Food for Thought: Fourth Generation Warfare &
the Relation of Strategy to Grand Strategy (III)

  August 31, 1998

Comment: #174

Discussion Thread: #s 170, 171 


[1] Charles William Maynes, "Fighting Dirty Won't Work," Washington Post, August 31, 1998, Page A21 (Attached)

While the recommendations of Mr. Maynes in the attached op-ed are too general or vague to be of much use to strategic planners, they relate directly to the linkage between strategy and grand strategy [#170]. Moreover, they are based on a true observation -- the retaliatory strategy of tit-for-tat used by Israel and Britain creates a cycle of escalation that has an unambiguous grand-strategic history of increasing the support for the terrorists the are trying to neutralize. One could argue, for example, that the Intifada, armed with rocks, backed up by terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah, together with 24 hour media coverage like CNN, has maneuvered Israel into a series of retaliatory actions that made some uncommitted nations less empathetic toward (and in some cases hostile to) Israel's success, distanced Israel from its allies, weakened Israel's internal cohesion (e.g., by radicalizing its politics and causing division in its army), while strengthening the determination of its adversaries.

This grand strategic limitations posed by the natural cycle of escalation raises a question: What is a truly effective counter-terrorist strategy and how do we define one that reinforces our nation's grand strategy (which by definition must be consistent the ideals we profess and are expected uphold, like the rule of law) while weakening that of the terrorist organization? To Mr. Maynes credit, he is at least trying to address this subtle problem.

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Reference 1:

Fighting Dirty Won't Work

By Charles William Maynes Washington Post Monday, August 31, 1998; Page A21


On Aug. 24 ["Fight Plan for a Dirty War"] Ambassador Paul Bremer urged the United States to become "as systematic and relentless" as terrorists themselves, to launch "further military strikes" and even to reverse our anti-assassination policy.


Unfortunately, this approach has been tried and has failed.

Israel followed such an approach against the Palestinian movement and Britain against the Irish Republican movement. Not knowing where to hit or when, both over time were drawn to adopt methods that only made things worse: officially sanctioned assassinations, extra-legal arrests and detention, collective punishment, torture and in the Middle East, terror for terror -- bombs that are flown to their target vs. bombs that are driven to their target -- in both cases causing civilian casualties.


There are three parallel paths to follow:

  • Reduce the size of the target we present.

  • Examine the issues that motivate those who support the terrorists to reduce the grievance.

  • Find ways to persuade or compel states to help us fight terrorism.


Fighting the new terrorism is therefore very much like fighting the old terrorism. The new terrorists may not be state-sponsored, but they seek sanctuary in states. In the flush of enthusiasm over the recent military strike, we must not lose sight of that fact. The key to making progress against terrorism is not a primary reliance on military activism but continued pressure to get states to live up to their responsibilities.

The writer is president of the Eurasia Foundation.

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company