Long war on terror to last “decades”

The National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism, developed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and released Monday, outlines the military’s strategy for waging what President Bush and other senior administration officials have called the “long war.”

“Building on the lessons learned over the past four years, it maps DoD’s way ahead for the next few decades of this long struggle,” the document says.

The plan provides a unified strategic view of the nature of the enemy, as well as strategic guidance for planning and operations. Additional classified annexes, not released to the public, give further specific guidance.

A senior defense official, who spoke on background, told the American Forces Press Service that the plan was needed to resolve differences within DoD on how to approach the war on terror.

“By having the authoritative description, we brought the entire efforts of the DoD in line in an integrated and synchronized manner to achieve strategic effectiveness,” the official said.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said Monday that the war on terror is likely to be “the Cold War of our generation.”

The aim of the military effort in the war on terror is to “to defeat violent extremism as a threat to our way of life as a free and open society; and create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists and all who support them,” according to the document (PDF).

Sounds good. But what was that “next few decades” part?

According to the strategic plan, one of the strategic assumptions underlying the military response is that the war will be a “long war of varying intensity.”

“Defeating extremism can be expected to require decades of effort,” the document says. To do that requires a “long-term, sustained approach” to breaking apart terrorist networks.

“The U.S. Government strategy for GWOT is to continue to lead an international effort to deny violent extremist networks the components they need to operate and survive. Once we deny them what they need to survive, we will have won. In the mean time, we must deny them what they need to operate.”

Finally, we have a definition of winning the war on terror. It’s unfortunate, though, that it’s expected to take “decades” to win the hearts and minds of those who would otherwise give terrorists their support.