Thursday, May 05, 2011

War gets Personal

The death of Osama bin Laden marks a change in the nature of warfare, but for a different reason than most people think.

For most of history, war was a personal affair in which a king and his colourful knights would attack another political leader and his retinue. Most kings could not afford a large number of troops, so the armies involved were quite small. Battles could last for several years, but were usually quite localised.

The ordinary people were not affected, unless they lived close to the battlefield, and they would be given plenty of time to flee. Kings often had to borrow from banks to pay their soldiers, so they were often quite stingy. The greatest threat to the lives of ordinary people came from looting by soldiers who had not been paid or supplied with provisions.

The nature of warfare changed dramatically changed during the nineteenth century when the concept of total war emerged when entire nations began to join in battle with another battle. War ceased being a contest between two kings and became a struggle between nations. Kings fight over territory. Nations tend to fight over causes, and everyone is drawn into the cause.

Huge armies were formed as ordinary people commit to the cause, because they are persuaded that life and security depended on security. Non-combatants were expected to support the war effort by reducing their consumption and manufacturing weapons and equipment for the army. Civilians became target for artillery and bombs. In total war, the number of civilian casualties far exceeds the number of military casualties.

The American Civil War started the trend toward total war, but it really came to fullness in the first and second world wars. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the futility of this type of war and we will see a switch back to much more personal wars. Conflicts between nations will be replaced by more focussed personal struggles between political or military leaders, as sophisticated military equipment makes personal warfare feasible.
We have just seen personal warfare being worked out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whereas a hundred thousand troops have failed to achieve their objective, a small team of loyal followers directed by the president has been able to take out the leader of the enemy force.

The same thing will probably happen in Libya. Britain, Italy and France do not want to invade the country, because the cost would be too great, but they hope to change the situation on the ground by killing Muammar Gadhafi. A couple of attempts to bomb his compound have failed, but they will eventually succeed. If not an American drone will do the job.

In the next few years, personal warfare will become more common. They deaths of Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gadhafi will make the killing of wicked dictators and evil military leaders morally acceptable. The development of unmanned predator drones and mobile strike teams will make it an efficient way to remove evil leaders from the world. Personal attacks against undesirable political leaders will become an effective tool for projecting American force in the world. The fear of a personal strike will cause many hostile leaders to submit to American policies.

In the film Waterloo, General Wellington refused permission to an artillery officer wanted to fire long range shot at Napoleon. He is heard saying, "Leaders of armies have better things to do than fire at each other!" That has now changed. Many political leaders believe that best thing to do is to kill the leader of a troublesome nation.

A return to personal wars fought between kings will not bring peace to the world. Total war may decline, but Fourth Generation War will increase, producing massive casualties throughout the world.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...The development of unmanned predator drones and mobile strike teams will make it an efficient way to remove evil leaders from the world..."

America is, largely, in no position to judge the leaders of other countries. I think it is terrible that we summarily executed OBL. We should have captured and tried him, Nuremburg style.

(Aside, I agree with others that OBL has been dead for nearly 10 years, and that the lack of photos and quick disposal of his body were to prevent us from seeing that a dupe/double was murdered in his stead. And, I believe OBL's statements that he had nothing to do with 9/11. 9/11 has CIA/Pentagon/White House/Mossad fingerprints all over it).

I eagerly await the failure of our fiat money system, and all the attendant evils that follow, such as expensive drones and expensive campaigns in distant lands.

Blessed Economist said...

War is almost impossible to justify.