As the United States confronts terrorism, military personnel have to make a cultural shift as they fight what officials now call “the Long War,” senior DoD officials said.
Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that the generation of servicemembers entering the military today must focus on how the United States will deal with extremist networks that threaten America and its allies.
This concept is nothing new, though it certainly seems to be taking a long time to get the parts all organized for the new world we find ourselves in. Changing huge organizations, especially long-standing, tradition-heavy ones like the US military, takes time. While we all sit around impatient for more-significant headway, we need to remind ourselves that it could be a lot worse.
While conventional forces must remain robust and their capabilities must remain second to none, the military’s focus will broaden to include a greater emphasis on special operations. “We have to be able to respond conventionally if necessary, but we must provide more focus on irregular warfare missions,” Odierno said.
Even after the defeat of al Qaeda, extremists groups will remain a problem, Odierno said. This will be complicated because terrorist networks are “non-state actors” that may be operating in friendly nations. The mission will not be to confront armies, navies or air forces, but shadowy groups.
The trick, of course, is morphing into something that can confront these shadowy groups while retaining the ability to (simultaneously, I imagine) confront traditional military powers. Like, say, China.
All ground forces are going to have to work more closely with special operations forces and must enhance their capabilities to work in irregular environments. Special operations forces must also develop new capabilities, and the United States must develop more special operations personnel, Odierno said.
I would suspect that our Special Operations forces are “stretched thin” far more badly than our regular forces. And Civil Affairs and Military Police forces probably need to be significantly bolstered, as well.
And don’t miss Defense Tech’s QDR: China Tops Iraq, Osama?
Plus, in DefenseLink’s Americans Must Understand U.S. Is at War, General Says
“The (terrorist) propaganda on the Internet is clear, they want to re-establish the caliphate,” Odierno said. “The center of the caliphate was initially going to be Afghanistan and was supported by the Taliban. Once the Taliban was defeated and overthrown, they shifted. And now in all their writings they say the center of the caliphate will be in the ‘Land of Two Rivers’ — Iraq.”
Their goal is to start in Iraq, expand the caliphate throughout the Middle East and then ultimately across the entire world, Odierno said. “Will they do this? No,” he said. “But that’s their intent.”
Americans need to talk about these terror goals, he said. Americans need to understand the way the terrorists think and understand the threat they pose, because this may help Americans foster the will to combat these groups, he said.
The article says that every American needs to remind themselves every day that we’re at war. I really think the “Just keep shopping” mentality (to summarize) was the biggest single error that the Bush administration made with the American people after 9/11. Sure, it was important for people to keep living their lives and to keep the nation running, but the push to “carry on as usual” has apparently worked too well with a lot of folks.