Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare

October 8, 2004

In the past few decades the United States has witnessed two contrasting global security environments. In one, the world was deadlocked in a struggle between East and West, marked by heated maneuvering among capitalist, communist and unaligned nations. In this environment, the driving focus for the United States was the containment of communism as outlined in George Kennan's Long Telegram of 1946. Notice in President Kennedyís statement above that the proliferation of democracy is not a part of the U.S. focus. During the Cold War the United States was more willing to expend effort to contain communism than it was to encourage democracy. In fact, the United States supported or feigned ignorance toward many regimes more heavy-handed than the Soviet Unionís. This single-minded crusade, more or less a mantra of the United States for 40 years, was carried on in various forms by every administration.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the global security environment endured a radical, unforeseen change followed by almost a decade of uncertainty and distress. Downsizing the armed forces while increasing deployments for military operations other than war (MOOTW) overstretched the military to obscene proportions. Furthermore, the United States' armed forces suddenly existed in a world that lacked the threat they had been molded for a half-century to defeat, and they operated under new management that could not or would not wield them effectively. The potential existed for civil-military relations at the highest echelons to come completely unraveled, and at times it appeared they would. After serious political debacles in the Balkans and Africa and numerous unanswered terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and servicemembers at home and abroad, culminating with the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, a new global security environment was forged.