Clinton Wants to Get Tough Against Terrorists

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Like all things military -- and nonmilitary -- that President Clinton has done in recent weeks, the antiterrorist program he outlined Friday is raising more than a few eyebrows. The President wants to spend $2.8 billion to help the Pentagon protect the U.S. against biological and chemical weapons and cyberspace sabotage. Attacks like those at the World Trade Center and U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa suggest that terrorist threats against the nation are on the rise, according to the President. "It's probably a good idea to draw attention to the problem," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "But the timing of the announcement, in the midst of all the President's troubles, is a little bit suspicious. Moreover, the bottom line is that if a terrorist is really going to strike, there is probably little we can do to stop it."

The problem for the United States, says Thompson, "is that our military has become so good at what it does that if an enemy is going to attack us, it will be probably be unconventionally. The new military buzzword these days is 'asymmetrical warfare.'" So what can the U.S. do about this threat? "The country can improve its defenses marginally," says Thompson. "It can reduce the risk and ameliorate protection a bit, but it can't eliminate the problem." As usual, there are plenty of bullets -- but none of them are magic.