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[] Guardian, 25.3.03: Shock tactics, Interview mit dem "Erfinder" von Shock&Awe,

Shock tactics 

One man has been watching the fearsome bombardment of Baghdad more closely 
than most - Harlan Ullman, the former US navy pilot who convinced 
Washington to embrace his 'shock and awe' tactic. He tells Oliver Burkeman 
why the strategy is working 

Tuesday March 25, 2003
The Guardian 

Shock and awe are not among the words first called to mind by the opening 
sentences of the final report of the Rapid Dominance Study Group, an 
informal affiliation of seven men, mainly ex-military, who spent the 
"mid-1990s meeting to talk defence in the verdant suburbs of Washington. 
"The purpose of this paper," they began soporifically, "is to explore 
alternative concepts for structuring mission capability packages around 
which future US military forces might be configured." One member of the 
Study Group had co-written a novel with Tom Clancy, as it happened - but 
they weren't concentrating on the mass market at the time. The paper "was 
only really meant to be used inside the Pentagon," says its lead author, a 
62-year-old, amiable retired navy pilot called Harlan Ullman. But any 
chance of that had long evaporated by the end of last month, by which time 
shock and awe, the phrase denoting the military theory that Ullman largely 
invented, could not be avoided in news coverage of the coming war. On 
Friday, in Baghdad, it was a theory no longer. 
"The phrase, as used by the Pentagon now, has not been helpful," Ullman 
concedes, racing between appointments in Virginia, outside Washington. "It 
has created a Doomsday approach - the idea of terrorising everybody. In 
fact, that's not the approach. The British have a much better phrase for 
it: effects-based operations." 

But it is shock and awe that television and newspaper coverage of the war 
has adopted unanimously to describe the unprecedentedly heavy aerial 
bombardment unleashed on Baghdad, and other cities in northern Baghdad, 
from Friday and intermittently over the weekend. And it is shock and awe 
that has also rapidly come to epitomise, among opponents of the conflict, 
all the indiscriminate, terror-inducing destructiveness they perceive in 
the coalition military machine. 

Which is, Ullman insists today, "entirely wrong. The notion is to do 
minimum damage, minimum casualties, using minimum force - even though that 
may be a lot. It's been taken out of context." At least in the rarefied 
corridors of the National War College, where Ullman taught, shock and awe 
was never supposed to be about obliteration but about will power: stunning 
one's opponent into realising that your might was so enormous, so 
unbeatable, that the fight was as good as over. "The question is: how do 
you influence the will and perception of the enemy, to get them to behave 
how you want them to? So you focus on things that collapse their ability 
to resist." 

This need not necessarily involve massive bombing. On Wednesday night, 
after US commanders ordered a smaller strike of Tomahawk missiles at 
targets they believed included Saddam Hussein, CNN, for one, began running 
an on-screen alert reading "Shock and Awe postponed". But "that was 
classic shock and awe," says Ullman, who is now strategic associate at the 
centre for strategic and international studies in Washington. "If you kill 
the emperor, the empire's up for grabs. And had we killed him, it would 
have been a classic application [of the theory]: $50m of ordnance, and we 
won the war." 

After this, the argument begins to get a little circular: the postponement 
of shock and awe "was shock and awe, too," Ullman says, because "we were 
threatening shock and awe". But the reason for the emergence of the theory 
at this point in time is clear: it is the philosophical companion to 
America's staggering technological superiority in warfare. Trying to shock 
your enemy is not new - "but what was new was the combination of 
technology and philosophy," Ullman says. "And before Rumsfeld, before 
9/11, the Pentagon rejected it, you know. They said: 'We don't understand 
it.'" They preferred the Powell doctrine - swift overwhelming force to 
eliminate the enemy, but at potentially huge cost, human and otherwise, on 
both sides. 

Despite Ullman's insistence that the theory is designed to win conflicts 
with minimum casualties, shock and awe has won him few friends in the 
anti-war movement, where it has been almost universally interpreted as a 
recipe for wreaking huge destruction. Some of this is to do with how the 
Pentagon has presented it: one official told the CBS TV network recently 
that, "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad... The sheer size of this 
has never been seen before, never been contemplated before." And much of 
it has to do with a distinguishing trait of "defence intellectuals": a 
certain distancing from the grim daily news emerging from real-life 
battlefronts, and, in Ullman's case, a preference for legendary tales like 
the one he enjoys recounting about Sun Tzu, the warrior-philosopher of 
ancient China. 

"Sun Tzu was hired by the Emperor as a general, and instead of an 
interview, the Emperor told him to teach his concubines to march. Because 
if he could do that, he could do anything. So Sun Tzu said: 'Do I have 
complete control?' The emperor said yes. So he told them to march, and the 
concubines just laughed. Then he summoned the head concubine and cut off 
her head. Then they marched." 

For many, though, by far the hardest thing to stomach about Ullman is the 
historical example he gives of shock and awe working as it should: the 
dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is hard to argue 
with his opinion that this was "the maximum case of changing behaviour". 
It is easier to argue with his conclusion that it saved countless lives. 

"But take a look at the Japanese during the second world war!" he 
exclaims. "Large numbers of civilians were committing suicide, and we were 
bombarding the islands with firebomb raids that would incinerate, in a 
night, 100,000 Japanese - burn them in the night. This was unbelievable 
horror. We were starving the Japanese, because we'd blockaded them. 
General George Marshall projected that invasion would impose about a 
million American casualties, and we could have de-peopled Japan: no more 
Japanese. We dropped two nuclear weapons, and they quit. 

"They were suicidal in the extreme. And they could comprehend 1,000 
bombers, 100,000 dead Japanese, but they couldn't understand one plane, 
one bomb, one city gone. Those people who say it was inhuman - it wasn't 
inhuman to drop the atom bomb if you believe in saving lives in the long 
run. Now, can you do that with a minimum amount of force today? We think 
you can." 

Coalition progress in the current war has been "remarkable", Ullman 
maintains. "People don't realise. The war just began on Wednesday. It's 
like saying to Eisenhower, four days after D-Day - why the hell haven't 
you got to Berlin yet?" In a week, or maybe 10 days, he says, we "will 
know whether shock and awe has worked" - although it is not clear 
precisely what will constitute "working". 

All of which is not to say that Ullman supports the war. Surprisingly, 
perhaps, he doesn't. "Where we are is where we are, and this is not a 
criticism and don't write it as such, but if it had been up to me I would 
have waited months, perhaps, to get a second resolution, when it would 
have been clear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction," he says. "I 
don't agree with the administration view that Iraq is a clear and present 
danger, an imminent threat. But as we say in aviation, the three most 
useless things to a pilot are airspace above you, runway behind you and 
fuel you no longer have left in the tank." 

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