September 02, 2003

China Embraces the Warfare State

China, like all communist/Stalinist governments, was a Warfare State long before the term applied to the United States. Such is the nature of command economies. The only real differene among them is the level of brutality the government unleashes on the people. But the initial U.S. success in taking Baghdad in three weeks really did spread shock and awe in the military establishments of Russia, Israel, and China. They now understand that in era of the 24-hour news cycle, all wars will be televised, and public appetite for casualties will plumment (thanks to the disturbing trend of body count journalism). Ironically, the same technology that brings the war to your desktop is changing the structure of the armies that fight the wars. We knew this already about the U.S., thanks to Rumsfeld's "Revolution in Military Affairs" and network centric style of warfare. In fact, today's New York Times reports that the 4th Infantry Division (the Army's poster child for networked warfare) is shifting to more precise, smaller raids in the Sunni triangle north of Baghdad in order not to antagonize the local population by needlessly rounding up dozens of locals in the search for a few bad apples. The Army can put a smaller number of troops in a hostile are because it's getting better tips from Iraqis. But there are two keys to deploying smaller forces within a battlespace that isn't completely secure. The first is having superior intelligence and communication--both of which are elements of the network centric model of fighting. You gain superior intelligence using total air superiority to fly manned and unmanned aerial vehicles which constantly monitor the ground wiht a variety of onboard sensors. The second key is to leverage that intelligence advantage by deploying extremely lethal, mobile groups of lightly armored infantry--supported from the air--into the hostile areas to do their job. But the communication between a small, lightly-armored company of combat infantry and the commanders back on base, and the airplanes or unmanned vehicles in the air is essential. Col. Guy Shields, a military spokesman in Baghdad says, "The main difference is the ability to focus more precisely because of better intelligence." And the Times article quotes Maj. Josslyn Aberle saying, "What we are doing is surgical strikes on more remote areas where we have not had a very large or enduring military presence." I'm guessing that as details come out, we'll find out just how critical a role networked communications have played in these opereations. Without the advantage in technology, you couldn't have the 4th ID doing what it's doing in Iraq. But WITH it, you suddenly have a model that allows the Pentagon to deploy about 5,000 armored infantry troops anywhere in the world in a few days--in some very hostile and inhospitable areas--and fight with precise lethality. And this result, conceivably, makes it likely that you'll see a lot more "limited wars" like the one we're seeing now in Iraq. In other words, the very concept of having a highly mobile, lethal, and technologically superior force actually makes it more likely that you'll use that force more often than you previously would have. It's an open question, in my mind, whether this is just planning for future conflicts, and building the the objective force the Army thinks it will need to win future wars...or whether it makes wars more likely because it makes them seem more winnable. It doesn't exactly make me comfortable the the Times ALSO reported today that China is having it's own "Revolution in Military Affairs." China is cutting its military by 200,000 troops. Jian Zemin, China's military boss, says, "The state of war is being transformed from mechanzied warfare to information warfare." Indeed. German General Eric Falkenhayn assumed that superior German artillery would give the Germans a favorable kill ratio at Verdun in World War one, where the French would "bleed to death." Yet even during the height of the initial offensives, when they were firing over 100,000 shells an hour at the French lines, the Germans failed to displace the French. They did kill 35,000 Frenchman in less than a month--obvioulsy a catastrophic loss. But the weapons lacked precision killing power. It wasn't until the German army transformed just 5% of its force into a high speed mechanized unit that it was able to roll over French lines in June of 1940. Only a small portion of the entire force was cutting edge. Yet it was enough to make the difference in the war. Only later, when mass-produced American Shermans swarmed over the more expensive German tanks was the weakness of the German war plan exposed: insufficient production. Having the superior force made the Germans more likely to use it. Is the same true for America? Maybe. But at the very least, the American military is forcing the Chinese to adopt what they've called a doctrine of "Unrestricted Warfare." In "Unrestricted Warfare," there is no conventional targeting. You assume you are in a constant state of war. In fact, the presumption is that if you're not militarily engaged in a battle, then you're fighting economically, and politically...war which, as Clausewitz said, is a "continuation of political intercourse with the admixture of different means." By the way, Lenin, ever the master of using language as a weapon, changed this phrase to the form you're most likely to hear it today: "War is nothing but a continuation of politics by other means." This fortells the use of "War" as a metaphor for all political dicussions...the War on Poverty...the War on Drugs...the War on Terrorism. It also makes the soil fertile for condoning murder as a legitimate "political" tool. In any event, the lines between peactime and war are further blurred in the Warfare State. Unrestricted Warfare means trade wars. It means computer viruses. It means anything that strikes at operational brains of your adversary's military or the economic heart from which he derives strength. It's possible, under that formulation, that a war between China and America has already begun....the same way World War Two started the moment Heing Guderian read British historian Liddell Hart's book "Strategy" on tanks and mechanized warfare. Guderian went on to organize the recruting, training, tactics, and technique of all of Germany's mechanized and motorized forces in World War Two--the same ones that blitzkrieged into France. Is there a Chinese Guderian out there who is even now studying the use of information technology to fight an "Unrestricted War." To be continued...


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