September 26, 2001
Strategy against global terror
By Constantine C. Menges
The tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have shown the American people and government that continued failure to have an effective strategy against international terrorism will be followed by ever more deadly attacks. Because this indirect warfare has mostly occurred abroad for the last 30 years, virtually all in other Free World countries, few here have known that since 1970 more than 100,000 persons have been killed and many more seriously injured in such attacks.
A comprehensive strategy to defeat terrorism must begin with an understanding of its origins and structure. Most of the currently functioning terrorist organizations derived from the publicly announced decision of the Soviet Union in 1961 that, since it viewed nuclear war with the United States as too dangerous, Moscow would establish and arm "liberation organizations" around the world.
There was a focus on groups that would use violence to attack NATO and other allies of the United States. After three decades of attacks, many of these armed movements withered after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
However a number of these continue: in Europe (the IRA against Britain ,the ETA against Spain); in Latin America (FARC and ELN against Colombia); and, in the Middle East (the PLO and a number of other armed Palestinian groups opposing Israel).
While the bin Laden organization was originally anti-Soviet, once it became hostile to the U.S., the current structure of its operations continues much of the pattern from the Soviet years. There are three levels to the current challenge:
(1) The terrorist groups and networks.
(2) The terrorist partner regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba.
(3) And major powers which year after year have been providing weapons of mass destruction components, expertise and other types of aid to those terrorist partner regimes. According to public testimony in recent years by the CIA and DIA directors, China and Russia have been the most active countries in providing these terrorist partner regimes with components and expertise for missiles, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
To be effective and prudent, each of these three elements has to be dealt with using a different combination of means together with allied or friendly states and local groups. There will be synergistic effects; progress against any one of the three components of the nexus will weaken the other two.
The terrorist organizations need to be rendered incapable of taking offensive actions. This will require a range of means to disrupt their communications, travel and financing and to prevent them from having fixed headquarters.
Special commando groups (often from friendly regional countries) can be helped to capture terrorist leaders and members. The requirement is for a long-term, unremitting effort combining the best intelligence information with the resources of friendly regimes and relevant local groups abroad. In the case of bin Laden, for example, the Northern Alliance, an armed resistance group opposed to both bin Laden and the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, could be provided with additional means to help them mount the search for him and his key associates.
The Bush administration has indicted that it understands the need to deal with the terrorist partner regimes. The issue is how to do this sensibly and in accord with our values that counsel avoiding harm to innocent civilians in those countries.
We have to begin by understanding that all the terrorist partner regimes are brutal dictatorships which have remained in power through the repression of their own people. Therefore, our strategy should focus on identifying groups and leaders within those countries or in exile who could be aided through political and other means, openly or discreetly, to remove the dictatorships and establish moderate, constitutional governments. These would then expel or arrest terrorists and have cooperative international relations. A good recent example was the removal of the Milosevic dictatorship after 55 years of communist rule in the former Yugoslavia.
In Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance in combination with the exiled king (living in Italy) and other moderate members of the coalition of resistance movements that formed the Afghan Independent Government, already recognized by a number of states, could be the means to bring the brutal rule of the Taliban extremists to an end.
In Iraq, which has been supporting much of the terrorism aimed at America and Israel there is an opposition coalition, the Iraq National Council (INC), with a program and leadership committed to a moderate constitutional government, which could replace the Saddam Hussein dictatorship.
Under the leadership of the skilled Ahmed Chelabi, the INC has reached agreement among the Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds on a future constitutional government for Iraq. And with firm international support it could remove Saddam Hussein.
Concerning the major power supporters of the terrorist partner states, Russia shares the concern of the U.S. about the Taliban/Osama bin Laden nexus since it also arms the Chechnya separatists Moscow has been fighting since 1994. It might be possible to persuade Russia to end its arming of the other terrorist partner states.
But China has made and broken promises to stop selling missiles and mass destruction weapons to Iraq, Iran and other terrorist partner states since 1988.
The U.S. provides China with enormous economic benefits that the Beijing regime needs, including a massive trade surplus ($80 billion last year alone, $450 billion since 1990). It is time to make clear to the regime in China that the U.S. will severely restrict the economic benefits China receives unless it ends its sale of weapons of mass destruction components to the terrorist partner states.
Another element of an effective strategy involves the United States becoming more active and creative in presenting its case to the world and especially to the Muslim peoples. This is a struggle against violent extremists, not with Islam or with Islamic countries. The American government and people respect Islam along with all religions, and Islam is practiced freely in America.
The United States must tell the truth about the brutality of the terrorists and the terrorist partner dictatorships. The U.S. should answer factually the lies about America that are endlessly repeated by the violent extremists. It is important in the campaign to end terrorism to help the people in the Islamic and other countries know the real America, the record of international generosity with no territorial ambitions, the self-less efforts to help bring peace and the U.S. leadership and risks taken in protecting Muslim peoples in Kosovo and elsewhere.Copyright 2001 The Washington Times