Combating Future Terrorism – Assignment Instructions

Since the September 11 attacks, the future complexion of terrorism has become quite ambiguous. Subsequently, counter-terrorism strategies have evolved to address terrorist attacks of any form against the United States. For your Final Paper, you must address the following points:

  • Decide whether international or domestic terrorism currently constitutes the greatest threat to the United States.
    • Use historic, cultural, and diversity aspects to support your conclusion.
  • Summarize some of the strategies the United States can utilize to prevent future terrorist attacks.

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  • Assess whether socio-economic strategies can be utilized to eliminate the motivation of terrorist groups or if military action is the only viable response to terrorists.
    • Use historic, cultural, and diversity aspects of the terrorist populations to support your conclusion.
  • Evaluate if future legislation or constitutional amendments could be utilized to hinder possible terrorist attacks.
  • Analyze if additional powers are needed by the federal government to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
  • Evaluate if the increasing of governmental powers is worth the potential erosion of civil liberties.
  • Infer what the future of terrorism is and whether the frequency of attacks will increase or decrease over time. Support your conclusion

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Combating Future Terrorism – Sample Paper

The trend of terrorism is uncertain leading to constantly evolving counterterrorism strategies to cope with both domestic and international terrorism in the United States. While terrorism is down the list of killers nationally, the horrific nature of terrorism warrants constant alertness to the threat it poses to the political, economic and social lives of Americans, and indeed to other people (Benjamin, 2008). This paper will compare the threats of international and domestic terrorism and look at the strategies that can be utilized to curb these threats. It will look at the effect of future legislation on hindering terrorism. The powers and abilities of the federal government in protecting the country from terrorist attacks will also be analyzed. Finally, the paper will attempt to predict the future trend of terrorist attacks.

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International and domestic terrorism

Generally, trends indicate that terrorism has been on the decline since the 1970s to date. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), there have been quite a number of terrorist attacks that are predominantly domestic in nature. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), domestic terrorism is “terrorism involving groups based in, and operating entirely within, the United States and its territories, without foreign direction” (Friedman, 2017). These include right-wing, left-wing, and special-interest terrorism. International terrorism on the other hand emanates from groups with bases outside the country.

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Yet 9/11, committed by international terrorists, remains the most deadly terrorist attack in terms of human (2977 people killed) and economic cost. The second most deadly is the Oklahoma City Bombing that killed 168 and injured 700 people. Removal of these outlier events (9/11 and Oklahoma City Bombing) means that more than double the amount of people have been killed by domestic terrorists (272) compared to international terrorists (130) (Parkin, Gruenewald, Klein, Freilich and Chermak, 2017).

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International Islamic extremism is responsible for most international terrorism and some of the domestic terrorism. However, most domestic terrorism is driven by far-right extremism ideology. Since 9/11, there have been 31 Islamist extremism terrorism attacks that caused 119 deaths including 49 at the Pulse nightclub attack. During the same time, 89 far-right extremism attacks have caused the deaths of 158 deaths (Parkin, et al., 2017). In 2015-2016, three events were the result of the former ideology while eight events were associated with the latter.

Hence, overall, domestic terrorism is currently a greater threat than international terrorism, especially when the Pulse nightclub attack is viewed as domestic terrorism having been committed by an American of Afghan origin with no group affiliation. This is further borne out by Alex Nowrasteh who notes that between 1975 and 2015, the “annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist” (Friedman, 2017).

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The New America think tank says the foreign terrorist infiltrator is an outdated stereotype and that “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident” (Friedman, 2017). This proves that, in the United States, domestic terrorism is a greater threat than international terrorism.

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Strategies to prevent future terrorist attacks

One strategy to preventing future terrorist attacks is drying up funding channels of terror organizations. This can be through freezing the accounts of organizations and individuals that fund the terror groups (CIA, 2003). It can also be through enacting strict fiscal measures nationally and lobbying for other countries to do so. This will ensure accountable and responsible monetary flow.

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Government and public organizations can develop and maintain profiles of existing and potential terrorists and their groups. This will help identify their personality, motivations and modus operandi. For example, the profiling could identify a group that is likely to attack during Ramadan or through hijacking leading to appropriate action. Profiling of terrorists and their cells/groups can be done by various organizations including government agencies and relevant public organizations that would be impartial to avoid racial or religious profiling. An example of such a database is Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) that is developed by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2017).

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USA needs to collaborate with other nations in the curbing terrorism (CIA, 2003). Data gathered about terrorism should be shared among intelligence agencies from various countries so as to put in check terrorism internationally by denying safe havens for the terrorists. This will ensure constant and reliable foreign intelligence tips from allies and partners, tips that are acted upon. The US can empower weaker allies through training and resources with the aim of curbing terrorist radicalization, recruitment and activities. The support of the international community will make America and its interests safer from terrorist threats and spread the American values of democracy and liberty.  

Community awareness, initiatives and responses in curbing terrorism should also be encouraged (Benjamin, 2008). This is by making sure the citizenry are aware and responsible for personal security. This would involve the citizenry taking such actions as monitoring and informing on suspicious character. It would also include being educated about terror response. Such initiatives as the Community-led Action in Response to Violent Extremism (CARVE) course should be supported and marketed throughout the country (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2017).

Education about terrorism also needs to be inculcated in the curriculum right from basic education through to specialist courses at the university. This would make the general citizenry aware of the threat and responses as well as train counterterrorism specialists.

The government has undertaken military action outside the country to curb terrorism by denying terrorists from such organizations as ISIL, Al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens. This includes in missions to Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq (Warrick, 2016). These missions have had mixed successes including restricting the power and leadership of the terrorist organizations as well as curtailing funding. However, these incursions have also been cited for increase in recruitment and arming of terror cells. These pitfalls can be overcome through undermining of recruitment messages and controlling the weapons available to the terrorists.

Another military strategy to curb terrorism is enhanced security of important installations and public places in the USA. This could involve rigorous vetting of police and military personnel. It also involves reduction of gun-free zones such as schools and hotels (Benjamin, 2008).

Police and the military further need to be trained on the best and latest practices in their fields. This will ensure evolving of counterterrorism strategies to cope with the evolvement of terrorism, shunning ineffective and controversial counterterrorism activities (Friedman, 2017). It will also help them to better pick up terrorism signals amid the modern informational noise and to more successful prosecutions. Notably signal detection rather than intelligence-gathering was the main failure in the run-up to 9/11.

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Socio-economic counterterrorism strategies

Counterterrorism cannot rely on military might alone as noted by the Criminal Investigations Agency, “The struggle against international terrorism is different from any other war in our history. We will not triumph solely or even primarily through military might. We must fight terrorist networks, and all those who support their efforts to spread fear around the world, using every instrument of national power – diplomatic, economic, law enforcement, financial, information, intelligence, and military (CIA, 2003)”.

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One socio-economic strategy to curb terrorism is policies that aim at inclusiveness of the socially and economically marginalized groups, domestically and internationally. This reduces the ideological reason for existence of terrorism (Warrick, 2016). . The concomitant winning of hearts and minds builds a sense of belonging and fairness, consequently discouraging recruitment of potential terrorists.

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Education should include civic and assimilation education. Civic education would bolster state legitimacy and encourage cooperation by the populace while assimilation education would enhance harmony (Benjamin, 2008). This would in turn lead to less radicalization, tolerance, mutual understanding and societal cohesiveness. Apart from government and public institutions’ involvement, the education campaigns would involve support of organizations spreading moderate ideologies and coexistence within and outside the USA. The education can be through class sessions, the media and films and can be aimed at undermining the terrorists’ recruitment messages and gaining support of by stander communities.

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Having government policies that embrace special-interest groups are another way to curb domestic terrorism (Parkin et al., 2017). These policies should tally with the national interests. They include policies about the environment, racial relations and globalization. Such policies would enhance resource sharing and sustainability practices as well as embracing of the various diversities among the population to address the concerns of domestic and international terrorists (e.g. Earth Liberation Front, Black Lives Matter and Muslim extremists).

Future legislation and counterterrorism

Whether gun control hinders terrorists is a point of debate with proponents encouraging tougher gun legislation that includes stricter and foolproof background checks. They argue that this would ensure that potential terrorists do not easily access guns. Opponents of stricter gun control who lobby for less government interference in gun ownership say that guns in the hands of the citizenry hinder terrorist activities and afford people self-defense. Either way, it is evident that future gun legislation would impact terrorism.

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Through the United States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan (CONPLAN), the government has outlined the response to terror attacks, granting the FBI the leading role in counterterrorism and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the leading role in consequence management (US Government et al., 2016). It also stipulates the roles and responsibilities of the Attorney General, the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Justice, Defense, Energy, and Health and Human Services. Future amendment of this policy should reflect the skills, knowledge and experiences gained from subsequent attacks to streamline COPLAN so that it better tackles terrorism through considering evolvement of terrorism and counterterrorism.

Coherent immigration legislation amendment can also be used to curb terrorism. This can be through stricter vetting of individual visa and entry applicants by having multiple layers at port and border controls. This should target, and be seen to target, potential terrorists rather than targeting people based on race or religion.

Federal government powers, terrorism and civil liberties

Through suspended presidential decrees, the Trump administration has attempted to curb the terror threat by banning populations from specified countries. It is noteworthy that the nationalities the government tried to ban accessing the US have contributed to zero terrorism-related deaths between 1975 and 2015 (Friedman, 2017). Yet visitors, tourists, residents and immigrants contribute to the American economy and society as witnessed by the large number of immigrants contributing to the Silicon Valley innovation and consequent boom that attracts some of the best brains throughout the world. Curtailing movement and immigration as a counterterrorism measure further sacrifices America’s values of liberty while abetting the terrorists’ ideologies of hatred and fear.

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The failure of the decrees has led to the executive and some Americans to label the judiciary and the media as fermenting insecurity in America. Criticism of these institutions, institutions that contribute greatly to the civil liberties enjoyed by the populace, undermines state legitimacy (Friedman, 2017). Hence individual arms of the government (such as the executive) should not be granted too much power as to ride roughshod on the other arms of government. The checks and balances vested in the different arms of the federal and state governments should hence be maintained to ensure the government does not misuse its powers to erode civil liberties on the pretext of fighting terrorism.

Future frequency of terrorism

As the growing human population and climate change deplete resources, there will be disagreements about sharing of the scarce resources. This will lead to discontentment and radicalization, considering that differences in ideologies in the struggle for scarce resources underlies terrorism (Benjamin, 2008). This will lead to a worldwide increase in terrorism. This could however be mitigated by shifting to renewable resources. This will ensure there is plenty for all and hence curb the struggle.

The political climate in the country and internationally is worse than in the recent past with differing views finding voice and affirmation through the spread of information technology. This is likely to lead to online and or physical conglomeration of like-minded people including terrorists (Warrick, 2016). Such groups as ISIL have attracted recruits and sympathizers through online forums. Such a situation leads to more domestic and international terrorism.

Another factor that could exacerbate terrorism is acquisition of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons by the terrorist groups (US Government et al., 2016). This would enhance their capability to wage warfare against America, its interests and our allies. It would increase the frequency of terrorist attacks domestically and internationally.

However, as the government and other institutions streamline counterterrorism strategies through increased skills, knowledge and experience, they are bound to predict and counter terrorism activities better; be it through military or socio-economic strategies. Counterterrorism will become a way of life for crime-fighters as well as the population (US Government et al., 2016). This will dissuade and destroy the capability of terrorist groups.


While terrorism internationally has been on the rise with over 150,000 cases reported since 1970, it has been on the decline in the United States over the past three decades. Nonetheless it is during this time that 9/11 happened. This catastrophic international terrorism event was a reminder of the potential cost of a series of terror attacks on a single day. It is therefore important for individuals and agencies concerned with counterterrorism to always be alert and resourceful.

The counterterrorism strategies should constantly evolve to cater for the evolving terrorism landscape, with policies and legislation enacted to target domestic terrorism which, since 9/11, is a greater threat than international terrorism in the United States. The strategies should also consider the impact of counterterrorism on such socio-economic factors as immigration, tourism and investment.

The fight against terrorism should be global with America taking the lead by developing suitable strategies as espoused by CIA, “where more countries and peoples are integrated into a world consistent with the interests and values we share with our partners – values such as human dignity, rule of law, respect for individual liberties, open and free economies,  and religious tolerance. We understand that a world in which these values are embraced as standards, not exceptions, will be the best antidote to the spread of terrorism” (CIA, 2003).

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