Understanding and Defeating Islamic Extremists
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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This paper addresses some fundamental, yet unresolved, questions concerning the nature and scope of Americas Global War on Terrorism GWOT, including the following Is the GWOT a subset of a much larger clash of civilizations What is the definition of terrorism Who or what is the enemy in the GWOT -- is it terrorism, a radical ideology, or Islamic extremists What is the proper role of the military What is the enemys center-of-gravity What is the United States center-of-gravity What are the best strategies to achieve victory and How will the United States know it is winning, or when it has won The author puts these questions into a historical and social context and presents several findings. He contends that this is not a clash of civilizations, but a war against extremist elements who espouse a radical ideology and the use of terrorism. American foreign policy is seen by many as anti-Muslim. The United States is not engaged in a war on terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The United States must undermine the legitimacy of bin Ladens jihad. The enemys center-of-gravity is their radical ideology. The United States can attack their center-of-gravity by de-legitimizing their ideology. The United States will be unable to completely attrite the enemy or eliminate their radical beliefs. It can, however, isolate and contain them. The nations greatest potential asset in this endeavor is the silent majority of moderate Muslims they are a critical yet unrealized friendly center-of-gravity. This is a war of alliances Americas most credible alliance has yet to form. The United States cannot win this war in the classical military sense. The military has a role, but it is not the sole focus of effort. The definition of success for the GWOT will remain elusive.
- Government and Political Science
- Humanities and History
- Unconventional Warfare