Preparing for and Responding to Assymetric Warfare
Lieutenant General Jirí Sedivý
Chief of the General Staff, Czech Armed Forces
The form of terrorism we see today is often called an asymmetric threat. In simple terms, this involves a situation in which an attacker who is weaker than his potential victim tries to achieve his goal by using an unexpected, non-traditional means to strike. He hits the stronger opponent in a strategic area that is extremely hard to defend.
NEW TYPES OF TERRORISM
Terrorists involved in asymmetric warfare use not only conventional weapons but also new technologies, including cyberterrorism, bioterrorism, and ecoterrorism. Currently cyberterrorism is a major threat, since most developed countries depend on information systems for all aspects of life and such systems can be easily attacked. Hackers now use computers as weapons against countries and targeted societies. The collapse of information systems could result in the total and swift collapse of social and economic structures.
Chemical and biological weapons are also being used by today's terrorists. They can be produced more cheaply and require less material and time to make than nuclear weapons. Toxic agents have been used against innocent people in recent years, including in the Omshiro subway in Japan and in the U.S. after September 11, 2001.
The possible use of radioactive material also raises fear. Unlike chemical agents, which do damage immediately, radioactive agents may continue to cause harm for many years.
AN INTERNATIONAL SCOURGE
Borders do not limit terrorism, and it does not stem from only one group or one religion. Terrorism is international. Its protagonists, both individuals and groups, are part of a disciplined military apparatus that has specific goals and acts through conspiracy. Terrorist strikes can be carried out anywhere in the world, in strong democratic countries as well as amid the chaos and corruption of less developed nations.
Most often, terrorists act in small groups. They make use of shock tactics to gain the advantage and to multiply their effect. Every democratic society that believes in and respects human rights creates nearly ideal conditions for terrorist activities. Effective countermeasures may require temporarily limiting democratic privileges, which can result in negative responses from the population.
CHANGES IN THE ARMED FORCES
The use of armed forces is frequently discussed in connection with the fight against terrorism. Following positive developments in the geostrategic environment, armed forces are currently being transformed and reduced. But while shrinking in numbers, their equipment and organizational structures are becoming more modern, ready for action, and mobile. They are now able to fulfill multiple tasks in various times and places.
However, while their form is changing, their mission remains the same; fighting terrorism is simply an addition to their spectrum of tasks. But to fight terrorism the armed forces require in-depth reorganization. They also need to gather intelligence in close cooperation with allies and require technology for improved reconnaissance and surveillance. To react quickly our forces, and not only our Special Forces, must also be very mobile, and some units must have NBC and medical capabilities as well.
THE NEED FOR POST-ATTACK CONTROL
Predicting the extent, place, and time of terrorist action is and always will be very difficult and demanding. However, mastering the situation after a terrorist attack is also important. Governments and their armed forces and rescue agencies must respond quickly and effectively to limit the extent of damage, to prevent panic, and to restore calm. Terrorists aim not only to shock and kill but to cause mental anguish and destabilization following their attacks. Therefore early and effective post-attack control is as important as prevention.
Methods for taking control after an attack can be developed despite the will of the terrorists. One method is to create an integrated rescue system, joining effective rescue forces and means for intervening at the scene of an emergency. Since terrorism does not respect any borders, international cooperation is key to an integrated rescue system.
The fight against terrorism must be conducted on both the national and the international levels. Being successful in this fight also requires effective prevention techniques as well as coordinated efforts to deal with terrorism's aftermath.