The Long War

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The Long War is the most recent Bush administration official rebranding of its perpetual Global War on Terror (pGWOT), which was briefly rebranded as the global struggle against violent extremism (G-SAVE) in May 2005 and quickly reversed to the global war on terror by President George W. Bush in August 2005.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on February 2, 2006, before the National Press Club, delivered a speech "which aides said was titled 'The Long War'." Rumsfeld's speech came "on the eve of the Pentagon's release of its 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which sets out plans for how the U.S. military will address major security challenges 20 years into the future," Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson wrote in the February 3, 2006, Washington Post.

Rumsfeld said that the United States is "engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world," they wrote. "Rumsfeld, who laid out broad strategies for what the military and the Bush administration are now calling the 'long war,' likened al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin while urging Americans not to give in on the battle of wills that could stretch for years. He said there is a tendency to underestimate the threats that terrorists pose to global security, and said liberty is at stake."

The "long war" within the arc of instability (2005)

In August 2005, when the "obstinacy of the Iraqi insurgency and the sudden surge in violence in Afghanistan [made] it appear that the US military in the region [was] spending all of its time fighting a war on two fronts," Peter Spiegel reported in the Financial Times that "senior officers" within U.S. Central Command, "the Pentagon body responsible for the Middle East and surrounding regions, [had] already begun planning for what one top commander term[ed] 'the long war': the battle that will come once Iraq and Afghanistan are finally pacified.

According to Major General Douglas Lute, who was then CENTCOM Director of Operations "responsible for near-term planning, the long war amounts to an offensive from the Horn of Africa to the borders of Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda and its affiliated terror organisations do not find a safe haven once they are forced out of their current bases." [1]

Rumsfeld describes "the long war" (2006)

During a press briefing with Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr. on February 1, 2006, Secretary Rumsfeld defined what he meant by "the long war."

From the DoD transcript:

Q Mr. Secretary, when you and Admiral Giambastiani use the phrase, as the president did, "the long war", are you preparing -- trying to prepare the American public for the idea that U.S. troops are going to be deployed in significant numbers overseas, fighting in a combat situation for an indefinite amount of time?
The -- quite the contrary. I think what we're trying to do is to just simply tell the truth. And the truth is that just as the Cold War lasted a long time, this war is something that is not going to go away. It's not going to be settled with a signing ceremony on the USS Missouri. It is of a different nature. And it does not have to do with deployment of U.S. military forces, necessarily. It has to do with the struggle that's taking place within that faith between violent extremists -- a small number of them, relatively -- who are capable of going out and killing a great many people, as they're doing, and the overwhelming majority of that religion that does not believe in violent extremism or terrorism. That the -- we're already starting to pull down some of our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. So I think the -- that linkage would be a misunderstanding of the situation.
Q Well, how did you settle on the phrase "the long war"? And does that now replace "the global war on terror"?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. No. You can call it what you want. I use both. Other people use both.

And later in the briefing:

Q One clarification on "the long war." Is Iraq going to be a long war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I don't believe it is.
We're training up these folks and passing over responsibility every day. Another piece of real estate was passed over yesterday and --
Q Didn't you say --
ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: The size of Kentucky -- the size of Kentucky --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Was passed over? Is that right?
ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: On the 26th of January.

Rumsfeld 2003

Rumsfeld on the Cold War, April 13, 2003, Meet the Press, with Tim Russert:

TIM RUSSERT: Let me refer you to some comments made by Jim Woolsey, the former head of the CIA and ask you to respond to them: 'Former CIA director James Woolsey told students in Los Angeles the United States is now engaged in 'World War IV'. ...Woolsey described the Cold War as the third world war, and said, 'This fourth world war' would last for some time. ...He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.' You concur with that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I don’t think I would put it that way. It seems to me that the Cold War was a war and it was a difficult period for people. It required us to be patient. It required us to invest when there wasn’t an immediate threat that you could see at your doorstep. And it took successive generations and successive presidents of both political parties to have the stamina and the will and the foresight to resist the expansion of the Soviet Union and communism on this globe. And it was a good thing and we won it, and we won it with patience and perseverance.

Emergence of "The Long War"

"Infinite Justice"

"When the Joint Chiefs of Staff were looking for a name for the new war on terrorism, they baptized it 'Infinite Justice'," Doug Ireland wrote October 29, 2001.

"It is now clear that George W. Bush’s war indeed will be infinite—the real question is to what extent the war will serve justice, abroad or at home. Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20 [2001] followed a week in which the administration conducted a spin campaign designed to soften up the American people for the long war. And in that extraordinarily fierce and bellicose address, Bush raised the bar so high that it is apparent this war could last for years," Ireland wrote.

In fact, in his September 20, 2001, speech, President Bush said:

"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. ... Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. ..."

R. James Woolsey, Jr.: "The Long War of the 21st Century"

"Woolsey, who seems to be making a profession of roaming the country, preaching World War IV to the unconverted, is already dubbing it 'the longest war of the 21st century,' or as Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation, puts it, the new 'Hundred Years' War'." --Tom Engelhardt, TomDispath, March 10, 2005.

According to Woolsey
"I don't believe this terror war is ever really going to go away until we change the face of the Middle East. .. This will take time. It will be difficult. But I think we need to say to both the terrorists and the dictators and also to the autocrats who from time to time are friendly with us, that we know, we understand we are going to make you nervous. .. We want you to be nervous." ----R. James Woolsey, Jr., World War IV Speech, Restoration Weekend 2002, November 16, 2002.

"Even more recently, Jim Woolsey has been talking of the 'Long War,' signaling that the fight to defeat the aggressive forms of fascism that have taken root within the Islamic world will be both transformational and generational." --Clifford D. May, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, February 28, 2004.

"So, in order to avoid the association with World Wars I and II, I started calling it the Long War of the 21st Century. Now, why do I think it’s going to be long? First of all, it is with three totalitarian movements coming out of the Middle East. ... The second thing is that they’re cowards." --R. James Woolsey, Jr., Restoration Weekend, July 2004.

The Speeches
On November 16, 2002, former CIA director James Woolsey delivered one of the earlier versions of his speech, then simply titled "World War IV." Presented on "Restoration Weekend 2002," Woolsey's speech was based on Eliot A. Cohen's November 20, 2001, Wall Street Journal feature article "World War IV." Woolsey appears to have delivered somewhat the same speech -- "The Long War of the 21st Century" -- since at least August 19, 2003, when it was presented before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

On or around July 27, 2004, the speech became "The Long War of the 21st Century & How We Must Fight It", which Woolsey delivered for "Restoration Weekend 2004" at the Commonwealth Club. It was also presented November 17, 2004, at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (see Nathan Frerichs, "World War IV. James Woolsey on the Long War of the 21st Century and How We Must Fight It," CCFR) and then published as "The War for Democracy" in Front Page Magazine, December 9, 2004.

Woolsey has been delivering variations on this theme since after September 11, 2001, and has since delivered essentially the same speech on numerous occasions, including: October 30, 2005, at the Hoover Institution Fall 2005 Retreat; January 25, 2006, at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University; January 30, 2006, at the Intelligence Forum, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Security Series; February 8, 2006, at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, and is scheduled for more appearances, including March 1, 2006, before the Houston World Affairs Council.

Also see Articles by and about Woolsey on the "Long War"

Newt Gingrich on the "Long War Against the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam"

In his August 11, 2004, Statement to accompany testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said:

"Our country faces active opponents who will study our new systems and our new procedures and sooner or later one of them will surprise us. Since we now live in an age of mass destruction, mass murder, and mass disruption we have to design defense and homeland security systems that are so robust and so in depth that after the surprise we are still a safe, prosperous, free society. The long war between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny, between civilization and barbarism will not end no matter how good our intelligence. Therefore we will have to be robustly prepared both at home and abroad."

Speaking before the National Press Club on August 21, 2005, Gingrich "warned" that the United States "could be at war with Islamic radicals for another half century, but nobody is willing to say so." [2]

"'The sheer reality of the long war — I call it long war deliberately — (is) we're going to be fighting the irreconcilable wing of Islam for at least 50 to 70 years,'" Gingrich said. "'And ... my biggest complaint is nobody has yet to stand up and say this is going to be really hard, this is going to take a long time,' he added in response to questions after the speech."
"'We are faced with a long war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam,' he said. 'They really do want a different world than we're going to live in and, therefore, one side or the other is going to win because it's not negotiable.'"

In his October 19, 2005, statement before the Subcommittee on Intelligence in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gingrich again "characterized the War on Terror as the 'Long war' against the 'Irreconcilable Wing of Islam'. He believed this struggle could take centuries to reach a decision and would be fought largely by words in rooms and city streets." [3]

"Everything we have done for the last four years must be put in the context of the Second World War because the time it took for America to win that war was shorter than the length of time since 9/11."
"It is now four years and one month since the 9/11 attack on America. The comparable date for World War II would have been January 19, 1946. By that point the United States was largely demobilizing its forces after a victorious global war.
"During the comparable length of time that we have been responding to the 9/11 attacks on America, the World War II generation of Americans had rebounded from the attack on Pearl Harbor and defeated Germany, Japan and Italy, built a worldwide military and intelligence capability, built the atomic bomb, massed and organized industrial power, and laid the foundation for the worldwide network of alliances that has stabilized the world for the last sixty years."
"The Long War is 90% intellectual, communications, political, economic, diplomacy, and intelligence focused. It is at most 10% military. We have not yet developed the doctrine or structure capable of thinking through and implementing a Long War (30 to 70 years if we are lucky) on a societal scale. This challenge is compounded because it is fundamentally different from waging the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The Cold War was essentially a grand siege in which a defensive alliance could contain the Soviet Union until it collapsed."
"Because this war [in Iraq] is at its core an ideological war, it is more accurate to think of and identify this war as the 'Long War'. It is stunningly hard to win a war of ideology where the enemy is religiously motivated to kill us."

In a November 15, 2005, statement before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security, Gingrich said:

"The threat posed by Iran can only be properly understood in the context of the Long War Against the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam, which is a worldwide war in which the United States and its allies are unavoidably engaged, and in which the U.S. has active campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"Iran is a member of a small group of nations whose behavior is so indefensible and at odds with norms of the civilized world (North Korea and Sudan being two others) that the only moral and practical policy objective of the United States government towards these governments is regime change."

In his January 31, 2006, preview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly of President Bush's State of the Union speech, Gingrich said that what Bush would "almost certainly do is say that this is going to be a long struggle. I think he'll describe the long war with the irreconcilable wing (ph) of Islam."

The Long, Protracted, Not-Going-To-Be-Over-Soon, War

Reporter Tim Harper notes the Bush administration's shift from "War on Terror" to "The Long War." Communications professor Christopher Simpson explains, "The War on Terror brand had gone sour." Moreover, "if it is a Long War," then expanded executive powers "will be needed not just this year, but next year and for decades." Harper writes, "Although the first use of the term 'Long War' is credited in 2004 to Gen. John Abizaid ... it really had its public coming-out Jan. 31 [2006] in the U.S. president's State of the Union address." [4]

The phrase "The Long War" was also used in the Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Policy Review. Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations says the administration doesn't "want this to be defined as a conventional war where the entire burden will fall on the military and they will be expected to win quickly." Heritage Foundation fellow James Carafano, who co-authored the 2005 book Winning The Long War, says the Pentagon considered "The Protracted War," but "'protracted' is a five-dollar word." [5]

Tom Engelhardt, in his February 7, 2006, "Bushwhacked in Bushworld,", wrote:

"... 'the Longest War' (a phrase that's been hanging around unloved in Neocon Land for a long time) ... Still, I suspect 'the Long War' will soon join the 'Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism' in the dust bin of history. In fact, on naming its terror war, the Bush administration could probably use a little help. How about the Scare-You-to-Death-Struggle-for-Global-Ethanol-Independence-and-Republican-Electoral-Victories War (or SYTDSFGEIAREVW)? If that doesn't work for you, the Nation magazine's Katrina van den Heuvel is ready to lend a hand. Having already published her hilarious The Dictionary of Republicanisms, she's now launching a contest to capture the essence of GWOT-ability (a little like guacamole) in a single, punchy name."


"An officer briefing FDD's Eleana Gordon and me at CENTCOM (Central Command) in Tampa the other day said: 'It's important to understand: The Jihadis take a one-hundred year view. If it takes them a century to win this war, they are prepared for that. Very few people in the West think in such terms.'

"What he did not say but might have: Most politicians can't think or plan beyond the next election." --Sara Levy, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Blog, December 13, 2005.


  • James Jay Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig, "Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom," Heritage Books, 2005 (ISBN 0974366544); Heritage Foundation Book Review; Book Review by Tim O'Bryhim.
  • Newt Gingrich, "Winning The Future: A 21st Century Contract with America," Regnery Publishing, Inc. (January 10, 2005) (ISBN 0895260425) Book Reviews on "On the international front, he says, 'irreconcilable' Islamic terrorists and rogue dictatorships are eager to secure and use WMD, while China and India endanger our economic might."

U.S. Government Documents

  • "The Global War on Terrorism Long War Brief," Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 2, 2006. Note: This is an internet cache file of the html version; both the html and pdf versions appear to have been deleted. This may very well be the outline for Rumsfeld's speech before the National Press Club.

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