Leaders at Conference Tackle Strategies Against Terrorism
American Forces Press Service
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, July 20, 2005 Speakers and participants alike focused on challenges at the opening of the NATO and European Union "Strategies Against Terrorism" conference here July 19.
Michael McCarthy, deputy director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, opened the four-day conference by telling the participants from 21 nations and 19 speakers that the first challenge was to define terrorism.
"In my view it's a war on my family; it's a war on my nation; it's a war on my children," he said. "This is a very serious, serious problem and democratic societies are extremely vulnerable."
Conference moderator Nick Pratt struck a similar chord by quoting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said after the recent London terrorist bombings that "the greatest danger is that we fail to face up to the nature of the threat we are dealing with." Pratt is director of the Marshall Center's program on terrorism and security studies.
Navy Rear Adm. Hamlin Tallent, director of U.S. European Command's European Plans and Operations Center, sounded a similar theme in his keynote address. He also challenged participants to think about why they had come to the conference and how they saw their role in the war on terror.
"If you think about the war on terror and you think about Iraq, I think you think wrong," he said. "If you think about the war on terror and you think about people walking around with guns and airplanes flying and ... something detonating, if that's what you think the war on terror is, I think you need to think differently.
"This isn't something guys in uniforms fight," Tallent said. "The war on terror is much more complex than that, much more far-reaching than that. And if you look at the subjects you're going to talk about in the next couple of days ... most of the subjects you're going to talk about are nonmilitary, and they should be."
The key to success, he said, was that participants in the four-day conference understand the nature of the war on terror and are honest with themselves and each other about their role in it.
"There is no 'they,'" he said. "You are as critical to this as anybody else you know. Nobody else is going to fix this. It's going to have to be us.
"I think you are going to have to, as a group, be frank with each other in your break-out sessions," he continued. "As a group of nations, you're going to have to be frank with each other about what you are prepared to do."
Tallent went on to dispel some myths about the nature of the war on terror.
"Originally, back in 2000 and before, for instance, al Qaeda had somewhat of a hierarchical structure, a leadership-to-operations-to-tactics kind of structure that you see at IBM or any large organization," he said. "What we see now is a change in this. We see the enemy changing into something that has less symmetric lines of understanding, less symmetric lines of power.
"So instead of having an IBM-type of organization, now you have a franchising situation," he continued. "It's like McDonald's. There are all different kinds of these things all over the world. They generally have their own way of doing things; they just use a kind of a common menu. And this is all supported by the Internet."
These changes have not only affected the way the terrorist threat is perceived, Tallent said. They also have changed the how partners in the war on terror deal with each other, and when and where those nations need to employ their resources to stop future terrorism.
"This redefining of the threat is the No. 1 priority now coming out of the Department of Defense," Tallent said. "What is the threat, really, to whom?"
EUCOM is pursuing an operational approach geared toward protecting America's homeland, its allies and its interests, Tallent said, which requires defining terrorism not just in light of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. "This requires us to define terrorism in light of what you, as a partner to us, think it is," he told the multinational conferees.
"In this area we live in, all 91 countries are sovereign," he said. "All 91 countries have their own interests to preserve, and it's not what the United States thinks that's important. It's what you think is important, and how can we assist what you want is what's important. And when you put that into a regional approach, it gets more complex but not any less true."
Tallent then discussed how this new definition leads further away from guns.
"People, organizations, countries are crisis-motivated entities," he said. "You don't act until after something bad has happened. Why? Because you didn't want to spend the resources or you didn't have the time. You wait until something bad happens. Then somehow you find the resources and the time, but now the bad thing has already happened."
EUCOM's strategy is to be preventive, as opposed to being motivated by crisis. "We have data that show that it is 100 times more expensive to wait for crisis and solve it, than it is to solve prior to crisis," he said.
"What kind of activities can we put in place that will stop that way of thinking?" he asked the conferees. "Where there are groups of people who are at this kind of risk - particularly when there are youth bulges in the population, high unemployment and these kinds of things?- Put it together, and you start to have a recipe for some problems."
Beginning to find solutions to those problems is the challenge facing participants, Pratt said.
"As posters across London read on July 8, 'London is open for business,'" Pratt said. "We need to take some inspiration from our British colleagues. We, too, need to be open for business as well during this week. We have some goals that are important to understand and that might require some fresh thinking, some uncomfortable soul-searching and not just a couple of headaches."
Pratt set the stage for what the conferees could expect from the rest of the conference. "We need to examine the motives and means of modern terrorism," he said. "We need to review the terrorist threat in Europe and Eurasia and our bordering friends. We need to review the global terrorist threat. We need to understand exactly what we're dealing with."
He emphasized the importance of understanding what the threat is in developing a strategy to thwart it.
"We need to assess NATO's and the EU's counterterrorism strategies or the lack thereof," he continued. "And lastly, we need to consider international and regional cooperation in counterterrorism. One country, one coalition, cannot suppress terrorism. We learned that the hard way."
(Courtesy of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.)