Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness
The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness
Updated March 12, 2007
Specialist in International Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring
This report is designed to support efforts of the 110th Congress to understand
and apply broad based objective criteria when evaluating progress in the nation’s
efforts to combat terrorism. It is not intended to define specific, in-depth, metrics for
measuring progress against terrorism.
How one perceives and measures progress is central to formulating and
implementing anti-terror strategy. Perception has a major impact, as well, on how
nations prioritize and allocate resources. On the flip side, the parameters used to
measure progress can set the framework for the measurement of failure. The
measurement process is also inextricably linked to strategies. Progress is possible
using diverse strategies, under very different approaches. The goals of terrorists and
those who combat them are often diametrically opposed, but may also be tangential,
with both sides achieving objectives and making progress according to their different
Within the context of these competing views and objectives, terrorist activity
may be seen as a process which includes discrete, quantum-like changes or jumps
often underscoring its asymmetric and nonlinear nature. An approach which looks
at continuous metrics such as lower numbers of casualties may indicate success,
while at the same time the terrorists may be redirecting resources towards vastly more
devastating projects. Policymakers may face consideration of the pros and cons of
reallocating more of the nation’s limited resources away from ongoing defensive
projects and towards preventing the next quantum jump of terrorism, even if this
means accepting losses.
Measurement of progress, or lack thereof, may be framed in terms of incidents,
attitudes and trends. A common pitfall of governments seeking to demonstrate
success in anti-terrorist measures is overreliance on quantitative indicators,
particularly those which may correlate with progress but not accurately measure it,
such as the amount of money spent on anti-terror efforts. As terrorism is a complex
multidimensional phenomenon, effective responses to terrorism may need to take
into account, and to some degree be individually configured to respond to, the
evolving goals, strategies, tactics and operating environment of different terrorist
groups. Although terrorism’s complex webs of characteristics — along with the
inherent secrecy and compartmentalization of both terrorist organizations and
government responses — limit available data, the formulation of practical, useful
measurement criteria appears both tractable and ready to be addressed. This report
will not be updated.
In troduction ......................................................1
Challenges in Measuring Progress.................................2
Impact of Perceptions on Strategy.................................3
Current Strategy and Cited Results....................................4
Describing and Measuring Progress Against Terrorism....................5
Terrorism as Process...........................................5
Example Framework for Measurement.............................9
Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of
This report is designed to help the 110th Congress better understand the
characteristics and importance of measurement of counter-terrorism activities, the
dynamics of the phenomenon to be measured, i.e. terrorism, and what would
generally be required from any entities — government or otherwise — tasked with
establishing and evaluating measures of effectiveness. It is not intended to define
counter-terrorism activities, nor to create a definitive, in-depth methodology for
measuring progress against terrorism. Rather, it is designed to provide added tools
and insights to support Congress in its efforts to coordinate, fund, and oversee the
nation’s anti-terrorism activities.
Importance of Measuring Progress in Anti-Terror Efforts
The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) requires agencies to
set goals and objectives for their performance, and to measure progress against these
goals and objectives. Under the law, anti-terror efforts are not exempt from these
requirements, without which the objective evaluation of progress to the full
satisfaction of Congress might be impeded.1
Rising costs of anti-terrorism efforts have become an increasing problem. The
vast land area of the United States and widespread U.S. interests abroad are
impossible to protect entirely. Billions of dollars have been spent to develop anti-
terror technologies, establish crisis management training and enhance security
staffing throughout the country. Whether these expenditures are cost-effective, or
1 Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, P.L. 103-62, 107 Stat. 285, see
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/mgmt-gpra/gplaw2m.html]. The law requires agencies
to move from defining budgets in terms of inputs and program outputs to focus on outcomes
and results. The statute defines output measures as “the tabulation, calculation, or recording
of activity or effort and can be expressed in a quantitative or qualitative manner.” Outcome
measures are defined as “assessment of the results of a program activity compared to its
intended purpose” (Section 4(f)). Note that under the law the CIA, the Government
Accountability Office, and the U.S. Postal Service (which is governed by separate, but
similar provisions of the law) are not required to submit such reports. However, the CIA
does submit them voluntarily to the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees. See
generally: CRS Report RL30795, General Management Laws: A Compendium, by Clinton
whether the money would be better spent, for instance, building secular schools in
Islamic countries or promoting public relations efforts aimed at young Muslims,
remains an important policy question. Developing robust measurement criteria might
assist government officials in answering such questions.
It is unclear just how much the United States spends overseas annually in non-
military areas to combat terrorism, but the amounts are in the billions of dollars. For
FY2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) put the figure at $11 billion.2
At home, dollar amounts spent on terrorism-related security by the 50 states are
elusive as well, but FY2006 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security
topped $30 billion ($30.8 billion).3 Arguably, existing legislation requires
government agencies to be held accountable for the cost-effectiveness of these
mammoth expenditures on combating terrorism. Demonstrable, measurable,
effective progress against terrorism is the desired goal.
Challenges in Measuring Progress
Among the various U.S. government agencies involved in anti-terrorism efforts,
there is currently no common set of criteria for measuring success. Although over
four years have elapsed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, many agencies
are still attempting to establish and define precise criteria and standards, without
which they cannot measure organizational performance.4 Uncertainty with respect to
both strategies and measurements makes it difficult to describe progress accurately
and to demonstrate progress to the public or U.S. allies.
Different types of terrorist threats may carry different risks and potential
impacts, and strategies may need to adapt accordingly. For instance, different
strategies may be applicable to terrorism rooted in political or economic vs. cultural
or theocratic origins. Such differences in threats and our response strategies make
measurement of progress more difficult.
For the greatest success, the war on terrorism, like the war on drugs, must
arguably be conducted and measured in a multi-faceted manner on many fronts, with
sufficient resources allocated to each strategic element. It is usually not possible to
achieve this approach due to funding limitations, and the result is vulnerabilities in
certain areas, where acknowledgment of lack of progress may be politically
Of concern to some is that efforts to gauge progress may be compromised
should measurement criteria selectively target areas of apparent relative progress,
2 Note that this FY2004 data appears to be the most recent published and available.
3 See H.R. 2360/P.L. 109-90, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2006
(Oct. 18, 2005; 119 Stat. 2064).
4 See for example, “GAO Cites Confusion over Homeland Security Responsibilities,”
GOVEXEC.COM, Daily Briefing, Feb. 14, 2005, citing GAO report, GAO-05-33,
Homeland Security: Agency Plans, Implementation, and Challenges Regarding the National
Strategy for Homeland Security, Jan. 14, 2005.
such as increased airport security, while other areas, such as port security, may
remain under-addressed. Another area of concern is that anti-terrorist actions might
be undertaken for a wide range of reasons without being clearly linked to previously
defined anti-terror goals; in such circumstances, caution would likely be warranted
before characterizing results as progress.
A common misconception is that by increasing expenditures the nation is
necessarily making good progress. As a practical matter, the nation cannot secure
everything, everywhere. Terrorist operations are relatively inexpensive to organize
and carry out, especially in comparison to the damage they may inflict, or the cost of
trying to prevent them from happening.5 Consequently, spending more money may
not necessarily increase security proportionally. Moreover, some suggest that the
United States is bleeding itself dry economically, like the Soviet Union did in its
attempts to match western military spending during the cold war.
Some contend that the biggest threat to democracy from terrorism is not
destruction of property and life, but rather an inexorable erosion of civil liberties
worldwide. Other concerns are loss of international unity due to policy differences,
loss of opportunities due to budget and policy constraints, and reduction of U.S.
stature and public relations image abroad. These and many other factors form a
mosaic of measurements that highlight the complexities of analyzing progress.
Impact of Perceptions on Strategy
How one perceives and measures progress is central to formulating and
implementing anti-terror strategy.6 The perception of progress has a major impact
on establishing priorities and allocating resources. The parameters used to measure
progress can also set the framework for measurement of failures. To better define the
parameters of success, it is important to determine what both the terrorists, and those
who fight them, see as their goals and priorities.
Critical to the measurement process is the realization that measurements are
inextricably linked to strategies. Positive progress is possible using diverse strategies,
which may employ very different tactics. For example, some nations take a hard line
against radical Islamists, including targeted assassination, while other nations appear
to have a more laissez-faire — if not conciliatory/accommodating — approach. Both
strategies can claim progress, using different measurements. An important
consideration in formulating measurable strategies is reduction of uncertainty through
clear enunciation of policy.
5 Note that the 9/11 Commission Report has estimated the cost of the 9/11 attack at under
$500,000; others put at under $35,000 the cost of the Oct. 12, 2002 nightclub bombing in
Bali; and at under $50,000 the cost of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole on Oct. 12, 2000.
6 For an overview of U.S. anti- terror strategy see CRS Report RL32522, U.S. Anti-Terror
Strategy and the 9/11 Commission Report, by Raphael Perl. The U.S. government strategy
is currently undergoing review at the NSC.
Current Strategy and Cited Results
In a statement issued by President Bush on September 28, 2005 titled Fighting
a Global War on Terror, he emphasized four core elements of America’s strategy
for victory in the war on terror: (1) fighting the enemy abroad; (2) denying terrorists
state support and sanctuary; (3) denying terrorists access to weapons of mass
destruction; and (4) spreading democracy.7 These elements generally echo
Administration anti-terror strategy as set forth in its February 14, 2003, National
Strategy for Combating Terrorism.8
In the wake of 9/11, the Administration has pointed to the killing or capture of9
more than 2/3 of al Qaeda’s top leadership and seizure of over $200 million in
terrorist financing as examples of progress against terrorism.10 More recently,
progress milestones cited by President Bush in his September 28, 2005 statement
included (1) removal of brutal regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that harbored
terrorists; (2) moving forward in the “march” of democracy worldwide, noting
Lebanon; (3) shutting down a major weapons of mass destruction [WMD] black
market network originating in Pakistan, and Libya’s rejoining a community of
nations; and (4) capturing a number of key terrorists in Pakistan and Iraq, as well as11
capturing and killing hundreds of insurgents in Iraq. Disruption of al Qaeda
terrorist plots and efforts to infiltrate the United States were subsequently cited as an
7 See [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/09/images/20050928_
p092805pm-0055j pg-515h.html ].
8 See [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/2003214-7.html] Similarly, in
subsequent remarks on the war on terror delivered before the National Endowment for
Democracy on Oct. 6, 2005, the President emphasized five elements of United States’ anti-
terror strategy: (1) preventing terrorist attacks before they occur; (2) denying WMD to
outlaw regimes and their terrorist allies; (3) denying extremist groups the support and
sanctuary of radical regimes; (4) denying militants control of any nation for use as a home
base for terror; and (5) denying militants future recruits by encouraging the spread of
democracy across the broader Middle East. See [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/
9 See President Discusses Progress in Iraq, excerpts from his October 9, 2003 speech in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/10/print/
20031009-7html]. See also Introduction by Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for
Counterterrorism, to Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002, (U.S. Department of State) Apr.
2003, p. iii, in which he earlier cited a figure of one-third of al Qaeda’s top leadership being
killed or captured.
10 For example according to the congressional testimony of Treasury Under Secretary
Samuel W. Bodman, before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs,
April 29, 2004, roughly $200 million of terrorist funding was seized as of late April 2004.
See also: Anti-Terror Strategy, the 9/11 Commission Report & Terrorism Financing:
Implications for U.S. Policymakers by Raphael Perl, Strategic Insights, volume IV, issue 1,
(Jan. 2005) [http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/jan/perlJan05.pdf].
11 See Presidential Statement: Fighting a Global War on Terror,
[ h t t p : / / www.whi t e house.gov/news/releases/2005/09/images/20050928_
p092805pm-0055j pg-515h.html ].
additional indication of success by the President in his discussion of the war on terror
at the National Endowment for Democracy on October 6, 2005.12
Though some $200 million is said to have been have been confiscated, it is not
clear how much damage has been done to the terrorist’s ability to raise or transfer
additional funds. Moreover, if one terminates 2/3 of the senior leadership of a
particular terrorist organization, the ranks of the organization may grow and
decentralize, similar to the impact of attacks on drug cartels, evolving into a more
Another key issue is how one measures the impact of unintended consequences
— or side effects and by-products — and other results, such as diverting scarce
resources from one policy area to another, increasing spending and possibly adding
to the budget deficit, or eroding civil liberties.13 These types of issues were often not14
addressed in the Patterns of Global Terrorism reports of previous years. However,
in contrast, the successor to Patterns, titled Country Reports on Terrorism, now15
emphasizes in-depth, comprehensive analysis.
Describing and Measuring Progress Against
Terrorism as Process
The phenomenon of terrorism can be seen as comprising human elements
(supporters and hard core terrorists) and ideological elements. To the degree that
terrorism is viewed as a process, the phenomenon is similar to a pipeline or factory
assembly line with key stations along the way. The process includes ideological
outreach, acquisition of funding and support, recruitment, organization,
indoctrination, training, planning, targeting, attack, exploitation of results, financial
12 See [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/10/20051006-3.html]. In contrast,
see “White House List of Disrupted Terror Plots Questioned,” by John Diamond and Toni
Locy, USA Today, October 26, 2005, p.4A. A broader and more comprehensive analysis of
the progress of terrorism and counter-terrorism is found in Country Reports on Terrorism.
For the 2004 version see [http://usinfo.state.gov/is/img/assets/4475/Country_Report_
13 See “N.Y. Police Official Defends Searches of Subway Riders” (News Service Report),
Washington Post, Nov. 1, 2005, p. A16.
14 See generally CRS Report RL32417, The Department of State’s Patterns of Global
Terrorism Report: Trends, State Sponsors, and Related Issues, by Raphael Perl.
15 Country Reports on Terrorism. For the 2004 version see [http://usinfo.state.gov/is/img/
assets/4475/Country_Report_Terrorism_31727.pdf]. The function of compiling statistical
data on global terrorism trends has been taken over by the National Counterterrorism Center
(NCTC). To access the database, see [http://www.tkb.org/Home.jsp].
rewards and other factors which lead to production of terrorist acts. Any such
proposed anti-terrorism model would be adapted for specific terrorist groups, since
such groups may operate differently.
A challenge facing those who seek to measure progress against terrorism is to
identify critical, outcome-determining elements and assess how well they have been
mitigated. Disrupting the process of terrorism as early as possible is vital, since it
can eventually become an economic engine in its own right, with increasing numbers
of individuals and businesses deriving financial benefits and developing vested
The terrorists’ initial search for ideological or financial supporters and physical
recruits comes at the beginning of the process. Important here is the level of state
support or opposition to such activities. At a subsequent phase, one might look at
the organization or network and seek to measure its effectiveness and resiliency.
In addition to measuring the terrorism process itself, structural and
environmental factors also require evaluation. Is the dependance on certain factors
that terrorists or anti-terrorists can exploit as vulnerabilities increasing or decreasing?
How seamlessly do terrorist organizations and networks interact? How seamlessly
do new government anti-terrorist organizational structures and networks interact?
Is the international operating environment becoming more or less inviting or
restrictive for terrorists or for those combating them? Is it easier or harder today for
terrorists to inflict the damage they seek to do?16
Also important is the post-attack/recovery period. Since not all targets can be
protected at all times, some will likely be hit. Hence the effectiveness of post-
attack/incident recovery is a significant factor in measuring the success or failure of
terrorist operations. Is the ability of the United States to recover from bombings or
similar attacks stronger today than it was several years ago, or not? Increasingly, as
terrorist groups seek to cause economic damage, the ability of governments to
recover rapidly economically in the aftermath of terrorist attacks becomes an
important indicator of progress in combating the phenomenon of terrorism.17
Success at each stage of the process can be measured in various ways, including
relatively continuous metrics such as the number of recruits, the dollars expended,
the economic value of targets, the number of casualties inflicted, etc. Similar
assessment categories can be developed for other pertinent factors, such as societal
or environmental aspects of terrorism. Related factors may sometimes be grouped
for convenience of discussion or to render them more amenable to certain
mathematical treatment. Measurements may be compared at various points in time
or otherwise analyzed inferentially.
16 Note that anti-terror is also a process, with its own pipeline and its own targeting. This
raises the issue of whether the U.S. ability to get inside the terrorist planning cycle and
provide credible warning and suggested protective measures is better today than in
preceding years. See CRS Report RL32897, Post 9/11 Threat Notification Efforts, by John
17 See CRS Report RS21937, 9/11Terrorism: Global Economic Costs, by Dick Nanto.
It is natural to assume that decreases in terrorist activity, or even a slowing rate
of increase, reflect progress in anti-terror efforts. Arguably, however, this type of
measurement may underestimate the varied nature of terrorist actions. The often
asymmetric, nonlinear nature of terrorist operations, frequently characterized by
abrupt changes, increases the deadliness of the threat and necessitates measurements
of progress that more accurately reflect this additional danger.
Measuring Terrorism as Quantum Change
It is important to recognize that terrorist activities (and concomitant anti-terrorist
efforts) evolve as a set of actions, incidents, and other manifestations evidenced by
quantum-like jumps and changes in state. This may make it more difficult to
measure success, or failure, but this view is compatible with the complexities in this
For instance, once suicide bombing starts, it presents a qualitatively different
environment than before and changes the nature of the threat. Likewise, small
bombings may be on a continuum, but the attacks of 9/11 were a qualitatively
different phenomenon. Once terrorism escalates to a new plateau, it becomes
increasingly dangerous, like the mutation of a virus to a more virulent strain.
As terrorism mutates, so must an effective response designed to counter it.
Once terrorism has escalated to a higher level, a previous response may be less
effective. Hence, terrorism requires a pro-active and quickly malleable policy of
prevention and mitigation.
One concern is that the phenomenon of terrorism, if not effectively challenged
and disrupted, may at some point jump to become a regional or global pandemic of
violence as an accepted modus operandi for social change. Yet another concern is
that terrorism will become the ballot box for the dispossessed, if the gap between the
“haves and have nots” continues to widen.18
Arguably therefore, it is important not only to measure where terrorism is, but
also how close terrorists are to the next quantum jump. The potential quantum jump
currently of greatest concern to many would be to WMD (chemical, biological or
radiological/nuclear). In this view, a focal point of measurement would be how close
the terrorists are to this next level, what it would take for them to achieve it, and how
well the nation is preventing them from getting there. What are possible indicators
that a quantum jump is imminent?
Indicators of Quantum Change
Some of the possible indicators, experts look to, or might look to, as an
indication that a terrorist group is about to move to another level include:
18 Note that a correlation between terrorism and poverty — as well as a correlation between
poverty and other forms of violent crime — has yet to be clearly established. A major
concern is that anger, frustration, and resentment fueled by poverty may be subject to
manipulation and channeled into terrorist causes.
!Intelligence. Ability of terrorists to ascertain specific knowledge
critical to exploiting the nation’s vulnerabilities or to thwarting anti-
!Technology. Closeness of access to a critical quantum change-
producing technology or equipment incorporating such technology.
!Impact on Society. Both material and psychological impact beyond
a critical threshold, such as disruption of the banking system, or
establishment of such pervasive fear that key civil liberties or moral
principles underlying the national identity are set aside by the
government in the interests of security.
!Targets and Their Protection. Shifts from individual targets to mass
casualties; shifts from focus on high-visibility targets to coordinated
attacks against multiple softer targets, yielding a domino effect with
mega-impact (including mega-impact on morale); generally,
dramatic shifts in the scale and brutality of attacks.
!Alliances. The emergence of new synergistic terrorist alliances and
the willingness/ability of terrorist organizations to form alliances
with other terrorist and criminal networks, and/or rogue states. This
synergy could escalate terrorist operations in a nonlinear manner.
!Disruption. Large-impact, unexpected attacks which could force
anti-terror operations into solely defensive posture.
!Amount of Unproductive Energy Expended. The degree to which
terrorists force governments to expend a critical limit of funds or
resources beyond which certain anti-terror efforts become
unsustainable and must be curtailed.
!Sophistication of Effort. Hijacking an airplane to hold passengers
hostage vs. doing so to use it as a missile; suicide bombings by lone
individuals vs. suicide bombings by trucks with high explosives;
hijacking of web pages vs. widespread disruption of
communications networks using sophisticated computer viruses; use
of conventional explosives vs. “dirty” bombs.
!Morale/Momentum. Ordinary recruitment of a small number of
disenchanted fanatics vs. the critical mass of group dynamics needed
to foment and propagate terrorism as a self-sustaining process. On
the other hand, anti-terror efforts which dilute the process below a
critical threshold may result in the eventual dissolution of the
Progress may be defined differently by the terrorists and those who oppose
them. Hence both can claim progress, and both can be correct in their assessments.
How can this be reconciled? How can measurements of progress be established
which are not politicized or biased? In this regard, one must be cautious that success
is not defined retrospectively, with goals reformulated after the fact to correspond
with the known outcomes. Arguably, measurements of progress have greater validity
if strategies are established before, and not after, taking action.
In a search for meaningful measurement criteria, the academic, engineering,
scientific and actuarial communities may have much to offer government
policymakers. Extensive mathematical tools exist to help define and validate
proposed measurement systems, and indeed one might employ a variety of such
systems used by different groups. As long as measurements are clearly defined and
linked to goals and objectives, these differences need not be divisive.
The conduct of a survey of data on terrorism is an option. That is, a survey of
what data on terrorism — especially data bases — currently exist, what categories
and details are found within that data, and what the data can reasonably inform
policymakers about. Existing methodologies for measuring progress in combating
complex social phenomena such as drug trafficking and crime could contribute
Models for Measurement
Example Framework for Measurement
In designing metrics for measuring effectiveness of anti-terror efforts, one
option might begin with three major categories: incidents, attitudes, and trends. This
is one of many possible models. Analysis of the resulting data could address how
well the process of terrorism is being disrupted, on both continuous and quantum
In the past, the number of terrorist attacks, or “incidents”, were prominently
displayed in publications such as the Department of State’s annual Patterns of Global
Terrorism reports.19 The reports also indicated how widespread the incidents were
geographically, and how deadly they were in terms of persons killed or injured. But
arguably neglected was the impact of such incidents — especially their effect on the
macro-economy. Also, not fully clear is which attacks are important or meaningful
enough from the standpoint of measurement to be considered “incidents.”
19 Renamed in 2004: Country Reports on Terrorism. For the 2004 version see
[http://usinfo.state.gov/is/img/ assets/4475/Country_Report_T errorism_31727.pdf].
In attempting to measure incidents, some in the United States tend to define
success in familiar ways: body counts and numbers. In a western, science-and-
technology-oriented society, many feel that if a problem can be quantified, it can be
solved. However, a common pitfall is overreliance on quantitative data at the
expense of its qualitative significance. In previous years’ Patterns of Global
Terrorism reports, incidents were counted equally without regard to their broader
impact.20 To the degree that terrorist constituencies are not from western cultures,
their mindsets may not necessarily place a premium on quantification metrics, but
rather on other values such as religious precepts, or honor or revenge.
Western policymakers often tend to define success by the absence of attacks.
When the shooting or bombing stops, for example, that is viewed as success. Yet
terrorists sometimes define success in terms of making governments expend limited
resources trying to defend an enormous number of potential targets. For terrorists,
the absence of violent conflict may simply mean that they are focusing attention on
economic, political, or social spheres, or just that they are in a “waiting period.”
Western policymakers often define success in terms of the amount of money
confiscated from terrorist networks. Terrorists may define success in terms of the
amount of money they force an opponent to squander to seize potentially
Attitudes drive both terrorism and the world’s response to terrorism. How do
attitudes affect political decisions and sentiments in countries to contain and defeat
terrorism, or to support it? How long can democratic governments pursue policies
that pressure terrorists if such policies are seen as bringing on terrorist retaliation?
Similarly, how much increase in economic costs and reduction in civil liberties will
public opinion tolerate? Shaping attitudes to break or weaken the political will to
combat terrorism is a central terrorist goal and an important indicator of success or
With regard to attitudes, terrorists often see success as breaking their opponents’
will. They want to push the conflict into the political arena on the streets of
Washington, London, Paris, Karachi, Moscow, and Madrid. They want the public
to tire of the casualties caused by terror in places such as Baghdad, Chechnya, and
wherever else they can strike a blow. They want the public to push governments to
adopt policies of appeasement,22 or alternately, to force governments to spend beyond
their means and to become increasingly oppressive and draconian towards their own
20 See generally CRS Report RL32417, The Department of State’s Patterns of Global
Terrorism Report: Trends, State Sponsors, and Related Issues, by Raphael Perl.
21 See generally Venzke, Ben and Ibrahim, Aimee, The al-Qaeda Threat. An Analytical
Guide to al-Qaeda Tactics and Targets, Tempest Publishing Co. (Alexandria, Va.), 2003,
22 See generally CRS Report RL32759, Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology, by
Christopher M. Blanchard; and Venzke, Ben and Ibrahim, Aimee, The al-Qaeda Threat. An
Analytical Guide to al-Qaeda Tactics and Targets, Tempest Publishing Co. (Alexandria
Va.), 2003, 230 p.
populace. They may see public opinion concerning anti-terrorism policies as an
Achilles heel, counting on protracted reaction of protest.23
Other attitudinal criteria include (1) negative psychological or behavioral impact
of terrorism on a society, (2) loss of public confidence in governments, or in their
security measures, (3) the degree to which terrorists are able to radicalize and
polarize Islam against the West and vice versa, (4) the level of anti-American or
anti-Western sentiments, and (5) the level of religious bigotry in countries which are
breeding grounds for terrorists.
Moreover, cultural differences may often also lead to different views concerning
violence. Some societies have a warrior tradition and may not necessarily regard
peaceful coexistence as a desirable goal. Certain theocracies may regard selective
violence as being countenanced by scripture.
Attitudes are central to shaping of consensus, or lack thereof. To the extent that
nations can reach a multilateral consensus concerning shared anti-terror strategies,
goals and measurement criteria, the United States may be more successful in
obtaining the support and assistance of other nations in anti-terror efforts.
Trends are changes of incidents, attitudes and other factors, over time.
Measurement of trends is particularly relevant with regard to trends in terrorist
infrastructure. Is their leadership being weakened; is their recruitment base,
network, or target list growing? Relevant also are intentions (tactical and strategic
goals). Have the intentions of a movement or group changed and if so are they more
or less radical — more or less focused on causing widespread damage? Capabilities
are important as well. What are the capabilities of a terrorist group to inflict serious
damage? Are they increasing or decreasing?
Other trends that might be measured include are: (1) the number of governments
that do not embrace appeasement policies, (2) the number of defectors from the
terrorist ranks, (3) the terrorists’ levels of Internet activity, (4) the amount of media
coverage they receive, and (5) the number of supporters and recruits they gain.
A related issue here is how U.S. policies affect terrorists’ popular support and
recruiting. Also included here is the degree to which government bureaucratic
institutions can work smoothly together, collectively adapting their strategies and
tactics to keep up with and stay ahead of the methods utilized by individual terrorists
and terrorist networks. Important as well is improvement in states’ recovery
capabilities and coping skills.
Analysts are quick to point out that the United States is engaged in an ongoing
campaign; not a war in the traditional sense. Key here is the ability to sustain a long-
term campaign. This takes international cooperation. Trends in international
23 See what appears to be an Oct. 11, 2005, letter between two senior al Qaeda operatives
al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi, at [http://www.dni.gov/release_letter_101105.html].
cooperation are important in measuring progress against terrorism. Past threats have
generally united America with its allies. Today, the threat of terrorism appears to be
dividing America and some traditional allies. Moreover, significant international
dissent may signal that future progress will be more difficult and costly.
Effective responses to terrorism may need to take into account, and to some
degree be individually configured to respond to, the evolving goals, strategies,
tactics, and operating environment of different terrorist groups. Better understanding
of the dynamics of terrorism allows for a more complete picture of the complexities
involved in measuring success or failure and can assist the 110th Congress as it
coordinates, funds, and oversees anti-terrorism policy and programs. Although
terrorism’s complex webs of characteristics — along with the inherent secrecy and
compartmentalization of both terrorist organizations and government responses —
limit available data, the formulation of practical, useful measurement criteria appears
both tractable and ready to be addressed.