Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2004 / 30 Tishrei, 5765
War and idea and the war of ideas
Two superb books put in context the global war on terror, and explain why
the battle for Iraq is critical to ultimate victory.
Thomas Barnett is a professor at the Naval War College, and creator of what
may be the most famous Pentagon briefing in history. Col. Thomas Hammes is a
Marine with considerable experience in intelligence and special operations.
In "The Pentagon's New Map," (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Barnett defines the security challenge of the
21st Century in terms of "the Core" (prosperous democracies integrated into
the world economy) and "the Gap" (failed states disconnected from
globalization). The key to future peace is to reduce the number of states
in the Gap.
In "The Sling and the Stone," (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Col. Hammes describes Fourth Generation
Warfare (4GW), and outlines steps America must take to wage it effectively.
First generation war, practiced from the misty depths of pre-history to just
before World War I, is when groups of soldiers in close proximity whale away
at each other with swords, spears, battle axes and, later, muskets. The
objective was to destroy the enemy's fighting forces.
Second generation war was like the first, with the addition of artillery and
other indirect fires. The objective to destroy the enemy's fighting
formations was the same.
Third generation war, inaugurated by the German blitzkrieg in World War II,
shifted the primary objective from the enemy's fighting forces to his
logistical base and command and control systems.
In 4GW, inaugurated by Mao Tse Tung and improved upon by the Vietnamese
Communists, the main target is the enemy's will to fight. Battlefield
successes are less important than the ability to exploit them for
Two characteristics of 4GW that differ from earlier generations of war is
that there are no ethical boundaries noncombatants are often the
preferred target because killing them can have a greater impact on enemy
morale and there are no quick victories. 4GW wars are measured in
decades, not years.
A common theme for Barnett and Hammes is that the Pentagon cannot prepare
for war as if it were separable from everything else. In modern war,
"everything else" (the economy, public perceptions, nation building) are
often more important than winning fights on the battlefield.
Barnett's is a hopeful book. He believes that globalization has all but
outlawed war between states, because the costs of war to a country connected
to the world economy vastly outweigh any potential benefits successful war
Hammes is less optimistic, but agrees with Barnett that the kind of war for
which the Pentagon is preparing is most unlikely to occur.
Nation building is a critical component for victory in 4GW conflicts. Only
with nation building can the Gap be shrunk, Barnett says. Only by providing
a better idea and example can the United States defeat an ideological group
like al Qaida, Hammes says.
Both think the Pentagon needs a major overhaul if we're to win the war on
terror and future 4GW wars.
Barnett thinks our military needs to be divided into a (smaller) traditional
military force and a (larger) "system administration" force that would do
the dirty work of peacekeeping and nation building.
Hammes' goals are more modest and more practical. We need fewer of the
kinds of units heavy armor, air defense, tactical fighters, submarines
designed for fighting enemies who have largely vanished, and more of the
kinds of units military police, intelligence, civil affairs, leg infantry
more useful for peacekeeping and nation building.
What's needed most in the Pentagon, Barnett and Hammes agree, is a change in
attitude. Military leaders must recognize that they need to work closely
with civilian agencies to win the war on terror, and military bureaucracies
must be flattened to permit troops in the field to respond more quickly to
rapidly developing situations.
Most important, our military and political leaders must recognize that 4GW
conflicts are chiefly wars of ideas, and that the best weapon we have in
such conflicts is our better ideas.
"The fundamental message of the United States is the most powerful message
ever crafted by mankind: we treasure the individual and provide an
environment where every person can strive for his or her own dreams," Hammes
said. "It is up to us to harness that message and use it to win."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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