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Defeating Undefined Enemy Requires Multilayered National Strategy

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2006 – The days of the clearly defined enemy who plays by a set of rules are over, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy said here March 13.

"Certainly there is a traditional-type enemy," Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor E. Renuart told the audience gathered for the 17th Annual National Defense Industrial Association Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition. "But the bulk of the enemy we're going to face in the (next) weeks and months and years is going to be one that is not nearly so definable."

This new enemy has found ways to exploit the liberties of free societies, Renuart said. Institutional networks potentially provide a prime target for the enemy.

"I don't have to blow up a port. I could just make the company that runs the port go broke and I get the same strategic success," he said. "We need to ensure that we have taken away the ability for a terrorist network ... to get into our network system and change the way we do business."

The United States invests heavily in protecting its networks from outside threats, Renuart said. Defeating this enemy will require a multi-layered approach but knowledge is key, he said. "You've got to understand the strategy of your enemy if you're going to craft your own," he added.

The enemy's strategy doesn't say, 'Go attack the United States,' he said. It does, however, advocate targeting U.S. finances, patience and enthusiasm.

Renuart noted that intelligence shows terrorists have studied U.S. history. One intercepted letter between top-level al Qaeda operatives stated "that the U.S. traditionally has never kept up its enthusiasm for a conflict for more than three or four years," Renuart said.

As an illustration of how patient the enemy is prepared to be, he displayed a chart taken from a terrorist Web site that depicts the extremists' expectations for 100 years from now. They expect to have extended their brand of Islam across the entire globe. "They're clearly not in this for a three- to five-year fight," Renuart said. "If we're in it for a three- to five-year fight, we stand a chance of losing."

To keep that from happening, the U.S. must craft a full-spectrum strategy, he said. "Not (just) a military strategy, (but) a diplomatic, informational and communicative strategy, and (an) economic strategy," he said.

The National Counterterrorism Center, which collects and meshes intelligence from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, is heading up this effort. Created by the 9/11 Commission, the center's mission is to create a cross-department strategy to combat terrorism, he said.

"As part of that, they have begun to develop the National Implementation Plan designed to look at four key elements of national strategy," Renuart said. Those elements include attacking terrorists, defending the U.S. and working to support moderate Islamic views around the world while simultaneously working to reduce the danger of a weapons-of-mass-destruction event, he said.

To support the elements of the national strategy, the U.S. must expand foreign partnerships and partner capacity, Renuart said. It also must strengthen its capacity to prevent terrorist acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction, he added.

The military's strategic objectives mirror those of the national strategy, he said. One crucial aim is countering ideological support for terrorism, or CIST, and it has become a focal point, Renuart said. Educating military leaders in this area is critical to the Defense Department's CIST contribution, he said.

"This is the first time we've incorporated in a national strategy document the importance of strategic communication," Renuart said. "For the first time, we have a real effort at orchestrating the strategic communication across the U.S. government."

It's critical that the objectives of the national security strategy be met, he added. Failure could mean restricted civil liberties and the loss of moderate governments' participation in the war on terrorism.

Contact Author

Lt. Gen. Victor E. Renuart, USAF

Related Sites:
National Counterterrorism Center

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