Putting the “Wee!” Back in Weekend
My favorite newish blog, Douglas Turnbull’s Beauty of Gray, has a facinating post on what it takes to play in the big leagues, army style. Not only does a decent tank cost a few million bucks, but the R&D alone breaks most national banks, says Douglas.
However, he left out two important points. First, you also need the industrial know-how and machine tools. Only a small handful of nations can work with depleted uranium to make shells for an A-10 or sabot rounds. Very few indeed can even conceive of Chobham armor, much less manufacture it. The list goes on. Secondly, and this is the important bit, tank and attack choppers and air-superiority fighters just don’t matter as much as they used to.
We live in an age of asymmetrical warfare. Most Arab nations can’t cope with modernity enough to do much more than buy second-rate Soviet or Chinese weapons, coupled with training and doctrine that are third rate at best. But what does that matter when you can take a Boeing 767 and turn it into a human-guided cruise missile? How can even the most recent variant of M1 Abrahms defend against a computer network attack? How many F-16 squadrons does it take to defend an Israeli housewife and her daughter from a barbarian with a pistol? Saddam Hussein didn’t invade Kuwaiit again last year — but he did provide intelligence and training to our attackers.
I’m not saying the situation is hopeless — far from it. This is a war we will win. What I am saying is that we live in a new world, one in which holding the Fulda Gap means little compared to holding pre-emptive intelligence. We can always liberate enemy-held territory. But how do we liberate enemy mind from hatered or re-take the innocence buried in the wreckage of the World Trade Center?