The New Security Reality: Not Business as Usual

The New Security Reality: Not Business as Usual - A Strategic Studies Institute Op-Ed by Dr. Max Manwaring.

The past several years have marked the beginning of a different security era than that to which we are accustomed. Accordingly, it requires a new orientation. Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, and whether we are prepared for it or not, the United States and the West are engaged in a number of unconventional, undeclared, and undefined asymmetric wars...

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What exactly is the purpose of this statement in the opening of the article: "If left ignored and unchecked, these wars compel radical, unwanted, and epochal political-economic-social change."?

Actually, I would like to challenge the sum-total of the premise here that the existence of non-state challengers to state authority requires a response from the U.S. or anyone else not being directly challenged. Bandits and rebels are not exactly a new thing. Nor are bandits and rebels animated by profit or religious zeal. In fact, the article fundamentaly fails to establish the "newness" of the security environment except through quotation of political leaders and hyperbole. This whole piece wants to say 4GW without ever using the term. (I know it's an Op-Ed, but...)

Another point is to this statement: "The traditional distinctions between crime, terrorism, subversion, insurgency, popular militias, mercenaries, gangs, and traditional warfare are blurred. And there are virtually no rules." This is only traditional IF 20th Cent western Europe and North America are the origins of all tradition. Westphalia had nothing philosophical to contribute to African, Near-Easter, or Asian affairs until the 19th century. And even then, gradual influence is the method, not wholesale replacement of all concepts of interstate politics and conflict. Representing the past of an entire planet as monolithic and linear is gross intellectual negligence that leads to the intellectual excesses of 4GW and Marxism.

Then, to conclude with a recommendation for a working group to develop a regional (what region? no specific region is mentioned in the article as a focus, unless we are talking Monroe Doctrine here) security plan colors the whole article as a promotion piece. A working group? Really? Our strategic focus on a region (what region again?) is to be defined by a DOD working group? And this working group is supposed to also define military culture and organization changing "ways and means"?

I admit I might be out of my depth in criticizing Dr. Manwaring, but likening 60,000 mexican deaths to U.S. military deaths in Vietnam requires a hell of a lot more explanation. The mexican military and police forces have not suffered 60,000 deaths. If they did, you better believe that the US would be neck deep, boots on the ground, over the border. Those 55,000 Americans in VietNam died along side >1million Vietnamese. The Mexican civilians are not dying at that rate either. Additionally, even if the Mexicans are not able to use modern battlefied medicine, that means that the real casualty rate of the Mexican security forces is well over 150,000. If they can use NATO/US level battlefield medicine, that means their casualty rate is well over 400,000. Are mexican security forces even remotely that big, even if you add every traffic cop in the country?!

my dos confused pesos

Well said, I was left wondering what was new and what was the purpose of the article? Definitely not the author's best work.

But wait, Bill M., even if it's nothing new, we haven't really responded to the different categories Dr. Manwaring describes in the best fashion - or, have we? From the article:

1.Traditional, direct interstate war;
2.Unconventional nonstate war that involves gangs, insurgents, transnational criminal organizations, and “warlords” who thrive in “ungoverned space”;
3.Unconventional intrastate war that tends to involve state and nonstate actors; and,
4.Indirect interstate war which entails aggression by a nation-state against another through proxies.

Globalization basically means that we are involved in both sides of a conflict most of the time (I mean, we actually pay for both sides of the conflict, etc.), even if we often don't admit it to ourselves. I'm sure that is not new either, but it is particularly acute at this time in our history.

Within that rubric, are there better ways of doing things? I think that's an interesting question. Personally, I think it's a key question and one reenforced by Robert Tollast's latest post about Iraq - how do we deal with illiberal democracies or autocracies that we deem essential in terms of a security relationship? In our all or nothing fashion, we have had trouble with this. Perhaps that is always to be?

Dunno.