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American Forces Press Service

Irregular Campaigns Now Part of Joint Doctrine, General Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., June 17, 2008 – The U.S. military now incorporates a joint-force strategy to combat enemies who practice unconventional warfare around the globe, a senior officer said today at the kickoff of the 2008 Joint Warfighting Conference.

The success of Operation Desert Shield, a joint military effort that forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991, convinced America’s enemies that unconventional, or asymmetrical, warfare was the best way to confront U.S. forces, Army Lt. Gen. John R. Wood, deputy commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, told conference attendees.

“We have a strategy; it is joint,” Wood said. “In 1991, it really was a proof of concept of what we saw and expected from our joint execution and our coalition partnerships.”

The year 1991 also marked the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union dissolved. Suddenly, American military power had no peer in terms of conventional warfare, Wood recalled.

“We had chased our enemy from the conventional side of the spectrum to the unconventional side,” Wood pointed out.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, he said, highlighted the strategy of America’s enemies in the new century. The attacks initiated a persistent conflict that has “launched us, knowingly or unknowingly, on joint operations of a different stripe. … It is campaigning from a joint perspective,” Wood said.

Wood recalled that U.S. war plans once were crafted with a beginning and an end. However, the type of warfare practiced by terrorists “requires a force that can accomplish joint campaigning, [which is a] persistent presence in the long war, where irregular wars and counterinsurgency may be the norm, not the exception.”

For example, Wood said, conventional Israeli military forces recently experienced a hard fight against determined guerillas in Lebanon. The Israelis faced “an adaptive enemy that had media savvy and low-tech success,” the general said.

The Israelis’ experience in Lebanon highlights the question: “Are we where we need to be?” Wood said.

The general put forward several questions he said the U.S. military should ask itself:

-- Can the U.S. military dominate in the air, on the land and sea, in cyberspace, as well as space, when confronted by irregular warfare?

-- Are we able to dominate all domains?

-- Are we relevant against all threats?

-- Are we ready, given the mounting risk we look at worldwide?

Melding joint warfighting techniques with high-technology solutions to military problems is part of the answer, Wood said. For example, he said, joint warfare experts teamed with private-sector technological partners are producing success against the enemy’s improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, America and its allies fight on against a determined enemy, Wood said. “Our enemy means every word he says,” the general said. “He demonstrates it daily.”

However, the U.S. military is adapting rapidly to meet terrorists’ threat and their unconventional tactics, Wood said.

“We have to look at our military and its ability to accomplish the irregular fight,” Wood said. “We are succeeding in many areas, but success demands that we have our best efforts focused on it.”

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