A remarkable new study has been published by the Army War College, the Army's premier academic institution. The 56-page monograph says that the conflation of al Qaeda and Iraq into a "monolithic threat" is a "strategic error of the first order," violating "the fundamental strategic principles of discrimination and concentration." The study calls the Iraq war "an unnecessary war of choice" that was "not integral to the global war on terror, but rather a detour from it." It asserts that "most of the global war on terror's declared objectives" are "unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security" -- in fact, it says that "it may be misleading to cast the global war on terror as a war"; the war on terror is said to be "mired in a semantic swamp." Terrorism is "not a proper noun," it is a "method of violence"; thus terrorism cannot be a wartime "enemy." In any case, the war on terror's goals are said to be "politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable." The essay quotes the president extensively on the nature of the so-called "war on terror," refutes his arguments in some detail, and accuses him of a misguided "insistence on moral clarity," also noting that he has used the 9/11 attacks as a "political opportunity." Entitled "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism," it calls for a thorough recasting of US national security objectives and aims in the international arena." The study was written by Dr. Jeffrey Record, a visiting research fellow at the Air War College in Alabama who has worked in the past as legislative assistant to Senators Lloyd Bentsen and Sam Nunn. He is the author of six books on military history and national security policy. The essay, which is available online, is the subject of articles in both the Washington Post (reproduced below, together with a comment by Steven Aftergood) and the Los Angeles Times. It certainly deserves to be read in full...


By Thomas E. Ricks

Washington Post
January 12, 2004


A scathing new report published by the Army War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary" war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.

The report, by Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point."

It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

Record, a veteran defense specialist and author of six books on military strategy and related issues, was an aide to then-Sen. Sam Nunn when the Georgia Democrat was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In discussing his political background, Record also noted that in 1999 while on the staff of the Air War College, he published work critical of the Clinton administration.

His essay, published by the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government.

But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director of the Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries Record's 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it. "I think that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really needs to be considered," he said.

Publication of the essay was approved by the Army War College's commandant, Maj. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., Lovelace said. He said he and Huntoon expected the study to be controversial, but added, "He considers it to be under the umbrella of academic freedom."

Larry DiRita, the top Pentagon spokesman, said he had not read the Record study. He added: "If the conclusion is that we need to be scaling back in the global war on terrorism, it's not likely to be on my reading list anytime soon."

Many of Record's arguments, such as the contention that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was deterred and did not present a threat, have been made by critics of the administration. Iraq, he concludes, "was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda." But it is unusual to have such views published by the War College, the Army's premier academic institution.

In addition, the essay goes further than many critics in examining the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism.

Record's core criticism is that the administration is biting off more than it can chew. He likens the scale of U.S. ambitions in the war on terrorism to Adolf Hitler's overreach in World War II. "A cardinal rule of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number," he writes. "The Germans were defeated in two world wars . . . because their strategic ends outran their available means."

He also scoffs at the administration's policy, laid out by Bush in a November speech, of seeking to transform and democratize the Middle East. "The potential policy payoff of a democratic and prosperous Middle East, if there is one, almost certainly lies in the very distant future," he writes. "The basis on which this democratic domino theory rests has never been explicated."

He also casts doubt on whether the U.S. government will maintain its commitment to the war. "The political, fiscal, and military sustainability of the GWOT [global war on terrorism] remains to be seen," he states.

The essay concludes with several recommendations. Some are fairly noncontroversial, such as increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, a position that appears to be gathering support in Congress. But he also says the United States should scale back its ambitions in Iraq, and be prepared to settle for a "friendly autocracy" there rather than a genuine democracy.

--To read the full report, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation


By Steven Aftergood

Secrecy News
January 12, 2004


In its "global war on terrorism," the Bush Administration has mistakenly conflated several distinct types of national security threats into a single monolithic threat, according to a new study published by the U.S. Army, and "in so doing ... may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States."

"Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat. This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action."

"The war against Iraq was not integral to the [war on terrorism], but rather a detour from it," the Army study concludes.

The study was reported today in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

See "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism" by Jeffrey Record, originally published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, December 2003: