Combating Terrorism Essays

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the consequent "war on terrorism" have made the question of effective counterterrorism policy a growing public concern, not just in the United States but throughout the world. The essays in Combating Terrorism offer a unique overview and evaluation of the counterterrorism policies of ten countries: the United States, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey, India, and Japan. A post-September 11 assessment of current counterterrorism practices is given for each country.

The essays address the same set of questions to allow for cross-national comparisons of strategies and an assessment of counterterrorism practices.

  • What is the governmental and public perception of the sources of terrorism?
  • How successful have government policies been in combating both domestic and international terrorism?
  • What factors influence a government's willingness or ability to cooperate with other countries in combating terrorism?
  • To what degree are certain countries "natural hosts" of either terrorist groups or propensities that target Western or closely allied interests?
  • To what degree are terrorist organizations mainly concerned about winning political participation in their target countries?
  • Which counterterrorism strategies work, and which do not?
  • What are the lessons of past experiences for future counterterrorism responses at the national, regional, and global levels?

Yonah Alexander's conclusion summarizes the lessons that may be learned from the experiences of the ten countries and discusses a list of best practices in counterterrorism.

Combating Terrorism will be of interest to policymakers, scholars, and other individuals with professional responsibilities in the area of terrorism and security studies. Clear and accessible, this book will also provide the general reader valuable insight into the wide array of issues that face governments and convey possible solutions to one of the foremost threats to world peace.

Professor Yonah Alexander is Senior Fellow and Director, International Center for Terrorism Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He is also Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies and Co-Director, Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, International Law Institute. He has published over ninety books on international affairs and terrorism, has appeared on television and radio in over forty countries, and serves as an academic consultant on terrorism to both the public and private sectors.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . takes a useful look at comparative counterterrorism strategies used in other parts of the world. . . ."
    —James Bradford, Washington Post Book World, September 8, 2002

  • "Overall, this book is of great value to anybody who's interested in the fields of security and terrorism. . . . [T]he book reads well for a novice, as well as those who've had some experience in this area."
    —Anjali Bhattacharjee, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Homeland Protection Professional, April 2003

  • "Comprehensive, authoritative, invaluable. An essential guide through the complexities of the greatest national security threat facing the West in the early 21st century. No government policy maker or think tank analyst can afford to be without it."
    —Martin Sieff, Managing Editor for International Affairs, UPI

United States Counter-Terrorism Strategy


The United States of America, the world's largest economy, whose annual defence spending exceeds that of the next top spending nations combined, has been fighting a war against terrorism since, largely, the destruction of the twin towers in 9/11. However, the war on terror is, to a very great degree, a war on one specific organisation: 'We are at war with a specific organization - al-Qa'ida'. Therefore, anti-terror strategy is largely anti this organisation, and so this determines, I will suggest, the extent and the form of the measures which the US employs in its war on terror.

The first phase and a continuing aspect of the US strategy against terror is the war in Iraq and subsequently in Afghanistan. These countries have been seen as housing and sheltering both al-Qaida and the Taliban, another organisation that is related to the threat to America. Therefore, the US has maintained a presence in both countries.

A vital aspect of the strategy is increased communication and cooperation with a diverse array of allies, such as existing partners in Europe and Asia, and new relationships with Middle Eastern and African nations. The idea is to prevent the funding, spread, and training of terror from these parts of the world.

Against terror organisations, armies are only partially successful. The single most important element of counter terror strategy is intelligence gathering; against terror, the US wants to know any plans before they happen, and to do this they collect vast amounts of data, sometimes in controversial ways.

In Guantanamo Bay, there have been many allegations of torture, carried out on detainees by the US government forces. President Obama recently admitted that 'we tortured some folks', and distanced the current regime from that practice.

A major part of US strategy is to support developing nations, to prevent their citizens from becoming linked to terrorist organisations. This means boosting the economies of ally states, and developing cultural and economic ties.

Counter terrorism is a complex business, relying on non-conventional tactics; terrorists rarely commit to a war, and so intelligence, and providing potential terrorist states with other opportunities, are essential to the US strategy for preventing more attacks like those of 9/11.

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