Sunday, May 17, 2009

Riskless War = Losing the High Ground

Small Wars Journal linked this story, Death From Above, Outrage Down Below by David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum in the New York Times Opinion Section.

Their opinion in part:

The appeal of drone attacks for policy makers is clear. For one thing, their effects are measurable. Military commanders and intelligence officials point out that drone attacks have disrupted terrorist networks in Pakistan, killing key leaders and hampering operations. Drone attacks create a sense of insecurity among militants and constrain their interactions with suspected informers. And, because they kill remotely, drone strikes avoid American casualties.

But on balance, the costs outweigh these benefits for three reasons...

This next story, goes hand in hand with Death from Above, Outrage down below, and how we are losing the war to win the hearts and minds of those we are supposed to help.
It begins:

With overwhelming firepower, Western armies rarely lose in combat to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. But in the communications battle, the militants appear to hold the edge. The gap has grown especially wide in the Afghan war zone, analysts say. Using FM transmitters, the Internet, and threatening notes known as "night letters" (TIME), Taliban operating from the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan have proven effective at either cowing citizens or winning them over to their message of jihad. U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke told journalists in March 2009 that "the information issue--sometimes called psychological operations or strategic communication" has become a "major, major gap to be filled" before U.S.-led forces can regain the upper hand.

Support for the arguments presented above, come from this earlier post at Small Wars Journal, Riskless War Technology, Coercive Diplomacy, and the Lure of Limited War by Dr. Douglas Peifer.

Peifer writes in part:

Few analysts dispute that robots and unmanned aerial and ground systems have already proven very useful at the tactical level, performing the dangerous jobs of IED disposal, minesweeping, and tactical reconnaissance; the dirty tasks of chemical and radiation detection; and the dull duties of aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and presence. Unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Reaper and Predator have rendered valuable support to ground troops engaged in urban combat, and are threatening to displace manned aircraft as the premier providers of air to ground “kinetic action” against insurgents and terrorists.iii Their growing effectiveness at the tactical level has led some to conclude that these systems will have a dramatic impact at the strategic level of war in the medium term future, as unmanned systems and robots become increasingly sophisticated and mainstream. The most enthusiastic visionaries proclaim that in the not so distant future, the United States will be able to wage remote-controlled wars entailing little risk to its military personnel or citizens. Wars, in the words of Peter Singer, will become a matter of “playing God from afar, just with unmanned weapon systems substituting for thunderbolts.”iv A writer for Harper’s, describing the “The Coming Robot Army,” predicts that “Within our lifetime, robots will give us the ability to wage war without committing ourselves to the human cost of actually fighting a war.”

Dr. Peifer draws upon historical examples of Western countries using what at the time were advanced technology to defeat less advanced defenses in order to impose sanctions, win concessions and punish insurgencies. By offering examples ranging from gunboat diplomacy to the use of air power by France and Great Britain to control and punish intransigent subjects in far flung colonies, Peifer builds a case that for the ineffectiveness of riskless war when trying to gain the loyalty and fidelity of those you are trying to bring into your tent.

Read the whole piece. Riskless War.

This all tracks to a couple of posts I had last week, Collateral Damage and A Soldier, His Rifle, His Courage. The current war in Afghanistan is more complicated than Iraq, where much of the country had the human and physical resources to grow and sustain itself as a functioning nation state. Afghanistan lacks all of the elements at this point in time to make that transition. Economy of Afghanistan, Education in Afghanistan, Transport in Afghanistan. If we are to make any kind progress we have to show the citizens of Afghanistan that connecting to the greater world community is better for their children, than what the Taliban offer. This requires not only confronting the Taliban with surgical kinetic force, but with an investment in human terms even greater than the surging battle force we have arrayed to date. The debate we need to have as a nation is whether we are willing to make the kind of investment in what can only be described as a Millennium Project, where we will attempt to move a country's infrastructure and level of connectivity forward 1000 years, in a few decades. The question is has anyone really asked the Afghan people if they want us to do that for them? Or just as importantly, where is the national discussion by our current leadership to convince Americans why Afghanistan matters?

I myself, find compelling arguments for staying. Convincing my fellow Americans is the job of our current administration, now tasked with explaining why we must persevere.

Mr. Obama's War? - Washington Post

No comments: