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Sunday, November 25, 2007

From the Old Thoughts - Future of Warfare

Almost a decade back I wrote the following chapter the starting point of my book called "Future of Warfare - A search for Military Doctrine". Since the book never came out of my mind, yet the chapters are there - I will share them here... readers can may be peep into my history
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1 Warfare

War is a matter of vital importance to the state

Sun Tzu

1.1 Introduction

Despite the centuries of civilisation, human race is not able to avoid war. Wars will remain till human beings exist. Therefore, to study ways of avoiding, prosecuting if imposed, sustaining and supporting wars is an essential activity of a modern nation. The present day knowledge-based world will influence the way the wars will be carried out in future. These wars will be greatly affected by the fundamental changes taking place in the global geo-strategic environment and the increasing role of political, cultural and socio-economic factors in the overall security equations. However, technology will have sweeping influence on future wars. Therefore, to understand future warfare, it is not only necessary to understand the unpredictable, uncertain and unknown domains in which our world is rapidly moving, but also to assess the revolutionary ways in which the technological developments will influence future warfare.

This book predicts and analyses the alternative future structures of the world and ways to deal with them in the framework of a military doctrine. The advances taking place in information technology, military electronics, surveillance capabilities and precision guidance should be exploited to the full extent within the formulation of the new doctrine. The fact should be understood that the present day military hardware such as aircraft, ships and tanks have been reduced to the status of only a platform for carrying precision guided munitions, sensors and missiles. Unless these platforms are enmeshed and integrated in the nation-wide security system, their value is minimal. Therefore, the key to the future is integration. The military doctrine should encompass and bind together the whole spectrum of diverse forces into an effective whole that can be used as a capable striking force that no enemy force can match.

A war, statistically speaking, is a rare event. It is also an exceedingly costly and disruptive form of interaction between people and states. A war indicates that level of bilateral relationship between two states, which exists from the time, first mobilisation of troops is called for against the other side till peace is reached. This view of war implying only active armed conflict however is a restrictive definition. Here it is assumed that war/conflict is in operation, from the moment a state decides upon a policy of armed resistance or inclination to counter an external/ internal threat with military ramifications, to the time the solution of the active threat is achieved or it is made dormant. Modern day wars have been defined at three levels of increasing intensity though not necessarily increasing complexity and duration (See Fig. 1). At the first level is the most prevalent form of warfare, i.e., Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). The LIC is defined as a conflict between irregular forces, mercenaries, revolutionaries, terrorists, etc and the regular, conventional armed forces of a nation. The biggest challenge facing the conventionally armed forces of a nation, which are trained and equipped for fighting against the conventionally armed forces of the enemy, is to deal with LIC. The Mid Intensity Conflict (MIC) is the conventional warfare that is indoctrinated in the regular armed forces of the world. With the advent of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), the chances of High Intensity Conflict (HIC), which is defined as a conflict involving WMDs, are increasing. As is evident from Fig 1., the probability of occurrence of a LIC is high and also the duration of such conflicts is more. This is due to the fact that LIC is a continuous process, which the armed forces all over the world have found hard to contain. The probability of WMD based HIC is low compared to LIC/MIC. However, a threat which this spectrum misses out is the possibility that, WMDs may fall in the hands of irregulars engaged in an LIC. This will bring the conflict to HIC levels, where the nation fighting the insurgents or irregulars will suffer. Therefore, the armed forces of a modern nation need equipment, force structure and doctrines to deal with threats at all three levels of intensity. These armed forces should strive to achieve a balanced force structure to deal with hi-tech conventional threats from other forces and to deal with low to medium technology LICs on the other hand.


A basic question that arises, however, is that why do people fight? What are the causes of conflicts? Why do we need to maintain considerable armed forces and spend huge amounts on their maintenance? To answer these questions, we have to look into the history of warfare.

1.2 Warfare - Historical perspective

Once the basic needs of humans are full-filled, there starts a striving for control and power. Human beings have a natural requirement to control everything as per their whims and fancies. This egoistic controlling itch, generates an inclination for hoarding of resources which are required by other beings. The resources include land, wealth, pleasures of all sorts and knowledge. The person having more of these resources can control the lives of more human beings. This ability to accumulate resources and hence control other lives, creates 'power'. Once the human beings realised that power is the ultimate tool, which can serve their ego, the wars on this planet started. War is ultimately a conflict to gain more power.

Every nation strive to become more powerful in this world. However, the three legs of power i.e., economics, military and knowledge capabilities of respective nations orders the power structure of the world. A nation which is economically strong, militarily strong and controlling more knowledge resources is more strong than the one who has less economic, military and knowledge capabilities. Therefore, to capture more power every nation strives for more economic, military and knowledge strengths. At each of these dimensions and paths to power, every nation encounters many other nations. This striving to gain relative power advantage creates the possibilities of conflicts and wars.

History is replete with many wars, however, each of these wars and conflicts can be attributed to a conflict for more power- be it economic, military or knowledge. It must be mentioned here, that knowledge in this context is taken as a broad term encompassing religion as well as political ideology. The power seekers have been enveloping their naked lust for more power by calling their competitors and their targets as threats to their national interests or objectives. The interest of a nation may be in conflict with the interest of another nation. If the two nations have equal power and geographical proximity, or a nation has capability to project its power in the geographic proximity of the other nation, then the chance of conflicts are high between the two countries. If a weaker power is threatened by a strong power, it calls for help from another strong power to counter the threat. It so happened in most of the cases, that the power coming to the rescue of the weaker nation started controlling it. This process led to the formation of power blocks within the world geo-political structures and hence the world was divided into major power blocks controlled by a big power and each such block was in confrontation with the other.

Writing on the reasons and trends of major wars of the 20th Century, Stoessinger [ ] presents the following observations:

No nation that began a war in this century, emerged a winner

Outbreak of war depended to a major extent on the personality of leaders

Most important single precipitating factor in the outbreak of war is misperception. Such distortion may manifest itself in four different ways:

In a leader's image of himself

A leader's view of his adversary's character

A leader's view of his adversary's intentions towards itself

A leader's view of his adversary's capabilities and power

Most national leaders on the brink of war expected victory after a brief and triumphant campaign

When a leader on the brink of war believes that his adversary will attack him, the chances of war are fairly high. When both leaders share this precipitation about each other's intent, war becomes a virtual certainty

It is not the actual distribution of power that precipitates war, it is the way in which a leader thinks that power is distributed.

The way a nation fights a war is dependent upon its history, present power alliances, terrain and technology. Historically speaking, warfare has always been a regular way of living for many nations. The nature of warfare has also changed as the world has evolved.

Traditionally functions in wars have been analysed as – Planning, Execution and Logistics [ ]. These functions are superimposed on two operational areas of warfare i.e., strategic and tactical. There are grey overlaps between strategic and tactical areas reflected in diverse definitions of strategy and tactics. However, in the war continuum – strategy is concerned more with `planning’ – with only a small excursion in `execution’, whereas tactics starts at the fringes of planning and is mainly exercised in the execution of battle [ ]. Planning involves three main phases – formulation of war policy, acquisition of strategic intelligence and the movement phase involving mobilisation, allocation and distribution of material resources and preliminary deployment of forces. Execution was concerned with two phases i.e., movement and `destruction’.

Tactics has been concerned with two important elements – weapon power and the capability and speed of keeping it moving in battle. This traditional concept of fire-and-movement has been the basic tactical principle throughout the ages. However, most commanders have given more importance to fire power than movement. This has resulted in wars of attrition when the opponent commander has also given the same emphasis. However, with judicious movement of weapon / weapon system the exclusive fire-power based tactics have been defeated. Superiority of fire-power as a means of victory has been the major requirements of British Commanders (e.g. Montgomery’s campaign). It is the capability to combine movement along with firepower that has proved to be the major downfall of weapon power based tactics.

Since the traditional military campaign were mostly based on ground with minor air support, the terrain or ground on the battlefield played a major role. Based on terrain, the basic formation of armies i.e., how they are deployed on the battlefield, were line, the column and the square [ ]. Each formation had its own advantages and disadvantages – and the commanders had to choose their formations taking into account the tasks to be performed by the armies.

Historically wars were based on the ground forces ability to destroy enemy armies in frontal attacks and manoeuvre battles to flank attacks. Most of the time the ranges at which the battles took place were within few kilometres of the attacker's visual ranges. With the induction of tanks and mechanical infantry – traditional eye ball to eye ball conflict shifted to a movement based warfare. Tank symbolised the fire and movement tactics. However, many commanders used the tanks as in old age concept of protected fire power. The mobility aspect of tank was exploited by Germans in World War II. The blitzkrieg tactics of Germany proved that tanks could not only be used to achieve a break-through where traditional methods of heavy pounding by artillery fire and subsequent assault by waves of infantry had failed, but were also capable of independent mobile operation to force a decision. The Germans were able to defeat a numerically superior force by piercing the enemy position at a few selected points, followed by swift thrusts to effect deep penetration and destruction of main body of the enemy forces. The blitzkrieg attacks were based on the theory of infiltration [ ]. The blitzkrieg, when compared to traditional warfare of hitting the enemy at each level, halting one’s armour so that flank formations can catch up and then moving forward to the next line of enemy defences, performed much better only because the doctrine underlying the fire and movement tactics was exploited to the full.

A major problem of providing artillery fire-power to the armoured formations, once they have penetrated deep inside enemy was solved by the use of tactical bomber aircraft. Aircraft assumed the role of flying artillery and thus was seen more as an extension of traditional artillery. The concentrated panzer divisions of German army utilised the armour formation for the deep penetrations. These formations were able to defeat the linear defences of traditional defence forces. These tactics indicated an important point that one should realise throughout, that the aim of war is not merely to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy but it is to defeat the enemy.

German Panzer divisions met their match in Russians, who evolved a new form of defence doctrine against massed armoured thrusts. Once the armour thrusts have taken place, Russians instead of retreating the front, re-organised in their own territory in small pockets. These small areas were used as strong castles against enemy armour formations and mobile units were dispatched to frustrate the incoming armour formation. This counter offensive was also based on fire and defence movement. This was a major shift from the linear static defence doctrine to a dynamic defence doctrine. British used armour to seek and destroy enemy armour, whereas Germans used armour against non-armoured forces, thus making the major difference between victory and loss. Role of armour for independent tank action was proved wasteful, whereas it is in conjunction with all arms co-operation that the armour achieved its major task of infiltrating at a high speed and going in for strategic targets.

It can be seen that traditional warfare has not freed itself from vagaries and intricacies of terrain and it is based on fire and movement doctrine used by armour formations. Air power was used only as an extension of artillery.

1.3 Current Wars

In the present world scenarios, the type of wars that are being fought is a reflection of a shift in societies of the world. Information Technology (IT) has brought the awareness level of a common man to almost to the highest professional in respective fields. The common man of this decade is more aware than say the common man of two decades before. The level of his awareness of the world around him, has increased at a remarkable pace. This awareness has created in his mind the irrelevance of wars. Also, it is very difficult to fool him with lies. Hence, initiating and justifying a conventional war against any country by the rulers of a country has become exceedingly difficult. Therefore, the current world is seeing less of conventional wars or what we call the mid intensity conflicts.

However, an individual has become more aware of his basic rights with the continuous information explosion. The comparison with other societies makes him strive for more from his own political system. With this, his reason for fighting for himself or his local group (which is based most of the times on his religion rather than his nation) has increased due to competition from the other such groups. This awareness in him is increasing his urge for more power. Hence, individuals tries to organise religion based groups, however small, so as to carve a leadership position for them. Once these groups are created they tend to fight/attack other groups for justifying the necessity of their existence. This lead to an exponential growth in the number of conflicts which are termed as low intensity conflicts. When such conflicts are supported from outside (through financial, moral and material support) the problems for a nation increases manifolds. To counter such LICs is the major challenge that the world armies are facing today. Another factor that has fuelled this trend is the end of cold war. The melt down of the bi-polar world has resurfaced the age old ethnic religious conflicts that were dormant during the cold war years [ ].

The reluctance of big powers to give away their Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is the major factor for the proliferation of WMD. This increasing trend is going to continue unless the big powers agree to live in a Nuclear Weapons Free World. Until that happens the world will continue to live under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. There are two ways in which the world can free itself from nuclear weapons. One is to let everyone develop these weapons. Once all the countries have exhausted their limited national budgets on building and maintaining sufficient nuclear weapons, then will start the process of freeing the world from these weapons. Another way is to eliminate WMDs from the countries possessing these weapons. There is a strong possibility of freeing the world from WMDs in today’s scenario, when the number of countries who possess these WMDs or are in the process of acquiring them, are less than ten. Once this number increases, which is likely to occur, it will become increasingly difficult to eliminate WMDs from the world.

Hence the two trends of increasing LICs and proliferation of WMDs are shaping the nature of current wars. These wars are living in an imitable world characterised by demise of bi-polarity, increasing reluctance on the part of political leadership to resort to wars due to more awareness of individuals, almost revolutionary impact of Information Technology (IT) on the society in uncountable ways through multiple dimensions and increasing intellectual contributions in evolving the new way of warfare.

Air Land Battle Doctrine and its many variants is the intellectual fabric on which the current wars of higher powers are being designed. For lesser powers, the fruits of such high-end resource-intensive doctrine are not available due to budget and technological constraints. Hence, these powers are evolving their own doctrines making the U.S. doctrines as the basis with which to compare their capabilities. It is highly unlikely that U.S. is going to give away the immense lead that it enjoys over other powers. But other powers are going to strive for achieving near parity with U.S. This trend of inventing the new Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) is going to shape the nature of future wars. In current wars, air power has assumed three distinct roles – one is the traditional role of its support of ground forces, the second is the possible role of attacking the enemy through air force before the ground offensive or counter offensive actually starts. This second concept is exemplified by the 1991 Gulf war, when U.S. and allies heavily pounded Iraqi forces for about 6 weeks before the actual ground action by U.S. forces started for only a few days. The third possible shift in the role of air power as a distinct force attacking the enemy force and achieving the mission of enemy destruction or halting the enemy forward movement by the use of air power alone. This is the recently emerging trend [ ].

1.4 Future Wars

The hi-end future wars (involving U.S. and other super powers) are going to be anywhere any-time wars [ ]. The fronts (battle, theatre and war) will vanish and will be replaced by whole five dimensional expanse of our existence i.e., the space, air, land, sea surface and under water. The war in each dimension will have trans-dimensional impacts due to remarkable jointness between the war making elements. The clarity of goals will make the necessity of elimination of enemy obsolete. The attrition warfare of the yester- years will be replaced by the disruption warfare, where the intent is to control information flow and information edge. These hi-end wars may not occur at all. The conflicts of future are most likely to be conflicts which will be messy, irregular and revolving around the rise of highly networked non-state actors, whose principal targets may, in many cases, be states [ ]. The technology will revolutionise the dynamics and attributes of new conflicts – with increasing decentralised attacks with over-lapping offence and defence capabilities. Strategic aims may shift from destruction to disruption. Possibility of a nexus between political and criminal actors with large overtones of terrorism and insurgency is going to require forces that can win the future information based conflicts.

There is a need to study the influence of information revolution on the structure of future world to take care of unanticipated and multi-dimensional threats. This influence will impact the traditional ideologies, objectives, doctrines and organisational structures. The dynamics of future wars should be studied for extracting and evolving the military doctrine and force structures by peeping through the window of future world. However, it is important to address the necessity of looking at the war doctrine for a force.

1.5 Need for a Military Doctrine

For the purpose of this book, the military doctrine is defined as a comprehensive system of views and procedures for conduct of future wars including various military operations, established by military experts, technologists and armed forces, in the likely threat environment, and within the purview of present force structures. This doctrine is subject to periodic reviews and analysis and is evolved taking into account the dynamic geo-political, economic and technological trends in the world scenarios. Also such a doctrine should be freely available as a comprehensive document, so as to give a common basis for decision making at all level of military and defence hierarchy of the nation.

With the availability of such a document the armed forces can visualize their force structures, technology influences and missions within the muti-dimensional milieu of the future war scenarios. Such a military doctrine should have a political, technoogical and economic basis coming out of the national vision for security and guarding the interests of the nation. The political basis should clearly mention the situations and reasons when the armed forces of the nation will be called upon for a military action. The technological requirements of such military actions based on the missions and tasks of various armed forces constituting the military of action should be clearly spelled out. The industry, economy, foreign policy and military of the nation should be geared to provide necessary capabilities and resources to the armed forces for carrying out the assigned tasks.

It must be mentioned here that technology, muscle power, raw courage, quality of armed troops, weapon systems or organised forces alone cannot guarantee victory in the future wars. A coherent well developed vision of future war to viable and usable operational concepts coupled with proper training, agile leadership, and technological backing is needed for the non-linear, high speed, more lethal and highly uncertain battlefields of the future.

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