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How the USA Can Better Address Terrorism Threats

Terrorism is the use of violence and extremism that threatens national security, intimidates government and population. Generally, terrorism can be political, ideological, and religious. In the U.S., all these forms of terrorism are widespread and put under surveillance of homeland security. One should mention that definition of terrorism is constantly changing under the influence of political and social context. It is also evident that terrorism may have serious repercussions. Not without a reason, the U.S. has organized the federal government in response to terrorism. Moreover, Obama Administration changed the mission of the Department of Defense. Consequently, this essay intends to describe the entity of terrorism in the U.S. and the ways of addressing terrorism threats. The U.S. government can address domestic and international terrorism by building a culture of resilience, applying appropriate capabilities, forming security partnership, and adhering to the U.S. core values.

Terrorism in the U.S.

The FBI insists that there is no single and universal definition of terrorism due to the diversity of forms and purposes of violence. However, the U.S. federal code regards terrorism as the unlawful use of violence and force against people and property. One should mention that terrorist attacks in the U.S. have become less frequent since the 1970s despite the September 11 attacks. The statistics shows that there were 2, 608 total attacks and 226 attacks between 1970 and 2011 (Plumer, 2013). It is evident that the current state of affair has changed for worse as ideological, ethical, and religious cases of terrorism are increasing. Terrorism between 1970 and 2011 included the following forms: bombing, murders of abortion-clinic doctors, and shooting (White, 2013). According to Brooks (2010), “Because the status of the perpetrator as an American is the defining feature of homegrown terrorism, the category encompasses individuals involved in a range of terrorist activities” (p. 10).


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Analyzing the current state of affairs in the U.S., one should say that law enforcement officials are becoming better in their activities against terrorist attacks. However, it is not enough to stop terrorism growth. The year 2011 was prominent with the highest proportion of unsuccessful attacks due to the persistent actions of law enforcement officials. Since 1970, almost every part of the U.S. has been hit by terrorist attacks. Those attacks were both lethal and non-lethal. For example, California underwent 575 attacks, New York underwent 492, and Puerto Rico underwent 241 terrorist attacks. In New York, there were 2, 818 fatalities because of terrorism, in Virginia this number accounted for 196, while in Oklahoma 196 people died because of terroristic attacks (Plumer, 2013). In the U.S., there is an enormous increase of terrorist attacks committed by the individuals. It means that terrorist organizations are less active than individual terrorists who can act even because of their personal reasons. Before 1995, the statistics was different; for example, there was 6% of terroristic acts done by the individuals (White, 2013). It is evident that terrorism is changing its character and is promoted by many social factors.

Terrorism is also promoted and performed by the organized groups (religious, ethnic, ideological, and political) that become extremely diverse and popular in the U.S. Moreover, they may originate from the Middle East and Asia. They include the Justice Department, Earth Liberation Front, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Minutemen American Defence, and Ku Klux Klan. All these organizations are responsible for attacks between 2001 and 2011. In the U.S., bombing is the most widespread technique of terrorists. 51,53% of the terrorists use bombing/explosion to hit the community, and only 0,57% of them tend to practice hijacking. 0,49% of terrorists take hostages and 1,47% prefer unarmed assaults. 20,55% of terrorists use facility attack, and 2% of terrorists kidnap. Assassination is another tactics popular among terrorists, and it covers 4,88%, while armed assaults cover 8,51%. This statistics is alarming, and it proves the growth of terrorism in the U.S. (Plumer, 2013).

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North America could be considered to suffer from terrorist attacks more than other regions in the world. However, the Middle East and South Asia are hit by terrorism more frequently. It is evident that world terrorism also influences the U.S. Consequently, overcoming domestic terrorism is not enough for decreasing the crime rate. The United States declared war on terror in 2001 labeling terrorism as a universal enemy against civilization (Alexander, 2010).

The character of terrorism in the U.S. is currently changing as compared to terrorist attacks in the past. The modern terrorists are not part of defined organizational entities. Their organizations are less distinctive and more amorphous. Another characteristic of terrorism is that it is lacks strict hierarchy. It is difficult to determine their leader e.g. as in the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. The modern period of terrorism in the U.S. is known as the “new” terrorism due to the necessity of new counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism efforts. The investigated cases of terrorism show that they are directed against the U.S. targets. The employment of weapons of mass destruction proves that the U.S. homeland security is always under threat (Kavita, 2010).

Analyzing the strategic context of the U.S., one should say that addressing the political terrorism will be the most relevant issue. First, the political environment is the most favorable for terrorists. Moreover, politics is the most complex manifestation of terrorism. The operational factors that benefit the growth of terrorism in the U.S. include the following: psychological, social, political, and economic. One can distinguish the following components of terrorism: (1) operational factors (group structure, group type); (2) tactical factors (victims, weapon, actor, and act); (3) strategic factors (objective of terror and target of terror); (4) linkage factors (instrumental, tactical, causal, and operational factors) (Toner, 2005).

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The experts insist that the U.S. cannot address terrorist threats successful if it uses the same methods as terrorists do. They insist that terrorists learn, improve, and adapt. Consequently, the U.S. government should also adapt, improve, and learn to combat and respond to the modern terrorism. Modern terrorists use calculated violence and provocation as a psychological pressure on the U.S. government. Moreover, their intention is to evoke fear and panics. Such a terrorist strategy demands a proper strategic response that should be integrated, comprehensive, and proactive. As a result, the U.S. government and security forces should become more flexible and predictable in the question of terrorism (Toner, 2005).

The terrorist attack that happened on September 11, 2001 shows that not only the U.S. but the world itself must respond and fight terrorism that threatens and destroys the basic freedoms of a person and common way of life (Borgeson & Valeri, 2008).

The Problem of Terrorism Suppression

In the present time, the U.S. government practices different measures to root out terrorism. However, one cannot say that they are effective enough. The dilemma of terrorism remains sharp and alarming. One can explain this by the fact that the U.S. uses threats and violence and considers every illegal activity of Americans the terrorist acts. It leads to suppression of freedom, thus, Americans become the victims of severe policies of their own country. This political situation deprives the residents of basic safety. The U.S. government controls freedom of speech of Americans by checking their e-mails, phone calls, and posting. For example, they label peaceful protests and meeting as terrorist attacks (Drury, 2015).

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Americans are not tolerated to express their opinion and attitudes with the help of protests and demonstrations. It is evident that the government violates human rights on freedom of speech and does not solve the problem of terrorism that has more global character. Another violation of freedom is related to homeland security laws which crush dissent. It is therefore recommended to find the measures that will not contradict citizens’ interests. American society should trust and be confident in their government. However, domestic policy against terrorism reinforces the negative attitudes. Moreover, spying on all Americans is also used as a preventive measure, which till cannot be the basement for security (Clifford, 2003).

The U.S. regulations (Freedom Act and Patriot Act) reflect the issue of terrorism in the U.S. and the ways of addressing it. However, the problem is that these papers provoke suspicion and dissatisfaction of Americans who believe that they may violate their rights and freedom. The Patriot Act struggles against terrorism and, at the same time, demonstrates suspicion to those Americans who want to express their freedom. The Freedom Act rectifies a significant diminution for Americans protecting their rights. As a result, Freedom Act is more favorable for Americans as it guarantees their right for privacy (Salman, 2006).

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In the U.S., citizens are the main victims of terrorism. In this case, the government itself may be considered a terrorist as it restricts Americans’ freedoms and rights. The reduction in the freedoms and rights only reinforces inability and poor activity of the government in dealing with terrorism (Beale & Felman, 2002).

Another problem of terrorism suppression is that the U.S. uses violence as well as terrorism. For example, the U.S. Special Forces killed the leader of Muslim terrorists, Osama bin Laden, due to the homegrown terrorism (Brooks, 2011). However, it does not shorten terrorism rate as there are many terrorists and terrorist organizations. 

Finally, the American enemy is not an individual person, and the U.S. does not know when and where they can deal with terrorism. Terrorism is the enemy that can be justified by the religious principles. Consequently, it is always confused with its entities and forms of attack (wreaking havoc, robbing, extorting, kidnapping, and killing) (Salman, 2006).

How the U.S. Can Better Address Terrorism Threats

The preventive measures against terrorism are unjustified if the U.S. follows its political, geopolitical, and economic interests. First of all, it should put human rights in the first place (USA Patriot Act, 2001). Moreover, the prevention of terrorism should not deter Americans from the freedom of speech or confidentiality. Suppressing terrorists, the U.S. government suppresses Americans who cannot feel safety and peace in their country (Clifford, 2003). Moreover, cruelty and violence as a response to terrorist attacks cannot decrease the terrorism rate. Consequently, it is recommended to establish international relationships with the countries which are inclined to perform terrorist attack and provide Americans with the right for freedom (Borgeson & Valeri, 2008). According to Suri (2004), “The United States suffers from having become too powerful, and therefore prone to both over-ambitious underrakings and zealous criticisms from those ill-treated for reasons beyond American control” (p. 79).

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The U.S. can address terrorism threats better if it makes its community more coordinated and cohesive. Much more efforts should be put on decentralization as it is the way to adapt to terrorist changes. Responding to terrorism requires crisis management that will react to violence and cruelty immediately. The following steps to address terrorism could be recommended:

  • to build a culture of resilience;
  • to apply capabilities appropriately;
  • to build security partnership;
  • to adhere to U.S. core values.

Adhering to the U.S. core values presupposes upholding the rule of law, balancing security and transparency, respecting privacy rights, civil rights, and civil liberties, encouraging responsive governance, and respecting human rights. These preventive measures will help to decrease the domestic terrorism that can be provoked and reinforced by the non-adequate governmental actions. For example, such an ideological terrorist organization as ISIS is a direct threat to the U.S. and is even more dangerous than Al-Qaeda (Ashorn, Maniam, & Entenza, 2005). The Washington Post has recently reported aggressive and successful recruitment of Somali-American men by al-Qaeda that has come to light after a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, a terrorist incident in which Americans are suspected of participating (Kavita, 2010, p.5).

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Building security partnership is another way to address terrorism threats. It is based on leveraging multilateral institutions and accepting various degrees of partnership. The U.S. cannot eliminate every terrorist organization and individual terrorist. Consequently, it should look for partnership with other countries that suffer from terrorism. Europe can be the best partner to address terrorism threat as its level of domestic terrorism is not high. The Middle East and Asia cannot be such partners as they are the center of terrorism development and growth (Mahan & Griset, 2012).

The appropriate application of capabilities is another essential component related to terrorism in the U.S. It is used to struggle against Al-Qaeda as its threat is always increasing. It is evident that the U.S. should always evaluate tools and capabilities to use them consistently with long-term strategic objectives, values, and laws. The application of capabilities presupposes balancing long-term and short-term considerations and pursuing ‘whole-of-government’ effort. For example, this step can be used for discrediting the ideology of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. However, the U.S. should always weigh all costs and risks of its actions (Gardner, 2007).

Building a culture of resilience and preparedness to any threat or kind of violence is a must. Moreover, fulfillment of this objective allows the U.S. to respond and recover successfully from any kind of terror. This makes Americans more united and organized with the common goals. For example, Al-Qaeda believes that it can damage foreign and national security policies psychologically and economically with the help of terrorist attacks. However, the U.S. will continue to construct the effective defenses to protect the population, iconic national landmarks, and infrastructure. The U.S. can be said to succeed in this objective as it has economic, community, and individual strength to recover and rebuild quickly from any catastrophic event (Suri, 2004).

The national security strategy of the U.S. is based on the following goals: preventing terrorist development and use of weapons of mass destruction, protecting the American people, their interests and homeland, disrupting Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other similar terrorist organizations, eliminating safe havens, building counterterrorism capabilities and partnership, degrading links between terrorist organizations, countering their ideology, and depriving terrorists of their enabling means (Combs, 2012). The U.S. should collaborate with partner nations around the world to prevent terrorists’ travelling and increase the collective capacity. The diplomatic relationships with the European countries are necessary to prevent terrorists’ planning, communication, and facilitation (Suri, 2004).

The goal of defeating terrorists and their organizations can be fulfilled with the help of identifying terrorists, locating their sanctuaries, and destroying their abilities to plan and operate not only in the U.S. but worldwide (Toner, 2005).

The areas of focus of the U.S. should be the homeland, South Asia, Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Europe, Iraq, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Maghreb, and Sahel. The Islamic State is the most successful and lethal jihadist group in modern history that is more violent and dangerous than Al-Qaeda. The followers of ISIS behead captives, enslave women, subjugate millions, and march across Syria and Iraq. It means that ISIS is a direct threat to the U.S. which can prevent the implementation its anti-terrorist policy successfully. The problem is that the terrorists of ISIS managed to spread beyond the Middle East (MacCants, 2015). ISIS managed to attract many followers and conquer much land with its devoted, apocalyptic, and ruthless policies.

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Homeland and its security and defense are the key priorities of both domestic and international policies of the U.S. First, the country should prevent the attacks directed by Al-Qaeda. Second, these efforts should become continuous and long-lasting. The main challenge for the U.S. government is the way to harmonize and integrate the efforts of the tribal, local, state, and federal entities. Moreover, the country should be vigilant against all foreign terrorist threats (Kavita, 2010).

Another area of focus should be South Asia where Al-Qaeda and its adherents operate. Even in the present time, this organization poses a persistent threat to the U.S. security as well as to Europe, India, and Afghanistan. It means that the U.S. should collaborate with these countries (Ashorn, Maniam, & Entenza, 2005). Arabian Peninsula is another area of focus that can threaten the U.S. citizens. The key challenges of Arabian Peninsula are the large financial support and charities on terrorism and Al-Qaeda (Gardner, 2007).

It is recommended also to ensure an integrated management capability. It is evident that the U.S. should coordinate regional partners, host governments, and citizens to be capable of predicting terrorism beforehand. Moreover, the U.S. is also responsible for the protection of their citizens from terrorism abroad. The Department of State should inform U.S. citizens about possible threats. Chopra (2005) suggests different ways of dealing with terrorism. The author stands for being peaceful and democratic in the measures against terrorism. Chopra (2005) states that war is not the solution to violence as it gives birth to other forms of violence. He claims (2005), “Today is a good day for war to come to an end” (p. 3).

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In conclusion, the terrorism in the U.S. is constantly increasing and acquiring new forms, becoming more and more dangerous. Terrorism is a complicated issue, as it is based on operational, tactical, strategic, and linkage factors. Therefore, the U.S. should improve the ways and strategies to address terrorism threats better. However, it is evident that terrorism suppression in the U.S. provokes many problems. First, terrorism suppression can affect Americans negatively as it diminishes their freedoms and rights. Second, terrorism is unexpected and can be performed by an individual as well as by organizations. Third, it is a mistake to use violence and cruelty as a response to terrorist attacks.

The U.S. can address terrorism threats by improving their domestic policy, building a culture of resilience, applying capabilities appropriately, building security partnership, adhering to the American core values, and observing for ISIS and Al-Qaeda to destroy their centers of violence in the U.S. The national security strategy of the U.S. should be improved and oriented on preventing terrorist development and use of weapons of mass destruction, protecting the American people, disrupting Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other similar terrorist organizations. Moreover, the U.S. should determine the most dangerous areas of focus such as South Asia, Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Europe, Iraq, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Maghreb, and Sahel.



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