New Approach to Mideast Terrorism

August 26, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


Although terrorism against Americans is on the rise again worldwide, Lebanon has been relatively quiet. Nine American hostages are still being held there, but none has been taken in the last six months. Is it just coincidence? Or is the United States now doing something right?

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On the morning of March 16, 1984, CIA station chief William F. Buckley left his Beirut apartment carrying two attaché cases containing classified documents. As he pulled out of his driveway, armed men grabbed him and forced him into the trunk of a white Renault. For the CIA, the kidnapping of their point man in the Middle East was a terrible blow. Under orders from William J. Casey, the director of central intelligence, dramatic efforts were undertaken to locate and rescue Buckley and three other American hostages—Frank Reiger of the American University of Beirut, Jeremy Levin of Cable News Network, and the Rev. Benjamin T. Weir. A special Hostage Task Force was created, FBI reconnaissance teams were sent to Beirut, and payoffs to Lebanese informants were stepped up. All of this failed.

In response to the kidnappings and other terrorist acts against Americans in Lebanon—the U.S. Embassy had been bombed in April 1983, and the barracks of the U.S. Marine peacekeeping force had been bombed in October 1983—the United States launched a highly audible campaign against international terrorism. The administration declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, thus limiting exports of technological and military items to Iran. (The move, however, had little practical effect because President Carter's 1979 arms embargo had never been lifted.) In April 1984 President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) No. 138, which approved pre-emptive military strikes against individuals or groups involved in terrorist acts. Secretary of State George P. Shultz embarked on a personal crusade against terrorism, repeatedly calling for “swift and sure” reprisals. “We cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond.” Shultz said in a speech on Oct. 25, 1984. “We need to summon the necessary resources and determination to fight it and, with international cooperation, even totally stamp it out.”

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
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia
Terrorism and Counterterrorism