COMMENT: Retooling militaries — changing paradigms —Shahzad Chaudhry - Monday, April 11, 2011

Pakistan’s pervasive war will be against non-state actors for the foreseeable future and there is absolutely no harm in calling it Pakistan’s long war. Give it a couple of decades before the signs of it can be eliminated from our midst

Retooling militaries is costly if undertaken en masse; it must be a gradual process beginning with reorienting planned force development strategies. An improving political environment, like the re-initiation of the India-Pakistan talks, will greatly help, but where security and polity easily drive each other, as has been the case in both countries, reshaping priorities can become a challenge. A security dynamic stunts political growth rather than politics dictating military disposition, and militaries define the space within which politicians can exercise their freedom. This is rooted in the military’s entrenched structures that produce dogmatic mindsets. Simply stated, these two militaries, especially the armies, are structured on the 1960s model — the post-WW II military design — and exhibit a war-fighting capacity and intellectual orientation in exactly the same tradition. Their comfort zones are in their traditional methods of deployment and employment, sustaining the old order of both structure and thought.

While a fundamental doctrinal shift is absolutely essential to underpin a reoriented military, it must begin by understanding three basic determinants. One, the new 21st century threat is the non-state actor who thrives in intra-state strife and is centred on challenging the state and its formal traditional structures to gain operating space and introduce non-formal administrative and judicial structures aimed at instituting ideological or alternate socio-political paradigms. This amounts to challenging the way that a society lives and imposing a way of life that may not be popular. Al Qaeda seeks such operating space to apply its own structures and find an assured base in pursuance of its trans-national agenda. Its affiliate the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan seeks the same in induced internalisation of the ideological frame as a convenient expedient. Their foray into Swat tested the capability of the state to withstand such a challenge; that it was strongly neutralised and confronted drew the limits of Taliban adventurism. They now remain in a struggle to incrementally whittle away at state power, disarming sensitivities sufficiently to overlook a foreboding doom. It is for no other reason that such a war is termed a long war.

Two, inter-state conflict will persist, especially when competition for resources, be it mineral or commodity, will peak in this century. Where weak political structures, absence of governance, fractured societies and impoverished economies accompany or complicate the dynamics in varying degrees, the likelihood of a state falling into conflict, whether intra-state or inter-state, increases manifold.

Three, the nature of war has changed; acquisition of space or destruction of force are no more valid as strategic objectives, since each needs prolonged application of force and is anti-status quo — a contravention of a globalised, interconnected, inter-dependent world. The US remains the only power that flouts this principle in a strange formulation of a political vision that is more skewed than misplaced and confounds international sensibilities. Coercion remains the more applicable strategic objective in application of the levers of power in inter-state conflict. It forces a target nation to comply to a set of policy objectives in line with universal acceptability. Multilateralism, even in wars, now is the prevalent currency. The UN endorses political or military action, including economic sanctions as an interim measure, in pursuit of seeking a more conformist disposition of an erring member state. Think Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya now, as an expose of the neo-modern conflict dynamics.

Translated in the Indo-Pakistani context, it means the following: changing borders, i.e. Kashmir, is now patently out of the question, especially on the basis of the archaic UN resolutions; if a change comes it shall be through a consensual tripartite agreement between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris who are now an inalienable part of any potential solution. War has no role now or in the future to solve the Kashmir problem. This fundamental doctrinal change in the military’s calculus will be the most significant game-changer, making it easier to think restructuring and shifting emphasis to the newer paradigms of war.

It next would mean that a significant portion of the army would undergo a role change. I have suggested some time back a division each in the Peshawar and Quetta corps, to be retrained and re-equipped for counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism roles more akin to special forces and the Rangers concept in the US. Their specialised roles would mean a composite capability in heli-lift, quick insertion and extrication, with highly mobile, digitally integrated, night-capable troop composition — Robocops, if you will. Pakistan’s pervasive war will be against non-state actors for the foreseeable future and there is absolutely no harm in calling it Pakistan’s long war. Give it a couple of decades before the signs of it can be eliminated from our midst. It will need many other accompaniments — political, social, educational, legal, policing, intelligence and judicial — but that is the matter for another set of articles. That will define counter-terrorism which has not yet begun; the US’s semi-annual report on the war in Afghanistan is at least right on this one count.

Since there is little appetite for acquiring physical space or for counter-force operations across frontiers, any offensive potential should be to reinforce a defensive capability and should therefore form an integral component of the defensive formation. Deep penetrations either side of the borders are improbable hence heavy dependence on armour should now give way instead to lethality and nimble-footedness — modernised infantry with significantly improved mobility through smart aviation for both logistic support and combat.

Money to re-equip must emerge from restructuring; which really means the army will have to go smaller — and significantly smaller at that. Perhaps, with a more modernised and more mobile army, its application flexibility will also improve exponentially, opening up doctrinal possibilities to apply against varying shades of threat with effective speed and assured chances of success. The army must be ready to sacrifice numbers for greater effect. There are political manifestations of it on the domestic front, but will that not be salubrious to the overall health of the country in the long run?

Will this change the Indian mindset? It should. India seemingly should have little to gain in initiating war with Pakistan. In fact, it shall be suicidal to think so, given the nuclear umbrella under which South Asia breathes. But If Pakistan’s offensive-defensive orientation is changed to a defensive-offensive one, manifested in the Pakistan Army’s revised structures, China as the growing threat for India by Indian claims may just beckon Indian attention far more than Pakistan. With that will come the compulsion of equipping the Indian military to fight an enemy across the Himalayas. India may then just begin moving troops out from the Pakistani orientation towards their northern borders for the more probable threat. With militaries restructured and existentially free to apply across the entire threat spectrum, Indian- and Pakistani-centrism and their resulting threat status in each other’s country may just give way. With each no more a threat for the other, the politician may just gain his lost freedom to exercise his political liberty to forge a changed paradigm of cooperation in the interest of the two peoples.

Let us try Liddlehart for a change and use the indirect route to changing paradigms. Liddlehart more than Clausewitz may just help the region.

This article completes the series revisiting conflict in the modern, neo-modern and the post-modern eras

Source :\04\11\story_11-4-2011_pg3_2

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