Text Browser Navigation Bar: Main Site Navigation and Search | Current Page Navigation | Current Page Content

U.S. Army War College >> Strategic Studies Institute >> Publications >> Defeating Terrorism: Strategic Issue Analyses >> Summary

Login to "My SSI" Contact

Defeating Terrorism: Strategic Issue Analyses

Edited by Professor John R. Martin. | January 2002

Share | |   Print   Email


Within only a few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Army War College initiated a series of short studies addressing strategic issues in the war on terrorism. This collection of essays analyzes a broad array of subjects of great strategic importance. Because national leaders were pressed to issue orders on the prosecution of the war on terrorism, it was necessary to produce these papers on a very short time-line. This got the ideas included in the articles into the hands of decisionmakers as quickly as possible, giving them better understanding of factors affecting their various decisions. Issue analysis was never short-changed in this process, but authors were asked to provide ?think pieces? quickly and to worry less about references and footnotes and more about capturing strategic insights. The shortened time-line in some cases also meant that it was possible to provide only an understanding of the context of the decision; specific policy recommendations were considered something that could be developed later if not included in these papers.

Even given these caveats, these papers represent an extraordinary amount of intellectual energy expended in only a few weeks. They have already been distributed to many senior leaders, but it still seemed appropriate to publish them formally. This volume provides historical documentation of some of the advice given the military leadership in the early days of the war, but it also continues to be a source of solid strategic analysis as the war lengthens and perhaps broadens.

The first paper provides historical perspective, but as you read many of the other essays, you will note several common and recurring themes. The first point is that this war can be won. Even now, some analysts question the stated war aims and doubt the possibility of victory. Nobody suggests it will be anything less than a complex undertaking, but victory is possible?although that probably only means a ?new normalcy,? not the comparatively halcyon days of the prewar situation. Conversely, the war on terrorism can be lost if missteps produce unintended strategic consequences. One way to do that would be to ignore the other parts of the world where America?s interests lie. President Bush and the administration appear to have dodged this pitfall thus far, but they still must work to avoid expanding the war unnecessarily. As the struggle against terrorism proceeds, it is perhaps best to allow other elements of national power?not the military?to take the lead. The military will still be an essential component, but should be a buttress to the diplomatic, economic, and information elements as they attempt to end the scourge of terrorism with a minimum amount of further warfare.

The war on terrorism will require a restructuring of the military; it is less apparent that the military will have to grow significantly. In particular, the homeland defense mission will require a heretofore missing emphasis that will necessitate quantitative and qualitative changes in the active and reserve components. The defense establishment needs to place a high priority on defining the requirements; apportioning them appropriately; and developing the forces necessary to fight the war on terrorism, defend the homeland, maintain strategic balance and adapt and accelerate transformation.

Any expansion of the war requires a clear-cut rationale?both international and domestic. The regional essays, separately edited by Dr. Steve Metz, give global perspectives on the war on terrorism. They focus initially on the regions where the war is being activelyfought, but look through the wider lens as well. Both regions that were previously lower on the U.S. priority and possible future peer competitors must be considered before other terrorist targets are attacked with any of the elements of national power.

It is still impossible to tell, of course, exactly how this war will end. It is possible even now, though, to give some advice and insights that will lead to the best possible conclusions to the war. If American leaders continue to concentrate on winning the war, not just winning the early battles, the result will be a world free from mass-casualty terror, a world where American values of liberty and open markets can continue to flourish.