Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Intelligence and The New Battlefield


Wars past in which the United States military was involved have presented themselves with relatively conventional battlefield contexts – even the ones involving unconventional warfare. The over-riding reason for this is the clarity in identifying who is a combatant and who is a target.

When targets and combatants are clearly identified as being military in origin, battles are fought only where armies and their support infrastructure reside. Battlefields of WWI, WWII, the U.S. Civil War, etc. are easily identified, even today. Possible exceptions to these are targets composed primarily of civilian elements, whose most infamous examples are probably Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But even in those cases, each of those cities represented targets with a military support infrastructure as well as a target of psychological importance to the populace supporting their army.

In the common battlefield contexts noted above, gathering of intelligence to promote effective military operations is limited to that chain of involvement. Armies could easily be identified, so gathering information on the infrastructure that supports their operations can be highly focused, such as locations of arms-based factories, military bases, command and control facilities, etc.

The goal of conventional warfare is to eliminate the capacity of your enemy's army to act against you. This can be done by inflicting physical damage to an army and its support structure, or it can be done by inflicting psychological damage to that army or its supporting civilian populace.

The second half of the 20th century brought unconventional warfare and blurred battle lines to the forefront of military strategy. Vietnam, for instance, proved the effectiveness of unconventional operators being able to blend in with a civilian population, especially when their American adversary was so clearly identifiable. From the American experience, the battlefield was limited to Southeast Asia, and civilian targets in the theater were to be avoided as much as possible.

Fast-forward to the Fall of 2001. The battlefield became the United States mainland. More importantly, the battlefield became every single aspect of "America" - military, governmental, social, commercial, cultural. All of these elements are now targets of Islamic Militants.

American society is now presented with the ultimate quandary. Unconventional operators are currently planning operations against, and in the middle of, a culture whose most prized ideal is the primacy of individual liberty. Not only do those who wish no harm against others have the freedom to live according to their choosing, but those who wish the destruction of that culture have nearly endless opportunities to inflict damage to that culture. Not only are there a multitude of targets (because everything about it must be destroyed), but the elements of that society that are most able to prevent their actions are deliberately limited by their system of laws. If the United States was a Stalinist dictatorship, there would be no threats of domestic terror because all potential domestic terrorists would immediately be put to death. But in our free society, thoughts are not (for the time being) a crime - only actions can be.

So what is a free society to do when its greatest strength becomes, potentially, the vehicle for its destruction?

As in any war, intelligence must be collected in order for combatants to operate effectively. Terrorists don't have to think much about gathering intelligence: they know where the police, FBI and military are. So they can operate extremely effectively. The Police, FBI, and military, however, have a difficult time gathering intelligence about terrorists, even in their own backyard.

If such a situation had occurred perhaps 20 years ago, the stakes would be relatively low. A conventional-yield explosive device, or somebody with an automatic rifle on a crowded street, could kill maybe a hundred people, tops. But people with intent to wreak havoc most likely now have access to weapons of unimaginable destructive capacity (we’re talking *millions* dead here) - for the right price. And the oil industry has become increasingly lucrative, for American Capitalists and Middle-Eastern Islamicists alike. The operative difference between the two is that American Capitalists love liberty.

Military (a.k.a. a few armed people sworn to protect a civilian populace) victory is achieved by a balanced combination of Strength, Resolve and Cleverness. Our past heroes were people like Gen. Washington and his Minutemen, Grant, Sherman, Buffalo Soldiers, Teddy Roosevelt, Gen. Pershing, Sgt. York, Maj. Boyington, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur and their Bands of Brothers. They all exemplified Cleverness, Strength and Resolve.

In the new domestic battlefield, surrounded by soft targets and civilians, our expertise of broad lethality (Strength), however, is a major liability. This weakness will have to be compensated for by Resolve and Cleverness. If you’re not quite getting it, let me be clear: CLEVERNESS = EFFECTIEVE INTELLIGENCE GATHERING + CREATIVITY. And let me be even clearer: INTELLIGENCE = SPYING ON PEOPLE. And clearer yet: = SPYING ON PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES. And absolute clarity: = if necessary, SPYING ON UNITED STATES CITIZENS THAT ARE ACTING TO CAUSE HARM TO (POSSIBLY MILLIONS OF) THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS.

Cleverness also equals recognizing looming danger and acting to eliminate it before it solidifies. Let me be clear about this, too: IRAQ. IRAN. NORTH KOREA.

I find it difficult to believe that I have to even *begin* making an argument to engage and defeat Islamicists, wherever they might be - it's as if a cougar has just entered my child's playroom and my wife refuses to go get the shotgun because the cougar is "just trying to regain his former habitat." This leads to the concept of resolve. Right now, we have close to none. WWII would not have been won without resolve, but an even clearer example of the importance of resolve is when we lack it. Had we maintained our resolve, we would have won in Vietnam.

That is the true lesson of Vietnam: not that we should simply refuse to fight when a threat presents itself because we doubt our own validity, but that threats exist, and the fight to eliminate those threats cannot be won without clear and undying resolve.

The war against Militant Islam will be won - I hope - quietly, secretly and cleverly by brave men and women willing to confront evil on an inidividual basis. All we need to do is provide the cultural resolve to support them. But first we need to remember that Life and Liberty have value.


Mr.Atos said...

Not only does Freedom have value, it is the Value defined by the front along which we fight. But, do let's be clear (and I know you know this) that it is not the definition itself. Freedom is an abstraction. It is a void Left in the absences of coercion. Like a vacuum it contains nothing. It is defined by what it is not, rather than what it is. And yet it is maintained by that boundary as tightly as if the ocean were piled up beyond ready to pour in.

There is a front on this New Battlefield. It is a conceptual one. And we have spent decades allowing the cultural scavs to pilfer its fortifications to the point of near obscurity.

Hence some defend their own butchers while denigrating their precious defenders and squander themselves searching for the substance of Freedom in the abyss of the vacuum.

Major Mike said...

Dueler, Dead on. As warfare evolves, all combat techniques must be refined to meet the times. Those that don't evolve are doomed to be defeated. Those that don't arm themselves with every available, viable weapon, are doomed to be defeated. And those that refuse to gather available intelligence on their enemies are doomed to be defeated by the ignorance of their vulnerabilities. The NSA techniques should be exploited to the greatest extent possible.

And, OBTW, the ebb and flow of Congressional and Presidential power is nearly always in play...not just now. Congress is nearly continuous in its efforts to horn in on Presidential powers (who would trust a committee of 535 people to run the executive functions of government?), and the President should resist, and in times of war, should use every available tool...even if Congress gets their toes pinched.

You New Battlefield is re-defining itself everyday, and those clinging to the pre-9/11 world or even to last week will be lost, and defeated in this war. Great piece. MM