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An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism

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Publication Date: May 2003

Publisher(s): Hudson Institute

Author(s): Laurent Murawiec

Funder(s): Hudson Institute

Funder(s): Hudson Institute

Topic: International relations (War)

Type: Report


How interesting that in the present war we should have to raise the question of our opponent’s identity! This indicates that this first “postmodern” war is unlike the wars in our experience and memory. While it borrows from past wars and efforts, it is a war sui generis. War is like a duel, writes Clausewitz: it can be boiled down to the confrontation of two opponents. We know ourselves – but, do we know our enemy? In war, strategy depends on the enemy: his nature, his situation, his capabilities, his strategic intent. What are his strengths, his weaknesses? What are ours? Who is our enemy? Terror groups, rogue states, or some nebulous, unfathomable maze of evil men? Dubbed a “war on terrorism,” what makes it special is that our foe is a composite rather than a well-defined, well-circumscribed entity. What has been called an Axis of Evil is itself a composite: it is a complex, shifting coalition, a cluster of dissimilar forces and entities whose motivations and actions vary. Our strategy must start from the nature and modus operandi. of the composite, not from the name that it goes by, or from a type of actions it has carried out. It may be convenient to designate it with a highly-charged label, but the name of “terrorism” defines neither the real enemy nor the war. “Terrorism” is a technique, it is neither an ideology nor a program. If the “Axis of Evil” uses terrorism, it can by no stretch of imagination be defined as terrorism. Who is it, or what is it, that waged war against the United States? To what ends?