Lebanon Crisis: Unrestricted Warfare rediscovered

Saturday, August 5, 2006

My latest publication in JP attempted to analyze the current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict from an "Unrestricted Warfare" perspective.

What Israeli did, in bombing some military targets, could actually be justifiable under international law. Article 51 of the UN Chater permits states to act in self defense, individually or collectively. However, what Israel did is far beyond self defense and may have amounted to aggression. Customary international law rules that every use of force, in order to be lawful, must be proportional.

In her Saint Petersburg interview, Rice commented:

And so, yes, it's turbulent, and, yes, we are deeply concerned about mounting civilian casualties. But we need to also recognize that the only way that we're going to deal with the underlying problem in the Middle East is to deal with the extremists, isolate the extremists, and put in place moderate democratic states.

In my article, I contended that a general US (as well as Israeli) policy in using force to deal with mushrooming religious extrimism may not be compatible with the current trend of warfare:

This policy however may not work against the globalization of warfare. Both the U.S. and Israel should have learned from Sept. 11 and other recent terrorist attacks. What Israel is facing in Lebanon is not a regular army, but a highly networked quasi-military organization that has some public support. Israel can never declare itself to have accomplished all it hoped for simply by bombing ammunition depots, supply lines and communication means. In an Unrestricted Warfare (Liang and Xiangsui, 1999) battlefields are no longer a specific site where two troops are engaged in a war. Battlefields have become undefined and may cover other sites where no actual hostilities take place. The battlefield extends itself into social spaces such as politics, economics and culture and the psyche of the people. This is what al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader Al Zawahiri is doing by proclaiming a global jihad against Israel and the United States. His taped video signifies a change in al-Qaeda's vision in combating the U.S., as it now attempts to unite Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as non-Muslims in joining their fight. For al-Qaeda, every square inch of soil is a battlefield.

It has been said that military superiority alone, in terms of quantity, has no longer played decisive role in the current military strategy. Take for example the utilization of UAVs. Another example is the practice of assymetry in warfare, which includes, the utilization of women and children as a tool of striking force in terrorism:

The conflict between Hizbollah and Israel, and between al-Qaeda and the U.S. and its allies, is the practice of asymmetry in unrestricted warfare. Both Hizbollah and al-Qaeda are not states, they are groups of civilian. Asymmetry can be used by states by giving a group of people a "proxy" to commit war on behalf of them, if their military power cannot match the enemy's.

This phenomenon has also been regarded as "the Demoratization of violence". Violence is now, no loner the monopoly os states or regular armies. Almost everybody can join the fight:

Many armies have traditionally relied on “stand-off” weapons, such as cavalry armed with the composite bow, to combat heavy infantry. Now armies can in some circumstances rely almost entirely on mines, mortars, and missiles – with no need to even face their enemy. We see this in Iraq, where about 2/3 of our deaths result from insurgents’ IEDs. We see the same trend in our own forces, as the day nears when remotely piloted vehicles sweep manned aircraft from the sky. What need for the traditional warrior virtues in this form of combat? Bravery, discipline, and loyalty have no role. Armies themselves become unnecessary in any conventional sense. Perhaps armies become strange in form, mixing fighters who face their foe and those who do not – a more radical divide than anything in today’s military.

These recent developments triggered complexities in the laws of war, and international law in general:

The emergence of unrestricted warfare has resulted in complexities in international law as it makes it difficult for the law to characterize the actors of war other than regular armies. Assuming that international law is an effective system, states employing regular armies and regular methods of warfare are the ones that will be openly exposed to law suits. They are vulnerable under charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The Bush government faces this difficulty in Guantanamo and tried to introduce the vague concept of "unlawful combatants". The Guantanamo prisoners are, according to the U.S. government, people who are neither real combatant nor pure civilians, so they are not entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions. This argument is of course illogical as under international law no one is in limbo.

Technological developments is one of the main essential pillar in Unrestricted Warfare. When nanotechnology develops, the warfare will become even more democratic as people will no longer rely on heavy, large weaponry, but on small stuffs instead. The laws of war may no longer become effective by that time. What we need would be an effective world-policing, and not international law.