The War on Global Terrorism: Implications for the Eastern Mediterranean

By
Col. Steve Norton

October 2001 - On September 11, war was thrust upon the Western world in a calculated and evil manner. Hijacked civilian airliners, loaded with innocent people, were cruelly used as instruments of war to kill thousands of unsuspecting Americans and nearly 2,000 citizens from over 60 other countries, including Greece and Turkey.

Whether one stood geographically close to the attacks or halfway around the world, the target was clearly the Western world, the value system emanating from Judeo-Christian thought, and the prosperity founded upon democracy, free enterprise, and hard work. The victims of the terror attacks did not live only in New York and Washington. They, and the victims of future terror attacks that will surely come, are from nearly every country in the world. This is a war of global proportions, with no safe havens in London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Ankara, Nicosia, or anywhere else.

While the terror attacks instituted a new dimension of warfare, the actual nature of war has not changed dramatically. The oft-cited quotation from "On War" by the 19th century military writer Carl von Clausewitz is still vital: "War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means."

Though the nature of war is essentially unchanged, it is the art of war that is now fundamentally altered.

Prior to the introduction of gunpowder in battles of centuries past, medieval knights were well protected by body armor and fortresses. With the development of artillery and rifles, the art of war was transformed. Similarly, current adaptations of the art of war based on the terror attacks will be no less dramatic and encompassing.

Certain principles of war enumerated in Clausewitz's seminal work on military strategy are applicable to the free world today as it confronts the warfare of the terrorist. Clausewitz emphasized the importance of the moral factor, or what is known today as "the national will." In warfare, the moral is to the physical as 10 is to 1. The collective will of the United States and all civilized nations is required to protect the Western way of life, provide the assurance of its preservation, and preemptively destroy those who would destroy it.

The eastern Mediterranean region can provide some insight into the collective responsibilities of the anti-terror coalition and specific actions that can be taken to assure success.

First, the nature of the threat should be understood and internalized. The terror attacks on New York and Washington are not isolated. The U.S. is already implementing a massive and comprehensive security plan for the 2002 winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City. The modern Olympiad is the epitome of global media convergence, with an audience of billions in every corner of the world. As such, there is a global responsibility to have the games conducted safely, without incident or fear of attack.

The 2004 summer Olympic games in Athens, Greece, will present a similarly lucrative target highly representative of all that the terrorists detest of the West. After the 2002 games are completed, world attention will focus on Greece and the security situation there. President Bush has spoken of a years-long campaign against terrorism. It is very likely that the 2004 Olympics will be conducted in the middle of this war, not after its completion. As in Salt Lake City, international cooperation and support for the Athens Olympiad will be critical to its safety and success.

Second, emphasis on conventional means of waging war will shift, though conventional forces will maintain important roles and missions. In this war, small detachments of Special Forces may be as important as large carrier task forces. While Greece and Turkey may not have the latter, they both possess the former. Capable and well-trained Special Forces from both allies can be deployed against terrorists and leaders of organized crime in their respective neighboring regions.

Third, intelligence, especially the successful execution of espionage, will be critical in preventing another devastating attack against Western targets. Intelligence will also enhance the ability to target those terrorist figures, groups, facilities, and nations bent on the destruction of the citizens, institutions, and values of the West.

Combined intelligence-collection operations and analysis should be raised to new levels between Athens and Ankara. Assuredly, they both have better Human Intelligence (HUMINT) capabilities in some areas than the United States. Greek HUMINT in F.Y.R. Macedonia and Turkish HUMINT in Iran are but two examples.

Fourth, in addition to military and intelligence capabilities, the full spectrum of economic, political, and social institutions will become important tools to destroy the terrorist network. If there are terrorist links in Greece, Turkey, or Cyprus, they need to be exposed and rooted out, just as they are in the United States, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere. Countries should not be judged on the links that are found, but on their responses when intelligence confirms the terrorist presence.

Fifth, the West is not at war with Islam, but with terrorists led by radicals who happen to be Muslim. As the only predominantly Muslim nation in NATO, and a candidate for European Union membership, Turkey should serve as a model indicating that Islam and the West can co-exist.

In this regard, Europe should once again consider its policy against Turkey's full partnership in the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Though Turkey is not expected to accede to the European Union for many years, such a decision would showcase a Turkish nation that is more integrated with Europe and help undermine Muslim fanatics who preach that the West is the enemy of Islam.

In the same vein, for largely Orthodox Christian Greece and largely Islamic Turkey, it is the right time and the right course of action to set aside their differences and unite against the common threat. As a powerful message to friend and foe of the West alike, this can be among the most important actions that can be taken in the eastern Mediterranean to both combat terrorism and protect the citizenry of both NATO allies.

Sixth, the Cyprus problem remains outstanding, especially for those living in Cyprus. Though the country, like so many other troubled regions, may be of reduced priority in post-attack Washington, the Cyprus problem still represents the single most serious division between Greece and Turkey.

The process for Cypriot membership in the European Union continues unabated, despite widely divergent opinions between Greece and Turkey concerning this issue. Since unity between the two allied nations is now, more than ever, in their best interests, it follows that promoting a Cyprus solution?even an interim one?remains as important as ever. Ignoring the Cyprus problem, or even placing it on the back burner, only assures another major setback to stability in the eastern Mediterranean when it can be least afforded.

Seventh, Balkan problems are also outstanding and will continue to occupy NATO's attention and involvement. Greece and Turkey have both spoken publicly about their respective leadership in the region. Now may be the time to assume that role by committing their forces within the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), which was recently activated and is largely led by Greece and Turkey, for peacekeeping operations in Kosovo or F.Y.R. Macedonia. This would not only provide another venue for Greek-Turkish cooperation, but, more importantly, it would also free up significant numbers of Balkan-based U.S. and British forces for redeployment to other missions related to the war on global terrorism.

The Western world faces an immediate and common threat. The geographic proximity of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus to the centers of international terrorism render their populations more vulnerable than most. Unity of effort, national and international will, fortitude, and courage will be required.

President Bush, in his address to the United States Congress and to the world, may have been thinking much as John Stuart Mill did:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
 

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