First though, some observations from a paper purportedly neither opposed to nor in support of the American military operation in Iraq, written by Harvey K. Ullman and James P. Wade:
Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance
Given this reality that our military dominance can and will extend for some considerable time to come, provided we are prepared to use it, why then is a re-examination of American defense posture and doctrine important? The answers to this question involve (1) the changing nature of the domestic and international environments; (2) the complex nature of resolving inter and intra-state conflict that falls outside conventional war, including peacekeeping, and countering terrorism, crime, and the use of weapons of mass destruction; (3) resource constraints; (4) defense infrastructure and technical industrial bases raised on a large, continuous infusion of funding now facing a future of austerity; and (5) the vast uncertainties of the so-called social, economic, and information revolutions that could check or counter many of the nation's assumptions as well as public support currently underwriting defense.
Lets just think about that for a moment, shall we?
"(1) the changing nature of the domestic and international environments"
mmm-hmm. The changing nature of the domestic environment? The environment here at home, that is.
"(2) the complex nature of resolving inter and intra-state conflict that falls outside conventional war, including peacekeeping, and countering terrorism, crime, and the use of weapons of mass destruction"
Crime? See, this starts to sound odd, to me, especially when so closely coupled with the aforementioned domestic environment.
"(3) resource constraints"Well, that's a bit vague.
Which resources precisely, d'you suppose?
The US military abroad certainly faces resource constraints. And so do our domestic police forces. Also, with a huge chunk of our National Guard serving in Afghanistan and Iraq--our domestic resources for national disasters and local emergencies are rather depleted.
(4) defense infrastructure and technical industrial bases raised on a large, continuous infusion of funding now facing a future of austerity
Austerity? Poor Halliburton. My god. I had no idea. (This actually has little to do with my point, but I couldn't stop the sarcasm from just bubbling out.)
(5) the vast uncertainties of the so-called social, economic, and information revolutions that could check or counter many of the nation's assumptions as well as public support currently underwriting defense.
Hmm. Again, back to concern with public perception and support. Wait, though, because it gets even more interesting. The authors go on to invoke Vietnam era political struggles.
It is clear that these so-called grey areas involving non-traditional Operations Other Than War (OOTW) and law enforcement tasks are growing and pose difficult problems and challenges to American military forces, especially when and where the use of force may be inappropriate or simply may not work. The expansion of the role of UN forces to nation-building in Somalia and its subsequent failure comes to mind as an example of this danger. It is also arguable that the formidable nature and huge technological lead of American military capability could induce an adversary to move to a strategy that attempted to circumvent all this fighting power through other clever or agile means. The Vietnam War is a grim reminder of the political nature of conflict and how our power was once outflanked. Training, morale, and readiness to fight are perishable commodities requiring both a generous expenditure of resources and careful nurturing.WTF? I realize the authors are theoretically talking about a specific situation, perhaps within a frame of reference already understood by the intended audience. This paragraph starts to set off my subtext alarms, though.
I'm troubled by the implicit acceptance of military-as-law-enforcement.
Beyond that, I'm appalled by the notion of shock and awe as a law-enforcement tactic. It rather suggests to me that we perhaps should brace ourselves for our very own Kristallnacht.
Thus, the greatest constraints today to retaining the most dominant military force in the world, paradoxically, may be in overcoming the inertia of this success. We may be our own worst enemy."We may be our own worst enemy."
I suspect that sentence actually provides a key clue about the thinking of the current administration.
Moving right along, we get finally to the definition I wanted, that led me to the site in the first place:
Rapid Dominance, if realized as defined in this paper, would advance the military revolution to new levels and possibly new dimensions. Rapid Dominance extends across the entire "threat, strategy, force structure, budget, infrastructure" formula with broad implications for how we provide for the future common defense. Organization and management of defense and defense resources should not be excluded from this examination although, in this paper, they are not discussed in detail.
The aim of Rapid Dominance is to affect the will, perception, and understanding of the adversary to fit or respond to our strategic policy ends through imposing a regime of Shock and Awe. Clearly, the traditional military aim of destroying, defeating, or neutralizing the adversary's military capability is a fundamental and necessary component of Rapid Dominance. Our intent, however, is to field a range of capabilities to induce sufficient Shock and Awe to render the adversary impotent. This means that physical and psychological effects must be obtained.
Rapid Dominance would therefore provide the ability to control, on an immediate basis, the entire region of operational interest and the environment, broadly defined, in and around that area of interest. Beyond achieving decisive force and dominant battlefield awareness, we envisage Rapid Dominance producing a capability that can more effectively and efficiently achieve the stated political or military objectives underwriting the use of force by rendering the adversary completely impotent.
Now--if I think of that stated objective not in terms of some faceless, overseas, foreign military enemy; then it means one thing.
But put that definition in the context of the domestic situation specifically mentioned several times at the beginning of the paper. It starts to sound rather chilling.
I'm going to sidestep now, with no elegant segue, into a Human Rights Watch statement about the torture of U.S. prisoners:
Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep—in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated. Now, let's consider just who is really shocked and surprised by all this. I'll give you a hint: it isn't the combatants. We've all seen the accounts of Iraqis and others, essentially saying that after the US invaded Afghanistan, it was widely accepted that the American military was going to beat and abuse prisoners. Prisoners expect to be humiliated, to have dogs set on them, according to more than one report coming out of the Middle East.
It's the rest of the world that's stunned and outraged: the citizens of our ally countries, and our own citizens.
Now, if we revisit the concept of rapid domination, coupled with demoralization:
"...we envisage Rapid Dominance producing a capability that can more effectively and efficiently achieve the stated political or military objectives underwriting the use of force by rendering the adversary completely impotent."
I think the torture scandals currently occupying so much of the news are carefully engineered not so much to obtain information from enemy combatants, nor even to deter would-be terrorists and combatants on foreign soil. I think this is "Shock and Awe" at home, to establish rapid dominance over the American people, and to intimidate our long-term allies.
I think we are supposed to start thinking about torture as a legitimate tool of law enforcement.
For really the first time in my life, I fear my government.