objectives otherwise. It is an “asymmetric” response in the face of greater power of more conventional forms. Box B.1 draws the contrast between conventional war and a war against terrorists.
Unlike the case for perpetrators of other forms of political violence, for terrorists the victims of their violence and the audience they seek to influence are not the same. Victims are chosen either at random or as
The Contrast Between Conventional War and Counterterrorist Efforts
The struggle against terrorism differs from historical norms for providing for our security. In the past, we have raised armies to defend against state-organized military forces and to enforce our security and interests outside our borders. These “enemy” forces were most often easily identifiable as enemies and we created a set of rules for monitoring their activities, for defending against them, and for attacking them. These rules regularly call for the violation of the laws of other countries.
We have also provided for our security against those who break our laws through the application of law enforcement techniques by federal, state, and local governments. Those who are found guilty of breaking laws are regarded as “criminals.” Until they are found guilty, they are afforded all the rights of the innocent and can be found guilty only by a rigorous process of evidence and judicial process.
The rules for armies dealing with “enemies” in battle conditions have evolved to be quite different from those that apply to law-enforcement agencies dealing with “potential criminals” within the domestic borders of the United States. Armies permit their elements and members to destroy “enemies” upon “recognition.” They do so quickly and without “due process” by any separate jurisdictional structure.
One of the most demanding new attributes of our current struggle with terrorists is that some of the “enemy” is imbedded in our day-to-day midst. The “enemy” has advertised its intent to destroy our society as a necessary part of defending its own and has demonstrated the potential to be a serious threat to our way of life. The “criminal” is seeking to satisfy selfish interest at the expense of others but is not attempting to destroy society. Although the difference between these motives is profound, our processes for dealing with “enemies within” and “criminals” is not much different.
A criminal act that produces localized terror is different from the serious national threat posed by a terrorist group from a foreign organization. We cannot realistically prevent all manner of tragedies that are the result of criminal behavior, stupidity, or random acts—U.S. highway fatalities, for example, total something like 30,000 per year. However, those conditions create a quality of anxiety very different from the citizen’s sense of insecurity that results from his/her government being unable to provide safety in the face of the threat of foreign organizations that wish to do them and their country harm. One involves the routine and understood risks of daily life that can be addressed by each individual in his/her own way. The other is a frighteningly ever-present risk of unknown harm from an uncertain deliverer.