Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

By Thomas R.Mockaitis; Paul B.Rich | Go to book overview

United States Special Operations Forces and the War on Terrorism

ANNA SIMONS and DAVID TUCKER


The War on Terrorism

Nine days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, echoing and amplifying thoughts expressed by President George W. Bush, told the press that the war on terrorism:

is something that is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia, the kinds of things that people think of when they use the word 'war' or 'campaign' or 'conflict'. We really, almost, are going to have to fashion a new vocabulary and different constructs for thinking about what it is we're doing.

A few days later he told reporters that the war would not begin with something comparable to a D-Day or end with something like the signing of surrender documents on the deck of the USS Missouri. 'The truth is, ' the Secretary told reporters, 'this is a broad, sustained, multifaceted effort that is notably, distinctively different from prior efforts. It is by its very nature something that cannot be dealt with by some sort of a massive attack or invasion. It is a much more subtle, nuanced, difficult, shadowy set of problems.' 1

Comments like these about how different the war on terrorism would be from other wars have become less frequent as the war has progressed. The cause of this, perhaps, is that the most visible initial part of the war-the fighting in Afghanistan-turned out to have aims similar to those in many past wars. In Afghanistan the US-led coalition set out to defeat the armed forces of another government as the necessary condition for achieving its political objectives. Even the methods of fighting would have been familiar to students of recent conflicts. As in the war in Bosnia, for example, the coalition succeeded in Afghanistan by joining its air power to an indigenous ground force trained and supported by small numbers of American personnel. In Bosnia this was Croats trained by advisors from Military Professional Resources Incorporated, while in Afghanistan it has been members of the Northern Alliance supported by advisor-combatants from US Special Operations Forces (SOF).

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