Echoing the sentiments of many of the speakers and panelists during the conference, Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, commander, JFCOM and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, wrapped up the 2008 Joint Warfighting conference by reiterating that the war the U.S. and its allies are now fighting will not end quickly or soon. The thought that we are in an irregular war that we can wait out until regular warfare returns is incorrect. "We're going to have to intellectually embrace that idea. If we don't make this a full intellectual commitment, the enemy is going to steal the march on us," Gen. Mattis said.
"Having been up against this enemy," the general continued, "I must say do not patronize this enemy and think they're going to go away any time soon." Relating his own experience in more detail, Gen. Mattis said terrorists made their intent clear: They say they are going to to America, kill Americans and Jews and go to Europe and kill Jews. "They were very clear, and it clears my conscience considerably about what you do with people like that," he said.
On several occasions, the general referred to lessons that can be learned from history-experiences that demonstrate that no one can predict the future and attempting to do so is a futile act. However, he assured audience members that the goal of the military for national security is to plan as best it can and be prepared for as much as possible. "We can't get it 100 percent right, but what we intend to do is not get it wrong," he stated.
While focusing on unconventional warfare is important, he also noted that this does not mean abandoning preparing to fight in conventional wars again-although those may be 10 or even 15 years away, he added.
Listen to his complete address here (mp3 link):
Gen. James N. Mattis, USMC, at the 2008 Joint Warfighting Conference.