to track
  4. Use of military force that has a considerable weak side: unlike military bases, the terroristic ones do not represent large stationary targets which could be easily destroyed.
  5. Intelligence activity appears to be the least obvious, but in some respects the most important tool to combat terrorism. The disadvantage of this measure lies in the fact that much of data on terrorists and their groups is a fragmentary, ambiguous and often questionable.
  6. The combination of various measures which should complement each other. They can give more than just a summary result together. But if there is no coordination, they can interfere with each other.

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The former president of the USA Bush G.W. (2006, p. 8) declared that ” the United States can no longer simply rely on deterrence to keep the terrorists at bay or defensive measures to thwart them at the last moment. The fight must be taken to the enemy, to keep them on the run. To succeed in our own efforts, we need the support and concerted action of friends and allies.” Davis P.K. & Jenkins B.M. (2002, p. 28) admitted, “in this task of eradication, “deterrence” is a mere tactic…To succeed in the long run, however, the United States must address root causes or a next generation of terrorists will emerge”. They offered to improve the performance for distributed decision-making and action and for rapid centralized decisions.”They [actions] will be decided by central authorities who can see across political, military, and economic boundaries and who can orchestrate actions with other nations and agencies”.( Davis P.K. & Jenkins B.M., 2002, p. 33). The USA must conduct a broad-front strategy, although it’s often believed that it’s unwise and wasteful. “When dealing with some kinds of terrorist organizations, and certainly al Qaeda, the United States has discovered that the beast may have no single head or single heart – there may be no center of gravity to attack”.( Davis P.K. & Jenkins B.M., 2002, p. 23).

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Bush G.W. (2006, p. 9) has described the main pillars in the US strategy against terrorism: “In the short run, the fight involves using military force and other instruments of national power to kill or capture the terrorists, deny them safe haven or control of any nation; prevent them from gaining access to WMD; and cut off their sources of support”. The strategy is aimed also to continue political reforms to protect peaceful Muslims all over the world in their faith. “Responsible Islamic leaders need to denounce an ideology that distorts and exploits Islam for destructive ends and defiles a proud religion”.(Bush G.W., 2006, p. 11). There were also declared three main tools of activity in the struggle against terrorism in Iraq:

  1. Political work is aimed to isolate terroristic individuals who are against peaceful political process, to engage those who agree to turn away from violence and join the US strategy, and to establish stable and effective national institutions that can protect all Iraqis.
  2. Security cooperation with Iraqi Forces that will help to clear the territories of enemy control, to hold areas freed from terrorists with assistance of Iraqi security forces, and to strengthen the local institutions which can provide services and protect civil society.
  3. Economic work with the Iraqi Government on purpose to restore infrastructure and maintain the national economy, to reform it so that it’ll be based on market principles, and to improve Iraqi institutions for developing infrastructure and the general prosperity of all Iraqis.

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Stepanova E. (2003, p. 37) distinguished also social tools as an anti-terrorist preventive measure, such as implementing special public educational and awareness programmes. “They might be specially tailored for and have some impact on younger children, but can hardly be relevant for those young people who are already members of extremist violent organizations. For members of Islamist groups in particular, once they are indoctrinated, the way out is extremely complicated or even impossible”. (Stepanova E., 2003, p. 38)

The United States attach great importance to obtaining from the allied and friendly countries the right of usage their territory and facilities for the US armed forces, as well as creating the advanced operating bases in potentially dangerous and unstable regions. According to Heritage Foundation, nowadays American troops are scattered among 130 countries all over the world. The most of them are concentrated in Arabic countries (about 77000 soldiers), including Iraqi base (50000 soldiers), and also Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.

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All the above-mentioned statements in the table look reasonable and justified, but most of the US forces actions were aimed on deterrence primarily. Such policy had very negative results and caused murders of thousands of civilians. Pena C. (2007, p. 25) came to the conclusion that the beginning of war on terrorism owes much to the location of a large number of American troops on foreign soil. This causes irritation on the part of local residents who, in some cases, swell the ranks of terrorists. This serves as a formal pretext for declaring war on the part of leaders of terroristic groups. This complicates the US tasks, since such military partitioning doesn’t strengthen the security of the USA. The similar conclusion was reached by the professor of University of Chicago Pape R.A. (2003, p. 344), who investigated the statistics of attacks perpetrated by suicide bombers. He estimated that almost all suicide attacks in recent decades were aimed to force foreign troops to leave the territory which was considered the homeland of self-murderers.

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Among the most considerable measure made by the USA within the country, there may be distinguished such as: defending of the IT technologies in the most important fields of infrastructure and industry; intelligence and law-enforcement activities; the tracking of financial flows of terroristic groups; favorable political reform aimed on Muslim civilians. On the contrary, American policy beyond the country is more severe and drastic, namely: armed attacks on the Middle-East and other countries. International terrorism nowadays is not only very dangerous, but also survivable phenomenon. It transforms constantly, and adapts to changing conditions. The events of 11 September 2001 showed that terrorism is characterized by increasing cruelty and scope. Therefore, the struggle against it will succeed with implementation of the comprehensive measures and involvement of more countries – allies by the United States.


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