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Old 03-29-2017   #1
AmericanPride
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Default Meta-Warfare

Hello all,

I'd like to start a discussion on the sophistication of warfare; I don't mean the development of new technologies (essentially the spear and the rifle are the same weapon insofar they occupy the same space and serve the same purpose), but instead the expanding comprehensiveness of what's considered "warfare" - and, as a subset of that, the emergence of legal norms of what defines acceptable and unacceptable forms of warfare. If war is essentially a political act, then the sophistication of warfare follows the sophistication of political systems. War, in essence, reflects the political system from which it emerges.

If that is the case, I think it's important then that theorists also understand the political superstructure underlying the system of warfare in which they're engaged. The levee en masse is perhaps the most defining example of political revolution leading to military revolution. The destruction of the ancien regime and its replacement by a (nominal) people's government resulted in the mass mobilization of the French population. On the battlefield, this resulted in larger armies and decisive victories for France. It was only sustainable by a burgeoning bureaucracy reinforced by a revolutionary zeal. That nation-state system is still largely in place today, although the changing nature of interstate relations, global urbanization, and the growing international bourgeois lends towards smaller, professional, highly technical armies.

So, even as the political nature of warfare remains constant within this context, the actual political objects and variables that drive warfare change fairly often as a historical process. Clausewitz called war a "wrestling match". Wrestling is defined first by its type, separating it in kind from, say, hockey or baseball, but there are also different ways of wrestling.

People who argue that the nature of war doesn't change must then also accept that the political does not change. But the political does change, and so war must change with it. A pro-active military approach should therefore consider (1) how war changes based on the political but also (2) how the military act can also usher in desired or targeted political change.

In this case, instead of only reactively targeting armies, militias, or terrorists, which are essentially temporary and subjective variables controlled by the political object (that is the totality of political conditions that give to their rise), the military should aim to target the permanent, objective, material political relations that bind the enemy structure together. This is less 'nation-building' than it is 'political-destroying', that is destroying the enemy's political strength. This occurred in the aftermath of World War II when the Allies imposed upon a Japan commitment to peace and deprived it of any offensive military capabilities; the security apparatus was reduced in form to less than what exists in other states. Other political objects could be elites, landowners, technical experts, etc. Targeting them does not necessarily have to be lethal (though it could be) nor collective (though it could be that also). They could be targeted by changing the norms around landownership or legal rights, for example, which may deprive one class of strength and empower another. Warfare therefore is not just the engagement of armies, but the totality of compelling actions that can be undertaken against another. The difficult the U.S. faces in places like Afghanistan, in my view, is not because some elusive nature of terrorism or insurgency, but because it is not just an engagement of arms, but also a clash of political systems that the U.S. military finds difficult to navigate. We do it accidentally and haphazardly instead of deliberately. This is in part because our war studies focuses almost exclusively on the tactical and operational, and very rarely on how those things engage with the political. In state warfare, the political decision precedes the military act but in counter-insurgency, every military decision is a political act. But it's also in part because the political system underlying insurgency often is fluid and in disarray, making it difficult for a conventional military apparatus to identify and target an enemy and its political strength to compel it to cease fighting since the conventional military is looking for a target that looks like its own political master (i.e. another state).

This necessarily aims to create an insidious advantage since the adversary tailors their armed forces to defeat the standing forces of another state. We build aircraft carriers, so the Chinese build ship-killer missiles. Asymmetric warfare is akin to one wrestler knowing the weakness of the other wrestler but still aiming to 'wrestle', and therefore adopting a strategy or technique to target that weakness. Meta warfare would be one opponent, recognizing the adversary as a wrestler, deciding to not wrestle at all, and instead disarms their opponent before the match ever starts. This is possible only because of the sophistication of warfare as a means of political engagement where all of society's means - economic, political, cultural, military, technical, etc - can be leveraged as a compelling force by a complex and fairly centralized political system. This simultaneously pushes warfare to the lowest levels (i.e. social media campaigns) and to its most far-reaching. This has consequences for the most junior soldiers and officers, the actions of whom will continue to be more substantial than their predecessors. Accompanying this capability must be an ethic and philosophy that places them within the proper (read: effective) context of their actions.

The military would therefore do well step outside of its own uniform and assess the conditions in which it exists, and ask itself if it is prepared to meet emerging challenges to security. A small, professional, highly technical army works in today's political context (for the most part). But will it work in the next? And what is that next context? And when will it arrive?
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Old 03-30-2017   #2
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I believe you are right, particularly when you say that, while the nature of war may not have change, the nature of politics has. I have been playing with this same concept for some time, and have considered writing on it, although I have not thought through how this actually alters strategy. That would be my interest.

What are you planning on doing with this? How can we help?
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Old 03-30-2017   #3
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I'm not really sure where this train of thought is going yet. I am approaching the dissertation phase of my education, and the closer I get, the less sure I am about which idea/research to pursue. I wonder about the paradigm shift in military-political theory recognized by Clausewitz, and if we are still trapped within that frame of thinking when thinking about warfare. And if we are in the intellectual trap, how do we recognize it and prevent surprise when the paradigm shifts again?
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Old 03-31-2017   #4
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For what it is worth, I believe you are right. I plan to write a short piece on it in the future. But I do believe it deserves a more complete academic review of the topic.
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Old 03-31-2017   #5
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I believe you are right, particularly when you say that, while the nature of war may not have change, the nature of politics has. I have been playing with this same concept for some time, and have considered writing on it, although I have not thought through how this actually alters strategy. That would be my interest.

What are you planning on doing with this? How can we help?
Concur, and this is what I'm struggling with in the Strategy in the 21st Century forum section I'm working on occasionally. Will definitely update it in late April when I have some time based on recent insights gained from a number of readings and discussions, but most prominently the book "Connectography," which I just posted a short review of in the what are you reading section. Globalization is changing governance more than local issues in my view, and that change in governance and priorities has implications for strategy. Our current strategy is inept, we're squandering our wealth via military operations that give us little in return. When they don't work we double down and give it another go. If we're not careful we'll find ourselves in a similar situation that the USSR found itself in at the end of the Cold War.

I realize you and AP are playing it safe, because the dogmatic ones who tend to dominate the military education systems love to promote that the nature of war doesn't change, only its character. However, being a little more iconoclastic, I think the very nature of war is changing. Fortunately there are ongoing studies led by non-U.S. academics (thankfully) to honestly explore this argument.

We have impacted the world little since the end of the Cold War, the world has changed, and we don't know how to wield our power to achieve desired ends anymore. Our political system is in shambles, and we're no longer the shinning light on the hill for much of the world. What does it mean? Will we actually evolve, or relying on blind faith, ride our outdated world view until it spins out of control into its death spiral?

The following article is sad, but true. Our government will not fix itself, and electing populists like Trump may seem appealing because he is from outside the system, this approach never works. He isn't a professional in policy any more than the lawyers in Congress. Even if he was a visionary, our system doesn't allow visionaries to make progress. Our system is flawed by design to ensure we have a relatively weak government, well that worked, but a weak government can't address our challenges domestically or internationally.

https://medium.com/@paragkhanna/5-wa...s-dccaa2ce1d0a

5 Ways America’s Government is Much Worse than Other Countries

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Donald Trump just won the ultimate reality show: American politics. Since Trump’s shocking election victory, people around the world have been wondering how such a great democracy could so easily come off the rails. Many citizens of foreign countries are even taking pride in how much better their systems are than America’s. Based on my new book Technocracy in America, here are five ways other political systems are more effective than America’s.
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(1) Unelected electors indirectly elect our president
(2) The Cabinet is stacked with friends of the president
(3) The government is full of political hacks rather than professional experts
(4) We have two useless chambers of Congress instead of just one
(5) We don’t amend the Constitution even though it is desperately needed
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Old 03-31-2017   #6
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I realize you and AP are playing it safe, because the dogmatic ones who tend to dominate the military education systems love to promote that the nature of war doesn't change, only its character.
I don't believe I am playing it safe. I believe that Clausewitzian "war" is all about politics and the political realm, where natural war is a natural state of human affairs that never changes.

" I define natural war as non-spontaneous, organized, lethal violence committed by one identifiable group of people against another identifiable group of people, executed by warriors and morally sanctioned by the entire group, for some purpose other than the violence itself. There are seven elements to this definition:
1.war is not a spontaneous act of violence like a riot;
2.war is organized—even simple raids by one group against another require planning and preparation;
3.from the onset, the probability of the violence leading to death on either or both sides is understood;
4.the fighting involves two groups that have a distinguishable identity based in anything from familial relationships (hunter-gatherer bands), to ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity, or ideological identity;
5.war is generally executed by a subpart of the group, the warriors;
6.the killing is morally sanctioned by the rest of the group—the warriors are not viewed as criminals; and
7.it is for a purpose other than simply violence, such as to gain resources, eliminate competition for resources, or to retaliate for attacks or territorial incursions."

"There Is Only War, But War Isn’t Always Political"

In that same paper I argue that our ideas about what war is and how it should be fought have transitioned in the last five centuries or so from "natural war" to "political war," which has a number of rules about legitimate targets and proportionality. So I truly believe that war has always been the same, but our political frame of reference both expands war into areas that are not lethal (like cyber warfare) and limits war by constricting legitimate targets (surrounding a city and starving out the population is now not war, but a crime).

In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.

Thanks for clarifying my thoughts, I know what my next paper will be about.
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Old 03-31-2017   #7
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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon
In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.
I more or less agree with this statement in principle. I would add that I see it in two layers: first, a superficial layer, and second, a core or base layer. In the first, we have different governments like the U.S., Russia, China, et al. Their respective histories, values, and bureaucracies produce different approaches to warfare. But these are all fundamentally similar insofar they are all derived from a similar source: a modern nation-state with a more or less market economy. Each of them have extensive state apparatuses to maintain a large, uniform, more or less highly technical and professional standing army. They arrive at similar conclusions about the conduct and nature of warfare for this reason.

Then you have a base layer; that is the defining political-economic structure underneath all of it. Prior to the modern nation-state, we had feudal political-economic systems. These were defined by personal obligations, small state bureaucracies, small landowning classes, and large dispossessed populations tied to manors. Professional armies, where they existed, were relatively small, and when larger armies were necessary, they were raised and used carefully and temporarily. This perhaps explains why in World War I, when the last of the old era was swept away, that the Austrian-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires failed so spectacularly. The leadership recognized the need for a modern, standing army but their political systems did not allow for it.

I would like to also note that large, professional armies are not necessarily a consequence of modern technology (as opposed to state sophistication). The Roman Army is an example of historical, professional standing army. The Roman state was much more sophisticated than its tribal, despotic, or nomadic neighbors.

So I guess we arrive at another question: is there a particular direction or trajectory of this process or is it haphazard? Will the modern nation-state, as presently conceived, continue to refine and better itself? Or will another political-economic system arise that will also give birth to a new form of warfare?
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Old 04-03-2017   #8
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So I guess we arrive at another question: is there a particular direction or trajectory of this process or is it haphazard? Will the modern nation-state, as presently conceived, continue to refine and better itself? Or will another political-economic system arise that will also give birth to a new form of warfare?
Your question goes far beyond what my small brain is capable of answering.

I will say this (if you believe that God created the earth about 5000 years ago you can stop reading now). Humans evolved with a finite set of psychological capacities that were designed to solve the problems of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. However, our problem solving capacity made the need to constantly hunt and gather food obsolete. We learned to grow crops and domesticate animals. Then we learned how to live that lifestyle. Then our brains solved other problems and we adjusted our lifestyle appropriately. We have learned a lot about how to remove all the problems we used to have. How to ensure we had food and shelter. How to extend our lives with medicine. How to pass on knowledge though the language and writing. But underneath all that, in our motivational and psychological minds, we are still just hunter-gatherers protecting our little space where we hunt and gather and fighting with other little bands to stay alive.

With that as my base assumption, there are only so many ways we can change. We can create new technology, but we can't change what motivates us (although we try like hell to self-medicate ourselves). I would suggest that you look at Professor Schwartz' ideas on universal human values. After years of study, he determined that there are a limited number of values that motivate people. If he is right, then there are a finite number of things that cause us to chose one social structure (including its political trappings) over another. This means that there are a limited number of political systems (even though you will see recurring themes).

My personal belief is that there are two basic themes: either the political system revers the Group as source of all political power or it revers the Individuals as the source of all political power. Variations of the Group include monarchies, theocracies, various autocracies, and communism. Variations of the Individual are Democracies, Republics, and ultimately anarchy. There are mixes, including Socialism, but these are the basic set of options. That is because these are the limits of what our value systems can support.

Is there something beyond this? Perhaps. Some new mix of values. Some way to balance the reverence with the Individual with the reverence for the group. Maybe something completely different.

Just remember, you asked.
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Old 04-04-2017   #9
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I read an article recently (don't remember the publication) in which the author discussed the consequences of the neural lace, which can potentially transform human thinking (and therefore, I imagine, warfare). I think AI (and human-AI interfacing) will be then next step in political evolution. If scarcity is eliminated, or severely reduced, or if virtually all human labor is made surplus, then the current political-economic system is no longer viable. Automation has been the largest driver of job destruction in the U.S. and that process seems to be quickening. What happens to people if there are no more jobs available? Our values (i.e. "the dignity of work") have not caught up to our technological capabilities.

Automation and AI seems the way forward for capitalism. It eliminates the cost and difficulty of managing human labor and increases profits, efficiencies, and margins. This is already occurring in the financial and industrial sectors. Services, like transportation, are next. The gig economy seems to be the half-way point between old capitalism and AI capitalism. The displaced surplus labor must move somewhere else. The privatization of armies (i.e. Blackwater) and the creation of small, highly capable & technical professional armies seems an accompanying trend to this. Neither of these rely upon a large, loyal population but instead on careerist, technical experts.
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Old 04-04-2017   #10
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BTW....it is not globalization that is inherently changing the face of governments and their individual politics...it is simply that we are in the early stages of the "fourth industrialization phase...IE robots" and actually while we write here the world is advancing into the "fifth industrialization phase paralleling the fourth phase...IE AI"...coupled with the 4th....robots......

We see it in the manufacturing and then the repair of say as an example farm machinery where grain harvesters now require a mechanics degree in IT and computer troubling shooting to repair a simple hydraulic leak....as they have five onboard computer systems tied to a central controller computer.

OR in the newest FORD factory that produces cars virtually worker free where the robots do everything and the human watches the control centers...AND where even this position will be replaced next year with AI..as per FORD...BMW has already moved into this new "industrialization battlespace using a combination of robots and AI in building the 3er model here in Germany....

AND BTW....prior wars were all about killing and destruction in order to force your will on your opponent....

SO is a cyber attack and or subtle manipulation of say an election via hacking and an influence ops using fake news...propaganda and disinformation actually forcing your will on an opponent?

So as industrialization changes so does future "wars" of the 21st century...

To argue that "war" has never changed ....flies in the face of 21st century reality....

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Old 04-04-2017   #11
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I do wonder if Western public opinion, which should impact political decision-making, are simply reluctant to consider war - not the almost constant skirmishing in many parts of the world away from them - as being effective for their interests (personal and national) and legitimate.

Long ago our absent member Ken White pointed out when the USA IIRC is engaged in a long war the public gradually start to ask "Is this worth doing?".

We are irregularly told we are in a 'Long War' with jihadist terrorism, reinforced at times by the post-attack media reporting and a good deal of "grandstanding" that builds fear.

Add in our direct involvement in both wars and skirmishing - Small Wars of course - which can hardly be seen as providing meaningful success. No wonder many nations have chosen to reduce military spending and for some a wish to stay out of interventions faraway.

Nor has indirect involvement, primarily "gold", proven to be effective either, unless you consider containment is valid. Somalia being a good example, let alone the Yemen.
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Old 04-04-2017   #12
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I do wonder if Western public opinion, which should impact political decision-making, are simply reluctant to consider war - not the almost constant skirmishing in many parts of the world away from them - as being effective for their interests (personal and national) and legitimate.
Assuming my ideas on 1) the growth of the individual as the center of Western political thought and power, and 2) that war is a group-on-group activity, it follows that 3) war become less likely where outsiders are seen less as groups and more as a collection of individuals. Killing in war (group-on-group) is morally sanctioned. Killing in something less than war (individual-on-individual) is murder. Therefore, those other killings are not seen as legitimate unless they are to either punish those individuals for their past crimes or to stop future crimes.

This is, in my opinion, the foundation of the Democratic Peace Theory - why democracies tend not to go to war with other democracies. Democracies will go to war with autocracies, particularly where it is framed as a war of liberation. The enemy is an oppressive state apparatus. The members of that oppressive state apparatus are seen as criminals. In the minds of the Western Individualist political entities, this is not a war against Iraq or Libya, it is a targeted action against the criminals in the Iraqi or Libyan government. For the liberal individualist, war can never be sanctioned because it goes against their foundational belief in the individual, rather than the group, being the central political figure.

That said, War ain't what it used to be ... so who knows.
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Old 04-04-2017   #13
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AND BTW....prior wars were all about killing and destruction in order to force your will on your opponent....
No, that is a 19th century updated explanation of the purpose of war. It is an explanation founded in the 19th century European Socio-Political framework.

Ten centuries earlier no one would have cared anything about the will of your opponent. Your opponent would either be dead or your slaves.

Similarly, today's 21st century Western definitions of war is restricted by today's Western socio-political and ethical standards. Killing and destruction are secondary to war's ultimate aim, which is political. Where that aim can be achieved by other means, so be it. However, this is really not war. It is coercive demagoguery. There is little or no threat of death or dying.

I don't like referring to "war" in the 21st definition, because I think that psychologically, war still means killing and dying, even if in practice, 21st century war does not require it.
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Old 04-05-2017   #14
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The [i]levee en masse[i] is perhaps the most defining example of political revolution leading to military revolution. The destruction of the [i]ancien regime[i] and its replacement by a (nominal) people's government resulted in the mass mobilization of the French population. On the battlefield, this resulted in larger armies and decisive victories for France. It was only sustainable by a burgeoning bureaucracy reinforced by a revolutionary zeal. That nation-state system is still largely in place today, although the changing nature of interstate relations, global urbanization, and the growing international bourgeois lends towards smaller, professional, highly technical armies.
You may be misattributing to political development, what are consequences of technological development…

The size of professional militaries ebbs and flows. Over the past 75 years, the basic units of advanced militaries have gone from division to brigade to battalion, and quality has eclipsed quantity.

Gradual advancements in farming and weaponry during the Medieval and Early Modern periods enabled large armies to be formed by the 17th Century, albeit these were primarily of mercenaries. By the time of the 18th Century, muskets were relatively inexpensive and easy to use, compared to the advanced arms of prior centuries.

Given their experience of 18th Century warfare and in the context of seeking to avoid absolutist rule or mercenary hosts, the framers of the U.S. Constitution wisely recommended the establishment of a citizen’s militia rather than a professional standing army. Yet only a highly professional military can operate the weapons of today and create the effects that the politicians and generals demand.

Therefore, we are reverting to the Medieval period, when states relied upon relatively small groups of armored heavy cavalry, well-trained bowmen and pikemen or arquebusiers with nerves of steel…

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Originally Posted by AmericanPride
…the military should aim to target the permanent, objective, material political relations that bind the enemy structure together. This is less 'nation-building' than it is 'political-destroying', that is destroying the enemy's political strength. This occurred in the aftermath of World War II when the Allies imposed upon a Japan commitment to peace and deprived it of any offensive military capabilities; the security apparatus was reduced in form to less than what exists in other states.
Agreed. However, you are forgetting that the United States battered and bludgeoned the Confederates, Germans and Japanese into submission. The United States armed forces relied upon the “30% solution” of attrition. In the aftermath, the United States committed itself to reconstructing strong and friendly states, an undertaking that it never really attempted in Indochina, Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya.

When strong states are destroyed, non-state actors or other states fill the vacuum, which is what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. But remember when the Taliban were sheltering Al Qaeda and Iraq, Syria and Libya were starting wars and developing WMDs?

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…The difficult the U.S. faces in places like Afghanistan, in my view, is not because some elusive nature of terrorism or insurgency, but because it is not just an engagement of arms, but also a clash of political systems that the U.S. military finds difficult to navigate.
Not at all. Look at the reconstruction efforts and engagement in the former Confederacy, Germany, Japan, Italy or American engagement with non-adversaries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Western Europe and now much of Eastern Europe. Look at the strongmen that the United States depended on in those countries where it wasn’t worth the bother…

Unfortunately, Americans want to have strong and friendly states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with the least amount of effort. It doesn’t work that way.

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Originally Posted by AmericanPride
The military would therefore do well step outside of its own uniform and assess the conditions in which it exists, and ask itself if it is prepared to meet emerging challenges to security. A small, professional, highly technical army works in today's political context (for the most part). But will it work in the next? And what is that next context? And when will it arrive?
It will depend upon technology. Automation and artificial intelligence indicate that we will require smaller militaries, or perhaps have more of the personnel operating unmanned platforms. As these systems are expensive, it is preferable to have as many people working in the private sector and paying taxes to support these developments rather than clinging to old military bureaucracies. Remember in 1968 when Soviet farm trucks were commandeered by the Warsaw Pact for the invasion of Czechoslovakia? That’s not what we want…
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Old 04-05-2017   #15
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I don't believe I am playing it safe. I believe that Clausewitzian "war" is all about politics and the political realm, where natural war is a natural state of human affairs that never changes.

" I define natural war as non-spontaneous, organized, lethal violence committed by one identifiable group of people against another identifiable group of people, executed by warriors and morally sanctioned by the entire group, for some purpose other than the violence itself. There are seven elements to this definition:
1.war is not a spontaneous act of violence like a riot;
2.war is organized—even simple raids by one group against another require planning and preparation;
3.from the onset, the probability of the violence leading to death on either or both sides is understood;
4.the fighting involves two groups that have a distinguishable identity based in anything from familial relationships (hunter-gatherer bands), to ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity, or ideological identity;
5.war is generally executed by a subpart of the group, the warriors;
6.the killing is morally sanctioned by the rest of the group—the warriors are not viewed as criminals; and
7.it is for a purpose other than simply violence, such as to gain resources, eliminate competition for resources, or to retaliate for attacks or territorial incursions."

"There Is Only War, But War Isn’t Always Political"

In that same paper I argue that our ideas about what war is and how it should be fought have transitioned in the last five centuries or so from "natural war" to "political war," which has a number of rules about legitimate targets and proportionality. So I truly believe that war has always been the same, but our political frame of reference both expands war into areas that are not lethal (like cyber warfare) and limits war by constricting legitimate targets (surrounding a city and starving out the population is now not war, but a crime).

In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.

Thanks for clarifying my thoughts, I know what my next paper will be about.
Lt. Col.,

I mostly agree with your take on “terrorism”. Firstly, I have always been of the opinion that it is unconventional warfare. Secondly, states have always been worse terrorists than non-state actors, and invariably refer to their enemies (usually unarmed civilians and their own citizens) as terrorists. On the one hand, terrorism as a term has been rendered almost meaningless; on the other, it is used so often that it cannot be ignored, and tends to mean indiscriminate violence and/or violence against civilians by non-state actors.

Technology is an issue as well. The types of improvised explosive devices utilized by the NLF/NVA against American forces in Vietnam were not available to the resistance movements of World War II. Quite frankly, the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq had an abundance of explosive and detonation devices unavailable to prior guerrilla/terrorist forces.

One question, I would have for you is the moral sanctioning of non-state actors. What "entire groups" are specifically sanctioning Al Qaeda, Daesh and their affiliates? The Taliban is very much a Pashtun movement, and Hezbollah is a Shia movement, so I've left them out...
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Old 04-05-2017   #16
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Default Is debate more difficult today?

I was struck by more this passage fits here:
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The reduction in the numbers of people buying high quality newspapers in Britain in recent decades has led to a diminution in the amount of first-class journalism available. Together with the digital revolution in accessing information, this has made serious minded media debate on issues like terrorism more difficult.
The author is Professor Richard English, based @ Queens University Belfast and the passage is within a comment on the Westminster attack, so covered in another thread.
Link:https://theconversation.com/the-media-must-respond-more-responsibly-to-terrorist-attacks-heres-how-75490?
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Old 04-05-2017   #17
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Thank you for your kind words. It is nice to know that I am not just crazy.

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Technology is an issue as well. The types of improvised explosive devices utilized by the NLF/NVA against American forces in Vietnam were not available to the resistance movements of World War II. Quite frankly, the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq had an abundance of explosive and detonation devices unavailable to prior guerrilla/terrorist forces. ...
I have always viewed technological advances in warfare the same way I view science fiction. Good science fiction places humans in a world of fantasy or advanced technology, but what actually does is reveal a "truth" about the human condition. That despite all the changes in the world, people are still people. So is the same for warfare and technology. Technology makes new ways of warfare possible, but it does not fundamentally change human nature.

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One question, I would have for you is the moral sanctioning of non-state actors. What "entire groups" are specifically sanctioning Al Qaeda, Daesh and their affiliates? The Taliban is very much a Pashtun movement, and Hezbollah is a Shia movement, so I've left them out...
In the case of al Qaeda (and to a lesser extent, Daesh), I would argue that it is the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. I am less sure about their support in Persian cultures. In the early days, that was the source of these groups funding. That is the community where their actions are most often morally sanctioned.

I have read a study that indicated that there was wider support amongst the Muslim community in Morocco and a few other Arab Countries for the activities of al Qaeda. It was from Pew and it was on the public support for terrorists. I am cautious of this study, but it would provide support for the idea that the activities of al Qaeda are morally sanctioned by a much wider group than simply some Salafists in Saudi Arabia.
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Old 04-05-2017   #18
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In the case of al Qaeda (and to a lesser extent, Daesh), I would argue that it is the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. I am less sure about their support in Persian cultures. In the early days, that was the source of these groups funding. That is the community where their actions are most often morally sanctioned.

I have read a study that indicated that there was wider support amongst the Muslim community in Morocco and a few other Arab Countries for the activities of al Qaeda. It was from Pew and it was on the public support for terrorists. I am cautious of this study, but it would provide support for the idea that the activities of al Qaeda are morally sanctioned by a much wider group than simply some Salafists in Saudi Arabia.
I'm setting my timer. The Spanish Inquisition of Outlaw, CrowBat, RantCorp and others are coming to explain the nuances of Sunni fundamentalism...

I tried to estimate how many Muslims of the total population were part of armed Islamist formations, and basically arrived at half the proportion of Northern Irish Catholics who were members of the PIRA, INLA, etc. I included parts of the Sudanese and Iranian militaries in my estimates, but it does indicate that Muslim conflicts with non-Muslims tend to be local affairs, and in a number of cases are state-sponsored or led e.g. Darfur. Curiously, only the numbers for Hezbollah and Hamas are in the range of "total war" mobilization, although I suspect much of this strength is dead weight collecting or extorting money, or non-combatants.

With respect to technology, were insurgents denied access to the IEDs used to destroy US vehicles remotely or RPGs, the casualty ratio would be simply eye-watering for them, and about as worth the effort as standing fast in 1991 or 2001...
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Old 04-05-2017   #19
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I'm setting my timer. The Spanish Inquisition of Outlaw, CrowBat, RantCorp and others are coming to explain the nuances of Sunni fundamentalism... ...
I am fine with that. I don't find the term "Sunni Fundamentalism" helpful. Fundamentalism offers a level of correctness to their thinking that I don't think it deserves, so they can beat me up on that too.

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I tried to estimate how many Muslims of the total population were part of armed Islamist formations, and basically arrived at half the proportion of Northern Irish Catholics who were members of the PIRA, INLA, etc. I included parts of the Sudanese and Iranian militaries in my estimates, but it does indicate that Muslim conflicts with non-Muslims tend to be local affairs, and in a number of cases are state-sponsored or led e.g. Darfur. Curiously, only the numbers for Hezbollah and Hamas are in the range of "total war" mobilization, although I suspect much of this strength is dead weight collecting or extorting money, or non-combatants....
I like your comparison with the IRA. I believe that, in 1975 you would have found that half the population of Boston would have "morally sanctioned" the actions of the IRA. But they did not hop a plane to Belfast (although some did).

I think it is very hard to equate who morally sanctions the actions of the terrorists with who would actively engage in the fight, although it is far to equate that number with who you have to convince that the terrorists are not worthy of their support.
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Old 04-06-2017   #20
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I wish I’d seen this sooner, but the one man blog known as Outlaw can bury the “Recent Council Posts” list inside of an hour.

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I am fine with that. I don't find the term "Sunni Fundamentalism" helpful. Fundamentalism offers a level of correctness to their thinking that I don't think it deserves, so they can beat me up on that too.
Well, I used “Sunni fundamentalism” rather deliberately. I do think that those guys do have a good point about distinguishing Salafism from Wahhabism, as the latter involves acquiescing to the authority of church and state, whereas the former involves establishing a revolutionary authority over both the spiritual and the temporal. Neither Bin Laden nor Al Baghdadi recognize(d) any authority higher than themselves, and Al Baghdadi has taken on this role of supreme leader in a way that even Bin Laden never did. Of course, Mohammed and Qutb are both conveniently dead, just as Lenin was in 1929 prior to Russia’s Third Revolution. Certainly, there is a great deal of philosophical overlap between Salafism and Wahhabism as regards asceticism and dismissal of other Muslim sects as heretical, but what should interest us is auctoritas and potestas, and more specifically, who is permitted to do violence to whom and why, as well as who grants permission to do so.

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I like your comparison with the IRA. I believe that, in 1975 you would have found that half the population of Boston would have "morally sanctioned" the actions of the IRA. But they did not hop a plane to Belfast (although some did).
I’m a numbers guy. I started out by quantifying insurgency death rates to determine at what point there was acceptance of a problem. The conflict in Northern Ireland was actually the least troublesome of all modern insurgencies in terms of the violence meted out on all sides e.g. the black-on-black homicide rate is actually three times higher than the death rate in Northern Ireland annualized per hundred thousand. My digression helped me to understand racial divides in the United States as some groups were experiencing life in a warzone by any other name, while others had no comprehension of the killing in their own country.

So, suffice it to say, Northern Ireland is my benchmark, or more accurately my floor, against which I compare other episodes of violence, from the Malayan Emergency to Vietnam to America’s occupations in the Middle East. Curiously enough, whether we are talking about Northern Ireland or Irish political violence from 1919 to 1999, the conflict was overwhelmingly one of islanders killing islanders, with under 10% of the fatalities being residents of England, Scotland or Wales.

Throughout the Troubles in Northern Ireland, roughly 0.08% of both the Protestant and Catholic populations were members of paramilitaries. Currently, roughly 0.14% of the Pashtun people are members of the Taliban, so clearly their “hearts and minds” aren’t won over. You probably have more of a feel for Afghanistan than I do, but I am convinced that Pashtun ethno-nationalism was subverted by Pakistan into radical Islam in order to: (a) prevent secession and (b) give Pakistan a hand in Afghan affairs, not unlike what Putin seeks by way of “Novorossiya”. One might suggest giving the Pashtuns a nation carved out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the latter could never accept that lest the Balochis fly the coop as well, and it does have nuclear weapons. Therefore, the only sensible solution would be to abandon southern Afghanistan as a no-man’s land, build up the state in the north and keep the Pashtuns out so long as they accept Taliban rule.

With regards to “moral sanctioning”, I appreciate Outlaw’s updates on the Russo-Ukrainian War, but I am apprehensive of some of the sentiments expressed in Ukraine, particularly the lionizing of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Zaporizhian Cossacks under Khmelnytsky. I am supportive of Ukraine’s right to self-determination, but unfortunately, the Ukrainians’ two great bids for independence (17th and 20th Centuries) saw Ukrainians spend more time annihilating Jews (vast majority of deaths inflicted) than fighting for an independent state (killing foreign soldiers). Again, the devil is in the numbers.

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I think it is very hard to equate who morally sanctions the actions of the terrorists with who would actively engage in the fight, although it is far to equate that number with who you have to convince that the terrorists are not worthy of their support.
Well, unless one is prepared to use Stalinist methods , one has to convince the guerrillas/terrorists’ supporters to abandon them. Northern Ireland went through a tragic cycle of Protestant supremacists successfully suppressing Catholic egalitarian integrationists, and then being forced to deal with violent Catholic supremacist separatists. After three decades of conflict, the Catholics finally accepted the terms that they had originally asked for in the early-to-mid-1960s, and supremacists on both sides were forced to more or less go along with it.

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