Archaeologies of the Future: Part III–What is Victory?

Soob:

The concept here is interesting. In lieu of official recognition of
America's victory in Iraq by the outgoing administration and in an
effort to deprive the incoming administration from claiming victory in
a war they clearly identified as lost, ZombieTime has subverted the traditional method of triumphalism (via the state) and placed in the hands of the populace.

Soob is writing about a viral attempt by Iraq war supporters to declare victory in lieu of an official declaration. The "Victory in Iraq" campaign has gone massively viral, although it is of yet unnoticed by the MSM and much of the population.

Victory and defeat are incredibly subjective things. There are few clear-cut instances of the victor's supremacy and the loser's annihilation in history (such as WWII), but those instances are always the ones remembered in the public memory. Messy stalemates like the War of 1812 and Korea are more the case. In irregular warfare,  perceptions of victory and defeat often are crucial elements of the war itself. If a population believes that there is no point in resisting, it will not resist. Likewise, if the counterinsurgent's population believes the war is lost, the implicit ceiling on the level and duration of the counterinsurgent's operations is lowered.

Because irregular warfare is not measured by typical military metrics, it is inherently more subjective than even the messiest conventional conflict. This lends itself to a purely idealistic as opposed to materialistic interpretation of victory and defeat; will is the most important factor. Losses in irregular conflicts are often seen by elements within the losing side as the fault of "enemies within"–if the domestic population hadn't stabbed the troops in the back, victory would have been in sight. Algeria is the classic example of the "stab in the back" mythos applied to irregular conflicts in that loss actually triggered a terrorist campaign against the French homeland.

As such, there is a battle of perception between different political factions within both sides to define what victory is (and deny it to their adversaries). Complicating this is the perception war that occurs long after the war is finished, as it becomes a signifier for other elements of culture or political warfare in the public mind. Vietnam is a signifier in the American life for the generational conflict of the 1960s and the culture war between left-liberals and conservatives. Certain images (such as that of the hippie spitting on the returning soldier), regardless of their accuracy or representation, embed themselves in the public mind and forever define an era.

Victory is not entirely subjective, but it in many cases it will be impossible to come up with an purely objective assessment.

Advertisements

Archaeologies of the Future: Part II–Reveries on EBO

General James Mattis' critique of Effects-Based Operations has made waves. There is extensive theoretical discussion of EBO in both the Joint Force Quarterly and Military Review. Small Wars Journal links to the discussion here. Critics are certainly correct that EBO is a mechanistic approach that views war as a kind of materialist enterprise where a certain effect can be calibrated for each action with perfect accuracy.

The greater problem is that war planners thought in grossly materialist terms–in Iraq there was little attention to social consequences of war planning that fueled the growth of the insurgency, and the IDF's generals did not really give much thought to the political dynamics of Lebanon in 2006. The problem with imagining the enemy as a machine is that machines are incapable of generating original strategies of their own. This is at the heart of Paul Van Riper's critique in Joint Force Quarterly when he attacks the systems theory approach to defense.

Machines (at present at least) are not capable of understanding or intentionality. Artifical intelligence playing chess, for example, operate by heuristic models that function as rules of thumb for desired outcomes. But human beings can respond and innovate to enemy strategies. Instead of the dynamic interaction between opposing forces on battlefields of multifacted social/spatial terrain, the EBO view of combat is linear and Newtonian.

Fatal Strategies

I am going to wait until more information arises to analyze the Mumbai attack fully. For now, I'll piggyback off Naxalite Rage's analysis (the most reliable information at the moment) to offer some preliminary observations on the methodology behind the attacks. Shlok has described what appears to be a rhizome maneuver–mobile autonomous groups of attackers operating in an emergent manner. In terms of systems disruption, there is an equal proportion of economic systems disruption with social systems disruption–there were attacks on transportation systems and big hotels but also smaller scale attacks on movie theaters and cafes.

It is highly remniscent of the 2005 uprising by the PCC in Brazil, which utilized a similar rhizome structure to shut down a modern metropolis. Law enforcement and military officers are targets, but unlike the Sao Paulo foco the primary focus has been on a larger societal systems attack.

With the focus of late on Somali pirates, it is interesting that the attack may have originated from a naval vector–men in speedboats with explosives. Big cities with high-value targets within reach of urban littoral zones should take heed of this attack. It remains to be seen whether or not the attackers will escape with their lives, but that's not the point. We will have to wait to see what the political and economic ramifications of this attack will be.

China: The Hollow State?

Shloky continues to chronicle the social unrest generated by China's own economic crisis. The basic deal? With Communist ideology no longer a motivating factor and totalitarian control substantially weaker than the days of Mao, all the current regime has to knit the country together is nationalism and economic progress. Anyone who has seen China's netizens at work knows that flag-waving is never in short supply. But if the economic bargain between the state and its citizens collapses, it's not totally off-base to wonder whether citizens would determine that the regime has forfeited the Mandate of Heaven. The consequences of such a decision (if China's citizens make it), are hard to determine.

Meanwhile, it seems that the regime is investing in an aircraft carrier. It is concurrent with China's gradualist identity to begin to move its maritime forces from coastal defense and Taiwan operations to something more befitting its great power status. The regime's chief priority, however, seems to be internal defense. The People's Armed Police (PAP) is being ramped up as a kind of giant paramilitary force to guarantee stability. We shall see what course their operations will take.

The Study of War as A Social Science

Military history, as many authors have informed us, is suffering in colleges. Military history departments are shrinking. It's study, once essential to undergraduate educations, is almost extinct. At the same time, however, military history is as popular as ever with the public. There is also a pressing need for competent analysis of strategic affairs, as the United States is currently embroiled in two wars and many smaller special operations conflicts. So what gives?

Continue reading

China Grove

Robb hits the nail on the head here. China may be resilient but it is not the tiger people ascribe it to be. Bird flu and SARS were important tests of its ability to handle complex transnational emergencies, tests it largely failed. Granted, we aren't so good at handling Black Swans either. But at least power here is diversified enough to cushion some of the blow.

As time goes on the Chinese will find themselves "heightening the contradictions," as an old comrade of the CCP's founder would put it.

Archaeologies of the Future: Part I–The Military Utopia

"Kusanagi: I want a guarantee that I can still be myself."
Puppetmaster
: Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you." – Ghost in the Shell (1997)

"In many cases, the
individual Marine will be the most conspicuous symbol of American
foreign policy and will potentially influence not only the immediate
tactical situation, but the operational and strategic levels as well. … He will become, as the title of this article suggests —
the
Strategic Corporal
." – Gen. Charles C. Krulak

My last series covered the dialectic of the hollow-state. This series will take a look at the way we perceive the future of war, and the embedded assumptions and meanings within our discourse of future battle. The title is a refrence to literary critic Fredric Jameson's book about science fiction, which I highly recommend to anyone who considers themself a fan of sci-fi or speculative fiction.

Continue reading