In the beginning was the deed… ‘war’. As strife is the fate and glory of mankind, to paraphrase the illustrious philosopher Heraclitus
The following text, written on July 3, 2007, is a slightly modified reply To Colonel Dr. David Kilcullen, the Australian advisor to General David Petraeus commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, on his paper New Paradigms for 21st Century Conflict, published on June 23, 2007 in Small Wars Journal blog.
By Con George-Kotzabasis
In the sad “roll call” of the heavy casualties that your brave soldiers are sustaining as a result of the initial mistakes of the occupation, your paper is most encouraging and sanguine with its fecund and rich crop of ideas and its attempt to “split the atom” of the conduct of war in the age of godly inspired global borderless anarchic terror. As you correctly point out, all the paradigms of past wars, in an era when one is fighting a shadowy not easily identified enemy clad in civilian clothes and not less frequently in women’s, with a deadly belt around their bi-gender midriffs, and whose mode of warfare is not to fight its foes openly and directly but stealthily, are completely obsolete. This is why the “ancien regime” of war paradigms must be overthrown, since the line of their success has reached the end of its tether.
The new regime of paradigms must have as constituent parts the art of diplomacy, political virtuosity, and military might. But its parts will not have equal value. The enemy we are engaged with is not a rational enemy, but an irrational one of whose fighting fervor and suicidal attacks emanate from his perceived special relationship with his God. Hence, he is not prone to listen to the calls of “earthly” reason, since he only listens to the calls of an “afterlife”. He cannot be pacified by diplomatic and political concessions or by economic rewards, and he will accept the latter only as a respite that will enable him to build his forces for future attacks. Nor will he be “contained” in his aggressive actions by the threat of overwhelming military force, and indeed, not even by nuclear deterrence, as a rational actor would. In such a conflict, diplomacy and politics will play an auxiliary part to the primary and vital part of the military. And in this “unholy” trinity, it will be the military that will be calling the shots. If in past, more transcendental philosophical times, the goal was for philosopher-kings to rule, in our, more down to earth and dangerous times, it will be soldier-savants in the major part that will determine the strategies and the course of war. Political elites will have the important quest and duty of (a) bringing together a notable alliance of nations against the jihadists and the states that support them, (b) supplying their military the material and spiritual wherewithal to wage war, and in the case of America, the Commander-In-Chief by exercising his constitutional right wisely in his selection and appointment of the best commanders on the ground render to them the freedom and the discretion to use the appropriate methods and armaments, that will defeat the enemy, as it’s the vocation of soldiers to wage and win wars not the politicians, and (c) along with the media, will have the historical responsibility to unify their people behind the great and Herculean task of their armed forces.
The primary and pivotal role that the military will have in this conflict rises from the nature and characteristics of this, unarguably, long war. First, the latter is not only global but also borderless. Strategically, it’s the ultimate absurdity when the terrorists or insurgents can find safe haven by crossing the borders of the country where they are waging war, that the nations that are engaged in war with them should continue to respect the national sovereignty of nations that allow their enemies to enter and use their own territories as safety zones and conduits of military supplies. (The strategic mistakes of the Vietnam War and the Cambodian sanctuary must not be repeated.) Those who are fighting them must pursue them over the border and destroy them. If international armed outlaws can cross the borders of sovereign nations then the lawful nations who are trying to apprehend them and punish them, have every right to cross these borders too. And the commanders on the ground will decide when to do so on the spot and expeditiously without being obstructed by the dilatoriness of political and legal deliberations. The nations that ostensibly are against terror, must sign a covenant with those nations whose armed forces are engaged in war against it, that they will allow these forces to cross their borders whenever their commanders on the ground consider this to be necessary.
Secondly, because of the simplicity in launching their lethal attacks-it takes only a “girdle” to spread havoc-this is an anarchic terror with no central command to plan its attacks. Every ordinary humdrum fanatic can find few brothers in their desire to pursue the seventy-two virgins. The Islamist fanatics like bin Laden and Zawahiri are not leaders in control of their forces, but sorcerer’s apprentices who have released the genii of terror without being able to control its actions that politically and strategically would have maximum impact. This is illustrated by many examples, the latest ones are Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, and the terrorist group in Palestine who hold the British correspondent and who refuse to obey the orders of Hamas. And, indeed, this anarchic element of terror could be its Achilles’ heel. As strategically commanders who lose control of their troops are bound in the end to lose the war.
Of course, as you correctly point out, their leaders will use even these random actions of the terrorists in their propaganda to influence people in the West. And it might be true that their propaganda is on the winning side, but this not due to their cleverness but to the fact of the openness and transparency of democratic societies of whose political, media, and public response is so predictable. This multi-celled terror whose cells are spread in many parts of the world, both in Muslim countries and in the Muslim diaspora that has flooded the West, can only be dealt effectively by military and special forces led by their commanders on the ground improvising the best tactical responses and techniques that will cower and destroy this cellular body of terror. It’s therefore the nature and the long duration of this war that makes the paramountcy of the military the sine qua non for the defeat of this global menace.
THE BOOMERANG OF TERROR
Moreover, psychologically and strategically, it’s of the utmost necessity to transplant the fear of terror into the hearts of the terrorists themselves. As only this boomerang of terror can defeat terror. This can be accomplished, as I had suggested six years ago (This proposal was sent to the Whitehouse on November, 2001), by setting up a covert global operational plan that will enlist the best active and non-active soldiers from an international pool and deploy them as hit squads. This clandestine group of transnational condottieri will aim at the elimination of the jihadist leaders as well as the religious radical preachers, wherever they happen to reside in the East or in the West. In my opinion it’s a stupendous folly while your soldiers are fighting the insurgents and terrorists in the foreground of battle to allow your “rear” to be inundated by a proliferation of fanatic recruits that are sired in rabbit numbers in the background of the Mosques and the madrassas which continue to supply the ranks of the terrorists with new recruits in greater numbers than you can eliminate them. The unanswerable as yet question is whether the leaders of Western civilization will have the mettle and sagacity to use uncivilized methods and means to defeat this barbaric horde, whose eschatological goal is to put an end to civilized life. One must be “brutally unsentimental’ as to the use of the instruments of war, to quote Roy Jenkins from his magisterial biography of Winston Churchill, as the latter was in the use of poison gas in the First World War.
Finally, your concept of “anthropology”, that sheds like a beacon its light upon the turbulent sea of terror, searching not only for the causes of this turbulence but also for the social, civil, and political unrest and repercussions upon people who breathe this terror day and night, and how the counterinsurgency should address them, is most interesting. And it’s cheering and heartening to see that your new tactics to clear and hold and isolate the insurgents from the civilian population show some positive signs in the al Anbar province. I would only couple it with its other half “anthropotheology”, since this martyr’s terror is mainly fuelled with the fire of Allahu Akbar.
I also agree entirely with our confrere in this discussion, Hawkwood.
Well done, Dr. Kilcullen
Delenda est Carthago