Academic journal article Naval War College Review

President's Forum

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

President's Forum

Article excerpt

Some feel that we can afford to relax our security and return to business as usual. But the fact is, the terrorists are not defeated; they have not lost their determination and cunning nor their zeal for suicide attacks.

IN MANY WAYS THE ONGOING TERROR WAR caught us by surprise. The warning signs were clear, but we simply failed to take adequate notice and action; we didn't understand. We treated events such as the Pan Am Flight 103 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland, the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the destruction of U.S. embassies in Africa, and the bombing of USS Cole in Yemen as discrete events rather than a series of battles in a new kind of war. Now, in responding to a war we did not choose, we must apply serious military power together with our friends and allies to bring this reign of terror to a halt.

Going on the Offensive

The United States has responded to the 11 September 2001 attacks with commitment and action to root out and punish terrorists and go after those who harbor, facilitate, and finance them. The war against terrorism will be unconventional, broad, and sustained. It has military, legal, financial, and diplomatic dimensions. The Terror War is being fought not only by the United States but also by a coalition of nations offering a variety of assistance.

U.S. military units and a large number of coalition forces in Afghanistan have driven the Taliban from power, allowing the establishment of a transitional government. They have captured hundreds of detainees, who are providing valuable intelligence about al-Qa`ida and other terrorist networks. They have created the conditions that allowed schools and hospitals to reopen, and they have facilitated the airdrop of more than two million humanitarian food rations into Afghanistan.

On any given day, over sixty thousand American service members are deployed around the world in the war against terror-more than seven thousand on the ground in Afghanistan alone. Others are in the Philippines, Yemen, and the Republic of Georgia, continuing to train and support local forces. Our coalition is strong. More than ninety nations have arrested or detained over 2,500 terrorists and their supporters. More than 150 countries have offered or are providing assistance in the Terror War.

Who Attacked Us?

A year ago, after 11 September, the first question Americans asked was: "Who attacked our country?" We subsequently learned it was al-Qa`ida, which is an Arabic term for "the Base." Al-Qa`ida is not a single group but rather a terrorist network with operatives around the world. Al-Qa`ida is to terror what the Mafia is to crime. But unlike criminals, the goal of al-Qa`ida is not making money; its goal is remaking the world-and imposing its radical beliefs and its formula for how to live on people throughout its region of influence. People have wondered what kind of a war this is-is it a war for territories, resources, or hegemony? We have learned that this is not a war about religion, nor a religious war. It is a war about freedom, and about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The terrorists' directive commands them to kill everyone in their way, all who do not believe as they do. Especially, their goal is to kill Americans, and in so doing they make no distinction between military and civilians, including children. We have discovered there are thousands of these terrorists in more than sixty countries. We have learned that they are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. Then they are sent back to their homes or to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith. The enemy of America is not the Muslim faith; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. …

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