What's Needed: A New Warfare Paradigm

Once again Ralph Peters delivers:

Since 2004, al Qaeda and its clones have developed a strategic framework for action that’s proven so effective that terrorists outside of Iraq have adopted it. While our tactics often seemed disconnected from any clear strategic purpose (precisely what do we hope to achieve in Iraq even now?), the new terrorist doctrine for fighting Western militaries is so perfectly integrated that any honest staff officer has to admire it.

The terrorists’ immediate goal is to get us out of Iraq. Their actions against us at every level of warfare contribute to that purpose:

* At the tactical level, they concentrate on killing and wounding our soldiers and on restricting our movements. Their weapons, such as roadside bombs, contribute to both objectives, while suicide bombings against civilians make the streets we can’t drive ungovernable.

* At the operational level – the hinge between tactics and strategy – they exploit the media’s appetite for sensational images and anti-Americanism to get out a message that amplifies their power. Their tactics directly support this operational effort.

* At the strategic level, they leap over our forces to influence our population and, through them, our government. The operational-level focus on the media directly supports the strategy.

The terrorists know where they want to go and they have a plan to get there. We don’t. No one in Washington offers a detailed, persuasive answer to the Iraq question.

…The military brass also has to shoulder its share of the blame for fighting the kinder, gentler war its pedants want to fight, rather than fighting to win. Officers poisoned by too much time on civilian campuses behave like professors, defending the fanciful theories in their dissertations to the last Infantryman. (They unanimously insist that religion isn’t a major factor in the Middle East, since Harvard taught them that faith is irrelevant.)

Lashed by lawyers, timid generals are better suited to fight for funding on Capitol Hill than to defeat our nation’s enemies in the field. They’re show-dogs that don’t hunt. Despite all the shimmering technology we’ve bought, our military leaders remain trapped in 20th-century thinking – while the terrorists, for all their invocations of the past, are clear-eyed about what it takes to win in the 21st century.

…What’s … the new revolutionary development? It’s the proliferation of the 24/7 media in all its formats. And the terrorists realize it. They learned to trump air power and all the detritus of the last revolution by refusing to mass together and by submerging themselves in urban seas. Then they went one better by grasping the power of irresistible weapons that came free of charge: the media.

Yes, the media were able to influence a war’s outcome back in the Vietnam days. But the Cronkite-era media were the equivalent of World War I biplanes. Today’s media are a sky full of B-52s, cruise missiles and stealth fighters – with unlimited ordnance.

The terrorists know they can’t beat our forces on the battlefield. Their purpose in engaging our troops is to generate a body count, graphic images and alarmist headlines. They’ve created a new paradigm of warfare that’s cheap, effective and defiantly hard to defeat.

Meanwhile, our own military isn’t even allowed to slip stories to the bribe-driven Arab press. And the global media credit every perfunctory claim by the terrorists that the target we just hit was another wedding party.

It may prove impossible to win by today’s rules. We, too, need a new warfare paradigm. The bad news is that there isn’t any sign of one.

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