GSSR Special Issue: What the New Administration Needs to Know About Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The Georgetown Security Studies Review is very proud to present a new special issue: “What the New Administration Needs to Know About Terrorism and Counterterrorism”. This issue contains articles and remarks from some of the world’s eminent scholars of terrorism and counterterrorism, who gathered at Georgetown University on 26-27 January, 2017 for a conference jointly hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies and the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence of the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

The special issue is available for download here.

The GSSR would like to graciously thank all who made contributions to this important special issue!

Please direct all inquiries regarding this issue to the Georgetown Security Studies Review Editor-in-Chief at GSSR@georgetown.edu.

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From the end of our article above:

"While continued and increased US combat air support is also required -- especially in Iraq, Syria, Libya and in support of French forces in Mali -- that alone is not the answer. American and allied air strikes in coordination with local ground forces have not brought any of these counter-terrorist campaigns to rapid conclusion. Therefore, in tandem with both the continued use of air power and deployment of supporting American special operations forces personnel, division-size conventional US military forces might be usefully deployed on a strict 90-day rotation into violence-plagued rural areas and urban trouble spots. They have the necessary combat experience and skill-sets to sequentially eliminate terrorist strength in each of these areas, and thereby enable indigenous security forces to follow in their wake to stabilize and police newly liberated places. By providing more effective governance and core services -- with sustained US and European support -- host nations could thus better prevent the recurrence of terrorism and return of terrorist forces."

Shall we agree that NONE of the above addresses the core grievance of these populations and their states, societies and civilizations; this being that -- re: the "effective governance" and "core services" being offered to these populations and their respective states and societies by the U.S./the West -- all of these are based on:

a. Alien and profane "Western"/"secular" political, economic, social and value norms. And

b. The desire by the Western powers to transform and assimilate these outlying states, societies, civilizations and their populations more into the Western power, influence and control sphere.

And, thus:

a. The efforts described in the quoted paragraph above -- which amounts to putting more "military muscle" behind these such, unwanted, alien and profane, transformation and assimilation efforts --

b. These such "escalatory" efforts would appear to be no more likely to achieve "counterinsurgency" success (again: "transformation" more along modern western lines; "assimilation" more into the Western sphere of power, influence and control) than would (a) putting more gasoline on a fire tend to (b) achieve success in putting out said fire.

And, thus, in an admitted "war of (political?) attrition," these such actions (which, in truth, only amount to putting more gasoline on the fire?); these such actions would not seem to be the way to go.

A proper counter-insurgency approach, thus, one more likely to produce -- admittedly over a longer term -- our "transform and assimilate" goals; this such "counter-insurgency approach would seem to involve:

a. Abandoning, for the time being, our effort to provide "effective governance" and "core services" more along our alien and profane modern western political, economic, social and value lines? And, thus,

b. Abandoning, for the time being, the effort to transform and assimilate these outlying states, societies, civilizations -- and their populations -- anytime in the near future?

(This exact such "go slow" and/or "go backwards" approach, re: the political, economic, social and value "change" demands -- in the case of the U.S./the West -- of globalism/globalization/the global economy; these such "go slow" and/or "go backwards" approaches being, in fact, the exact such "counter-insurgency" strategy that just got our new American President elected?

Accordingly, if these such "go slow" and/or "go backwards" approaches are appropriate to and can work for the U.S./the West -- re: the enormous "change" demands that we face -- then might they not also be appropriate to and work for the other states, societies and civilizations of the world; in this case, re: the enormous "change" demands that the U.S./the West imposes on these such "outlying" states, societies and civilizations?)

Maybe. Dr Hoffman (in this case) advocates backing indigenous forces with U.S. forces for limited periods -- in part to avoid the U.S. taking on the appearance of an occupying army -- under the strategy that security is necessary before anyone is able to address grievances. The U.S. is not providing government or core services, though -- that's left to the host nation. Indeed, success may depend on how well we minimize our visible involvement. "Division-sized forces" -- these days, that's a CTF -- certainly won't do that, nor will building fortress embassies to dispense aid.

Of course, as you point out, there's no guarantee that the host government will adequately address grievances. The real measure of success is how well we (collectively) tolerate local failure, and either tolerate or manage the humanitarian disaster that may follow. Logic may say throw a cordon around the country and let the combatants beat each other silly, but 24-hour news images of refugee camps and wounded children being brought into overworked hospitals plays against us.

Warlock:

I do not think that you actually believe what you appear to be saying, to wit:

That the U.S./the West would, in addition to the continued deployment of our air power and special operations forces assets, now, on a rotational basis, also deploy division-size conventional military forces to various locales throughout the world -- this so as to achieve, as you appear to suggest, (a) "security" and, by way of security, (b) a "forum" for which the grievances of the populations (for example, their total rejection of the transformation of their states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines) might be accommodated.

(This, of course, would be in direct contradiction and thus contrary to U.S./the Western interests. Thus, as to the recommended deployment of these additional forces now, we must look to actual and current U.S./Western motives; such as, the U.S./the West simply not being able to adequately handle -- with their bought and paid for "host nation" governments -- the current "resistance to transformation" efforts of the populations concerned.)

Likewise, I do not think that you actually believe what you appear to be saying when you suggest (or simply imply) that the "government" and "core services" -- provided by the local governments (with massive and sustained U.S./Western support) -- that these are not, in fact, those exact same, alien and profane, "governments" and "services" which (a) the U.S./the West demands of said local governments and which (b) much of the population is so violently opposed to.

In support of my thoughts here, let us look again at specific parts of the Dr. Hoffman's paragraph I have quoted above:

a. "While continued and increased US combat air support is also required ... division-size conventional US military forces might be usefully deployed on a strict 90-day rotation into violence-plagued rural areas and urban trouble spots. ... "

b. "By providing more effective governance and core services -- with sustained US and European support -- host nations could thus better prevent the recurrence of terrorism and return of terrorist forces."

Warlock:

Is there any doubt in your military mind, really, that "a" and "b" above -- to wit: what amounts to an increase in the already massive and sustained U.S./Western "whole-of-government" support to these countries -- that this such increase is:

a. Not designed to better provide for U.S./Western actual and current interests (to wit: the transformation of these states and societies more along modern western lines)? And, thus,

b. Will likely be seen by these populations -- not from your "security" and accommodating "forum" perspective -- but simply from the perspective of "poring more gasoline onto the 'alien and profane' transformation fire?"

(Thus, in order to achieve the "go slow" and/or "go backwards" approach that I have suggested; this would seem to require not more, alien and profane, "governance" and "services" support, and/or more troops [i.e., more whole-of-government support], but indeed less; such things as "security" not withstanding?)

I believe that's what Dr Hoffman recommends. I don't believe stuffing a 20,000 man division, or even a 6000-man brigade, plus the infrastructure to support it, is the answer, and especially not for 90-day bursts. That sounds good on paper, but the troops don't have enough time on the ground to sort out who's doing what to whom, and they're large enough that simply being present, as you put it, "pours gasoline on the fire" -- not necessarily because they're seen as trying to transform society, but because they're an easy-to-find target.

In my own experience, both the U.S. demand for "transformation" and the proportion of the population "violently opposed" are both not as portrayed. The former is often a product of inertia ("this is the way we usually do things") or influences from NGOs with their own objectives rather than a deliberate, coordinated U.S. Government strategy of cultural transformation. The latter is less a matter of violent opposition than it is taking advantage of U.S. money and material flowing in and slow-rolling acceptance of undesired ideas and institutions until the silly infidels leave. The violence often comes from those insurgent elements -- often outsiders -- trying to maintain their own form of control, which is sometimes as transformative as anything the U.S./West is accused of doing.