Combatting Asymmetric Threats:
The Interplay of Offense and Defense

America's enduring challenge is to promote and defend our national interest, assure allies and friends, deter adversaries and, should deterrence fail, fight and win against all threats — symmetric and asymmetric. To this end, we must develop, deploy, and sustain credible offensive and defensive capabilities and authorities to respond in an effective, appropriate, and timely fashion. The interaction of offense and defense shapes the character, conduct, and ultimate outcomes of all conflicts, symmetric and asymmetric. The interplay between offense and defense is inherent in the very nature of war. Indeed, it is intrinsic to any human interaction. While often presented as polar opposites, offense and defense constitute the essential duality that defines any contest — be it of arms, wits, or physical prowess.

By focusing on ideas, events, and leaders that drive the evolution of national security thought and practice, we can crystallize the central tenets that would assist both policymakers and the national security community at large in providing for the common defense. We must assess whether the nation has adequate legislation, authorities, policies, procedures, tactics, techniques, and systems, and to combat asymmetric, multi-faceted, and asynchronous threats. At this symposium, keynote speakers and panelists explored America's capability to counter and ultimately defeat asymmetric threats to our national security and national interests by assessing the interplay of our nation's offensive and defensive powers.