Radical islamic terrorists and the us in the 21 st century
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Radical Islamic Terrorists and The US in the 21 st Century. PO 483: The Politics of Terrorism. History of Radical Islamic Terrorist Attacks on the USA. Real Beginning: Takeover of US Embassy in Tehran, 1979 – signal of animosity Arab Muslim community

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Radical islamic terrorists and the us in the 21 st century

Radical Islamic Terrorists and The US in the 21st Century

PO 483: The Politics of Terrorism

History of radical islamic terrorist attacks on the usa
History of Radical Islamic Terrorist Attacks on the USA

  • Real Beginning: Takeover of US Embassy in Tehran, 1979 – signal of animosity

  • Arab Muslim community

  • Bombing of US Marine Barracks in Beirut, October 1983

  • Bombing of Berlin Nightclub, April 1986

  • Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, December 1988

  • Truck Bombing of WTC, February 1993

  • Attack on Khobar Towers, June 1996

  • Car Bombing of US Embassies in Africa, August 1998

  • Bombing of USS Cole, October 2000

Patterns before 9 11 01
Patterns Before 9/11/01

  • Pan-Arab movement (not confined to one state)

  • State Sponsorship common at outset, but declines

  • All attacks perpetrated on US soldiers/citizens abroad

  • Casualties often high, but subject to “ceiling” (about 300)

  • American ambivalence in response

    • Retribution against governments when state sponsorship suspected

    • Prosecution

    • Haphazard responses (Embassy bombings), no responses (USS Cole) common

    • Nuisance, not direct threat

  • Sense of security (Gulf War)

Al queda

  • Association with Salafis

    • Abandonment of true path by Muslim governments

    • Reincarnation of Muhammad’s war to rid Islam of idolaters

  • US as universal enemy

    • Prop for illegitimate rulers

    • Poisoning of traditional society (cultural imperialism)

    • Presence in Saudi Arabia during Gulf War

    • Unification of various Salafiyya movements

  • Organization: Complex (both cell structure and evidence of strict hierarchy

  • Bin Laden – Unifier

    • Financial Means

  • Fatwas

Al queda continued
Al-Queda (continued)

  • OVERALL GOAL: Elicit reversion to traditional society by targeting sponsor of and influence over governments embodying flawed Islam (US). They do not aim for military defeat of the US, but for one of two outcomes:

  • Impose enough costs to get US to reconsider Middle East policy (withdraw), thereby destroying support for Islamic governments

  • Force US to engage in war that alienates the majority of the umma, who will then engage in terrorist activity to impose enough costs on the US to get them to stop the war OR rise up and overthrow existing governments

9 11 01

  • Obviously, most spectacular attacks

  • Highly coordinated (planning, acquiring necessary skills, dry runs, coordination on day of attack)

  • Not all terrorists involved knew it was to be a suicide mission

  • 4 planes hijacked with box cutters and knives – crashed into WTC and Pentagon

  • Symbolism evident, but inflicting destruction and loss of life was the primary motivation

  • Establishment of symbiotic relationship with other groups claiming Islam as secondary motivation

The us response
The US Response

Fixing the Immediate Problem: Airline Security

  • Increase in number of people flying led to confusion, lax security, flyer-friendly accommodation; allowed terrorists to make dry runs, get aboard

  • No major attack on US planes in 13 years

  • Security on Ground:

    • Military in airports (deterrent, rapid response)

    • Security checks/rules changes

    • More stringent ID, screening, weapons searches for employees

    • Passenger screening (security risks)

  • Security in Air:

    • Flight Marshals

    • Arming Pilots

    • Reinforcement of cockpit doors, changes in rules allowing opening of doors and acquiescence to hijackers

    • Transponder/communications automation

  • “Panic Button”

Fundamental shift in doctrine homeland security
Fundamental Shift in Doctrine: Homeland Security

  • Extensive existing counterterrorist system; though full prevention impossible, could be improved (augment, not abandon – danger of instituting ad hoc measures)

  • 9/11 considered intelligence failure; vague warnings, obscured by other information, fear of false alarm

  • Decline of element of surprise, but terrorists are strategic actors and can act to circumvent measures

  • Takes extremely large investments to marginally decrease probability of large attacks

Homeland security
Homeland Security

  • Suggested Measures:

  • Lower criteria for entry into CT forces

  • More people who speak vernacular dialects of Arabic

  • Individuals to map out novel attack schemes (think outside box)

  • Better analysis but, more importantly, more efficient distribution and action upon that analysis

  • Facilitation of extensive clandestine surveillance (legal)

  • Increase security of borders, major industrial/infrastructure sites, track cargo

  • Issuance of ID cards, stricter INS implementation (legal)

  • Sense of Urgency

  • No “Silver Bullet”

Legislative measures
Legislative Measures


    • Give intelligence/combat functions capacity to succeed

    • Implementation of constraints (Betts: not on dissent, but on privacy)

    • Immigration

  • Department of Homeland Security

    • Elimination of red tape

    • Reorganization of all facets under one directorate (overdue after expansion of community)

    • Brings FBI, CIA, State, etc. assets together

    • Addresses bureaucratic infighting (primacy of DoD)

    • Problems

      • Quick fix?

      • Prior Experience

      • Benefits of Separation

The international dimension
The International Dimension

  • Counterterrorist infiltration abroad

  • Carrot and Stick to gain support

    • Sanctions/Withhold Aid

    • Withhold Political Support

    • Threat of invasion

    • Issue linkage: Revising Stances

  • Use of force abroad: Two main strategies

    • Punish/Remove governments harboring terrorists

      • More traditional IR response

      • Vast extension of traditional retaliatory policy (implication)

      • Afghanistan: Signal to others

    • Preemptive removal of threats

      • WMD – Iraq

  • Questions: New Doctrine? Al-Queda’s goal?