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Critique: The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets Essay Sample

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Critique: The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets Essay Sample

Critique: The China Threat

In his book, The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America,” Gertz theorizes that China is the greatest security threat to the United States in the 21st century. This book does not establish his thesis, but is little more than a diatribe.

Gertz alleges China’s increased threat is largely due to “the magnitude of the Clinton-Gore administration’s missteps, fumbling, and outright appeasement is in a class by itself. The result has been that the United States has actually helped create a new superpower threat to world peace and stability in the decades to come.” (Gertz, 2000, p. xi). Mr. Gertz offers numerous quotations, references to reports and facts throughout his book to prove his thesis.

In addition he provides a fifty-seven page appendix of documents “the following pages offer a sampling of government documents that reveals (sic) how China has become the most serious problem for U.S. national security during the Clinton-Gore administration. These documents, some of which are classified “secret” and “top secret,” represent important evidence … a stark record of how the Clinton-Gore administration has threatened U.S. national security as well as the safety of our allies and our servicemen and women abroad (Gertz, p. 205).

These are dire charges. If true, the United States, and the world, is in extreme danger. If true, it is imperative that efforts be made to correct this egregious error. Unfortunately, one cannot tell from Gertz book if these charges are true or not, because the sources of his information are not properly documented so they can be evaluated.

Throughout his book, Gertz supports his thesis by quoting from unnamed reports, interviews, and statements. “What has not been well reported are the contents … the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Bromwitch. … Michael Bromwitch documented …” (Gertz, 2000, p. 19). “The document, dated 1988, provided … ” (Gertz, 2000, p. 145). “The U.S. IC’s conclusion …” (Gertz, 2000, 153).

In none of these cases does Gertz provide a proper citation allows the reader to find these documents to verify or refute his allegations. If these examples were unique, they might be overlooked, but they are not. The three citations above were found by opening the book at random three times. Each page found in this fashion contained at least one such undocumented reference. Not once in his entire book was there a meaningful citation.

Within the 57 pages of the appendix, Mr. Gertz provides documents that are inconclusive. On a number of occasions he provides page one of a document and provides a caption that explains what the report goes on to point out, but he fails to provide either the entire document or evening the meaningful portions to substantiate his claim. The documents in the appendix suffer from the same lack of source status as the main portion of his book (Gertz, 2000, pp. 205-263).

When Gertz provides information that might be pertinent, (2000, pp. 246-247) it is unclear what point he is trying to make. Gertz reproduces a report from the CIA that argues that then President Jiang of China lacked a strong support base and would be forced to direct most of his efforts to domestic issues, not international. Since Gertz provides no subtext, it is unclear whether this document is to support the claim that the China is a great threat worldwide (which the CIA doesn’t appear to believe according to the document) or an example that Clinton’s weakening of the CIA forced them to provide information that was false. If the latter, one wonders why the reader should believe any of the information he alleges the CIA has provided during the 1990s.

This book offers little of value. Gertz proves nothing. The reader finishing the book cannot tell whether this book is a brilliant piece of reporting or merely the ranting and imagined threats by an anti-Clinton, paranoid conservative.

It appears Mr. Gertz began his research with his mind already made up and sought to find evidence to prove it. If evidence was unavailable, he quoted rumor, reported innuendo, and cited unnamed sources. It is clear that Mr. Bill Gertz has written a polemic that is poor writing, poor scholarship, unconvincing and based history of threats to the United States since he published the book in 2000, probably wrong.


Gertz, B. (2000). The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America. Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc.

How China’s National Security Strategy is Designed to

Counter U.S. Interests in Asia

     In 2004, China issued it’s third white paper since 2000, detailing it’s national defense policy. Based on China’s declared policy and recent current events, China’s threat to United States interest are a wary coexistence.

In the forward to this white paper China’s overall security policy is declared, “the development goal for China to strive for in the first two decades of this century is to build a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. … A major strategic task of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in exercising state power is to secure a coordinated development of national defense and the economy, and to build modernized, regularized and revolutionary armed forces to keep the country safe” (China, 2004). So China is doing precisely what any country should do; building a prosperous economy and provide security.

China (China, 2004) recognizes that the increasing growing globalization of the economies has had a positive affect on China, economically. This restructuring has created opportunities for growth as well as interdependence among nations. It appears that it is no longer the case that China is acting along strict ideological lines that has alienated the nation from many nations in the west.

According to the paper, cooperation in East Asia continues to grow. China has “established a strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dedicated to peace and prosperity in the region, and engaged in comprehensive cooperation that has seen rapid expansion” (China, 2004).

This increased cooperation through discussion and the non-military approach have led to “greater economic development and political and security trust in the region” (China, 2004). In particular China emphasizes the important, lead role of both Japan and South Korea in this process. This is significant, because historically China has had hostile relations with both of these nations.

Concerning Taiwan, China is continuing its policy that China and Taiwan belong to one people. They wrote in this white paper, “it is the sacred responsibility of the Chinese armed forces to stop the “Taiwan independence” forces from splitting the country” (China, 2004). They offer to attend “cross-Straits talks can be held at any time on officially ending the state of hostility between the two sides,” but only if Taiwan accepts the one China principle. Since this is essentially the cause of hostilities, it seems unlikely that there will be any resolution in the near future.

China is concerned about the United States and view them as a threat, though they don’t explicitly name the United States, “tendencies of hegemonism and unilateralism have gained new ground…” immediately followed by “The Iraqi War has exerted a far-reaching influence on the international and regional security situations” appear to point to the United States and signals that although not an immediate concern of China, military actions throughout the world are of interest to China and could bring about problems in the future.

So, how does the current security China affect the United States? Is China trying to counter U.S. interests in China? The answer is both yes and no.

Militarily, China does not trust the United States. This is a wise policy and is not likely to change, particularly because the United States does not trust China. The United States has a long established military presence in Eastern Asia. Large numbers of U.S. troops are stationed in Japan and South Korea and there is a significant naval deployment at see in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. All of these have the capability of making a swift military strike against China. China, although reducing the size of its People’s Liberation Army by 200,000 is also seeking to increase the military’s technological capabilities (China, 2006 and Marti, 2001). These advances with give China a more effective response to any United States threat.

On the economic front, the two countries appear more compatible. China is undergoing considerable economic growth. They recognize the United States plays an essential part to their continued growth. Private investment through trading partnerships is increasing. These partnership have increased China’s presence on the world marketplace and have provided much needed economic growth.

The only threat China’s strategy seems to have on the United States is that China wants some of the money the United States wants to keep.  As long as it is expedient, China and the United States will peacefully co-exist and even draw closer economically while watching each other carefully. Much like Wal-mart watches K-mart, but with nuclear weapons.


China’s National Defense in 2004 (2004).  Retrieved June 8, 2006, from http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/doctrine/natdef2004.html.

Marti, M. E. (2001). China: Making the Case for Realistic Engagement. Strategic Forum, 185 (September). Retrieved June 8, 2006, from http://www.ndu.edu/inss/strforum/SF185/sf185.htm.

Critique National Intelligence Strategy of U.S.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) opened its office on April 21, 2005. The purpose of this office is to “effectively integrate foreign, military and domestic intelligence in defense of the homeland and of United States interests abroad-Directory of National Intelligence, John D. Negroponte” (Office, 2006). The DNI serves as the head of the Intelligence community (IC) which includes: the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the intelligence sections of the four branches of the military and eleven other agencies.

On first thought, this sounds really good. An integrated effort against our enemies is bound to make Americans more secure from the threats to this nation and to the citizens of this nation. Upon reflection, one wonders how another large bureau within a government run by bureaucrats will accomplish anything.

The idea of centralizing functions to provide control of the various divisions within an organization is not a new one nor is it one that doesn’t have it’s problems. In the private sector this is very common. When one company takes over another, establishment of centralized accounting, purchasing, personnel offices seem like a good idea to cut red tape, reduce costs and provide an homogeneous set of data that can be compared between subordinate units of an organization.

In practice this procedure is often not successful. Such decisions made on a corporate level are viewed with suspicion by those who do the day to day work. Many of these people have spent their lives working for the subordinate company and know how it works intimately. For them to suddenly operate in a new way for the sake of a centralized system is difficult for some employs to accept. Some employees, particularly those in fear they may lose their jobs due to the centralized system. The result is often a decrease in both production and staff moral. Such centralizing plans sound good in a college level business administration course but often fails to work out in reality.

     The nature of intelligence and counter-intelligence operations would exacerbate this situation even more than in a private company. Intelligence and counter-intelligence work requires stealth and secrecy. It requires personal interaction to develop of sources and contacts over periods of time based on mutual interests and trust. It demands that people gathering intelligence be allowed to operate independently in order to be both effective and to provide safety to those engaged in the covert intelligence activities. Intelligence operations require the ability to react immediately to situations and to improvise solutions. A centralized structure does not lend itself to such operations.

     The personal involvement people must engage in to succeed in these activities tends to make them very possessive and protective of their contacts. They are not going to want to share, nor would their contacts be likely to want to be passed around from agency to agency. They are done covertly often at considerably risk. Lumping all such operations together under one head office will only weaken the intelligence system as it tries to operate. Frankly, it doesn’t seem workable. Does anyone really expect the CIA and the FBI to work together and share all of their information? I shouldn’t think any thoughtful person would come to such a conclusion.

     Such an organization as the DNI sounds good. It gives members of the public a warm, fuzzy feeling to think its government’s employees are working together for the common good of the United States and its citizens. It looks good on the six o’clock news as well. A ten second sound bite saying our intelligence efforts will be coordinated under one agency looks very good until you analyze the effect such a strategy would have.

In essence, the DNI provides nothing more than a level of bureaucracy between the IC and the President. It is ironic that this increased bureaucracy has occurred under a Republican President, Senate and House of Representatives. A party that has traditionally alleged to believe in a decentralized government.

One wonders how another layer of bureaucracy will help do something the President and the executive branch has never been able to do. There’s a lot of rhetoric here, but not much substance.


Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2006. Retrieved June 8, 2006 from http://www.odni.gov/index.htm.



How will the Intelligence-Strategy Relationship Change in the 21st century?

     There will be changes in the Intelligent-Strategy Relationship in the 21st century. When one looks back at the 20th century and notes the difference between 1900 and 1999, one realizes that it is almost foolhardy to try to predict the amount of change in a century, particularly given the accelerating rate of change that now exists. One advantage that is available to help predict these changes is the 9/11 Commission Report that has advocated changes to the Intelligence and Security Systems. It is reasonable to conclude that some, perhaps many of these recommendations will be implemented.

     First and foremost, there will be a closer relationship. In the past there have many a relatively high number of intelligence gathering and security agencies that did not cooperate with each other. Rather than working together both the intelligence agencies and the security agencies seemed to be in competition with each other. In fact they were, since their budgets were controlled by Congress it was to an agency’s advantage to make itself look good to receive a larger portion of the intelligence-security budget.

     With the implementation of the centralized coordinating Office of the Director of Intelligence (DNI) the intelligence agencies will be forced to work together and to share that information will the security agencies. With all agencies having access to all the information, the probabilities that important intelligence data will be lost in the bureaucracy of a particular agency will be reduced and intelligence efforts will be more productive.

     The nature of the mission of both the intelligence and security communities underwent incredible change in the 20th century. In the 21st century there will further changes. In the past the security communities were most concerned with threats of a large, international nature. During the two World Wars, the threats were clear and security assumed the major role, concentrating on defeating the enemy. Intelligence played a support role by providing immediate information to the security forces so they could react to changes in the battlefield and defeat the enemy.

     During the Cold War, again the enemies were clearly defined as the Communist nations of the world. However, the roles had been reversed. The intelligence community assumed a more role than the security community. Both the United States and the Soviet Union avoided direct military contact and made extensive use of intelligence to work behind the scenes throughout the third world to try to gain advantage over the other nation. The security forces were regulated to deterrent role of accumulating as much destructive power as possible to prevent direct attack due to mutual fear.

     In today’s world and presumably tomorrow’s, the enemies are not so clearly defined. Instead of large national confrontations, the age of terrorism has emerged where the enemy is not allied with a particular country, but with a cause or ideology. Instead of dealing with large military forces, the intelligence community will be operating against small cells of individuals within communities throughout the world. Due to the size and mobility of such units, the intelligence and security communities will work together to discover and destroy these cells. The gap between the two communities will be greatly reduced or eliminated.

There will be unimaginable technological advances during this century. Information once stored warehouse and computers in Washington D.C. will be available to field operations. Changes in situation will be updated immediately and both the intelligence and security communities will be able to operate on the latest and most accurate information. Such close technological connections will encourage two communities to operate with cooperation and mutual trust. In essence the two different communities will if not become one, will assume a role more in common than diverse.

Of course, if a new type of enemy appears on the world battlefields in the 21st century, this relationship is likely to undergo as yet unforeseeable changes.


Best Jr., Richard A. RS21283—homeland security: intelligence support. 2004. Retrieved June 7, 2006, from http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RS21283.html.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2006). Retrieved June 8, 2006 from http://www.odni.gov/index.htm.
The 9/11 Commission Report: Executive Summary (2004). Retrieved June 9, 2006 from: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/


What Are Some of the Lessons Learned from Recent Events

     Sometimes one wonders if the American Government and its people ever learn anything, or if they do learn something they soon forget the lessons. The concern for security shortly after 9/11 with a tolerance for increased security procedures has been replaced by people once again complaining about the slow moving lines at check-in points at airports. Concern for protecting our borders after 9/11 has been replaced with a grassroots movement that demands that illegal aliens be granted citizenship despite their illegal entry into this country. However there are a number of lessons that should have been learned since 9/11 that hopefully will be not only be learned and remembered, but used to provide greater security to the United Sates and its citizens.

One lessoned that ought to have been learned is that the United States is not invulnerable. Over the past 230 years, the United States has depended on the distance across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans offer us considerable protection. We have learned that the oceans are unable to protect us in this age of rapid air travel. Recognizing its vulnerability was a hard lesson for U.S. citizens to learn. For most of the 20th century the United States was arguably the most powerful nation on earth and had the belief that we could overcome any threat because we were so powerful. This idea was popular even though the United States failed to achieve its purpose in both the Korean war in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Even so, the United States was able to rationalize its losses as being due to involvement in a United Nations action in Korea so it was not a real U.S. war and the war in Vietnam was an immoral wore that shouldn’t have been fought and therefore didn’t count. The United States had not really come under attack on its own soil except for the War of 1812 and a few skirmishes with Mexico in both the 1800s and 1900s. As a consequence, the United States Citizens had come to believe that its country was invulnerable. It came as a shock that a relatively small number of men with financing of $400,000 to $500,000 could not only stage a successful attack on the United States, but were able cause billions of dollars in damage with a morning’s efforts (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 14).

The United States learned that the defenses we had developed during the Cold War that had help to bring the Soviet Union to its knees are no longer adequate. The United States now faces direct, serious threats from small cells of people who lack both conventional and nuclear military capabilities.

These new threats require a new paradigm of defense that requires all members of the Intelligence Community (IC) to work together and cooperate instead of operating in an atmosphere of mistrust and reluctance for working together. These threats will require advanced technological techniques to make certain as much relevant information as possible has been gathered and will be available to all members of the IC.

The United States and its citizens had come to view themselves as good guys fighting against the evil communist threat and as a nation that would help people in need throughout the world. With the 9/11 incident and subsequently the citizens of the United States have learned that some people hate the United States and its citizens just because they are Americans.

     Hopefully the United States has learned, or will learn that intelligence and security are far too critical of an issue to allow it to be a pawn in partisan politics. The notion of “to the victor go the spoils” has no place in security. Instead of appointing partisan favorites in positions of authority, the country needs to have well-trained professionals who are able to act without fear causing a politically embarrassing incident or fear of being replaced when a new administration takes office.

     Despite current evidence to the contrary, hopefully the United States has learned or will learn to take seriously the effects of its actions. The United States can no longer take unilateral actions against other countries with impunity. The United States needs to recognize that other people have different opinions and beliefs and that American values and ways can’t be forced on them. Trying to do so can have dire consequences.


The 9/11 Commission Report: Executive Summary (2004). Retrieved June 9, 2006 from: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/



Intelligence Errors Identified by 9/11 Commission

The 9/11 Commission determined that the nation was unprepared for the 9/11 attack, but the United States could have and probably should have been prepared. Since 1993 there have been numerous terrorist activities that either have resulted in American deaths or have been stopped before they succeeded in killing Americans. These activities should have caused the United States to take preventive actions well before 9/11 (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 2-7).

In the report issued on July 22, 2004, the Commission reported that errors committed by a wide variety of groups both allowed the attack to occur and failed to minimize the damage done after they occurred. These areas were on two levels: general weaknesses at a higher general level and specific errors (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 9-16).

On the general level, errors were made in the areas of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management. Specific finding of errors were unsuccessful diplomacy, lack of military options, problems within the intelligence community, problems in the FBI, permeable borders and immigration controls, permeable Aviation Security, financing, improvised homeland defense, emergency response, and Congressional response (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 9-16).

The report states that leaders in the United States made errors in imagination and policy because they did not understand the threat, Al Qaeda was not viewed as a threat because it was a new kind of terrorism that presented challenges that U.S. agencies were not designed to meet. It was not considered an issue by much of the leadership. In the 2000 election, this issue was barely mentioned during campaigning. Terrorism was not the overriding concern prior to 9/11 and there was no national policy about terrorism (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 9-10).

The capabilities of U.S. agencies were not designed to deal with this new kind of terrorism. The United States had tried to address this terrorism with the same capabilities used at the end of the Cold War. No agency had the mission to prevent or deal with a terrorist threat on the United States even though the terrorists encountered many of these agencies in the process of planning, training for and execution of the attack.  The failure to react to this encounters was a failure of management within the government to adapt to the new threats and opportunities presented by the 21st century (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 10).

On a more specific level, the diplomatic community had failed to negotiate a diplomatic solution. From February 1997 onwards, the U.S. had tried and failed to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to stop providing a refuge for Bin Laden and to expel him to a country where he could be to justice. Similar attempts in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates also failed. Efforts with Saudi Arabia were more productive, but it was only after 9/11 that the U.S and Saudi Arabia began sharing all of their intelligence (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 11).

Although the U.S. military had developed small units designed for covert operations, the military was still organized to engage in larger operations. Such tactics risk considerable collateral damage and are not designed to pinpoint such specific targets. The military could easily destroy a village, but to destroy only one person in a village was beyond their expertise (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 11).

The intelligence community tried throughout the 1990s to gather information that would address the terrorist threat, but were frustrated by a large number of diverse priorities, budget limitations, an outmoded organizational structure and difficulties overcoming rivalries with other agencies, each of whom sought to justify their own existence and budgets (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 12-13).

The FBI had been investigating terrorist activities since the World Trade Center attack of 1993. However these investigations and attempts were of an ad hoc variety that investigated and dealt with each incident as if it were a discrete operation. As a consequence the Bureau failed to have an organization-wide effort that would have been more effective (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 13).

The U.S. had extremely permeable borders. The 9/11 hijackers included known Al Qaeda members who should have been blacklisted and forbidden entrance to the United States. They used passports that had been changed in a fraudulent manner, used passports that contained suspicious indicators of extremism, and made detectable false statements on visa applications. These men had also made false statements to border officials and had violated immigration laws while in the United States. These actions should have been sufficient to keep these men out of the United States, but failed to do so (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 13-14).

Airport security failed to detect the hijackers even though two of them were on the U.S. TIPOFF list, but the FAA had elected not to use this list. Once on board the airplanes there was little to prevent them of executing their plan. The flight crews had been trained to be nonconfrontational in the event of a hijack and there were little physical restraints that prevented the hijackers from entering the cockpit and taking control of the airplane (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 14).

Although somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 were spent in the execution of the hijack plan, and the hijackers used their own names, these transactions were undetected. Essentially they were able to bring the money into the country and/or receive the money without being detected (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 14).

Finally, the homeland defenses had no plan to deal with such an attack. NORAD and the FAA had no strategic plan to deal with planes that were used with weapons. Communications between the agencies was ineffective (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 14-15).

Finally, the emergency response was not well coordinated. Communications between responders were inadequate. The fire department actually sent more units than were requested by the fire chiefs onsite, and some stations went without being dispatched (9/11 Commission, 2004, p. 15).

Finally, Congress had responded slowly, as had the Executive Branch, to the threat of terrorism. What responses they had made were often fragmented among committees and weren’t followed through on (9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 15-16).

In summation, the United States reaction to the threat on terrorism was poor. Throughout government people failed to respond. As a consequence, the attacks of 9/11 were largely successful. As tragic as the events of that day were, they have taught the United States a valuable lesson. As a consequence the changes in the United States Government’s approach to dealing with not only terrorism, but any issues uncovered by the intelligence community will be treated with more gravity.


The 9/11 Commission Report: Executive Summary (2004). Retrieved June 9, 2006 from: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/



Crucial Reforms of Intelligence Community

Clearly events in the last few years have indicated that some changes need to be made in the Intelligence Community (IC). Although there was ample evidence to indicate the threat posed by terrorists, little was done because there was no system for making certain was received by the right persons.

The IC needs to be changed so that the relevant information is gathered, compiled and transmitted to those who need it. To do this will require a centralized agency whose only function is to receive the data and make certain it is distributed to those who obviously have need of as well as being available to other agencies who may have or may develop a need for the information that is unknown to the central office.

There are two main areas of concern about such a central office however. First, the United States Government is a perfect example of bureaucracy gone mad. There are already too many layers of bureaucracy in the Federal Government (states and cities too, for that matter) so one is hesitant to add one more, however in this case it seems warranted. If done carefully, such a move may actually reduce the lack of responsiveness in the IC by having one agency that all members must report to, instead of having each of the agencies report directly to the President or his chief advisors.

The second area of concern is to make the information available to those who should have access to it while denying access to those who should not. Presumably this distribution of information will be done electronically so better safeguards will have to be developed, maintained and improved.

In addition, stricter regulations on the removal of data from secure areas and using the data for unauthorized purposes must be implemented to prevent loss of data, such as the recent Veteran’s Administration’s data that were taken home for someone to work on at home and were lost when the computer was stolen. Violations of such regulations should carry severe criminal penalties to those who break the regulations. It will be difficult to maintain a balance between access while providing security of the data, but must be done.

     The next area of improvement that must be made is that the IC should not be a partisan prize for whatever political party is currently in power. The current system allows the President to appoint his friends and political cronies whether or not these people are best, or even qualified, for the job. People working in the IC should be there because they are the best people for the job. It makes no sense to appoint people from without the IC to run it.

     Government agencies, particularly those in the IC, should be held to the same standards as workers in the private sector. If they can’t or won’t do the job they should be replaced by someone more competent. If they are good at their job they should receive more responsibility and opportunities for advancement regardless who is the White House.

In the past, the United States IC has been driven by an ideological imperative. From the end of World War II until today, the United States has taken an anti-Communist stance. At times it seemed like the government was motivated to act against communism per se. The assumption was, and to a degree still is, that Communism was intrinsically bad and the IC was sent out to find Communism and to develop intelligence that could be used to act against Communism, sometimes with dire consequences. Examples are the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and the entry of the United States in a protracted war in Vietnam.

The strategic policies of the United States should be determined after the IC gathers its data and the data have been interpreted. The IC should drive the Strategic Community and not the other way around.

In conclusion, the IC needs to be given a chance to fairly and accurately gather, interpret and distribute intelligence data with flexibility instead of being constrained by political favoritism and ideological mandates.


Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2006). Retrieved June 8, 2006 from http://www.odni.gov/index.htm.


The 9/11 Commission Report: Executive Summary (2004). Retrieved June 9, 2006 from: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/


Treating the Fight Against Terrorism as a Military War

     Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be overwhelming evidence either way regarding the issue of treating the fighting terrorism as a military war. In fact many of the reasons offered if favor of either side are a double-edge sword that seem to work both for and against such a proposition. The bottom line is that fighting a military war against terrorism has both good and bad effects and one must decide which type of warfare is most likely to prevail against terrorists while doing the least damage to the United States and its people.

     On the legalistic level, it is clear that the war against terrorism is not a conventional military war. Congress has not declared war on terrorism, they’ve merely authorized the President to operate against terrorism. The war against terrorism is no more a war than is the war against drugs or the war against poverty. The use of the term war in such a context is merely rhetoric designed to make the efforts palatable to the public and hopefully engender a tide of nationalistic support. However, such a wave of the hand dismissal of the issue is a tactic of lawyers and undergraduate philosophy students and provides little substance.

     There seem to be a number of reasons to fight the war against terrorism as a military war: the military has a large, well-trained force that can be deployed within a reasonably short time. These military members are well-armed, they are well-funded and are available to engage in warfare. Ramp up time against a new terrorist threat would appear to be shortened because of the military’s status.

     However many of these virtues of the military also speak against the use of military warfare against terrorist. In conventional military wars in the past, one knew who ones enemy was, knew approximately where they were and where they wanted to be. The large size of the forces met large forces and used extensive weapons and intricate supply systems involving literally tons of weapons and supplies. Such warfare requires room for the military forces to move and operate.

In the current war against terrorism, frequently the enemy is unknown, their whereabouts is unknown, and where they want to go is also in doubt. They may be in a cave in Afghanistan or they may be in a condo in Cleveland. As a consequence conventional military methods may not be useful. A large military force would be of little value in a tightly packed urban area where a small cell of a dozen or so terrorists are operating. The military force would be unwieldy and would get in each other’s way causing them to accidentally shoot each other or the innocent people of Cleveland. In addition, actual operational setup time for a conventional force is too great. Although deployment overseas can be fairly rapid, the military system is not set up to deploy within the United States, where attacks are most likely to occur. The National Guard’s slow reaction time during Hurricane Katrina indicates the military is not, for the most part set up for quick in and out operations.

     The size of this force does not allow it to adjust quickly to changing strategies and tactics. The officers from the military academies and other training schools were trained in conventional warfare with defined front lines and defined goals. This was one of the problems in fighting the Vietnam War, the military was not able to adapt well to an amorphous, guerilla warfare, sometimes they seemed to ache to have a definite front line to attack. Although these forces are well-trained in conventional warfare, they are not trained to fight against terrorists operating in a busy urban setting, especially one in a city in the United States.

     Another reason for not trying to form the war against terrorism into one fought by conventional military methods is that such wars tend to be fought for a definite time. The war may last four or five years, but at some time leaders will know that the war has been won. This is not the case with the war against terrorist. This war is a ongoing battle against many diverse groups with no clear end. A lack of terrorist activity suggests the war is over, but that could change in the time it takes a subway to travel from one stop to the next.

Trying to live in a state of war for a protracted, unknown time would have severe negative effects on United States citizens, and would over time diminish the seriousness of the war as people became used to it. Fighting a convention war against terrorists throughout the world in many ways destroy the society the military is trying to protect. A much better approach seems to be to recognize the war against terrorism as a new type of war requiring new methods.

Reference List for All Essays

Best Jr., Richard A. RS21283—homeland security: intelligence support. 2004. Retrieved June 7, 2006, from http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RS21283.html.
China’s National Defense in 2004 (2004).  Retrieved June 8, 2006, from http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/
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