On Retiring Clausewitz (Please)

I wish now that I had read the article on which I will write six months ago, when it came out, instead of waiting until the other night to get into the six-month-old printout. In the important (and sharply sarcastic) Clausewitz in Wonderland, Tony Corn introduces the problem:

Once it becomes clear, as in the early 1990s, that [the] U.S. is peerless in conventional warfare, isn’t the duty of [military] educators to anticipate that the enemy will have no choice but to choose an asymmetrical approach — as in “irregular warfare?” Yet, while the Osamas of this world were issuing fatwas against “Jews and Crusaders” and defining their own struggle in terms of “Fourth-Generation Warfare,” our Clausewitzian Ayatollahs were too busy turning Vom Kriege in[to] a military Quran and issuing fatwas against the theoreticians of 4GW, Netwar, and other postmodern “heresies.” […]

It does not take an Einstein to realize that, from Alexander the Great to Napoleon, the greatest generals for 20 centuries had one thing in common: They have never read Clausewitz. And conversely, in the bloodiest century known to man, the greatest admirers of Clausewitz also have had one thing in common: They may have won a battle here and there, but they have all invariably lost all their wars.

Corn continues with a thorough exploration of the landscape of military affairs that face the U.S. and how Clausewitz’ maxims apply… or don’t. Among the terms Corn explores are:

The Revolution in Guerilla Affairs
The French-Algerian War of 1954-1962. By 1962, the Algerian FLN was reduced to 10,000 hard-pressed jihadists, while there were 100,000 Algerian military volunteers in addition to native French forces. Yet by cleverly using the media, the UN, and the Arab League, the FLN was able to prevail politically after being utterly defeated militarily.
Deep Coalitions
Emphasis on terrorism as a result of a crisis of legitimacy in a state ignores the more problematic use of terrorism as a force multiplier by rogue states, who are led by their conventional military weakness to engage in “war by proxy”, which expresses itself as a Deep Coalition between Rogue States, friendly International Organizations and terrorist Non-Governmental Organizations. A major example is the Shiite Crescent, centered on terror-exporting Iran with satellite minority populations of Shiites in the oil-producing areas of Muslim countries from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. There is some relationship between Iran’s government and jihadist NGOs such as Hamas and Hizballah.
COIN is COunterINsurgency. DIMEFIL (Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence, Law enforcement) is the vast spectrum of action over which modern asymmetric warfare must be waged if it is to be won.

The vocabulary that Corn covers is an important first step on the road of the successful counterjihad. The Jihadist New Assassins, both of the Khomeinist and Qutbist/Wahabbist sects, have not won a single military battle of their army against a U.S. army. However, they have a successful pattern to follow in the French Algerian War, and have created a movement with its own doctrine that results in a decentralized, yet coordinated campaign of crime, diplomacy, propaganda, brainwashing, demographic expansion, mosque and madrassa building, threats, and terrorism, with a distant goal of conquering everyone and converting, killing, or enslaving them for Allah.

And yet they also have weaknesses. Inter-tribe and inter-sect rivalries riddle and weaken every Muslim nation or military, as do inter-state rivalries weaken every Muslim coalition. The post-1979 cold war between the Shiite caliphate in Tehran and the Sunni caliphate in Riyadh must be exploited, as should the weaker cold war between pan-Islamist Saudi Arabia and pan-Arabist Egypt. Also there are (religious) Khomeinist and (ethnic) Persian components to Iran’s relationship with Hamas and Hizballah, as there are (religious) Wahhabist and (ethnic) Arab components to Saudi Arabia’s, Pakistan’s and Yemen’s relationship to Al Qaeda, Hizbut Tahrir, Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Tablighi Jamaat, al Muhajiroun, and other jihadist NGOs. And this hasn’t even introduced into the equation whatever may be fermenting in Turkey, where the most savage armies of the last two thousand years settled and formed the Ottoman Empire.

A small consolation: when it comes to identifying the “operational code” of deep coalitions, neither “game theory” nor “structural realism” is likely to shed any light either. Forget about “rational choice” theories: In the non-Western world in general, and in the Middle East in particular, state actors have a long record of self-delusion, miscalculation and defection. Rather than “structural realism,” it is a “cultural realism” approach which will make intelligible the constantly shifting evolution between cooperation and confrontation, whether among nonstate actors (Hezbollah and al Qaeda, e.g.) or state actors (Saudi Arabia and Iran).

And so he concludes with the same theme with which he introduced his article, that anthropology, not logistics, will be what the smart warrior thinks about when he makes battle plans for Counterjihad.

Corn’s article is both cleverly written and exceptionally rich with new concepts and helpful references, and I highly recommend reading it all.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Comments are closed.