Understanding Who We Are Fighting: James Woolsey’s GEOINT Keynote
The theme of this years' GEOINT conference was
Perhaps one of the best explanations of what is driving that
transformation, as the intelligence world
moves from Cold War strategies and tactics to a new era of enemies
without countries, without a tangible state based resources and
targets, was presented by former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Woolsey's keynote presentation identified the nature of
the terrorists we are fighting by beginning with a statement that is in
alignment with Sun Tzu's Art of War.When
in a war, we should begin by understanding the enemy."
The theme of the keynote was, "The war on terror will be the long war
of the 21st
century." Because of the nature of the adversary, the terrorists'
resources and modes of operation, this will be the case.Woolsey
identified that we are up
against three totalitarian movements, all originating from the Middle
First, are the Baathists; this
group is basically Fascist, but without a clear or defined ideology.
Its goal is to return to power and support Pan-Arab Nationalism.
While the group is still a factor, it is not growing and lack the means
to create what Woolsey refers to as a fire
in the mind of its followers (from Dostoevsky's The Possessed).
Second are the Shiite
Islamists - primarily from Iran.They have the advantage that they have
the resources of a rich country (e.g.oil revenue) and support from
that country's leadership.Iran supports what Woolsey called the most
professional terrorists in the world, Hezbollah.
However, Woolsey identified a weakness - that the concept of
theocracy is not traditional with Shiites and that may be a reason why
the current Iranian leadership is so unpopular with Shiite clerics.As
a result, this movement may have difficulty creating the fire in the
mind necessary to support long-term
The third and most dangerous of
the three are the Sunni Islamic terrorists.This group is the most
because it is growing and creating fire in the minds of its
members.The group has an ideology that is anti-Christian, anti-women
anti-democracy and it wants to return Islam to where it was in the 7th
century both in territory controlled and in religious practice.
Because of support from within Saudi Arabia, Sunni Islamic terrorists
have access to substantial wealth and resources.Woolsey identified
that some of the fuel for this movement is the U.S.has been perceived
for decades as only being interested in the oil from this part of the
world and not the people or nature of the governments.
This groups' strategic view has three parts.First, control the
Muslin world; second, control the parts of the world that Muslins
controlled in the 7th century "" e.g.Spain; and third, control the
What makes this group so dangerous is that its members are fully
committed (true believers) and that dying for the cause is perceived as
an honor.Due the fragmentation of this group, there is neither a
contact point for negotiation or a real entity to sanction.
The problem is that to many of those in the Mid-East, the Sunni
terrorists are offering something, where for decades the U.S.is
having offered nothing.So the battle for the hearts and minds begins
opposition in the lead.
Woolsey pointed out that U.S.Intelligence is also not used to
dealing with a fully committed adversary who cannot be deterred.In
addition, decision makers in the government may not
really understand this type of enemy.So the nature of transformation
is to move not only the intelligence infrastructure from years of
opposing the monolithic to creating the means and measures to counter
and neutralize the fragmented, but change a mindset to this new reality.
This presentation provided a clear, concise, easy to understand
explanation of the enemy we now face.It was one of those presentations
you wish more people could hear to be able to grasp the
realities of "the long war of the
Published Friday, November 11th, 2005