Terrorism is a tactic used by individuals with specific ideologies. Killing an ideology is nearly impossible. The war on terror is a complete misnomer. A war cannot be waged against a tactic. And proving to be an ideological war, evidence demonstrates that today, the tactic of terrorism is actually growing world-wide.
Since 2001, the United States and our allies have been engaged in a complex war fighting against an ideology. Many people have been killed while many more have been maimed. Today, it is known via the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, deaths caused by terror have decreased yet attacks have actually quadrupled world-wide since 2001.
The leading ideological culprit behind the growing terror dilemma is Islam. The Global Terrorism Database proves unequivocally that those who embrace a very twisted religious ideology are leading the world today in terrorist activities -- i.e. Islamists.
Terrorists have varied their tactics with advanced unconventional tools. Today, we learn that Syria is threatening to incorporate chemical weapons against its opposition. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has already ransacked at least three Syrian military bases procuring Manual Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) systems shooting down a Syrian military helicopter just last week. Do we know whether they obtained any chemical weapons during the raids as well?
What happens if the opposition obtains these chemical weapons? What happens if Al Qaeda elements fighting alongside Free Syrian Army rebels transfer these weapon systems elsewhere later, incorporating them into the streets of a European or North American nation? Terrorist and their movements strengthen.
Four credible arguments can be made explaining why terrorist incidents have increased over the years—weak US foreign policy, internal fighting between conventional and unconventional military wisdom, technical intelligence dependency, and decapitated US human intelligence.
A weak US foreign policy could be partially blamed for the spike in world-wide terrorist incidents. Since the start of the Arab Spring, the United States has actually emboldened terrorist groups through “behind closed doors” diplomacy, weapons procurement, and other logistical needs. Simply put, the very people we often assist frequently become the very people we fight.
The Department of Defense incorporated conventional war fighting into an unconventional global battle. Terrorism is a tactic incorporating small cellular units which can only be destroyed by opposing cellular force structures. Special operations are the viable assets capable of defeating terrorist networks, yet conventional wisdom found its way into the fight, marginalizing the unconventional battle.
The United States intelligence community has become technologically dependent. The enemy has learned to incorporate technology into their arsenal, but quickly realized dependency on that technology would lead to their deaths due to Western intercept capabilities. More and more terrorists are, today, utilizing a very old communications concept known as “runners.”
It is virtually impossible to intercept terrorists who incorporate communication runners if technical intelligence tools dominate the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform. Human intelligence is critical in today’s asymmetric war.
Unfortunately, the United States' human intelligence (HUMINT) capabilities were severely crippled during the Carter era, never making the comeback needed for national security advancements. Even with a newly formed clandestine service founded by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the program is in its infancy. These operators are being forced to sprint into a game without having the experience.
Human Intelligence success depends on sound trade-craft. Trade-craft cannot be learned in just a few short months in a classroom or in a field training exercise. It takes years to not only learn the tricks of the trade but to gain the confidence needed to enter a non-permissive environment and build a vetted source network. The Defense Clandestine Service is light years behind the curve.
Evidence proves that while some administrators and elected officials would like us to believe the war on terror is over, it is not. The world-wide terror calamity is actually growing. This is a growing threat which jeopardizes national security. And yet, we have failed in learning how to best manage the situation.
With a fiscal cliff looming and national security funding threatened with sequestration, the terrorists are gaining momentum. The next four years will be trying times for the Western free world. Will terror continue to flourish or will we learn from past mistakes allowing us to incorporate sound and executable plans of counter-actions that coincide with one another on all fronts?
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