Unique War . . . at the Crossroads

Article excerpt


"We are living in a new strategic environment that we do not yet fully understand. .. Some of our adversaries are undeniably at work developing ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. This ushers in an entirely new age of threat, terrorism, intelligence and defense."

I made those statements in a commentary essay in The San Francisco Chronicle, on Friday, Aug. 21, 1998.

We are usually not so prescient. Give credit to decades of reading intelligence estimates on Soviet, Chinese, Iranian, North Korean and Syrian weapons developments and proliferation.

Now Israel may be facing a new situation: "terrorist" groups (Hezbollah and Hamas) armed with surprisingly capable missiles and rockets: weapons heretofore only available to heavily financed military groups like the Soviet Army or the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Israel is not the only nation facing this new reality. All over the world, terrorists have or seek more sophisticated weapons and delivery systems, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons: the "weapons of mass destruction" or WMDs.

North Korea and Iran bluster about their nuclear ambitions and developments. Pakistan and India are already nuclear capable, and armed with an array of long-range missiles to deliver their own forms of holocaust. This means proliferation is a real enemy: Almost anyone could gain access to WMD.

All over the world those who seek a new voice in the world's future are not just taking to the streets: They are taking to making bombs. They are learning how to use cell phones to detonate improvised explosive devices (IED) on commuter trains and in other public places.

And what next? Chemical weapons planted by a "terrorist" group in a nation's sports stadium? An unannounced nuclear blast in a populated area? Perhaps.

For more than a decade, Pentagon planners and visionaries have written and spoken about "asymmetric warfare." The Dictionary of Military Terms defines "asymmetric warfare" as "threats outside the range of conventional warfare and difficult to respond to in kind (e.g., a suicide bomber)."

Victory over the people who created this new, more toxic, strategic brew what some have called "asymmetric warfare" will require renewed understanding, resolve and dedication of freedom and peace-loving nations everywhere. And the grit of the American people.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once famously said about troop numbers, "The idea that more is better is not easy to contradict, but it is not clear that it has solved the problems of asymmetric warfare."

Maybe the term "asymmetric warfare" is now de rigueur; but it is real. Ask the Israelis. Ask U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ask the Chinese.

China made the anti-ship cruise missile, the C-802, that slammed into an Israeli warship this last week in the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli ship didn't even have its anti-missile systems turned on. The intelligence estimate didn't credit the terrorists with having anti-ship cruise missiles. …