Retired U.S. Army General John P. Abizaid, former commander of the United States Central Command, focused on the big picture when he discussed the military's role in counterterrorism during his keynote at a Center on Law and Security conference, "Today's Military: Its Challenges, Missions, and Future," on April 24. "We have lacked a grand strategy to describe what we’re trying to do in this particular period," Abizaid said of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "and it has made it difficult for the people that are fighting the war at the lowest level to understand where we’re headed, why we’re headed, and how we’re headed to get the job done."
Abizaid enumerated four problems for the U.S. in the Middle East: the rise of Sunni Islamic extremism (including al Qaeda), the rise of Iranian Shia theological power, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil. A narrow focus on the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts, he said, obscures the true roots of the regional unrest: "The area, and Islam within the area, is in a huge fight with itself to try to come to grips with a globalizing, modernizing climate." A reliance on asymmetrical warfare and unfettered military spending, Abizaid asserted, would not serve the country well in the decades to come: "We predict the future at our own peril, yet it is clear to me that the most important thing the military must do for the nation is not to dominate others but to defend the nation, and we must have a force that is capable of doing that. We provide the ultimate insurance policy for the nation in a period of constrained spending and global competition."
Part 1: General John P. Abizaid's keynote, and the panel "Civilian-Military Relations Now" (1 hr, 53 min)
Part 2: The panel "The Military's Makeup: Who Serves Today" (1 hr, 15 min)
Part 3: The panel "Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. Military: How the Wars Have Shaped the Armed Services" (1 hr, 13 min)