Citizen-Soldiers Mark the New Face of War
Ninth Annual Colby Military Writers Symposium held at Norwich University
"You are the new warriors," said former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West to a crowd of almost 1,000 members of the Norwich University Corps of Cadets at the Public Session of the ninth annual William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium on Thursday, April 8.
West moderated a panel discussion of distinguished military and international affairs writers, who included W.E.B. Griffin, Joe Galloway, Major General Ray Smith, Col. H.R. McMaster, Geoffrey Perret and Dr. Williamson Murray on the theme "The New Face of War."
The discussion largely centered around the current conflict in Iraq, which many members of the Corps may become involved with following their graduation from Norwich, as approximately 50 percent of Corps graduates accept a commission in the US Armed Forces.
"The defining features [of the new face of war] will have the face of Iraq," said Perret.
"There are fundamental aspects of war that have not changed since the Greeks and the Romans," said Murray.
Much of the discussion centered on the idea that the new war is not against a country or state, but on a group of individuals with a common ideology.
"We have just conducted three wars," said Col. McMaster. "An operation in Afghanistan that used many of the Afghan forces, a more traditional offensive in Iraq, and now three counter-insurgencies. It is a networked movement of non-state actors, who are determined to incite chaos, erode our will. Their objectives are to remove western influence from the Middle East.
"We have to be able to fight across the whole spectrum," added McMaster. "We can't be hubristic in this -- we have to realize that our enemy has a say in the outcome of this. We have to unify civil and military action."
The comments also focused on the ability of the US to remove itself from Iraq and leave behind a viable nation.
"Our enemy decides when the war is over," said Murray. "That's something we have not understood since World War II, and that's because Japan and Germany decided to give up. What we are seeing now is a window into the future."
Perret, who is of British descent, and currently resides in England, offered a more global perspective on the war.
"The opinion of most of the world is hostile towards this operation in Iraq. If things continue as they are, it will turn into the US war on the world. The US Military is being pointed at the world like a gun . . . I would change the notion of full spectrum dominance. The secret to check American power around the world is chaos and anarchy."
MG Smith countered many of Perret's arguments.
"We have to be successful in Iraq," said Smith. "We cannot win the war on terror and fail in Iraq."
"It's not a war against Islam," said McMaster. "It's a war that is going on within Islam between extremism and moderation. We need to reinforce moderation against extremisim. I don't believe we can win the war on terror through strategic defense. What do terrorists fear? They fear American and international will."
The panel also fielded questions from the students in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets in the audience. One student inquired about the panelists' perspective on how successful the current campaign in Iraq has been.
"The standard for the enemy in an insurgency is a lot lower than it is for the force," said McMaster. "They need to create insecurities, incite chaos, foil reconstruction and upset the population, so that the population resists what we define as progress."
Another question centered on how the media shapes public opinion of the war.
"The nature of the media is that it sees a train wreck as news," said MG Smith. "You naturally see more of the negative than the positive, and that can't help but have an impact on people."
"The 700 embedded media sent over to cover Operation Iraqi Freedom was a brilliant idea to counteract the propaganda put out by Saddam Hussein," said Galloway. "But the media has whatever effect it has. It can't win or lose wars."
One of the final questions centered on the new role of the citizen soldier in the new face of war. Norwich University was founded by Captain Alden Partridge in 1819 on the principle of educating the citizen soldier.
"The people aren't going to pay for a larger standing army," said Griffin. "We're going to have to use citizen soldiers more and more in this new war."
"Fifty percent of the forces deployed this year are reserves and national guard," said Galloway.
"Our citizen-soldiers represent a tremendous strength because of the skills they bring from their civilian jobs," said McMaster.
The three-day symposium included in-class sessions with the students and authors, several special sessions, and the presentation of the 2004 Colby Award to West and Smith for "The March Up; The Taking of Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division" and to Major Robert L. Bateman for "No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident." The Colby award is given annually for a meritorious first work which has impact in the area of military writing or international affairs.
The 10th anniversary of the William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium will be observed at Norwich University on April 6-8, 2005.
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