New Counter-Terrorism Strategy: Applying Corbett’s Theory Beyond the Sea

  • Lieutenant Colonel Aaron D. Altwies

The National Security Strategy calls for the defeat, disruption, and dismantlement of al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. However, after 14 years, the goal to defeat al-Qa’ida seems unattainable. The goal should be changed from defeating al-Qa’ida to making them irrelevant. If the ends change, then the strategy must also change. Theorist Sir Julian Corbett’s ideas of command of the sea, dispute, and limited war align well with the new endstate. Using analogs between the Corbett of 1906 and his ideas applied contemporaneously, a maritime strategy develops as an option to degrade al-Qa’ida. Further, when maritime strategy concepts are expanded beyond the sea and military, then a much greater opportunity arises for strategic leaders to think about how to disrupt, dismantle, and make al-Qa’ida and their affiliates irrelevant. The United States should apply maritime theory ideas to the whole of government using all of the instruments of national power, making the strategy even more powerful.