Last Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano informed us of the obvious: there are more terrorists out there than just al Qaeda. Now, the top commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces, Navy SEAL Admiral Eric T. Olsen, has come out with a new warning, this one not so obvious: even if we achieve our mission, we haven’t seen the last of al Qaeda.
Sure, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has come out and declared that we’re only “10 to 20” hits away from strategically defeating al Qaeda, but what wasn’t communicated with that message was how defeating the current iteration of the terror group will bring about the rise of the next one—much as the legendary phoenix rises from the ashes, and is born again.
This time, we’re not talking about cave-dwellers with VHS tapes, as Bill Maher likes to suggest. We have a new school of “more Westernized” fighters who have adapted to the American war machine: They know our capabilities, they know our rules, and they now know how long we’ll stick around. Taking out the leadership that started the war will not eliminate those that have grown up with it.
The current generation of al Qaeda has already managed to make the internet an important tool in their operations. The next generation will likely take that to the next level, a reality that is finally being embraced and acted upon in a significant way with the launch of the recent cybersecurity strategy and corresponding website. Unfortunately, the risks and realities of technology are still outpacing our security measures by years to come as a result of bureaucracy and privacy concerns.
So what does that mean for the future of U.S. strategy when it comes to handling the threat of terrorism?
Well, for the next year at least the prospects don’t look good. Word on the street is that the Obama Administration is “dangerously disengaged” on Iraq and on other important national security issues. Add that to the growing war fatigue in the Western world, and new terror leaders have golden opportunities at their fingertips. Already, Iran and Turkey are taking advantage of U.S. gains in Iraq, the new al Qaeda leader is assuming control regarding the protests in Syria, and the growing instability and uncertainty from the Arab Spring is opening doors. Our new strategy is to rely on Special Forces operations alone to protect those new portals, but is that wise?
It’s a good thing we’re looking at cutting our budget to face these risks in the best way possible. [/sarcasm]
How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for everyone?