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Washington simply doesn’t have the luxury of simply avoiding long wars against brutal insurgencies. Instead, it needs to figure out how to fight them better.
Pundits tend to treat terrorism and guerrilla tactics as something new, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although the agendas have changed over the years -- from tribalism, to liberalism and nationalism, to socialism, to jihadist extremism -- guerrilla and terrorist warfare has been ubiquitous throughout history and consistently deadly.
Boot's conclusions confirm that although guerrillas, insurgents, and terrorists have had their successes, the strong normally prevail over the weak. Invisible armies work best when they are able to build up visible political support and link up with (or become) even more visible conventional forces.
What will the death of Osama bin Laden mean for the future of al Qaeda? The terrorist organization may be dealt a crippling blow by bin Laden’s loss, but the larger Islamist terrorist network will surely survive his death.
To defeat piracy in centuries past, governments pursued a more active defense at sea and a political solution on land. The current piracy epidemic off the coast of East Africa requires many of the same tactics.
Rumsfeld's mishandling of the Iraqi occupation has given the "revolution in military affairs" a bad name. But as Max Boot and Frederick Kagan point out in two new books, transformation is vital to any military's success -- and more important now than ever.
The fighting in Iraq has exposed the limits of Donald Rumsfeld's transformation agenda. The U.S. military remains underprepared for dealing with guerrillas, and such unconventional threats will grow in coming years. The next stage of military transformation must focus on training large numbers of infantry for nation building and irregular warfare--and Washington must make that task a top priority.
"The American way of war" refers to the grinding strategy of attrition that U.S. generals traditionally employed to prevail in combat. But that was then. Spurred by dramatic advances in information technology, the new American way of war relies on speed, maneuver, flexibility, and surprise. This approach was put on display in the invasion of Iraq and should reshape what the military looks like.
Max Boot's history of America's small wars shows that the republic actually has a long, underappreciated imperial past. It offers lessons for the new Pax Americana and a call not to retreat from policing the imperial frontier.
William Shawcross shows how U.N. peacekeeping has failed but does not draw the obvious conclusion: the world's hot spots need U.S. intervention, and plenty of it.