Since September 11th, the government’s traditional approach to national security has proved inadequate in one area after another. The intelligence agencies habitually rely on satellites and spies, when most of the information that matters now, as Kilcullen pointed out, is “open source”—available to anyone with an Internet connection. Traditional diplomacy, with its emphasis on treaties and geopolitical debates, is less relevant than the ability to understand and influence foreign populations—not in their councils of state but in their villages and slums. And future enemies are unlikely to confront the world’s overwhelming military power with conventional warfare; technology-assisted insurgency is proving far more effective. At the highest levels of Western governments, the failure of traditional approaches to counter the jihadist threat has had a paralyzing effect. “I sense we’ve lost the ability to think strategically,” Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former chief of the British armed forces, has said of his government. He could have been describing the White House and the Pentagon.
Kilcullen’s strategic mind, by contrast, seems remarkably febrile. I could call him at the office or at home at any hour of the night and he’d be jotting down ideas in one of his little black notebooks, ready to think out loud. Kilcullen, Crumpton, and their colleagues are desperately trying to develop a lasting new strategy that, in Kilcullen’s words, would be neither Republican nor Democratic. Bruce Hoffman said, “We’re talking about a profound shift in mind-set and attitude”—not to mention a drastic change in budgetary and bureaucratic priorities. “And that may not be achievable until there’s a change in Administration.” Kilcullen is now in charge of writing a new counterinsurgency manual for the civilian government, and early this month he briefed Condoleezza Rice on his findings in Afghanistan. But his ideas have yet to penetrate the fortress that is the Bush White House. Hoffman said, “Isn’t it ironic that an Australian is spearheading this shift, together with a former covert operator? It shows that it’s almost too revolutionary for the places where it should be discussed—the Pentagon, the National Security Council.” At a moment when the Bush Administration has run out of ideas and lost control, it could turn away from its “war on terror” and follow a different path—one that is right under its nose.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
War on Terror: "Knowing the Enemy"
From this article in the Dec. 18 New Yorker:
Posted by the blogger at 11:32 PM