14 November 2007

Cold War, Long War, and Barbaric War

Today there are people putting forth that the fight against terrorism, as epitomized by the radical Islamic sort, is akin to the Cold War and needs similar response. Thus the old concept of investing heavily in National military means is seen as the front line against terrorism, save that this enemy is no Nation, has no regular order of battle, has no authority structure, has no accountability and is globally distributed. That does not sound like a proper comparison this 'Cold War' and Global War on Terror: there are far too few intersections between Nation state warfare and this irregular warfare waged by non-nations.

The intersection is one that cuts to the point, and that is the use of military arms. In the industrial era, starting with the US Civil War, the idea of 'set piece battles' being the course that would decide wars disappeared and the 'continuous front' appeared. The siege of Richmond, VA is an eerie precursor to the trenches of 1914-18. Industrial power, when applied to the production of war material and its supply makes the equipping and movement of vast armies possible. In any era before that of the Industrial age there were very few military organizations that could boast having a 'million man army'. Xerxes would boast that in 480 BC against the Greeks, but he came to recognize that supply and provision of such a force meant the need for constant movement for foraging and seaborne support for replacements and other supplies. Part of the genius of stopping such an army was to *hold* it down and force it to exist on its supply lines and then to attack those. While King Leonidas of Sparta held the line at Thermopylae, Themistocles the leader of Athens would wage a campaign against the supply fleet of Xerxes. Together they locked the huge army so that it could not forage, could not get easy supplies by sea and gave it a Pyrrhic victory: in winning battles that army lost its war as it could not maintain its supply lines. All the way to Napoleon and the need to invent a means of supply via canning, this was true, and even his armies foraged from the land.

When that line is backed by industrialized means of supply and no means of breakthrough, it spreads laterally, each side seeking its advantage on the wings. When a permanent obstacle is encountered with no means to extend the lines, they hold in place. World War I would see that happen and a huge death toll accumulate. With the invention of integrated armored assault via tanks and overhead surveillance and attack, those front lines would now *shift* over the countryside. While the trenches were locked in place, a few miles behind was relatively peaceful countryside. With Blitzkrieg warfare the front would shift rapidly so that *no place* was behind the lines and *any place* could be a breakthrough opportunity and have industrialized war visited upon it. Many parts of Eastern and Western Europe would see this happen not just once or twice, but up to a dozen or more times as entire armies shifted back and forth across cities, towns and villages. Million man armies were the norm starting in 1914, and at the end of that conflict the US had a million men under arms in Europe.

The Cold War changed that, so that warfare became comparative advantage via the swaying of Nations to 'one side or the other'. The bipolar world left little room for 'non-aligned Nations' and those movements quickly fell sway to one of the two sides and just became a part of the struggle they sought to avoid. The logic of industrialized warfare sees the means of production, factories and the civilian workforce, as part of the entire military supply operation. Attacks on civilian populations did happen as a part of warfare before the industrial era, and the accounts of rapine, looting and slavery follow battle after battle in history. With the advent of the Westphalian Nation State and the shifting to more regularized ways of viewing war, such was repudiated but would take international agreement based on the Law of Nations to instantiate. That conflict, that would in its own time consume lives and Nations, had few 'hot' conflicts for fear of igniting a global conflagration. For all the ideological differences between the West and Soviet powers, a basic lineage from the Westphalian Nation State ideal was kept: the rules that had become the norm in warfare were extended to cover this, as well. This was not done by open treaties, but tacit agreement between the sides, and generally kept, even when one side or the other would resort to encouraging those that were not Nations to pester the other side.

That, however, began to blur the lines of warfare and its legitimacy as the Treaty of Paris that had outlawed such amongst its signatories, was not enforced. While the use of mercenaries and irregular units has been seen throughout history, the Declaration of Paris sought to end that and make all forces taking part for a 'side' become accountable by means of uniform, leadership structure and accountability. Those called 'Pirates' were outlawed: those who fought for themselves, for money, for slaves, for power over people. The US would not sign this as Privateers, private citizens with ships (although some small amounts of land forces were seen now and again) were given Letters of Marque and Reprisal by Congress and HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. This power of 'less than war but more than sanctions' was the traditional power of Nations when the US was formed and enshrined in the US Constitution, and the US would respect the Declaration by having Congress say if it would or would not use Privateers for a given time or conflict. Pirates, by practicing illegitimate war, could be attacked by all means: from private citizens bringing them in to Privateers going after their ships and bases to armies and navies being deployed to bring Nations harboring them to heel by force of arms. And the worse of the Barbary Pirates would only be ended once France defeated the areas and Nations supporting them in North Africa by force of arms.

Make no mistake about it: when Nations started to support terrorists, the Declaration of Paris was being abridged, along with the Hague and Geneva Conventions on who constituted legitimate armed forces. The US and USSR were not the only ones to do this, and both sides would arm factions that would not, necessarily, put on uniforms and be held accountable, but were utilizing same under different guises: various 'Red' groups (with 'Red' appearing before: Faction, Group, Army of xxx, etc.) would hold adherence and have some supplies from the USSR, while the US would support the Islamic fighters in Afghanistan against the USSR, the Contras and various actors less savory in Africa. Other groups were, of course, already growing or existing by the time those started to come about, including various Arab Nationalist, Islamic radicalist and a gamut of separatist groups. Outside of Nationalist ethnic populations supporting such (ex. IRAs, ETA, PLO) there would be those with distributed or Nation based but unattributed support (ex. HAMAS, Hezbollah, FARC, Shining Path). Of particular interest is the money paid by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to a student radical group in Egypt known as Muslim Brotherhood. MB, itself, would serve as a nucleating point for radical Islam, fostering first HAMAS and then a slew of other groups from Afghanistan to South America, and each of these loosely affiliated groups would then seek out its own funding sources, which even the homegrown HAMAS does. The funding for MB to do this came from Saudi Arabia to counter Abdul Nasser's view of Pan-Arabism, which was seen as anti-thetical to Wahabbist Islam.

Other terror organizations would do this, even such separatist/Nationalist groups as the PIRA ('Provos'), Tamil Tigers and various Kashmir groups not directly affiliated with MB, Iran, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other organizations. The last three decades of the Cold War (1945-91) saw this start as nascent organizations (MB, PLO, IRA) and then flourish to multiple and widespread organizations as funding shifted to these irregular means of conflict and coercion. Of great note is that very few of these organizations outside of those with tight ties to a Nation (ex. Hezbollah) have sole Nation state support in their operations.

Most use a distributed support network and even Hezbollah utilizes criminal operations for funding of its more widespread overseas contingents outside of the Middle East. In such compromises, however, internal splinters in groups over the 'purity' of the 'cause' would form multiple organizations that would often be at odds with their parent organizations. The IRA was notorious for that with more IRA factions, splinters, front-groups and such, that an entire scorecard was needed to keep track of the 'Real' IRA, Provisional IRA, IRA, Original IRA, and so on. MB would see this, but try to keep some internal coherence of belief as a goal, even when factions went off at tangents, which would give linkage between HAMAS and al Qaeda and GIA: different organizations with more or less similar beliefs, but operating on different concepts within the belief structure.

It is this distributed support structure that is undirected by Nation states that makes puts terrorism out of the regular rules of warfare, that developed amongst Nations, and, instead, drops them into illegitimate warfare waged by individuals and groups with no accountability. Such use of them was made quite unavailable to signatories of the Declaration of Paris, and yet this is not held up for modern Nations that *did* sign that agreement. The US is in zero position to criticize this, but also is in prime position to help ensure that the Law of Nations understanding of what legitimacy *is* will be upheld.

Those, today, calling for a 'Long War' against radical Islamic groups, then, are placing the emphasis of such a thing in the wrong place: they are putting it against the groups and not *for* the sustainment of accountable Nation state organizations. Military might is used when Nations either help or supply such groups (as various island states did during the era of Piracy in the Caribbean and as the North African states did during the Barbary Pirate era), and to counter them whenever they can under legitimate auspices, as I wrote about in this piece. To end such activities direct force of arms is a necessary part of the toolkit, but it is not the toolkit *itself* and even in countering pirates and bandit armies of various sorts, entire National military means were NEVER directed solely at such eradication work, but was seen as 'another job to do'. The reason for Privateers is that utilization of military machines is very expensive and the bluntest instrument in the Nation state toolkit for going after unaccountable war making groups with military means. When Privateers would turn Pirate, it was due to the long distances involved and lack of accountable structure to adhere to, plus just being able to hightail it from the long reach of justice, be it military or civil.

Thus, when I hear politicians who seem to get most of this it is heartening. Take Sen. Thompson's latest speech on this at The Citadel, which hearkens to many of the same things I have written over the past year or so. A few key ideas on this score from him are necessary, so I will extract a bit from his speech:

This is true in our day as well. But in some ways it runs against our nature to accept and deal with the world we live in. We're a free society, and it's not really in the character of free people to seek conflict. We prefer to go about the business of life - to work and raise our families in the security of communities achieved by hard-won struggles. And though these traits speak well of us, they are now being used by our enemies against us.

We are a nation that haphazardly maintains its borders in the face of mounting evidence that such an approach is irresponsible. It is border insecurity that failed us on the morning of 9/11. Thus, when darkness fell that day, a more terrible prospect loomed into view - that unless we are vigilant and prepared, even small actors in the world can inflict catastrophic harm on the United States.


It turned out to be a New World, all right - with new threats rising up in place of the old. Chief among them the threat of violent Islamic radicals - men who make the Soviets of the past seem like the model of reason and moderation. Today's threat is complex, dispersed, and opportunistic. The enemy observes no rules and no restraints of conscience.

The threat takes different forms - as a terrorist cell within the United States ... or a network similar to al Qaeda with ties to a nation-state ... or a nation-state itself, with the infrastructure and wealth needed to develop the most horrible weapons known to mankind.

But whatever form it takes, the great danger is terrorists or terrorist states with these weapons of mass destruction. To overcome this danger, we need a clear and consistent strategy, and the means to achieve it.

Whether we act in time to prevent the worst from happening will be the final measure of America's leadership in the world for years to come. With 9/11 still fresh in memory, it is for America to shape events, and not be left at their mercy. Wherever dangers appear, we must be prepared to meet them with clarity and resolve.


This radical threat we face today is committed to a hundred year war, and has been waging one against us for decades ... in Beirut, Somalia, embassies in Africa, Saudi Arabia, on the USS Cole. Each time Americans were killed. Yet each time our response sent the wrong signals. This is an enemy that understands only the language of power. Today, the focus of this war is Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is clear that this struggle and our enemies extend far beyond those borders. To defend ourselves, we in the democratic world must assert our intentions in the clearest possible terms.

Diplomacy, economic influence, and other means of persuasion are always to be preferred in our dealings with dangerous regimes and rival states. But the words of our leaders command much closer attention from adversaries when it is understood that we are prepared to use force when force is necessary. And for that deterrent to exist, the will of our people and the strength of our military must be unquestionable.


In my view, the first priority of the federal government is the defense and security of its citizens and should be reflected in everything we do in government. We must begin by rebuilding our military with the full recognition that national security comes at a price. It is measured in many ways. The most common is the amount of money we spend--indeed, the priority we make of it--as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

The U.S. has historically spent well over 5 percent of GDP on defense. During the Gulf War it was at 5.1%; during the Reagan build up it was over 6%; in 1968 it was over 8%; and during the Korean War it was well over 11%. However, defense spending declined significantly at the end of the Cold War to levels approaching 3% as we cashed in our so-called "peace dividend."
  • Our military forces were cut 30% on average.

  • The Army alone went from 18 active duty divisions to 10.

  • Our Air Force was drastically down-sized and it became difficult to even maintain a 300-ship Navy, much less the 600-ship Navy that Reagan once envisioned.

  • Our Research and Development programs were reduced, and we lost some of the world's best innovators.

  • And worse, we asked our young men and women to do more with less--less training dollars, less equipment, and less time at home with their families.
    So close and yet so far away. From a man who quotes Grotius, I am sure he would recognize this from On the Law of War and Peace, translated 1814 original 1625, Chapter 2:
    IV. From the law of nature then which may also be called he law of nations, it is evident that all kinds of war are not to be condemned. In the same manner, all history and the laws of manners of every people sufficiently inform us, that war is not condemned by the voluntary law of nations. Indeed Hermogenianus has said, that wars were introduced by the law of nations, a passage which aught to be explained somewhat differently from the general interpretation given to it. The meaning of it is, that certain formalities, attending war, were introduced by the law of nations, which formalities were necessary to secure the peculiar privileges arising out of the law. From hence a distinction, which there will be occasion to use hereafter, between a war with the usual formalities of the law of nations, which is called just or perfect, and an informal war, which does not for that reason cease to be just, or agreeable to right. For some wars, when made upon just grounds, though not exactly conformable, yet are not repugnant to the law, as will be explained more fully hereafter. By the law of the nations, says Livy, provision is made to repel force by arms; and Florentinus declares, that the law of nations allows us to repel violence and injury, in order to protect our persons.
    Grotius looks at what can be done with scripture and the law and sees that there is a difference between Nation state warfare and this other kind, that is done without formalities and without just cause arising from a Nation. This would be incorporated into Vattel's Law of Nations and into the English Common Law as seen by William Blackstone, each of which would give definition to those that wage illegitimate or, by Grotius, 'informal' war, as something that is outlaw - or 'outside the law'. There is no set law to go after outlaws, and their activity determines the level of effort needed to counter them: a few desperadoes in the wild west would only have 'Wanted Dead or Alive' posters put out, while the USSR would use the first paratroop drop to go after something it characterized as a 'Bandit Army' in 1929. From attacks by the US Navy and Marines against the Barbary Pirates to the hunting down of warlords across the world by regular armies to the 'reward if caught' deal, the Nation state has a wide variety of ways to counter those waging illegitimate war to their own ends. Pirates would be sunk, their land bases attacked and many given a single chance at pardon or punishment if pardon was ignored.

    We are not used to this in the modern era: individuals and groups seeking sanction to go after such individuals or groups, or just being rewarded if they are lucky enough to give information to the capture of same. From strafing runs in Iraq to the seige of Masada, those seen as as 'outlaws' end up getting some form of justice that is long lasting and that makes an impression. The worst get full military treatment if they can be cornered in their hideouts, but groups of Bounty Hunters, law men deputized to go after such, Privateers sailing the seas to find those that have attacked their Nation and people just seeing a decent reward for high risk have ALL done their service, across the board, throughout history. We tend to record and remember the big and exciting battles, and not care as much about the individuals brought in by concerned citizens or bounty hunters as the 'onsey-twosey' just doesn't make much of an impression until you realize an organization has been whittled down to near nothing due to this form of activity. Unglamorous killers brought in by normal folks makes a bit of a sensation these days, but less so in times past and, from that, we forget the good of the common man in keeping society safe.

    I actually do agree with Sen. Thompson on most of his outlook on a larger set of armed forces and revitalization of the military equipment base. I disagree that this needs to be utilized only against terrorist groups, mostly of the radical Islamic sort, but the increasing death toll due to others is also something that expands while we ignore it for the more flamboyant. My main disagreement comes in the National Security realm as the US armed forces depend heavily on satellite communications, imagery, data intercepts and other recon that it is now a single point of failure in everything from tracking and threat identification to GPS guided bombs. Nations like China and Russia have started to deploy ground and ballistic capability that can be turned against the suite of US satellites (and those of all other Nations) which would, at a single stroke, render our armed forces disorganized, disjointed, unable to easily track enemies or even find them for surveillance or bombing. The start of 21st century Nation state warfare now begins in space access and defense of that suite of high tech abilities without which the US armed forces would be impaired.

    This re-orientation of threat assessment must go on continuously, but the lack of attention paid to this, and having a fast and easily deployable set of satellites to give a 'down and dirty' workable backup is a sore point for the US. While not something that terrorists can do much about (save for somehow getting a high orbital nuclear device for an EMP burst), it is something that Nations will have in their arsenal to use for their own, National, needs. A sudden removal of such systems by ground based laser over a period of a day could presage an invasion of Taiwan, or move by Russia on re-incorporating Republics that left it after the fall of the USSR into a larger Nation. Such an opportunity would leave our ability to track terrorist organizations at a standstill, although it would also put a large part of the air and sea transport capability at risk, also. The diminishment of global trade due to such a situation and the lack of ready back-up for cyber communications makes such a scenario as deadly, if not moreso, than that of nuclear terror attack on the US: the world plunged into a global depression due to over-reliance on single-point of failure communications systems would be as bad if not worse, not only in lives lost but in the sudden breakdown of integrated supply systems.

    We may considers such a 'surprise attack' done by terrorists to be one of barbarism - that is their nature. When done by Nations, no good will come of *that* and the fabric of society will be put at risk when forced to use limited land and airborne communications modes to keep things running. Those older, wired systems are not set up for that sort of load and may, themselves, be rendered inoperative for a time by sudden overload of communications. Terrorism points out weak spots in how we perceive ourselves as part of a Nation. One job of the armed forces is to go after such miscreants, but the larger job is to protect us from the worse assaults that advanced Nations can muster to their own ends. Before the modern times we did not look ONLY to the military to protect us, and put in the Constitution the means for regular people to volunteer for nasty jobs the Nation needed done on a less than National level. Calling for an increase to Cold War era levels of spending does no good if it is spent only to go chasing after the hard to catch, and the back door to sudden collapse left open.

    Perhaps we can look to our Western heritage where communities and Nations joined together and put forth a multiplicity of ways to deal with those endangering us with illegitimate war. Beyond diplomacy and warfare there are these 'other ways' that individuals have contributed to bringing down such predators that feasted on the civilized without warrant or accountability. We dare not invest all our defenses to the Nation, as any Nation that can perfectly defend its people without need for them to do so, can also serve to enslave its people in a perfect manner by not recognizing the power of the Nation is its people, not its defenses alone.

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