Clifford D. May: The Foggiest War





Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

The “fog of war” is a concept derived from the writings of Carl von Clausewitz, the great 19th-century Prussian military theorist who recognized that those leading troops into battle often lack data, perspective, and situational awareness. Enveloped within this “fog of uncertainty,” they may not know whether they are winning or losing, and they may take actions that weaken their position and strengthen their enemies. 
 
Would Clausewitz not be fascinated by the war dominating the 21st century, a conflict so murky we can’t even agree on its name? Is it the “War on Terrorism” or the “Long War” or the “War Against al-Qaeda” or just “Overseas Contingency Operations”?
 
Over at Foggy Bottom — an apt nickname if ever there was one — an unnamed “senior State Department official” told National Journal’s Michael Hirsh that “the War on Terror is over.” He (or she?) elaborated: “Now that we have killed most of al-Qaeda, . . . people who once might have gone into al-Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” A White House spokesman later issued a “clarification”: “We absolutely have never said our war against al-Qaeda is over. We are prosecuting that war at an unprecedented pace.”
 
Both statements miss — if not the elephant in the room — the guerillas in the mist...


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