February 21, 2007

Wretchard at The Belmont Club looks at this past Sunday’s bombing of an Indian train en route to Pakistan as a prime example of the continued evolution of warfare from something binary in nature (you’re either ‘at war’ or you’re not) into something that is far more difficult to characterize and, for nations considered part of the so-called ‘civilized world’, far more difficult to fight.

Whenever President Bush has discussed the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’, he has usually been quick to add that this is a different type of war than those of our past where, like, say, in World War II, you declared war, knew when/how hostilities would commence, and, perhaps most importantly, knew when or how the war would end – surrender or defeat by one or more parties. As Wretchard observes, we may be at some point in human history where that binary model of war is rapidly becoming outmoded, and instead replaced by a new model where acts and actions once typically associated with ‘real war’ take place not on a ‘field of battle’, so to speak, but in places that are part of everyday life and deliberately target non-combatants:

Attacks on innocents have become part and parcel, even a “feature” of extended negotiations between terrorist entities and civil society. For example whenever some kind of peace initiative is attempted between Palestine and Israel, a suicide bombing is inevitably waiting in the wings. Every time the Iraqi government attempts to achieve some reconciliation between factions, a car bomb is readied in some garage to wreak carnage on an unsuspecting marketplace. Killings have become as much a part of the Peace Process as the green baize table. One may speak of the cost of war. But what of the costs of “engagement”? And at what point do they become indistinguishable?

How does one fight such a war? As in the past (think of the colonists engaging the British during the American Revolution, or the Mujahideen against the Russians in Afghanistan), or even now as the insurgency against the U.S. is being played out in Iraq, the key seems to have become to lengthen and widen both the battlefield and those involved in ‘combat’ so the larger, more powerful force loses the ability to concentrate force and react quickly. Consider Iraq. Is there any doubt that if the insurgency and al Qaida chose to fight one sustained battle in a single location the U.S. military would wipe them clean off the face of the earth? Of course not, and while the insurgents know they’d never defeat the U.S. in that kind of battle, they do know they can wear down our resiliency by pecking away at us one attack at a time. All it takes is some rudimentary bomb, a crowded marketplace, and Katie Couric or a CNN broadcast, and they’ve chipped away a little bit more at our will and desire to wage such a war.

Back in the ‘good old days’, waging war against a civilian population was a strategy or tool employed within a greater conflict being waged between armies. What we are increasingly seeing, whether it be in Spain, on 9/11, in India, or in Iraq is a mirror image, where civilian populations are the battlefield and large armies stationed in and around them are forced to either stand around and watch or frantically attempt to adapt.

The unfortunate reality is that it makes no difference whether U.S. forces leave Iraq today, in 90 days, or two, or even twenty years from now; the die has already been cast. The tools of battle used by the insurgents in Iraq and terror organizations throughout the world – an IED planted on the side of a road or in a train, the homicide bomber who walks into a crowded restaurant and detonates himself, or the use of a passenger jet as a missile have already proven their success. And until some nation figures out some new way of effectively combating this new kind of warfare, Wretchard is right – we’re only going to see more of it.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:29 | Comments Off on Contemplating Warfare
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