Jan 8, 2010

The Vietnam Paradigm - War Never Changes?

War - it brings up images of death, bloodshed and chaos; from the earliest phalanxes to the latest squads, war has changed as times did. The Roman Legions were invincible because they were tightly drilled, disciplined, and very, very good with shields. Cavalry turned out to be the answer to that. The spear turned out to outclass cavalry, and the crossbow - and later the gun - the spear. Firearms-era tactics went from "you shoot, you duck and reload and the guy behind you shoots, he reloads and you shoot, all the while you're in a block formation", to "dig a hole, shoot out of it, shoulder to shoulder with your comrades", to "hide in the forest, shoot your enemy before he sees you, and cover your squadmates". The last true paradigm shift in military thinking came about in WWII, as a result of the horrific meatgrinder that was WWI, and that is the modern way of war.

I propose that the status quo has changed, again. Lately, war has gone away from military engagements where two uniformed forces duke it out away from the civvies, towards a form of refined insurgency, wherein you compete with your opponent to see who gets demoralized and loses the support of the people(s) first. Thus far, it has ended with several bloodied noses for the "great" military powers, and small victories for the insurgents. Far from the antiseptic power-armour-and-laser-guns, or even remote controlled robot v. robot, war has actually become "normal-looking, normally dressed people hiding out, striking, and melting away".

This means two things. One: The tactics and strategy manuals used by the US, and most governments worldwide, are outdated, and will never again achieve a consistently victorious trend - in essence, the Vietnam paradigm. Two: The nightmarish vision of a totalitarianized future may in fact be totally unachievable by the traditional means most feared, since any population with a skilled leader or insurgent and the will to fight can challenge any army.

Of course, this is all assuming that the authorities do not manage to change the popular opinion - any war that gets limitless support from the people can be waged in the traditional form, simply switching "enemy combatant" for "non-friendlies" in the books. Essentially, the US can win in Iraq and Afghanistan - they just need to stop having moral qualms and kill everybody, and thus sacrifice any claim to basic human decency in order to become Nazis v2.0.

Yeah, didn't think so.

So long.

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