Combatting Terrorism Becomes a War

by Brian Michael Jenkins

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This paper discusses the implementation of the new National Security Directive signed by President Ronald Reagan on April 3, 1984. The new directive and the stated policy of the government make clear that the United States must be prepared to use force if it is to effectively combat state-sponsored terrorism. The directive constitutes a declaration of war against an unspecified terrorist foe, to be fought at an unknown place and time with weapons yet to be chosen. The paper examines the important policy and organizational implications of this declaration. The author concludes that the difficulties of implementing the policy ought not cause the United States to retreat in despair behind concrete barriers and wait for the next attack. Terrorism has become a new mode of warfare, one increasingly used by aggressive and ruthless governments who may understand only force. Military force has to be an option. It is by no means the sole solution.

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