War means fighting; to fight is the duty of a soldier; march swiftly,
strike the foe with all your strength and take away from him everything
you can. Injure him in every possible way, and do it quickly….
-General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson-
There are always different leadership styles in dealing with an enemy. Some leaders are very cautious like General George McClellan. Abraham Lincoln often prodded his General to attack and Lincoln’s patience was stretched beyond repair. On the Confederate side were two generals-Lee and Jackson, who needed no prodding to attack.
Stonewall Jackson once stated:
“Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number.”
The Union had decisive commanders like Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. General U.S. Grant stated “Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him hard as you can, and keep moving on.”
After December 2001, the United States knew where it could find the bulk of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban-in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for years has threatened to attack aviation here in the United States and we knew where to find them-Yemen. ISIS kidnapped and beheaded a number of Americans and announced the establishment of a Caliphate as they moved from Raqqa, Syria across Iraq. When the black banners of ISIS moved with lighting sped across Iraq they instilled fear in the population brutally murdering members of the civilian population.These terrorists do not fear U.S airpower or leadership and think they can weather the storm. I once heard a European diplomat remark that “Reagan was a crazy cowboy and who knew what he might be capable of doing or whom he might attack.”
In the ever changing war against terrorism- leadership is needed both in the political realm and the military. Leadership in one or the other does not work by itself. To defeat terrorism we need both political and military leadership working as one. In 1997, Major H.R. McMasters wrote, Dereliction of Duty, a harsh criticism of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for not standing up to and speaking bluntly to President Lyndon Johnson about the failed military and political strategy in Viet Nam. General McMasters today is known as a brilliant military commander, a scholar, and one who isn’t afraid to speak the blunt truth. But I also know many Colonels who were just as brilliant but were forced out or sidelined because they “ran their mouth” or didn’t go along with the bureacracy.
There are numerous examples of political negligence where intelligence officers provide the ability to kill a high value terrorist target but the operation was not undertaken for some political reason or another. Imagine if either Jackson or Grant were waging the war on terror. Both were simple and straight forward in their approach to dealing with the enemy but they were two sides of the same coin.
In December 2001, the opportunity presented itself it kill or capture Osama Bin Laden since he was holed up in the White Mountains. The Special Forces and CIA officers in the field had Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora. The CIA Commander had requested 800 U.S. Army Rangers to block the escape route into Pakistan since he was sure that the Pakistan military wouldn’t hinder Al Qaeda’s escape. With the Taliban defeated and Al-Qaeda on the run Bin Laden had gone to the one place he felt safe – Tora Bora. But over days Al-Qaeda had been bombed around the clock and Bin Laden was preparing his escape from the mountains into Pakistan. In Gary Berntsen book, Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda A Personal Account by the CIA’s Key Field Commander, he stated “Our advantage was quickly slipping away.”
“We needed U.S. soldiers on the ground! We need them to do the fighting! We need them to block a possible al-Qaeda escape into Pakistan.” Knowing the enemy and being able to anticipate what he might do are critical skills. But just as important is having political and miltary leaders who are decisive and understand what is required to defeat this enemy.