vimothy

yurp
Or the idea that the existence of nuclear weapons would scare the world into renouncing state-on-state violence altogether.

The existence of nukes certainly has something to do with the declining incidence of state-on-state war. See for instance, the Korean War, whose strategic logic was decisively altered by the entry of a second nuclear power, China, into the conflict.

And so there are nuclear weapons, which make (conventional, high intensity) wars between states possessing them redundant. Or so it seems. And given the overwhelming military dominance of the US and its allies, states without nukes will leverage up by waging unconventional war, or “wars among the people”, in General Sir Rupert Smith’s phrase, and so, extrapolating, every future war will look like some mix of occupation Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon ’06. Additionally, war is no longer fought to destroy the enemy, but to “but to create a condition in which the strategic result is achieved, the strategic object being to alter the opponent’s intentions rather than to destroy him” (Smith).

Furthermore, the emerging constitutional order, the market state, has unique vulnerabilities, as well as providing unique opportunities to its enemies (for example, the commoditisation of WMD). The market state will therefore call forth a unique opponent: a multinational, globalised terror network that mimics the market state, at once its apogee and its antithesis. And the functional logic of Al Qaeda, the nascent form of this terror network, is no different from our own: to create the strategic conditions necessary for success, rather than to destroy us.

If we want to make the distinction (and it is probably a useful one) per Colin Gray, war will always be war, but something very interesting is happening to warfare. And we should not abandon our conventional capacities (especially the UK, which has little resources for anything else), but that level of conventional capacity (plus nukes) nevertheless makes its use unlikely. So we are left with Smith’s wars amongst the people and Bobbit’s market state terrorism, two interrelated problems for which our institutions were not designed and are poorly equipped to deal with.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
See for instance, the Korean War, whose strategic logic was decisively altered by the entry of a second nuclear power, China, into the conflict.

the Chinese didn't have nuclear weapons during the Korean War*. the main - & quite reasonable concern - was was the sheer mass of China's army & obv it's proximity to vs. the U.S.' distance from the conflict.

*the Soviets did (tho barely) - I'm unclear on how much American policy in Korea was influenced by that fact

...and so, extrapolating, every future war will look like some mix of occupation Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon ’06.

I"m sorry but that is a ridiculous extrapolation to make. aside from the general absurdity of making a statement like "every future war will look like...", I mean. precluding the (very real) possibilities of a future China/U.S. war, Pakistan/India, Russia/China, etc etc it also, of course, ignores the (vast majority of) wars which are fought between non-nuclear states & non-state actors. as well the recent, largely conventional Russian/Georgian conflict.

Additionally, war is no longer fought to destroy the enemy, but to “but to create a condition in which the strategic result is achieved, the strategic object being to alter the opponent’s intentions rather than to destroy him”

again, this is just flatly wrong. or rather, the "no longer". that has always been the case. it's not some radical new development.

the emerging constitutional order, the market state, has unique vulnerabilities, as well as providing unique opportunities to its enemies (for example, the commoditisation of WMD). The market state will therefore call forth a unique opponent: a multinational, globalised terror network that mimics the market state, at once its apogee and its antithesis.

this argument I'm more amenable to. the bit about the market state creating its own enemy is especially interesting.

still I have to disagree w/re to AQ - there is a very important difference between functional logic that works within realistic limitations & actually desiring to create conditions necessary for success rather than destroy "us". or - that shit is more complicated than just that.

also, all wars are "among the people". I reckon this a common mistake amateurs like us make.
 

vimothy

yurp
Sorry, that bit about China was incoherent. The arrival of China changed the strategic logic, such that to fail to do so (that is, to fail to change our strategic logic) was to use the nuclear bomb. Which was never actually that easy anyway (see this).

And the bit about extrapolating is supposed to be ridiculous. It is a joke!
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Sorry, that bit about China was incoherent. The arrival of China changed the strategic logic, such that to fail to do so (that is, to fail to change our strategic logic) was to use the nuclear bomb.

right, that makes considerably more sense.

along similar lines is the consideration of nuclear weapons by the Israeli leadership (Meir, Dayan, etc.) at the most desperate moment of the of Yom Kippur/October War. tho where the American threat was obv directed at China (& the Soviets) in the Israeli case it was, maybe not a threat, but a message for the U.S., which was dragging its feet about resupply & weapons shipments - a kind of "you'll drive us it to it" kinda thing. tho the Israelis may have also been serious about the nukes - there was a really feeling of hysteria for a moment there.

And the bit about extrapolating is supposed to be ridiculous. It is a joke!

well I look like a right arse now don't I. thing is, I read totally straight-faced things written along those - or other equally ridiculous lines - so often that I guess it's hard to tell when it's just taking the piss.

especially interested to hear your thoughts, or those of other regulars (Mr. BoShambles if he's around, Scott, Josef & Nomad if they're not too busy w/Badiou, etc), as well as anyone else on, the topic of environmental degradation & its future implications for security & stability. and related matters...
 

vimothy

yurp
The distinction between conventional and unconventional is not necessarily helpful here (and indeed, perhaps not even coherent in any case, if you read Stephen Biddle’s research). Better to talk of industrial war versus wars among the people. In industrial war the objective is to take and hold territory, to destroy the enemy’s capacity to resist (which is to say, his equipments and materiel). Industrial war is a straight trial of strength. Are you sure that there is no qualitative difference between the type of war that WWII represents and the type of war that was fought between Russian and Georgian forces, or between Israel and Hezbollah? The distinction of note is not between the scale of forces or a possibly nonexistent distinction between conventional and unconventional arms, but between the uses of force in those cases. To what strategic ends was force used by Israel and Russia?

In any case, these are, after all, only ideas… though there is of course a purpose to thinking differently, which is acting differently, and making our institutions act differently. Rather that than convincing ourselves that their function remains the same, that nothing ultimately changes (Agincourt equals Waterloo which equals the Somme) and that the last half century has been a weird interregnum about to pass into irrelevance. At least, this is my tentative conclusion.

Does anything need to change? I think it does. What is the source of this change? The world is changing, and warfare is changing with it, as it always has, as it always will. What is the source of the disjuncture? Our institutions were designed to do something else (i.e. destroy a peer in the shortest time possible). It is not the nature or constitution of force that is changing (i.e. conventional vs. unconventional vs. hybrid war), but the uses that force is put to. Ultimately, it’s on policy makers, not soldiers.

also, all wars are "among the people". I reckon this a common mistake amateurs like us make.

Possibly, though it is not my phrase but the phrase of a British General with forty years of service to his name.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
The existence of nukes certainly has something to do with the declining incidence of state-on-state war. See for instance, the Korean War, whose strategic logic was decisively altered by the entry of a second nuclear power, China, into the conflict.

Nuh-uh, Korean War was early '50s, China didn't get the bomb until 1964.

Edit: bollocks, should learn to read threads before replying!

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vimothy said:
And the functional logic of Al Qaeda, the nascent form of this terror network, is no different from our own: to create the strategic conditions necessary for success, rather than to destroy us.

Ha, so AQ's mission is all about 'winning hearts and minds'? Or, as they would put it perhaps, 'souls'? ;)
 
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vimothy

yurp
Well, they are certainly trying to change intentions, rather than destroy forces or take and hold territory.

Anyway, good to see that everyone is up on their history of nuclear proliferation!

well I look like a right arse now don't I. thing is, I read totally straight-faced things written along those - or other equally ridiculous lines - so often that I guess it's hard to tell when it's just taking the piss.

I was just being a twat. It passes the time. I figured that it was so ridiculous that it would be obvious that I wasn’t being serious, but I guess you are right and that people do make massive generalisations about the likelihood that what is happening right now will be happening in the future as well. But I think that both sides (and perhaps these are also somewhat artificial distinctions) in the future war debate – COIN versus conventional – are guilty of the same fault. Conventional people say “we’re only doing COIN because of some ill-advised imperial adventure, and anyway, there’s no way of guaranteeing that we won’t need to fight a peer or near peer in the future.” COIN people say “yeah but policy makers make the rules, and we need the capacity to fulfil them, so there’s no way of guaranteeing that we won’t need to use COIN in the future.”

COIN crowd = in the future everything will look like this. Conventional crowd = ditto. But the purpose of conflict – that is something else. We are very good at conventional war. We are not so good at unconventional war (and perhaps this is not so terrible). Here, then, is some leverage. Our enemies can operate beneath the threshold of the utility of our forces. But even when they do not, that is, even when conventional armies fight (as in the Russia-Georgia War), the strategic logic is distinct from the strategic logic of industrial war.

especially interested to hear your thoughts, or those of other regulars (Mr. BoShambles if he's around, Scott, Josef & Nomad if they're not too busy w/Badiou, etc), as well as anyone else on, the topic of environmental degradation & its future implications for security & stability. and related matters...

Bobbit lists three related problems characteristic of the vulnerabilities of market states: globalised terrorism, proliferation of WMD, and environmental disaster and degradation. I expect it to be as important as the first two.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
yeah I reckon that unconventional/conventional bit is misleading, that was my point.

Are you sure that there is no qualitative difference between the type of war that WWII represents and the type of war that was fought between Russian and Georgian forces, or between Israel and Hezbollah?

not sure how I said that. but at the most basic level, no, there isn't. again, it is a matter of how, not what.

To what strategic ends was force used by Israel and Russia?

well the Russians certainly weren't trying to win hearts & minds. that's perhaps not the best example tho, as the 2nd Chechen War seems to have been as much about reasserting Russia's status (& for revenge - irrational, if calculated) as it was about putting down the Chechens & strategic goals. the Israelis are, as ever, more complicated - tho Lebanon 82 was definitely about destroying the PLO (among other things); it devolved into a badly run counterinsurgency against the Shi'ites but that wasn't deliberate. Lebanon 06 may have been more of a deterrent but I reckon it was still fundamentally about inflicting damage on Hizballah more than winning hearts & minds.

the United States' recent campaigns are better examples of what you're trying to get at I think.

It is not the nature or constitution of force that is changing (i.e. conventional vs. unconventional vs. hybrid war), but the uses that force is put to. Ultimately, it’s on policy makers, not soldiers.

agree with this. meaning policy makers both civilian and military.
 

vimothy

yurp
Not hearts and minds; the question is "the utility of force" (force is used to create conditions: Leb '06 was about using force to create certain conditions).

This is the distinction I am trying to make between industrial war and wars amongst the people. "Conventional" takes meaning depending on context. Leb 06 was a war fought with the goal of changing the internal political logic of Lebanon, i.e. to force the Lebanese government to take ownership of HA. It has many conventional aspects, but ultimately it is qualitatively different from an industrial war like WWII in that the use of force is different.
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
We are very good at conventional war. We are not so good at unconventional war (and perhaps this is not so terrible). Here, then, is some leverage. Our enemies can operate beneath the threshold of the utility of our forces. But even when they do not, that is, even when conventional armies fight (as in the Russia-Georgia War), the strategic logic is distinct from the strategic logic of industrial war.

this is indeed a huge problem of which many people - including policy makers & those who influence them - are aware of I think.

you're probably familiar with the infamous 2002 wargame wherein a retired Marine general smashed up a high-tech USN force using exactly those kinds of low-tech "dirty tricks". rather awesomely the Navy (or the DOD, not clear) decided to restart the game with new rules. just like real life, of course.

the problem is, I reckon - to figure out a way to effectively fight threats "beneath the threshold" without having to give up those enormous advantages that conventional superiority offers, or at least not too much.

also, Biddle? Bobbin? anything specific you'd recommend?
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Not hearts and minds; the question is "the utility of force" (force is used to create conditions: Leb '06 was about using force to create certain conditions).

but there have always been wars fought for limited objectives. tho I don't think that's quite what you mean either.

I think a huge difference between Israeli/Lebanon I & II is that the intervening experiences (occupation 82-85 & the subsequent creation of/low-scale war with Hizballah, Intifada I & the rise of Hamas, Intifada II, also the near-miss peace process w/the PLO) had made the Israelis much warier & deflated some of the insane hubris that that built-up '48-82.

again, I don't think it invalidates your point so much as it's not the best example.
 

vimothy

yurp
For Biddle, the monograph on Leb 06 that I linked to upthread is fantastic -- the second best thing I've ever read about the conflict (this is the best). His book is a social science wet dream approach to strategic studies, complete with technical appendices and lots of measurement. He has a chapter in this, which is a shorter but cogent introduction to his thesis.

For Bobbit. Read this. It's fucking fantastic. (See also the hilariously negative review by John Robb at the bottom of the page).

For Smith, I'm referring to this. It's required reading for British officers, and it wouldn't surprise me if that were true for US officers as well. AM certainly thinks very highly of it.
 

vimothy

yurp
but there have always been wars fought for limited objectives.

Of course, this is true, but we developed our armed forces and related institutions, both that govern their use and that with them form parts of the military intervention process (MoD, the military, intelligence, diplomacy and development agencies, the military-industrial complex, and so on), for a different type of war, for a "conventional" war, an industrial, high intensity war against a peer or near peer, where the goal was to smash his armed forces in a test of brute power. Hence, e.g., RMA.

Now the situation appears to be different, and for a variety of reasons (nuclear weapons, the redundancy of conventional capacity against the superpower, the expansion of telecommunications networks, the proliferation of international law and norms, the emergence of the market state, and so on). We need conventional capacity, but we will not necessarily use it in a way that is conventional (although, confusingly, this might also depend on one’s definition of “conventional”).
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Vim, that article on MC02 is one of the more interesting things I've read in a while, ta for that.
 
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josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
again, warfare will change - is always changing - but not War. I believe that is a crucial distinction.

War as a transhistorical invariant... the pure and empty form of war... modulates and mutates. It isn't clear whether it is itself the motor of change, or the effect of changes... whether it is driving history, or being driven by a complex of factors too complex to account for. Tolstoy's final argument in War and Peace is that war is a kind of emergent phenomena, that occurs as the result of the interactions of individuals... tiny gestures, adding-up. You can see this with regards to the idea of gender war: men are not exactly at war with women, but the adoption of individual strategies, according to a more-or-less consistent pattern, in a series of situations produces a more general antagonism...
 

vimothy

yurp
men are not exactly at war with women, but the adoption of individual strategies, according to a more-or-less consistent pattern, in a series of situations produces a more general antagonism...

That is, conflict.
 

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
Yes... now, it stands to reason that, with new forms of technology (new forms of association and technologically-supported intimacy) new kinds of conflicts arise. And therefore, new forms of war...

Re: the State. Van Creveld's book "The Rise and Decline of the State" has a paradoxical title... in some sense obscured by his own historical schema (the State rises, then declines). From a contemporary perspective, the power of the State seems simultaneously on the rise and in decline: it has a new set of powers (massively amplified surveillance capacities), but has lost some of its old ones (monopoly of ideology in the form of the Nation, monopoly of violence with the rise of the terrorist/partisan/psychopath).

The increased bandwidth of the spectacle is also significant, and seems to have produced new forms of media war.

The fact that every major state with serious geopolitical ambitions, from Russia to Iran, to China, and beyond, now possesses a satellite television channel is related to this development. Does it represent a shift? When ideology is being disseminated from screens - rather, for instance, in Churches, or schools (Until the mass slaughter of World War I, Hans Magnus Enzensberger points out, secondary school pupils had to learn the notorious verse from Horace according to which is sweet and honourable to die for one's fatherland) changes something.

There is an interesting interview by Rene Girard on related themes available here.

Enzensbergers "The Radical Loser" is also worth reading.
 

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
And the functional logic of Al Qaeda, the nascent form of this terror network, is no different from our own: to create the strategic conditions necessary for success, rather than to destroy us.

It is interesting to consider that Al-Qaeda might be a nascent and embryonic form of a much more powerful global network to come...
 

vimothy

yurp
I am familiar with Enzensberger's classic essay (it is excellent). And with Van Crevald'. The state is indeed dying, but the state has died before, numerous times. As you note, the state is actually changing; its designation as "dying" depends on a limited definition of the state, namely, as a nation state. The nation state followed other constitutional orders. It is itself in the process of being replaced. And that process is fraught with potential problems.

It is interesting to consider that Al-Qaeda might be a nascent and embryonic form of a much more powerful global network to come...

Surely that is inevitable. Think for instance, of the implications of free -- and black -- markets in biological and chemical weapons.
 
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