Irregular Warfare: Back to Basics Training

Jason Sigger passes along a very timely post from Sven Ortmann questioning the emerging “hybrid warfare” groupthink meme. Ortmann provides historical examples that illustrate how warfare has always involved both regular and irregular aspects. I’d add that victory is always asymmetric, since it involves bypassing the strength of the enemy, and that military innovation has always been the result of finding responses to superior capacities or resources. Cavalry was initially an asymmetric response to the superiority of massed infantry; artillery evolved out of the need to reduce the advantage inherent to defending fortresses. If there’s a difference, it’s that today’s asymmetric responses often involve lower-tech tactics than what they are responding to.

But there’s nothing new about the underlying logic, and even the low-tech approach has to do with the heart of Ortmann’s argument, which unfortunately he buries at the very end of his discussion:

Congratulations to those who finally woke up from their long sleep andnow see that conventional war is complex and multi-faceted, not simpleforce on force as it was trained in the NATO and the Warsaw Pact fordecades.

If insurgencies have changed, it’s because they are no longer funded as proxy campaigns in the bipolar zero sum game. Instead, they have reverted to their more natural, and more messy, local and regional character. Without access to superpower-provided armaments, their weaponry options are guided by practical considerations of affordability. Low-budge, as we used to say in Brooklyn, leads to low-tech.

The U.S. Army is no stranger to irregular campaigns: the various Indianwars, the Philippines, on through more recent history in Vietnam andCentral America. What we’re seeing now is just a doctrinal rediscoveryof everything that the Cold War logic of industrialized blocs facingoff across an ideological faultline tended to exclude or reduce inimportance.