Anti-Terrorism: New Priority in Foreign Policy

March 27, 1981

Report Outline
Human Rights Shift in Washington
Scope of International Terrorism
New Policy's Wide Ramifications
Special Focus

Human Rights Shift in Washington

Reagan and Haig Statements About Terror

As one of his first official acts after taking office, President Reagan announced that his administration would take a much harder line on international terrorism. Welcoming home the U.S. hostages from Iran on Jan. 28, Reagan said: “Let terrorists be aware that when the rules of international behavior are violated, our policy will be one of swift and effective retribution…. We live in an era of limits to our powers. Well, let it be understood there are limits to our patience.”

The next day, in his first news conference as president, Reagan said he did not want to be too specific about what he meant by “swift and effective retribution.” He pointed out that the United States is a “big” and “powerful” nation. “It has a lot of options open to it,” he said, “and to try and specify now just particularly what you should do I think is one of the things that's been wrong. People have gone to bed in some of these countries that have done these things to us in the past confident that they can go to sleep, wake up in the morning and the United States wouldn't have taken any action.”

There is little doubt that Reagan and his advisers mean business when they talk about taking a stronger stand against international terrorism. But there still is considerable uncertainty about what precisely they can and will do, what their new policies will mean for victims of terrorist acts and whether the new policies will be implemented in a way that strikes most Americans as effective and fair. Efforts by top administration officials to clarify such matters so far have tended to raise more questions than they answered.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 14, 2021  Domestic Terrorism
Apr. 09, 2021  Targeted Killings
Apr. 01, 2016  Defeating the Islamic State
Jan. 29, 2016  Unrest in Turkey
Jun. 27, 2014  Assessing the Threat From al Qaeda
Sep. 02, 2011  Remembering 9/11
Sep. 03, 2010  Homegrown Jihadists
Mar. 12, 2010  Prosecuting Terrorists Updated
Nov. 2009  Terrorism and the Internet
Feb. 13, 2009  Homeland Security
Apr. 21, 2006  Port Security
Oct. 14, 2005  Global Jihad
Apr. 02, 2004  Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism
Feb. 22, 2002  Policing the Borders
Oct. 12, 2001  War on Terrorism
Jul. 21, 1995  Combating Terrorism
Aug. 26, 1988  New Approach to Mideast Terrorism
May 30, 1986  Dealing With Terrorism
Oct. 08, 1982  Prospects for Peace in Northern Ireland
Mar. 27, 1981  Anti-Terrorism: New Priority in Foreign Policy
Dec. 02, 1977  International Terrorism
Jan. 26, 1973  Control of Skyjacking
May 13, 1970  Political Terrorism
Jul. 24, 1952  Red Terrorism in Malaya
Military Intelligence
Terrorism and Counterterrorism