Weaknesses In Using Conventional Approach For Military Or Drone Warfare In Fighting Terrorism

Subject: Sociology
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2738
Topics: Military Science, Terrorism, War


In recent times, increased cases of terrorism across the world, has been a major issue of concern for political leaders, the military and other stakeholders. The concern of these groups lies in the best ways to succeed with the fight against terrorism. Zech and Gabbey (2016) defined terrorism as the use of force, threat of violence or violence by a group of people with the intention of causing harm to civilians in order to achieve political goals, ideological change or religious change (p. 224). As Shultz (2017) mentioned, majority of terrorist acts are carried out with civilians being primary targets (p. 819). This implies that, in the acts of terrorism, the terrorists apply varied degrees of unlawful and discrimination violence aimed at creating fear and panic for government and also to inflict harm on the innocent civilians (Bahgat & Medina, 2013, p. 53). Because civilians have mostly suffered at the hands of terrorists, it is expected that any approaches used in fighting the canker will not pose further threat or harm to civilians. Unfortunately, the use of military conventional approach to combat terrorism has not guaranteed civilians protection either. This essay will illustrate the weakness associated with the use of military warfare in fighting terrorism by focusing on conventional approach to terrorism and why the conventional approach presents weakness in military warfare counterterrorism.

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Selected approach and reason for selection

The conventional approach to fighting terrorism involves waging war on terrorists in ways that do not involve the use of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons. According to Byman (2017), the military use of conventional approach as an open confrontation against terrorism involves two methods (p. 150). The first method adopted by the military against terrorists focus on the use of conventional weapons. In the view of Bahgat and Medina (2013), the conventional weapons are mostly used to combat terrorism and these weapons are those that are not weapons of mass destruction (p. 53). They include weapons used in resisting crimes and wars such as light weapons and small arms like revolvers, rifles, pistols, light machine guns, submachine guns and others. Other conventional weapons used are sea and land mines, and non-weapons of mass destruction such as shells, rockets, bombs, missiles and cluster munitions. According to Jarvis and Lister (2014) these weapons mostly use explosive materials and they are classified under chemical energy which is different from nuclear energy (p. 49). The other method of conventional approach also focuses on using battlefield tactics to confront the terrorist groups. Gunning (2007) noted that in using the battlefield tactics, the military apply various forms of forces, weapons and units which enable them to engage and defeat the terrorist (p. 382).

In this study, the conventional approach was selected because it is seen to becoming the most common approach used by countries around the world in combating terrorism. Newman (2016) sees this approach to terrorism as a problem solving approach. That is, it places emphasis on finding the quickest way to end the activities of terrorists. (p. 4858). This is done when the military finds various means which they believe will restrict the activities of the terrorist groups. Meanwhile, Richard (2014) argued that the conventional approach is used with a general purpose of weakening and totally destroying terrorist groups (p. 231). Walder (2015) mentioned that the efficiency of the conventional approach lies in its swiftness in arriving at very conclusive decisions about fighting terrorism (p. 234).

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Irrespective of the efficiency of the conventional approach in fighting terrorism, it has generated a lot of controversy about its ineffectiveness in ending terrorism as a growing global phenomenon. In the view of Wilkinson (2012), what makes the conventional approach ineffective stems from the fact that information gathered before applying it is done in such a swift manner that it could be full of errors (p. 320). Consequently, there could be cases where the military will target wrong destinations or groups as the cause of particular terrorist attacks. The kind of weapons used in the conventional approach and its impact on innocent civilians has also been criticized. This explains reason why the conventional approach is considered as weak and unsuitable in bringing incidents of terrorism to an end since its method of counterterrorism could be terrorizing in itself.

Military warfare as counterterrorism

Counterterrorism seeks to put an end to the existence of terrorist groups globally by fighting back acts of terror. Garcia-Alonso et al (2016) indicated that counterterrorism involves all the practices, tactics, techniques and strategies needed by either a government, police departments or military to response to terrorists threats (p. 118). Using military warfare in counterterrorism involves the adoption of various forms of operations undertaken by the military to weaken and destroy the activities of the terrorist organization. As Balcells and Kalwas (2014) mentioned that the primary role of the military in combating terrorism lies in the prevention of emergence of Taliban-type structures (p. 1399). It also seek to stop the activities of sponsors, especially those who have access to nuclear weapons that can cause mass destruction.

One of the uses of military warfare in counterterrorism according to Watkin (2016) is target killing (p. 288). In the context of military counterterrorism, target killing can be explained to be the use of military force to eliminate a specific individual or group who pose terrorist threat. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency as a measure of fighting terrorism especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia for instance have used target killing (Wong et al, 2017, p. 50). This trend of counter terrorism was witnessed in the successful killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and the strike on Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011. Another use of military warfare in counterterrorism is the training of allies for counterinsurgency in situations where insurgencies play a vital role in global terrorism as in the case of the jihadist movement (Byman, 2017, p. 156).

Implications of military warfare in fight against terrorism

National implications

One of the implications of military warfare in the fight against terrorism as Martin & Weinberg (2016) cited has do with the impact that it has on the national budget (p. 238). Using the military as a tool in combating terrorism require that the government increase the number of military personnel in the country. As more people are recruited into the service, it places a huge financial burden on the country’s economy. It is estimated that the total number of military personnel in all the branches of the military in United States is 1,429,995 (Zech & Gabbay, 2016, p. 225). This issue is critical especially to countries with limited financial capacity and the need to develop other sectors within the country as well. When military warfare is used in counterterrorism, it will require that many military personnel be sent to operate outside the country. Apart from the remuneration of these military personnel, investment in weapons and training also put a huge burden on the economy of the country. What is more, as more personnel go on war, there will be fewer personnel at home to protect the citizen. As Shultz (2017) indicated, US military personnel are stationed in over 150 countries globally with an estimated number of 150, 560 military personnel stationed in foreign countries (p. 832). The situation clearly denies citizens back home the needed military protection they may also require.

International implications

Another implication of military warfare in the fight against terrorism according to Richard (2014) is that it leads to attacks on innocent civilians and results in human right abuses (p. 217). Jarvis and Lister (2014) mentioned that a major criticism of the use of military warfare in combating terrorism has to do with the issue of collateral damage on civilians (p. 44). While the military may use target killing to attack a legitimate target, there is high possibility of accidental damage or death being caused to civilians and civilian property. It is estimated that a total number of about 2,412 civilians in Afghanistan were killed in the American-led war in 2009 (Wilkinson, 2012, p. 325). In another survey conducted in 2011, it is estimated that a total of about 500,000 civilians in Iraq have died as result of the conflict, which in part is related to the war on ISIS (Walder, 2014, p. 235). Using military warfare in fight against terrorism implies that there could be some collateral death among the civilians. In the view of Gunning (2007), the use of military warfare in counterterrorism could largely contributes to upsurge in refugees, which is a serious international crisis (p. 365). As a way for civilians not to fall victims to such misfortune arising from military led counterterrorism, many people flee their home and country to seek asylum in other countries amidst economic hardship and maltreatment. According to a recent survey, the number of refugees has escalated considerably with a total number of about 21 million refugees arriving at Europe as of December 2015 (Watkin, 2016, p. 279).

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Why the conventional approach presents weaknesses in military warfare counterterrorism

One of the reasons the conventional approach presents weakness in military warfare counterterrorism is because it is reactive rather than proactive (Martin & Weinberg, 2016, p. 244). The conventional approach is said to be reactive because according to Garcia-Alonso et al (2016), the approach uses strategies and techniques in an emergency or crisis situation in order to gain control over the terrorist organization (p. 117). One characteristic of the reactive approach is the use of military warfare in response to the terrorist organization after the terrorist group has launched the attack. Unlike a proactive strategy, where the military focuses on preventing the act of terrorism from occurring all together. In this case, when military warfare is used to win the war against a particular terrorist act, Byman (2017) indicated that the core tendency of more terrorism occurring remains unsolved (p. 148). Because the role of the military in such situations is to respond to the attack, it never seeks to understand why the terrorists act in the way they do. According to Balcells and Kalwas (2012), factors such as poverty, corruption, religious conflict and ethnic strife are considered as some of the underlying conditions for which the terrorists launch an attack to demonstrate their displeasure (p. 1400). As a means to justify their actions, the terrorist organizations use these conditions as an underlying factor. The conventional approach presents weakness in military warfare because of the fact that the approach is not able to eliminate the problem of terrorism.

Gunning (2007, p. 386) argues that there are some factors which impede the conventional approach and make the approach not a suitable strategy to combat the issue of terrorism. The reason this is said is that the conventional approach presents weakness in military warfare as it does not use evidence-based verifications as the basis of decision making (Lutz & Lutz, 2016, p. 313). According to the argument raised, information needed to address the issue of terrorism may not be effective and as such present an incorrect approach to terrorism. In a recent research to determine whether the approach is effective on the basis of existing programs, Shultz (2017) indicated that the approach pose problems and is considered as highly unsuitable for making decision purposes when it comes to military warfare counterterrorism (p. 819).

In the view of Newman (2014, p. 4855), the use of conventional approach in counterterrorism cannot be used as a long-term approach to develop plans that will enable the military to foil future terrorism. One major reason that explains this situation is that the approach lacks the assumption and convention to protect the idea of counterterrorism. As a result, the approach presents a weakness to help bring terrorism under total control. Walder (2015) also observed that the conventional approach is often used in an ad-hoc manner without careful planning (p. 239). The use of ad-hoc approaches in military warfare counterterrorism presents only solutions to specific incidents of terrorist attack without having the potential to generalize terrorism as a global canker. When the conventional approach is used in the ad-hoc manner it exposes its weakness in a manner that demonstrates that the approach is only created during incident of terrorism for which military warfare is needed to quickly combat it (Wong et al, 2017, p. 46).

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Specific Case Studies of Military Warfare in Counterterrorism

The purpose of using military warfare in terror fights is to put an end to the existence of terrorist attacks around the world. This means that military warfare employs all forms of practices, tactics, strategies and techniques to combat such violent crime. However, there are specific cases to suggest that the use of military warfare in some terror fights did not succeed as expected. Using the case of US-led war against ISIS in Syria, Bahgat & Medina (2013) argued that military warfare did not succeed because the approach was generally ad-hoc in nature and lacked careful planning (p. 53). The conventional approach has therefore been blamed as the reason the war against ISIS has failed to end after many years of combating the Islamic State. Because of the lack of planning, the military warfare counterterrorism could not be very specific about what it wanted to achieve from the attacks it launched in Syria. At some point, the attacks were attributed to ending the Bashir al-Assad regime, while at other times, it was attributed to ISIS (2016, p. 239). It is regrettable to note that after countless military attacks on ISIS, the Islamic State went ahead with their terror stricks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait. The attack by the Islamic State killed many innocent civilians and caused injury to more than hundreds of people. The series of attacks by the ISIS especially during vacation has caused several countries to be on the alert. What this infers is that the conventional approach and use of military warfare only offers reactive responses when the underlying cause of terrorism remains.

The US’s war on Taliban in Afghanistan has also often been cited as another failed attempt at terrorism. The argument has been that the use of military warfare in the terror fights did not succeed as expected since it was reactive rather than proactive (Belcells & Kalwas, 2014, p. 1414). The attacks were reactive because they sought to offer some form of publicist hope to the American people at the 9/11 attacks. For this reason, much time was not allowed to gather enough information needed to combat the violent crime. United States war in Afghanistan should have ended the activities of the Taliban but the war continues until date Lutz & Lutz (2016, p. 314). One reason that explains why US did not succeed as expected is because US interest lied in the reactive use of military warfare against the Taliban without taking into consideration the Taliban’s source of support (Wong et al, 2017, p. 53). It was reported that Pakistan continued to offer support to the Taliban on its boarders where the Taliban seek refuge when pressed by the US army (Watkin, 2016, p. 284). The conventional approach in military warfare counterterrorism failed to identify this because of the over emphasis on the use of military warfare in combating the terror attack


It is established that the conventional approach to military warfare involves combat violent attacks on terrorist without the use of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons. The conventional approach in military warfare adopts methods such as conventional weapons which include light weapons and small arms like pistols, submachine guns and others. Another method adopted by the approach involves the use of battlefield strategy where various forms of weapons and units are used to combat terrorism. Although conventional approach in military warfare provides means through which the activities of the terrorist organizations are control, the approach present some forms of weakness. The weakness stems from the implication of military warfare against terrorism where it affects the national budget which put a lot of pressure on the country’s economy. Another implication is that the approach leads to the killing of innocent citizens who are mostly civilians. It is argued also that the conventional approach in military warfare counterterrorism present a weakness which suggests that the approach is reactive rather than proactive and so even if the war against the terrorist group is warn, the core problem of terrorism remains because it never seeks to understand why terrorists act in the way they do.

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