Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The New Terrorism Strategy: Long War Challenge Still Not Resolved

In anticipation of the 5-year mark of 9/11, the Bush administration has unveiled its new National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, while Democrats have unveiled their critique of the accomplishments (New York Times, hat tip to a friend). The CSIS people have their own evalution coming out tomorrow in the shape of a book (link courtesy of Dan Drezner), but the teaser quoted below is available for mere mortals. From the Washington Post, "Bush Warns Of Enduring Terror Threat":
Meanwhile, the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies issued a report saying that although the Bush administration has deprived al-Qaeda of sanctuary in Afghanistan and has prevented more attacks on U.S. soil in the past five years, it has not tracked down bin Laden or created "enduring security in Afghanistan." Moreover, the report said, the administration's attempts at public diplomacy are "undermined by perceived U.S. unilateralism."
Two points: one on the NSCT as example of Long War-policy problems and another, more general, observation about the production of ideas in US foreign policy in light of that policy challenge. First, the NSCT is one -- important -- 'doctrinal' element in the implementation of the Long War concept as a header for the struggle against violent extremism formerly known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The NSCT illustrates these challenges in presenting one long-term goal (spread of Democracy) and four shorter term initiatives (Prevent attacks by terrorist networks; Deny WMD to rogue states and terrorist allies who seek to use them; Deny terrorists the support and sanctuary of rogue states; Deny terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror). But these four are complimentary rather then essential to the first:
The long-term solution for winning the War on Terror is the advancement of freedom and human dignity through effective democracy. Elections are the most visible sign of a free society and can play a critical role in advancing effective democracy. But elections alone are not enough. Effective democracies honor and uphold basic human rights, including freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly, association, and press. They are responsive to their citizens, submitting to the will of the people. Effective democracies exercise effective sovereignty and maintain order within their own borders, address causes of conflict peacefully, protect independent and impartial systems of justice, punish crime, embrace the rule of law, and resist corruption. Effective democracies also limit the reach of government, protecting the institutions of civil society. In effective democracies, freedom is indivisible. They are the long-term antidote to the ideology of terrorism today. This is the battle of ideas. (...)

The strategy to counter the lies behind the terrorists’ ideology and deny them future recruits must empower the very people the terrorists most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam. We will continue to support political reforms that empower peaceful Muslims to practice and interpret their faith. We will work to undermine the ideological underpinnings of violent Islamic extremism and gain the support of non-violent Muslims around the world. The most vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself, and Jordan, Morocco, and Indonesia, among others, have begun to make important strides in this effort. Responsible Islamic leaders need to denounce an ideology that distorts and exploits Islam to justify the murder of innocent people and defiles a proud religion.
This is either pretty fluffy or strangely selective stuff. It doesn't even amount to what it probably would like to be: an indirect call for an Islamic Reform (that would bring with it a, less related, set of problems). Taking the NSCT in its context, the change from GWOT to Long War implies a change from military means to political means (or at least, to employing military means within a more clearly politically directed context and as such for political ends). In military terms, implementing this change means higher emphasis on counterinsurgency and other politically aware military operations types, as exemplified in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

Because the goals are fundamentally political, the Long War must necessarily also be more political in the means than in the GWOT framework. Meeting the Long War challenge means embracing the convergence of Security and Development, and understanding that not only is the latter probably a cost-effective way of achieving the first: it may also be the only way. The discrepancy in the NSCT between the short term initiatives and the long-term goals is not surprising -- but it needs to be resolved for the Long War not to be a mere continuation of the GWOT. The CSIS people take stock in their brief document of the U.S. strategy and capabilities for "winning the Long War":
Established principle of sovereign accountability (no “safe harbor”) for terrorists
Renewed DoD emphasis on counterterrorism and irregular warfare
Increased Special Operations Forces capabilities, cultural awareness, linguists
Raised priority for building foreign capacity
Created State Department Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization

Continuing Challenges
No grand strategy or interagency concept of operations for the “long war”
Overemphasis on use of military, creating substantial strains on forces
Insufficient deployable operational capacity in civilian agencies
No master plan to coordinate “soft power” programs
Chronically weak interagency coordination, planning, and operations
The CSIS challenges list is sound: an interagency concept is needed, but without resolving the underlying tension between Pentagon and the rest of the agencies, most notably State, about who should be responsible for what and have the necessary means to carry it out. Since this includes finding the political will to fund a substantial enlargement of civilian deployable capabilities -- the interagency concept looks like a difficult thing to write. Of course the recent Pentagon re-evaluation of the central status of inter-agency capacities is a step on the way (see: Pentagon Ups Inter Agency Capability) -- just like the NSPD44 is the basic stepping stone for all further developments as it gives State ultimate responsibility for stabilization and reconstruction. Tom Barnett's vision for a Department for Everything Else, including the S&R bit, and thus gathering the nation-building elements (or SysAdmin, as he calls them) from the Pentagon and State, is radical but a logical solution to the fundamental strategic challenge. We may be heading in that direction but the civilian side deployment capabilities issue is crucial for it to happen.

Second, the NSCT exemplifies that the civilian side needs to learn from the military in terms of defining strategies proper. The NSCT is a good example of the actual development of the aggregate US foreign/security policy strategy hierarchy. In principle, this goes from the abstract, general description of threats and responses and means -- the NSS -- over sector designated descriptions -- the National Military Strategy, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the Homeland Security Strategy, etc. -- to even more specialized levels including operations doctrines until the level of field manuals. Maintaining this system logically congruent would mean changing the NSS first always, then subsequently the rest.

In reality, however, the different documents are updated less dependently. Different departments are in touch with different parts of an evolving situation and react with different speeds. In a way, this is a characteristic of a soundly working system of strategies: the concept of identifying a wished-for end-state, with means and ends allows for a clearer evaluation of changing effects of threats and reactions, and therefore visible and -- in principle -- accountable changes in a coherent policy.

But, as all of the important changes in this non-hierchical way have come from the military circuit -- for logical reasons as the military have met and meets the concrete challenges of first the GWOT and then the LW. But this is a problem for effectively resolving the LW challenge: the military knowledge production circuit has little institutional incentive to think much beyond the confines of military operations. The gap of the NSCT therefore demonstrates the need for 'civilian' academics and policy people to engage with the practical task of filling the strategy gap of the NSCT -- but in a way that is not too 'civilian', so that the result becomes something to implement in practice. The civilians' dare: come up with a strategy that can fulfill the political task of the Long War in strengthening democratic statehood in the long term while addressing the immediate and medium term challenges.

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