Dr. LESLIE GELB (President, Council on Foreign Relations): Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Leslie Gelb. I’m president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And welcome, as well, to our audience from C-SPAN.
A specter looms over the world. It’s not the specter of armies crossing borders, invading other nations. It’s not even the specter of nuclear war. It is the looming horror of terrorism. Call it what you will, call them what you will—assassins, national liberators, terrorists. It’s a problem that has now come to the forefront of foreign policy.
The Council on Foreign Relations has established a mechanism that we call policy impact panels to deal with major foreign policy issues such as this one. This is our sixth policy impact panel at the Council on Foreign Relations. The idea of the panel is very simple. We want to do two things. First, to try to establish, insofar as we can, the facts of the situation. In this case, just how serious is the problem of terrorism? Secondly, we want to look at the policy options. What can we really do to cope with that problem? The bluster of ideology and politics aside.
The people who put together the policy impact panels for the Council on Foreign Relations are Karen Sughrue, our vice president, and her assistants, Erika Burk and Irina Faskianos. And I thank them very much for their good and continuing efforts.
Our panel on terrorism today is very distinguished and led by a very distinguished former congressman from Oklahoma, Dave McCurdy, who has been, for many years, a genuine expert in national security affairs. He is now the chairman of his own business consulting group, the McCurdy Group, and I turn the proceedings over to him. Thank you very much.
Mr. DAVE McCURDY (Panel Chair; former United States Representative (D-Oklahoma), and Chairman, McCurdy Group LLC): Thank you, Les.
I’d like to open this session by introducing my fellow panel members, who are both accomplished leaders in their fields. Nadine Strossen is president of the American Civil Liberties Union and professor at New York Law School. And Ken Adelman is former director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan administration and currently vice president of the Institute for Contemporary Studies.
We’re here today to talk about the issue of terrorism. While international terrorism continues a downward trend, attacks on US interests, both at home and abroad, have jumped over the past two years. Incidents like the terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, at the World Trade Center in New York City and in Oklahoma City and at the Olympics have made many Americans more wary than ever. One thing is sure: Terrorism is no longer something that happens in other countries and to other people; terrorism has come to America from overseas and from within our own borders.
To discuss the changing nature of terrorism and the adequacy of our policies to fight it, we have assembled a distinguished group of speakers. They are Jerry Bremer, former ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism and currently a managing director of Kissinger Associates; Brian Jenkins, deputy chairman of Kroll Associates; Wolfgang Reinicke, member of the senior research staff at The Brookings Institution; and Shibley Telhami, associate professor of the department of government and director of Near Eastern studies at Cornell University. And in the second session, Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the US Department of Justice.
Before we begin, my fellow panelist, Ms. Strossen, would like to make a short opening statement.
Professor NADINE STROSSEN (President, American Civil Liberties Union): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I’m very happy to participate in this important forum. As president of the American Civil Liberties Union, my central concern here is that whatever steps we take to combat terrorism do not compromise our fundamental rights. Obviously, our liberty, as well as our lives, can be jeopardized directly by terrorist threats, and we should take reasonable, constructive steps to forestall any such threats. But it is important to remember that our lives and our liberty can also be jeopardized indirectly by terrorist threats to the extent that we respond to such threats by giving our own government agents powers to invade or even destroy our privacy, our freedom and our physical security and integrity. If we overreact to panic to terrorist threats by sacrificing the freedoms that make our country unique, the terrorists will have succeeded in their ultimate aim to destroy our country.
Unfortunately, too many politicians have responded to the very real threats, and the deserved outrage and anger over the incidents that Chairman McCurdy described by resorting to scapegoating of civil liberties, a supposed quick fix that has been used throughout our history recurrently that is doubly flawed. It is as ineffective a response to terrorist danger as it is unprincipled in terms of sacrificing our liberty. This is a danger that was underscored recently by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She said, ‘It cannot be too often stated that the greatest threats to our constitutional freedoms come in times of crisis.’
So as we hear from our distinguished witnesses today, my overriding concern will be to avoid measures that do not make us more safe, but only less free.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you, Ms. Strossen. Ken, you may...
Mr. KENNETH L. ADELMAN (former Director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and Vice President, Institute for Contemporary Studies): Let me just say that I am honored to be here. It is far more enjoyable, Mr. Chairman, to be up here next to the angels than down there, where I spent many years in looking at people like you way up there.
Mr. McCURDY: Still enjoy being up here.
Mr. ADELMAN: And given the choice, I’d much rather be at your side than across the table and lower than you.
Let me say that while I very much think this is a very important subject, I think—I come to this thinking to myself that there may not be the kind of enormous problems that we have been thinking about on the heels of the Oklahoma and the Atlanta bombings. And why do I say that? For three reasons: Number one is, I think that without the system of a support system that the Soviet Union had funded all those years, with the Czechs involved, the Germans involved and others involved, that it’s going to be a lot tougher to have any kind of organized or effective terrorist campaign against the West.
Number two is, I think that there is a rationality element in there: that the terrorists have found that it just doesn’t pay; it doesn’t advance any of their political goals to pursue terrorism. Quite the contrary, it diminishes support for that. I’m not talking about nihilism or crazy people. That will always come about. But I’m saying organized terrorism for political goal, I don’t see as effective, and I think that the lesson, after a while, gets learned.
And number three is, I think that the technology is favoring those who are doing more the enforcement than those of the terrorism. In other words, the flow of technology is moving in our direction. I come to this hearing with those three views, but as Ross Perot says, I’’m all ears. And I’m anxious to hear, especially our experts, and yourself and my fellow panel members, who know a lot more about the subject, I have to admit, than I do.
Mr. McCURDY: Well, thank you, Ken. And I’m not sure we’re here to fix it, as Ross Perot would say, but we are here to learn more about the problems and the threat facing US interests and our allies abroad. And we’re here to discuss the scope of the problem, what policy options are available and responses. And then, obviously, we’re concerned about coordination with our allies.
Our first speaker—and, gentlemen, having been through this a few times before, we’ve asked you to keep your remarks to about seven minutes—and I’ll try to enforce that—in order that we can complete the statements and have questions from the panel and from each other, actually.
With that, our first witness is Brian Jenkins, deputy chairman of Kroll Associates. Mr. Jenkins, thank you for being here.
Mr. BRIAN JENKINS (Deputy Chairman, Kroll Associates): Thank you very much.
One of the principle difficulties in formulating policy to combat terrorism is how to assess the threat. It makes a difference. And will terrorism in the future closely resemble terrorism in the past? Or will terrorists escalate their violence? Will terrorists employ weapons of mass destruction? Will terrorists go nuclear? My remarks this morning will try to briefly describe some of today’s terrorist threats, to point out some of the trends in terrorism and how these may affect terrorism tomorrow.
It is important that we begin with an accurate image of the adversary. Although we may view terrorists as maniacal fanatics, their actions generally are calculated to achieve political goals: the reordering of society, independence, overthrow of despised regimes, the furtherance of national policy. And this does suggest some degree of rationality. However, the motives that drive terrorism are changing. Ideology is less important today as an engine of terrorism, although Marxist-inspired guerrillas still fight on in several countries. Ethnic divisions remain both a traditional cause and a source of new armed conflicts in the world. Religious fanaticism, a powerful motive for violence throughout history, once again seems on the rise and, indeed, there is concern that religious-inspired extreme behavior may increase as we approach the millennium.
These changes in motives affect the quality of terrorist actions. Religious fanaticism and racial hatred are motives that easily lend themselves to atrocities. Organizationally, terrorism has become more fluid. There are fewer identifiable terrorist organizations, more examples of actions by ad hoc conspiracies that form within galaxies of like-minded extremists. And this, obviously, increases the problem for intelligence. A handful of states continue to sponsor terrorist activity as a means of dealing with domestic foes abroad or furthering foreign policy objectives. But because of sanctions and the threat of military retaliation, they have become more circumspect. It is harder to prove connections now.
Tactically, the terrorists tend to be imitators rather than innovators. The terrorist repertoire has evolved very slowly over the last quarter-century. The need to always achieve success and to maintain, at least, some consensus among terrorists causes them to be conservative in their decision-making.
Up to now, most terrorist violence has been symbolic, not murderous. Simply killing a lot of people is seldom a terrorist objective. The fact is that terrorists have always had the capacity to kill in larger numbers if mayhem were their objective. The fact that they have not done so is not a result of technological limitations, but rather a matter of self-imposed constraints. Wanton killing is seen as counterproductive.
Now, obviously, not all of these constraints apply equal to all groups, and the constraints are not immutable. Long-term struggles tend to encourage escalation. Ethnic hatreds allow wholesale massacres. And when terrorists believe they have the mandate of God, conventional constraints may not apply at all. There is some evidence that the constraints are eroding. Terrorism has become more lethal. The percentage of incidents with fatalities is gradually increasing and, indeed, seven of the 10 bloodiest terrorist incidents have all occurred within the last decade. Large-scale indiscriminate violence is today’s terrorist reality. Now this may take the form of truck bombs, massive quantities of explosives on wheels or more sophisticated, small explosive devices designed to elude security systems and bring down airliners or attacks on public transport systems—all actions calculated to kill in quantity.
Still, in its present form, terrorism does not yet pose a major threat to human life. Terrorism represents only a fraction of the total death toll from ordinary crime, and it is miniscule compared to the casualties of conventional war. However—and I think this is an important issue of policy—body count is not the soul criterion nor necessarily the most important criterion for measuring terrorism. Terrorism creates alarm, causes national crises. It erodes confidence in institutions and then challenges social order.
Now how much can we expect to see terrorists escalate? The thing I want to point out here is, it is possible that we will see escalation, but there are limits. First of all, it’s simply hard to kill a lot of people. Of over 10,000 terrorist incidents in the last quarter-century, fewer than a dozen involved 100 or more fatalities. The fact that bombings comprised the majority of all terrorist attacks tells us something. Bombings are easy to do, especially when the bombers don’t have to penetrate security. It’s easy to escape. And no matter where the bomb goes off, it is a success if the bomb goes off. Fear of capture or death remain powerful deterrents, even to political and religious fanatics. Indeed, in the entire history of terrorism, suicidal attacks, although they cause great concern, are rare and they are limited to specific cultures or religious belief systems.
Terrorists could escalate merely by increasing the volume of large-scale attacks, but that’s not easy, either. We have seen isolated terrorist spectaculars, like the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings. Historically, attempts to coordinate simultaneous attacks are met with only limited success. Terrorist offensives or surges of activity have quickly declined to sporadic low-level attacks. A sustained campaign of significant acts of terrorism requires organization, resources, logistics, above all, an ability to maintain secrecy. And that’s extremely difficult, especially as the carnage mounts and the group comes under increasing external pressure from authorities—authorities who may be operating under different rules—and as internal pressure mounts from those inside the organization with growing doubts. To survive, the group would had to have had time to prepare for lengthy clandestine operations without attracting attention to its preparations and to maintain absolute obedience among its followers. This, again, has implications for intelligence.
It is problematical whether we can prevent the isolated attacks. In some cases, yes; in some cases, no. With effort, we probably can identify and prevent or at least interrupt campaigns of significant terrorist actions.
Will terrorists enter the realm of weapons of mass destruction? There is no inexorable progression from truck bombs into chemical weapons, biological weapons or nuclear weapons although, clearly, the Aum Shinrikyo sect’s use of nerve gas in Tokyo might inspire further incidents of that type. Prior to the Tokyo incidence, we did have a rich history of the use of chemical substances, but these were involved in criminal extortion schemes or as a mode of economic warfare, not mass murder or in the unrealized plans of madmen. The few actual attempts that caused mass murder or, at least, mass use of chemical or biological substances were associated with religious cults.
The fact is, here again, it’s hard to do. Aum Shinrikyo was a large, well-financed, scientifically staffed organization. It managed to produce a limited amount of an impure form of nerve gas and an even cruder method of dispersal. It is clear from the examination of that attack that escape was important to the members of the organization. And as a result of that attack, the group was destroyed, a lesson, hopefully, that will be realized by other groups. And as a result of the Tokyo attack, the authorities are now watching for this type of event more closely, or at least they should be.
As for the future, I believe that threats are more likely than actual use of chemical or biological weapons. Small-scale attacks are more likely than large-scale attacks. Crude dispersal devices in an enclosed environment are perhaps the most likely mode of attack, with casualties potentially running in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands mentioned in some of the more lurid novels.
Now fear that the collapse of the Soviet Union will result in the emergence of a nuclear black market has raised concerns about the possibility of nuclear terrorism. Indeed, there have been a number of incidents in which suppliers have demonstrated that they have access to small quantities. There have been no completed sales yet in this nascent black market insofar as we know, but we can’t be sure that all is known. Organized crime, which has acted in the former Soviet Union, does not appear to have entered the business yet and it’s not clear if they will enter the trade in the future. Obviously, the emergence of a black market—nuclear black market would raise the danger.
In sum, looking ahead to the future, terrorism tomorrow will be different. It will be bloodier. The—more large-scale attacks are likely. But terrorists’ entry into the domain of weapons of mass destruction, while it remains a possibility, is neither inevitable nor necessarily probable.
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for setting the stage and providing a good background for our discussions.
Prof. STROSSEN: May I ask one follow-up question for clarification?
Mr. McCURDY: For clarification?
Prof. STROSSEN: Yes. I just want to be sure, Mr. Jenkins, all the way through, you didn’t distinguish between incidents in the United States and in other parts of the world. So is the pattern that you describe both presently and in the future applicable here as well as in other parts of the world to the same extent?
Mr. JENKINS: In my remarks, I was referring to worldwide trends, and I think clearly, the World Trade Center bombing and Oklahoma City bombing would indicate that the United States is not going to be immune to these worldwide trends.
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you.
Our next witness on the panel today is Jerry Bremer, former ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism and managing director of the Kissinger Associates. Ambassador.
Ambassador L. PAUL BREMER III (former Ambassador-at-Large for Counter-terrorism and Managing Director, Kissinger Associates): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Twice in the last 30 years, terrorism has presented the West with what I would call a conceptual challenge. The first time was when terrorism, in a modern sense, burst on the world in the late ‘60s. The West had a very hard time figuring out how to deal with it, largely because we didn’t understand what we were dealing with. And for most of the 1970s, the governments of the West, including the United States, were running around trying to find a policy which they couldn’t find because we were unclear as to what terrorism was.
I would argue that it took most of the decade of the ‘70s to get that straight, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the West finally arrived at a coherent counterterrorist policy. And I think we now may be at a second crossroads in the fight against terrorism. In a way, I see, as to some degree Mr. Jenkins does, two-step changes in the kind of terrorism we’re facing. One of them is a move towards more religious-oriented terrorism. And the second is a possible shift, as Mr. Jenkins has talked about, from conventional to mass destruction terrorism.
I want to talk about both of those briefly, but, obviously, we still continue to face what I would call the old kinds of terrorism, particularly the old-fashioned radical Palestinian terrorist groups based largely in Syria. These are the familiar secular-oriented Marxist groups that we’ve been familiar with for the last 20 years. We will continue to face ethnic-based terrorism, and we’ve seen a lot of that, particularly in Europe in the IRA, the vast terrorist ETA and the PKK in Turkey. And finally, we continue to have state support for terrorism. While Mr. Adelman is correct that the fall of the Soviet Union certainly removes an important international structure for terrorism, it nonetheless is the case that states do continue to support terrorism. Indeed, except for the ethnic groups, every one of the most dangerous terrorist groups today has some kind of a state sponsor or state sponsorship.
Now the two new terrorist threats that I spoke of—religious terrorism and mass casualty terrorism—present us with a new conceptual challenge. And it seems to me the question is: Are we going to take a decade to try to sort out this new conceptual challenge as we did the first time? Religious terrorism Mr. Jenkins has spoken to, but I would make this contrast. In the 1970s and 1980s, most of the terror we were familiar with was primarily political in orientation and pragmatic. The Middle East terrorist groups wanted to destroy Israel or break America’s connection with Israel, and they had a very pragmatic, in a sense, political goal.
Similarly, the left-wing groups, Marxist groups in Europe—that were active in Europe with some support from the Soviet Union wanted to break America’s ties with NATO and get us out of Europe or break NATO—very pragmatic and political goals. And in the design of their attacks, they wanted to, in effect, draw attention to themselves, get support for their cause and try to—try to get public appreciation for what they were doing. I would argue that this acted as an important constraint on the kind of terrorism they were willing to carry out, because, obviously, if they went too far, they were going to lose public support; and, indeed, that’s what happened. It was precisely because they went too far in the end of the 1970s that the West did come around with a counterterrorist policy in the ‘80s.
I would argue that these constraints don’t apply as much to the new religious and millenarian kinds of groups. These groups don’t seek public support from the West. Indeed, their objective is revenge or expressing hatred for us. And to some of these terrorists, in particular the West and the United States represents ‘the great Satan.’ Whereas the secular terrorists that we faced in the ‘70s and ‘80s hated America because of whom we supported, these new groups hate the United States for what it is. They don’t seek a shift in our policies, but the destruction of our society, and I would argue that’s an important change.
This presents a new conceptual challenge, I think, because most Americans don’t like to believe that people hate us. They like to think that there’s simply a misunderstanding. In fact, many of these terrorist groups hate us precisely because they understand us. Most of the terrorists who took over at the American Embassy in Teheran were educated in the United States. Almost all of the people who were arrested in the World Trade Center bombing were living in the United States. And there is increasing evidence that terrorist groups are active collecting funds in the United States for use in terrorist attacks abroad.
The second conceptual challenge we face, which, again, Mr. Jenkins has touched on, is the possibility of NBC terrorism—nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism; terrorism with vast casualties. In the 1970s and ‘80s, I think those of us who worked on counterterrorism believed that there were four kinds of constraints that kept terrorists from moving up the ladder to mass casualty. There were, first of all, conceptual constraints. The argument was, it was difficult to find a symmetry between a threat you could make of a radiological or chemical or biological weapon and the demand you were asking. If you hijack a plane and ask for seven prisoners to be released, there’s a certain symmetry in the demands, and a government can deal with it. But what exactly is it you ask for to say, ‘I’m going to set off a radiological device in downtown Paris?’ What is—how do you make a symmetrical demand?
Secondly, it was assumed that there were political constraints against the use of mass destruction. I’ve touched on it already. If you are in a terrorist group which is trying to get public attention and support, then you are, in a way, politically constrained from moving up the ladder to superterrorism.
Thirdly, we believe there were technical constraints. These kinds of weapons are very dangerous to handle for the terrorists, too. And we believed that it—they would, therefore, be constrained from trying to move into this area.
And finally, it was argued by counterterrorist experts in the ‘70s and ‘80s that there were psychological constraints. No terrorist group, so it was believed, would want to be the first group to use these kinds of weapons.
Now I would argue that all four of these constraints have, unfortunately, eroded. First of all, the political and conceptual constraints, as I’ve already indicated, are based on two assumptions: that terrorist groups wanted something in return for not carrying out an act—that is to say, there was something that they wanted in return; and secondly, that they wanted public understanding or support for their cause. Obviously, with the shift from the political pragmatic to the ideological religious terror means a shift in their objectives.
Other groups, like the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, are sort of millenarinists who, in fact, could argue—whose leaders could argue, as the leader of Aum Shinrikyo did argue, that the kind of mass destruction, in fact, helps their hold over their followers. So I think both the political and conceptual constraints have faded. The technical constraints are fading in the sense that, much more now than before, anybody can get access to information about how to produce chemical, biological weapons. It’s available on the Internet. You can look up and find the—an accurate formula for anthrax on the Internet. And, of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union does raise legitimate concerns about the possibility of radiological devices falling into hands. Finally, the psychological barrier has, obviously, been broken, not only by the use of nerve gas by the Aum Shinrikyo, but by the prolific use of chemical weapons by the Iraqis and the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war in the ‘80s and the pusillanimous reaction of the foreign international community to that first use of a chemical weapon.
Let me then say, also, where this comes together is with—where the problem of NBC comes together is in looking at the issue of state terrorism. I think, Mr. Chairman, that the Gulf War presented a very clear lesson to potential regional pariah states or aggressive states, and that is that even a lavishly equipped conventional army is no match for the American Army. And one lesson, therefore, is to tempt people like Saddam Hussein to move up the ladder themselves to lift their biological or chemical capabilities. We know now that Saddam Hussein did have chemical capabilities deployed on the front line. And we know that many of the states which are involved in sponsoring terrorism—Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq—all have programs in precisely nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. And many of them are developing ballistic missile capability for the delivery of these weapons.
Now this is slightly off the terrorism point, but once states which sponsor terrorism acquire these kinds of capabilities, there is a severe danger, I think, in the coming decade of leakage of this kind of technology to the kinds of terrorist groups that those people support.
My conclusion is that terrorism will continue to be a problem, and the question about the success or failure of meeting its—the challenge will be three questions: Do policymakers have a clear concept of the threat and the strategy to deal with it? Secondly, are they dedicating sufficient time, energy and resources to gathering reliable, usable intelligence on terrorist threats? And finally, most important, do our leaders have the will to act vigorously and consistently against terrorists?
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you, Ambassador.
Our next witness is Dr. Telhami, who’s the associate professor of the department of government and director of Near Eastern studies at Cornell University. Dr. Telhami.
Dr. SHIBLEY TELHAMI (Associate Professor, Department of Government, and Director of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University): Thank you very much.
I will limit my remarks to Middle Eastern terrorism, which is of interest to a lot of people. And by way of introduction, let me just make a couple of points. One is that the Middle East is not the leading region in world—in the world in terms of the frequency of terrorism, nor of anti-US terrorism. In 1995, for example, Latin America was the leading region for anti-US terrorism with 62 incidents; Europe with 21; Europe and Asia—I’m sorry—Middle East and Asia were tied with six. So, clearly, it’s not the place where most of the terrorist activity takes place. Also, most terrorism in the Middle East is neither state sponsored, nor does it target Israel or the US. An example: The places where most terrorism takes place are Algeria and Turkey. And both of them face mostly domestic terrorism, not one motivated by either international sponsors or international objectives.
Keeping these—this introduction in mind, let me just make four general points on fighting Middle Eastern terrorism. Number one, to be effective in garnering regional support in the fight on terrorism, we must not let our general foreign policy objectives intrude into the way we frame the fight, lest we lose credibility. This is too important a fight, I think, to be taken lightly. Let me give you two examples. One, in terms of holding the right people responsible when terrorism takes place. An example of this is that act on US forces in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Certainly, if we have evidence linking a state to that violence, that is serious business, and that state ought to be punished and it ought to be punished even if only punitively. This is too serious an attack on US forces to be taken lightly. That is why we can’t take it too lightly. That is why we can’t, certainly, accuse people without having evidence and then not even follow through, because that’s when we lose credibility in the region.
The second example is about how we define terrorism. It is important that we keep our concepts clear and against—free of intruding political objectives. The suicide attacks against Israelis in the streets of Tel Aviv—that is terrorism, plain and simple, ugly and murderous. The attacks by Hezbollah groups in southern Lebanon on Lebanese ground against Israeli soldiers, while undesirable, we cannot call it terrorism, or else we’re not going to get anybody to support us in the region on this issue. You can say that it’s undesirable. All violent means of resolving conflict should be opposed by the US. But we must make clear what is terrorism and what’s not terrorism if you want people to come on board in this fight in the region.
The second broad point that I want to make is about state sponsors. Certainly, state sponsorship is a problem, and perhaps an increasing one, no doubt. But I think you must couple your policy of being tough, which is an essential ingredient, with a carrot. And let me give you an example here that is very interesting pertaining to Iran, which has been certainly addressed by American foreign policy. We have pursued a policy of getting very tough with Iran, in fact, escalating the sanctions on Iran over time, with the hope that they would stop supporting international terrorism. The US government position is that after the many years of tough policy, Iraq—Iran’s sponsorship is actually increasing. Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is increasing rather than decreasing.
And, in fact, one can make a very strong argument that their incentive to carry out—to sponsor terrorism is increasing because, in the absence of engagement, they’re under the impression that we may be out to get the government. They see all sorts of evidence in terms of congressional allocations for covert operations, our military presence. And, in fact, frankly, they have no resources to be able to meet the US conventionally. In fact, their military budget—conventional military budget has gone down at the very same time that our argument is that their budget on terrorism has increased. Terrorism is cheap. It is a cheap way of pursuing policy. And, therefore, I think we have to reconsider a policy of all stick with no carrot.
A third point that I would like to make is, yes, do not reward terrorism. Terrorists would not be rewarded. That is something that we certainly should start with. But the fight with terrorists is not as direct as is sometimes implied by this slogan. Terrorism by definition is political violence, and those sponsoring it aim at the sympathy and allegiance of a desperate population. And, clearly, while you can’t reward directly the terrorists, there is an arena where you can fight them with positive steps.
Let me give you an example in the case of the Palestinian issue. There was a peace process that was working. In the winter of last year, there were elections. It looked like things were moving forward. There were suicide bombings that were very ugly against Israelis. The immediate response within the Palestinian community, the target of these attacks, was exactly the opposite of what the bombers expected. Because the peace process was working, in fact, there was sympathy even for the Israelis for the first time among Palestinians. Thousands of people demonstrated against the bombings. And the poll taken the day after the third bombing indicated that Hamas support within the Palestinian community dropped to 14 percent.
Within two weeks, after the closures of the territories, which were interpreted by the Palestinians to be a form of collective punishment, the polls indicated that the support for Hamas increased to 30 percent. The arena, of course, is—arena for that population allegiance, not just the fight—the technical fight vs. terrorism—yes, we do need toughness; yes, we do need technical measures. But we can’t lose sight of that arena which is the aim of the terrorists; otherwise, we wouldn’t call it terrorism, because by definition, terrorism is defined as violence for political objectives.
The fourth point that I’d like to make is that, yes, terrorism in the Middle East will likely continue, even if you have an Arab-Israeli peace, even if you succeed in resolving the problems. The truth of the matter is, I—as I suggested earlier, much of this violence is not related either to Israel or to the US or is it as a result of state sponsorship. Algeria, again, is a good example. But let’s face it. What concerns US foreign policy most is not really terrorism in general in the region. Very few people have really paid attention to terrorism within Algeria. What concerns the US most is terrorism against the US and Israel.
For example, in 1995, in fact, we had a sharp decline in the frequency—the overall frequency of terrorism in the Middle East. But it was also the top—it was also the year when the terrorist threat was highlighted very much in the American arena and in US foreign policy and was made more of an issue. And the reason for it is obvious: the terrorist attack against US forces in Saudi Arabia and the suicide bombings in Israel. And those were of concern not only because of the bloodshed, but also because of the political consequences for American foreign policy.
And in that kind of arena—that is, attacks against the US and Israel—an Arab-Israel peace would certainly diminish the US and Israel as a target of terrorism if it does not address terrorism in general in the region. And that is why I think we should keep in mind that terrorism and fighting terrorism is one more reason that makes the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict a very important American objective, a very important American interest.
Let me end with a note about the environment where terrorism thrives. If you look in the region where terrorism tends to thrive, you find that it thrives either in a situation of anarchy, like we’ve seen during the Lebanese civil war, or in a situation of total repression, where people don’t have any other way to address the political problems that they have. That suggests to me that you certainly need an enforcer; you do need a stick in the fight vs.--vis a vis terrorism. But it also suggests to me that the fight cannot work, because even in cases of total repression, you have an increase in the number of terrorist incidents; you do need a stick. And that is the point that I’d like to keep focused on. Thank you.
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you, Dr. Telhami.
Our next witness for this panel is Dr. Wolfgang Reinicke, who’s a member of the senior research staff at The Brookings Institution.
Dr. WOLFGANG REINICKE (Member, Senior Research Staff, The Brookings Institution): Thank you very much. I’d like to thank, first of all, the Council for hosting this meeting, and it’s a privilege for me to testify to this distinguished panel.
Initially, of course, you might wonder why international terrorism has suddenly surged to the top of policymakers’ agenda, because the trend, as the speakers have indicated during the last decade, do not necessarily warrant this. The number, in fact, has been declining. What has changed, however, is, first, that the more recent attacks and those that will happen in the future have the potential to be much more violent and deadly, and this has been talked about. And second—and this is the area around which I want to focus my remarks on—we have seen the end of the bipolar structure of the international system, which has drawn the attention of policymakers to other challenges, many of which are of a transnational nature, including international terrorism.
The nature of that threat arising from these transnational challenges, however, is fundamentally different, and we have to understand that if we want to develop an effective and efficient cost-saving policies. The basic threat to the United States and the Western alliance during the Cold War was territorial in nature. Our institutions, the infrastructure, the instruments and policies charged with providing security were a reflection of the principal fear that the Soviet Union would violate the territorial integrity of the Western alliance. Terrorism does not.
Terrorism does not threaten the territorial integrity of a country, nor does it represent necessarily another territoriality defined unit, such as a state. It is neither the goal of terrorists to invade countries, nor would they have the capacity to do so. Terrorists hit selectively at small targets, groups or even individuals. Terrorists’ threats are diffused. They’re difficult to target and fix. They are difficult to measure, and it’s often difficult to associate them with a particular country. State-sponsored terrorism is by no means the most important form of terrorism.
The non-territorial nature of terrorism is amplified by the fact that it relies upon and feeds off other emerging structures in the international system that not only defy borders, but the success of which is predicated on cutting across borders. We are witnessing the evolution of a number of cross-national networks pertaining to technology transfer, the processing and dissemination of information, financial intermediation, transport and, last but not least, research and development that are the backbone of an emerging global production structure.
Terrorists are parasites that attach themselves to these legal networks, feed off them, cutting easily across into increasingly permeable borders. The declining importance of territory as both the source and destination of a threat have led to an information deficit on behalf of policymakers. Now for borders to take on the role of providing such information would have severe consequences for the continued spread of globalization with, of course, considerable economic costs. And, indeed, I would argue that this is no longer a realistic option.
Governments need to enhance their information by intercepting elsewhere—that is, on both sides of the border, or if you will, upstream and downstream—of an evolving terrorist threat. Downstream does require greater transparency and disclosure at home. And I’m aware of the potential consequences, both as far as access to proprietary information is concerned as well as the alleged implications for privacy of individual citizens. And clearly, there is no easy answer to this issue. In essence, we’re talking about systemic risk management, and we have to ask ourselves: How much risk, as a society, are we willing to take? Our financial and other commitments during the Cold War indicated that we were unwilling to take any risk at all.
However, such an exercise in collective action will be difficult to repeat in the face of these non-territorial threats, precisely because they are diffused and, at least for now, do not threaten the collective security of the United States. The debates and divisions that have erupted over the transparency and disclosure issue in this country reflects that and remind us of yet another hidden strength that terrorism has. I think the only real hope that we can have in resolving this debate, or at least limiting the import of its outcome is to focus on combating terrorism at its source.
And let me frame this discussion by looking at a popular instrument that is sanctions. We can now see that they are not a very good match for the kind of threat that terrorism is. To be effective, sanctions much be directed at a particular territory and they must be tight. Terrorists, as I mentioned, are highly mobile and can and do evade that territory. Sanctions are a form of collective punishment. Terrorism is neither a threat that emanates from a collectivity called nation state nor, as I said, is it directed against a collectivity. Sanctions will never had unanimous and sustained support and often lead to inconsistencies in policy.
The term ‘rogue state’ reflects that even our thinking and vocabulary is still very much attached to the Cold War concept of territory. States are not rogue; their leaders are and, in many cases, the dominant political elites. Sanctions do not hit them, but those in society that are not rogue and have no ambitions to be rogue must struggle with economic hardship and poverty. If anything, sanctions strengthen both the elites and any potential for popular support of those terrorists in those countries.
If the major challenge for policymakers is to reduce the information asymmetry, then isolating and excluding countries via sanctions or other instruments is counterproductive. The only way to reduce the information asymmetry is to include and integrate those countries into the international economy; its institutions, norms and networks. Inclusion will create political and economic conditions in these countries that make it difficult for terrorists to establish a support base. Inclusion will also generate multiple points of access for gathering the valuable information. And these points of access are not only located in the public sphere, but private sector access must share responsibility in reducing the information asymmetry as they have privileged access to timely and valuable information about those activities. Finally, information must be shared among governments to be effective. The recent dispute that has erupted between the United States and its closest allies over sanctions does not help such efforts at closer international cooperation. The European Union does not oppose the sanctions as one of the many instruments available to combat terrorism. When, if, and how, and what kind of sanctions are being used, has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. And in light of my earlier comments, it would seem prudent to explore other initiatives first that are directed at the economic integration of a particular country or region while promoting economic and political stability.
Dr. REINICKE: (Joined in progress) And here the European Union’s Mediterranean initiative is an example of how one can go about that. But whatever the merits of sanctions, the EU cannot and, in my judgment, will not accept the unilateral inquisition of US law, as in the case of the Helms-Burton and D’Amato acts. It can and it will not because such unilateral projection of US national law violates the most basic principle of our international system, and that is the mutual respect of a country’s sovereignty.
Now this, by no means, implies that a country cannot reduce its sovereignty in order to cooperate on such issues as terrorism, but we establish an extensive set of multilateral structures and mechanisms that can accommodate such a joint and reciprocal reductions and the cooperation that follows from that. If they are insufficient to serve this particular purpose, then we have to reform them and strengthen them. And I would urge the United States, in particular, and the European Union to immediately start such efforts. We risk to overload an already fragile international system with such disputes, something that we cannot afford, since terrorism and other transnational challenges will be the bread and butter of international relations in the 21st century. Thank you.
Mr. McCURDY: Thank you very much, Dr. Reinicke.
Gentlemen, thank you for your remarks. Each of these statements have been superb and have laid a very good foundation for our discussion today. Let me attempt to just summarize the different remarks and to put them in categories, and then perhaps we can address our questions and keep a fairly tight focus here.
Mr. Jenkins, I think, gave us an excellent overview of the challenge and the problem that we face. It was clear from his comments that the collapse of the bipolar struggle, that idealism is less of a motivation today than perhaps in the past for terrorism. However, we do see an increase in religious fanaticism, which is a difficult challenge to address and, as well, racial and ethnic hatred as a motivation and as a root cause for these kinds of activities. Accordingly, it’s less organized, because it’s—potentially can be more—conducted by ad hoc groups in ad hoc bases. And there are fewer state sponsors. There are more imitators than innovators. But the nature of the acts could potentially increase because of recent events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo attack in Tokyo, as well as the World Trade Center and even Oklahoma City. Then you also discussed the symbolic nature vs. the degree to which mass murder might be an objective. All of these pose very difficult challenges for governments or policymakers trying to address those.
Ambassador Bremer spoke eloquently about the shift from a pragmatic, if we can use that term—pragmatic form of terrorism objectives, those who actually had realistic objectives or objectives that they tried to have some political or conceptual response, to the more religious and radical and, therefore, radical ideological nature. The Ambassador discussed the escalation in the level of violence and the increased threat, not perhaps from the numbers or in—of incidences, but the actual threat from the type of attack; talked a great deal about symmetry, obviously, technical restraints, which appear to be loosening, plus the increase in information available for those who seek different types of attack, plus the psychological impacts of terrorism as an objective.
Dr. Telhami, I think, made very good points about framing the fight and then put it in perspective that Middle Eastern terrorism, although very vivid and oftentimes very bloody, has captured perhaps world attention, but, in fact, there are many more incidents occurring in other parts of the world and may even threaten US interests there as much, such as Latin America and Eastern Europe; also, made a very good argument for trying to address the root causes as an ultimate solution but, again, framed it in a way that—the difficulty of policymakers in being able to frame an effective response to terrorism.
And Professor Reinicke talked about the information asymmetry, the fact that because of the breakdown of bipolar and the ability to collect or get information about terrorism in the groups is difficult; also by the changing nature of it, that the decline or the collapse of state barriers or borders and the rather non-territorial nature of it is much more difficult to address. And in order to be effective, you have to be able to get a consensus and more collective action, but it’s difficult when groups are no longer supported by—are not often supported by states and that unilateral actions often are counterproductive if you don’t get state support or allied support in these efforts.
That’s a crude attempt to summarize those excellent statements. Let me then just talk quickly about, first of all, the scope of the problem. And I think it’s clear we’ve defined it as the number of incidents actually decreasing, but the level of violence in those incidents have increased and the fact that it’s a much more difficult problem to address today for policymakers.
It appears to me that one of the challenges, because of the changing nature of this, if you’re trying to categorize in the area of prevention, first—you can talk about prevention and then perhaps reversal and then even response in the case of an incident. In the prevention phase, you’re trying to deny, you’re trying to demotivate, you’re trying to deter and you’re probably trying to defend. It’s—one of those issues, I think, is the question of demotivate. How, in this changing nature of terrorism today, do we demotivate and have a better understanding of the motivation of those who are most likely to perpetrate acts of terrorism and violence against innocent civilians? I’ll open it to the panel.
Dr. TELHAMI: Well, let me just take a crack at this in one specific case that I mentioned in my talk, which is the Palestinian case. It is interesting, I think, to keep that in mind, because, you know, in an effective fight on terrorism, you have to keep, as I said, always an eye on the political dimension of that fight. I think if you look, for example, on Arafat’s crackdown on the militants after the suicide attacks on—in Israel in the spring of last year, which had been reasonably effective overall, in terms of since then, we haven’t had—we haven’t seen suicide attacks, despite deterioration in the political scene.
If you look at that particular response, I think a lot of people ask, ‘Why did he wait that long? Why didn’t he do it before?’ And I think there is a reason why he didn’t do it before, besides his being maybe reluctant or ineffective, whatever you might want to use. But the fact is, before, he didn’t have as much legitimacy for two reasons. A lot of people thought of him as not being particularly legitimate. And in the elections that were held in which he defeated the militants rather soundly, he clearly gained a lot of legitimacy. The political process itself gave him legitimacy. And the second was that you had a peace process that was moving. Israel did withdraw from cities, except for Hebron, and he had something to show for his constituents. And that enabled him to crack down on Hamas militants. It enabled him to use his new clout to be able to be effective and to have a response of—from the Palestinian community. Had he done that a year before, I’m not sure he would have been as effective. It isn’t just a function of his policing ability; it is also his ability to garner popular support in that fight.
Mr. McCURDY: As heinous as those acts were, however, the example that you’re giving still appears to have a rather pragmatic—I mean, there is a political objective in—involved here. When you’re dealing with other types of recent events—the Aum Shinrikyo—in the United States, we often hear of the actual attacks, the incidents, but we don’t often hear about the denials, the interventions. There have been a number of US citizens, for instance, that have been arrested carrying toxins, whether it’s ricin or botulism or, you know, other types of you know, measures to initiate attacks. But this is a prevention measure. These have had—there’s no common link between them. Some were members of militia. Some were—had religious views. Some had political. And that highlights the problem and the challenge that policiesmakers currently face. And that is, if there’s not a clear ideological route here, how do you identify them and how do you demotivate them or deny them their ability to attack? Prof. STROSSEN: Especially when we get to the kind of phenomena that Ambassador Bremer was talking about: the terrorist attacks that are motivated by hatred of the United States precisely because they understand the values that this country stands for. I assume there isn’t much we can do on way of demotivation other than hand them a victory beforehand.
Amb. BREMER: I think that’s right. I think, basically, the fundamental fight against terrorism—80 percent of the fight is having a clear concept and good intelligence. If you’ve got a clear concept and you know what you’re up against, then the question is: Are you devoting enough resources to intelligence, in effect, to disrupt, deny and deter attacks? I’m not very much attracted to the concept of demotivation against these kinds of terrorists, because I don’t think it gets you very far.
Dr. TELHAMI: May I comment on this? Because I think that Ambassador Bremer and I have a slightly different view on this hate-motivated terrorism.
Now I can’t speak for every region around the world, because the truth of the matter is, my expertise as a social scientist is mostly the Middle East. But on the Middle East, in terms of what has emerged, if you are—if one is calling the—a new terrorism in the Middle East as a new phenomenon that is motivated more by hate than political objectives, certainly, that’s not the way I view it. I have, for example—I mean, I would just remind you when you look at the Islamic factor, which has been employed as the reason for this hate—I remind you that in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you know, the Islamic movements were actually the ones on the—sort of the side of the West, and it was the secularists who were conducting most of the militant acts in the Middle East. Theology isn’t the issue here.
And I think in—in—at least in the—in the—in the arena where I’ve studied, for example, on the—on the Palestinian issue, where I’ve witnessed debates between militants who advocate militant options and those who advocate more peaceful, moderate options, and clearly, the debate was all political about objectives; it isn’t about hate. That is the case. I’ve interviewed a lot of people from—from those groups. And what comes across, at least to my mind, is a different kind of vision, at least, in terms of what motivates that—that terrorism in the Middle East. I don’t think it’s hatred.
Mr. McCURDY: Ken, you want to quickly...
Mr. ADELMAN: Yes. Let me say that I thought the statements were excellent by the panel—really superb. And if we go back to Ambassador Bremer’s point that these groups are more religious than pragmatic and understanding that we have to support the peace process, etc., etc., but I want to know what do we do about all this? And Ambassador Bremer tells us that 80 percent of it is good concepts and good intelligence. Now on the panel for the Council on Foreign Relations, I certainly applaud your good concepts. I mean, as a think tank and as a foreign policy study group, we’re all for good concepts; we’re all against bad concepts. But what good do these good concepts do, besides publishing books and having interesting panels? I mean, we’ve got to do something about it. And presuming that the terrorists don’t read the Council on Foreign Relations’ good concepts in publications, because not many of them probably do, so what? We have good concepts.
Now on good intelligence, everybody agrees and we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. It’s an important issue, but it’s not a very interesting issue, because you say better intelligence, but you need better intelligence of everything in life. So that’s no answer to anything. You keep striving and everything like that.
My point is, if it is more religious, if they are going against our essence rather than our policies, then what do you do about it? And it seems to me that it—these are harder groups to break into now because of the religious aspects and that good concepts won’t do a darn thing for you.
Amb. BREMER: Let me thank you for those complimentary remarks.
Mr. ADELMAN: I support your good concepts...
Amb. BREMER: Let—let me...
Mr. ADELMAN: ...clear concepts.
Amb. BREMER: Let me be clear that what I said about concepts was conceptual clarity, if you had listened carefully from my statement. That’s what I was talking about. We need to be clear what we’re facing. It isn’t that we need to have some fancy airy-fairy think-tank concept. What we need to be is clear of what we’re facing, and then we need good intelligence. And I disagree with you on the intelligence. I think this—in my experience of now almost 30 years in and out of government, this is the most difficult target there is. This is much more difficult than figuring out where Russia’s—or, in those days, the Soviet Union’s—SS25s were.
This is a target which is very hard to get at and where intelligence really is the heart of the fight. These new groups, precisely because they are not as organized as the other ones, as Mr. Jenkins pointed out, present us an even more difficult target than the kind of terrorist groups we went up against in the ‘70s and ‘80s. These are ad hoc groups. They’re very difficult to penetrate. And, indeed, I think it is the heart of the matter, both in terms of domestic terrorist groups and in international groups. So I—I... Mr. ADELMAN: Fine. I—I have no...
Amb. BREMER: ...I think intelligence really is, in this case...
Mr. ADELMAN: I have no problem with that.
Amb. BREMER: ...in order of magnitude, more important than it is in most other foreign policy issues.
Mr. ADELMAN: I have no problem with that. I agree with it entirely. I told you it’s very important. I’m just saying it’s not very interesting because the fact is that you need better intelligence for everything. And because of the very good arguments you made on the nature of the groups changing, it is harder to get that good intelligence. So as a policymaker nowadays, you know, Ambassador Bremer, that you cannot rely on good intelligence. I mean, you—you just won't have it. No matter how good the intelligence agencies do, it ain’t going to be there.
Amb. BREMER: Well, I disagree with you on that, too, as long we’re having this colloquy here. I think one of the areas in which the American government and the European governments, if you take 1980 as your base point, has made more progresses in the area of collection of intelligence against terrorist groups and the sharing of that intelligence among friendly governments.
The Europeans were able to defeat the Marxist secular groups in Europe—Action Directe, the CCC in—in Belgium, the Bader Meinhof gang—primarily when they finally decided to start sharing intelligence on those groups. That was the breakthrough that brought about the demise of those groups by the late ‘80s. So it is an interesting problem. It is not uninteresting. It is important, and it is important for policymakers at the top level to put the emphasis on this. Of course, you’re never going to have enough intelligence. Of course, there are going to be attacks that you can’t prevent. But as the chairman pointed out, there are a number of cases which can’t be discussed, obviously, in this kind of a hearing, where good intelligence, timely intelligence, was acted on and attacks were prevented. So I’m going to stick with the point. I think this really is the heart of the matter.
Dr. REINICKE: Could I just comment on this—on a couple of issues?
First of all, let me just say that Europeans have been somewhat successful using intelligence as a tool to prevent, but I'd just like to point out that in 1995, Germany was the country that was hit most in the entire world by terrorist attacks—ranks top; from different groups in international terror, but it ranks top. United States, zero international terrorism.
Intelligence is important. As we are sitting here today—and not many people know this—there’s actually a meeting going on between Canada, the United States and Europe in sharing that information. It is not too successful yet. And it seems to me we have to consider intelligence gathering and sharing as one element in a long chain of evolving policy instruments. Intelligence can suppress terrorist attacks. It is very costly.
If you, from now on, decide, for the rest of the existence of this globe, you want to suppress terror, it gets very expensive. You have to start earlier. You have to rob terrorists from the sources—financial, infrastructure and otherwise, political support base, cultural support base, religious support base, economic—so that they cannot thrive on those and use those networks that I describe as a way to transmit their threats. Unless you do that, you will constantly face that issue.
And let me just address the question of intelligence on a domestic level. You, in introductory statement, raised the problem of intelligence. I think politically, domestically, it is impossible to use intelligence as the only and most effective instruments for the issues that you raised, Mrs. Strossen.
However, since I have the word, let me just respond to what you said. I agree with you that you say we’re compromising the fundamental rights of US citizens, but, of course, so do terrorists. And that is what their purpose is. And we have to balance as to who we would like our fundamental rights to compromise. And that is the question about risk management. How much risk are we willing to take and how much measures—and I think the important thing is that we are aware of that; we’re conscious of that. If we want to maintain our civil liberties, there are risks involved, and they can be costly. They will not be costly in the sense that the entire collective United States is threatened, but certain groups and individuals and regions in this country will be threatened, and we have to pay that price. If we’re aware of that, if that’s what the public wants, that is fine.
Prof. STROSSEN: Well, that’s a perfect segue to a question I have been eager to pose to all of you following your—I agree with my fellow panelist—excellent presentations. And that is, we have been using the term ‘terrorist’ not among ourselves so much, but in the larger public debate in the United States. The term ‘terrorist’ is used with increasing profligacy. And not only in public discourse—every time there’s a crime that involves violence lately, it seems that the word ‘terrorist’ is immediately invoked, even if there is no particular or even when there’s no evidence yet of a crime, as with respect to the TWA explosion. W