Terror fight to go on after Iraq and Afghanistan are over
I agree that the conflict will last a while and that we have to be ready to use force. The best way to do that is by helping the host nations deal with the terrorist the way we are now in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the "Long War" against violent extremism and that the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists should be the nation's top military priority over coming decades, according to a new National Defense Strategy he approved last month.
The strategy document, which has not been released, calls for the military to master "irregular" warfare rather than focusing on conventional conflicts against other nations, though Gates also recommends partnering with China and Russia in order to blunt their rise as potential adversaries. The strategy is a culmination of Gates's work since he took over the Pentagon in late 2006 and spells out his view that the nation must harness both military assets and "soft power" to defeat a complex, transnational foe.
"Iraq and Afghanistan remain the central fronts in the struggle, but we cannot lose sight of the implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front, and multi-dimensional conflict more complex and diverse than the Cold War confrontation with communism," according to the 23-page document, provided to The Washington Post by InsideDefense.com, a defense industry news service. "Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to winning this conflict, but it alone will not bring victory."
"The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies," the document said. "For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves."
Defense sources said Gates's strategy met resistance among the Joint Chiefs of Staff because of its focus on irregular warfare. Gates met with the Joint Chiefs to present the rationale behind his strategy, and they expressed concerns over the long-term risks of shifting the focus too far from conventional threats. The service chiefs have worried publicly about shunning preparation for conventional warfare because it could give adversaries a competitive advantage in key arenas, such as in the skies or in space.
Where I disagree with Secretary Gates is in "addressing the grievances" of the terrorist like al Qaeda. Their grievances are beyond anyone's ability to resolve. They are based in their own weird religious beliefs and bigotry and they have to be destroyed to destroy those beliefs. Certainly defeating them in Iraq has significantly reduced their following.
That is something the opponents of the Iraq battle thought impossible. Most claimed it was increasing the number of terrorist, but information is coming in from throughout the Islamic world that shows respect for al Qaeda is in great decline. Even in Pakistan, their last strong hold and sanctuary they are losing support.
It is not surprising that the chiefs would like to also prepare for other future threats. To do that we need to increase the size of the forces we have and rotate troops through training for both in some cases. What we should not do is neglect the war we have for one we don't have. That would be like switching to preparation for counterinsurgency warfare in 1944 before World War II was won.