essay is extracted from Ralph Peters' new
book, "When Devils Walk the Earth." It is a must-read. If you focus on
nothing else, peruse the last point; Number 25.
Chapter III. Fighting Terror: Do's and Don'ts for a Superpower:
1. Be feared!
Identify the type of terrorists you face, and know your enemy as well
as you possibly can. Although tactics may be similar, strategies for
dealing with practical vs. apocalyptic terrorists can differ widely.
Practical terrorists may have legitimate grievances that deserve
consideration, although their methods cannot be tolerated. Apocalyptic
terrorists, no matter their rhetoric, seek your destruction and must be
killed to the last man. The apt metaphor is cancer: you cannot hope for
success if you only cut out part of the tumor. For the apocalyptic
terrorist, evading your efforts can easily be turned into a public
triumph. Our bloodiest successes will create far fewer terrorists and
sympathizers than our failures.
3. Do not be afraid to be
powerful. Cold War-era gambits of proportionate response and dialog may
have some utility in dealing with practical terrorists, but they are
counter-productive in dealing with apocalyptic terrorists. Our great
strengths are wealth and raw power. When we fail to bring those
strengths to bear, we contribute to our own defeat. For a superpower to
think small, which has been our habit across the last decade, at least,
is self-defeating folly. Our responses to terrorist acts should make
the world gasp!
4. Speak bluntly. Euphemisms are interpreted as
weakness by our enemies and mislead the American people. Speak of
killing terrorists and destroying their organizations. Timid speech
leads to timid actions. Explain when necessary, but do not apologize.
Expressions of regret are never seen as a mark of decency by terrorists
or their supporters, but only as a sign that our will is faltering.
Blame the terrorists as the root cause whenever operations have
unintended negative consequences. Never go on the rhetorical defensive.
Concentrate on winning the propaganda war where it is winnable. Focus
on keeping or enhancing the support from allies and well-disposed
clients, but do not waste an inordinate amount of effort trying to win
unwinnable hearts and minds. Convince hostile populations through
6. Do not be drawn into a public dialog with
terrorists, especially not with apocalyptic terrorists. You cannot win.
You legitimize the terrorists by addressing them even through a third
medium, and their extravagant claims will resound more successfully on
their own home ground than anything you can say. Ignore absurd
accusations, and never let the enemy's claims slow or sidetrack you.
The terrorist wants you to react, and your best means of unbalancing
him and his plan is to ignore his accusations.
7. Avoid planning
creep. Within our vast bureaucratic system, too many voices compete for
attention and innumerable agendas, often selfish and personal - intrude
on any attempt to act decisively. Focus on the basic mission: the
destruction of the terrorists with all the moral, intellectual and
practical rigor you can bring to bear. All other issues, from future
nation building, to alliance consensus, to humanitarian concerns are
8. Maintain resolve. Especially in the Middle East
and Central Asia, experts and diplomats will always present you with a
multitude of good reasons for doing nothing, or for doing too little
(or for doing exactly the wrong thing). Fight as hard as you can within
the system to prevent diplomats from gaining influence over the
strategic campaign. Although their intentions are often good, our
diplomats and their obsolete strategic views are the terrorist's
unwitting allies and diplomats are extremely jealous of military
success and military authority in their region (where their expertise
is never as deep or subtle as they believe it to be). Beyond the
problem with our diplomats, the broader forces of bureaucratic entropy
are an internal threat. The counter-terrorist campaign must be not only
resolute, but constantly self-rejuvenating in ideas, techniques,
military and inter-agency combinations, and sheer energy. Old hands
must be stimulated constantly by new ideas.
9. When in doubt,
hit harder than you think necessary. Success will be forgiven. Even the
best-intentioned failure will not. When military force is used against
terrorist networks, it should be used with such power that it stuns
even our allies. We must get over our cowardice in means. While
small-scale raids and other knifepoint operations are useful against
individual targets, broader operations should be overwhelming. Of
course, targeting limitations may inhibit some efforts but whenever
possible, maximum force should be used in simultaneous operations at
the very beginning of a campaign. Do not hesitate to supplement initial
target lists with extensive bombing attacks on nothing if they can
increase the initial psychological impact. Demonstrate power whenever
you can. Show; don't tell!
10. Whenever legal conditions permit,
kill terrorists on the spot (do not give them a chance to surrender, if
you can help it). Contrary to academic wisdom, the surest way to make a
martyr of a terrorist is to capture, convict and imprison him, leading
to endless efforts by sympathizers to stage kidnappings, hijacking and
other events intended to liberate the imprisoned terrorist(s). This is
war, not law enforcement.
11. Never listen to those who warn
that ferocity on our part reduces us to the level of the terrorists.
That is the argument of the campus, not of the battlefield, and it
insults America's service members and the American people.
Historically, we have proven, time after time, that we can do a tough,
dirty job for our country without any damage to our nation's moral
fabric (Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not interfere with American
democracy, values or behavior).
12. Spare and protect innocent
civilians whenever possible, but: do not let the prospect of civilian
casualties interfere with ultimate mission accomplishment. This is a
fight to protect the American people, and we must do so whatever the
cost, or the price in American lives may be devastating. In a choice
between them, and us the choice is always us.
13. Do not allow
the terrorists to hide behind religion. Apocalyptic terrorists cite
religion as a justification for attacking us; in turn, we cannot let
them hide behind religious holidays, taboos, strictures or even sacred
terrain. We must establish a consistent reputation for relentless
pursuit and destruction of those who kill our citizens. Until we do
this, our hesitation will continue to strengthen our enemy's ranks and
14. Do not allow third parties to broker a peace, a
truce, or any pause in operations. One of the most difficult challenges
in fighting terrorism on a global scale is the drag produced by nervous
allies. We must be single-minded. The best thing we can do for our
allies in the long-term is to be so resolute and so strong that they
value their alliance with us all the more. We must recognize the innate
strength of our position and stop allowing regional leaders with
counterproductive local agendas to subdue or dilute our efforts.
Don't flinch. If an operation goes awry and friendly casualties are
unexpectedly high, immediately bolster morale and the military's image
by striking back swiftly in a manner that inflicts the maximum possible
number of casualties on the enemy and his supporters. Hit back as
graphically as possible, to impress upon the local and regional players
that you weren't badly hurt or deterred in the least.
16. Do not
worry about alienating already-hostile populations. --(ED ADDED, "OR
ANTI-WAR SENATORS ASPIRING TO BECOME PRESIDENT OF OUR GREAT NATION.")
Whenever possible, humiliate your enemy in the eyes of his own people.
Do not try to use reasonable arguments against him. Shame him publicly,
in any way you can. Create doubt where you cannot excite support. Most
apocalyptic terrorists, especially, come from cultures of male vanity.
Disgrace them at every opportunity. Done successfully, this both
degrades them in the eyes of their followers and supporters, and
provokes the terrorist to respond, increasing his vulnerability.
If the terrorists hide, strike what they hold dear, using clandestine
means and, whenever possible, foreign agents to provoke them to break
cover and react. Do not be squeamish. Your enemy is not. Subtlety is
not superpower strength but the raw power to do that, which is
necessary, is our great advantage. We forget that, while the world may
happily chide or accuse us-or complain of our inhumanity-no one can
stop us if we maintain our strength of will. Much of the world will
complain no matter what we do. Hatred of America is the default
position of failed individuals and failing states around the world, in
every civilization, and there is nothing we can do to change their
minds. We refuse to understand how much of humanity will find excuses
for evil, so long as the evil strikes those who are more successful
than the apologists themselves. This is as true of American academics,
whose eagerness to declare our military efforts a failure is
unflagging, or European clerics, who still cannot forgive America's
magnanimity at the end of World War II, as it is of unemployed
Egyptians or Pakistanis. The psychologically marginalized are at least
as dangerous as the physically deprived.
19. Do not allow the
terrorists sanctuary in any country, at any time, under any
circumstances. Counter-terrorist operations must, above all, be
relentless. This does not necessarily mean that military operations
will be constantly underway sometimes it will be surveillance efforts,
or deception plans, or operations by other agencies. But the overall
effort must never pause for breath. We must be faster, more resolute,
more resourceful and, ultimately, even more uncompromising than our
20. Never declare victory. Announce successes and
milestones. But never give the terrorists a chance to embarrass you
after a public pronouncement that the war is over.
upon the minds of terrorists and potential terrorists everywhere, and
upon the populations and governments inclined to support them, that
American retaliation will be powerful and uncompromising. You will
never deter fanatics, but you can frighten those who might support,
harbor or attempt to use terrorists for their own ends. Our basic task
in the world today is to restore a sense of American power,
capabilities and resolve. We must be hard, or we will be struck
wherever we are soft. It is folly for charity to precede victory. First
win, then unclench your fist.
22. Do everything possible to make
terrorists and their active supporters live in terror themselves. Turn
the tide psychologically and practically. While this will not deter
hard-core apocalyptic terrorists, it will dissipate their energies as
they try to defend themselves and fear will deter many less-committed
supporters of terror. Do not be distracted by the baggage of the term
assassination. This is a war. The enemy, whether a hijacker or a
financier, violates the laws of war by his refusal to wear a uniform
and by purposely targeting civilians. He is by definition a war
criminal. On our soil, he is either a spy or a saboteur, and not
entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Those who abet
terrorists must grow afraid to turn out the lights to go to sleep.
Never accept the consensus of the Washington intelligentsia, which
looks backward to past failures, not forward to future successes.
In dealing with Islamic apocalyptic terrorists, remember that their
most cherished symbols are fewer and far more vulnerable than are the
West's. Ultimately, no potential target can be regarded as off-limits
when the United States is threatened with mass casualties. Worry less
about offending foreign sensibilities and more about protecting
25. Do not look for answers in recent history, which
is still unclear and subject to personal emotion. Begin with the study
of the classical world, specifically Rome, which is the nearest model
to the present-day United States. Mild with subject peoples, to whom
they brought the rule of ethical law, the Romans in their rise and at
their apogee were implacable with their enemies. The utter destruction
of Carthage brought centuries of local peace, while the later empire's
attempts to appease barbarians consistently failed!