Targeting the Leadership of Terrorist Organizations: Policy Considerations for America's National Security Strategy in Combating Global Terrorism   [open pdf - 477KB]

As America champions a resurgence in patriotism following the attacks of 11 September 2001 and rallies behind a determined President to defeat an ominous and determined adversary, a complementing grand strategy for prosecuting the global war on terrorism remains conspicuously absent amidst a landscape of newly appointed cabinet officials and fledging Homeland Security organizations. In his speech to the nation following the attacks, President Bush declared that America would bring every resource to bear in the fight to defeat terrorism. Public polls reflect overwhelming support for the collective engagement of all elements of national power in the fight against terrorism. But can America prosecute a strategy that specifically targets terrorist leaders and can it be an effective instrument of U.S. national security policy in combating the global threat? Simply put, despite what the strategists achieve in their final design and assessment of a national counterterrorism strategy, can such an approach be militarily feasible, suitable and acceptable, and ultimately, can it be morally and ethically prosecuted? The purpose of this paper is to provide a general answer to that exact question. Through the dual framework of Carl von Clausewitz's center of gravity concept and Dudley Knox's strategic assessment model, this study will provide a heuristic framework for analyzing and assessing the utility of targeting terrorist leaders as a credible strategy and instrument of U.S. national policy in combating global terrorism.

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