couple of weeks ago, the lovely "Shock and Awe"
theory was floated as the basis on which the war with
Iraq might be conducted, should that long-advertised
war finally take place. It was just one of many trial
balloons loosed to the winds over the last few months.
One imagines some Assistant Secretary for Trial Balloons
and Leaks, hard at work, muttering to himself: "Okay,
this week we try out the used circular saw-blade launcher
and the mortgage bomb. Next week, the two thousand
pound liquid banana-peel and roofing nail 'device.'"
He chuckles at the thought of all those hostiles losing
their footing and falling over, only to be impaled
on the roofing nails.
If these items "fly" with
the general public, they are cleared, one supposes,
for eventual deployment. If a handful of pointy-headed
types complain, the hype vanishes, perhaps to reappear
in a second trial, or to intimidate the enemy of the
week. In just this fashion, they – whoever they are
– ran Shock and Awe up the flagpole a while back.
In the last few days Shock and Awe, together again,
have made another showing.
It was bad enough the first time.
Shock and Awe were off stage, minimal digging around
on the web unearthed the original 1996 memo that brought
the dynamic duo to life: http://www.dodccrp.org/shockIndex.html
(50 some pages not counting appendices). Gomer Pyle
and Sgt. Carter might not wade through it, but there
it sits in all its glory. CCRP stands for the Command
and Control Research Program, whose members report
to the Assistant Secretary of Defense. The National
Defense University seems involved, somehow.
Seven authors take credit for Shock
and Awe, of whom the most famous, and most quoted,
is Professor Harlan K. Ullman – a Dr. Strangelove
for the New Millennium.
memo is written in Pentagonese Light, a dialect descended
from Old Cold War Speak. In this new form of expression,
the writers affect a breezy, trendy presentation,
but the old tendencies toward specialized jargon and
weighty acronyms still thrive. Even so, the message,
such as it is, does come across.
The memo calls to mind one of the
Grimm Brothers' fairy tales – the one about the fishwife
who caught a magic fish, which could apparently grant
a long list of wishes without running out of resources.
So first she wanted a better house. Then she wanted
a mansion. Then she wanted to be Duchess, Queen, Pope….
All these wishes were granted. When she asked to be
God, instantly she was back in her old hovel.
US foreign policy has gotten onto
the same path and the magic fish is nowhere to be
WAR TOTALIZES ITSELF
Prologue to the 1996 report laments that defense spending
might be going into decline. There is a need therefore
to be very, very clever and take advantage of "the
uniquely American ability to integrate… strategy,
technology, and innovation" into a strategy of
Rapid Dominance, in case some enemy should suddenly
and arbitrarily appear. In the Introduction, we find
out what Rapid Dominance means. Aside from being "all-encompassing":
"It will require the means to anticipate and
to counter all opposing moves. It will involve the
capability to deny an opponent things of critical
value, and to convey the unmistakable message that
unconditional compliance is the only available recourse."
Shock and Awe are central to these
happy goals, and if done properly, would amount to
"the non-nuclear equivalent of the impact that
the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
had on the Japanese."
Chapter One allows that the US is
presently utterly dominant globally. Nevertheless,
there is a need to watch for possible "evil-doers"
on the horizon. Should any appear, their country must
be completely "shut down." There is nothing
Chapter Two explains things a bit
more. Shock and Awe, bless their hearts, require "instant,
nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction
directed at influencing society writ large,
meaning its leadership and public, rather than targeting
directly against military or strategic objectives…"
(my italics) For the hundredth or so time, I note
that US military strategy has targeted the entire
enemy society since about 1862, and earlier
than that in Indian wars.
The writers now show how Shock and
Awe goes beyond the heroic traditions of Total War
into something new, technologically, but completely
the same, morally. Bows are made in the direction
of Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and, inevitably, Sherman.
Yes, of course: Sherman said, "War
is Hell." How this demonstrates Sherman's wisdom
or anything else remains an open question.
Sherman is just about all the moral
cover these fellows need or want.
Three catalogues and evaluates recent US interventions
and teases out apparent lessons. There is muted praise
for our sometime friend Saddam Hussein's ruthless
rocket attacks on Tehran, undertaken back when he
was still salonfähig, attacks approvingly
said to have "amounted to a reign of terror."
To work, Rapid Dominance/Shock and
Awe must be, well, "rapid," "brilliant,"
rich with knowledge, and in control of the environment.
Destruction of enemy communications will combine with
US disinformation to sow confusion and awe. Further,
"assimilation of intelligence – strategically,
culturally, and operationally – is a central thrust…."
"Culturally": This seems
like a tall order for a military machine based in
a country whose citizens are not noted for learning
foreign languages or giving a damn about cultures,
including their own, but perhaps we can just buy collaborators
who already know English. Maybe this is why we simply
must have immigrants from every part of the globe.
The writers wonder whether sentimentalists
may object to an all-encompassing attack on the enemy's
entire society and say that it lacks "proportionality."
This may be a vague allusion to Just War Theory or
common decency. They needn't worry so much. The silent
majority of Americans hardly ever notice these things.
In Chapter Four everything fan-worthy
does in fact hit the fan. The discussion shifts to
recommendations of systems and technologies to achieve
the aforementioned goals. The writers call for "complete
knowledge of self, adversary, and the environment"
– "rapidity" – "brilliance of execution"
– (and) "control of the environment."
Amazing. They want "complete
knowledge of self" and they want to achieve this
using Americans. All of American literature
cries out against the possibility.
turns out they just want to know how many dry-cell
batteries we have, and things like that.
As for Total Knowledge of the Adversary
(the capitals are implicit), they mention dear old
DARPA and Battlefield Awareness and Data Dissemination,
Specifically: "Collecting sufficient
and timely environmental information is crucial to
Rapid Dominance. Logistics, demographics, and infrastructure
are broad areas of collection along with geography,
road/sail/ship lanes, utility sites and corridors,
manufacturing, government sites, military and paramilitary
facilities, population demographics, economic and
financial pressure points (such as oil wells or gold
mines), and major dams and bridges."
The social and natural sciences march
together in lockstep! It is all very inspiring. And
note that they don't actually say that all
these things are targets. They don't need to.
Satellites, sensors, off-the-shelf
software, new, rapidly adaptable systems involving
other systems can and will be combined so that the
US government will: a) know everything about everything
everywhere in the world; b) dominate everything everywhere
in the world; c) if necessary, target everything everywhere
in the world and blow it up.
Sure is comforting, isn't it?
It's not as bad as it sounds, I'm
sure. Besides, the "awe" felt by those duly
"shocked" will lead to Unconditional Surrender
in short order, thereby shortening the war and "saving
lives." Anyway, you have to expect some "collateral
damage." I heard it on TV; it must be true.
Well, we do expect it, but
that only begins the discussion.
or not the proposed war actually goes forward, and
whether or not we actually see a trial run of the
newest-ever Total War doctrine, the interesting thing
will be whether or not a coalition of the unwilling
arises. By that I do not mean the usually mooted "rogue
states," but reasonably civilized, industrialized,
and (God save the mark) "democratic" states,
who may just tire, one day, of worrying about whether
some screws are loose in and around Washington, DC.
If this happens, expect to see more
anti-European diatribes from the usual Neo-Conservative
sources, and expect to see the high-toned balance-of-power
theorists change their tune about coalitions that
oppose a rising hegemon. It will turn out that such
coalitions are just plain wrong, when they oppose
an English-speaking hegemon – but more on that another
there can't be any threaded, spiral, metallic fastening
devices, or screws, loose in Washington; the rightful
owners of all knowledge would know if any were loose,
and would have them picked up, ergo they wouldn't
be loose. QED.