An Analysis of the United States use of Military Force Against Terrorism


Terrorism is a significant threat to U.S. national interests. To counter this threat U.S. policymakers have used a variety of options over the past thirty years, including political–diplomatic measures, economic sanctions, a sustained law enforcement effort, and the periodic use of military force. Of all the tools available to the U.S. in its struggle against terrorism, none has been as controversial as military force, due to the potential for deaths to innocent civilians and other collateral damage, casualties to U.S. servicemen, and other potential political risks. Mindful of these risks, this paper examines the utility of using military force against terrorism based on an analysis of three case studies: U.S. air strikes against Libya in 1986, U.S. cruise missile strike against Iraq in 1993, and cruise missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998. This analysis examines the military, political, and strategic results from each of the cases, and based on this analysis, concludes that military force is an essential and productive component of the U.S. strategy to contain terrorism.


Download PDF