Why Strategy Matters in the War on Terror

By Donald Reed


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Suggested Citation

Reed, Donald. “Why Strategy Matters in the War on Terror.” Homeland Security Affairs 2, Article 10 (October 2006). https://www.hsaj.org/articles/685

“You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” said the American colonel.

The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. “That may be so,” he replied, “but it is also irrelevant.”
−Conversation in Hanoi, April 1975 1

“We thank God for appeasing us with the dilemma in Iraq after Afghanistan. The Americans are facing a delicate situation for both countries. If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.”
−Ayman Zawahiri, September 2003 2


The two statements above, separated by twenty-eight years of history, reflect the views of enemies who, unable to defeat the United States militarily, adopted similar long-term strategies of attrition to defeat instead the American national will. One had just defeated the United States, and the other has declared itself at war with the United States. In 1973, after more than ten years of conflict in Vietnam and Southeast Asia (at an average annual cost of sixty-one billion dollars a year in FY2006 dollars 3 and more than 211,000 American casualties, including more than 58,000 American dead 4 ) the Vietnam War ended in the United States suffering the first defeat in its history. It is difficult to grasp how a Western industrialized superpower could be defeated by an underdeveloped agrarian nation – with a fraction of its population and no gross national product to speak of – without accepting that the larger nation’s overall objectives and strategy in that war were flawed. The lesson of Vietnam, a war of policy and limited political objectives, is that while the United States military accomplished every tactical objective it set on the battlefield, in the end North Vietnam emerged strategically victorious.

From a strategic perspective comparisons to the current war on terror are possible. After more than five years of conflict, with more than 28,000 American casualties (including more than 5,900 combatant and noncombatant deaths) 5 and a total cost that by some estimates could exceed one trillion dollars (thereby exceeding the cost of Vietnam), 6 the United States finds itself involved in another war of limited objectives against non-state entities with extremely small memberships, no gross domestic products, and no national boundaries to defend. In the war on terror – the U.S. response to the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 – the final outcome has yet to be determined and may not be decided for generations to come. Whether or not the United States will be able to apply the lesson of Vietnam to avoid a similar outcome in the war on terror remains to be seen. It is more certain that while it is possible to learn from past wars, each war is a special case and it is necessary to focus on the task at hand. 7 However, as with Vietnam, it is difficult to understand how an information-age superpower could be defeated by a non-state entity without accepting that the superpower’s overall objectives and strategy were flawed. For the nation to repeat its failure in Vietnam by achieving all its objectives in the war on terror, yet failing to achieve strategic success, would have grave consequences for both the United States and the international community.


In labeling its post-9/11 efforts the “war” on terror, the United States invoked a specific metaphor to galvanize the national effort. In doing so it has tied success or failure to the doctrinal rules of war. Evidence of the war metaphor can be found in the opening words of the 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism:America is at war with a transnational terrorist movement fueled by a radical ideology of hatred, oppression, and murder” [italics added]. 8 This article uses the metaphor to look at the war on terror from the vantage point of the new strategic reality facing the United States in the information age. It examines issues confronting the nation along five lines of inquiry: definition, doctrine, policy, strategy, and transformation. The United States will continue to confront these issues as it seeks to achieve success, or even to define success, in the war on terror. In this sense, these issues and United States’ efforts to achieve success are connected.

In addition, the U.S. is confronted with a dynamic and evolving strategic environment, rather than the relatively static strategic environment that characterized the Cold War era. It has been said that while the United States continues to operate at the speed of doctrine, its adversaries are adapting and evolving at the speed of business. 9 In this environment the future security of the U.S. will depend not only on how it deals with the present but also on how well it prepares itself for the types of warfare that will follow the war on terror in the information age. It can begin by approaching the situation in a manner similar to successes in past wars: with clearly defined and obtainable national objectives and a unified national strategy to obtain those objectives. At the same time, the United States can establish a clear long-term vision for transitioning its efforts and its institutions from the industrial age to the information age as the new paradigm for waging war. Parameters for this new paradigm can be found in the strategic lessons from past wars, evaluated in terms of emerging concepts of warfare.

For example, when the strategic reasons for the loss in the Vietnam War are considered in light of current efforts in the war on terror, parallels are evident. 10 The United States expended the majority of its strategic effort against the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam, which it viewed as the main North Vietnamese effort. Although U.S. forces succeeded in destroying the Viet Cong insurgency, they did not thwart North Vietnam’s strategic objective of undermining American public support for the war. The United States was forced to withdraw from South Vietnam, leaving it open to conquest by conventional forces. It can be argued that the destruction of North Vietnam’s regular forces, which ultimately overran South Vietnam, should have been the main strategic objective of the United States.

In the war on terror, the United States is expending the bulk of its strategic military efforts against insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq (which can be viewed as fronts in the larger Global War On Terror 11 ) and the global insurgency being waged by the al Qaeda terrorist network. However, the United States has not adequately defined the nature of its adversaries, nor its overall strategic objectives in the war on terror. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, has clearly stated its intent to bleed the U.S. economy as a means of weakening the American public’s support for the war. The insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq are likely not the main threat faced by the United States; it is far from certain that in its engagement against them the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The effectiveness of the military engagement in Iraq has come under scrutiny. One of the conclusions of the Center for Strategic and International Studies is that the trends exhibited by the United States’ effort against the insurgency in Iraq indicate “cycles in an evolving struggle, but not signs that the struggle is being lost or won…There have, as yet, been [no] decisive trends or no tipping points: simply surges and declines.” 12 This conclusion is further reinforced by the August 2006 Department of Defense Quarterly Report to Congress, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, which states that

…the violence in Iraq cannot be categorized as the result of a single organized or unified opposition or insurgency; the security situation is currently at its most complex state since the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom… Conditions exist that could lead to civil war in Iraq… 13

In a manner reminiscent of Vietnam, public opinion polls reflect that, while the American public continues to support the overall war on terror, it has grown increasingly disenchanted with the war in Iraq. As in the Vietnam War, the argument can be made that the first strategic objective of the United States should be to direct its primary efforts against al Qaeda and other, similar, terrorist networks.

The conceptual challenge for the United States in the war on terror will be to transform its current strategic approach away from industrial-age military concepts that focus primarily on conventional, symmetrical threats and responses suitable to maneuver-style warfare. Instead, it will need to develop information-age concepts that include the capability to deal with non-conventional, asymmetrical threats employing network warfare. The practical challenge will be to address existing weaknesses and gaps in strategy, adapt to fundamental changes in the national security environment as it transforms from the industrial age to the information age, and develop a grand strategy for success. The nation must rise above the current military operations underway in Afghanistan and Iraq and embrace network concepts utilizing all the elements of national power on a truly global scale.

The Vietnam War was an ideological struggle between a western industrialized world power and an Asian agrarian nation, fought using industrial-age methods and weapons. The war on terror is a war fought along cultural lines between a western information-age superpower and information-age non-state entities. It is being waged with methods and weapons that focus more on the power inherent in networked organizations and processes rather than military strength. Information-age technology, which has eliminated concepts of time and distance, virtually guarantees that the war on terror will again be brought to U.S. soil, as it was on 9/11. The situation facing the nation, if it is to prevent or minimize this probable outcome, has been summarized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “Our challenge in this new century is a difficult one. It’s really to prepare to defend our nation against the unknown, the uncertain and what we have to understand will be the unexpected. That may seem on the face of it an impossible task, but it is not.” The New Strategic Reality

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 introduced the United States to a new strategic reality, one that will continue to confront the nation in the information age. No longer can the U.S. rely on the conventional protections of time and distance as a result of being surrounded by vast oceans and air space. Instead, non-conventional attacks may come with little or no notice, and they may be carried out against citizens and interests at home as well as abroad. In the war on terror, future attacks on the United States may originate from within as well as from outside the nation’s borders.

Nor can the nation rely on the time between wars to reconstitute itself and focus on future threats. The new strategic reality, the context within which the nation finds itself fighting the war on terror, is similar to that in which the United States Army finds itself; a steady state of war is now the norm, and not the exception. 15 It is a protracted and continuous war of finite conventional resources arrayed against infinite asymmetrical threats and capabilities, unlike any the nation, or the world, has ever faced. The implications of this new strategic reality are clear: failure to understand the character of the threat and adapt accordingly will invite challenges to American political, economic, and military leadership throughout the world;

Figure 1, adapted and modified from the United States Army Posture Statement, reflects the Army’s view of the new strategic reality that confronts the United States today, as well as its dilemma. While most of the nation’s conventional military resources are postured to deal with traditional military threats, the more immediate and likely threat – to which the United States is more vulnerable, according to the Army – comes from unconventional threats from either state or non-state entities. These threats have been the focus of United States efforts since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Ultimately, the greatest immediate threats to the nation may not be military at all, but may come from non-state entities utilizing non-military methods to wage war.

Figure 1. The New Strategic Reality. 16

Perhaps the most significant aspects of the new strategic reality are its persistent nature (resulting in a blurring of the familiar distinctions between war and peace), its potential for eliminating the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and the erasure of the foreign-domestic divide. These are the by-products of the information-age paradigm for waging war. The Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report (2006) acknowledges the nature of the new strategic reality in its opening statement: “The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.” 17 Military leaders and government officials have taken to calling the war on terror the “long war” in recognition that there is no apparent end in sight. 18

The implication is that, in the war on terror, there can be no time for a strategic pause to reset or to plan for the future, as there was in the past between wars or between campaigns. Instead, a perpetual reassessment of strategic gaps in preparedness and performance is necessary, while remaining engaged in the war. Traditionally, the strategic planning time horizon has been measured in months, years, and even decades. While this traditional approach may still be required, the threat time horizon in the war on terror is measured in the seconds, minutes, and hours in which asymmetrical attacks can occur. These timelines are incompatible and must be reconciled.

Yet, more than four years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many issues concerning the war on terror, and U.S. strategy in conducting it, remain in transition and continue to lack clarity and resolution. The issues that shape the war on terror are found in the lines of inquiry mentioned at the beginning of this article: issues of definition to achieve a focused national effort, issues of doctrine as a tool for shaping the national effort, issues of policy to guide the national effort, issues of strategy to accomplish the national effort, and issues of transformation of the national effort from the industrial age to the information age.

Issues of Definition

The lack of definition in the war on terror is problematic. While it allows national leaders the flexibility to define and redefine success in ways that suit political purposes, it also has potential drawbacks. From an operational perspective, it potentially leads to lack of clarity and understanding, and thus lack of focused national effort along with its attendant risk of failure. The very phrase “war on terror” lacks definition, and therefore presents the United States with a strategic issue that inhibits its efforts to prosecute the war effectively. As multiple sources have indicated, “terror” is not the enemy. In the “war” on terror, neither terror nor terrorism can be defeated since terror is a method and terrorism is a tactic. From this perspective, neither terror nor terrorism takes on the characteristics of entities that can be defeated in the traditional sense.

The 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, released by the White House, defined America’s enemy as “terrorism” in general. 19 The 9/11 Commission, perhaps recognizing the difficulty posed by the White House’s definition, provided a more precise description when it declared that “the enemy is not just ‘terrorism,’ some generic evil,” but must be the “threat posed by Islamist terrorism – especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.” 20 However, even this clarification by the 9/11 Commission does not resolve the issue. As Jason Burke notes, definitions are important. In Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, he points out that current definitions are subjective and, since terrorism is a tactic, the adoption by the United States of the phrase “war on terrorism” is nonsensical. 21 From an operational perspective, it does not allow a precise description of the problem confronting the nation. Earl Tilford goes even further in The War on Terror: World War IV and establishes a link between definitions and strategy when he declares that, in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, when the Bush Administration labeled its efforts the “war” on terror, it made a basic and fundamental strategic error. 22 From Tilford’s perspective, the error is so grave that it places the United States in the position of fighting a war that it could lose, similar to Vietnam, because it has misjudged the nature of its opponent.

It is notable that the 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism and the 2006 National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism use identical wording in defining the enemy as “a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals – and their state and non-state supporters – which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends.” 23 This definition continues to restrict the definition of the enemy by assigning it a connection to Islam. It also applies a mixed metaphor by establishing a connection between radical Islam – which is essentially a religion – and political ideological philosophies (rather than religious philosophies, which are cultural). Neither the White House, nor the Department of Defense, nor the 9/11 Commission adequately addresses non-state entities (whether domestic or transnational in origin) not connected to Islam. In the information age these networks represent a potential threat to the nation as great as that currently posed by al Qaeda.

Lack of definition further complicates efforts to come to grips with the entity known as “al Qaeda.” If al Qaeda represents the primary, or at least the most visible, opponent of the United States in the war on terror, its precise nature remains unclear. Depending on the source, al Qaeda is either a terrorist group, 24 a stateless network of terrorists that represents a radical movement in the Islamic world, 25 a venture capitalist firm that sponsors a terror network of networks, 26 or not a terrorist group at all but a worldwide insurgency. 27 Understanding the nature of al Qaeda is critical if the U.S. is to develop a clear strategy against it. Conventional strategic thinking calls for identifying and attacking an enemy’s centers of gravity. Each of the various definitions of al Qaeda invokes a different strategy; failure on the part of the United States to employ the correct strategic approach invites failure overall. Ultimately, in order to prevail against al Qaeda as a precursor to success in the war on terror, it may be necessary to accept several conditions: that al Qaeda is a non-state entity that possesses elements of each of the definitions above; that it is constantly evolving its methods, tactics, and philosophy, i.e., the very essence of what it is; that it is very successful in attracting adherents; and that it may represent the forerunner of both terrorism and warfare in the information age. In this sense conventional strategic thinking may not be effective against al Qaeda.

The definition of victory, or even success, in the war on terror is also problematic. The 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism establishes this when it states: “The long-term solution for winning the war on terror is the advancement of freedom and human dignity through effective democracy.” 28 The means to be used by the United States to advance democracy are not clear. How will the United States know when it has advanced democracy far enough that it can declare victory in the war on terror? The implication of this definition is that it offers no definable end state, no reasonable expectation that the war on terror can be brought to a conclusion. As a matter of practicality, it may not be possible to defeat or eliminate terrorist groups entirely. The strategic alternatives of rollback or containment of terrorism may be more feasible. 29

A final definition that poses difficulty for the United States is the legal status of its adversaries. Are individuals who carry out terrorist acts against the U.S. and its interests criminals or armed combatants? The difference is critical in crafting a wartime strategy that bridges the foreign-domestic divide defined by the 9/11 Commission. 30 A primary example is the legal status of the al Qaeda detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the United States develop a coalition approach for the detention and humane treatment of captured transnational terrorists, possibly structured on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict. This is at least tacit acknowledgment that the detainees are recognized as armed combatants and should be accorded some of the protections of the Geneva Conventions. 31

However, in a decision that was issued nearly simultaneously with the release of The 9/11 Commission Report, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that detainees at Guantanamo Bay can take their cases (that they are unlawfully imprisoned) to the American court system. 32 The Court further reinforced its position in 2006 when it ruled against Bush Administration efforts to conduct war crimes trials for some detainees at Guantanamo Bay. 33 The impact of the Court’s rulings is that they call into question whether the United States is legally at war, or pursuing a law enforcement action. By offering the protection of the United States legal system to the detainees, it appears that the Supreme Court does not recognize the war on terror as a war according to legal and historical definitions.

As indicated above, many of the issues that currently affect the war on terror can be traced to lack of definition, lack of clarity, and a diffused rather than focused effort. This has the benefit of allowing policy makers to maintain flexibility in defining and re-defining success in many ways. However, it poses great difficulty in developing effective strategy and conducting focused operations. Lack of definition also affects, for good or bad, the application of doctrine, policy, and transformation concepts to the war on terror.

Issues of Doctrine

The war metaphor terror renders U.S. efforts subject to analysis by the doctrinal rules of war. Contemporary United States doctrine for fighting wars derives its foundation – its “rules of grammar” – from the writings of nineteenth-century Prussian General Carl Philipp Gotlieb von Clausewitz, particularly his seminal thesis, On War. 34 Published posthumously in 1831, On War continues to shape current American military thinking and remains the authority on the essence of war. It is considered by many to be the greatest work on war and strategy ever produced by Western civilization, and its key concepts can be used to put current efforts in the war on terror in perspective.

In his chapter on war as an instrument of policy, Clausewitz writes that “war’s grammar, indeed, may be its own, but not its logic.” 35 By invoking the logic of war in declaring the “war” on terror the United States committed itself to its rules of grammar, or means. Tilford explains Clausewitz’s concept of grammar in the following way:

The logic [nature] of war, violence directed by political intent, remains constant but the grammar [character] changes. Logic is a constant regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, nationality or cultural factors. On the other hand, how one addresses a particular problem or issue, the methods used, is subject to a large number of factors such as age, sex, physical condition, resources, culture, religious beliefs and values. Applied to war, there is then a distinctly American way of war that differs significantly from the way Chinese or Russians or Zulus make war. There is also a distinctly Muslim fundamentalist way of making war. Clausewitz’s point is that although nations and groups make war in different ways based on a large number of factors, they go to war for one logical reason only: to force an enemy to do their will. 36

The first concept that Clausewitz offers is his definition of war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” 37 From the vantage point of Clausewitz’s definition, the war on terror is not unique and it would be a mistake to view it in any other strategic context. First, Clausewitz’s definition of war can be broken into three elements: the effort is directed toward an identified opponent; it involves violence or use of force to compel our opponent to fulfill our will; and (by implication) we know our national will. The war on terror does not present a new problem from Clausewitz’s logical perspective; it is merely a modern application of an ancient concept.

Second, Clausewitz declared that all wars could be considered acts of policy. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that:

[t]he first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive. 38

To understand the true nature of the war on terror requires not only a refined definition of the enemy, but also a knowledge and comprehension of the nature of the war itself. For the United States to stray from this principle, again, invites failure.

This leads to a third principle established by Clausewitz, that of the political objective. To paraphrase, the political object is the goal, war is the means for reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose. 39 Only upon establishment of the objective of the war can a strategy be devised to achieve it. Following the logic of Clausewitz, if al Qaeda is the most visible enemy in the war on terror, and perhaps the forerunner of adversary networks in the information age, then the United States must understand the nature of al Qaeda, as well as the nature of its conflict with al Qaeda. It can then develop clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objectives, with attendant strategies to prevail against al Qaeda. Lack of clarity of strategic objectives, in the long-term, has the potential to lead to a wearing-down of American resolve, which can ultimately lead to failure. This is evocative of the lack of clarity of strategic objectives, described very clearly and eloquently by Harry Summers, that contributed to America’s failure in Vietnam. 40

Clausewitz proposed two additional sets of concepts that offer insight into the war on terror: fog and friction, and efforts that constitute preparations for war versus war proper. The concept of “fog” in war refers to the uncertainty of the information available to the commander. 41 Uncertainty can make problems seem, without perspective, larger than they really are. In the absence of information, that which is unknown is left to chance. “Friction” is the idea that “everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult,” and that difficulties accumulate. 42 Clausewitz envisioned an army as a very simple machine, but with a multitude of moving parts, each of which retains its independent capability to generate friction.

Both fog and friction can be observed throughout the war on terror. The effects of fog can be found in the lack of clarity of information that exists at the policy, strategic, operational, and tactical levels of effort. Friction can be observed in the homeland security related interagency conflicts between international, federal, state, local, tribal, and private agencies. Both fog and friction have impacted the strategic gaps that exist between agencies such as that between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense; in the foreign-domestic divide described by the 9/11 Commission; in the lack of interoperability between agencies at all levels nationwide; and in the failure to share intelligence across agency boundaries. Examples of fog and friction abound in the war on terror.

Finally, Clausewitz said that, “The activities of war may be split into two main categories: those that are merely preparation for war, and [those that constitute] war proper.” Preparations for war produce “the end product,” trained and equipped fighting forces. War proper “on the other hand, is concerned with the use of these means, once they have been developed, for the purposes of [waging] the war.” 43 The purpose of war is presumed to be the imposition of one’s will upon the enemy. Similarly, the application of effort to the war on terror should be divided into those activities that are preparations for war and those that are the conduct of the war proper. Both activities are necessary, but each should be considered separately and not confused one for the other when evaluating success. Nor can they be separated from objective and strategy.

The outcome of the Vietnam War is an example of what can occur when preparations for war and war proper are confused with objective and strategy. In referring to the United States defeat in Vietnam, Summers asks the question, “How could we have succeeded so well [tactically and logistically], yet failed so miserably [strategically]?” 44 He opens his analysis of the Vietnam War with this declaration:

At the height of the war, the Army was able to move almost a million soldiers a year in and out of Vietnam, feed them, clothe them, house them, supply them with arms and ammunition, and generally sustain them better than any Army had ever been sustained in the field. To project an Army of that size halfway around the world was a logistics and management task of enormous magnitude, and we had been more than equal to the task. On the battlefield itself, the Army was unbeatable. In engagement after engagement, the forces of the Viet Cong and of the North Vietnamese Army were thrown back, with terrible losses. Yet in the end it was North Vietnam, not the United States, that emerged victorious. 45

The Army’s accomplishments in Vietnam could not have been carried out without the application of preparations for war on a large scale. In essence, the Army did everything it was designed to do in Vietnam, but its successes did not lead to victory. The failure can be viewed in two ways. First, the activities that constituted preparations for war, e.g. logistics, personnel, and resource management, were not always distinguished from war proper, resulting in misdirection of priorities. The result was a systems analysis approach to the Vietnam War that overrode strategic planning. More importantly, both preparations for war and war proper were directed toward a flawed objective and strategy. Regardless of the success of the military effort, it was in support of a flawed national objective and strategy that doomed the overall effort to ultimate strategic failure. The negative effects of its strategic failure in Vietnam produced a lingering effect on the United States, both in its institutions and the American public, which remains today. The durability of the potential negative effects of strategic failure in the war on terror are visible in the current debate in public forums on the nature and implications of the perceived threat to the nation.

How does the United States avoid making a similar mistake in the war on terror? Much of the current homeland security effort in the war on terror – e.g. reorganization of government, critical infrastructure protection, and scenario-based planning – are defensive actions that take on the guise of preparations for war. They do not, in and of themselves, directly impose America’s will on al Qaeda or any other adversary. It is not certain that they are even effective deterrents. Only those offensive diplomatic, information, military, law enforcement, and economic actions that do apply force directly to terrorist adversaries, to force them to accept the will of the United States, are examples of war proper. In the final analysis, it will be necessary for the United States to ensure that its efforts, both those that constitute preparation for war, as well as those that constitute war proper, are directed toward clearly defined, decisive and attainable national objectives and facilitated by a clear and effective strategy for success. This will require a transformation of strategic thought. U.S. war-fighting doctrine, founded in Clausewitzean principles of war between nation states, must be adapted in order to prevail against non-state entities.

Issues of Policy

In the realm of policy, first and foremost, the question must be asked: Is the United States truly “at war” in the war on terror? The determinations of the 9/11 Commission Report indicate that the United States is in popular deed, if not in legal fact, a nation at war, and lead to the Commission’s recommendations for establishing national objectives and a national strategy for conducting the war on terror. 46 The findings of the 9/11 Commission meet two of the three critical elements in Clausewitz’s military-political definition of war. First, the effort is directed toward an identified opponent and, second, it involves violence or use of force to compel our opponent to fulfill our will. According to the 9/11 Commission the United States’ opponent in the war on terror consists of the terrorist groups and their allies, particularly the global al Qaeda network, that form the threat of Islamist terrorism, thereby satisfying the first element of war: an effort directed at an identified opponent. 47 Although there are problems with this definition, particularly that it falls short of defining the full scope of the threat to the United States, it represents a start in developing a national objective and strategy. The use of American and allied forces to find and destroy terrorist groups, most notably in Afghanistan and Iraq, partially fulfills the second element of war: the use of violence or force to compel our opponent to meet our will. 48 The unresolved issue is whether the insurgent groups in Afghanistan and Iraq are the right enemy, at the right time, and in the right place.

The third element in Clausewitz’s military-political definition of war – that we know our national will – is partially satisfied by Public Laws 107-40 and 107-243. These laws, from a legal perspective, do not constitute a formal declaration of war. However, they give the President broad powers to prosecute the effort that has come to be known popularly as the war on terror. Under the provisions of Public Law 107-40, the President is authorized to use force against those nations, organizations, or persons who planned and carried out the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and those who harbored them, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States. 49 Public Law 107-243 authorizes the President to use the armed forces of the United States to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq, and to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq. 50 Based on these laws the first component of the national will – the political will of the United States – is presumed to be established, even without a formal declaration of war. The second element of the national will, the public will, remains uncertain.

This raises a number of policy issues in the war on terror. The rules for invoking the national will are embedded in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives to Congress the power to declare war. A declaration of war – to establish the national will – therefore becomes a shared responsibility between the political will of the government and the popular will of its constituents. This is more than just a formality: Failure by Congress to declare war in Vietnam led to a failure to mobilize the second element of the national will, the popular will of the public, and ultimately contributed to the U.S. defeat. A declaration of war gives the President clear-cut military authority, as well as non-military options, including internment of armed combatants and seizure of foreign funds and assets. A formal declaration of war in the war on terror might have precluded the Supreme Court’s decision to grant detainees at Guantanamo Bay access to the protections of the judicial system. Further, according to William F. Buckley:

To declare war is not necessarily to dispatch troops, let alone atom bombs. It is to recognize a juridically altered relationship and to license such action as is deemed appropriate. It is a wonderful demystifier… [leaving] your objective in very plain view. 51

An acknowledgement of the need to establish objectives in the war on terror, and to develop a strategy to achieve those objectives, is found in the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the United States should “consider what to do – the shape and objects of a strategy,” and “how to do it – organization of [the] government in a different way.” 52 The Commission’s recommended objectives are to attack terrorists and their organizations, prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism, and protect against and prepare for terrorist attacks. The Commission says the strategy must incorporate offensive actions, with coalition partners, to counter terrorism; defensive actions with responsibilities for the nation’s defense clearly defined; a preventive strategy that is both political as well as military; and, finally, a responsive strategy that deals with attacks that are not prevented. Finally, the Commission recognized that if a national strategy is to be successful in the long-term, it must use all the elements of national power: intelligence, covert action, diplomacy, economic policy, foreign aid, and homeland defense. 53 From its recommendations it appears that the 9/11 Commission is suggesting a single overarching strategy for the United States in the war on terror.

Issues of Strategy

Issues of strategy can be found in the proliferation of national strategies, of which there are no fewer than twenty addressing various aspects of the war on terror. These strategies deal with the problems of homeland security, homeland defense, and the war on terror in piecemeal fashion, resulting in an approach that thus far is fragmented in its organization and disjointed in its application. A reading of the various national strategies does not render a clear understanding of overall policy, objectives, or strategy. History, in the form of the lessons learned in Vietnam, dictates that a failure of national strategy has the potential to lead to an overall failure in the war on terror. Strategic issues are illustrated in the two national strategies that come closest to offering a grand strategy that creates an overarching umbrella for the other national strategies: the National Security Strategy of the United States of America and the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

The 2002 National Security Strategy pre-dates, but broadly parallels, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission regarding what the United States should do (employ all the elements of national power) and how it should do it (transform the major institutions of American national security to meet the requirements of the post-9/11 era). 54 The 2006 version reinforces the original tenets from 2002 and lists examples of progress made in the past four years. It reserves the option of preemptive actions to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations with global reach. In this sense, it forms a loose overarching strategy to secure the United States against terrorist attack. It defines America’s enemy as terrorism and terrorist networks in general, but it makes the fundamental strategic error espoused by Tilford, in that it does not clearly identify the enemy, nor national objectives regarding that enemy. 55

In its language, the 2006 National Security Strategy may contribute inadvertently to the motivations of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. It clearly states that “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.” 56 In Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Michael Scheuer argues that it is precisely American policies and actions of the past thirty years in Muslim nations, including pressure to conform to democratic principles, that have lead to the war on terror. American policies and actions “provide Muslims with proof of what bin Laden describes as ‘an ocean of oppression, injustice, slaughter, and plunder carried out by you against our Islamic ummah. It is therefore commanded by our religion that we must fight back. We are defending ourselves against the United States. This is a ‘defensive jihad’ as we want to protect our land and people.’” 57 Scheuer supports this argument with public opinion polls in the Muslim world, which indicate an overwhelmingly negative view of the United States. 58

Whether democracy is a clear and obtainable objective in the war on terror is questionable. In Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World, Ralph Peters takes the position that “Democracy must be earned and learned. It cannot be decreed from without. In a grim paradox, our [United States] insistence on instant democracy in shattered states…is our greatest contribution to global instability.” 59 Efforts to impose democracy on other sovereign nations may be perceived by those nations and their cultures as the ultimate example of American hubris. This may be a causal factor in members of other cultures responding to calls for war against the United States.

The 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security also predates the 9/11 Commission Report. 60 Its stated purpose, “to mobilize and organize the nation to secure the homeland from terrorist attacks,” seems to be a goal that would be more applicable to the National Security Strategy. 61 Its objectives – preventing terrorist attacks within the United States, reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and response and recovery to terrorist attacks – are focused inward on domestic preparations and constitute a primarily defensive and preventive strategy. It is an example of what Summers describes as taking the strategic defensive, which led to United States defeat in Vietnam. 62 Much of what it prescribes for homeland security also conforms to Clausewitz’s definition of preparations for war instead of the conduct of war proper. It does not provide an objective or a strategy for offensive actions to counter terrorism, to preempt it at United States borders, or for taking the strategic offensive in the war on terror. In its current form, the National Strategy for Homeland Security provides a good blueprint for the Department of Homeland Security but, despite having a segment devoted to American federalism and homeland security, it does not provide any authority for directing how the various federal agencies are to work in synchronization to prosecute the war on terror. Ultimately, in its call for the implementation of homeland security measures costing hundreds of billions of dollars, it may serve al Qaeda’s strategic objective of bleeding the United States economy as a means of defeating American resolve. 63 Ironically, al Qaeda’s strategic objective is similar to that employed by the United States when it bled the economy of the former Soviet Union into bankruptcy in the Cold War arms race.

The nature of the war on terror – against the unknown, the uncertain, and the unexpected, as Rumsfeld indicated – makes strategic thinking difficult. The proliferation of national strategies that partition the war on terror into segments further complicates the effort. An example of how this occurs is in Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War, in which Alan Beyerchen includes a discussion of the way chance is associated with Clausewitz’s concept of the fog of uncertainty in war, which obscures or distorts most of the factors on which action is based. 64 According to Beyerchen, chance as a function of analytical blindness, as described by the late 19th century mathematician Henri Poincaré and displayed in Clausewitz’s work, results in an inability to see the universe as an interconnected whole. To paraphrase Beyerchen’s argument and apply it to the war on terror: The inability to see the war on terror in its entirety has resulted in multiple national strategies that break it down into segments more easily dealt with. Yet it happens that these segments interact and the effects of this interaction seem to be due to chance. The result is that the effort to comprehend the war on terror through analysis, the effort to partition off pieces of it to make them individually amenable to strategic thought, creates the possibility of being blindsided by the partitioning process.

According to Beyerchen, Clausewitz had a profound sense of how the understanding of phenomena – in this case the war on terror – is truncated by the bounds placed on it for analytical convenience. Clausewitz stressed the failure of theorists to develop effective principles because they insist on isolating individual factors or aspects of the problems presented in war. Beyerchen quotes Clausewitz to illustrate his point:

Efforts were therefore made to equip the conduct of war with principles, rules, or even systems. This did present a positive goal, but people failed to take an adequate account of the endless complexities involved. As we have seen, the conduct of war branches out in all directions and has no definite limits; while any system, any model, has the finite nature of a synthesis….[these attempts] aim at fixed values; but in war everything is uncertain, and calculations have to be made with variable quantities. They [theorists] direct the inquiry exclusively toward physical quantities, whereas all military action is entwined with psychological forces and effects. They [theorists] consider only unilateral action, whereas war consists of continuous interaction of opposites. 65

This is not to indicate that strategy in the war on terror is without value: quite the opposite. While strategy as a plan, or product, is problematic (as indicated in the preceding discussion), strategy as process brings great value. Strategy as process brings together often disparate elements to understand and confront a war that is in many ways at odds with historical record. The issue for the United States is how it will transform its strategic processes to meet the requirements of the information age.

Issues of Transformation

A growing body of literature, including such authors as Arquilla and Ronfeldt, Huntington, Kaplan, Hammes, and van Creveld, suggests that future war will move away from the principles of conventional trinitarian war (conducted between warring nation states and founded on the relationship between the trinity of each state’s government, army and people) established by Clausewitz. 66 It will be replaced by modern, non-trinitarian war between state and non-state entities organized as networks along social, economic, criminal, terrorist, gang, special interest, and ethnic lines to name but a few. It will take on the characteristics of war without national boundaries, where the distinctions between public and private, government and people, military and civilian – i.e., combatants and noncombatants – will again become blurred as they were prior to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. 67 Arthur Cebrowski describes the change, as it relates to war, in the following way:

Warfare, conflict, and instability are inherent features of our world. Warfare is a pattern of human behavior that spans recorded history. The nature [what Clausewitz referred to as “logic”] of warfare, and conflict between nations and states is fundamentally unchanging – it is organized force for political ends. However, because war is both a political action and a social institution, the character [what Clausewitz referred to as “grammar”] of warfare is changing just as societies, political entities and technologies change. 68

Against this backdrop the war on terror, an existential war of ideas, has been called “the first great war between nations and networks.” 69 Five years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States’ ongoing involvement in the simultaneous conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and against the global al Qaeda insurgency, represents a juncture for the nation that continues to severely test its political and public will. At the same time, it must move beyond its traditional industrial-age approach to warfare and prepare to engage adversaries both in new forms and in new domains of conflict. In short, it must redefine its strategic canvas.

The premise of this approach is that America’s future adversaries, whether they take the form of terrorist or other types of networks, are not invincible. In fact, their structures and operations can be very fragile and certainly can be defeated. However, it is necessary to move away from the inductive Cold War approach of the past fifty years – looking for weaknesses, gaps, and deficiencies, and determining how to exploit them – and toward deductive thinking and an adaptive capabilities-based approach in the war on terror – a conscious search for the unexpected and the outer bounds of feasibility. 70

The key tenet of this approach, as shown in the strategic transformation canvas in Figure 2, is that transformation from industrial-age concepts and methods to information-age concepts and methods is essential to long-term success in the war on terror and beyond. The emergence of al Qaeda as the likely forerunner of terrorist and other types of networks in the information age will drive strategic transformation from industrial-age domains of conflict (land, air, maritime, space, and cyber) to information-age domains of conflict (physical, informational, cognitive, and social). Traditional concepts of waging warfare against an adversary’s centers of gravity will be replaced with a focus on the elimination of critical systems, nodes, and links of information-age networks. Network warfare will replace conventional warfare in the information age as both nation states and non-state entities come to realize its dialectical advantages.

The current operational paradigm employed by the United States in the war on terror evolved from the experience of its military during the industrial-scale wars of the twentieth century. It is rooted in industrial-age concepts that focus on conventional, symmetrical threats and responses, and hierarchical command and control. It is geographically based across territory and space. Its standard for defending the United States against external threats is a layered defense across the operational domains that comprise the industrial-age global commons – the land, air, maritime, cyber, and space domains.

This paradigm is based on the concept that an active, layered, and comprehensive defense is necessary if the United States is to detect, deter, prevent, and defeat threats as early and as far from its borders as possible and to recover from them when they do occur. Its primary weakness is that it presumes attacks will originate outside the homeland and be conducted in a conventional manner. It presumes military force will always be the first line of defense.

However, as stated above, the information age will see the end of conventional warfare. The overwhelming battlefield successes of the United States military in the Persian Gulf wars (1991, 1993) have initiated the demise of large-scale maneuver warfare by illustrating its limitations. The reaction in many corners of the world is that there are no nations still capable of sustaining the costs of competition with the United States in conventional warfare. 71 Instead of relying on military force to wage war, strong and weak nations alike will find other ways to wage war, in other domains, by redefining the strategic canvas. Further, this development will not be limited to nation states, but will also be available to non-state entities and networks, including super-empowered individuals and groups.

The emerging information age paradigm is a network-centric approach based on the premise that a fundamental shift in power has occurred from industry to information. It is rooted in information-age concepts that focus on non-conventional, asymmetrical threats and responses, and non-hierarchical command and control. It expands beyond the geographical base of territory and space. Its standard for defending the United States against both internal and external threats is a universally networked defense across the operational domains that comprise the information-age global commons – the physical, information, cognitive, and social domains. Network-centric operations seek to create an information advantage and translate it into an operational advantage. This approach accepts that military force, while essential, may be neither the first nor the most significant line of defense. The information-age domains are defined as: 72

Physical – the traditional domain of warfare where a force is moved through time and space. It includes the land, sea, air, and space realms.

Information – the domain where information is created, manipulated, and shared. It includes the cyber realm.

Cognitive – the domain where intent, strategy, doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures reside. It is the domain where decisive concepts and tactics emerge.

Social – the domain which comprises the necessary elements of any human enterprise. It is where humans interact, exchange information, form shared awareness and understandings, and make collaborative decisions. It is also the domain of culture, values, attitudes, and beliefs, and where political decisions are made.

The strategic transformation canvas in Figure 2 draws on business concepts of strategy to demonstrate the transformation of warfare that must occur. 73 As the canvas indicates, in the industrial age large and small powers compete for the same thing – conventional military supremacy in the physical and cyber domains that comprise the industrial-age global commons. Relative advantage or disadvantage is a matter of the amount of resources and control of the available knowledge.

Figure 2. The Strategic Transformation Canvas. 74

Al Qaeda, as a forerunner of terrorist networks and non-state entities in the information age, rejects the logic of trying to compete with conventional military forces. As a non-state entity it lacks the necessary resources to employ conventional warfare in order to achieve its strategic objectives. Instead, it seeks to redefine its strategic canvas and to make conventional warfare irrelevant by embracing an information-age paradigm for warfare. It seeks to leverage the shift in power from industry to information. In so doing, it tries to avoid conventional warfare in the physical and cyber domains of the industrial-age global commons; it seeks instead to transfer the conflict to the domains of the information-age global commons where it can compete by employing its asymmetrical strengths to its advantage. /p>

The implication of the strategic transformation canvas is that all participants, greater and lesser powers alike, including nation states and non-state entities, will be able to acquire infinite capabilities and compete on equal terms in the information-age domains. However, scale can still play a decisive role in achieving and maintaining the strategic advantage. The United States can retain a significant advantage by adopting a strategic approach similar to that of al Qaeda and other potential adversaries, and by leveraging the shift in power from industry to information. This will allow it to bring to bear all the elements of its national power in the information domains, while continuing to use superior resources and knowledge capacity to develop strategies to overcome non-state entities such as al Qaeda. The war on terror, and conflicts that follow, will be won or lost in the domains of the information-age global commons.

Conclusion: On Institutionalizing Imagination

In its report, the 9/11 Commission concluded that the 9/11 terrorist attacks revealed four kinds of American failure, foremost among them a failure in imagination. 75 In this failure the Commission states that “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies….It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination.” 76 This assertion is followed by a chapter on global strategy and a concluding chapter offering recommendations on reorganizing the federal government in order to achieve unity of effort in securing the nation against future attacks. 77

However, when considered against the war metaphor adopted by the United States after 9/11, the simple reorganization of government – the re-ordering of existing departments and functions – is insufficient both as a means to secure the nation and as a means to prepare it to conduct the war on terror and any conflicts that follow it in the information age. Instead, true institutionalization of imagination can be found in the transformation – a redefinition of form and function using deductive reasoning – of government. Writing nearly a year after the 9/11 attacks John Arquilla provides a more accurate description of the nature of the problem confronting the United States:

In the last year, our defense posture has shifted. We used to be focused exclusively on nations; now we are also focused on networks. Networks like Al Qaeda are dangerous adversaries. They have loose, difficult-to-trace organizational structures. Vigorous efforts must be made to connect the dots of the network and its various dark allies. Yet, for all our new focus on winkling out networked terror, we seem to have learned few lessons about the nature of “netwar”…

Our leadership and, indeed, most other leaders around the world are new to this type of warfare. Clearly, the most important step they all can take right now is to learn all they can about networks and network-style conflict. Raising their level of awareness would open up the possibility of waging this war in new ways, rather than continuing to stumble along in a more traditional and ineffectual fashion. 78

This article arrives at a similar conclusion. The issues of definition, doctrine, policy, strategy, and transformation are not merely academic but will remain central to success in the war on terror. They are strategic in nature and must be addressed if the United States, in the application of its “war” metaphor, is to first avoid the strategic mistakes that lead to defeat in Vietnam and, second, simultaneously transform its strategic canvas for the information age.

The overall effort has already raised questions in academic and military circles over whether current doctrines of war, especially those based in Clausewitzean theory, have become irrelevant. Clausewitz’s philosophy of war, his description of the essence of war and its immutable principles, is broad enough to remain relevant, but it must be adapted to the information age. His definition of war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will” remains valid but its elements must transform.

The nature, or logic, of war – the use of force to compel an opponent to one’s will – has not changed. From this perspective the United States must arrive at a clearer definition of its adversaries and define its objectives and strategy, pursuant to these adversaries, in obtainable terms. This is necessary for the war metaphor the nation has chosen to pursue.

War’s character, or grammar, however, will take on a new form in the domains of the information-age global commons. It becomes necessary to redefine success, which may or may not be defeat or victory over one’s enemy in the traditional sense. The definition of force and the means to apply it to achieve success must also be redefined to include means of force that are outside, or go beyond, military force alone as envisioned by Clausewitz. In the end, rollback and containment of terrorist organizations through disruption of the processes that enable them to operate as networks, thereby rendering them irrelevant, may replace concepts of victory and defeat. The stakes are high. The alternative, if the United States fails to exercise imagination to define the strategic terms of the war on terror, is that it will be defined as a nation by the strategic terms set by its enemies.

Donald (Don) J. Reed specializes in strategic-level homeland defense and homeland security planning throughout the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. His career spans twenty years as a U.S. Army military police officer, and more than five years as a civilian homeland defense plans officer. He helped to plan the Department of Defense operational response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the later response to Hurricane Katrina as a member of Joint Task Force Katrina. Mr. Reed holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic studies from Indiana University; a master’s degree in administration of justice from Webster University; and a master’s degree in security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, where he is also a recipient of the Center’s Curtis H. “Butch” Straub Award.

  1. Harry G. Summers, Jr., On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1984), 21. Conversation on 25 April 1975 in Hanoi between Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., then Chief, Negotiations Division, U.S. Delegation, Four Party Joint Military Team and Colonel Tu, Chief, North Vietnamese (DRV) Delegation, as reported by Colonel Summers.
  2. Anonymous (Michael Scheuer), Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (Dulles, Virginia: Brassey’s, Inc., 2004), xxi. “Recorded Audio Message by Ayman Zawahiri,” Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television, 10 September 2003, as reported by Anonymous (Michael Scheuer).
  3. The Uncertain Cost of the Iraq War. Working Draft, Revised (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), May 10, 2006), 3, http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/060509_iraq-war-costs.pdf (accessed 05/13/06).
  4. American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 11. CRS REPORT #? DATE? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War (accessed 02/09/06); http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html (accessed 02/09/06). Total casualties in Vietnam are difficult to obtain; estimates range between 3,200,000 and 4,000,000 noncombatant dead in North and South Vietnam. Combatant deaths may have included more than 5,000 United Nations deaths, 1,100,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, and 223,000 South Vietnamese.
  5. United States Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Order Code RS22452, Library of Congress, June 8, 2006; Iraq: Summary of U.S. Casualties, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Order Code RS21578, Library of Congress, August 17, 2006, 1; Jim Krane, “Iraqi Civilian Deaths Exceed U.S. Toll,” Philadelphia Enquirer, October 26, 2005, http://vikingphoenix.com/news/stn/2003/911casualties.htm (accessed 02/09/06). The estimate of American casualties in the War on Terror includes military casualties from Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq), and military and civilian casualty estimates from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was compiled from broadcast news reports and the references above and includes: Afghanistan (280 killed, 718 wounded), Iraq (2,604 killed, 19,511 wounded), 9/11 attacks (3,030 killed, 2,337 wounded). These estimates will increase as the war in Iraq continues. Reliable estimates of opposition and non-American noncombatant casualties are not readily available; estimates of civilian noncombatant deaths in Iraq alone vary widely, ranging from 30,000 to 70,000 people.
  6. Uncertain Cost of the Iraq War, 4.
  7. Anthony Cordesman, “Rethinking the Challenge of Counterinsurgency Warfare: Working Notes,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 7, 2005. http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/051107_counterinsurg.pdf (accessed 02/09/06).
  8. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2006), 1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nsct/2006/nsct2006.pdf (accessed 09/07/06).
  9. Arthur Cebrowski, “Transformation and the Changing Character of War?,” Department of Defense, Office of Force Transformation, Transformation Trends (June 17, 2004), 6.
  10. The 9/11 Commission Report, Authorized Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), 361-398. Chapter 12 of The 9/11 Commission Report lays out a blueprint for a United States global strategy in the war on terror.
  11. National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2005), 1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/iraq_national_strategy_20051130.pdf (accessed 02/09/06).
  12. Iraq’s Evolving Insurgency: The Nature of Attacks and Patterns and Cycles in the Conflict. Working Draft, Revised (Washington, D.C: Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 2, 2006), ii.
  13. Department of Defense Quarterly Report to Congress, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq (August 29, 2006), 28-33. http://www.defenselink.mil/home/features/Iraq_Reports/Index.html (accessed 09/08/06). The Department of Defense submitted this report to Congress pursuant to Section 9010 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2006, Public Law 109-148. This is the fifth in a series of reports and the third under Section 9010. The most recent prior report was submitted May 26, 2006.
  14. Donald Rumsfeld, remarks presented on “21st Century Transformation of the U.S. Armed Forces” at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C., January 31, 2002. http://www.oft.osd.mil/library_files/speech_136_rumsfeld_speech_31_jan_2002.pdf (accessed 03/08/06).
  15. Department of the Army, Posture Statement (2005). http://www.army.mil/aps/05/ (accessed 02/09/06). A statement on the posture of the U.S. Army 2005, by the Honorable Francis J. Harvey, Secretary of the Army, and General Peter J. Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff, presented to the First Session, 109th Congress, February 6, 2005.
  16. Ibid., 1. Figure 1 was adapted and modified from the original. The Army Posture Statement reverses Irregular Threats and Catastrophic Threats – attributing higher likelihood and higher vulnerability to the latter.
  17. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report (2006), v. http://www.defenselink.mil/qdr/report/Report.pdf (accessed 02/09/06).
  18. Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson, “Rumsfeld Offers Strategies for Current War,” Washington Post (February 3, 2006).
  19. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 1.
  20. 9/11 Commission Report, 362.
  21. Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (New York: I.B. Taurus & Co Ltd, 2004), 22.
  22. Earl Tilford, “The War on Terror: World War IV,” Officer (A Reserve Officers Association National Security Report), October 2004, 38.
  23. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 5; Department of Defense, National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism (2006), 4. http://www.defenselink.mil/qdr/docs/2005-01-25-Strategic-Plan.pdf (accessed 02/09/06).
  24. United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Handbook No.1, A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century (2005), Appendix A.
  25. 9/11 Commission Report, 362-363.
  26. Bruce Hoffman, “The Leadership Secrets of Osama Bin Laden: The Terrorist as CEO,” Atlantic Monthly (April 2002).
  27. Anonymous , Imperial Hubris, 62.
  28. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 9.
  29. Stephen D. Biddle, “American Grand Strategy After 9/11: An Assessment,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, April 2005, 28.
  30. 9/11 Commission Report, 399.
  31. Ibid., 379-380.
  32. Rasul et al v. Bush, President of the United States, et al., 542 U.S. 03-334 and 03-343 (2004). The majority ruling of the Supreme Court was that United States courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. As the Supreme Court ruled, the Guantanamo Bay detainees: are not nationals of countries at war with the United States; deny they have engaged in or plotted acts of aggression against the United States; have never been afforded access to any tribunal and therefore have never been tried and convicted of wrongdoing; for more than two years have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control.
  33. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al., 548 U.S. 05-184 (2006). The majority ruling of the Supreme Court was that it has jurisdiction to hear the case of an accused combatant before his military commission takes place; that the federal government did not have authority to set up these particular special military commissions; and that the special military commissions were illegal under both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention of 1949.
  34. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976), 605.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Tilford, “War on Terror,” 37.
  37. Clausewitz, On War, 75.
  38. Ibid., 88.
  39. Ibid., 80-81.
  40. Summers, On Strategy, 46.
  41. Clausewitz, On War, 140.
  42. Ibid., 119.
  43. Ibid., 131-132.
  44. Summers, On Strategy, 22.
  45. Ibid, 21-22.
  46. 9/11 Commission Report, 363.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Congressional Record 147 (2001), September 14. Public Law 107-40, 115 STAT. 224, Authorization For Use of Military Force.
  50. Congressional Record 148 (2002), October 10. Public Law 107-243, 116 STAT. 1498, Authorization For Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
  51. Summers, On Strategy, 58; William F. Buckley, “George Kennan’s Bomb,” National Review (April 1980). As quoted by Colonel Summers.
  52. 9/11 Commission Report, 361.
  53. Ibid, 363.
  54. National Security Strategy.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid, 6.
  57. Anonymous, Imperial Hubris, 129.
  58. Ibid., 177.
  59. Ralph Peters, Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World (Mechanisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002), 179-181.
  60. National Strategy for Homeland Security (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002).
  61. Ibid., 1.
  62. Summers, On Strategy, Ch. 8.
  63. Anonymous, Imperial Hubris, 100-101.
  64. Alan D. Beyerchen, “Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War,” International Security 17, no.3 (winter 1992): 59-90.
  65. Clausewitz, On War, 134-136.
  66. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt (editors), Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001); Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations,” Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2000); Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War (New York: Vintage Books, 2000); Thomas, X. Hammes, Colonel, USMC, The Sling and The Stone (St. Paul, Minnesota: Zenith Press, 2004); Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War (New York: The Free Press, 1991).
  67. Creveld, Transformation of War, 226.
  68. Cebrowski, “Transformation and the Changing Character of War?” 4.
  69. John Arquilla, Professor of Defense Analysis, Naval Postgraduate School. Student notes from a lecture given on networks and netwar at the Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security on July 12, 2005.
  70. Cebrowski, “Transformation and the Changing Character of War?” 2.
  71. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America (Panama City, Panama: Pan American Publishing Company, 2002), xix.
  72. Department of Defense, Office of Force Transformation, Implementation of Network-Centric Warfare (2005), 20.
  73. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2005), 25.
  74. Ibid.
  75. 9/11 Commission Report, 339. The four kinds of failure identified by the 9/11 Commission are imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.
  76. Ibid., 344.
  77. Ibid., Chapter 12, “What To Do? A Global Strategy,” 361; Chapter 13, “How To Do It? A Different Way of Organizing the Government,” 399.
  78. John Arquilla, “It Takes A Network,” Los Angeles Times (August 25, 2002).

This article was originally published at the URLs https://www.hsaj.org/?article=2.3.10 and https://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=2.3.10.

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Homeland Security Affairs is an academic journal available free of charge to individuals and institutions. Because the purpose of this publication is the widest possible dissemination of knowledge, copies of this journal and the articles contained herein may be printed or downloaded and redistributed for personal, research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission. Any commercial use of Homeland Security Affairs or the articles published herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the copyright holder. The copyright of all articles published in Homeland Security Affairs rests with the author(s) of the article. Homeland Security Affairs is the online journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). https://www.hsaj.org

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