What is war? In short, it's a group of people using violence to subdue another group. War is a spectrum of conflict involving thousands of elements. Shootings among local gangs is at the low end of the warfare spectrum, yet these skirmishes kill hundreds of Americans each year. At the high end are nations planning to fight for control of outer space. Death and destruction takes place throughout this spectrum. For example, a man armed with a box cutter may take control of an airplane and slam it into the Pentagon killing people planning nuclear war. The mission of a modern military is to fight throughout this spectrum of conflict.
In recent years, there has been talk of a "Revolution in Military Affairs." The basic idea is that advances in technology have made the need for mass armies obsolete. Wars can be fought by small numbers of well-trained professionals equipped with high-tech devices and weaponry centrally coordinated with "netrocentric" warfare. Others claim that we have entered a "4th Generation" of warfare where wars between "nation-states" will not occur; wars are now clashes between elite warriors and groups of devious extremists who manipulate the media to succeed. Some claim that "4th Generation" warfare was conceived by Mao Tse-Tung a few decades ago and has spread worldwide.
These arguments are faulty. Human history is filled with conflicts between those who rule nations and people who reject their authority. All empires faced continual unrest in which they fought opponents employing so-called "4th Generation" tactics. The numerous rebellions within the Roman empire are well documented. Even the word "guerilla" is an old term for locals who fought Napoleon's armies in Spain. Likewise, Britain was continually suppressing rebellions throughout its empire, including a notable revolution in its American colonies where it faced "extremists" led by "terrorist mastermind" George Washington.
Conventional armies have been engaged in "4th Generation" warfare throughout history. The term terrorists was used to describe the Viet Cong, which was a substitute for the older term of anarchist. Before that, the word assassin was used, which arose from the Crusades to describe fearless Arabs who committed suicidal attacks. In Russia alone, five emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years. The most notable assassination victim in US history was President Abraham Lincoln. Three other US Presidents have been assassinated: James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. In Europe the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered World War I.
The US military has always fought "terrorists" as the American empire expanded. The US Army has much experience suppressing revolts in occupied areas, starting with the Indian campaigns, then an expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. The US Army fought rebels in the Philippines, Vietnam, and now Iraq. Generals dislike warfare at the low end of the spectrum, but are happy to have any type of war to fight. Unfortunately, they often fuel revolts by reacting to minor violence with greater violence; Iraq provides a recent example.
The challenge of a modern military is to fight throughout the entire spectrum of conflict. Technology is helpful when combating insurgents, but is never the solution to human conflict. The new idea of "netrocentric" warfare is an ultra-expensive upgrade of the old Soviet idea of central planning and control. While sharing information is a good idea, centralization usually results in micromanagement by uninformed and inexperienced senior officers at distant headquarters. Complex computerized command systems require tremendous logistical support, may breakdown, may suffer damage from enemy attacks or jamming, and may be exploited by the enemy.
The danger the US military faces today is the resource drain caused by the occupation of Iraq. Future wars in the mid and high spectrum of conflict are inevitable since American leaders are enthralled with dominating the world militarily. Current levels of US military spending are unsustainable since inflation has begun to rise due to a 40% increase in federal government spending these past five years. This will soon cause political leaders to cut military spending, unless a huge tax increase is implemented. Meanwhile, the generous military budgets of today are wasted on Iraq and for buying expensive junk. The US Navy seems unable to design and build newer types of ships while the US Marine Corps continues to waste billions of dollars on the failed V-22 program. The US Air Force struggles to field newer aircraft while the US Army has no plans for new equipment as funding is diverted to a research scam call the "Future Combat System."
This is resulting in a decline in US economic and military power is at a time when nations like China, South Korea, and India advance rapidly. The occupation of Iraq worsens this problem as American military equipment is overused, attention is diverted to issues like roadside bombs, and training is focused on raiding homes and armed convoys. As a result, the US military is on a downward spiral which will only become clear after a future military disaster where American combat units must fight higher in the spectrum of conflict. Fighting "assassins, anarchists, terrorists, and extremists" is just a sport; a major war in the future will be different.
Carlton Meyer editor@G2mil.com
G2mil editorials may be freely distributed without permission
Note: My book is finished and on-line: The Spectrum of Future Warfare
Winter 2006 Articles
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
have been returned to the Members Library
Harbor Torpedo - a slow, strike torpedo
Is the US Navy Overrated? - some say yes (very large file)
V-22 Osprey Fails OPEVAL - then approved for production
Improve Officer Promotions - a critical need
Soldiers and Reporters - by a well-known traitor
GAO Report on Military Readiness - gaps appear
Chinese Military Power - articles on China's military
747 Tanker/Transport (pdf) - a recent study
Into the Mix - the 120mm canister round finally arrives
Sonic Lasers - a new weapon?
A Grand Adventure - only suckers enlist
Closer to the Action - mobile helicopter base
South Korea Shrinks Their Armed Forces - that war is over
The Auto Assault-12 - a killer shotgun
Rummy's bird flu bonanza - crying wolf, again
What's Wrong with Cutting and Running - by General Odom
DefenseWatch - Soldiers for the Truth still fightingDefense Update - good info
Occupation Distress - war costs on the US military
Army Force Structure (pdf) - modular Army costs too much
Selected Acquisition Reports (pdf) - US military programs
The New American Militarism - how Americans are seduced by war
Milkor MGL-140 40mm Multiple Grenade Launcher - a good idea
Pentagon Middlemen Return - "Prime Vendors" make big profits
Previous G2mil - Fall 2005 issue
The Spectrum of Future Warfare - Carlton Meyer's new book
Past Editorials - by Carlton Meyer
Library Tour - visit G2mil's library
Library Entrance - members only
All material in G2mil Copyright 2006 G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to www.G2mil.com are encouraged.