An Evaluation of Counterinsurgency as a Strategy for Fighting the Long War
The single greatest national security question currently facing the U.S. National Command Authority is how best to counter violent extremism. The National Command Authority has four broad strategies through which it may employ military forces to counter violent extremism: counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, support to insurgency, and antiterrorism. The Long War is anticipated to continue for decades, perhaps generations. Thus, it is imperative to select the best strategy or strategies for employing military forces. Based on historical lessons in combating terrorism, the best strategy is efficient and sustainable and avoids overreacting, acting incompetently, or appearing to be either over reactive or incompetent. Counterinsurgency is neither efficient nor sustainable from a military, economic, or political perspective. It is a high risk strategy because it is a large, highly visible undertaking through which the United States may easily overreact, act incompetently, or be perceived as overreacting or being incompetent. Counterterrorism, support to insurgency, and antiterrorism are each both efficient and sustainable from a military and economic perspective. These three strategies each have inherent political concerns, hazards, or constraints. However it is considerably less likely that the United States will overreact, behave incompetently, or be perceived as overreacting or being incompetent through engaging in one or more of these three strategies than by engaging in counterinsurgency. Support to insurgencies is economically and militarily efficient and sustainable, but it carries substantial political risks. Thus, an overall strategy combining counterterrorism and antiterrorism is the best means of employing military forces to counter violent extremism.
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9/11 Commission Report actions Afghan allies antiterrorism measures bomb campaign COIN operations combat al Qaeda command and control consequence management counterinsurgents covert criminal enterprises cyber defensive counterterrorism domestic antiterrorism drone strikes economic employ military resources failed Failed State Index fighters fighting the Long foreign funding harm the United Hurricane Katrina ideology indigenous Joseph Nye kill Laden’s large numbers Michael Howard Mujahedeen Muslim National Command Authority national security Northern Alliance nuclear Obama operations in Afghanistan Pakistan Pakistani government perceived as overreacting political popular support potential prevent al Qaeda Qaeda attacks Qaeda leaders Qaeda need Qaeda operatives reducing al Qaeda’s safe havens Salafi senior leader guidance service members soft power Soviet Stanley McChrystal successful Sun Tzu support to insurgency sustainable strategy Taliban target terrorist attacks terrorist organization Tufts University U.S. Army U.S. drone attacks U.S. national U.S. soft power U.S. support waging COIN weapon western Pakistan