Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jan. 15. A Time Not to Read a Newspaper At All.

No. I just can't bring myself t talk about the standards of a newspaper that today devoted its front page and two, full colour pages to a former rock star who gave a speech to a paying audience that wanted to know all about the importance of brand names.

Nor can I think of adequate words for a permier who thinks it might be a neat idea to encourage more government sponsored gambling. I have no doubt that the income can be used to ease the burden of taxation on the rich by picking the pockets of the middle class and the poor. It's like school fees, but with the added thrill of creating more addicts and social damage. The next, logical step will be to intruduce elementary school courses on how to gamble.

But no. I can't bring myself to talk about that. Let's talk something more morally uplifting. Let's talk about war.

For nearly 500 years, western countries have easily and cheapily defeated peoples just about all ofverthe rest of world - the natives in the Americas, in Africa, in the middle East, in Asia. The major reason was a superior sense of how to conduct war, and superior technology in weapons and transportation.  But the Second World War was a turning point.

By then, even earlier, the power and randomness of modern weapons had made civilians the majority of casualties in war. (And that was quite deliberate.)  More important, the "lesser" breeds were catching up to western ways of making war - and were adding their own ways of fighting back.

It was over a hundred years ago that Japan, just emerging from its feudal age, manhandled Russia. They easily defeated western armies early in World War Two in Indonesia, Malaya and Hong Kong. It got worse after 1945. The Korean War was, at best, a draw. The French empire in Africa and Asia collapsed in less than a decade. The British Empire, the ruler of 20% of the earth's surface, simply disappeared  almost overnight. But the British, at least, had learned a lesson.

The old, conventional style of war was finished. It didn't work against sandalled peasants with primitive weapons who had learned to hold their own against conventional - and very expensive - western forces. The Americans learned that in Vietnam. Or, rather, they should have learned it. Primitive, ill-equipped, and half trained peasants of  a small country could defeat the conventional armies of the most powerful country in the world. Well - The Americans should have learned that. But they didn't.

As a result, it almost drove the US broke in the Vietnam War. It may very well succeed in finishing the job with Obama's expensive and futile "surges" in Afghanistan. Even American generals now agree that killing one "terrorist" creates ten more. Conventional warfare doesn't work any more.

The British, Russians, Germans, and Israelis learned the lessons the Americans have not. The British learned it long ago in Malaya, when they abandoned conventional military forces to use highly triained, small groups to focus on key targets while, at the same time, winning over the local population.

The Brtitish troops (called special op) troops in Malaya carriedout small scale operations, but against targets of high value and with wide results. There were also units trained in psychological warfare. One of their creations was the protected village which the British not only defended from guerilla attacks, but which helped the villages with hosptials and schools. The result was to do what the American armies have never managed - to win over the local population, thereby denying guerillas a support that is essetnail to them.

Generally, American special ops forces are abysmally organized, disliked by the Pentagon, and wrongly used as simiple, assassination squads - who are likely to kill even more civlians and to create even more terrorists.
The US remains committed to conventional,brute force. It's extremely expensive. And it hasn't worked for over half a century  So why to they do it?

Part of the reason is that any military falls into the habit of worshipping the old ways with a kind of romantic sentiment. Just a few years before 1914, for exaample, a British army journal carried an article on whether the sword or the spear would be the decisive weapon in the next war. When the brass in any country does go for a role and  equipment, it has a strong impulse for the glory and status of having the newest, shiniest and most expensive weaponry available. Thus the Canadian Froces' zeal for a fighter plance so expensive it will dominate our defence budgets for a generation  - and is quite useless for any Canadian purpose.

Status is important to generals. That's why Rick Hillier so obviously disliked peacekeeping. No glory. No status. No nice, shiny equipmjent.

We could fight in an old-style, conventional war against an enemy dumb enough to do the same thing; and even then only as a satellite, serving the US in a US war. Sadly,  general estrimates are that such a war, if it should occur, would go nuclear within weeks.  That is now the only kind of war that Canada is equipped to fight. Well and truly, these days, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Canada now has an unbalanced military to fight a style of war that lost its usefulness by 1945 at the latest. Are the general alone enough to explain that? I doubt it.

War is a highly profitable business for the defence industry. It now takes some 280,000 bullets to an Afghani (whether guerilla or civilian. That's up some four times since the 1940s. A drone bomber, costing even more than 280,000 bullets costs even more per kill, commonly of just eight or ten  Again, the dead are as likely as bullet victims to be civilans, women, children, babies.

Conntional war is hugely expensive and ineffective. The strategic (rather than merely tactical) use of special ops is far cheaper and more effective  -and also less likely to lead to nuclear war - than any conventional war.

For the defence industy, the choice is obvious. And, just to make sure, nice generals can be sure of good jobs at high pay and minimal duties when they retire to heaven on the board of directors of a major defence industry.

War in far away places has become a very profitable business, especially since an Afghanistan or a Vietnam or even a Venezuela would be in no position to launch a major attack against us or our war factories. Both sides of the coin are winners for the defence industry.

And what if a conventional war gets out of control and goes nuclear? What are you? Some kind of an extremist?

P.S. For a comic opera, but true, description of the most overblown American Special Op (CIA, Delta Force, Seals, etc.) ever, read Secret Armies by James Adams, a former Military Correspondent for the Sunday Times. He was a chapter on the invasion of Grenada - which wasn't at all like the Clint Eastwood movie.

1 comment:

  1. Graeme, I keep picking up spelling errors in your writings. I make them all the time. But my comments are usually short and I correct most of them,hopefully. The T&T should proof read before releasing. I have lots of time to do it. Let me know if I can hep. LOL I love them regardless.