Homeland Security: Asymmetrical Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Intelligence

I. Introduction: The Great Victory, Reshaping the World, and an Inauspicious Day

With the collapse of Communism at the end of the Cold War, then President of the United States George Bush proclaimed, in heavily Wilsonian inspired language, about the creation of a new world order from the ashes of the Cold War:

We have a restored vision of a new partnership of nations that transcends the Cold War. A partnership based on consultation, cooperation, and collective action, especially through international and regional organizations. A partnership united by principle and the rule of law and supported by an equitable sharing of both cost and commitment. A partnership whose goals are to increase democracy, increase prosperity, increase the peace, and reduce arms. (Kissinger 804)

His successor, President William Jefferson Clinton expressed a similar statement about the nature of the world system and the national security and foreign policy goals of his administration:

In a new era of peril and opportunity, our overriding purpose must be to expand and strengthen the world’s community of market-based democracies. During the Cold War, we sought to contain a threat to the survival of free institutions. Now we seek to enlarge the circle of nations that live under those free associations, four our dream is of a day when the opinions and energies of every person in the world will be given full expression in a world of thriving democracies that cooperate with each other and live in peace. (Kissinger 805)

Both presidents’ views portrayed the optimism of the post war world in which collective security, free markets, trade, cooperation and democratic institutionalism would replace a world brokered upon the balance of power between two political and military blocs, one led by the United States and the other led by the Soviet Union. For both presidents, with the ushering of end of the Cold War, the standing of the United States had skyrocketed as the world’s last, sole superpower.

However, it would take a full decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall for the US and its national security and intelligence apparatus to change forever.

The event that changed everything was the Attacks on 9/11.

The burden of outlining the post-9/11 world order would fall upon President George W. Bush. In a speech subsequently spoken after the Attacks on 9/11, President Bush gave a directive to his government that assured the American public strong action in retaliation efforts against Al Qaeda, global terrorism, and state sponsors of terrorism:

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom, came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks. I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. (Bush 2718, Kindle edition)

There is no question after the American experience of coping with the intelligence failures of 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other US involvement in low-intensity warfare in the War on Terror that the understanding of this form of warfare is of vital essence to the national security, therefore national survival of the country.

Thus, for the scope of this paper, I will strictly concentrate on the counter-terrorism aspect of Homeland Security and Intelligence. Even more specifically, this paper will for the purposes of analyzing intelligence activity be focused on foreign counterinsurgency operations.

In this paper, my aims are to explore what asymmetrical warfare is, what the practical ramifications asymmetrical warfare has in counterinsurgency operations, and lastly, what lessons we can learn from counterinsurgency actions that will directly benefit the US in its future endeavors against global terrorism.

II. Definition of Asymmetric Warfare, Terrorism, Laws of War, and other Constraints

According to Chinese PLA officer Qiao Liang in his white paper Unrestricted Warfare (PLA Press 1997), “War which has undergone the changes of modern technology and the market system will be launched even more in atypical forms.  In other words, while we are seeing a relative reduction in military violence, at the same time we definitely are seeing an increase in political, economic and technological violence.  However, regardless of the form the violence takes, war is war, and a change in the external appearance does not keep any war from abiding by the principles of war….[W]e acknowledge that the new principles of war are no longer ‘using armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will,’ but rather are ‘using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.’”

In the context of when he wrote Unrestricted Warfare as a direct response to the Powell Doctrine (i.e. overwhelming force wins wars), which was responsible for the Coalition victory in the first Gulf War. In his paper, he writes about the inability for any state actor to use its conventional military to fight the advanced, ultra technological might of the United States Military. Instead, he advocates for the usage of asymmetrical warfare against the United States as a means of defending against or cancelling out American battlefield superiority.

Thus, in order for our adversaries to successfully engage or defeat the US military, they must resort to tactics and strategies that exploit certain weaknesses in the American Way of War.

In my research, I have found two definitions that give a satisfactory definition of what asymmetric warfare is. The first definition is by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other definition is from Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asymmetrical warfare are “attempts to circumvent or undermine an opponent’s strengths while exploiting his weaknesses using methods that differ significantly from the opponent’s usual mode of operations.” (Barnett 15)

McKenzie provides another definition, which states that asymmetrical warfare is “leveraging inferior tactical or operational strength against American vulnerabilities to achieve disproportionate effect with the aim of undermining American will in order to achieve the asymmetric actor’s strategic objectives.” (Barnett 15)

In my opinion, both definitions by the JCS and McKenzie give satisfactory answers to what basically asymmetric warfare is at the basic level. However, asymmetric warfare tactics and strategies are broader and more specific than either definition as they are efforts that directly undermine certain aspects of the United States Government in the strategic, operational, legal, and moral dimensions.

In following passages, I will underwrite my core assumptions and definitions about asymmetric warfare.

Firstly, asymmetrical warfare is not a new form of warfare. Terms to describe certain warfare such as guerrilla warfare, people’s war, and low intensity warfare have traditionally described wars in which asymmetrical tactics have been used effectively against conventional or non-conventional belligerents. Additionally, usage of asymmetric warfare have been heavily associated with irregular military forces such as armed militia or auxiliary forces, partisans/freedom fighters (various, WWII), mercenaries (Executive Outcomes), military special forces operators (Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS), and intelligence operators (defunct CIA Operations Directorate, National Clandestine Service).

However, for the scope of this paper, asymmetrical warfare will be largely be associated with violent, non-state actors such as organized crime elements, insurgents, and terrorists who often cannot go toe to toe with more conventional state actors but instead use asymmetrical warfare for leverage.

Additionally, in this paper, my terms for terrorists and insurgent will be highly interchangeable with each other because many insurgent organizations, such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, are tied into a transnational terrorist network. Thus, I will take the opportunity to give a proper definition of terrorism. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives,” (Barnett 16). Terrorism, thus, makes the decision to carry acts of war and violence without accepting the limits of warfare for strategic or political purposes.

Earlier, I had written that there were four constraints that seriously limit the ability for the United States to have equal footing when opposing those who have chosen to utilize asymmetrical warfare. Those constraints are operational, organizational, legal and moral in dimension[1].

Operational constraints derive from “the American way of warfare”, which apply to which targets might be taken under attack, how, and when. Operational constraints are a matter of political choice. Operational constraints have three sources: those which are strategically defensive; the relationship of military means to ways, ends, and risks; and lastly, reservations in the use of force. Our defensive strategic posturing, which seeks only to defend US territorial integrity of itself and its allies, may constrain the US in strategic decisions such as utilization of the first strike and therefore, its willingness to absorb the first blow before considering retaliatory responses. The second source relates to the means, ways, ends and risks of waging warfare which has much to do with our capabilities and willingness to utilize military means. Lastly, our reservation in the use of military force is another factor which relates to the intensity and proportionality of utilizing our armory, which defines how we react to force.

The second constraint is the organizational constraint. This constraint derives from the way the US government is organized and how it chooses to conduct its military operations. The separation of powers, federalism, and interactions between the federal and state governments, both the executive and legislative branches, and the structure of our four military branches can often have a debilitating effect on our ability to fight. Furthermore, our democratic form of government relies on public support, which is sensitive to casualties and political propaganda (or press mismanagement), especially the 24-hour news cycle. Lastly, another organizational constraint is when an ally conducts actions or policies within their national interest that may collude with ours.

Thirdly, a legal constraint is created from varying types of legal obstacles such as domestic laws and legal procedures; and broader international treaties such as protocols, conventions, legal opinions of international courts and tribunals, and other legal documents in which the US is a signatory. An important thing to remember is the way in which the US created its Rules of Engagement (ROE) is based on the Just War Theory. The Just War Theory is divided into two sub-categories: Jus ad Bellum (justice of the war) and Jus in Bello (justice in war), which are traditionally based on concepts of chivalry, laws of warfare, and ideals of defensive warfare. The concept of Jus in Bellum is applied before war and its rationale is to slow or deter mobilization of state’s military for combat. There are six in number and they include a just cause, last resort, proportionality, likelihood of success, right intentions, and legitimate authority. Jus in Bello relates to how warfare is waged and prescribes how soldiers must fight with justice in the battlefield, the two of which are proportionality and discrimination. The latter concepts, in terms of importance to asymmetrical warfare are critical. Proportionality relates to what degree an arm response can retaliate and discrimination relates on how soldiers must discern enemy combatants from non-enemy combatants in war and hopefully avoid spilling the blood of the innocent.

Lastly, moral constraints are directly related to the American moral presumption against the use of force – which is related to our Judeo-Christian heritage or Enlightenment values. Ingrained into our DNA is a loathing to settle disputes through violence, thus in order for us to pursue war, the threat must be directly related to the survival of the United States or they must be characterized as evil incarnate such as Fascism in WWII, Communism in the Cold War, and Terrorism during the Global War on Terror. Similar to ends, ways, and means, moral constraints also constrain what doctrines, tactics, or armaments we choose to utilize in the battle space. Thus, the US has wisely chosen to disregard militant modes of warfare such as assassination, genocide, utilizing mine-fields, and state-sponsored terrorism which have been flexible and quite profitable to our conventional adversaries such as the Soviet Union and China.

Furthermore, there are a wide range of asymmetrical warfare tactics that have proven to be useful against American military, civilian population, and government, many of which are non-military threats in nature.

Generally, there are a few features about asymmetrical warfare from a counter-insurgency view that are striking deviations from conventional warfare[2]. For one, insurgents/terrorists hide among the general population. Secondly, asymmetric threats have no clear battle lines. Thirdly, an insurgency seeks to subvert a nation from within. Fourthly, technology is neutralized by the combat environment and lastly, terrorists and insurgents may use conventional small arms and unconventional, improvised weapons, and generally targets civilians, police, and military personnel.

According to Dr. Jeffery Mcillwain, in his presentation on Asymmetrical Warfare[3], there are many effective examples of asymmetric war operations and terrorist tactics that often fall under the umbrella term of asymmetrical warfare.

In his presentation, Mcillwain highlights a few non-military war operations that he considers clear and present dangers to US national, cultural, environmental, and economic security. He includes financial, technological, fabrication, network, smuggling, and drug warfare classifications to fall under state and non-state usage. He also defines certain types of operations as “wedge operations” such as international law, media, cultural, and psychological warfare that aimed at creating discontent or dissension among the civilian pool. Within the auspice of state level operations, he lists trade, economic, and resource warfare as ways states may exclusively utilize in fighting a superior power.

In the second part of his presentation, Mcillwain strictly focuses on terrorist tactics as a form of asymmetric warfare especially by Al Qaeda and its affiliates. In the presentation, he lists the strategic goals of Al Qaeda usage of terrorist tactics. He names the following goals:

  • Boosting Islamic morale and lower that of the enemy.
  • Preparing and training new members for future tasks.
  • A form of necessary punishment.
  • Mocking a regime’s admiration among the population.
  • Removing personalities that send in the way of the Islamic Call.
  • Agitation the population about publicized matters.
  • Rejecting compliance with and submission of a regime’s practices
  • Giving legitimacy to the Islamic Group.
  • Spreading Fear and terror through the regime’s ranks.
  • Bringing new members into the organization.

Mcillwain also analyzes tactics of terrorist organizations in their attempts to realize these strategic goals, which include the following tactics:

  • Assassination
  • WMD use (biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological)
  • Bombing
  • Cyber attack
  • Guerilla warfare
  • Hijacking
  • Hostage taking
  • Vehicular bombing
  • Kidnapping
  • Sabotage
  • Shootings
  • Suicide Bombing
  • Surface to Air Missiles

Lastly, Mcillwain documents common targets of terrorist activities, which include the following targets:

  • Airports
  • Apartment buildings
  • Bridges and Tunnels
  • Buses and stations
  • Chemical plants
  • Civilians
  • Commercial airliners
  • Critical Infrastructure
  • Financial institutions
  • High Profile corporations and individuals
  • Maritime
  • Military
  • Nuclear reactors and related facilities
  • Oil industry
  • Temples, Churches, and Mosques
  • Water facilities

Thus, as I conclude this section of this paper, I have given a sufficient definition of what asymmetrical warfare is and who uses these tactics. Additionally, I have written about the four core constraints that handicap the United States when it tries to go toe to toe with asymmetric warfighters. Lastly, I have given clear descriptions of different non-military asymmetric strategies utilized by state and non-state actors, examples of terrorist tactical strategies, targeting, and terrorist rationale for using asymmetric warfare.

III. Asymmetric Warfare and the Intelligence Community: From Counter-Insurgency to Global Counter-Terrorism

An important approach toward solving the problem set of global terrorism, at least from intelligence functional point of view, is to realize that global counterterrorism is a counter-insurgency operation at the global scale[4]. Thus in this section, I will analyze the importance of the intelligence function in the context of counterinsurgency operations, for there is no other type of discipline that deals with asymmetrical threats at same frequency as those of the counter insurgent.

According to the Army Field Manual on Counterinsurgency (FM COIN), “Counterinsurgency (COIN) is an intelligence driven endeavor. The function of intelligence in COIN is to facilitate understanding of the operational environment with an emphasis on the populace, host nation, and insurgents. Commanders require accurate intelligence about these three areas to best address the issues driving the insurgency,” (Petraeus 57).

Thus in the following passages, I will classify four important aspects of COIN from an intelligence standpoint in which I believe are vital towards accomplishing the mission: understanding the environment, ISR, counterintelligence against the insurgency, and finally, the collaboration between US intelligence assets and the host nation and its populace.

Before going further, I’d like to introduce a core, critical assumption about COIN operations: operational success is ultimately gauged upon the effectiveness of winning the hearts and minds of the host nation’s populace.

According to FM COIN, understanding the operational environment requires pre-deployment planning which includes intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB). During this planning phase intelligence officers are expected to “define the operational environment, describe the effects of the operational environment, evaluate the threat, and determine threat courses of action,” (Petraeus 58).

Defining the operational environment, according to the FM, is a “composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that affect the employment of capabilities and bear on the decisions of the commander,” (Petaereus 58). Notably, the commanders define areas of interest, whether at the tactical or operational level, and within these areas of interest they are looking for actionable intelligence to support their military operations within that battle space. Accordingly, areas of interests are particularly tied to human factors such as clans, tribes, ethnic, or religious links; physical geographic features such as natural boundaries such as mountains, rivers, and political cross-borders issues; and civil considerations such as economic, communicative, media, or external financial links in which the enemy can exploit.

The second part of IPB is describing the effects of the operational environment. According to FM COIN, “this step involves developing an understanding about the operational environment and is critical to the success of operations,” (Petraeus 59). This step includes understanding civil considerations such as understanding the people, history, and government of the host government; terrain analysis of complex terrain such as whether it’s suburban or urban, the key infrastructure, and the lines of communications. Lastly, weather analysis is important because the weather affects the time and space in which people do activities, whether legal or illegal.

Ultimately, civil considerations are probably the most important of these three points because of the broad base of knowledge needed to be effective such as understanding the society, social structure, culture, language, power structures, and interests of the operative area.

Within the social structure, groups are important and it’s important to know networks, institutions, organizations (such as religious, economic, or social groupings), the roles and statuses of certain people or professions, and social norms (Petraeus 61-62).

It is also very important to acculturate with the local cultural forms and understanding attitudes and perception of external forces such as US, HN government, and other outsiders; belief systems and values, and identity of the people you’ve been tasked to help. (Petraeus 65).

The third civil consideration is language capability to learn, speak, and understand. This is a simple and critical requirement.

The fourth consideration is discovering who has power and authority and this includes creating relationships with both central and local governments, governmental bureaucracies, non-state actors, IGOs, and other political organizations. Additionally, other questions within this outline are who has the monopoly of coercive force, social capital, economic resources, and authority (Petraeus 65-68)?

The third step in Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield is evaluating the threat. According to the FM COIN, “the purpose of evaluating the insurgency and related threats is to understand the enemy capabilities, and enemy vulnerabilities,” (Petraeus 68). In other words, finding out weaknesses about the insurgency and exploiting them. There are four items that the FM lists as critical characteristics of the insurgency that must be known: their goals, grievances (of the people) that the insurgency can exploit, means of support, organization of insurgent forces, and accurate locations of key insurgent leaders.

The identification of objectives, political motives, support, political activities, and violent activities are another paramount part of evaluating the insurgency. However, for the scope of this paper I will focus on activities FM COIN considers as violent activities because they have the most directive relationship to asymmetrical warfare.

Determining the threat courses of action is the final step of IPB. According to FM COIN, there are basically three types of violent activities that insurgents can choose to utilize: terrorist, guerilla, or conventional tactics (Petraeus 74).

Terrorist tactics employ violence primarily against non-combatants and terror attacks require fewer individuals than guerrilla or conventional warfare. Terrorist attacks have political motivations and seek to alter government policies or garnering popular support (Petraeus 74).

Guerilla tactics feature hit and run attacks by a lightly armed group which focus on harassing counter-insurgents and they often choose to exploit maximum informational and political effects of their attacks, (Petraeus 74). These attacks aren’t meant to be military victories or decisive battles, but they can be simultaneously used with supporting terror tactics.

Lastly, conventional warfare tactics are rarely utilized by insurgents because they rarely garner the same material or political support to form sophisticated military formations and maneuvers of their conventional adversaries.

I have already listed multiple examples of actual asymmetric tactics that these violent actors will operate in the section prior to this. It’s interesting that many of their activities, according to FM COIN may involve non-military courses of action such as kidnapping, political demonstrations, hostage taking, infiltration and subversion, propaganda and seizure actions (Petraeus 80).

After the IPB phase, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations phasing is purposed, “to develop the intelligence needed to address the issues of driving the insurgency, (Petraeus 80). In the ISR phase of the intelligence cycle in COIN, there are five core focuses which include: a focus on the local populace, intelligence collection activity, the localized nature of insurgencies, on the ground military forces as potential collectors, and understanding the insurgent use of complex terrain.

Because of the nature of the conflict, military intelligence and operational activity are unique dynamic from within COIN activity. According to FM COIN, “Intelligence and operations have a dynamic relationship… Intelligence drives operations and successful operations generate additional intelligence,” (Petraeus 81). It is through this tandem of each driving the other and vice versa that COIN operations continue to be successful. Every boot on the ground is a potential collector and facilitator of battlefield intelligence.

According to FM COIN, human intelligence is “the collection of information by a trained human intelligence collector from people and their associated documents and media sources to identify elements, intentions, composition, strength, disposition, equipment, personnel, and capabilities,” of our adversaries (Petraeus 82).

For the scope of this paper, I will explain the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection and processing for the purposes of COIN. Though the other types of intelligence collection are important (especially geospatial intelligence due to complex terrain), the HUMINT aspect is the most vital because it is the most useful in helping warfighters discover the mindset of the enemy, their operational capabilities, and their relationship with the populace.

According to FM COIN, there are a variety of ways an intelligence officer can obtain human intelligence such as through the following: Patrol debriefings and after action reports, civil affairs reports, psyops reports, special operation forces reporting, leadership liaisons, contracting, through multinational operations centers, tip hotlines, and other U.S. persons (Petraeus 83).

Another interesting but controversial part HUMINT usage in COIN is the interrogation of detainees and debriefing of defectors. According to FM COIN, “detainees and insurgent defectors are important sources. The information they provide about the internal workings of an insurgency may be better than any other HUMINT source can provide. In addition, defectors can provide otherwise unobtainable insights into an insurgent organization’s perceptions, motivations, goals, morale, organization, and tactics,” (Petraeus 83). The controversy about an interrogation usually is surrounded on whether the interrogator was ordered to use advanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, deprivation of sleep, or other forms mental interrogational abuse on a detainee. Other controversy about this topic whether these techniques are legal in the battlefield, the ambiguity of prisoner of war status for detainees, and the effectiveness of so called “advanced interrogation techniques.”

The next subtopic of this section relates to the topic of counterintelligence and counter reconnaissance in COIN. According to FM COIN, “counterintelligence counters or neutralizes intelligence collection efforts through collection, counterintelligence investigations, operations, analysis and production, and functional and technical services. Counterintelligence includes all actions taken to detect, identify, exploit and neutralize the multidiscipline intelligence activities of friends, competitors, opponents, adversaries, and enemies,” (Petraeus 86).

There is an importance to use of counterintelligence capabilities in COIN missions. Insurgents place a very high emphasis on the usage of informants, double agents, reconnaissance, surveillance, open source collection of media and imagery. Thus, it makes sense to be highly cautious when conducting counterintelligence operations as many potential sources may be working for both sides of conflict and have little interest in loyalty to American interests. It is therefore up to expert counter intelligence officers to discover who is compromising American operational security.

Insurgents also have counter-surveillance capabilities such as hiding among the local population, using off-the shelf counter SIGNIT/ELINT solutions to counter our high technological edge, or even use couriers to transfer money, intelligence, and orders to facilitate their operations (Petraeus 86).

The last subsection will be about intelligence assets and host nation relationships within the auspice of COIN operations. According to FM COIN, “effective intelligence collaboration organizes the collection and analysis actions of various units and organizations into a coherent, mutually supportive intelligence effort. Collaboration and synchronization of the effort between lower and higher echelon units and organizations reduces the likelihood of gaps in the intelligence efforts,” (Petraeus 89). In this way, the United States’ relationship with the host nation is improved and the ability to share information is streamlined. Regional expertise, for example, can be easily obtained by a host nation’s intelligence liaison officers. The same is true for other fields including insight into insurgent organizations, their key leaders, and for understanding the political motivations and goals of these organizations.

Another way for host nations and the United States to work together is via the utilization of intelligence assets from various allied, US, and host nation intelligence agencies. The benefits of using such working groups are the ability to establish and maintain a high degree of situational awareness, the sharing of collection priorities, more coordination of intelligence resources, the shared discussion of target development, and lastly, share the results of a successful operation (Petraeus 90).

In conclusion, I have written about the various aspects of Intelligence activity within the mission set of counter-insurgency warfare. Because of the nature of COIN, adversaries will be unwilling and incapable of fighting a conventional war with US, rather it is in their interest to fight an asymmetrical war using tactics that defy traditional standards of warfare. Through my analysis, I have shown how American intelligence (particularly military intelligence) assets have adapted to fight against such an elusive and dangerous adversary. Through intelligence preparedness methodologies, intelligence officers learn to acclimate and put into context the host nation they are aiding, the civilians they are protecting, and the insurgency they are fighting. Through Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operations, intelligence officers are actively collecting all-source intelligence from throughout the battlefield, which helps both the field and intelligence components of a COIN operation. Through counterintelligence and counter reconnaissance efforts in COIN, the plots of many insurgent and terrorist organizations are quickly foiled. Lastly, through collaboration and cooperation with local, indigenous allies and civil-military partnerships there is much more coordination and trust built between the US and its allied host nation.

IV. Endgame

In this paper, I have explored what asymmetrical warfare means for American Homeland Security and the US Intelligence Community. For the last decade, the United States has been fighting two back to back wars against an elusive enemy that refuses to play by the same rules as American warfighters.

In this essay, I have given my analysis about the threat from asymmetrical adversaries such as terrorists and foreign insurgents, their tactics, motives, and their ability to exploit weaknesses in our national security, military, and intelligence capabilities. In this essay, I have also written how American Intelligence agencies have dealt with asymmetrical warfare overseas and abroad.

In this final section, I want to bring together a synthesis of what I’ve learned from my research about asymmetrical warfare from both the theoretical and practical side of this long conflict.

From an intelligence perspective, I am very happy with how military intelligence and civilian intelligence agencies have reacted in how they treat cases of asymmetrical warfare and solving this problem set. In comparison to how we have treated prior American adventures abroad such as Vietnam, the field manual on counterinsurgency has shown a complete departure from the ethnocentrisms of the past with a much more methodological outlook that strives to understand who we’re fighting for, who we’re fighting against, and the balance we try keep in persecuting the bad guys through the American Way of War. In all, I feel as if the experience from Iraq and Afghanistan was much more holistic, well cautioned, cooperative and multilateral, and ultimately was the results of this have left these countries much more stable than what was left of South Vietnam in the postwar years.

From a researcher’s point of view, there’s I’d like to research more about how the US intelligence community thwarts domestic terrorism particularly cyber-terrorism which has very little to do with the physical battle space that were Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, I’d like to give some final observations about Asymmetric Warfare and their implications in Homeland Security.

Firstly, whereas we have done a stellar job defeating foreign insurgencies and terrorism, the national security interests and framework in how deal with domestic asymmetric warfare hasn’t been well tested. True, when we catch a suspected terrorist, we have them tried through civil criminal courts, but we haven’t found a way to pro-actively prevent people from adopting extremist ideologies that feed towards home grown, domestic terrorism.

Secondly, the challenges with asymmetrical warfare have shown that high technology hasn’t necessarily lived up its promise of preventing another terrorist attack, rather the attacks are unpredictable and the US must rely on traditional HUMINT intelligence capabilities to foresee and deter attacks. Powell doctrine of overwhelming show of strength also doesn’t deter terrorists, they aren’t all rational actors.

Thirdly, military targets aren’t the only targets for war operations anymore, with the advent of asymmetrical warfare; all bets are off and non-traditional targets such as civilians, churches, critical infrastructure, cyberspace, the environment, financial institutions, and other non-military targets are being targeted by terrorists instead.

Fourthly, I believe it’s time that  the intelligence community, the military, and other governmental actors realize that it is time to move away from the Nation-State as the sole actor in international system that matters.

Fifthly, I have written about certain self-imposed handicaps the US routinely uses in its foreign policy, bureaucratic organization that has done nothing but constraint the American ability to fight against a violent non-state actor. The US must change this towards something more akin to the British – just deal with problem pragmatically than worry about moral or legal constraints.

Lastly, the intelligence community, the military, and the homeland/national security apparatus of the United States must realize that it has been given the fortuitous gift that the challenges of global counterterrorism is completely symmetrical to the challenges of fighting an insurgency:  both missions are intelligence crucial, have a similar “win strategy” in affecting hearts and minds, is small unit based, and ultimately the Global War on Terror and  the counter-insurgency mission set seems to be more relevant than ever in the post-Arab Spring world.


[1] Much of this section is referenced from Roger W. Barnett’s book: Asymmetrical Warfare for the definition of a constraint. I have chosen most of the mentioned examples of an exploit.

[2] Turner, Michael “Counter-Insurgency to Counter-Terrorism” PowerPoint Presentation. University of San Diego, San Diego, CA 2009.

[3] Mcillwain, Jeffery.  “Asymmetrical Warfare.” PowerPoint presentation. San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 2009.

[4] Turner, Michael “Counter-Insurgency to Counter-Terrorism” PowerPoint Presentation. University of San Diego, San Diego, CA 2009.