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By Frank G. Hoffman, May 12, 2006

Lt. Col. Frank G. Hoffman, USMC Reserve (ret.) is a senior fellow of FPRI. He previously served as an analyst in the Pentagon, on the Armed Forces' 1994-95 Roles and Missions Commission, and as a staff member on the Hart-Rudman Commission. This essay is based on his remarks at a brunch held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia on April 23, 2006, celebrating FPRI's 51st year. His article, “Complex Irregular Warfare: The Next Revolution in Military Affairs,” appears in the Summer 2006 issue of “Orbis.”

Today's security environment can be described as “the New Normalcy.”[1] Robert Kaplan has a fine article in the April 2006 Atlantic Monthly, titled, “The Coming Normalcy?” But his use of the future tense is a bit optimistic.

In the New Normalcy we already face an implacable, cunning enemy who is completely ruthless, constantly learning and altering his tactics to secure any advantage he can. We have to be prepared to face this adaptive enemy, and be equally prepared to out-think and out-adapt an elusive opponent. There are no simple solutions or templates against such adversaries. Rigid approaches and non-adaptive institutions fare poorly against this protean form of enemy.

This is a committed enemy. He is serious in his beliefs and his willingness to die for them. He is not a backward or distant threat, nor is he going away any time soon. There can be no doubt that this dangerous form of Islamic extremism will characterize our future for some time, perhaps a decade or more. This opponent is dedicated to his cause as much as we are to preserving freedom. He will continue to look for vulnerabilities, and if he can get his hands on some form of weapon of mass destruction, he will try to use it, possibly here in the United States. This is what we face and why we must succeed.

Looking further out, in the mid-range we need to be concerned with future Afghanistans and other under-governed areas. Today and tomorrow, failed or dysfunctional states can become harbors and potential breeding grounds for modern terrorists, or serve as catalysts for interstate conflicts. The CIA forecasts a coming “perfect storm” of intrastate conflict caused by demographics, youth bulges, higher unemployment, ethnic strife, and religious intolerance. This perfect storm will become the future petri dish for the next Bin Laden or the future home of the international network of jihadists who slink off after Iraq. But they will leave the battlefield much smarter, more lethal, and with far more credibility to the next generation of extremists because of their experience against us.

The New Normalcy also contains states of concern like Iran and Pakistan that could seriously disrupt regional peace due to their admixture of internal instability and lethal arsenals. The interplay of domestic politics, weak controls, and dangerous weapons could be an explosive cocktail

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