From the Editor


From Parameters, Summer 2002, pp. 2-3.


In This Issue . . .

Jeffrey Record examines a trilogy of phenomena leading the United States to embrace a “new way of war.” The combination of US interests in “failed states,” the growing “casualty phobia” on the part of the nation’s leaders, and an increased reliance on airpower are causing America to embrace a new philosophical and technological approach to warfare in the early 21st century. Record highlights the Gulf War as the turning point. It was our last war against a fully developed state, and the first modern conflict where airpower did the bulk of the “heavy lifting.” It, like Vietnam, reinforced the desire of leaders for casualty avoidance through the use of technology. The author submits that it is the weak and failed states, such as Afghanistan, that have become the primary source of international instability, and although possessing minimal strategic interest, have attracted US military intervention. Record concludes that if the United States continues a foreign policy based on regime coercion and the overthrow of failed states, America’s new way of war is destined to reflect an airpower dominance coupled with small supporting US ground forces and whatever local surrogates are available.

William Hawkins presents a different perspective on the evolution of US military strategy with his analysis of “What Not to Learn from Afghanistan.” Hawkins bases his thesis on the principle that it is the combined arms team that will be required to win decisive victories in the future. The author’s insightful review of the history of airpower warns against radically changing our forces based on the lessons of the Balkans and Afghanistan. Those advocating the restructuring of the US military toward lighter forces, whether in the Clinton “peacekeeping” mode or for the current anti-terrorism operations, must realize the difficulty in rapidly upgrading forces to meet a greater threat. Hawkins concludes that it would be foolhardy to dismantle the military forces that have demonstrated their ability to counter America’s adversaries.

Paul Smith tells us that the terrorist organization known as al Qaeda (The Base) was well known to members of the international intelligence and police communities long before the events of 9/11. Tracing al Qaeda back to its origins, Smith details the history and composition of the organization. He shows how the events of 11 September were not, as some suggest, the result of a massive “failure of intelligence,” but rather the acts of an organization well established in over 50 countries. The author says al Qaeda, “the ultimate transnational terror organization,” represents a new type of terrorist group, one not anchored to specific geographic locations or political constituencies, and possessing transglobal strategic reach.

P. H. Liotta provides us with an examination of “Chaos as Strategy.” Something that Sun Tzu knew quite well is now being exercised by non-state actors who have come to realize that you do not attack a great power’s “vital” interests. Rather, the chaos strategist will carry out attacks that cause excessive deaths of innocents and which might provoke even greater cultural, religious, and ethnic unrest among their adversaries. Since America’s military forces are not sized or structured as “counter-value forces,” the chaos strategist will exercise such methods as cyber-war, terrorism, and attacks with infectious diseases to gain his objective. Liotta tells us that the chaos strategist wants to avoid force engagement at all cost. The classic mistake of the

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Taliban and al Qaeda was their decision to fight back. The true chaos strategist would have looked for ways not to engage American military force. He concludes by warning that if United States believes we understand the challenges of the future and are adapting our forces to meet those challenges, we are terribly mistaken.

Our first thematic presentation continues the examination of “The Law and War in the 21st Century.” Thomas W. McShane’s “Blame it on the Romans: Pax Americana and the Rule of Law” suggests that Rome’s legacy of a unified and stable world, at peace within its borders, is in modern times analogous to America. He draws this analogy of “Pax Americana” from the period of relative peace and prosperity that has existed since World War II. McShane’s thesis is built on the premise that American military power is required to establish and enforce global peace. His examination involves three key questions—when is the use of armed force legal under international law, what limits does sovereignty impose, and what is the proper application of military power. He concludes that “Pax Americana” provides us with several useful lessons. First, that multinational intervention is almost always preferred; second, we should always use the other elements of national power before introducing the military; and finally that every outbreak does not cry out for international intervention. Our second article on the law, “Utilitarian vs. Humanitarian: The Battle Over the Law of War,” is the product of two military lawyers, Eric Krauss and Mike Lacey. Their article highlights the tension between two radically different perspectives, that of the utilitarian (warrior) and that of the humanitarian. The authors examine the US role in the development of the law of war and conclude that the warrior’s tendency to ignore or ridicule advances in the law of war by the humanitarian segment of the international community is a grave mistake. It is in the interest of both the utilitarian and humanitarian schools to have the United States reassume leadership in developing the law of war.

“Technology and Change” is an examination of the role technology plays in crafting the present and future of the American military, and society in general. Kip Nygren explores the impact that technology and exponential change are having on Army transformation. He builds his thesis on the response to three basic questions: What can be anticipated regarding the nature and pace of future technological change? Why is it important for the Army to continuously transform itself? And how can the Army best manage the growing stress associated with this change and balance the need for organizational continuity against the requirement for constant improvement? Of special interest is the author’s presentation on the exponential nature of change. Change is not going to stop; indeed, it is going to come at society— and the Army—at an ever increasing rate. D. Keith Shurtleff provides our final article in the issue, “The Effects of Technology on Our Humanity.” Shurtleff presents what some might consider a moralistic view of technology’s increasing influence on national decisionmakers and the military. He examines some of the characteristics technology possesses—disengagement, instantaneousness, and ubiquity—in determining that technology generates an ambiguity on the battlefield. It offers an element of safety and ease for our soldiers, while at the same time increasing the potential for broader conflict and greater destruction. The author cautions that the moral and physical disengagement technology provides has the potential to dehumanize war and thus make it more acceptable. Shurtleff believes that only through the exercise of effective leadership and better training can we hope to counter the negative aspects of technology. — RHT


Reviewed 6 May 2002. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil