Changing Patterns Of Warfare

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Ula' 07, 1444 2022-12-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 52, No. 10, Jumada' al-Ula', 1444)

Unlike animals, human beings are supposed to be social beings. They need each other for company and for business. They form communities and societies and have developed neighbourhoods to live in. This leads to the assumption that it is in humans’ interest to be considerate toward each other.

History shows that since the beginning of time, humans have been fighting and killing each other for petty reasons. In earlier times, when they were not so ‘civilized’, humans fought each other with stones, sticks and bones. It was a level playing (or fighting) field. The savages’ wars were more civilized. Each combatant had a relatively fair chance of defeating his opponent.

Over the centuries, human beings claim to have made progress and become more civilized. Now they are able to kill people by the millions. Most of those killed have caused no harm to the aggressors. In most instances, the victims neither knew or met who they were but were killed anyway because of hubris and the murderous instincts of aggressors. Their victims were and are euphemistically referred to as ‘collateral damage’.

Without delving too deep into history, this century itself provides enough data and information about the changing patterns of war. In 2011, the US launched what it called the ‘war on terror’. It assembled a vast array of countries dubbed a coalition of the willing (in reality a coalition of the coerced).

Using the pretext of avenging the attacks of 911, the US launched a vicious war on dirt-poor Afghans. The Taliban were quickly dislodged from Kabul. Perhaps, this ‘victory’ went to its head. It was too easy with relatively few American casualties.

Instead of pulling out of Afghanistan having taken revenge—from the wrong people, one must add—the Americans decided to continue the war. It lasted nearly 20 years and cost more than $2.26 trillion. At the end of August 2021 when the Americans fled Kabul with tail between their legs, the Taliban were back in power. So, what precisely did they achieve in 20 years of bloodletting, countless Afghan deaths and having wasted $2.26 trillion?

Having tasted blood in Afghanistan, the Americans attacked Iraq in March 2003. This was supposed to be another cakewalk. True, massive firepower can quickly defeat weaker armies lacking sophisticated weapons but as the war grinds on, resistance groups emerge. This is what happened in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite spending more than $14 trillion in the two wars, the self-proclaimed superpower was exposed as a giant with feet of clay. Asymmetric warfare quickly replaced conventional fighting even though there was no bar on cruelty inflicted on innocent people. The world learnt of such torture chambers as Bagram (Afghanistan), Abu Ghraib (Iraq) and the still-running Guantanamo Bay (the illegally-occupied island of Cuba).

After 20 years of fighting and getting a bloody nose in two locales, the Americans appear to have realized that direct warfare, referred to as boots on the ground, is not practical. Determined groups cannot be defeated with weapons. Since then, the US has used local proxies to do its dirty work. This has been witnessed in Syria and Iraq, for instance.

A number of other aggressors, however, continue to repeat these mistakes. Take the case of France that has troops in a number of African countries. Similarly, Saudi Arabia launched a brutal war against dirt-poor Yemen but has failed to achieve any of its military or political objectives.

Russia appears to be repeating the same mistake in Ukraine although it must be admitted that the US-NATO combine left it with little choice. The US has now admitted that its military advisors and intelligence operatives are present in Ukraine.

Will China be goaded into attacking Taiwan? Chinese history does not support such approach but the Americans may make the mistake of pushing the Chinese too far. Again, it would be a proxy US war using the Taiwanese against China instead of American boots on the ground.

This brings us the question of how wars would be waged in the future. It appears that gradually the old-style method of slugging it out in the trenches will become outdated. Instead, armies will use different methods to fight. Among these will be the use of drones, missiles and of course, cyber warfare.

When we consider these methods, it points to the fact that the field will also again become more level. Smaller players will have a better chance of facing off larger enemies. This is of course based on the assumption that the aggressor does not want to occupy the territory of a targeted country. This may not always be the case if the targeted country has resources that the aggressor covets.

Two other points need to be made. In areas where alien occupiers are operating—the zionists in occupied Palestine, for instance—old-style fighting may still continue. Second, in the unlikely event of a nuclear war, the world as we know it today would be wiped out. Those that survive may be pushed back to the days when the less-civilized humans fought with sticks and stones.

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