Bounding the Global War on Terrorism

January 13th, 2004 - by admin

by Dr. Jeffery Record – The Strategic Studies Institute / US Army War College

Those who question the Bush notion of “national security” may be interested in this new US Army War College report which typifies growing conservative-realist dissent within the US military over the strategic errors of the radical neoconservatives within the administration.

The report contends that Iraq was deterred, presented no threat, was a “war-of-choice” distraction from the “war of necessity” against Al Qaeda; the administration is biting off more than it can chew, its strategic ends have outrun available means; the “war on terror” is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver and threatens to dissipate US military resources in an endless and hopeless quest for perfect security.

The 56-page report makes good companion reading for George Soros’ new book, The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power (2003), which Soros summarizes in The Atlantic Monthly, December, 2003, pp. 53 ff.

Soros believes that the terrorist attack on the United States could have been treated as a crime against humanity rather than an act of war. Treating it as a crime would have been more appropriate, he writes; crimes require police work, not military action, and protection against terrorism and non-state threats requires precautionary measures, awareness and intelligence gathering — all of which ultimately depend on broad support of the populations among which the terrorists operate.

Declaring war on terrorism better suited the purposes of the Bush administration because it invoked military might but, Soros argues, this is the wrong way to deal with the problem; he advocates an alternative national security strategy of preventive actions of a constructive character which offers better longer-term prospects against non-state threats than the Bush doctrine of pursuing American supremacy through pre-emptive military action.
— Ed Mainland

Bounding the Global War on Terrorism
Jeffrey Record / The Strategic Studies Institute, The US Army War College

Dr. Jeffrey Record normally teaches strategy and tactics at the US Air Force’s Air War College. He is currently a visiting professor at the prestigious US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. Dr. Record delivers an extraordinarily blunt critique of where and why President Bush’s “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) has gone wrong. For t he complete report, go to:

Record’s Assessment:

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, the US Government declared a global war on terrorism (GWOT). The nature and parameters of that war, however, remain frustratingly unclear.

The administration has postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have conflated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.

Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action.

The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.

The war against Iraq was not integral to the Global War on Terrorism, but rather a detour from it. Additionally, most of the GWOT’s declared objectives, which include the destruction of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist organizations, the transformation of Iraq into a prosperous, stable democracy, the democratization of the rest of the autocratic Middle East, the eradication of terrorism as a means of irregular warfare, and the (forcible, if necessary) termination of WMD proliferation to real and potential enemies worldwide, are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security. As such, the GWOT’s goals are also politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable.

Accordingly, the GWOT must be recalibrated to conform to concrete US security interests and the limits of American power…”