P. Edronkin

Has The Time Come For A Change In Strategy?

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The U.S. army is incredibly powerful against conventional enemies, yet it shows poor performance in unconventional warfare. Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq (second edition) seems to show one thing: Guerrilla fighters are exceedingly difficult to exterminate even with the most up-to-date technology, enormous budgets and the whole will of a nation. Guerrillas or terrorist groups that are highly motivated and able to blend with the local - supportive, let's face it - population outperform any technology or any military deep pocket, and indeed, even in the home front of highly developed countries, the motivation of the people that actually support armies is paramount.

The issue now is that after three repeated defeats - let's face this too bluntly - a change in military and the related political and strategic mindset seems long overdue. Why haven't the lessons of the Vietnam war settled in or why have they been forgotten?

It seems pretty obvious right now, but even the simplest things are exceedingly hard to achieve in the realm of warfare: Forces like the U.S. military, that have strategic compromises all around a world that offers or provokes very different scenarios cannot remain attached to a single doctrine based on the use of technology, for this works only when adversaries fight also using technology.

But when enemies choose to use old rifles and rocket launchers; when they resort to old fashioned sandals instead of Gore-Tex boots and bullet proof vests, things should be done differently.

Moreover: The majority of unstable regions are likely now to evolve into warfare scenarios much like Iraq, and lots of friends and enemies are surely looking at Bhagdad, Basra and Ramadi and learning quite a few lessons. The war in Iraq has tremendously weakened the perception of military power that the United States always intended to portray, for as tragic as the loss of more than three thousand soldiers is, in purely material numbers doesn't mean much for an army that is capable of deploying hundreds of thousands more. Yet, those deaths are politically effective.

The U.S. army as well as any other free world force will likely have to evolve and develop something more than the now almost traditional Green Berets and other special forces intended to actually train native battalions. Instead, full-scale military units should be trained and prepared to fight like guerrilla fighters themselves. There seems no other way to defeat those shadowy enemies.

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