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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Preparing for the wrong war Conventional wars are pass̩, but the military planning for conflict is still rooted in the past. Meanwhile, human security does not get the deserved attention. Firdaus Ahmed wonders how this can win or keep the peace. October 2004 - Evidently America's National Intelligence Council - a body mandated to consolidate inputs of the intelligence community in an unbiased National Intelligence Estimate Рhas benefited from the advice of Martin van Creveld, a leading thinker on military affairs: "probably the best way of looking at conventional war is to realize the fact that it is declining, and draw the necessary consequences from this fact. Fail to do this, and the only certain winner will be the national debt." The US administration, of course, blithely neglected a lot of serious inputs before its war in Iraq. Leaving George Bush for Americans to decide upon in November, it is worth taking a look at whether India is willing to benefit from van Creveld's advice solicited by the National Intelligence Council Рfor its project on the nature of war in 2020.
The emerging consensus among strategists is that Asymmetric War is the face of the future, and current armaments, organization, doctrine and culture in the military are eminently unsuited to this reality. Asymmetric War refers to encounters in which a much weaker side plays on the vulnerabilities of its stronger enemy in its attempt to prevail. A good example of this is found in the predicament today of the US military that won Iraq War II handily against Saddam's Republican Guard, but is at its wits end against Moqtada Sadr's fighters barely a year later.
The Indian approach to low intensity conflict is by far superior, and relies on the strength of its mass army, whereby it is able to flood a disturbed area with troops based on a 'grid', whence troops conduct manpower-intensive operations. This doctrine is evolving into being a 'people friendly' one, despite (or perhaps because of) aberrations as the Manorama Devi killing. However, in the calculations of the noted critic, Gautam Naulakha, that appear in his recent article "Securing India" in the Economic and Political Weekly, the Indian military is cornering up to 22% of this year's government expenditure. Sensibly, to the acknowledged budget of the MOD he adds the expenditure on forces under the Home Ministry and a proportion of that spent on the atomic and space programs to arrive at this figure.

See for balance article -

The report of the Commission proposes a new framework — a human security framework. Human security is "people-centered". By placing people at the center, the human security approach calls for enhancing and redirecting policies and institutions. The Commission proposed the placing of human security at the top of local, national, regional and global agendas with goals being: "To prevent conflict and advance human rights and development; to protect and empower people and their communities; to deepen democratic principles and practices; and all to promote a human security culture and framework."
There are 650 million small arms in circulation that account for over 5 lakh lives each year the world over. Already a proportion of these have found their way onto India's periphery – with the Maoists in Nepal and the Tamil Tigers. Given this, a scenario in which the subcontinent becomes an Asymmetric War battlefield is not hard to conjure up, particularly since our flagship, Information Technology, lays no potatoes – as a poster-boy Chief Minister found to his electoral discomfiture recently. These problems are already transnational, or South Asian. These are only compounded when the regional forum, SAARC, instead of discussing them in their complexity, is considered a success when the two antagonist states, India and Pakistan, manage to meet on the sidelines of its annual Summit. Nor are these problems amenable to a 'military solution' as presently configured. The answer, therefore, lies in a paradigm shift towards 'human security' and 'cooperative security'.
Preparations that are underway for fighting conventional limited wars, wars in a nuclear backdrop, or a limited nuclear war, must end. The peace dividend lies in channeling the military budget today into alleviating the human condition and thereby securing the subcontinent. The words of Norman Angell, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930 partially on the strength of his book The Great Illusion written prior to the 'Great War to end all wars', serve as an apt reminder: "War has no longer the justification that it makes for the survival of the fittest; it involves the survival of the less fit… The warlike nations do not inherit the earth; they represent the decaying human element ... Are we ... enslaved by the old catchwords and that curious indolence which makes the revision of old ideas unpleasant?"
I hope not. Preparing for the wrong war usually makes victory impossible. ⊕
October 2004

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