The grotesque fear of terrorism continues to elicit much attention in the public domain, particularly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil demonstrated that terrorist attacks can no longer be perceived as isolated, far-away, or unavoidably rare events. Various multi-faceted campaigns against terrorism have been ongoing for the past one decade, but opinion remains divided on whether the global war on terrorism is achieving desired outcomes.
By using the popular Rumsfeld memo of 2003 as the basis of this presentation, this paper aims to not only outline some of the metrics showing that the war on terrorism is being won, but also to espouse several recommendations necessary in order to effectively suppress terrorism.
In the memo addressed to a number of military and civilian personnel, Rumsfeld felt that the U.S. initiated war on terrorism was, at best, achieving mixed results. The then secretary of Defense felt that an organization as huge as the DOD was unable to tame the techniques used by contemporary terrorists since it could not change fast enough.
Hence the need to establish a new institution that faultlessly focuses the capacities of several departments and agencies on the challenge of global terrorism (USA Today, 2005). Rumsfeld expressed the need to come up with the right mix of rewards, amnesty, safety and confidence for people who may assist in suppressing terrorism through sharing of information.
To win the war on global terrorism, the secretary also expressed the need for DOD to design new techniques to organize, train, and equip military personnel, the need to develop metrics to show if the U.S. was winning or losing the global war on terrorism, and the need to come up with a broad, integrated plan that could be employed to stop the next generation of terrorists (USA Today, 2005).
The recent killing of Osama bin Laden by American elite forces demonstrates that the war on global terrorism is being won, albeit slowly. Rumsfeld was right in expressing the need to come up with new ways of rewarding and protecting those who provide information about terrorists (USA Today, 2005), as it can be recalled that it is through information sharing that Osama was finally clipped.
By sending more troops to countries that are traditionally known to support terrorist networks (United States Department of Defense, 2006), it can be argued that the U.S. has to some extent succeeded in disempowering terrorism operatives from willingly planning and executing terrorist activities. This is in line with Rumsfeld’s suggestion in the memo that the DOD need to come up with new ways to organize, train and equip its personnel to be successful in the war on global terrorism.
Today, the U.S. still maintains a heavy presence of military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this strategy has borne fruits in terms of restricting terrorists to have a safe haven from where they can plan and launch terrorist attacks. A number of top-ranking terrorists are either dead or languishing in prisons (Apostolou, n.d.). Consequently, it can be argued that this strategy has succeeded in reducing the terrorists’ scale of planning and executing attacks.
There have been suggestions that the U.S. obsession with Iraq weakened the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (United States Department of Defense, 2006). Rumsfeld memo is clear that the U.S. need to come up with a broad, integrated plan that could be used to stop the next generation of terrorists (USA Today, 2005).
Such a broad plan, it could be argued, entails targeting terrorist operatives in entirety, not just focusing on one location. The knowledge that Iraq under President Saddam Hussein was a safe haven for terrorist networks is in the public domain. After the U.S. initiated a regime change in Iraq and sustained its efforts to smoke out, capture or kill terrorists in Afghanistan, there has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the September 2001 attacks (Gardiner, 2008).
Information sharing among countries committed to fight global terrorism has so far succeeded in stopping the terrorists on their tracks. These are yet other metrics that can be used to show the war on global terrorism is being won, and they can in one way or another be credited to Rumsfeld’s suggestion about the need to come up with broad, integrated plans to stop the new blend of terrorists.
An integrative approach on fighting global terrorism, as suggested by Rumsfeld in the memo, has also succeeded in rallying more counties around the main objective of fighting global terrorism. A metric that can be used to reinforce this assertion is that countries that have been traditionally viewed as offering either moral or material support to the terrorists are now “…tackling the terrorism that lurks within [their] borders” (Apostolou, n.d., p. 2).
This, according to the author, is a point in the right direction. To keep winning the war on global terrorism, the U.S. needs to stay on the offensive and elevate preemptive strikes against terrorist targets with a view to either kill the operatives or keep them on the run (Apostolou, n.d.). Several issues, however, need to be incorporated in the war on global terrorism to keep it on track.
It is known that this war has received much criticism from some quarters due to a lack of clear understanding on its dynamics and challenges (United States Department of Defense, 2006). As such, the U.S. government needs to develop effective communication mechanisms by which the public can be helped to understand the basics and rationale of the conflict (Apostolou, n.d).
Such a mechanism will heighten the public’s perception about the global war on terrorism. Policy makers need to develop viable proposals that could be used to front an effective war on global terrorism rather than relying on political or ideological rhetoric. Such proposals must be focused and consistent with the broader aim of securing the lives of Americans against global terrorism.
To win the war, American and other coalition partners also need to develop a strategy that will enable them to have a deeper understanding of the terrorists, their mentality, recruitment strategies, intentions, and their capabilities (Apostolou, n.d.).
In his memo, Rumsfeld had stressed the importance of developing ways to stop sponsors from financing the radical madrassa schools, and the probability of creating a private foundation to attract radical madradssas to a more genuine and moderate course (USA Today, 2005). These issues, in my view, need to be addressed if we are to successfully win the war on global terrorism.
Apostolou, A. (n.d.). Reply to Rumsfeld. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Web.
Gardiner, N. (2008). George W. Bush: Winning the war on terror. The Telegraph. Web.
United States Department of Defense. (2006). Five myths about the war on terror. Web.
USA Today. (2005). Rumsfeld’s war-on-terror memo. Web.