- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

World War X

Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling for greater efforts to counter Islamist extremists using ideas as well as military and other power.

“We need to harness all the elements of national power to deal with what I call the global insurgency,” Gen. Myers said in an interview.

The four-star general said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, he tried to promote waging a war of ideas, but “tactical problems just bogged us down.” Also, getting defense and other policymakers to implement ideas-based counterterrorism efforts was a “hard sell,” he said.

Gen. Myers provides his assessment of the terrorist war in his new book, “Eyes on the Horizon: Serving on the Front Lines of National Security,” noting that violent extremists are waging “World War X,” with the X meaning unknown, as in a mathematical equation.

One problem, he stated in the book, is that the military and U.S. government have not properly identified the nature of the enemy - al Qaeda and its Islamist supporters.

During his time as chairman, Gen. Myers wrote, he set up a small team of military specialists that identified the current war on terrorism as a “global insurgency” led by al Qaeda. The goal of the Islamists is to limit American power through the insurgency, which sought to create “an Islam-based global caliphate,” he stated.

To defeat the insurgency, Gen. Myers recommends a three-pronged approach of attacking terrorists, breaking links between al Qaeda and local insurgents, and accommodating Islamic solutions to problems, within limits.

“Ultimately, the only conclusive way to prevent the ignition of a wider, inter-civilization conflict is to bring Muslim society to an accommodation with the modern world,” he wrote.

U.S. counterterrorism strategy should attack the al Qaeda strategy of linking local grievances to global aims, he said.

Gen. Myers also stated that “the darkest days” in the White House took place in October 2001 when reports surfaced that al Qaeda had obtained nuclear material for a bomb.

China ship incident

A U.S. defense official said the recent confrontation between five Chinese military vessels and the USNS Impeccable, an ocean survey ship, in the South China Sea resulted in the setting of a bad legal precedent for the Navy's freedom of navigation in international waters.

According to the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, the Impeccable's captain withdrew from the area rather than hold fast and assert the ship's freedom-of-navigation rights. Worse, the captain also radioed one of the five Chinese naval vessels to ask permission of the Chinese navy to exit the area.

Both steps were viewed as weakening U.S. Navy efforts to assert the right to transit international waters freely and to counter Chinese claims to a 200-mile economic exclusion zone claimed by Beijing as sovereign territory.

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