The new paradigm of war?

Wars have changed, or at least what kind of war people expect has changed.

The best known version of war is probably the war that most war movies are made about: Wars like the World Wars, or at least the miniature versions around Israel. States mobilize conscripts, convert their industries to wartime production needs and send fleets, armies and air forces against each other. This kind of war is what many armies in the world (and all air forces and navies) prepare for the most.

Yet there were also other wars in the past decades, more violent versions of the 19th century colonial wars. The so-called counter insurgencies and their baby siblings, the peacekeeping missions.
The first really challenging and very violent version of such a war was the Second Boer War 1899-1902. That war told the armies of Europe valuable first lessons on modern warfare, but was in fact in its later stage a counter insurgency campaign of the British.

Meanwhile, such insurgencies against Western troops have received different names; I like the term "War among people" most. It focuses on what's most essential for the NATO armies in these conflicts.
It's the clash of wills. They cannot simply destroy the adversary and therefore force the enemy to give up as Clausewitz offered as method for normal wars.
Instead, the enemy might stand up every time he was beaten down, no matter how hard the hits were. The only thing that counts is whether he's got the will to do so until the occupier's nation loses its commitment and gives up.
We've seen such a result in Indochina, Algeria, South Vietnam (previously part of Indochina), Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and other countries. I guess the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are about to end just like this.

Being defeated almost every time by ill-equipped low-tech light infantry adversaries is an open challenge for the Western military ... especially concerning small-unit tactics, discipline, public relations, diplomacy and strategy.

But there's something about it that worries me deeply: Some experts (and I really mean experts) propose that this is a new paradigm, that industrial wars as seen till Korea 1953 are a thing of the past. They'd never occur again. Nuclear weapons made such conflicts impossible. It would be a waste of resources to prepare for industrial war. Heavy weapon systems were obsolete, only infantry / peace keepers and their small wars-compatible support elements would be required in the future.

I doubt this paradigm change.

True, an insurgency can win the clash of wills, break the adversary's vital trinity of forces-government-people by making the adversary's people war-weary. After all, the people about whose sovereignty the conflict is fought have so much more that motivates themselves.
But a paradigm change requires in my opinion that this new style of war is generally superior, just like Napoleonic troops were generally superior to 18th century troops due to their motivation, Napoleon's style of commanding independent corps for a common mission and less if any need of precautions against desertion.
Insurgents could never ever beat our armies at our homes. They simply couldn't invade us successfully. The West can at least invade their homes at will.

The only style of war to be used to take away from us what we have here at home (and not just destroy point targets), to take away our sovereignty and freedom is after all a classic invasion. If, for example Morocco decided that it wants to occupy southern Spain to make it muslim again, it would need to defeat the NATO's forces by conventional or nuclear means.

Here comes into play the assertion that conventional war is unthinkable because anything larger than a battalion would be wiped out by a nuclear warhead. Which would lead to the end of mankind according to the nuclear pendant of the domino theory.

Well, I base my beliefs a lot on historical lessons. One historical lesson is that chemical weapons could and should (according to the mentioned reasoning) have killed millions of civilians in World War Two.
In fact, almost nobody died due to chemical weapons in that war. The first nerve gasses were in production, gas delivery was much more advanced than in the First World War, but nobody really used gas.
Pandora's box wasn't opened.

Now what would happen if we followed the advice of the experts and reduced our conventional warfare capability even more in favor of small arms capabilities?
Would some power decide that it's about to build a large conventional force and invade us? After all, we would destroy ourselves if we started nuclear war.

In fact, nothing has changed since 1989 for the defense of the Western World. We still got nukes and we still need conventional forces to deter everyone else to be safe. The reasoning is still correct as it was in the 50's to 80's.
Defeats in COIN don't change the basis of our defense - just the scale of the conventional threat changed since 1990.

But if anyone believes that there's no real conventional challenge out there and won't be for the next decades...history has another lesson for him or her:
Germany was reduced to a 100,000 men military by 1933 and economically shattered.
Only about seven years later it had the most powerful air force and army of the world. The re-equipping of its forces made these forces superior organization and equipment. The neighbouring nations were slow to realize what happened and lost about three to five years of preparation time.

I certainly don't want to see our militaries changed to peacekeeping and counter-insurgency forces. I want them to prepare to defend their nations and their alliance. That's the first and best justification for their existence and expenses.

The very best thing that could happen in this world for us is that our forces prepare for the conventional and nuclear defense of the sovereignty of the NATO countries ... and nothing happens. Just like in the Cold War.
Mission accomplished (not Bush-style).

Sven Ortmann

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