" /> The Strategist: June 2006 Archives

« May 2006 | Main | July 2006 »

June 23, 2006

Is United States Policy Creating A Radical Islamic Regime In Somalia?

Some have written that United States Policy in the War on Terror may actually be contributing to a rise in radical Islamic fundamentalism.

In its language the National Security Strategy Of The United States Of America may be contributing inadvertently to the motivations of al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, in the War on Terror. In its preface, the President clearly states the policy of the United States to "actively work to bring the hope of democracy" to "every corner of the world."

In Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Anonymous (Michael Scheur) argues that it is precisely American policies and actions of the past 30 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.'" Anonymous supports this argument with public opinion polls in the Muslim world, which indicate an overwhelming negative view of the United States.

Whether democracy is a clear and obtainable objective in the War on Terror is open to debate. 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." Efforts to push democracy on other sovereign nations may be perceived by those nations and their cultures as the ultimate example of American hubris. It is this example that may lead them to respond to calls of war against the United States.

In a manner similar to the arguments of Scheur and Peters above, Samuel P. Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations, illustrates how the effort to spread democracy to societies that do not desire it can backfire. He describes the use of phrases such as "the world community" or "the free world" as euphemisms that are used to give global legitimacy to actions that reflect the interests of the United States and other Western powers. In Huntington's view the West essentially uses international institutions, military power, and economic resources to maintain Western predominance, protect Western interests, and promote Western political and economic values. He further refers to Western efforts to impose liberal Western values on non-Western societies as "human rights imperialism."

These efforts produce instead a backlash in the form of reaffirmation of indigenous values, as demonstrated in the form of increased support of religious fundamentalism by the younger generations in non-Western cultures. Modern democratic government originated in the West and when it has appeared in non-Western societies it has usually been the product of Western colonialism or imposition. In non-Western societies, these actions by Western powers call into question democracy's legitimacy and put them - non-Western societies - into conflict with the West. Huntington's argument is made more powerful today because, while elements of it are visible in the post-9/11 era, it significantly pre-dates the events of 9/11 and the War on Terror by a decade.

These statements could be attributed to the academic pondering of intellectuals. However, this week both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Wall Street Journal reported on developments in Somalia that indicate the possibility of some truth to the writing of Scheur, Peters, and Huntington that United States policy may be having an effect quite opposite to that of its intent.

In an article titled Somali Leaders Say They Warned U.S. (June 18, 2006) the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that

"In early March, nine of Mogadishu's most prominent community leaders secretly flew to neighboring Djibouti and pleaded with U.S. military officials there to stop funding the warlords who were devastating the city. Backing the warlords, they said, would end up strengthening an Islamist militia with a shadowy radical wing.

The Americans ignored their warnings, three of the Somalis at the meeting said in separate interviews, and the community leaders' fears came to life this month when the Islamic Courts Union militia defeated the warlords and took control of the Somali capital...

With Mogadishu under their control, Islamic Courts forces have continued their offensive. They control the town of Jowhar, 55 miles north of Mogadishu, and are preparing for an assault on Beledweyne, 190 miles north, near the Ethiopian border...

Some of the warlords are surrendering their weapons to the Islamist militias, providing the militias with new weaponry - most of which was bought with U.S. funds, Somalis contend."

Similarly, in an article titled The New Taliban (June 19, 2006) in the Wall Street Journal J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, wrote that

"On June 5, an armed Islamist group, the Union of Islamic Courts, took control of Mogadishu, Somalia's largest city, after heavy fighting against "warlords" representing an ad hoc alliance apparently recently underwritten by the CIA and the Department of Defense. Since then, the Islamist forces have also seized the strategically important town of Jowhar, which controls the route to Baidoa, where Somalia's internationally recognized but utterly ineffectual "Transitional Federal Government" camps out...

Alas, the truth is that the Union is made up of at least four major jihadi groups: al-Ittihad al-Islami ("Islamic Union"), a group which used to appear on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations (the folks at Foggy Bottom apparently bought at face value the group's previously self-proclaimed dissolution); al-Takfir wal-Hijra ("Excommunication and Exodus"), a group so extreme that it considered Osama bin Laden too moderate and tried to kill him in Sudan in 1996; al-Islah ("Reconciliation"), an Islamist group pushing for the establishment of a Islamic state in Somalia; and al-Tabligh ("Making Known"), an Islamist "missionary" group with links to the same madrassas in Pakistan which gave us the Taliban...

Today, it is an open secret that the same dynamic is at work in Somalia as was at work in Afghanistan a decade ago. Ironically, while senior U.S. officials have had even less reaction to the fall of Mogadishu to the Union of Islamic Courts than their predecessors had to the fall of Kabul to Taliban, even the U.N. has acknowledged the existence of terrorist training camps in Somalia. One report prepared for the Security Council last year listed 17 of them by name. Yet not only are the U.S. military personnel of the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa, based in nearby Djibouti (and not allowed to take direct action against the camps), but official U.S. policy does not even make provision for shoring up Somaliland as a bulwark against the rising tide of radical Islamism in the horn.

Unfortunately for Somalia, its neighbors, and ultimately the U.S., it seems we're well on our way to proving once again the truth of Santayana's warning that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

So, is it true that United States Policy in the War on Terror may actually be contributing to a rise in radical Islamic fundamentalism?

Time will tell in Somalia.

June 22, 2006

On Realigning The Departments Of Defense And Homeland Security

In United States military doctrine seams of vulnerability are boundaries or gaps between forces which represent weaknesses that can be attacked, directly or indirectly. Enemy seams of vulnerability can be attacked and exploited. Conversely, friendly seams of vulnerability are those weaknesses which must be protected from enemy exploitation in order to maintain freedom of action. Seams of vulnerability may be physical, e.g., the boundaries between tactical units on the ground; or they may be conceptual, e.g., conflicting policies, or unaddressed gaps between policies of different agencies. The Preface to the National Response Plan even refers to the elimination of critical seams in relation to domestic incident management and the "prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from terrorism." Regardless of whether they are physical or conceptual seams are vulnerable to exploitation.

The Problem

In the post-9/11 era a strategic seam of vulnerability exists between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It is alluded to by the 9/11 Commission Report which asks, "Who is responsible for defending us at home? The answer, according to the 9/11 Commission is that, "Our national defense at home is the responsibility, first, of the Department of Defense and, second, of the Department of Homeland Security. They must have clear delineations of responsibility and authority." However, the 9/11 Commission's further recommendation that the Department of Defense should oversee the adequacy of response from military threats, and the Department of Homeland Security should oversee the adequacy of plans to protect critical infrastructure and to respond to threats, does not adequately define the seam of vulnerability, referred to by the Homeland Security Joint Operating Concept as the national challenge, nor does it provide an adequate recommendation on how to protect it from exploitation.

The Department of Defense has the military resources to protect the nation from military threats in the maritime, land, and air domains using Active, Reserve, and National Guard components. It has been given the responsibility to "take action to secure the United States from direct attack and counter, at a safe distance, those who seek to harm the country." However, under the provisions of the Posse Comitatus Act it is precluded under normal circumstances from using federal Title 10 military forces for the purpose of enforcing civil laws. Those military forces which have the authority to enforce civil laws, the Army and Air National Guard, remain under the control of the various state governors in Title 32 status, unless they are mobilized under Federal Title 10 status, at which time they lose their authority to enforce civil laws.

The Department of Homeland Security has the stated responsibility "to mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the homeland from terrorist attacks." With the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard the Department of Homeland Security has no comparable military forces to the Department of Defense. Using the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security has military force which can operate in the maritime domain and can also enforce civil laws on the water under Federal Title 14 status. It does not have access to Army and Air National Guard forces which can provide comparable military and civil law enforcement capabilities in the ground and air domains.

As a result of the different roles assigned the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, the seam of vulnerability between them is conceptual in nature, but it has the potential for actual hostile exploitation. When the functions of the two Departments are considered together neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Homeland Security are prepared individually, or in concert, to address the full spectrum of symmetrical and asymmetrical threats to the United States, ranging from "war" to "crime." In a word, they are not prepared to meet the national challenge.

The Proposal

Transfer the Army and Air National Guard from the Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security. Create a four-star position for the Chief, Ground National Guard, and a four-star position for the Chief, Air National Guard to put them on par with the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Create a Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for Homeland Security under the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security would then have military forces in the maritime, land, and air domains. They would parallel the military services of the Department of Defense, except through Title 14 (Coast Guard on the waterways), and Title 32 (National Guard on land and in the air) they could be used in law enforcement roles as well as for military homeland security missions.

This would require a major realignment of both the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The Army and Air National Guard would have to shed their major combat formations in favor of restructuring for homeland security roles. The Department of Defense would need greater access to its Reserve Component to generate the combat power required beyond that of the Active Component. The Department of Homeland Security would focus entirely on homeland security with the Coast Guard, and the Air and Ground National Guard. The Department of Defense would focus entirely on homeland defense against outside attacks of a military nature, and on foreign military campaigns, using only Federal Title 10 forces.

The political and bureaucratic impediments that would prevent transferring the Army and Air National Guard to the Department of Homeland Security are immense. But they are not insurmountable, and elimination of the seam of vulnerability between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security could be accomplished by visionary leaders.

June 4, 2006

The Architect And Fifth Generation Warfare

The architectural strategies being applied by al Qaeda in the War on Terror are not new. They merely represent the modern application of ancient and evolving concepts of war, albeit in new and heretofore unimagined forms. The writings of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, one of the Islamic jihad prime theorists, apparently captured in Pakistan six months ago, provide insight into not only the emergence of Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW), but also the evolution of al Qaeda as the forerunner of future United States adversaries. To understand how his theories advance the evolution of war it is necessary to put the War on Terror in perspective.

One way to gain perspective is to consider the War on Terror against the evolution of warfare in the modern era. In The Sling and the Stone Retired Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes describes how modern warfare in the twenty-first century has evolved as the result of political, economic, social, and technological changes that have occurred over time in societies.(1) Hammes? typology outlines four generations of warfare, and hints at what the fifth generation of war may look like. Each generation represents a dialectically qualitative shift in the methods of waging war. A litmus test for whether or not a change represents a generational shift in the methods of conducting war is that, controlling for disparities in size, an army from a previous generation cannot defeat a force from the new generation.(2)

A Generational Typology Of Warfare

The rise of nation states in the modern era brought the development of First Generation (formation) Warfare (1GW), also referred to as Napoleonic war, with its utilization of armies against one another in massive line and column formations. As a result of the industrial revolution and quantitative and qualitative improvements in massed firepower Second Generation (trench) Warfare (2GW) made its appearance during the American Civil War, and gradually replaced First Generation (formation) Warfare (1GW). It culminated with the trench warfare and mass slaughters of armies that occurred in Europe during the First World War. Third Generation (maneuver) Warfare (3GW) was conceived by the Germans during World War I, and later introduced at the outset of World War II by the German Wehrmacht with its conquest of Europe. It resulted from further improvements in available technology and is characterized by combined arms operations - sea, air, and ground - and rapid maneuver of mechanized formations. Third Generation (maneuver) Warfare (3GW) has been the dominant form of conventional military warfare between nation states, including the United States, in the modern era.

Fourth Generation (insurgent) Warfare (4GW) is a concept originated by William S. Lind, et al, and refined by Hammes in The Sling and the Stone. Its application was first conceived by Mao Tse Tung during the Chinese Revolution from 1925-1927, and used successfully to defeat the Nationalist armies of Chang Kai-shek and install a communist government in China. Fourth Generation (insurgent) Warfare (4GW) has several characteristics which give it a dialectical edge over Third Generation (maneuver) War (3GW) and enable quantitatively and qualitatively inferior forces to win over superior government forces. It uses asymmetrical strategy and tactics, applied over long periods of time, to shift its focus away from destruction of the enemy's superior conventional military forces - which it cannot defeat - and instead toward defeat of the enemy political will to fight. It matches the political strength of one opponent against the political strength of the other. In its common form it is insurgency warfare. It was adapted and used successfully by the North Vietnamese to defeat the United States, by the Afghans to defeat the Soviet Union, and it is being used by al Qaeda today in its global insurgency.

Fourth Generation (insurgent) Warfare (4GW) is characterized by its use of networks, its willingness to accept casualties, and its long length in time. It is measured in decades rather than campaigns lasting months or years. The Communist Chinese fought for twenty-seven years; the Vietnamese fought the French, and later the Americans, for thirty years; and the Afghans, supported by other nations, fought the Soviets for ten years.(3) Fourth Generation (insurgent) Warfare (4GW) stands unique thus far as the only type of warfare that has defeated a superpower, and it has done so on two occasions.

The Emergence Of Fifth Generation Warfare

Currently, no commonly accepted definition exists for Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW). However, given the rate at which change in warfare is accelerating it is reasonable to accept that Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW) is already making its appearance. It took hundreds of years from the development of the musket and cannon for First Generation (formation) Warfare (1GW) warfare to evolve. Second Generation (trench) Warfare (2GW) evolved and peaked in the 100 years between Waterloo and Verdun. Third Generation (maneuver) Warfare (3GW) came to maturity in less than 25 years.(4) Fourth Generation (insurgent) Warfare (4GW) was implemented immediately upon its conception in China seventy-five years ago, around the same time that Third Generation (maneuver) Warfare was implemented in Europe.

For the purpose of this treatise, Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW) is defined as the use of "all means whatsoever - means that involve the force of arms and means that do not involve the force of arms, means that involve military power and means that do not involve military power, means that entail casualties, and means that do not entail casualties - to force the enemy to serve one's own interest."(5) It includes the appearance of super-empowered individuals and groups with access to modern knowledge, technology, and means to conduct asymmetric attacks in furtherance of their individual and group interests. Arguably, its first identifiable manifestations occurred in the United States during the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the ricin attacks of 2004. Both sets of attacks required specialized knowledge, included attacks upon federal government offices and facilities, succeeded in disrupting governmental processes, and created widespread fear in the public. To date, no individual or group has claimed responsibility for either attack, and neither attack has been solved. The attacks were quite successful in disrupting government processes and creating public fear but, thus far, their motivation remains unknown.

Today's computer hackers, capable of disrupting governments and corporations on a global scale by attacking the Internet with malicious computer programs, may also be forerunners of super-empowered individuals and groups. They have already demonstrated that they are capable of single-handedly waging technological campaigns with overtones of Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW).

The potential power of Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW) was also demonstrated in the Madrid bombings of 2004. On this occasion, a series of mass transit bombings conducted by a networked terrorist group in a single day, on the eve of national elections, resulted in a new Spanish government being voted into office, and the immediate withdrawal of Spanish military support to ongoing coalition operations against the insurgency in Iraq. The Madrid bombings are significant because the terrorists behind them were also major drug dealers, part of a network running from Morocco through Spain to Belgium and the Netherlands. Although the Madrid bombings are thought to have cost only about $50,000 to carry out, law enforcement authorities afterwards recovered nearly $2 million in drugs and cash from the group.(6) In these attacks, a group which represented an extensive transnational criminal enterprise successfully brought about regime change in a sovereign European nation. In doing so it demonstrated how Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW) has a dialectically qualitative advantage over the methods of both Third Generation (maneuver) Warfare (3GW) and Fourth Generation (insurgency) Warfare (4GW).

The Impact Of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar

The impact of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar's theories on the emergence of Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW):(7)

- Nasar's "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance," has been circulating on Internet web sites for 18 months. The treatise, written under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri, draws heavily on lessons from past conflicts. It serves as a how-to manual for uniting isolated groups of radical Muslims for a common cause.

- It proposes a strategy for a truly global conflict on as many fronts as possible and in the form of resistance by super-empowered small cells or individuals, rather than traditional guerrilla warfare. To avoid penetration and defeat by security services, he says, organizational links should be kept to an absolute minimum.

- Nasar says it would be a mistake for the global movement to pin its hopes on a single group or set of leaders. He clearly says that al-Qaeda was an important step but is not the end step and is not sufficient in itself.

- Nasar's theories of war call for the most deadly weapons possible, and offer a new model aimed at drawing individuals and small groups into a global jihad.

- Nasar's theories can be seen in Casablanca in 2003, Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In each case, the perpetrators organized themselves into local, self-sustaining cells that acted on their own but also likely accepted guidance from visiting emissaries of the global movement.

Strategic Implications

The strategic implications for the United States are great. As the events of 9/11 demonstrated, the United States can be attacked on its home territory by its potential adversaries in the War on Terror. A successful national strategy, as well as transformation of that strategy to the emergence of Fifth Generation (unrestricted) Warfare (5GW) in the information age, is necessary if future attempts to attack United States citizens and interests, at home or abroad, are to be defeated or prevented. In a protracted and continuous war of finite conventional resources arrayed against infinite asymmetrical threats, the Nation must come to understand the character of the emerging threat it faces and adapt accordingly. Failure to do so could have grave strategic consequences and invite additional challenges to American political, economic, and military leadership throughout the world.


(1) Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, 14; William S. Lind; Keith Nightengale, Colonel (USA); John F. Schmitt, Captain (USMC); Joseph, W. Sutton, Colonel (USA); and Gary I. Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel (USMCR), ?The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,? The Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989; Hammes uses the description of the first three generations of war from the Lind, et al, article as a basis for his description of the development of Fourth Generation War. He makes only passing reference to Fifth Generation War, which he says he is certain is currently developing somewhere in the world.

(2) William S. Lind, "Fifth Generation Warfare?" Center for Cultural Conservatism, Free Congress Foundation (February 2004), 1.

(3) Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, 14.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare: China's Master Plan to Destroy America (Panama City, Panama: Pan American Publishing Company, 2002), 43.

(6) David E. Kaplan, "Paying For Terror," U.S. News & World Report (December 5, 2005), 44.

(7) Craig Whitlock, "Architect Of New War On The West," Washington Post (May 23, 2006).