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August 16, 2007

The Ultimate Asymmetric Advantage
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

From a recent articleby Robert Kaplan (ah, my love-hate relationship with Kaplan) His prose is beautiful here, and the implications of his thesis are as urgent as they are alarming:

"Jihad as practiced, not as theorized, places more emphasis on the “mystical dimension” of sacrifice than on any tactical or strategic objective. Jihad is most often an act of individual exultation rather than of collective action, observes Olivier Roy in The Failure of Political Islam (1994). It is “an affair between the believer and God and not between the believer and his enemy. There is no obligation to obtain a result. Hence the demonstrative, even exhibitionist, aspects of the attacks......

...The suicide bomber is the distilled essence of jihad, the result of an age when the electronic media provides an unprecedented platform for exhibitionism."

AND so much for airpower:

"But our near obsession with finding ways to kill others at no risk to our own troops is a sign of strength in our eyes alone. To faithful or merely nationalist enemies, it is a sign of weakness, even cowardice."


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Kaplan speaks like a warrior. I wonder if he ever has been one, and thereby really learned something, or simply is now hanging out with them as a wannabe.

Kaplan: The key element in judging the future of national militaries, however, will not be their order of battle or their weaponry. It will be the civilian-military relationship in each particular country. . . . A military will not continue to fight and fight well for a society that could be losing faith in itself, even if that society doffs its cap now and again to its warrior class.

Kaplan quotes, appovingly, a Colonel Wheeler: “Decadence” is the essential condition of “a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war.” By eliminating war as a possibility, “it has nothing left to fight and sacrifice for, and thus no longer wants to make a difference.”

Kaplan again: When pleasure and convenience become values in and of themselves, false ends displace necessary means. It is as Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz said: While a good society should certainly never want to go to war, it must always be prepared to do so. But a society will not fight for what it believes, if all it believes is that it should never have to fight.

Well, give me the "decadent" societies, which are most of the countries in the world today, rather than the neocon 'jihad' to change the world. Give me Switzerland, and the Irish Republic, and Mexico, etc., and most of all a peaceful America. Then, if America is peaceful, it won't have to deal with asymmetric warfare as a matter of course.

Exactly Don. Kaplan is on the side of those who believe that "war is the health of the state"; that blood is life and peace is death; that one is either conquering or being conquered. He thus stands opposed to those of us who hold out hope that over the course of ages, human civilization can be pacified, and that pacification would be the ultimate good thing.

It's interesting how the lovers of war and preachers of the nobility and moral excitement of conflict rarely seem to argue for a return to violence and division where peace and unity have already been achieved. Nobody thinks that it would be a swell thing if Kansas and Missouri went at it again, or Pennsylvania and Virginia. Wherever violent human conflict has been pacified, it is almost universally recognized as a very good thing. It's always just the current conflicts that are extolled.

His remarks about the nature of jihadist terrorism paint with far too broad a brush. There is no question that some terrorists, particularly suicide bombers, are drawn to the expressive, devotional, almost sacramental aspect of terrorism and sacrificial death. But those are just a few of the more fanatical pawns of a much broader jihadist movement. And it is clear that movement, contains many people who think tactically and strategically, make rational long-term plans, and are indeed quite motivated by the results they seek to achieve.

By the way, Kaplan was once a soldier. He was in the Israeli army.

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