Calling it a 'war' is a boon to terrorist recruiters.
Military might against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups isn't working – and no wonder. After studying the record of 648 terrorist groups between 1968 and 2006, we've found that military force has rarely been effective in defeating this enemy.
Indeed, the US reliance on military force – especially conventional military forces – has often been counterproductive.
Take Al Qaeda: Despite suffering a setback in Iraq and several senior operatives killed or captured, it has carried out more terrorist attacks after Sept. 11 than it did before, and these attacks have spanned a wider geographic area across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The group's methods – from improvised explosive devices to increased suicide attacks – have grown more sophisticated. Its organizational structure has evolved as well, including encouraging a grass-roots approach by members while maintaining strategy and operations from a central location in Pakistan.
This resurgence is reason enough to trigger an overhaul of US counterterrorism strategy.
History offers some critical guidance.