Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism


Since 11th September 2001, terrorism can no longer be seen as a regional or peripheral concern. This work presents an exploration of the strategic challenges that planners are being forced to deal with in a struggle that may be of a global nature.


The title of this volume names a fervent hope rather than an actual reality. Nothing like a 'grand strategy' currently directs the war on terrorism. Since 11 September 2001, Washington has crafted some ad hoc responses to perceived terrorist threats, focusing in particular on state sponsorship. Following the successful campaign in Afghanistan, the US has moved on to Iraq with a handful of reluctant allies trailing in its wake. Meanwhile a sultry covert war grinds inexorably on, scoring small victories along the way-an arrest here, an assassination there, an occasional interdiction somewhere else. All of these moves target Al Qaeda, affiliated organizations or individuals. Not a single policy initiative addresses the root causes of terrorism.

Each of the following essays addresses an aspect of what should be a comprehensive strategy for the current war. All the authors share some key assumptions. They see terrorism as a weapon, not an end in itself. Al Qaeda and its affiliates operate in a host of countries with the tacit if not active support of at least some segment of the larger population. Each writer recognizes that while military force must be applied, it is neither the only nor even the primary means of confronting the threat.

Special forces have figured prominently in the struggle and will continue to do so because they are best equipped to do civic action and to use force in a highly focused manner. American special forces, however, have concentrated too much on their military task and not enough on their civic action role. Civic action is, in fact, 'winning hearts and minds' by a different name.

'Hearts and minds' has been trivialized without being understood. Stripped of sentiment and ideology it means nothing more than addressing the causes of unrest upon which an insurgency feeds. By addressing these causes threatened states can hope to wean moderates away from extremists and perhaps elicit cooperation that produces sound intelligence upon which military forces can act.

None of these ideas is new. Many of us have been presenting them over the past decade or longer. We have watched counterinsurgency become low-intensity conflict and then morph into operations other than war and now become 'counter-terrorism'. A rose by any other name has just as many thorns. The shape of the threat keeps changing but not its essential nature. The context in which these shadow wars must be fought has, however, changed dramatically. To use a cliché, the world has grown smaller and much more interconnected. Satellites, mobile phones, and the Internet allow

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