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[] Editor von Jane's zur asymmetrischen Kriegsführung post Afghanistan,
Copyright © 2001 The International Herald Tribune
After a Quick Victory, a New Age of War Begins 
Clifford Beal IHT 
Thursday, November 22, 2001 
LONDON In the last few days the world has witnessed yet again the awesome effectiveness of U.S. airpower against a conventional foe. The astounding reversal of fortune that the Taliban suffered was a direct result of the hammering that its frontline forces took from the American air arsenal.

 From the wide-area, "industrial strength" BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" to the precision accuracy of Global Positioning System-guided and laser-guided bombs such as JDAM and Paveway, these weapons were able to destroy enemy troops hunkered in trenches and bunkers and in their tanks, trucks and armored vehicles.

Once the political decision was reached to unleash the full might of the U.S. Air Force and Navy after the pinprick raids of the first three weeks, the Taliban didn't stand a chance.

But we are witnessing something else besides - the end of maneuver warfare. From the vast tank battles of World War II to the "left hook" delivered to Iraq in Desert Storm, maneuver warfare defined the 20th century way of war. Today the United States is on the verge of a dramatic leap in military capability that will make waging conventional war against it an act of suicide.

The Pentagon is now developing an array of radar, imaging, vehicle and computer technologies that will afford the U.S. military the ability not only to find enemy armies in darkness, fog, dust, inside buildings and beneath foliage, but also to strike within minutes of detecting and identifying them.

An enemy will find it more difficult each passing year to hide from spy planes and satellites and a host of airborne and land-based robotic vehicles. In 10 years' time the U.S. arsenal will be equipped with sensors and weapons far more rapid, more precise and more lethal than what we see today.

Even existing weapons are being improved. The B-2 Stealth bomber, for example, will by 2004 be able to carry 80 500-pound JDAM precision bombs that will be independently targetable. That is 80 different targets struck on a single silent pass at 50,000 feet.

However, the upshot of this revolution in military technology and capability is unlikely to be a Pax Americana or a more secure world. One of the direct outcomes of this new form of precision warfare will be an increase in opponents adopting asymmetric approaches to war.

As conventional warfare becomes more and more difficult to conduct against the West, foes will be driven to tactics like those of Qaida, striking at the soft underbelly of our societies.

The term "asymmetric warfare" has only recently found its way into U.S. military doctrinal discussion. It did not rate a mention in Pentagon reports until 1997. Simply put, it means that adversaries are likely to hit the United States and its allies where they are weakest to achieve disproportionate effects to attain strategic goals. This, as can be seen from recent events, is unlikely to mean the field of battle.

Even with the battering delivered to the Qaida network in the last month, the cold facts about the vulnerability of the U.S. homeland are there for all to see - and to draw lessons from.

In parallel with the Pentagon's plans to control the future "battlespace" there also exist plans to deal with asymmetric attacks against U.S. infrastructure and the civilian population. This form of defense requires the active involvement and seamless cooperation of all arms of government, given the nature of our highly urbanized and digitized society. The trouble is that we have run out of time for planning. Implementation of a new security doctrine is urgently needed. The remnants of the Taliban have threatened to go into guerrilla mode. Meanwhile, the Qaida cells that survive will no doubt continue their war against America and its influence in the world.

To meet new and unpredictable threats, homeland security efforts will undoubtedly adopt some of the same sensor and computer technologies as the military, with all the risks to civil liberties that these entail. U.S. military might, while protecting against traditional foes, has unintentionally helped spawn one far more insidious. We have entered a new age.

The writer is editor of Jane's Defence Weekly.
He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. 

Copyright © 2001 The International Herald Tribune 


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