Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New War

It is clear that whatever is going on in Lebanon is going to face the US in the coming years. The US Army, if it will successfully fight this has very few options. Here is one of them.

Everyone is talking about the new version of war, often called 4GW, that is currently being fought in Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and countless other places. For some reason William Gibson blames the neocons for not keeping up with the Kuhnian paradigm shift in war. (As if this problem cropped up in the last 6 years, and terrorism was not a problem with the PLO going back to 1966.) Some even blame the current conflict in Lebanon on Israel's frustration with this kind of new war.

The problem is that the people in charge have not fought in a modern war recently enough, and are so old that they think cell phones are still pretty nifty devices. Of course this is always the paradox of armies - you have to have been there a long time to be in charge, and age is a liability of being in charge. Young insurgents adapt much faster than old established armies. The US is trying, it is modifying tactics and training somewhat, but it is not thinking big enough.

For the new soldier and the new kinds of armies that are being fought NODs, sophisticated reliable recordless encrypted communications devices, vertical (anti-heierarchial) command and control systems, sophisticated psy-ops and propoganda dissemination, virtual civilian support anonymity, enemy cultural penetration, and a host of modern technology-driven weapons and tactics are at their disposal.

Weapons are also generally cheap and readily available. So are soliders. New fighters are often ideology driven so they are not overly concerned about their own lives, or they are bought and paid for so cheaply that their death is not much of a liability to their greater cause.

Moreover the ROE are . . . well, there really are not ROE. No safety, no protecting your own soldiers, no protecting, the enemy's human rights, or civilians. Someone changed the rules.

In the case of Hezbollah, they are using all of Lebanon as human shields and still getting Lebanese sympathy. (So is Hamas and whoever is being fought in Iraq. . .) The only rules of war now seem to be that if you are part of a nation-state you have to be careful about who you hit, even in wars where there is no distinction between fighter and civilian.

The inability of modern states to fight a modern war is a function of the assymetrical warfare that modern nations are forced to fight against terrorist networks and proxy armies. The 21st century has to see either the world change in to a place full of only nation states, which is not too likely, or warfare has to change. Modern armies have to learn to fight wars that will be much dirtier than the ones we currently fight.

There is little hope of learning to fight an army like Hezbollah's on Western terms. There is little hope of killing off Hezbollah, or armies like it, like those in Gaza, the Sudan, Iraq, or all over Latin America for that matter. What the US and Israel, and franky all nation-states, i.e., the countries that currently fight conventional wars by Geneva Convention rules, is to create proxy armies of their own. The function of proxy armies is to make the price of terrorism to whoever supports it.

There currently is no price for terror. Afghanistan paid a small price in exchange for sponsoring 9/11. But did they really? The taliban undoubtedly sees their loss of power as a minor setback, like when the communists temporary held on to Afghanistan. The communists are gone, and the Americans will be gone too. If you have the historical patience of a Muslim, these sort of things like loosing your country don't bother you.

But not all states are configured alike. Israel spends an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money making sure that right-wing radical groups in Israel don't attack Arab targets. This is a reasonable thing to do given that Israel wants to have a monopoly of force inside its borders. This keeps Israel a nation-state. The Taliban is more like a polis, in the sense that it does not need to hold on to a particular geography. It will thrive elsewhere until the time comes where they will regain power.

What Israel, the US and Western countries in general need to do is to get out of the nation-state mindset. They need to train a proxy army which has enough autonomy that it is disavowable, that allows for plausible deniability. Armies like this will be the ones operating completely outside the control of the state, and merely receive funding, intelligence and a blind-eye from the host-nation, if there even is any. The West needs an army that can go around causing untold damage, while their leaders get on TV swearing up and down that they are trying to curtail these groups and calling for endless UN meetings on how to curtail them.

The US occasionally does this I assume, but never to fight a war that we take too seriously - I suppose these tiny wars in these tiny countries like Nicaragua.

I can't remember the last time I heard that an Iraqi group, the Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah actually attacked a military target. The Taliban are targeting markets, the Sunni and Shi'i in Iraq are targeting mosques, Hamas is targeting whover it can, and Hezbollah are throwing rockets in to the middle of cities. Being in the infantry seem to be one of the safer jobs these days. It is much more dangerous to be a civilian. A group like this is not fought on traditional terms.

Someone has to take a new look at war. Movies often portray groups like this as rogue groups fighting tiny battles on behalf of countries. The US, Israel, Russia, and other Western powers need to have non-tiny armies for such jobs. These aremies need not to be rogues, but completely detached from the standard US command structure.

Modern armies have to target (1) Popular support (2) high-profile enemy command personnel (3) funding (4) anti-Western values.

Modern "soldiers" need need access to serious linguistic training, so they can fight properly in enemy territory. Make the DLAB as mandatory as the ASVAB. Identify potential linguistically adept soldiers.

Modern soldiers need training not in traditional combat, nor urban combat, but in terrorist tactics. There needs to be a new ethos that characterized non-traditional warfare. They need to know how to improvise and obtain and use weapons in foreign situations. They need to be able to have a large measure of autonomy to work without guidance from above. They need to be able to maintain radio silence for weeks and still inflict serious damage to the enemy. They need the protections of a nation state, but not as much accountability. It is difficult for an army such as the US's to trust such groups, as the training is all geared toward heierarchal command and control from the president on down to the privates in the field. We need somewhat autonomous armies that do not need integration in the US military structure.

We need to make the destruction of enemy assets a priority. Enemy assets include all collateral and secondary services that the enemy provides, be it drug ventures for funding, hospitals for public support, or schools for indoctrination.

Another priority hast to be the beginning of a sophisticated PR machine. Undoubtedly psy-ops and our Army journalists are trained to tell good stories and take good pictures, but apparently showing certain kinds of pictures tells better stories than other kinds of pictures. We need to start showing the right kinds of pictures and telling the right kinds of stories. Now we are not. We need someone who knows how to manufacture the right pictures at the right time for the right audience.

We need to outsource Basic Combat Training. Start shipping soldiers away from fort Jackson, and Fors Leonard Wood, and move them to a FOB in Bagdad. They need to train with the type of peopele they will be fighting, eating the food they will be eating, and seeing the same scenery that they will be fighting in. The US Army never has the home advantage in a fight. It is always on unfamiliar turf, with unfamiliar weather, street signs, and intel.

The US needs to also recruit foreign local forces in to its traditional and nontraditional army. The Army would benefit from the local know-how that now comes only at great expence, and it hardly trickles down well.

No one in Hezbollah will ever be charged with war crimes. There will always be plenty of Israelis brought up on charges. Americans too will be fodder for this. Western powers also need armies that are immune from war-crimes prosecution. They need armies that do not have an officer corps and an enlisted core. There needs to be a much looser planning structure with more flexibility and deniability.

Of course this is all illegal vis a vis international law. But international law breaks down when there are some groups which have immunity from them, and anyway there is no enforcement of law. International law is a gentleman's agreement, but with only about half the people on the planet being gentleman. Moreover, a government's job is not to protect international law, but to defend its citizens.

Until all this happens, Western powers are figthting a lopsided war that they will never win. The best they will ever be able to do is to keep winning battles but ultimately it will cost them the war.

4 comments:

Fares said...

Harming Syria, Dream on
Say no to War.

How US should deal with Iran

M. Martin said...

By what you say here, one solution for Israel could be to take organizations like the JDL, Kach and Kahane Chai, arm them and let them go up against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hibullah, then say, "It was those crazy right wing religious fanatics."

Not a bad idea, actually. A friend of mine had suggested this years ago, actually, after seeing Arafat do it with the PA.

Lucy said...

"The powers that be" are more concerned about world opinion than eradicating the enemy. Conventional warfare is a thing of the past. The leaders of the western world have seem to forgotten that a few box cutters and a fake bomb took down the world center - not a MOAB! We need to train our soldiers to be beasts and hate them more than they hate us. We need to look at every single one of them as an enemy - not as a woman or a child. We need to eradicate the political correctness if we want to eradicate our enemies.
Karl I think you should apply for Rumsfelds job!

Shosh said...

I think you should put most of these thoughts into a tidy paper and hand it to your commanding officer who can hand it to someone higher and so on and so forth. Obviously, nothing will be done with this paper. It might even be shredded without ever having been read by anyone other than you. But, hey, at least you tried. Gotdam military.