Monday, November 16, 2015

Asymmetric Warfare... Terrorism in Perspective

 Asymmetric Warfare... Terrorism in Perspective

In light of recent acts of terrorism, I am foregoing my usual light and humorous bent. I’ll return to it shortly, but right now, I think it’s important to remind people what kind of war the forces of freedom and openness are fighting.

I have been a student of warfare, it’s history and it’s methods for most of my life. Some think the advent of terrorism on the scale we have seen in recent years is something recent. It is not. Terrorism is simply one method used in asymmetric warfare, and the concept dates at least as far back as 500 B.C. when Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War:

“If the enemy is superior in strength, evade him. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared. Appear where you are not expected."

Asymmetric warfare has received significant attention in military circles for several years. In my electronic library, I have a copy of Asymmetric Warfare: An Historical Perspective by Franklin B. Miles, DOD Civilian that was prepared in 1999 for the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, as a strategy research project. It was very cogent in its predictions regarding the path this type of warfare was going to take in the future in light of past and developing world political situations.

Speaking about the availability of modern weapons and technology, especially since the breakup of the former Soviet Union, Mr. Miles says:

“...The availability of these weapons, technology, and expertise will give potential adversaries the means to feel more confidant in attacking US citizens and interests abroad and possibly within the borders of the United States.”

I think it is important to note that this applies to all of the developed western countries, not just the U.S., now. This is due to coalitions and alliances during the past dealing especially with Jihadists. The growth of such groups is fueled by actual conditions in the Jihadists’ homelands and their leadership generating perceptions about the West, no matter how inaccurate they may be. Mr. Miles put it this way in his study.

“The growth of poverty, extremism, and organized crime in the developing world, as well as the growing disparity of wealth between nations and between the elite's and working classes within nations, have contributed to making the US a prime target for asymmetric challenges. The poor, undereducated, and disenfranchised have historically been the primary source for recruits by extremist groups because they are generally the segment of a population who is suffering the most from the failings of their governments, and because they have the least invested in the status quo. In short, they have the least to lose, and the most to gain by engaging in anti-government activities.

Extremist groups throughout the developing world routinely utilize religious or ethnic ties and issues to legitimize themselves and their cause to the disenfranchised. They also attempt to convince them that their government, another ethnic group, or external entities such as the United States are the cause of their poverty, misery, or lack of equal political representation. These masses then become willing participants in what is often labeled as a "Holy War", or just cause against the perceived source of their problems.”

The fact that modern means of transportation, the openness of Western Culture, and the permeability of our borders emboldens groups like ISIS to carry out attacks against the West. These attacks, however small, are designed to create fear among out populace. Mr. Miles recognized this.

“The globalization of transportation, communications, and banking have made the United States and most of the developed world more vulnerable to asymmetric threats. Intercontinental travel in the past decade has become easier, cheaper, and more available than at any other time in the history of the world. With the millions of people crossing international borders every day it has become increasingly difficult to scrutinize or monitor them all. It is impossible today for immigrations and customs services to intercept every criminal or terrorist transiting their airports, ports, and border crossings. The signing of the Schengen Accords a few years ago has also made it even easier for terrorists to transit European borders. These accords eliminated most border controls between selected European Union (EU) countries. Non-EU visitors to an EU country now only undergo customs checks at their initial port of entry. Once they have cleared that port or airport, they are free to travel unmonitored across the borders of most Western and Central European countries. So a would-be terrorist can pick their entry point in the country with the most lax security checks (or a country with sympathies for their cause,) and then travel on unmolested to another EU country to carry out their terrorist acts.”

The goal of ISIS and others like them is to break the resolve of the West, and frankly all those who oppose them, by instilling fear and fomenting dissent among their people in hopes of destroying their will to make war on them. I firmly believe they are wrong. For the sake of freedom and progress, I sincerely hope they are.