The Role of the Military in Addressing Terrorism, Research Paper Example


Terrorism has become a global war in which no country is immune.  The IRA has waged a campaign in Britain that lasted over 125 years, the Basque Separatist movement has carried out a terrorist campaign with Spain.  The Palestinian and Islamist Jihadist movements are the latest in a long line of terrorist activities.  The danger is that they now have a longer reach and threaten other countries with nuclear and biological weapons.  Only through a united international campaign will the threat ultimately be defeated.

When the terrorists plunged  the planes into the twin towers they initiated  a war on terrorism that would become an immediate priority for the US President.  When the twin towers crashed to the ground it was a blow to American pride.  The Act of aggression placed  the United States in a state of disbelief. Why should people from another part of the world attack us in this way ? This paved the way for military intervention and a potential war on terrorism that would ultimately see the US Military engaged in different theatres of operation across the world.

This paper examines how the weaknesses of terrorism may be exploited by the military and ultimately how acts of terrorism might be averted.


In general terms it is the structure of the terrorist organization that helps to define both its strengths and weaknesses.  An understanding of the different type and classification of terrorist organizations help in the determination of their modus operandi and capabilities.  Intelligence is a big factor in the determination of the network structure, the leaders of terrorist cells and the hierarchical structure contained within them.   Certain terrorist groups have complex structures, like that of Al Queda which has a global network of operatives.  As in the case of the US eliminating Osama Bin Laden it did not define the end of Al Queda and the terrorist threat but helped in diminishing its capacity and leadership.

All terrorist groups are fundamentally weak and as such these weaknesses are capable of being exploited. Al Queda is no exception to this rule but the military and security forces must no be complacent as it only takes one victory to create havoc; as in the case of the Twin Towers in New York.  Both Israel and the USA have been dogged by terrorist threats but both rely heavily on good intelligence networks in order to monitor and apprehend terrorist movements.  Of particular concern today is the exportation of terrorism from nations that possess sophisticated weapons, biological agents and nuclear weapons.  Countries like Iran and Pakistan are considered to be specific problem areas.  Whilst Russia and its former soviet states assist in perpetuating a black market in many types of terrorist weapons. (Gearty, C. 2012).

| Funding Capacity – Terrorist organizations need to be able to raise money in order to finance their operations.  Shutting down their sources of finance is one way to help diminish the scope and capacity of their work. Funding is often difficult to trace and identify. It has been clear however that the Taliban and Al Queda derived monies from the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan.  It is these type of pipelines that need to be shut down. (Lormel, D.M. 2007)

| Education, Religion and cultural tolerance –  The concept of winning hearts and minds.  Making the younger people more educated, responsible and integrating them into the mainstream of society. Terrorism exploits the weak, the poor and the uneducated of societies by trying to make them martyrs for a cause.  A lot of this is achieved through religious indoctrination and misinterpretation.  For example Islam is essentially a peaceful and tolerant religion but this is exploited and manipulated to make non believers as demonic figures that threaten their cultural and religious beliefs.

| Transport Security –  A lot of terrorist attacks exploit weaknesses in transport security and this is often used in the delivery of terrorist attacks e.g. car bombs,  train bombs,  twin towers attack by air transport etc.  By stepping up surveillance and security in these areas it is possible to help diminish this threatand conduit for carrying out largescale attacks.

| Media – Terrorists rely heavily on the media for sensationalising their attacks and communicating both their demands and justification for their cause.  By working with the media to play down the events and provide the terrorists with less access to the media i.e. TV, journalism and other reporting it can assist in giving the terrorists the publicity they seek.

| Use of the Internet –  It is important that the international community use the power of the internet against the terrorists and as such reversing one of their main tools.  The internet is used to spread the virtues and ideologies of terrorism and links communities to terrorist organisations. Counter terrorism can reverse this psychology by providing more education and factual information to the masses.  Nations can work co-operatively in addressing how the internet is being used for this purpose and put in place appropriate counter measures. (United Nations, 2012).

| Strengthen state capacity in provision of weapons of mass destruction –  Both the IAEA and the Organization for prohibition of chemical weapons  have built capacity and programs to prevent weapons of mass destruction from getting into terrorist hands.  This particularly applicable to Nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological materials.  Regretably there is still a black market where such materials can be purchased.  In addition  states like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea tend to operate outside of international legal frameworks.  There is an urgent need for the United Nations to have in place a policy that will address how a response will be made to a significant terrorist attack by weapons of mass destruction.  A unilateral response from a major power that has been attacked may have devastating consequences for the world and trigger a global confrontation between nations.

| Improved Information sharing – There is a need for improved information sharing between nations in the way they plan counter-terrorism measures.  Histrorically, ceretain nations like Israel have been reluctant to share intelligence and information on the belief that this might compromise interests of national security.  The problem however has become a global one and more recently including acts of piracy on the seas.  Infiltration of terrorist groups and acquisition of intelligence is an important means of undermining the efforts of these groups.

| International Co-operation –  There is a need for more co-operation between nations to prevent the exportation of terrorist activities and the relocation of chains of command.  Countries like Malasia and Indonesia have seen  increases in terrorist cells  and activities.  This has thawed relations with countries like the USA where they believe these countries are no doing enough to stem the tide of terrorist activities in their countries.  In addition, countries like Pakistan have been seen to support both the Taliban and Al Queda activities and this has created a serious level of distrust between the US and its western allies and that of Pakistan.  In the final analysis it is the responsibility of all nations to work in collaboration with one another in order to eliminate the terrorist threat.  Countries like North Korea provide a greater threat as they exist outside of the control of international law and pose a threat with stockpiling weapons of mass destruction that include both nuclear and biological threats. (Gershman, J. 2002).

| Combating Internet Crime –  We are also faced with terrorist style attacks from hackers and those using the internet to maliciously attack military and Government installations. Internet Crime and particularly illegal entry into other computer systems i.e. hacking is deemed to be a Federal Offence in the USA and falls under the investigative jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Criminal computer hacking has been legally defined as any person who willingly and knowingly commits an act of cyber terrorism, credit card fraud, malicious vandalism, identity theft or other cyber-crime by hacking into a Corporate or Government system.  Such criminal acts are treated very seriously in the USA and will be subject to harsh penalties.  Such intrusions are capable of creating a tremendous amount of malicious damage. They may potentially threaten national security, may cause serious service disruptions e.g. hospitals, emergency services etc.  May create economic and financial instability by intrusions to Banks or large Corporate Offices.

One such example is that of David Smith a computer hacker launched the Melissa Virus in March of 1999. The virus that he placed into the internet spread to over 1.2 million computers causing an estimated $80 million in financial damages to businesses. Smith was convicted of computer hacking and the courts sentenced him to 40 years in prison.  He was release some 20 months later after agreeing to work with the FBI in their fight against cyber-crime. (Criminal Law Lawyer, 2011)

Garry McKinnon in the UK has been found guilty of hacking into 96 US Military and Defence systems and could face up to 70 years imprisonment. He is currently awaiting extradition from the UK.  In general terms’ hacking is a form of cyber terrorism and as such is a criminal act. There is no legal justification for this and even those individuals that attempt this for an intellectual challenge are breaking the law.  It is not only a gross invasion of privacy but a complete act of irresponsibility that potentially can unleash very serious and grave consequences for the public.

The turning of technology hackers to more productive means i.e. recruiting them to help fight cyber crimes and acts of cyber terrorism is a means of exploiting a weakness in the cyber terrorism campaign.  A person ethically engaged as a hacker to improve Computer Security is termed a ‘White Hat’  This is the only legitimate means of ethical responsibility for hacking. Such conditions may be applied as follows:

         The work will be monitored under the supervision of the military  and the tests carried out under strict supervision

         Such vulnerabilities and intrusions will be logged and reported. The White Hat undertakes to commit no harm or malicious act as a result of the testing

         The testing will be confined to the security parameters laid down

         The White Hat will sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any information resulting from the security testing

         The White Hat will carefully document all aspect of the security tests being carried out together with a detailed results report

         The White Hat will make recommendations as to how security improvements might be made by improved security protocols. In addition help the military commanders in tracking down and locating potential sources of cyber terrorists on the internet.



Saint Leo University core value of Responsible Stewardship: “Our Creator blesses us with an abundance of resources. We foster a spirit of service to employ our resources to university and community development. We must be resourceful. We must optimize and apply all of the resources of our community to fulfill Saint Leo University’s mission and goals.“.  In regard to prevention of terrorism we have a duty to our fellow citizens to be dilligent and responsible in pointing out any potential threat that may do harm to others.  This is a duty of care in terms of fulfiling the Universities mission and goa 


Dealing with military intervention in exploiting the weaknesses of terrorist groups can be a daunting prospect.  After 9/11 the Bush Administration went after the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq for what they described as State sponsored terrorism.  It is questionable whether this was the right course of action for the US at that point in time. The UN Weapons inspectorate had not discovered any weapons of mass destruction and they had not completed the job. Despite Saddam Hussein being somewhat of a despicable character he had managed to retain relative stability in the area. Creating regime change is always dangerous unless you have a robust plan for recovery after the war. Essentially you are left holding the empty money purse and will be expected to replenish it and help in the rebuild of the country in the aftermath of destruction.  The US had already taken a huge responsibility in helping to rebuild Europe after World War 2 ( The Marshall plan). They may have learnt from this and considered the financial burden resulting in the reconstruction of Iraq. To make matters worse there remains the ongoing problems with Afghanistan and the potential for conflict with North and South Korea.

  • We have to stop the spread of world terrorism and those countries that support it.
  • The USA cannot keep footing the bill for intervention in world problems. The international community needs to take a larger shore of cost responsibility
  • The US is the champion of democracy and we need to protect peoples liberty, freedom and human rights
  • The US incurs far more collateral damage than any other country. I.e. loss of life and wounded soldiers. There needs to be a greater apportionment of responsibility
  • We cannot allow a middle eastern country to hold the west to ransom over the supply of oil
  • The cost of wars and interventions is wrecking the US economy
  • We cannot permit the invasion of sovereign countries in violation of UN treaties e.g. Kuwait
  • Monies expended on wars are diverted from domestic programs like health and unemployment
  • We cannot permit rogue states to have weapons of mass destruction
  • Wars impose a tremendous burden on the taxpayer when the funds should be directed towards job creation and better health care
  • By its dominant world position the US has a responsibility to more vulnerable countries in maintaining world order
  • The long term implications of the costs of war mean that we increase the indebtedness of the nation
  • The US is the strongest voice of diplomacy in the world today
  • We may not have the moral right to intervene in other countries domestic problems



Criminal Law Lawyer. (2011). Computer Hacking. Retrieved 11 17, 2011, from

Gearty, C. (2012, 2 16). The weakness of al-Qaeda. Retrieved from The Guradian:

Gershman, J. (2002). Is South East Asia the Second Front. 81 Foreign Aff. 60 , 60-61.

Lormel, D. M. (2007). Understanding and Disrupting Terrorist Financing. Hendon VA: IPSA.

United Nations. (2012, 2 16). Developing State capacity to prevent terrorism. Retrieved from United Nations: html