Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Different Kind of War

From Dreher, who dug up some interesting stuff.

Here he cites an essay from Kaplan:

When I asked Pentagon officials about the nature of war in the twenty-first century, the answer I frequently got was “Read [Israeli military historian Martin] Van Creveld.” The top brass are enamored of this historian not because his writings justify their existence but, rather, the opposite: Van Creveld warns them that huge state military machines like the Pentagon’s are dinosaurs about to go extinct, and that something far more terrible awaits us.

[snip] Debunking the great military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, Van Creveld, who may be the most original thinker on war since that early-nineteenth-century Prussian, writes, “Clausewitz’s ideas . . . were wholly rooted in the fact that, ever since 1648, war had been waged overwhelmingly by states.” But, as Van Creveld explains, the period of nation-states and, therefore, of state conflict is now ending, and with it the clear “threefold division into government, army, and people” which state-directed wars enforce. Thus, to see the future, the first step is to look back to the past immediately prior to the birth of modernism–the wars in medieval Europe which began during the Reformation and reached their culmination in the Thirty Years’ War.

Insofar as the Just War Theory applies to States, the AlQuaeda/state-less 'war' has been very difficult to define and fight. Ask both the Administration AND its opponents.

Van Creveld writes, “In all these struggles political, social, economic, and religious motives were hopelessly entangled. Since this was an age when armies consisted of mercenaries, all were also attended by swarms of military entrepreneurs. . . . Many of them paid little but lip service to the organizations for whom they had contracted to fight. Instead, they robbed the countryside on their own behalf. . . .”

“Given such conditions, any fine distinctions . . . between armies on the one hand and peoples on the other were bound to break down. Engulfed by war, civilians suffered terrible atrocities.”
Back then, in other words, there was no Politics as we have come to understand the term, just as there is less and less Politics today in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the Balkans, and the Caucasus, among other places.

Because, as Van Creveld notes, the radius of trust within tribal societies is narrowed to one’s immediate family and guerrilla comrades, truces arranged with one Bosnian commander, say, may be broken immediately by another Bosnian commander. The plethora of short-lived ceasefires in the Balkans and the Caucasus constitute proof that we are no longer in a world where the old rules of state warfare apply. More evidence is provided by the destruction of medieval monuments in the Croatian port of Dubrovnik: when cultures, rather than states, fight, then cultural and religious monuments are weapons of war, making them fair game.

Thus we have seen the destruction of Buddhist icons in Pakistan by the Muslims--not to mention the Mohammedan penchant to mash up the Temple Mount and to destroy Catholic churches in (e.g.,) Iraq.

Also, war-making entities will no longer be restricted to a specific territory. Loose and shadowy organisms such as Islamic terrorist organizations suggest why borders will mean increasingly little and sedimentary layers of tribalistic identity and control will mean more. “From the vantage point of the present, there appears every prospect that religious . . . fanaticisms will play a larger role in the motivation of armed conflict” in the West than at any time “for the last 300 years,” Van Creveld writes. This is why analysts like Michael Vlahos are closely monitoring religious cults. Vlahos says, “An ideology that challenges us may not take familiar form, like the old Nazis or Commies. It may not even engage us initially in ways that fit old threat markings.” Van Creveld concludes, “Armed conflict will be waged by men on earth, not robots in space. It will have more in common with the struggles of primitive tribes than with large-scale conventional war.”

Thus, the failure of the State Department, who did not (and still DOES not) recognize the power of religion in these conflicts. The professionally-godless cannot wrap their Yalie heads around the personally god-consumed.

While another military historian, John Keegan, in his new book A History of Warfare, draws a more benign portrait of primitive man, it is important to point out that what Van Creveld really means is re-primitivized man: warrior societies operating at a time of unprecedented resource scarcity and planetary overcrowding.

Here, of course, is a weakness in argumentation. The "scarcity...overcrowding" line has been in play since Malthus in the mid-1700's and has yet to prove out. Nonetheless, the theory remains of interest.

Van Creveld’s pre-Westphalian vision of worldwide low-intensity conflict is not a superficial “back to the future” scenario. First of all, technology will be used toward primitive ends.

...If crime and war become indistinguishable, then “national defense” may in the future be viewed as a local concept. As crime continues to grow in our cities and the ability of state governments and criminal-justice systems to protect their citizens diminishes, urban crime may, according to Van Creveld, “develop into low-intensity conflict by coalescing along racial, religious, social, and political lines.” As small-scale violence multiplies at home and abroad, state armies will continue to shrink, being gradually replaced by a booming private security business, as in West Africa, and by urban mafias, especially in the former communist world, who may be better equipped than municipal police forces to grant physical protection to local inhabitants.

Future wars will be those of communal survival, aggravated or, in many cases, caused by environmental scarcity. These wars will be subnational, meaning that it will be hard for states and local governments to protect their own citizens physically. This is how many states will ultimately die. As state power fades–and with it the state’s ability to help weaker groups within society, not to mention other states–peoples and cultures around the world will be thrown back upon their own strengths and weaknesses, with fewer equalizing mechanisms to protect them.

Thus the concern about 'balkanization-by-immigration' of the USA, by the way...

Whereas the distant future will probably see the emergence of a racially hybrid, globalized man, the coming decades will see us more aware of our differences than of our similarities. To the average person, political values will mean less, personal security more. The belief that we are all equal is liable to be replaced by the overriding obsession of the ancient Greek travelers: Why the differences between peoples?

So, Billiam, it's the Anti-Clausewitz for your morning read--because Clausewitz may be too heavy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dad, is this view valid?

is our government so full of pride they do not see the results of their arrogance?