If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
This famous maxim by the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu is familiar to every student of military science and strategy. His counsel is simple: understand your enemy, understand yourself. Nearly eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, important segments of our military infrastructure dedicated to training and educating the next generation of military leaders have woefully failed to heed Sun Tzu’s advice. Two recent blog posts by Washington Post military correspondent Tom Ricks related to policies and publications by the U.S. Army War College give evidence to this strategic collapse in the War on Terror.
Two weeks ago, Ricks reported on a new publication by Army War College research professor Sherifa Zuhur on Hamas and Israel that informs readers that Hamas has been misunderstood due to the misreporting by “Israeli and Western sources that villainize the group.” Zuhur concludes that Hamas isn’t so bad after all, so we all just need to get along and embrace the terrorist group through negotiations — a view apparently endorsed by the Army War College when it published her defense of Hamas.
A second post last week, “Fiasco at the Army War College: The Sequel,” records an exchange between Ricks and defense expert and author Mark Perry. Assessing the academic state of affairs at the War College, Perry informed Ricks:
It’s worse than you think. They have curtailed the curriculum so that their students are not exposed to radical Islam. Akin to denying students access to Marx during the Cold War.
This is hardly the first complaint that the military has failed to investigate and assess the strategic writings related to radical Islam and Islamic war doctrine. William Gawthrop, former head of the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity, says in a military intelligence journal article that:
As late as early 2006, the senior service colleges of the Department of Defense had not incorporated into their curriculum a systematic study of Muhammad as a military or political leader. As a consequence, we still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered. (“The Sources and Patterns of Terrorism in Islamic Law,” The Vanguard: Journal of the Military Intelligence Corps Association, 11:4 [Fall 2006], p. 10)