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The Long War is a term used by the administration of US President George W. Bush referring to US actions against various governments and terrorist organisations, as a reaction to the September 11 attacks. Other designations are the "War on Terrorism", the "War on Terror", the "Global War On Terror (G.W.O.T.)" and the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE)". It has been criticized as a justification for perpetual war.


Origin of the term

In September, 2003 James Carafano, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation published a short article entitled "The Long War Against Terrorism" [6], arguing that America is engaged in a "long war against terrorism" which is similar in scope, and will prove similar in duration, to the Cold War. He claims that the war in Iraq is to the Long War as the Korean War was to the Cold War; "brief flashpoints of action in a long, sustained struggle."

In 2006, U.S. Army General John Abizaid, the CentCom commander who oversees military operations in the Middle East, began using it to refer to the struggle against al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups. [1].

In September 2005, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard Myers, used it during his final news conference to say that political and economic measures, not just military ones, would be needed.

It appears to have become a Bush Administration policy to refer to the "Long War." U.S. President George W. Bush himself first used the new name in his 2006 State of the Union speech: "Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy."[1]

The U.S. Military in the Afghanistan war.

The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report (QDRR)[2] of the U.S. Department of Defense headlines the section on the war's longterm goals with "Fighting The Long War". The report's preface starts with the phrase: "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

Upon its release, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reframed the war on terrorism as "a generational conflict akin to the Cold War" that might last decades[3]. The report seeks to address the major security challenges of the next 20 years, emphasizing profound changes to the U.S. military to make it more flexible and more suited to engage in unconventional and asymmetric warfare.

The 2006 QDRR identifies four key areas:

  • Defeating terrorist networks
  • Defending the homeland in depth
  • Shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads
  • Preventing hostile states and non-state actors from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction

The project will be funded by an overall 2007 US defence spending request of more than $513 billion. The changes to be funded by such a budget include: an increase in special operations forces by 15%; an extra 3,700 personnel in psychological operations and civil affairs units - an increase of 33%; nearly double the number of unmanned aerial drones; the conversion of submarine-launched Trident nuclear missiles for use in conventional strikes; new close-to-shore, high-speed naval capabilities; special teams trained to detect and render safe nuclear weapons quickly anywhere in the world; and a new long-range bomber force[4].


While President George W. Bush has referred to "a long war", others in the administration have referred to it as "the Long War", thus putting the conflict, at least terminologically, on the same level as the 50-year Cold War.

This non-limited timeframe has been referred as "ridiculous and baseless", and questions have also been raised as to "the characterization of the war on terrorism as either 'winnable' or a war worthy of supplanting either the Cold War or World War II."[5]

Critics have also disputed as false and counter-productive the claim that the enemies faced in the Long War might destroy the United States. "Every day we articulate a long war, every time we pretend we are fighting for our survival we not only confer greater power and importance to terrorists than they deserve but we also at the same time act as their main recruiting agent by suggesting that they have the slightest potential for success."[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Abizaid Credited With Popularizing the Term 'Long War'", 3 February 2006: Washington Post traces history of the phrase "Long War" [1]
  2. ^ 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report [2] (pdf)
  3. ^ "Rumsfeld Offers Strategies for Current War", The Washington Post, February 3, 2006 [3]
  4. ^ "America's Long War", Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, February 15, 2006 [4]
  5. ^ a b "Goodbye War on Terrorism, Hello Long War", William M. Arkin,, January 26, 2006 [5]

External links



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