Despite broad-based efforts by the United States to undermine terrorist
organizations worldwide, the best that this nation can hope for
is a slowdown in their activities, but not their complete elimination,
experts said. The
Bush administration, additionally, needs to expand its anti-terrorism
strategy beyond the campaign in Afghanistan, these experts asserted.
"We will always have terrorism," said Ambassador L. Paul
Bremer, chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism. He was
formerly the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for counter
terrorism during the Reagan administration. "We can reduce
terrorists’ ability to operate on the scale we have seen,"
he said. A realistic goal for the Bush administration would be to
create an environment where terrorism becomes more of a criminal
problem that could be tackled by routine intelligence and law enforcement
operations. Success for the administration, said Bremer, would be
to reach a point in time when terrorism "does not dominate
American foreign policy."
Bremer spoke at a national security conference in Washington, D.C.,
sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.
He had some words of caution for President Bush. According to Bremer,
the administration’s strategy to fight global terrorism is
"wrong for two reasons." For one thing, he said, the anti-terrorism
campaign is not far-reaching enough, because it focuses on the al-Qaeda
organization, but does not target those who have killed more Americans
than any other terrorist group in the world. That group—Hizbollah—"has
to be on the list of terrorist groups we go after," said Bremer.
The administration also must figure out what to do about Saddam
Hussein, regardless of whether the Iraqi dictator had any involvement
in the September 11 attacks. "We are going to have to finish
the job we left unfinished in 1991, because Saddam Hussein considers
himself to still be at war with us," Bremer said.
It has been more than three years since Iraq was subjected to any
United Nations inspections for weapons of mass destruction. "It
is safe to assume he has reconstituted his chemical and biological
programs, at a minimum, and perhaps his nuclear program," said
Bremer. Saddam Hussein, he added, will be a "major threat to
regional stability after the United States deals with radical Islam
Bremer charged that U.S. policies against Iraq have been ineffective
at best. The United States imposed economic sanctions that did not
hurt the Iraqi government, but gravely harmed the country’s
population, which has suffered from lack of food and medicine. "It
would be hard actually to conceive of a worse policy, except one
which started an inspection regime and then stopped it, which is
also what we did," he said. "It is a mark of fecklessness
of American foreign policy towards Iraq over the last decade, and
we still have to talk about it."
Bremer’s views are shared by some officials within the Bush
administration. Among them is Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense
Policy Board, an advisory panel to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"I think Iraq should be the principal next target, because
it poses the greatest threat to the United States," Perle told
the Defense Writers Group, in Washington, D.C. "That is not
because of anything that Saddam Hussein might have done in connection
with September 11 or in connection with al-Qaeda, although, as I
think everyone now knows, there is evidence linking Saddam to al-Qaeda."
Additionally, he said, there are other reasons to take action against
Saddam. "He possesses weapons of mass destruction, including
anthrax, nerve agents of various kinds, other biological weapons,
and he is working hard to acquire nuclear weapons. No one can say
when he will succeed."
Bombing alone won’t work against Saddam, said Perle. "The
only way to deal with [him] is to destroy his regime, which was
the only way to deal with the Taliban. I believe we can do that
in much the way that we’ve gone after the Taliban—that
is, not by ourselves, but working together with others who have
as much reason to want to see Saddam removed as we do."
According to Bremer, U.S. foreign policy is now at a crossroads,
as it was at the end of World War II. In the late 1940s, the nation’s
leaders came up with a policy of countering Soviet Communism, which
was pursued over the next 50 years "with great patience, resilience,
relentlessness and skill—and that’s the kind of strategy
that we need now," Bremer said. "We have to defend across
the entire range of our vulnerabilities."
U.S. policymakers, he said, should view the current terrorist threat
under an entirely different light than the threats of past decades.
The terrorism in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Bremer said,
was motivated largely by narrow political objectives. In Europe,
particularly, Marxist Leninist groups, for example, wanted to chase
the United States out of military bases in Germany.
"Most of these groups, including many of the Middle East groups
which were active in those years, used terrorism to get the press
to pay attention to their cause, because they believed they had
a broad cause that had public support," said Bremer. "These
old-style terrorists had a self-imposed limit on the number of casualties
that they would kill."
In the early 1980s, President Reagan’s strategy to fight
terrorism was shaped around the notion that terrorists were criminals
and had to be brought to justice.
By the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the face of terrorism
had changed, Bremer said. "The new terrorists are not motivated
by narrow political goals," he said. Their driving forces are
"sometimes hatred, sometimes revenge and often ideological
or religious extremism." These groups, he added, "are
not self-restrained in the number of casualties that they inflict,
and in fact, they may want to inflict more casualties."
Statistics show that in the 1990s, the number of international terrorism
incidents went down, while the number of casualties rose. Also,
fewer incidents were claimed by a particular group and a growing
percent of the incidents involved suicides, Bremer noted. From 1968
to 1998, less than 2 percent of the terrorist attacks involved suicides.
"The old-style terrorists did not want to be caught. They did
not want to die," said Bremer. "I would argue that this
new style of terrorism has rendered irrelevant two-thirds of the
old strategy we had."
The way to beat terrorists is to conduct a global campaign "at
the wholesale level," said Douglas Feith, undersecretary of
defense for policy. "There are simply too many terrorist organizations
and cells for us to be chasing after each individually," he
said at the IFPA conference.
A wholesale approach means that the United States must ensure that
states are not harboring terrorist groups within their borders,
he said. "We have to see to it that other governments deny
terrorists the territory from which to operate." Some states,
he said, "may have to be compelled; some may have to be persuaded."
Michelle Van Cleave, president of National Security Concepts Inc.,
said that "the terrorists rely upon as their strength, their
amorphous nature, their diverse cell populations, their reliance
on Internet communications for continuity and connectivity, their
lack of fixed location, their mobility across borders."
Regardless of which strategy it pursues, the United States must
stick to a basic set of principles, said Feith. "There is a
temptation often to sacrifice principle to short-term diplomatic
convenience, cutting deals with terrorists to try to solve a particular
problem." That is a bad policy, he said, because it creates
a "significant incentive for people to engage in terrorism."
Sometimes, however, there is no choice but to cut deals, said Avis
Bolen, assistant secretary of state in the bureau of arms control.
A case in point is the recent negotiations with Pakistan, which
became a valuable U.S. ally in the war against the Taliban. "Some
of the problems that we are facing today lie in a decade of neglect
of Afghanistan and Pakistan after we thought they were no longer
as important," she said. Bolen added that the United States
has to "think in terms of the countries that are going to be
important to our effort, and this needs to be a long-term effort.
It cannot be just an ad-hoc alliance."
For the anti-terrorist campaign to be successful, it is also important
that the political objectives be stated very clearly, said retired
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command.
"If you want to build a coalition of the willing, the military
should be at the core," he said. But when political objectives
are expressed in "soft terms," he added, the translation
to military objectives becomes "very hard to do."
Former director of the White House drug-war office and retired
Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey cautioned about the need to set reasonable
goals in military and diplomatic efforts. "I think one of the
worst things we ever came up with was the notion of exit strategies,"
McCaffrey said. "Sometimes, the words ‘end game’
are inappropriate when we talk about U.S. military strategy."