What’s Wrong with the War on Terrorism?

By Joseph Straw

SM: You call for “political warfare” against the violent jihadist movement. Can you explain? Are any such efforts being undertaken by the U.S. government? If not, are you aware of any interest in doing so?

Jenkins: Well, political warfare is a broad concept, and von Clausewitz said, “Warfare is an extension of politics by other means.” Well, political warfare is an extension of warfare by other means; by means other than the application of military force. I think that it includes psychological operations; it includes public diplomacy.

We have understandably focused our efforts on pounding away at the operational capabilities of the jihadists. But what we really have to do is understand that the jihadist cycle does not begin with terrorist operations. The planning and carrying out of each of those operations is only the point at which this cycle breaks the surface.

Before that, there is this radicalization process, recruiting, indoctrination; what we might even call “jihadization,” that is, turning the anger of young men—whether they are angry at their situation in Cairo or Karachi or in some campus in Europe—turning that anger into a weapon. We have to broaden our strategy to focus on that front end: How can we blunt that message? How can we impede that recruiting process?

We also have to think about our strategy at the back end. And that is, when these individuals come into our custody, we have to explore how we might at least turn some of these people around, how we can exploit some of their disillusion and change of heart to again help us address this on the front end.

Now, how receptive is Washington to this? Theoretically we can find many people who are. But there is no institutional champion of political warfare. Public diplomacy is done by the State Department. But the State Department doesn’t have the equivalent of the United States Information Service that it had during the Cold War.

The psychological operations certainly are conducted by the Pentagon but only as an adjunct to military operations. We don’t have a place in Washington where we can try to bring together the various elements of a political warfare campaign.

SM: In your book you urge establishment of a universal homeland security volunteer apparatus. Can you explain the concept and its value? What would it take to create? How would it be funded?

Jenkins: I would be careful about the use of the word “apparatus.” I think it is very important for us to educate people, to enlist them in homeland security, to exploit America’s tradition of volunteerism, so that people will, at the very least, become savvier about security issues.

I’m not talking about creating street-corner posses to go out and hunt terrorists. But we certainly want people to know what they would do in a terrorist-created disaster, as well as in a natural disaster, to take care of themselves, their families, their neighbors, in that order. It’s not easy to educate 300 million people, but that has to be our goal.

Having said that, we need not create a national structure. This is something that is best done at the community level. What I really want to see is homeland security get out to the homeland.

If people know what to do, even if they are not called upon to do that, the mere fact that they have been educated—not alarmed—and enlisted in some fashion, becomes an important psychological achievement.

SM: You cite the potential contribution of the private security industry in such an undertaking. What specifically could the private security industry do?

Jenkins: Private security is a component of our homeland security, and it has to be recognized as such. It is in the interest of the entire community—the entire nation—that those people who are already in private security receive the education, the additional training, and perhaps ways that they can even be mobilized in a disaster, whether it’s a man-made, terrorist, or natural disaster.

Much of our vital infrastructure in the United States is privately owned, but the government can set standards for different components of our infrastructure to make sure that there are performance standards and training standards.

We can also, I think, create close relationships between the private sector, local police departments, and private security to ensure that there are mechanisms to share information that may be picked up as easily by a private security guard as by a policeman or member of a joint terrorism task force.

This is being done in some cities. They’ve actually made an effort to do this with Project Griffin in London, where companies providing private security network with the police to regularly share information and set up protocols so they can be informed and can rapidly respond to a large-scale event.



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