“In the midst of two wars and with an ‘era of persistent conflict’ foreseen ahead, America and its military are confronting battlefield urgencies and operational complexities that challenge the very way in which we conceive of warfare.” This according to the editors of World Politics Review last week:
Whether on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on the waters off of Somalia, the reality of today’s conflicts have exposed gaps in our tactical thinking and operational approach to waging war.
The responses have combined doctrinal evolutions and operational innovations, demonstrating once again the strategic asset represented by American ingenuity and creative thinking. But they have also generated a passionate and at times heated debate, both within the military and the academy. In our first set of biweekly feature articles centered around a theme, WPR takes a look at the Future Face of Conflict, in an effort to put those debates in context.
Among the debut pieces are my piracy feature from two weeks ago, plus a new look at Human Terrain System written by my good friend Paul McLeary. “Besieged by all the wheeling and dealing, the Americans never notice an old man who, instead of approaching them to join in the hard bargaining, sits off by himself in the corner of the room,” Paul writes of soldiers in Iraq. “And in ignoring him, the Americans miss a chance to affect real change in the neighborhood.”
The old man from the vignette, of course, is the real sheik, the neighborhood power broker who, in Iraqi society, doesn’t approach people, but rather lets people approach him. And the vignette is the story of the first four years of the Iraq War.