Webcast Recap

George A. Lopez, Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC Professor of Peace Studies, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame; Thomas E. McNamara, former Ambassador-at-Large for Counter Terrorism, currently a senior official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

This event was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center (International Security Studies, Middle East Program, and Asia Program), the Council on Global Terrorism, and Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

In the wake of 9/11 a gap has emerged in the field of nonmilitary responses to terrorism. Uniting Against Terror, edited by George Lopez and David Cortright, seeks to address that gap. Although the book acknowledges the place of armed interdiction and recognizes its role in combating terrorism, Lopez asserted that the "long struggle" against terrorism will occur in the diplomatic arena.

Lopez introduced his contributions to the book with an overview of existing multilateral counterterrorism resources, many of which are UN-initiated and led. UN Security Council Resolution 1267 focused specifically on the Taliban and Al Qaeda and was fairly broad in its monitoring of terrorism-related activities. UNSC Resolution 1373, a generalized antiterror resolution, provided for travel bans, visa monitoring and authority to track and freeze assets.

Although the UN has enjoyed particular success in the realm of training and empowering counterterrorism forces (such as the Australians), Lopez pointed to several problematic areas. In some cases, jurisdictional overlap can cause inefficiency or confusion, as in the case of Resolution 1535 which established a separate executive directorate of counterterrorism. Inevitably, Lopez noted, the problems of clashing realms of expertise with other international organizations and a growing cynicism among member states will hamper UN efforts. To overcome these challenges, Lopez advocated the formation of an IAEA-like organization that would operate autonomously.

Lopez turned briefly to the European Union strategy for fighting terrorism, noting that increased cooperation and integration has been a trend since 9/11 and the Madrid attacks. A hallmark of the European approach has been its twin pursuit not only of groups and individuals, but also of terrorists' resources and finances.

The book's last chapter marks a departure from the preceding analytical approach in that it prescribes policy consideration for the future. Lopez stressed the need to differentiate between the "core jihadists" who pose the most dire threats and the opportunists who lack that ideological spark. Whereas the former generally necessitate a military response, Lopez suggested that police and law enforcement might better combat the latter. A "demand side" approach could significantly lessen the ranks of opportunist terrorists and help isolate the entrenched jihadists. Finally, Lopez highlighted the importance of ongoing WMD control and nonproliferation in tandem with other counterterrorism efforts.

Ambassador Thomas McNamara presented a summary of his detailed case study on Libya's trajectory of terrorism and diplomacy. As the Reagan administration turned increasingly to non-Soviet foreign policy issues in the 1980s, it clashed with Libya, beginning with a 1981 showdown over water rights in the Gulf of Sidra. Following Libya's 1983 invasion of Chad and the 1985 attacks on the Rome and Vienna airports by Abu Nidal terrorists backed by the Qadaffi regime, the U.S. congress passed a series of unilateral sanctions on Libya.

The escalation of tensions with Libya continued through the 1980s and included a second Gulf of Sidra showdown, the terrorist bombings of a Berlin disco, the 1986 retaliatory bombing of Tripoli by U.S. jets and a bloody abortive hijacking linked to Libya. This "tit-for-tat" culminated in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, in which the Qadaffi regime was later directly implicated. Ultimately, McNamara concluded, Reagan's policy vis-à-vis Libya was a failure: it neither stopped the terrorism nor overthrew Qadaffi's regime. By treating the endemic problem of terrorism as a series of isolated events, Reagan's policy advisors failed to understand the problem at stake.

The second phase of U.S. Libya strategy proved vastly more successful: under the UN's first use of Chapter VII obligatory sanctions, Libya was effectively contained by targeted sanctions on its aviation, arms imports, and oil exports. From 1998-2003, Qadaffi moved to end Libya's diplomatic isolation and tacitly aligned himself with the West to combat the jihadi terrorists who do not share his pan-Arab nationalist sentiments. According to McNamara, the lesson to be drawn is that the UN can be an effective counterterrorism tool under the right circumstances. If sanctions are used and targeted effectively, and if international compliance is high, they may be a potent nonmilitary tool in the fight against terrorism.