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Military Science: Irregular Warfare Essay

1306 words - 6 pages

Irregular warfare has become the centre of much military and academic study in recent years, due mostly to the ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan. However irregular warfare is by no means a recent revelation in the evolution of warfare and strategy, numerous examples exist throughout history in which irregular warfare tactics and strategy have been adopted and later analysed by academics and military professionals. This author will focus on the key issues that governments face in creating effective strategies for irregular warfare with a particular emphasis on counter-insurgency (COIN) and terrorism. Resources such as time, space, legitimacy and support present themselves as key issues ...view middle of the document...

These are the features that distinguish insurgency from terrorism. Conventional warfare that is prolonged and resource intensive is not sustainable and eventually leads to descent into attrition type warfare. Irregular warfare operations, be it COIN or counter-terrorism, from the Western perspective consume time and resources. This consumption is predominantly fuelled by the asymmetry of Western and insurgent forces which results in significantly different tactics being used by the two forces. Western powers, in almost all cases, tend to have superior technology and a larger number of forces and rely heavily on these factors during conflicts, however this perceived imbalance of power is not necessarily advantageous for the Western power. Andrew Mack discusses this idea that military superiority does not always result in victory when facing an unconventional enemy, Mack states " In such asymmetric conflicts, insurgents may gain political victory from a situation of military stalemate or even defeat." Here Mack surfaces the idea of 'political capital' and argues that insurgents' ability to win wars stems from "...the progressive attrition of their opponents' political capability to wage war." This concept is solidified if we observe the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, after having a Western military presence in the nation for over ten years, public support has declined and it is no longer politically viable to continue operations in that theatre. Insurgents continue to function in this state and the threat of terrorism is still present, yet the militarily superior force is withdrawing, and arguably the mission has not been achieved. It is valuable to note this concept of political attrition but it is equally important to consider how this is achieved by insurgents or terrorist forces. Only a brief analysis of the Arab Revolt (1916-1918) reveals the key staples that essentially led to an Arab victory against the Turkish. T.E. Lawrence attributes this victory to the Arab tactic of avoiding contact, revealing themselves only at the moment of attack and focusing this attack on physical assets (usually railway lines), stating that " This chimed with the numerical plea of never giving the enemy's soldier a target." Turkish soldiers were rarely provided with the opportunity to engage the enemy thus making it difficult to destroy the enemy, as is the objective of conventional warfare. The consequence of this is attrition type warfare is the continual draining of the conventional forces resources and time , rapidly reducing the political capital that is available within their society. This unsustainable practice will almost certainly result in the withdrawal of the conventional, or Western force, signalling victory to the insurgent organisation. Modern societies, for the most part, avoid military conflict and engagements with other nations and exhibit a strong aversion to casualties (particularly in Western societies). The nature of irregular...

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