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How Can the U.S. Military Avoid Another 9/15?: An Analysis of the Inability of U.S. Military Leaders to Provide an Adequate Strategy for Responding to the 9/11 Attacks

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Master's thesis

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On September 15th, 2001, three days after the 911 attacks, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton, presented the National Security Council NSC with three Department of Defense DoD developed Courses of Action COAs for a retaliatory strategy against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. All three plans called for direct action against these non-state, irregular forces. Even while presenting the plans, General Shelton admitted their inadequacy. How is it possible that the best strategy the uniformed leaders of the U.S. military could propose was a direct approach strategy against an adversary that employed an indirect approach strategy This thesis examines this question through a number of lenses. First, it uses game theory to analyze a work of Ivan Arreguin-Toft How the Weak Win Wars A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict. Next, the conclusions drawn from this analysis are compared to the organizational history of the DoD, and to the U.S. War College education received by the senior military leaders responsible for the plan presented at the NSC meeting on 915. The key findings are as follows 1 the U.S. military must develop an equal capacity to conduct a Direct Approach, an Indirect Approach, or a mixed approach strategy against irregular forces 2 the U.S. military should allow an adversary to make the first strategic move, which should be responded to with the same strategy being employed by the adversary and 3 the U.S. military must institute a curriculum within the military officer professional education program that equally balances the teaching of Direct and Indirect Approach strategy foci. The appendix presents a chronology of U.S. military deployments and operations beginning with the Cold War in 1945 to New Horizons Operation in 2001. Each entry includes Operation Name, Type of Operation, Location of Operation, Beginning and End Dates of Operation, and Opponent Strategy Direct or Indirect.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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