Accession Number : AD1019424

Title :   Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself: Understanding the Enemy in the War on Terror

Descriptive Note : Technical Report

Corporate Author : Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

Personal Author(s) : Smith,M E

Full Text :

Report Date : 01 Jun 2012

Pagination or Media Count : 111

Abstract : As the United States brings its decade-long war against terrorism to an end, it is important that the lessons from this period are not relegated to a footnote of American history. Historically, the United States has tended to miscalculate and misunderstand its enemies particularly during the early phases of the struggle. This thesis focuses specifically on the policies and responses of the George W. Bush Administration and its War on Terror as a case study to explore this phenomenon holistically. First, it develops a conceptual framework that defines understanding; identifies public discourse, public opinion, and government policy as locales for the creation and observation of understanding; and then employs the theoretical concepts of groupthink, social identity, and cognitive closure theory to explain understanding shortfalls. Second, this thesis provides a detailed historical review of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the Clinton Administrations counterterrorism policies. Third, it applies the conceptual framework to the case study to evaluate how well America understood al-Qaeda and if there were any impediments to its understanding. This thesis also touches on the question of the utility and possibility of greater understanding. In the final analysis, the findings support the conclusion that American understanding of al-Qaeda during the Bush Administration was ultimately thwarted for a variety of reasons. In spite of this fact, America has been largely successful in dismantling or crippling al-Qaeda. The thesis concludes with a review of the implications of misunderstanding at the strategic level and offers policy and decision- makers recommendations to avoid cognitive traps in the future.

Descriptors :   terrorism , lessons learned , national politics , national security , international relations , counterterrorism , foreign relations , political systems , decision making , terrorists , enemy

Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE