The Age of Terror Requires Smarter, Smaller Approach ; in His Debut Thriller, a Retired Commander of US Special Forces Favors 'Influence Operations' over War

Article excerpt

American intelligence uncovers evidence that Cuba is secretly developing biological weapons in a plan to attack the United States.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urges military action to destroy the threat. But President Bush disagrees: "After our experience in Iraq, I don't think the kinetic approach is the answer," he says. "I think the real center of gravity in this issue is Castro's motivation. We must destroy his motivation to continue this program...."

With this oblique jab at the Pentagon's Iraq strategy, veteran Special Forces commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Lambert (ret.) begins his first novel, released in paperback by a small publishing house in Wichita, Kan. "The Singleton: Target Cuba," co-written with Robin Moore, is a thriller with real-world advice at every turn. In essence, it's a public appeal for a smarter and less costly way for America to defeat foes: avoiding conventional military force in favor of using sophisticated "influence operations" that meld the skills of the CIA, Special Operations Forces, and foreign allies.

"I am an advocate of using influence operations and surrogate warfare whenever we can," General Lambert explains, "unless there is a time-sensitive or overpowering rationale to use our own forces."

Equally vital, he says, the US government must freely tap into expertise across agencies and allies to design the best-qualified team for the mission. "It's a plea for an end to interagency, interservice, and intraservice bickering and getting on with the war," he says in an interview, stressing that all have something unique to contribute.

Lambert, who headed the US Army Special Forces Command for two years after Sept. 11, 2001, draws on decades of experience in the Green Berets that convinced him a handful of highly trained, culturally savvy soldiers - or in this case a "singleton" acting alone - can have far-reaching impact if deftly employed.

Fictional players in "The Singleton" mingle with the real-world leaders and events of 2004. The story begins when a female British agent in Panama City kills two hit men and saves a Cuban exile who is delivering documents on Cuba's biological weapons program.

A CIA analyst takes the evidence as part of an "agroterror" plot. Cuba would use migratory birds to deliver an engineered pathogen that would wipe out US wheat crops, causing a severe domestic food shortage as well as a global quarantine and ban on US exports.

In deciding how to respond, President Bush brushes aside Mr. Rumsfeld's proposal for a strike by Tomahawk missiles and ground- penetrating bombs. Instead, he opts for a global covert operation that CIA director George Tenet promises will convince "Fidel that it is not in his interest to continue."

A CIA-led interagency team known as the "Hybrid" forms to plan a series of disparate intelligence and military operations. It orchestrates an attack on a Sierra Leone diamond mine that helps fund the Cuban program, and it sabotages a shipment of German stainless steel tanks. …


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