Army War College slams Global War on Terror plan

The U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute calls the Global War on Terrorism, as currently envisioned, “politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.” Operation Iraqi Freedom was “unnecessary.” And these guys work for the Army.

First, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, not trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.
— Carl von Clausewitz

Two U.S. soldiers guard the road to Kirkuk in April Copyright 2003 Christopher Allbritton
In a publication from the “Strategic Studies Institute”:, the U.S. Army’s “think tank for the analysis of national security policy and military strategy,” titled “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism”: (PDF file), the United States’ conflating of the threat from al Qaeda with Iraq has led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”
Strong stuff. It’s authored by “Dr. Jeffrey Record”:, a visiting research professor. The opening of the executive summary is even more biting of the Bush plan for combating terrorism and defending America from attack:

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. Government declared a global war on terrorism (GWOT). The nature and parameters of that war, however, remain frustratingly unclear. The administration has postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have conflated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.
Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat. This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT, but rather a detour from it.
Additionally, most of the GWOT’s declared objectives, which include the destruction of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist organizations, the transformation of Iraq into a prosperous, stable democracy, the democratization of the rest of the autocratic Middle East, the eradication of terrorism as a means of irregular warfare, and the (forcible, if necessary) termination of WMD proliferation to real and potential enemies worldwide, are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security. As such, the GWOT’s goals are also politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.

Record recommends:

  1. Deconflate the threat, by treating rogue states (such as the former Iraq) as separate from terrorist organizations and separate those groups that are at war with the U.S., such as al Qaeda, from those that are not, such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. Record makes the point that al Qaeda is undeterrable while North Korea, for the moment, is. By lumping all groups and rouge states together as “terrorism,” the United States will make enemies of those groups with which it has no quarrel. “Terrorism may be a horrendous means to any end, but do the Basque E.T.A. and the Tamil Tigers really threaten the United States?” he writes
  2. Substitute credible deterrence for preventative war as a means of dealing with rogue states’ attempts to acquire WMD. By this, he means shift the focus from stopping rogue states from acquiring WMD to deterring rogue states from using WMD. Iraq was deterrable; Saddam was deterred from using chemical and/or biological weapons in the 199s Gulf War in no small part because Secretary of State James Baker threatened the use of tactical nukes. A policy of preventive war encourages acquisition of WMD, anyway, as rogue states — such as North Korea — decide they have to arm up to deter the United States. Besides, using preemptive, preventative war as the overall tool in the foreign policy toolkit places too many strains and stresses on the military and intelligence agencies to be exact. The failure to find WMD in Iraq is Exhibit A here.
  3. Refocus the GWOT on al Qaeda, its allies and defense of the American homeland. Hands up, who attacked the U.S. on 9/11? Right, al Qaeda and _not_ a rouge state. Who is still conducting terror attacks against U.S. interests around the globe? Al Qaeda again. “The war against Iraq was a detour from, not an integral component of, the war on terrorism.” And spend more money and effort on homeland security. First responders are “woefully undertrained and underfunded”: to the tune of approximately $98.4 billion. How much as Operation Iraqi Freedom cost? About $150 billion has already been authorized and requested.
  4. Find some other way other than war to effect regime change in rogue states. It’s expensive, risky and ties down 100,000+ American troops, creating a huge drag on the armed forces. Iran, North Korea and Syria have little reason to fear the 82nd is about to occupy the presidential palaces in Tehran, Pyongyang or Damascus. They’re too busy in Iraq!
  5. Settle for stability rather than democracy in Iraq and international control rather than American control. Democracy in Iraq would be great. I’m all for it. But Record thinks that lowered expectations in Iraq would be better if the transition to democracy turns into a messy, chaotic and violent affair, which it might if the Kurds keep “pushing hard for Kirkuk.”: While it would truly suck to have an Egyptian-style autocracy, the United States may have to settle for that if democracy leads to a government hostile to American security requirements. This one is — and should be — a bitter pill to swallow. I hope it’s not a necessary one.
  6. More troops, more peacekeeping and more nation-building. Record notes that Americans seem to have forgotten Clausewitz’s dictum that war is an extension of politics and instead seem to substitute war for politics. The American vision of war posits the enemy as “target sets”; if one destroys enough of the target set, the enemy will surrender and American goals will be achieved. He quotes Frederick A. Kagan as saying that this vision ignores the importance of “how, exactly, one defeats the enemy and what the enemy’s country looks like at the moment the bullets stop flying.” Troops must do more than break things and kill people. They must secure population centers and infrastructure, keep the civilian populace safe and prevent humanitarian disasters. And that takes a lot of boots on the ground. It also takes a realization by the U.S. military that regime change is inextricably tied to nation-building and peacekeeping, and that those must be factored into initial planning for war. “The only hope for success in the extension of politics that war is to restore the human element to the transformation process.”

By the way, this report couldn’t have come at a worse time, what with former Treasury Secretary “Paul O’Neill”: stating that President George W. Bush “had an eye on invading Iraq from the earliest days of his administration.”: In response to these allegations, Bush himself has “refuted O’Neill’s statements”: and the Department of the Treasury has “demanded an investigation into the display of documents”: by O’Neill during his interview with _60 Minutes_ on Sunday. Talk about focusing on the real enemy.

2 thoughts on “Army War College slams Global War on Terror plan”

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