Rethinking Asymmetric Threats   [open pdf - 339KB]

In this critical attempt to "deconstruct" those terms, several critiques of them are presented that embrace what might be called linguistic as well as strategic challenges to the concept of asymmetric threats. This monograph argues that our misuse of the terms asymmetry and asymmetric distorts those vital processes and leads us to make major strategic blunders. But beyond simply criticizing the misuse of the terms relating to asymmetry and asymmetric threats, this monograph presents an alternative way of thinking about the kinds of threats we face from both states and nonstate actors in the contemporary strategic environment. It argues that threats should be categorized on the basis of the significance of the target. In that case the threats displayed on September 11, 2001, would clearly be recognized as strategic, while attacks like those on the USS Cole in Yemen a year earlier would be seen as tactical level. The assessment of the broader threat environment suggests that the Bush administration has grasped correctly that the strategic environment it inherited has changed, dramatically and substantively. In such a dramatically transformed strategic environment, not only must our forces and organizations be transformed, so too must our thinking undergo transformation. And transformation of our thinking about the nature of the threat environment confronting us is essential to the development of a sound defense strategy and policy, and operational concepts that will prevent future defeats and contribute to the ensuring victory in forthcoming contingencies.

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