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The Rumsfeld’s Memo

Introduction

It is almost eight years since the then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attempted to evaluate the progress of his country’s Department of Defense (DoD) on the Global War On Terror that followed the 9/11 attack. With a myriad of questions, Rumsfeld had wanted to know whether the U.S. military was losing the war against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and anywhere else around the globe; and if so, what could be done to vanquish them.

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The retired Colonel Dan Smith and Andrew Apostolou gave a comprehensive reply to the secretary’s memo, spelling out what could have been used as a blueprint(s) by the DoD for this course. Unfortunately, their ingenious roadmap to success was not implemented; hence, the U.S. government is still battling with a precarious War On Terror eight years later. This paper evaluates the soundness of the strategy used by Pentagon to win the war.

The Soundness of the U.S. Strategy of Global War on Terror

Contrary to the proposal of Col. Smith, the U.S. government has continued to display raw power in Afghanistan and Iraq, with minimal integration of economic, political, and diplomatic interventions. The democracy that it always echoes has been largely compromised when it tacitly supported the controversial election of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki (Hauss 2008).

The lackadaisical diplomatic and economic moves to win the War On Terror with a heavy military presence in the background since Operation Enduring Freedom has made the civilians, from whom terrorists are molded, cringe and produce more recruits to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld himself had an insight of a holistic war on terrorists in his article in The New York Times on September 27, 2001, when he advocated a mixture of political, military, police, diplomatic, economic, and financial approach to the war (Apostolou, 2003).

According to the writer, the U.S. government is not winning the war on terror and will not vanquish the terrorists unless a different strategy is employed to convince but not to cajole them to surrender.

Had the war been won, we would not have the U.S. troops; leave alone the NATO troops, in the terrorist havens, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan several years after the invasion. If the U.S. is winning the war, it would mean near zero casualty reports of its troops, which is not the case for they continue falling victims to suicide bombers whom they are trying to contain. Moreover, the locals revile their heavy military presence as attracting suicide bombers who administer indiscriminate killings (Arena & Arrigo, 2006). Such are the metrics indicating that the U.S. is only attempting to control the activities of the terrorists but not eliminating them altogether.

The strategy that the US government is using is not sound. As Col. Smith pointed out, the US DoD is making too modest changes due to its failure to embrace the fundamental concept of war prevention believing, instead, that by making war it prevents war (Smith, 2003). Additionally, its condescending attitude towards the local community that breeds terrorists is a great setback to the strategy for it aggravates the hatred and catalyzes terrorist activities. The double standards employed by the Pentagon regarding democracy further deepen the divide between the local population and the Americans. By imposing leaders on the local populations, the U.S. denigrates its reputation as custodian of democracy; preferring to apply it selectively for purposes of expediency to the chagrin of the local community.

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Advice for the current SECDEF

The writer largely concurs with the two war experts who responded to Rumsfeld’s memo, rooting for a more inclusive and amicable interventionist strategy to win the war on terror. That is, the inclusion of the local population in the strategy and winning their support through levelheaded dialogue and mutual respect cultures is the first step of winning the war. Therefore, the current SECDEF should ensure that the strategy is thoroughly revised to accommodate a friendly approach of dealing with the local community to win their support. Though military power is a necessity, it should not be used to intimidate the locals since doing so is always counterproductive (Karawan, 2008).

Another important alteration that should be made on the current unsound strategy is instituting an independent stand-alone civilian police force with an international outlook to provide security for local communities. As Col. Smith says, such a police force should be deployed under the aegis of the UN to reconstruct the local police and give a human face to the U.S. War On Terror. The DoD should convert some of its active duty ground divisions into such a police force to control the recruitment of the locals into terrorist groups. A civilian police force will hide the might of raw power from the public, thus, enabling the locals to cooperate for their own safety and that of the American people (Smith, 2003).

Finally, borrowing from Col. Smith’s insight, the writer recommends that the U.S. uses an integrated plan that encompasses foreign education by opening U.S. cultural centers all over the world; and explaining the fundamentals principle of the U.S. system of governance. Increasing opportunity for foreign students to study in the U.S. and making radical changes in its trade policies and foreign aid to improve the living conditions of the developing countries can be of immense benefit toward winning this war (Smith, 2003). Besides, the US officials and the public should be taught about non-Western cultures in order to appreciate and understand the actions of such people.

Conclusion

Secretary Rumsfeld’s memo raised many questions about the progress of the U.S. military on the war on terror. The response given by various experts is congruous as far as its modest progress is concerned. However, due to the lack of proper metrics to measure success or failure, speculations have been rife on whether the military is containing Al Qaeda and its ilk or whether it is engaging in unending war that results in casualties for both soldiers and civilians. The view that the U.S. military is losing the war on terror is buttressed by indiscriminate killings administered by the suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is because Pentagon applies a heavy military force that intimidates the locals, hence breeding hatred for the Americans. Therefore, it is high time that Pentagon changed its strategy and applied a more humanistic approach to the war.

References

Apostolou, A. (2003). Reply to Rumsfeld: The U.S. is winning but flexibility and adaptability are the keys to future successes. Web.

Arena, P.M. & Arrigo, B.A. (2006). The terrorist identity: explaining the terrorist threat. New York, NY: NYU Press.

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Hauss, C. (2008). Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Karawan, I.A. (2008). Values and violence: intangible aspects of terrorism. New York, NY: Springer.

Smith, D. (2003). “A Reply to Rumsfeld’s Memo” Counter Punch. Web.

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