It has been a while since my last post and I am refusing to go back to my ‘normal’ mode of life where there is a lack of thought and reflection. So here are somethings I have been reading on.
In any expeditionary campaign, the ability to project effective force to accomplish operational objectives, in order to fulfill strategic goals, showcases the reach of a global power. Genghis Khan did it with his marauders. His objectives were not to rule, conquer nor occupy. He may have thoughts of a great empire, but the Mongolians’ nomadic way of life does not allow him to crave out an empire outside his immediate families and trusted subordinates. Napoleon reached out with his combined military might and his empire stretched across Europe. This is, until he overstretched into Russia and the insurgencies in Spain sapped his strength just before his death. The United Kingdom, in Pax Britannia ruled over its empire of colonies with its navy as well as the Englishman’s ability to subject his colonies with an acceptable rule.
How fares the latest empire now, the United States? A most benign superpower the world has ever seen. Its enormous capability to industrialize itself during the two World Wars and technological advances enabled the US to project its forces to most parts of the world. However, is this force effective? Numerous examples from the Vietnam War, Iraq War and the current Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism operations has shown that the US has mixed results in influencing the targeted region and its people. They may have neutralized the armed forces, but the people of the region may not have been brought to heel.
The trend on insurgencies, asymmetric warfare and “hybrid wars” is not a new one. No matter what the operations has been called, conventional or counter-insurgency, war is war. War is the continuation of politics by other means. It is to force your will upon the adversary. War is not won until one side gives up. Unlike chess where the capture of the opponent’s king signals a victory and all pieces of the game are displayed clearly, war does not have an end otherwise defined by the players. Combatants of war are also not clearly demarcated as to which side they are in.
It becomes necessary for the military commander to understand the political and social objectives of his own own in order to determine the goals at which his forces and actions may be directed. He must also understand the adversary. To know the context in which the order side operates in, in order to force a situation in which his opponent deems his goals unachievable or too costly to be accomplished. Only then, can the commander of a force fulfill the national interests and deny his adversary his.