Criminal Justice Paper on Alternative Approaches to Counterterrorism

Alternative Approaches to Counterterrorism

Terrorism is a major threat facing countries all over the world. It continues to hamper peace efforts in Africa, Middle East, and other European countries. Several global agencies, law enforcement agencies, and governments continue to salvage the matter by continuous co-operation and coordination to help reduce or offer countermeasures to reduce terror acts. Many have relied on the coercive approach and force-based approaches as counterterrorism efforts despite several other solutions in the offing. This paper argues that war is never the last resort for dealing with terrorism; there are alternatives such as the intelligence approach and strengthening homeland security which have a far better record of success historically than the coercive approach.

Most terrorist experts agree that the coercive approach remains to be the most common approach that organizations use to fight acts of terror. The strategy uses threats and military intervention to subdue terrorists through either ambush or direct military strikes on possible hideouts. It is used in almost every country. However, it is not critically the most successful approach alone. It is losing appeal as more tactical alternatives to terror remain viable. In fact, no single approach works effectively. Therefore, law enforcement agencies need to employ multi-faceted approaches to combat and subdue terror. Some of the alternatives include the use of intelligence and enforcing homeland defense.

The Intelligence Approach

Less public, but no less important, effective counterterrorism approach needs a major security dimension involving worldwide intelligence-gathering exercise. Intelligence approach remains is one of the modern ways to reduce terrorism. This tactical strategy uses information regarding the workings and operations of terror groups in both global and domestic levels. Most organizations and law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Interpol have been successful in their operations because of employing tactical strategies in their worldwide operations. They have excelled in monitoring gangs and groups of notorious criminals due to the use and analysis of information.

In a rapidly changing world with numerous bits of information, law enforcement agencies can use the information collected from diverse locations to help develop strategies for winning the fight against terror. In this strategy, they could employ the use of certain agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This would help in mining data from multiple sources and develop strategies to reduce terror in cases where the information is top secret (Wiil, 2011). This would also assist such agencies to develop strategic ways of inhibiting the operations of terror groups, as prior information gathered and analyzed using advanced software with the coercive approach to appropriately direct military strikes on specific targets.

Strengthening of Homeland Security

Homeland security is a vital component that can be used concurrently with a coercive approach to mitigate terror acts (Martin, 2003, p. 346-7). Predominantly used to strengthen domestic security, it can be extended to cover areas around airports, custom regions, public and immigration, where such a model is embraced by countries prone to terror threats. This approach could work, especially if similar operations run concurrently in different countries. Given the diverse nature of homeland security, in its ability to employ a multi-faceted countermeasure against threats, it can blend well with the coercive approach in preventing and mitigating terror threats (Martin, 2003, p. 346-7).

Areas around airports with a likelihood of terror can be secured tightly by terror agencies in order to protect aircraft landing or taking off. And in cases where alerts have been issued, force can be used through military intervention, police or homeland security. In addition to these, homeland security can be beefed up in immigration stoppages such as national borders. Here the state agencies and police will need to check passenger crossing borders, cargo aircraft and trains for any explosive devices or chemicals. In most cases, it would be more effective where there exist partnerships with customs to monitor cargo, packages, and goods arriving onshore.

The coercive approach to combating terrorism cannot work in isolation. This is because the approach is popular with external aggression, which involves an attack on a country where terror masterminds reside. In cases where a terror group is much more sophisticated, a country needs to integrate its law enforcement agencies through proper coordination. This involves coordinating the various agencies, instruments in order to provide an elaborate cover geared towards public safety.

Most terror activities occur within a country, and as a result, strengthening homeland security would be a milestone as a countermeasure against acts of terror. This is because a terror group also involves it in offering defense and public safety upon invasion. In most cases, homeland security provides security aimed at safeguarding the public and would work in tandem with other security agencies such as the military and the police depending on the magnitude of a possible terror attack.

In complementing the coercive approach, strengthening homeland security and using intelligence approach would help the agencies offer security to the public. In cases where a threat is high and emanates from the external environment such as a border country, homeland security at the border regions and military would coordinate the prevention efforts to reduce terror attacks on a country. Therefore, in as much as this approach is appropriate for many organizations, it is important for organizations that maintain safety and order to combine several approaches as a countermeasure to terror. This will assist in a proactive approach to fighting terror.




Martin, G. (2003). Understanding terrorism: Challenges, perspectives, and issues. London: Sage.

Wiil, U. K. (2011). Counterterrorism and open source intelligence. Vienna: Springer-Verlag/Wien. Retrieved from