Suicide bombers threaten mayhem in the Middle East. And experts now warn about "state-supported terrorism." Where is it all headed?
A NEW WAVE of violence is sweeping over the world. In its wake are death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Just look at what has happened. Suicide bombings of U.S. and French peacekeeping forces in late 1983 left nearly 300 dead in Beirut, Lebanon. Not long afterward, six explosives rocked tiny Kuwait within minutes, in an ominous spread of disorder to the vital oil-rich Gulf region. In Asia a bomb in Rangoon, Burma, took the lives of 17 South Korean officials, including four cabinet members — and narrowly missed South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan. In Britain the Irish Republican Army (IRA) continued its holiday-season policy of increased public terrorism with its Christmas car-bombing outside the world-famous Harrod's department store. Ten people died and 74 were wounded. The IRA also launched an unprecedented attack on a church service in Northern Ireland. All of these links in a rapid chain of terrorist attacks have stunned governments around the world.
A Losing Battle?
In recent years there had been some bright spots in the battle against terrorism. Through the use of conditional pardons, better intelligence networks, tougher policies in hostage situations and greater international cooperation, governments have been able to make considerable progress against the more traditional terrorist organizations such as Italy's notorious Red Brigades. Despite these government successes, however, international terrorism is alive and now more deadly than ever. In the first nine months of 1983, nearly 7,300 died in terrorist attacks — more than twice those killed in the eight years between 1972 and 1980. The ensuing climate of fear and notoriety has forced many nations to introduce a wide range of security measures for public officials and buildings. Barricades now block access to public buildings in Washington, D.C., for fear of what some have called the terrorist weapon of the 1980s: the Beirut — style suicide truck bomb. And with the XXIII Olympic Games only a few months away, officials in Los Angeles, recalling the 1972 tragedy in Munich — at which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commandos — are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. The U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee has arranged for more than 17,000 security personnel, backed by a 42-man FBI antiterrorist team, to ensure the safety of both the athletes and the public at large. These precautions may save many lives. Yet they've contributed to an atmosphere of governments under siege — precisely the climate terrorists hope to create.
Terrorist groups survive despite governmental pressures in much the same way as a troubled business survives in spite of economic difficulties. To "stay in business," terrorist groups have, in the past, robbed banks, kidnapped, extorted, even dealt in drugs or other contraband materials. But "local fund-raising" has proven unreliable for some groups. As a result, they have opted for another, more ominous way of augmenting their budgets: seeking out powerful sponsors to provide safe havens, training, weapons and money. In some cases these sponsors have proven to be national governments — leading to what is now called "state-supported terrorism." Terrorists have become the means by which some powerful nations, desiring to avoid unwanted escalation or public outcry, can punish their enemies at a relatively small cost. These modern-day guns-for-hire also provide the same service for smaller nations that may fear a direct confrontation with a major power. Many nations make no bones about their connections to terrorist groups. Syria, Libya, Iraq and South Yemen all see no objection in directly aiding terrorism. Israel, in turn, mounts numerous counterattacks on specific targets. Others like Cuba, North Korea, Algeria and several Eastern bloc nations prefer the role of clandestine training centers. Perhaps as many as 5,000 guerrillas and terrorists have been trained in. Cuba alone. Two decades ago, only a relatively few terrorist groups had connections with government sponsors. Now, according to one consultant on terrorism, only a few don't have the support of some state. In a bold statement made in 1979, Dr. Hans Josef Horchem of West Germany's antiterrorist Office for the Defense of the Constitution flatly stated: "The KGB [the Soviet intelligence agency] is engineering international terrorism. The facts can be documented and are well known to the international community." As Claire Sterling adds in her book The Terror Network: "In effect, the Soviet Union had simply laid a loaded gun on the table, leaving others to get on with it." Nor is the CIA (the U.S. intelligence agency) free from similar charges under one or more previous administrations. State sponsorship has presented a dangerous new face of terrorism. For one thing, the level of weaponry employed has advanced greatly. Crude pipe bombs have been replaced by sophisticated remote-fired car bombs. Molotov cocktails are out; rocket-propelled grenades are in. But greater levels of finances and weaponry are not the only changes that have come on the scene. Targets have changed also. In the 1970s, attacks against property accounted for 80 percent of all terrorist activities. Only 20 percent were directed against people. Today, those figures are about 50-50. Diplomats and diplomatic facilities are now particularly singled out. They have become the targets of nearly 40 percent of all international terrorist attacks.
Terrorism Will Be Stopped
The immediate future does not look bright for those battling against terrorism. And as the world's level of frustration rises, an America that has seemed nearly impervious to terrorism may begin to suffer along with the rest of the world. As President Ronald Reagan said a few months ago: "We have never before faced a situation in which others routinely sponsor and facilitate acts of violence against us." For state-sponsored terrorists like the Libyan hit teams in Europe or the Shiite terrorists in Lebanon, the latter believed to be inspired by the revolutionary government of Iran, no act is too violent. The world has reached — and threatens to go way beyond — a period similar to the violent terrorism that plagued post-World War I Germany, where small armies sponsored by various political factions waged war in the streets. This recent historic period was not unlike the situation in Beirut today — and not unlike a time described by the apostle Paul 1,900 years ago: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves... boastful, proud, abusive... unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash..." (II Tim. 3:1-4, New International Version). Jesus Christ himself prophesied (see the account in Matthew 24:7-8) that at the time of the end, "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.... All these are the beginning of sorrows." This is what we have today. One nation sponsoring bloody terrorist attacks on another. The governments under assault today are often powerless to stop this deadly scourge. The world must, instead, look elsewhere for a way out of this madness. More killings, more bombings, more sorrows are on the horizon. But there is a government on its way that will deal with terrorism in a firm manner. The kingdom of God will save mankind from men willing to go to any length — whether by war or terrorism — to achieve their means. The coming Messiah "will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Isa. 2:4, NIV). For a glimpse of this coming age of peace, read our free booklets The Wonderful World Tomorrow-What It Will Be Like and World Peace How It Will Come?.