Wars of the Weak and the Powerful
After September 11, 2002, the United States as global peacekeeper has become untenable: morally, financially, and politically. Washington is not an impartial arbiter and enforcer of global peace and security. It is a globocop (police of the world) but a selective one. No longer does it maintain the pretension of being willing to "bear any burden" or "pay any price", but instead has become highly selective about where and when it intervenes. Evaluations of U.S. national interests and the potential for U.S. casualties are primary considerations. Don't count on the globocop to stop genocide in a backwater state like Rwanda, where U.S. interests are few.
As the U.S. government finds itself overextended and despised in world opinion for its superpower hubris, America's post-World War II commitment to multilateralism in the cause of world peace are being revisited. Paying its UN dues and respecting the UN process are Washington's required first steps. But positive (consulting international institutions) leadership will be needed to meet the multiple challenges of global peace and security.
On a regional level, Washington itself must encourage the transition away from U.S. dominance by encouraging European Union governments in their new efforts to forge a common foreign policy and collective security routine, by either abolishing NATO or looking eastward to include Russia, and by promoting the establishment of an Asian common security agreement that would include both Japan and China. Globally, the challenge is to use U.S. influence to jump-start structural reform at the UN, sorely needed to make it a more credible and effective institution. In other words, U.S. leadership is required to help establish the processes and methods that will diminish its central role in global governance and make room for a multipolar world-one in which U.S. leadership is valued more for its wisdom than feared for its raw power.
Closely related to collective security governance is respect for international norms like human rights. No other country is as outspoken about civil liberties and democracy as the United States. The State Department's annual human rights reports offer regular and often harsh criticism of abusive practices around the world, and the president and other administration officials routinely scold other heads of state for human rights abuses at summits and regional forums. However, at the same time, no other nation is more responsible than the USA for the failure of the international community to establish respect for civil liberties as a fundamental norm. After a half century, the U.S. still has not ratified one of the two Geneva human rights accords, and recently Washington has sought to undermine accords banning land mines, prohibiting the use of child soldiers, and establishing an international criminal court. Rather than being an operative principle of U.S. foreign policy, advancing human rights is part of the U.S. foreign policy toolbox, increasingly used during the past two decades, although only selectively and rarely against countries regarded to be strategically or economically important. The credibility of U.S. human rights policy is further undermined by U.S. unwillingness to subject itself to scrutiny of its own practices.
Although an institutional framework is critical to global governance-whether economic, political, or military-the widespread acceptance of international norms such as basic human rights and core labor rights is also a fundamental component. Rather than obstructing attempts to strengthen international norms and insisting on U.S. exceptionalism, the United States should recognize that its broader national interests would be well-served by efforts to extend these dimensions of global governance.
A critical component of the U.S. leadership challenge is to build public support for global governance. In part, this will mean giving up some U.S. control over these institutions and encouraging a new leadership role for major powers like Japan and Germany as well as Southern nations. It is likely, however, that the United States will get more than it gives in any expansion of global governance. Given its pervasive economic interests and increasing dependence on international transactions, the United States stands to benefit from the kind of global governance that keeps national economies afloat in times of crisis, encourages sustainable development, fosters equitable economic growth in the South, and keeps trade disputes from degenerating into destructive protectionism or conflict. Similarly, regional collective security arrangements-together with a more effective UN peacekeeping capacity-would free the U.S. government (and its taxpayers) to shift budget priorities from military obligations to programs that meet domestic needs and promote the general welfare of the global community.
The U.S. as propagated by inner circles in Washington should also be acting globally to advance international environmental norms and to help less privileged nations meet those norms. But the key role the U.S. government and its citizens can play is to alter America's unsustainable patterns of consumption-and in that process to advance the development of environmental technology and more sustainable systems of production.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has more than once said: the United States is the "indispensable nation". Although the broad political, economic, and environmental context is much the same the world over, America, according to Albright, is the only country with the power and influence to shape the course of global affairs. No other country or grouping of nations has emerged to assume the kind of global leadership routinely practiced by the United States. In the last decade, America has used its superpower status to extend its economic and military dominance and has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to use this power unilaterally to meet perceived threats to its hegemony.
To a large degree, how the U.S. government defines its "national interests" and regards its "national security" determines the way it exercises its leadership. Thus far it has opted for a narrow definition of national interests and a broad definition of national security. Increasingly, the United States regards its national interests as the economic interests of corporate America: what's good for U.S.-based global corporations is good for America. More difficult to define is the current concept of national security; although it clearly extends far beyond the U.S. government's sovereign right to defend national borders. During the cold war the United States defined national security largely in terms of containing communism and fortifying the "free world".
The collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any downsizing of national security doctrine; on the contrary, U.S. national security was globalized. Today, the major components of U.S. national security include the right to maintain overwhelming U.S. military superiority, to intervene decisively throughout the world, and to identify and target threats to global stability. William D. Hartung of the World Policy Institute concludes that the United States seeks to "retain the capability to serve as a sort of 'globocop', charging to the rescue to restore order, stability, and 'free markets' when they are threatened by the forces of evil and chaos".
Washington has taken advantage of the unipolar conditions of the first post-cold war decade to assert and extend its dominance rather than to support the institutions and international relations necessary to decrease dependence on U.S. might. Charles W. Maynes of the Eurasia Foundation calls this "negative leadership". He argues that because the United States currently enjoys such a surplus of power, "it is now possible for Washington to have a very ambitious foreign policy and still remain unilateral in its approach toward the outside world. The United States is perhaps now the only country in the world that can, to a very significant measure, get its way internationally if it is absolutely determined to bend others to its will". In the process, Washington has dashed the near-term prospects for building a world order distinguished by multilateralism and compromise. As a result, most other nations have come to resent and distrust U.S. leadership.
The Pentagon is developing plans to provide News items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. The plans, which have not received final approval from the Bush administration, have stirred opposition among some Pentagon officials who say they might undermine the credibility of information that is openly distributed by the Defense Department's public affairs officers.
The military has long engaged in information warfare against hostile nations. For instance, by dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages into Afghanistan when it was still under Taliban rule. But it recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe. The office would assume a role traditionally led by civilian agencies, mainly the State Department.
The small but well-financed Pentagon office, which was established shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was a response to concerns in the administration that the United States was losing public support overseas for its war on terrorism, particularly in Islamic countries.
As part of the effort to counter the pronouncements of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and their supporters, the State Department has already hired a former advertising executive to run its public diplomacy office, and the White House has created a public information "war room" to coordinate the administration's daily message domestically and abroad. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, while broadly supportive of the new office, has not approved its specific proposals and has asked the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes, to review them, senior Pentagon officials said.
Little information is available about the Office of Strategic Influence, and even many senior Pentagon officials and Congressional military aides say they know almost nothing about its purpose and plans. Its multimillion-dollar budget, drawn from a $10 billion emergency supplement to the Pentagon budget authorized by Congress in October, has not been disclosed.
Headed by Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden of the Air Force, the new office has begun circulating classified proposals calling for aggressive campaigns that use not only the foreign media and the Internet, but also covert operations. The new office "rolls up all the instruments within D.O.D. to influence foreign audiences", its assistant for operations, Thomas A. Timmes, a former Army colonel and psychological operations officer, said at a recent conference, referring to the Department of Defense. "D.O.D. has not traditionally done these things".
One of the office's proposals calls for planting news items with foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not have obvious ties to the Pentagon, officials familiar with the proposal said. General Worden envisions a broad mission ranging from "black" campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to "white" public affairs that rely on truthful news releases, Pentagon officials said. "It goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white", a senior Pentagon official said.
Another proposal involves sending journalists, civic leaders and foreign leaders e-mail messages that promote American views or attack unfriendly governments, officials said. Asked if such e-mail would be identified as coming from the American military, a senior Pentagon official said that "the return address will probably be a dot-com, not a dot- mil", a reference to the military's Internet designation.
To help the new office, the Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a Washington-based international consulting firm run by John W. Rendon Jr., a former campaign aide to President Jimmy Carter. The firm, which is being paid about $100,000 a month, has done extensive work for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Kuwaiti royal family and the Iraqi National Congress, the opposition group seeking to oust President Saddam Hussein.
Officials at the Rendon Group say terms of their contract forbid them to talk about their Pentagon work. But the firm is well known for running propaganda campaigns in Arab countries, including one denouncing atrocities by Iraq during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The firm has been hired, as the Bush administration appears to have united around the goal of ousting Mr. Hussein. "Saddam Hussein has a charm offensive going on, and we haven't done anything to counteract it", a senior military official said.
Proponents say the new Pentagon office will bring much-needed coordination to the military's efforts to influence views of the United States overseas, particularly as Washington broadens the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan. But the new office has also stirred a sharp debate in the Pentagon, where several senior officials have questioned whether its mission is too broad and possibly even illegal.
Those critics say they are disturbed that a single office might be authorized to use not only covert operations like computer network attacks, psychological activities and deception, but also the instruments and staff of the military's globe- spanning public affairs apparatus. Mingling the more surreptitious activities with the work of traditional public affairs would undermine the Pentagon's credibility with the media, the public and governments around the world, critics argue.
"This breaks down the boundaries almost completely", a senior Pentagon official said. Moreover, critics say, disinformation planted in foreign media organizations, like Reuters or Agence France-Presse, could end up being published or broadcast by American news organizations. Law from propaganda activities in the United States bars the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the mid-1970's, it was disclosed that some C.I.A. programs to plant false information in the foreign press had resulted in articles published by American news organizations.
Critics of the new Pentagon office also argue that governments allied with the United States are likely to object strongly to any attempts by the American military to influence media within their borders. "Everybody understands using information operations to go after nonfriend lies", another senior Pentagon official said. "When people get uncomfortable is when people use the same tools and tactics on friend lies".
Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public information, declined to discuss details of the new office. But she acknowledged that the Pentagon was carefully reviewing its mission. "Clearly the U.S. needs to be as effective as possible in all our communications", she said. "What we're trying to do now is make clear the distinction and appropriateness of who does what".
General Worden, an astrophysicist who has specialized in space operations in his 27-year Air Force career, did not respond to several requests for an interview. General Worden has close ties to his new boss, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, that date back to the Reagan administration, military officials said. The general's staff of about 15 people reports to the office of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, which is under Mr. Feith.
The Office for Strategic Influence also coordinates its work with the White House's new counterterrorism office, run by Wayne A. Downing, a retired general who was head of the Special Operations command, which oversees the military's covert information operations. Many administration officials worried that the United States was losing support in the Islamic world after American warplanes began bombing Afghanistan in October. Those concerns spurred the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence.
In an interview in November, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the Pentagon's desire to broaden its efforts to influence foreign audiences, saying: "Perhaps the most challenging piece of this is putting together what we call a strategic influence campaign quickly and with the right emphasis. That's everything from psychological operations to the public affairs piece to coordinating partners in this effort with us".
One of the military units assigned to carry out the policies of the Office of Strategic Influence is the Army's Psychological Operations Command. The command was involved in dropping millions of fliers and broadcasting scores of radio programs into Afghanistan encouraging Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers to surrender.
In the 1980's, Army "psyop" units, as they are known, broadcast radio and television programs into Nicaragua intended to undermine the Sandinista government. In the 1990's, they tried to encourage public support for American peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. The Office of Strategic Influence will also oversee private companies that will be hired to help develop information programs and evaluate their effectiveness using the same techniques as American political campaigns, including scientific polling and focus groups, officials said. "O.S.I. still thinks the way to go is start a Defense Department Voice of America", a senior military official said. "When I get their briefings, it's scary".
If U.S. policymakers and citizens are to establish a more responsible U.S. global leadership, sometimes referred to as a more "benevolent hegemony", the first step is a major overhaul of the current working definitions of U.S. national interests and U.S. national security. Fortunately, there is a vibrant debate among activists and scholars outside the hidebound foreign policy establishment about what U.S. national interests truly are and what national security should rightly mean. In addressing such issues as the need for more effective global governance, an expanded role for nongovernmental voices in foreign policy, and the prevention of ecological collapse, citizen groups are charting the path toward a new global affairs agenda.
Since inception, the International Relations discipline has revolved around the concept and activity of conflict and war. Conflicts that lead to war had assumed the dual role of human generation and degeneration, in the sense that it had posed a firm reason for survival for polities whilst acting as an annihilating force to other polities. It is this specific dichotomy in the nature of war that made it focal to the study of human existence in the international sphere.
In addressing the issue of war in the twenty first century. Whether the new form of war invoked after the eleventh of September complies with the characteristics of postmodern war is at a prime time for analysis. How does the concept of asymmetric war and terrorism fit within the paradigm of postmodern war, and how can we classify one form of attack from another. The September 11th attacks on the United States and the subsequent war on terrorism are marked points in the history to come for analysis of the new types of wars and to highlight their postmodernist character.
Recent debates on the nature and aims of war in the twenty first century have presented varying definitions and classifications, which overlap and pose a problematique to any scholar who aims to disentangle the web of opinions and stances. A situation only characteristic of the twenty first century and an added proof to the postulations of postmodernism that render everything relative.
A host of questions are raised in this context: Why war in the twenty first century and what form does it take? How does asymmetric war differ from classic war? What happened to just war theory under the new form of postmodern war? And when is war legitimate? What differs terrorism and fundamentalism/extremism from war? Does geopolitics still apply? Does deterrence work in asymmetric conflict? What is the role of ideology in asymmetric conflict? How do we determine the outcome of asymmetric war? And finally the greatest postmodern challenge to classic war theory: is war politics or is politics war?
Classic and Postmodern War
Three categories of classic war can be identified: Ritual war, which was primitive, heroic and unorganized, Ancient War which came about with mechanization and took the form of organized warfare described by Sun Tzu, and Modern War, which has three characteristics: applying rationality to war instead of tradition, the development of an administrative bureaucracy, and the systemic application of science and technology. Machiavelli is the first theorist of modern war who advocated conscription, and Clausewitz's definition of war as "nothing but the continuation of policy by other means" and his destructive principle of warfare, came to form the foundations of modern war theory that purported that politics is war.
The three categories described above will be referred to as classic war and contemporary war will be identified as postmodern war. Classic War was based on the principles of totality and the trinity of the state, army and the people. We now live in a world of "posts", post structuralist, post perspectivalist, post positivist, post military and post modern.
The major difference between classic and postmodern war begins with the causes of war. While humanity strived over the centuries to limit war and end its usefulness, Clausewitz idea that war has a life of its own has defied the efforts of the modern world to end war. As more limits were being applied to the legitimate causes of war and to the use of violence in settling disputes, and efforts to place legal frameworks for conflict settlement, a new epoch of war emerged, where as peace prevailed interstate relations, civil wars and guerilla warfare became the norm of the past decade. Legal stipulations have failed to stop war and as the world changed more reasons to ignite wars were created by the changing nature itself. And ironically, asymmetry in power has become a cause of war and not a deterrent for the weak not to attack the strong.
Classic wars were largely about territory and struggles for resources; and security revolved around the defense of borders against external attack. In the postmodern discourse, wars are over ideas and borders became demarcations of violence. Classic War was total and absolute, that progressed slowly towards the concept of limited war since 1945. Postmodern war signifies the decline of moderation based on the pretext of precision technology, despite the propositions of surgical and targeted operations; postmodern weaponry is becoming more lethal.
No consensus has been reached yet over a definition of postmodernism, but common qualities of post modernity across disciplines are identified as:
5. Human-machine culture
Accordingly, a postmodern war structure is based on the premises of techno science and its advances in presenting the Cyborg soldier, weapon systems that control battles and offer unsurpassed limits of speed, lethality and scope. The characteristics of postmodern war have ranged from cyber war and info war to simulative war. But the most important characteristic is the transformation of the basic foundation of war, where no longer was war just confined to the battlefield but expanded to encompass the economic and social realms, thus war became politics, whereby the only moral justification for war is peace. This process came to be known as the militarization of politics and the politicization of war.
All of this in fact enacted the revolution in military affairs, although it did not develop into a real revolution in warfare. The non-genocidal character of postmodern war based on the presumptions that air power as a cost free way to fulfill military objectives without human damage, proved wrong as in effect air bombardments, as seen in Iraq, and Kosovo have in effect caused mass destruction and collateral long term damage that reaped more lives than the actual battle. As Kaldor puts it, postmodern war carries the logic of exterminism and the new war economy can be seen as an extreme form of globalization.
Postmodern wars are characterized by a multiplicity of types of fighting units both state and non-state. The economy and society become a part of the battlefield, so despite claims of non-military wars, the truth is that the demarcation of the boundaries between civil and military is being depleted, thus rendering the consequences of war more threatening.
In the book Asymmetric Conflicts: War initiation by Weaker Powers, TV Paul presents an elaborate analysis of the conditions of asymmetric war and conducts four case studies on interstate asymmetric wars. The study focuses on interstate asymmetric conflicts, and the probabilities for war between a stronger and a weaker state. But if asymmetric wars should be understood within the framework of globalization and the postmodern conditions for war, then it is non-state actors and paramilitary groups that are the target of study. Asymmetric conflicts in this regard acquire a different perspective that has to account for overlaps with the concept of terrorism, because it is usually the definition attributed to non-state actors resorting to violence.
Asymmetric Conflict is defined as "a conflict involving two states with unequal overall military and economic power and resources". The waging of war where there is an asymmetric relationship between the adversaries is based on the assumptions that decision making is based on rationality, but what is rationality, it is a relative concept in itself, thus the rational choice model does not offer an aid to an analysis of ideological asymmetric wars, as the "willingness to suffer" signified by Rosen by the weaker side undermines the presumption of rationality. The second assumption is that the internal motives contribute to decision-making and the group character. This is especially true in the case of terrorism.
Paul further identifies four conditions for asymmetric conflict:
1- Presence of a serious conflict of interests.
2- Weaker side values issues higher
3- Weaker side is dissatisfied with the status quo
4- Weaker side fears deterioration
Paul identifies three strategies of asymmetric war: attrition/maneuver, blitzkrieg, limited aims/fait accompli. In the case of non-state actors, the adoption of a fait accompli strategy is most probable based on the assumption that it would attain the weaker state's objectives. The decision maker is induced to attack out of fear that such a strategy would fail to produce successful outcomes with the passage of time. This corresponds to the question of timing, which puts the weaker power in the position of choosing "Now or never". Time pressure is the determinant factor of the four variables affecting the weaker side's decision to go to war.
Liddell Hart suggests that a fait accompli strategy does not seek to overthrow the enemy's military power. This is adopted when the weaker side does not have the necessary superiority to attain such a goal. What determines the decision of the weaker party to initiate war? Four variables to the initiator: politico-military strategy, fluctuation in short term offensive capability, great power defensive support, changes in decision-making structure. The importance lies in linking the domestic and political factors that can lead to such a decision. This goes beyond the standard state centric approach to the explanation of war.
The overemphasis on weapons of mass destruction is another misguiding premise in the debate over war. In asymmetric wars damage is the issue and not the type of weapon because the objective is disproportionate power, as demonstrated in the September 11th attacks on the United States. As demonstrated later in the discussion of deterrence asymmetric war presents a challenge to the idea of peace through strength and that military power will prevent war. Asymmetric wars aim at changing the prevalent political situation more than achieving military victory.
Asymmetric war operates according to the rules of "Alternative Intelligence", whereby the oppressed have to employ creative methods to penetrate the present status quo with all its might.
Terrorism and war
The fine line between terrorism and war can only be discerned through the application of definitions and conducting a comparison between them. Terrorism by nature is difficult to define and the international community has not been able to agree on a common definition. But the famous saying that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" is the most obvious inherent dichotomy in the nature of terrorism. There is a fine line that differs terrorism from war. Some definitions of terrorism such as the one presented by Brian Jenkins blur that line, for if terrorism is broadly defined as "the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about political change", as it is broadly adopted then the rights of liberation movements and all of the oppressed people's of the world is sabotaged and their right of self determination is forever confiscated.
As Haig Khatchadourian asserts in his book the morality of terrorism, the term is used as a "political psychological weapon against the perpetrators and their avowed causes". He further demonstrates how all the definitions presented for the term are normative and do not fit the criteria of neutrality and non-evaluation. Terrorism is defined by as former president Bush I task force on combating terrorism as "the threatened or actual use of force or violence to attain a political goal through fear, coercion or intimidation". However, Haig presents five important aspects that an explanation of terrorism should include.
1- The historical and cultural root causes of its prevalence
2- The immediate and long range goals
3- The forms and methods of force used
4- The kinds of institutions or political systems practicing terrorism
5- The social, political and economic or military context in which terrorism occurs.
This is an important insight that should be adopted in explaining terrorism. The security mentality has proved that it is not effective enough in eradicating terrorist attacks. Therefore it is vital to adopt a more comprehensive framework that offers viable methods to deal with terrorism.
Just war theory
Just war is determined by two traditional conditions: the just cause of war (jus ad bellum) and the just means of war (jus in bello). The first relates to a principle that changes over time. During the middle ages a just cause had a different meaning from what it came to mean during the first and second world wars, and has changed since to be confined to reasons of self defense and the controversial principle of humanitarian intervention. The second condition of the just means of war involves the principles of non-combatant immunity and the proportionate destruction to the military objectives.
Most types of terrorism violate these conditions. Yet, some types of terrorism may satisfy these conditions, if the just cause is interpreted to mean " a broadly justifiable cause or the presence of the right intentions" as for example in national liberation movements. The interpretation of just war theory represents the fine line that distinguishes acts of terrorism from legitimate acts of war. A task further complicated by the problem of rationalization, i.e. giving good reasons for bad actions. For even terrorists rationalize their actions to be just based on the principle of necessity and the unavailability of alternatives.
Just War theory has become controversial in its correct application even in traditional wars. As for example in the NATO-US led war over Kosovo and in the 1991 Iraq War. The case for proportional destruction was not honored in the extensive air campaigns. If this is the case, then many questions are raised around its orthodox application in cases of asymmetric conflicts that are classified as terrorism.
Ideology and asymmetric war
Debates since the end of the cold war have declared the death of ideology, yet this has been disproved by the continual appearance of ideological movements and groups worldwide. This was a formulation that only contributed to the euphoria of the capitalist world as a result of the demise of communism in the soviet bloc. But theorists have overlooked the fact that communism is not the only ideology. And nationalism condemned for the sake of globalism is only the ideal purported by the west that have culminated the fortification of their nations, yet those nations that are proceeding in the steps of nation building still hold on to the idea of nationalism and all its ideological connotations. Moreover, the role of religious ideologies was diminished to inconsequential importance.
Actually, in the new global order, it is only ideology that is capable of attempting to defy the status quo. For it is only those ideologically charged who do not acknowledge the realism of power parity and who are accordingly not dissuaded by threats of attrition and revenge. Ideology is the only source capable of igniting an asymmetric war in a world operating according to the rules of the strongest on the basis of technology and scientific innovation.
Ideology is "a pattern of beliefs and concepts which purport to explain complex social phenomena with a view to directing and simplifying their socio-political choices." An analysis of the ideological basis of forces involved in asymmetric conflicts focuses on the motivations and interpretation of the causes of war, because in the postmodern world and its conspicuous identity politics, war is largely determined by ideological imperatives and not the contrary.
The absence of questioning motivation from the debate on terrorism is remarkable. Depictions of evil are not ample for an explanation of the existence and increase of terrorist attacks. The guidelines of the discourse against terrorism, are based on dehumanizing the enemy as demonstrated in the following excerpt:
Everyone knows, yet too many forget, that it is foolish to negotiate with terrorists - that giving in to terrorist blackmail leads only to greater violence. That, after all, is what happened at the World Trade Center. A series of U.S. retreats in the face of terrorist attacks on our embassies, ships, and military barracks emboldened the terrorists to believe that a massive domestic assault on the United States would drive us out of the Middle East altogether. So even if the recent attacks were inspired by our foreign policy, how would changing that policy under terrorist pressure leave us any better off? Wouldn't such a retreat simply be inviting terrorists everywhere to manipulate our foreign policy through a series of nightmarish domestic attacks?
Power Parity and Deterrence
Balance of power definition in classical theory is:"Power preponderance of one state or a coalition of states is so unstable that wars are bound to occur as such a state or a coalition is tempted to indulge in aggressive behavior". The main hypothesis in deterrence theory was that power parity preserves peace, where the requirement of capability was the major requirement for peace presented by the structural realists.
The alternative hypothesis: preponderance deters war, meant that peace is maintained when satisfied great powers are in preponderance. This provided the rationale for high military expenditure so that peace can be ensured through preparing for war. Deterrence theory is defined as "the possession and employment if adequate weapons whether conventional or nuclear and the credible communication of their use would deter an aggressor from challenging the status quo militarily". Deterrence was based on a "decision level theory that considers short term factors as critical in war initiation and prevention".
This did not work in September 11th attack and it was proved that a weaker power may engage in war without expecting a major military victory contrary to deterrence theory. The determinant factor here is political victory, which is a characteristic of postmodern asymmetric war. An expectation that war will make political changes which would alter the unfavorable status quo.
In the cold war deterrence based on balance of terror worked between states that were stable, but in the equation between states and unstable states or ideological and religious movements that have nothing much at stake, the balance of terror moves from the scope of deterrence through the threat of destruction to the utilization of terror to cause destruction that alters the weaker side's position in that balance. The rules of asymmetry empty deterrence from its power to work.
Deterrence works by punishment or by denial. TV Paul asserts that it also works in asymmetric conflicts when the weaker side expects to fight a prolonged attrition war with the stronger opponent but that did not work in the case of the September 11th attacks on the US, which leads us to believe that the factor of self sacrifice was stronger than that of fear of attrition due to its nature as an ideological war. Deterrence presupposes that the entities have relatively equal power, but in the case of asymmetry the losses to be feared are forsaken beforehand.
With the end of territoriality, geopolitics was rendered obsolete as a tool of analysis in war studies. Yet, geopolitics is part of the realities that however our world views change, it remains to be the basis of the debate over war. However this means extending the concept from its classic formulation to encompass the new developments in strategies of warfare. Geopolitical analysis was based on the idea of war for territory, and when info war was invoked some found the theory useless. Though, the scope of war still extends beyond info war, as seen in genocidal wars of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Bosnia and Cambodia. Wars may have changed their form but implicitly they still remain to be about space if not pure territory. Although this spatial principle took over a new meaning that does not aim to expand the land such as in Hitler's doctrine of Wanderlust but rather aims to annihilate humans in order to gain more space.
Moreover, the new form of war that focuses on political ends rather than territorial expansion and military victory, still employs a geopolitical edge in its dynamics, as depicted by Toal in a most reflective article "postmodernity is saturated with geopolitics of many kinds and the struggle to envision and enframe global space in imperial constellations of geography/power/knowledge continues".
War in the twenty first century
The September 11th Attacks
Politicians tend to mystify ideas and cloak realities under terminology that targets policy formulation through manipulation. This is especially true in the discourse used to describe the September 11th attack on the United States. In his speech following the attack President Bush declared the attacks as an act of war. He also described it as an act of terrorism. Then the term asymmetric war appeared thereafter describing the event. So what is September 11th?
To say that September 11th was an act of terrorism carries a value laden judgment that mobilizes people around the cause to fight it, but does not provide the legal justification for the United States to wage war on Afghanistan. Therefore, it was only logical for the United States to declare that it was an act of war, by which they reserved the right of self-defense. Although, the problem persists, self-defense against whom, Afghanistan or Osama Bin Laden or the entire terrorist networks worldwide?
The September 11th attack that resulted in the death of around 7000 people of many nationalities and religions including Moslems is clearly a crime against humanity. Yet, condemning the attack as evil is one thing and analyzing its nature for the purposes of classification is another. If the September 11th attack were reduced to only an act of terrorism, then the correct response would have required legal action through the proper international bodies. And it ensues that the event is just another manifestation of extremism and backwardness of the evildoers. However, if the September 11th attack is defined as an act of war this permits for a defensive military response. And also changes the scope and context of the event and makes it an academic responsibility to discern the characteristics of the attack and attempt to classify it properly. The September 11th attack is analyzed here as a postmodern war, worthy of attention in the realm of war studies as a new model of warfare.
The prevalent discourse thus far has been emotionally and politically charged on both sides, the West and the Islamic world, a proof in itself that the dynamics of the era preempted by September 11th is one with postmodern characteristics, because post modernity revolves around the idea of discourse. The premise here is that it is not enough to declare September 11th as a terrorist attack, for this does not offer the academic field any addition to knowledge that helps it understand why such an event occurred and how to prevent it in the future. A major opposition to this argument would be that September 11th defined as a postmodern asymmetric war acquires legitimacy and removes it from the scope of denunciation as an evil act. This is untrue, because the mere fact that it happened renders it a historical event worthy of adoption as a model of study in the genealogy of war, for who and what can determine if war is legitimate or not.
The September 11th attack signifies the procession of the new methods of warfare. It is the first event of its kind that uses the tools of globalization as weapons against the goals of globalization. It signifies a serious challenge to the principle that the global world equals peace for all. To classify the September 11th attack as a postmodern war, the researcher has employed an application of the postmodern war model to the characteristics of the attack.
The characteristics of the September 11th attacks are:
1- Surprise: although, many intelligence reports have warned of terrorist attacks to the US homeland, no one expected that it would really happen at this scale and using such methodology. The surprise factor was effective in penetrating security and paralyzing fast response.
2- Speed: the short duration of the attack determined its success. The strategy was based in creating a vacuum by the factor of surprise and using that margin of time to fulfill objectives.
3- Accuracy: the attack of the world trade center required a very high level of accuracy to be successful. New technology offered the means for this.
4- Lethality: although the weapons used for the attack are not military, they were lethal and the design of the attack targeted strategic places that added to its impact.
5- Technology: the use of technology and electronic equipment, not only in the attack but also in preparing for it, through communications with such secrecy made it possible to apply.
7- Discourse: this is largely a discourse war. Osama Bin Laden based his second round of battle on the speech he addressed to the Islamic world, and the global media delivered his message. His discourse aimed to rally people around him and he succeeded to a certain degree, although he did not receive the support he may have expected. The Islamic extremist organizations, such as al-qaeda and Taliban generally use the power of discourse to frame their objectives in acceptable religious righteous terms.
8- Few Soldiers, Grand effect; although this was a suicidal mission, the new equation of using a minimal number of manpower to achieve the best possible effect was used. The suiciders were viewed as soldiers and that is the cost of battle.
The choice of targets to be attacked, demonstrate the political goals and the characteristics of war. The pentagon is a military target; the intended attack on the white house was made to symbolize the political target. The most controversial target is the World Trade Center as it harbors many people of different nationalities and religions, but it also symbolizes American economic power and had the most impact. The fact that non-combatant lives were targeted could be seen as part of the losses of war, and not necessarily an intentional massacre. In war, the human cost is legitimized by different means, and war is never really human. This is not to legitimize the attack, but rather to demonstrate how September 11th can be approached as a war. In asymmetric wars the attack has to target the most strategic places to cause maximum harm to the enemy. War zones are created rather than honored. This is one of the new trends brought about by postmodernity and a characteristic of the kind of wars that could be wage by non-state actors.
The War on Terrorism
The US has demonstrated classic war threat perception and war prevention strategy cloaked under the label of terrorism, as demonstrated by Bush's address to the nation on January 29, 2002, which some have reiterated as the completion of the development of the Bush Doctrine. The president said, "The war has two great objectives." The first is defeating terrorism. The second is preventing "the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world." Or, put differently, it is "to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction". So a nexus of terror and weapons of mass destruction exists. Still, this second aspect of the war on terror goes beyond terror. It is a war against any sovereign state seeking weapons of mass destruction. And it will be a unilateral war.
It is not clear what any further large scale military operations can achieve, beyond avenging America's humiliation. The terrorist networks that form future threats are not going to be defeated through military action. Although, the US had finally given attention to the issue of money laundering, as it proved to be linked to funding terrorist operations, there are still many aspects of policy that should be harnessed otherwise the political problems underlying such attacks will persist.
Winners and Losers in asymmetric war
It is only logical to wonder how can victory be measured in asymmetric wars. Has Osama Bin Laden achieved his objectives from the September 11th attacks and is the US making political victories in its current war on Afghanistan?
In asymmetric war the minimal requirement for victory is that the insurgents should not lose. This is achieved by refusing to confront the stronger power on its own terms. Al-Qaeda organization was able to destroy the United State's sanctuary and penetrate their heartland and invoke destruction of its most strategic symbols. Although, the military operation was not completed when the fourth plane heading for the white house crashed, the political impact of the event has managed to fulfill its objectives. The message that the initiators intended to deliver and the subsequent havoc that rocked the economy and the basis of American mentality may be considered the minimal requirements for success of the attack.
Despite allegations of madness and stupidity of Bin Laden, someone who waged such an attack well knew that the retaliation would have been massive. This leads to the belief that the US retaliation was an accepted price to pay, as long as Bin Laden does not get punished for it personally. Therefore, considering that despite the destruction of Taliban's stronghold in Afghanistan, Bin Laden and his associates are still free, and this puts them in the position of winners.
As to the United States, it had thus far succeeded in retaliating against the wrong people. The people who have died as a result of the war on Afghanistan may have deserved it as members of an oppressive regime such as Taliban, not withstanding the civilians who died in the process, but they are not the "evildoers", who launched the attack on the US. American forces have emancipated the afghan people from oppression, have installed an interim government that still has to test its chances of survival, but they have not succeeded in capturing those who have planned the attacks. The US was able to create short-term goals and fake the appearance of victory to guard its global supremacy and leadership, but thus far they are the losers. They have suffered destruction and lost a lot of money as a result of the destruction and in the process of waging war on Afghanistan. They are loosing Arab, Islamic and international support most recently in the World Economic Forum meetings, due to their unilateral actions and determination to transform their war on terrorism to war against the world: Us and the Rest. The US started of its war campaign with a with us or against us threat to the world, if this was tolerated over the war on Afghanistan, it is unlikely that it will be extended to other areas of the world with full international support.
The postmodern definition of war seems to be right. War is politics. Accordingly, strategists should give war to the politicians, as it is a political affair. War is no longer about military victory alone, but more and more its victors and losers are determined by political victory.
One of the complications presented by a postmodernist approach to the study of war is that within the surmounting relativism can we predict any possible or probable future?
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