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21st Century Small Wars

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Robert O'Neill

on 5 November 2013

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Transcript of 21st Century Small Wars

Geopolitics and Conflict in the 21st Century:
Understanding Small Wars in the Context of the Current Security Environment
Warfare in the 21st century is moving increasingly into the human space: we are engaged in "war amongst the people" in an increasing number of small wars fought in the context of a global insurgency.
Security environment defined by:
- Asymmetric spread of globalization (Gap vs. Core)
- Dominance of Western (Core) militaries in "conventional warfare"
- "Successes" of "irregular warfare" in countering conventional power of West (Core)
STATE
ARMY
PEOPLE
"Any political entity which controls territory and population and can effectively wield power relative to its neighbors." (Governance)
"The physical means of destruction and the body behind it."
"Population"
"Society"
"The Enemy"
MILITARY
SOCIO-ECONOMIC
SOCIO-POLITICAL
STATE
ARMY
PEOPLE
"Population"
"The Enemy"
MILITARY
SOCIO-ECONOMIC
SOCIO-POLITICAL
Terrorism
Guerrilla Warfare/Insurgencies
Conventional or "Total" War
Counter-terrorism
Counter-insurgency
Political Objectives
Struggle for political control
to address social, political, and/or economic grievances
Capability
=
Means
x
Way
2
x
3(Will)
21st Century Warfare will be more of a
political
fight than a
military
one.
PRINCIPLES OF WAR
The size and composition of the Gap will define 21st century warfare.
"Irregular Warfare" = Small Wars
Paradigm Shift:
"War Amongst the People"
A political fight more than a military one.
Small, mobile and flexible combat groups drawn from, concealed and sustained by the people, intended to harass an enemy force superior in strength whilst avoiding any large-scale direct confrontation.
Political purpose:

maintain the people's independent identity, even though "occupied", by sustaining their will to continue to fight and resist.
U.S. has undeniable dominance on the conventional battlefield
We have been unable to "win" our wars in the past 3 decades. Why?
MAO: superior political will applied over a long time
IRREGULAR
UNCONVENTIONAL
ASYMMETRIC
Guerrillas don't focus on winning battles because they are often irrelevant
Long term political will =
CV
What is a guerrilla? An insurgency? Terrorism?...
Guerrilla
"guerra" + "illa" = "guerrilla"
"Small War"
Strategic objectives:
erode the enemy's will to continue, to gather information, and to disrupt and delay enemy operations.
WHAT IS TERRORISM?
“The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government,the civilian populations, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social goals.”
Terrorism: solely focused on the application of force to achieve a political objective
Types of terrorism:
Demonstrative
Destructive
Suicide
Suicide Terrorism has Three patterns:
Nearly all suicide attacks are part of an organized campaign
Democratic states are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorism
Directed towards a strategic/political objective.
INSURGENCY:
SUBVERSION
TERRORISM
War Amongst the People
The ends for which we fight are changing
We fight amongst the people
Our conflicts tend to be timeless
We fight so as to preserve the force
New uses found for old weapons
The sides are mostly non-state
Backlash Against Globalization
Globalized Insurgency
Civil War in Islam
Necessity of "Unconventional Warfare"
We've turned a mouse into an elephant...
We are/will be fighting small wars across the Gap (our security environment)
At what point in something’s evolution does it cease to be what it originally was?
Al Qa'ida 1.0
Phase 1:
“Infection”
Phase 2:
“Contagion”
Phase 3: “Intervention”
Phase 4:
“Rejection”
The Accidental Guerrilla Syndrome
Traditional societies: corrosive effects of globalization on deeply-held identities
Paradox: openness gives access to globalization's tools
Connected geographically distant groups (microactors/SEI can aggregate)
Message unity/narrative = impossible
Gap (Collier's "The Bottom Billion")
No governmental control over spread of globalization
GWOT = extremely large-scale, transnational globalized insurgency
"Terrorism" = less analytically useful than defining them by their strategic approach
Demographic base of support across the world
Youth bulge
Corrupt/oppressive governments
Dysfunctional inter-sex relations
Export economies
Sectarian divides and challenges to established order
Al Qa'ida
Why?...
Because it works.
Huge social changes even if Counter-Insurgents "Win"
Al Qa'ida 2.0
Al Qa'ida 3.0
1996-2001
2002-2012
2012 - Present
Expeditionary Terrorism
Guerrilla Franchise
Global Insurgency
So how do we turn the elephant into a mouse?
While the technology of war is ever-evolving, the fundamental nature of war remains rooted in the nature of man.

War attracts desperate and disillusioned youth into a culture of violence.

All too often it is a tool for consolidating power in the hands of a few, rearranging the political landscape, and redirecting challenges to authority toward real or imagined enemies, war works.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Conflict has been, is and probably always will be an integral element of human society.
It is vitally important to maintain the search for peace, but peace must be understood as a condition relative to conflict: not in the sense of the absence of conflict but as one in which that option is not chosen.
An organized movement that aims at overthrowing the political order within a given territory, using a combination of subversion, terrorism, guerrilla warfare and propaganda (media as a collective medium).
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