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“War in the 21st Century”

War in the 21st Century

Book-3: War, Conflicts, Security, and The Military -1.0


War/conflicts today – understanding the many new dimensions of – appropriate and prompt response to each such threat.

Quotations for consideration:

  • “No one starts a war – or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” – Carl Von Clausewitz .
  • “Defence is always a stronger form of fighting than attack ‘for the force of an attack gradually diminishes… absolute war requires the primacy of politics – the subordination of the means of warfare to the ends of foreign policy.” – Carl Von Clausewitz .
  • “The military don’t start wars. Politicians start war.” – William West Moreland .
  • “If you wage war, do it energetically and with severity. This is the only way to make it shorter, and consequently less inhuman.” Napoleon Bonaparte
  • “Force is only justifiable in extremes, when we have the upper hand, justice is preferable” – Napoleon Bonaparte .
  • War is often described as “an extension of diplomacy by other means”, or to quote Bevin Alexander – “War is essentially a Political act to secure an aim… and is a Military act only to the extent that Military Forces are needed to carry out a Nation’s Political goal”.
  • “In war there is no prize for runners up.” – General Omar Bradley .

Key Concepts:

  1. The nature of War, and the methods of fighting it in the 21st Century, has undergone major changes from that in the previous century, and such changes need to be well understood and adapted to.
  2. The organization and operations of our Military Forces today, are mostly as for WW-II times and not as required for this the 21st Century.
  3. First seek ways and means of ensuring better security in ways beyond the purely Military.
  4. Always ‘Begin’ with the ‘End’ in mind.

War in the 21st Century :

We need to clearly understand the circumstances in which we are required to operate in this the 21st Century and the nature of operations we will be involved in and then strive to reorganize our Military so as to best meet the requirements. The nature of future operations is what we will consider here, the Organization of the Forces as may be required there-for we can consider separately. (See “War – Organizing for, in the 21st Century”)

The aim of Military action in modern warfare, said Clausewitz, – “Is to destroy the enemy’s ability to think, decide and act”. The mechanics of warfare depend heavily on cooperation. Without proper planning, quick and reliable communication and broad based coordination, an Army would cease to be a Military Force. The ‘centre of gravity’ – which Clausewitz describes as the situation, where the outcome of the campaign or war is ultimately decided – Is the network of decision makers, machines and infrastructure that animates a Military Force. Wars are therefore best won not by destroying the enemy, but by destroying their will to fight, by identifying and killing their leaders and destroying the nodes of their command network and by actual physical damage to their fighting ability, or by their fear of such damage, or by the more effective means of creating confusion as a result of unexpected acts leading to a lack of effective command and direction.

We are a Country that has no aggressive or acquisitive intent, and hence calls on our Military to be organized mainly for Defence. But we all know that after an effective Deterrence, a good proactive Offence or a good reactive Counter Offence is the best form of Defence.

As Robert Jarvis describes in “The Security Dilemma” – to feel secure, the State takes steps to enhance its capabilities (Military & Economic), this makes its neighbouring States feel less secure and to react by enhancing their capabilities, thus forcing a continual escalation on all sides. Perhaps therefore, it is in the interest of the State to mainly depend on weapons and ways of fighting that are pre – dominantly defensive.

The average Military mind may be as stereo typed. However the Military thinker, contrary to the stereo type, is not Autocratic & Hawkish, but clearly recognizes that a successful Defence Policy is one that manages to eliminate potential dangers without going to War. A policy of deterrence from a position of strength. The aim being not to destroy the Enemy, but to break his will, to destroy his ability to fight. Deterrence is also achieved by maintaining unpredictability of reaction to a provocation. Such unpredictability, resulting at times in a strong reaction even to a small provocation or perhaps a softer reaction to a major provocation, will confuse and surprise the adversary and lead to a more effective deterrence. Predictability allows the adversary to act so as to manipulate you.

To deter the enemy from starting a war, or to respond to a war thrust on us, it is essential that we build an appropriate military using, to the best advantage, all the technological advances, innovations and systems of this Information & Technological Age. John M. Collins in his book ‘Grand Strategy’ warns against timid attacks that may strengthen the resolve of the enemy, because they constitute a provocation but don’t significantly damage the physical capability or morale of the aggressor or occupier. “Destroying the enemy’s resolution to resist is far more important than crippling his material capabilities”.

What holds us back from understanding the required changes is that we humans are conventional by nature and, as we grow older, we become rooted in the past. The familiar keeps us in what Psychologists call our ‘comfort zone’. War is such a risky business that Generals are often tempted to take the road well traveled – what has worked in the past becomes a doctrine. This is summed up in the saying that – “The Generals always prepare for fighting the last war”. They forget that ways of fighting a War are increasingly expanding in scope, and change is the order of the day.

Military Forces are deployed primarily to engage an external enemy at the borders, and/or within enemy territory. Only secondarily, when the situation so warrants, against insurgents or terrorists within their own Country, and even then only as an option of last resort, in collaboration with either Civil, or Police, or Paramilitary Authorities. Each such objective requires distinct operational capabilities and thus needs the Forces to be equipped, organized and trained appropriately. The day of one size (or definition of Soldier) fits all is long past.

Attack, especially of the terrorist kind, is cheap and therefore, in future, we can expect to see more such violence than less. The 9 /11 hijackers spent less than $ 1.0 million to attack the US. The cost to the USA, of trying to prevent similar attacks, runs to over $ 1.0 million per hour. Since such acts cannot all be prevented and do not differentiate between Civilian and Military targets, the Security Forces, in such cases, can only react after the act / hit. Hence the importance of Intelligence, human & electronic and the need to quickly allocate discern and develop it into actionable intelligence for the Police / Security forces to act upon more preventively. Laws therefore need to be amended to make evidence of ‘demonstration of intent’ more actionable by the judiciary.

As Robert Greene in ‘the 33 Strategies of War’ noted – three unrelated developments have fused to produce a true revolution in warfare. The first is advanced capabilities to identify & locate targets and to strike them with precision smart weapons. The second is the realization that conventional Armies can be defeated by Guerrilla methods and the third, that super empowered individuals (Terrorists / Fundamentalists / Jihadis) can be indoctrinated, as Suicide Bombers or Squads or even ‘Lone Wolfs’, to inflict harm / damage, both physical and psychological, out of all proportion to their numbers, and not only successfully tie up larger conventional Forces in protective duties or in chasing shadows but also compel wasteful expenditure of resources. (See ‘Military Expenditure – The Case for’).

Each development occurred independently, but their combined effect requires creation of new type of small combat units that operate in conjunction with one another, but function far more independently than existing Military forces. There will be the need to distinguish between Military, Police and Paramilitary Operations and organize differently for each of them.

The traditional battlefield will disappear and combat will take on more the nature of sudden, surprise blows on unsuspecting targets, and equally surprise counter strikes by the re-acting or defending Forces. Distances at which Forces operate will be great and the forces will need to remain hidden until prepared to strike. There will be greater emphasis on original thinking, independent action and individual responsibility at all levels.

The long established structure of the armies in a descending order of size from Corps to Divisions, Brigades and Battalions etc, will not persist much longer. Such Organizations were designed for sustained operations on the linear battlefields or main lines of resistance. As such battle lines are now obsolete, Military structures designed to fight on these lines are also obsolete. Tradition minded Leaders conditioned to conformity in peace time cannot be expected to behave boldly and flexibly in combat or to recognize the need to change. Thinkers in the Military, with a different mindset capable of addressing such change, must be identified and encouraged.

The reason customary battlefields will vanish is that soldiers can no longer survive on them. Single Tanks, Cannons and Vehicles and concentration of troops can be found, precisely located and destroyed by precision weapons from great distances or even by hand held weapons manned by individual soldiers. Main Battle Tanks and huge Cannons are increasingly becoming a liability, so also large Ships and Aircraft Carriers. Devices to detect the presence of even tiny elements are already extremely effective and will become more fool proof in coming years. Ground Sensors and small Tactical UAV’s are all sources of information and a way to give troops in close combat situations a quick bird’s eye views of the enemy ahead and deploy new precision strike weapons to strike and destroy them.

In these times the ability to infiltrate into enemy territory, act against specific targets therein, and ex-filtrate safely is essential. The existing Military can be organized into two streams, one – an ‘Offensive Force’, as Special Forces to undertake specialist, and targeted limited actions / attacks and counter attacks, the other mainly- a ‘Defensive Force’, to deal with conventional military operations, even out of which as much of the tasks as possible could be handed over to Border Security / Paramilitary Organizations, into which lateral entry of the Military personnel after 10-15 years of service may be allowed. This will allow for the Offensive elements of the Military to be kept younger, fitter and adequately empowered / equipped. Thus leaving the Security and Integrity of our Borders and Internal Security matters to what are essentially Security Forces which could be under the Home Ministry, though for operational purposes under a Common Unified Command Military Authority.

The dilemma we face today is that taking the initiative for an overt offensive is almost always an unacceptable option. This leaves us with only three options:

  1. Pursuing an all encompassing Grand Strategy to attain objectives preferably by indirect means, which Joshua Cooper Ramo terms, ‘Effects Diplomacy’. This calls for encouraging people to people and cultural contacts and a mesh of mutual trade pacts and even encouraging the setting up of manufacturing facilities and other assets within our Country, to deter ‘fait accompli’ or military adventures which then could result in greater economic losses to them. Such a Grand Strategy should also include a concept of deterrence derived out of the Counter Strike capabilities, and also the unpredictability of response to any provocation. If this means, we need to pursue even other means to get them to recognize the benefits of working together with us, culturally and commercially, or even call on us to build alliances with other secular democracies and neighbours (USA, Japan, and Indian Ocean and South East Asian Countries), so be it.
  2. Finding a smart way of baiting your enemy into making the first move and then play the victim and counter attack. This has the advantage that when the enemy’s action ends up in disaster, they will have only themselves to blame and everyone else will also blame them too. This is the way to win both the battle on the field as well as the battle of perception in the Public & International arena. Very few strategies offer such flexibility and power. Can the attack on us by Pakistan on 3rd December 1971 be considered the result of such a strategy?
  3. Covert operations, which are considered separately later.

However there will be circumstances when, in a limited way, we will need to resort to some of the old and tried ways of fighting, but only after duly amending / adapting them to the 21st Century environment and only after having tried other options.

Options such as:

  1. Grand Strategy:

“Grand strategy is simply the level at which knowledge and persuasion, or in modern times, intelligence and diplomacy, interact with military strength to determine outcomes in a world of other States with their own grand strategies” – Edward Luthwak

It is an all encompassing strategy to identify the enemy’s weakness and attack them with your strengths, using economic and diplomatic relationships and webs of contacts, or other types of influence and leverage, either directly or indirectly to ‘Effect’ or to so shape the environment around any problem which we cannot attack directly, to favour us. First we should seek ways and means beyond the purely Military, of ensuring better security, of undermining the objectives and morale of the enemy’s Forces and, of attaining our objectives. The aim of an indirect victory, using ‘Effects’ instead of ‘Arms’, is contrasted to wasteful and costly direct Armed engagements. (see- “War & Domestic Conflicts – Economics & Costs”).

However ‘Effects Diplomacy’ is only an extension of an act of applying Force and can never be a total substitute for hard military action, especially in situations where such military action is the only option. Even then, efforts to suitably weaken and disrupt the enemy’s Forces and their Command & Control systems, should be implemented before resorting to direct conflict.

It is not easy to know if any of our Neighbors will ultimately be a friend or foe. Hence we should aim to work insidiously with each of them trying to build bi-lateral relationships in dozens of ways in the international context, so as to shape their interaction with us, thus creating new tactics and new relationships as sources of indirect leverage.

Look for strategic allies, not only for the moment but also for the long term (the ‘Mukti Bahini’ and the USSR in 1971?). Ask yourselves the question – ‘How can we undermine the objectives

and morale of the enemy’s forces? ‘.- But beware of a single solution – ask yourself ‘ How else?’ and only then decide, after considering all options.

Perhaps we could consider Field Marshall (then General) Maneckshaw’s refusing to rush into war in March – April 1971, as the then Prime Minister wanted; insisting on prior preparation in consideration of the Geography of the then East Pakistan, the climatic conditions (Monsoon and Melting snows), the Crop season (flooded paddy fields) and the time required for gathering Intelligence & Coordinating with ‘Mukthi Bahini’ and also for arranging for all the necessary Engineering and other equipment, an example of such Grand Strategy.

Though it is a pity, that in this instance as in many others before, the military was not consulted in the peace negotiations thereafter. If it had, then perhaps we would not be having the ‘Chicken Neck’ or the ‘Haji Pir Pass’ problem and so on, where due to the lack of understanding of the military advantage, we returned to the position ante instead of negotiating a new Boundary or LOC.

Of course we should also be prepared to recognize and react to the enemy’s efforts to improve its ‘Grand Strategy’ and also their attempts to manipulate us in ways such as:

  1. Fait Accompli Strategy:

Remember the story of the Camel and the Arab and his tent. Requesting protection from the sandstorm, the Camel first sought to shelter only his head under the tent, then it sought shelter for its chest and finally it moved in fully and pushed the Arab out of the tent. Let not our good will and desire for peace result in our suffering loss like the Arab.

As Robert Greene so well describes – Most people are conservative by nature and try to avoid confrontation because of the unforeseen consequences and situations that conflict inevitably brings. This attitude is the foundation upon which the ‘Fait Accompli Strategy’ is built. This Strategy works, if you act fast without discussion or warning. Revealing intentions before taking action will bog you down in a slew of criticisms, analysis and questions as people prefer endless discussion to action. Act rapidly and the discussion is foreclosed.

Act to take something you want or need for your security and power and you give your enemy a choice, either to fight or to accept the loss and leave you alone. Take something small and marginal though and it is impossible for them to choose war. Soon your ownership becomes a Fait Accompli, part of the status quo which is always best left alone. (China’s acquisition of part of Aksai Chin for instance?)

Sooner or later as part of this strategy, you will take another small bite, as long as you nibble at what you want and do not spark enough anger, fear or mistrust to make your enemy overcome their natural reluctance to fight, and if you let enough time pass between bites to benefit from people’s short attention spans, you can get

away with a lot.

In plotting this strategy, be attentive to sudden opportunities and to your enemy’s momentary crises and weaknesses. Do not, however, be tempted to try to take anything large; bite off more than you can chew and you will be consumed with problems. It would be the height of wisdom however to make your bite a little larger upon occasion and then giving back, on negotiation, some of what you have taken as a good will gesture. The use of the piece meal strategy to disguise your aggressive intentions is invaluable in these Political times.

Should you suspect that you yourself are the target of such a strategy (as China seems to be attempting in Aksai Chin and in Ladakh and along our N.E. Border), your only counter strategy is to prevent any further progress by a quick and forceful response. Letting them get away with their bites, however small, is too dangerous – Nip such acts in the Bud.

We should then look at ways wherein, as Robert Greene writes, emphasis will still be on:

  1. Mobility & Maneuvre –

Sun Tzu (4th Century B.C) said -. “In war, the supreme consideration is speed. Take advantage of what is beyond the reach of the enemy, using routes where he least expects you and attack where he has made no preparation”. To attain surprise by deception or by doing the unexpected, causing the Enemy’s Leadership / Command and Direction to become ineffective, thus causing confusion and disruption in the enemy ranks and to their plans, and then to divide and conquer them. To adapt to the complexity and chaos of modern war it is essential to, be more fluid and maneuverable, think and act audaciously, grab and maintain the initiative.

Tactics such as Infiltration have always enabled surprise, deception and terror to be effective. Xenophon (430-355 BC) said -“The less a thing is foreseen, the more fright does it cause. This is nowhere seen better than in war, where every surprise strikes terror even amongst those who are much stronger”.

The Assassins of the Ismaili’s, a Shiite sect, in the 11 th & 12 th Century AD infiltrated the enemy and assassinated their leaders, creating terror and paranoia and thus were later able to get their way at the negotiating table.

The tactical impasse along the Western Front in WW-I caused by the immense power of the machine gun, heavy field fortifications and accurate fast firing artillery was only broken a year later by the Germans by “infiltration” of small groups of highly trained and well equipped ‘Storm Troopers’ to attack vulnerable points and by-pass strong points. Driving deep into the rear areas had proved effective, though the distance they could advance was still limited by their ability to supply and communicate. This ‘fire and manoeuvre’ system of the Germans, became the fundamental method of tactical engagements for the rest of the Century, but it now needs to be adapted to today’s circumstances.

The ultimate extension of this strategy is

Special Forces Operations and Sniper Operations by small teams which can be directed to engage larger targets by ‘swarming’ as necessary.

Swarming is a variation of the ‘fire and maneuver’, an advance on it made possible by organizing the military as units possessing flexibility and instant communications. Today’s targets are likely to be fleeting types and will requires prompt and decisive action before the opportunity vanishes. (Consider ‘OP-Pawan’ when bureaucratic indecisiveness allowed Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader, to escape capture). Hence war gaming and contingency plans for all possible scenarios, even those that cannot be predicted but whose effects can be planned for, is essential.

Such operations need special weapons, equipment and transport and continuous development of each. (See – “War – Weapons, Equipment & Transport”)

  1. Strategies for other types of conflicts

First we need to understand the nature of such conflicts and of ways to deal with them.

As Daniel Gilbert writes – Terrorism is a strategy based on the idea that the best offence is the one that fails to trigger the best defence, and small-scale incursions are less likely to set off alarm bells than are large-scale assaults.

Although it may be possible to design a defensive system that counters even the smallest threats, such systems would be extra ordinarily intrusive and costly, in terms of both the resources required to run them and the number of false alarms they give rise to. A system like that would be an exercise in overkill. To be effective, a defensive system must respond to threats; but to be practical, it must respond only to threats that exceed some critical threshold – which means that threats that fall short of the critical threshold, yet which may have a destructive potential that belies their diminutive size, can sneak in under the radar.

The term “Deep Security” is used by Joshua Cooper Ramo , to define a new way to view the Security threat we face today in a world of ceaseless complexity and change, where unrelated things, which independently may even be harmless, get together in extremely dangerous combinations in a “Mash-up”. Such threats often start small, spread fast and look benign, till they intersect / combine with other such threats (Jet travel, box cutters & Fundamentalism as in 9/11, Cell phones & Explosives as in IEDs etc.) to bloom into major incidents. Somewhat like the threats of epidemics that Public Health officials deal with, and like in the case of all such threats of epidemics, security also demands that each of us has to take the responsibility, at least partly, for our own security into our own hands. We need to learn from them, that such threats can only be controlled with a carefully orchestrated approach that works on many lines simultaneously.

To do so effectively we need:

  1. to have the capability to sort through vast, ever growing and constantly changing data, much of it irrelevant or even misleading, to find useful / actionable bits. Intelligence is a blend of deduction, insight and inference from a body of evidence as a whole. It is not a sequence of judgments on discrete elements of evidence as many would like it to be. Many times what we see out of the corner of our eyes is more important than what our eyes are focused on. Being aware of the context, the environment, allows one to become aware of the changes almost as they begin, sensing the incipient changes and thus permitting a more holistic understanding. Big data and its analysis and the ability to deal effectively with all of it becoming increasingly important.
  2. to be able to empathize with our adversary, however despicable their aims may be, in order to understand their motivations and likely actions or reactions to circumstances or events, so as to able to deal with such adaptive adversaries effectively. In a revolutionary era of surprise and innovation, we need to be able to be think and act like a revolutionary, those who can’t or won’t, end up as ‘Victims’.

Better understanding of the adversary comes out of asking the right questions. Study the reasons why some of the terror attacks have failed and how the terrorists could be adapting to such failures and how this can be disrupted. Seek to identify the few key skilled members amongst them, skilled in explosives, communications, financing and in operations, and specifically target them to deny such ability. The aim is not to go only after the physical assets, or the ‘foot soldier’, but, the few people who have the expertise, and the Leaders. The overly critical and so called ethical objections to such targeting can be answered as suggested elsewhere in this article and in the article on “Insurgency / Naxalism / Terrorism”.

3. to organize against and react to, the threats we face in the way our body’s immune system does against an intruder. Always vigilant, ready and capable of dealing with the unexpected dynamically and effectively. It is true that even the best immune system can’t prevent the onset of all disease, but without one even the slightest of germs could have deadly implications. Similarly we too can’t assure 100% security but working in this fashion we can ensure acceptable security. Fever and Inflammation etc are an unavoidable part of the process of our body dealing with an intruder which we have to accept as inevitable even as we try to control its effects, so too is the matter of collateral damage in Anti-insurgent / Naxal / Terrorist operations. Our efforts should be to provide acceptable levels of security to all with minimum collateral damage. Act against the threat or against those, who beyond reasonable doubt, are involved. Waiting for certainty of proof is unrealistic and self – defeating. The earlier we respond to a threat, the less such collateral damage. We should trust our selection and training procedures, and command and control systems, to ensure that our Security Forces personnel will not act in any undesirable manner and that if any do, appropriate action will be taken expeditiously against them.

4. to better understand the concept of Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations. Such understanding is not easy for many from the Conventional Forces. Anyone can learn the basics but only a few will be able to master the concepts and properly plan and execute the operations. Such ‘naturals’ should be identified and put into positions where they can make a difference. Rank matters far less than talent – A few Soldiers led by a smart NCO / JCO can succeed, where a 100 well armed Soldiers under a mediocre Officer will fail and probably make matters even worse. Training for such operations has thus to be more than just the basics of Soldiering (See ‘Choosing & Training to be a Soldier / Special Forces / Leader’).

5. to also recognize that Terrorists seek to inflict such damage as to ensure that the incident would receive maximum media coverage thus spreading their message to the widest audience. For Terrorists Media attention is Oxygen. We therefore need to recognize this and learn to deal with it. (See “Terrorists & Media”).

6. Next we need to understand how such conflicts can be categorized –

Insurgency / Guerrilla warfare – within our own Country by Domestic insurgents / Guerrillas (requires action mainly by Paramilitary and Police)

Guerrilla warfare / Insurgency and International Terrorism are both based on the principle of exploiting an enemy’s weakness, while nullifying his strengths. However, International terrorism differs from Guerrilla warfare in a fundamental way, and the difference will be the key to the war against terrorism. We need to clearly differentiate between Domestic Insurgency, and that initiated and supported from outside the Country, and act accordingly.

In insurgencies, the centre of gravity is “the people and the politics” – operations against insurgents are thus not purely Military Operations.

Today new Technologies mixed with Ideology allows Insurgents / Terrorists to make use of all the many channels of criminal endeavours (viz: drugs, hawala, arms, extortion etc.) to develop effective logistic channels for the spread of men, material and funds to where ever they intend, around the world.

Insurgency or Guerrilla warfare, within the Country, enjoys the support of the locals allowing Guerrillas / Insurgents the advantage of being able to merge into the local population and pose as innocent civilians unless actually engaged in hostilities or caught with weapons in hand. This explains why such type of warfare is successful only at HOME and can only be countered by Politico-Economic-Military action. Guerrillas always have the initiative and hence liberty of action and can thus dictate events. They strive to exhaust their enemy through small victories and use collateral civilian casualties that may ensue, to stir emotions and human rights issues in order to gain the support of public opinion. As the old saying goes – “the guerrilla / insurgent wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win”.

For Insurgents the War is total, while for the State it is necessarily limited. We also need to understand that there is no way we can prevent all such attacks and hence must look at Security we can attain to differently. We cannot regard Military dominance as a given or as a reliable source of physical safety anymore. We must learn to react differently to the threats we face. Instead of responding to a Naxal strike with War, perhaps we should consider spending atleast as much money on providing development and security (Roads, Schools, Hospitals and Policing). Of course in some situations direct conflict is necessary, but it must be as a part of an overall Policy of recognizing the Insurgents as our people and to seek to connect instead of alienating or isolating.

As Chris Patten wrote – “We all hate Terrorism. But we must understand that Terrorists might on occasion use abhorrent means to pursue ends that we may or may not agree with, but which are susceptible to reason and whose causes can be addressed without going to war. Throughout History asymmetric threats have been the weapon of the weak against the strong. We find them sanctioned by History when the cause is just, the means proportionate and the outcome is good. The morality is not always very clear. History, after all, is written by, or largely about, the Victors”. He quotes Sir John Harrington who early in the 17th Century said – “Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason?, for if it prosper, none dare call it treason”.

In dealing with Insurgency we should remember the words of President Theodore Roosevelt as they apply to all Countries -“This Country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in, unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in“.

Since WW-II no major Power has been able to defeat an Insurgency militarily anywhere in the world. The total record is something like 23 to 0, or 21 to 2 if the British are considered as winners in Malaya, even if this was more a Political than an Military victory, and the Sri Lankans over LTTE, who lost perhaps because they made the mistake of trying to fight like a regular Army defending Territory. Do remember that the USA was founded by an Insurgency and that Israel, Algeria, Namibia, China and Afghanistan were all born out of Insurgency and Terrorism.

The Guerrilla army is pure mobility. It exploits chaos by making disorder and unpredictability a strategy. It never stops to defend a particular place; it wins by always moving, staying one step ahead. By following no set pattern, it offers no target. To deal with such an enemy, Robert Greene recommends we learn from the thinking of two Generals who learnt to see insurgents as people first and then successfully dealt with local Insurgency.

The first, Maj. Gen. Edward Lonsdale , who throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, was considered America’s principal expert in counter insurgency. Working with President Ramon Magasay of the Philippines , he had crafted a plan that had defeated the ‘Huk’ Guerrilla movement in the early ’50’s. Counter insurgency requires a deft hand, more Political than Military, and for Lonsdale, the key to success was to stamp out Government corruption and bring people close to the Government through various popular programs that would deny the insurgents their cause and isolate them. For insurgents, isolation from the people is death. He thought it was folly to imagine that rebels could be defeated by force, in fact, force just played into their hands, giving them a cause they could use to rally support.

The other was General Gerald Templar – who undertook the Malay anti Communist campaign in a new way. He decided to;

  • Ensure the security of the non-combatant populations. Without their confidence in the Government Forces they would not supply the vital intelligence crucial to defeat any insurgency. This was a political and military strategy.
  • Recognize that not all Insurgent cadres were hardened, dogmatic true believers. Some of them were young men caught up in the struggle for many reasons other than genuine ideological conviction (hence reconcilable) and action against them had to be different. Such men were called upon by spoken messages on radio, from planes, from dropped leaflets etc and by surrendered cadres.
  • Provide safe alternatives, medical treatment for woman and children etc. to show the Government Forces in good light.
  • Where relocation is necessary – ensure proper economic support and compensation etc. The resettlement Villages could be on the lines of the Cantonment Boards with Jurisdiction on areas around them, managed by a Board of elected locals with an Executive Officer and the Chairman from the Centre / State Administration, thus allowing them a say in their own affairs.

To them we can add the writings of General David Petreus and his advisors (See ‘Insurgency / Naxalism / Terrorism – Response to’ and ‘Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations – The Do’s & Don’ts)

It is arguable that such operations should these days be recognized and organized as Police and Paramilitary Operations and the Military involvement should only be a last and final option in a limited action.

A computerized national registration system of all citizens would permit law enforcement agencies to identify unregistered parties and seize some terrorists before they can act. However even this cannot be 100% fool proof in a Democratic Country as it would otherwise need an ubiquitous police presence, but it will be a major step in the right direction.

Against domestic terrorism do not try to meet terror with terror for as Marc Stiegler says – “with strategies based on Terror – only Terrorists have a chance of winning”. Seek instead to eradicate the causes leading to terrorism / insurgency. However it must be recognized that no comprehensive economic steps for settlement can be taken up until a realistic level of security is attained by targeted Security / Military actions.

Again quoting Chris Patten – “All Politics is local; Diplomacy must start close to home”. Priority must sensibly be given to securing a stable neighbour hood for the Country. Problems in our neighborhood of, Poverty, Protectionism, Political Alienation, Religious Extremism, and Authoritarianism, Abuse of Human rights, Gender discrimination and Violence will exacerbate the problems we face within our Country. “Conflict on our periphery means refugees on the streets of our Cities, and is likely to result in the need for costly and risky Military intervention”. As happened in 1971 with the influx of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

 b. Terrorist attacks within our Country by enemy forces from outside our Country.(requires action by Military as well as by Police & Intelligence Agencies)

International terrorism has one great strength, it makes sneak attacks on unsuspecting people and is thus difficult to prevent. But it also has one profound weakness: it operates as clandestine cells in an alien environment and thus can be isolated.

International terrorism is a new type of warfare; it seeks to force the enemy to accept terrorist dictates and is thus essentially offensive. It is also a war fought in the enemy’s land. True Guerrilla warfare on the other hand is primarily defensive, aimed at neutralizing a foreign invader or weakening a domestic authority perceived by the guerillas as the enemy, and is fought in one’s own land.

The goals of international terrorism are foolishly ambitious as it does not possess that inherent capability for victory that true Guerrilla warfare possesses. Attacks on defenseless people, in democratic Countries where people can move about freely, may be impossible to entirely prevent, but such attacks are seen everywhere as cowardly and arouse anger, not fear. That anger mobilizes people against them (remember 26/11 Mumbai).

Domestic hiding places are never entirely secure because such terrorists are not part of the community. The ordinary citizens are more inclined to report suspicions, and the Police must increase efforts to use paid informers or tipsters. The hunt for such terrorists, within the targeted Countries, will be largely carried out as a police mission, along the lines of orthodox police work of rounding up fugitives or suspects, though on an increased scale.

Swarming has less significance for actions against clandestine cells within Democratic Countries. These cells are far too small to have the capability for defense; they must strike by surprise, and possess little hope of surviving except by chance. Terrorist strikes within Democratic States will almost always be suicide missions, or underhanded sneak ventures like IED’s left at vulnerable points or release of Chemical or Biological agents etc.

Such strikes are becoming more common these days. They can rarely be predicted in advance, and action against them must primarily be preventive. This means essentially detective work, by Police and Intelligence services and by other Paramilitary Organizations, to root out the Cells and the Terrorists before they can strike, and will call for involvement of the Army only as a final and last ditch option, or if it becomes necessary, to act against such an enemy within the enemy’s Country.

Where such forces act within the Country from bases outside the Country then the strategy would be to deny them entry and even destroy their bases. Such actions should be undertaken with a clear understanding of our options, limits, and a proper sense of balance. Military Special Forces / Sniper teams would need to work with Border Security and Paramilitary Units and Intelligence Agencies to undertake such actions. Alternately drones can be used where deemed effective and the expected results deemed worth the costs.

Precisely because of their vulnerability abroad, however, terrorists must centre their ultimate leadership in Countries or Regions that offer support and protection to them. That is why terrorism MUST be pursued to its sources, to the headquarters where the Leaders plan, and strikes organized thereon where ever they are located.

Through close surveillance and good intelligence work, as well as through international cooperation where possible, these supposedly safe harbours must be found and the cells rooted out. In future no State will openly endorse terrorism, because it would thereby invite military, economic and diplomatic retaliation of the fiercest kind.

Methods to destroy terrorism, aside from Political & Economic pressure on the host Countries, will include hunting down and eliminating furtive cells within Democratic Countries by Police and Intelligence Services, cutting of the money supply of the movements through international financial channels: spying on suspected groups: targeting Leaders for assassination or capture: after taking due care that such targets have been legitimately tried and sentenced,(by special Courts holding ‘in camera’ proceedings) and striking, located hard targets, bases, or training sites in the host Countries, by Military Special Forces Units or Snipers or by Stand-off Weapons or Aircraft.

Because, as Thomas Friedman warns – “to not retaliate ferociously for attacks on our people is only to invite a worse attack tomorrow and an endless war with terrorists…You need to be very careful when you respond – make sure you respond in a way that punishes the real perpetrators, that brings justice, not revenge, because otherwise you will be going against your own ideals, and that is what the terrorists want the most… terrorists and their supporters need to know that from here forward we will do whatever it takes to defend our way of life – and then some. We need to fight to deliver justice and security to our people. This requires a new attitude towards battle and a new strategy on the battle field. We need to understand that it takes a home grown network to destroy a home grown network….In fighting this kind of war; the Political Leaders would do themselves a huge favour by not talking so much. They are already starting to contradict themselves and get tied up in knots. Be like the terrorist, let your actions speak. It is more unnerving to the enemy. For everything there is a season. They will be a season later on for talking. Right now is the season for hunting down people who want to destroy our Country. A focused, covert war will create a level of deterrence that has not existed up to now.”

The recent strike on the Maoists / Terrorists in the Myanmar border region is such an action wherein the need to let the action speak for itself was well highlighted by the contradictions in the comments of the politicians thereafter.

  1. Nuclear, Chemical, Biological & Genetic Warfare (WMDs)

Enough has been written about these sort of threats and how to react to them and what preventive measures to take against them, so we will herein restrict ourselves to only stating that we need to build and deploy suitably trained and equipped detection and reaction teams to identify and neutralize such a threat before it can be realized and if necessary to be able to function in such an environment. Such capability is required in the Military and also elsewhere, and with greater emphasis on detection (Intelligence Operations) and neutralization (in the Police arena).

One of techniques that can be effective against Biological, Nuclear & Chemical terror / warfare, is to undertake Sentiment Analysis and use Big Data Analytics to analyze the patterns of movement of suspect personnel, and the purchase and movement of specific components and elements of such warfare, and thus identify and act against the enemy before he can be ready to launch.

This is where cyber capability meets the Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Genetic (NCB&G) Counter warfare requirement.

  1. Non Conventional Operations / Warfare:

This does not include insurgency and terrorist operations, or special operations as they really are no longer non conventional. The new non conventional operations / warfare include:

  1. Cyber warfare:

News reports of ‘Hacking’ of Key Computer Systems at so many High Security and Sensitive locations in the recent past are warnings of the Threat of Cyber Warfare. The next War may start not with a ‘Bang’ but with a ‘Black Out’ caused by a few lines of Malicious Computer Code sent to the Control Computers at key locations to cause ‘Black Outs, disrupt or even stop Air / Road / Rail Traffic, disrupt or cause to fail Banks & Stock Exchanges and Industrial and Financial Control Systems. One may not even recognize it as the start of a War. Let alone know by whom.

Everyone talks of the risks of Cyber attacks on Military Networks, and since the Y2K issue they are also aware of the vulnerability of Civil Networks, but not enough is being done to really grasp the vast scope and extent of damage that such attacks can do, and to put in place counter measures and reaction scenarios.

Hence it is essential that we develop proper strategies against such threats and organize, as part of the Military – Cyber Warriors, and as part of the Civil System – Ethical Hackers, with proper interaction between them, to hack into and disrupt enemy Power, Financial, Communication, Transport and other Control Systems etc and to prevent that from happening to us.

We also need to work to setup bi-lateral or multi-lateral ‘Cyber Warfare Controls’ similar to ‘Arms Control’ requiring verification agreements between Countries.

  1. Psychological warfare:

History has often proven the value of Psychological Warfare (Psywar) in influencing an adversary’s or target population’s, value and belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning or behaviour, to reinforce attitudes or behaviour favourable to the proponent’s objectives. Such methods can also be used to destroy the morale, sentiment and motivation and depress the psychological state of the adversary’s troops.

Today such acts go way beyond the historic methods of dropping leaflets and spreading selective propaganda through rumours and radio broadcasts. The enhanced connectivity available to all today, and its reach through the entire spectrum of ‘Social Media’, enables many orders of magnitude greater opportunity and effectiveness to such operations. The recent ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in the Middle East are proof of such capabilities.

However, to avoid a backlash the information selected to achieve this aim must be factual and be recognized as such, though it can be given a ‘Spin’ as after all it is the presentation and its perception that is crucial for its effectiveness. Highlight the atrocities and portray in an unfavourable light the unpopular words or acts of their leaders and ideologues to successfully discredit them and raise questions about their competence and leadership.

We therefore need to understand such capabilities and organize Psywar cadres that can effectively use such new channels to help attain our objectives.

  1. Currency Wars:

As James Rickards writes in his book with the same title – A Currency War will likely begin, in the currency markets and spread quickly to stocks, bonds and commodities. Today’s scale of financial markets, leverage and globalization; have made panic and contagion all but impossible to contain. This is not farfetched speculation. It has all happened before. Time and again paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated and capital controls have been imposed.

The economic aims and actions of one country can have strong adverse effects on the economy of its trading partner countries. The present printing of more dollars by the US Federal Bank in its attempts to stave off financial collapse in the USA is leading to higher inflation in India. The RBI then resorts to higher interest rates and tight money even as it too goes about printing more money to spur growth, conflicting aims that can only end badly.

Currency Wars operate through domestic actions effecting other countries (trading partners) or international institutions.

The domestic actions are specifically targeted at countries we trade with or which are our competitors in the same segment of the world market. Such domestic actions could be devaluation of currency, printing more money, imposing of capital controls, setting higher interest rates and Cash Reserves Ratio (CRR).

The international actions could be by using Sovereign Funds operating through ‘cut-outs’ or ‘front’ companies to exercise malign influence over target companies in other countries in order to steal technologies, sabotage new projects, stifle competition, engage in bid rigging,

recruit agents or manipulate markets. It could also be through engaging in the even darker, though more common, act of counterfeiting the other countries currency and releasing it there in vast quantities. As Iran did to the US dollar in international market since the 1980’s and as Pakistan continues to do the Indian rupee in India. This must be recognized as an ‘Act of War’ and responded to accordingly –

The best way to defeat the Counterfeit Currency War is for the target country to make it uneconomical by demonetizing all its high value currency.

Remarking on the post 2008 world’s economic situation, Guido Mantega, the Finance Minister of Brazil on 27th Sept 2010 said “we are in the midst of an International Currency War” it would behoove us well in India to recognize that this also applies to us and to act accordingly.

At the heart of every currency war is a paradox, says Rickards. While currency wars are fought internationally, they are driven by domestic distress. Currency wars begin in an atmosphere of insufficient internal growth. The country that starts down this road typically finds itself with high unemployment, low or declining growth, a weak banking sector and deteriorating public finances. In these circumstances it is difficult to generate growth through purely internal means and the promotion of exports through a devalued currency becomes the growth engine of last resort.

The effects of such currency wars go well beyond just economics and financial management. They give rise to civil unrest, food riots, looting, refugee influx and such matters that may even encourage military adventurism by our enemies, and which go beyond the capability of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to control and then societies and governments turn to the Military (always the final and fall back option of last resort) for solutions. Hence the Military too has a large stake in early recognition of any such acts of currency war and in understanding the potential for economic catastrophe and in planning on how to respond to, or act when called upon to do so in such a situation.

  1. Environmental and Ecological Warfare:

In 1997, at a counter terrorism conference, William Cohen, US Secretary of Defense , stated: “Others [terrorists] are engaging even in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves. So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations and it’s real, and that’s the reason why we have to intensify our [counterterrorism] efforts”.

Such weapon could be deployed without the target country even being aware of the real cause of the damage happening, let alone knowing who is doing it.

  1. Defensive Operations:-

Defensive Operations call for the Security and Integrity of our Country’s Borders (Land, Sea and Air) and responding to Internal Security threats.

  1. Land Operations Capability:

Calls for holding ground along the Borders and maintaining

Internal Security. This can be done essentially by Security Forces. The Counter attack elements would ofcourse remain Military. The personnel of the Military Offensive elements (Special Forces etc) could be absorbed after say 10 or 15 years of Service into such Security / Military Defensive troops & Paramilitary Forces. This will ensure the maximum utilization of the experience and skills of the trained personnel, who may now no longer be at peak physical fitness levels as required for offensive operations but are yet fit enough and thus can still be effective in Defensive Forces. Such Defensive Forces could be under the Home Ministry, even if the higher levels of Command are still retained under the Defense Ministry in a Unified Command Structure.

Those who do not volunteer for such transfer after, say a maximum of 10 or 15 years, may be released from Service with a lump sum compensation and Educational / Small Business Loan benefits as may be deemed appropriate but without pension benefits. Continuation of Medical benefits under Health Insurance plans may however still be allowed. They could also be allowed lateral entry in to the Civilian Government services, with seniority as applicable, after appropriate selection Tests, Training & Orientation, as was done so successfully in the early 1970’s, and their previous service be counted for pension eligibility.

  1. Sea & Under Sea Operations Capability:-

Must be developed and maintained at appropriate levels for a strong Defense and Deterrence all along and over our extensive Sea territories (including all Islands), with a very effective Strike and Counter Strike (Sea, Air & Submarine) capability. The Coast Guard would be the Naval equivalent of the Paramilitary and Border Security Force and should be appropriately armed and organized again under the Unified Command Military Authority at the higher levels of Command.

  1. Air-Space Operations Capability:-

Such capabilities must also be developed and maintained at appropriate levels for a strong Defense, Interdiction and Deterrence (mainly Missiles, Space / Satellite & the corresponding Transport capability) again also with a very effective strike & counter strike capability such Defense units could be to the Air force what the Paramilitary is to the Army. Today Air Superiority depends largely on Missile Technology. The multi – spectral broadcasting capability designed by the Chinese to counter the US Aircraft armed with ‘HARM’, Anti-Anti Aircraft Missile Technology, shows how Missile Technology can very effectively negate multi-billion dollar Aircraft capabilities very economically.

  1. Planning:

As General Colin Powell advises – Plan combat operations thoroughly, train as a team, match the military punch to the political objective, go in with everything you need – and then some – and not count on wishful thinking.

There are times when… lives must be risked and lost… Policy cannot be paralyzed by the prospect of casualties. But lives must not be risked until we can face a parent, or a spouse, or a child with a clear answer to the question of why a member of that family had to die. To provide a ‘symbol’ or a ‘presence’ is not good enough.

When we are weighing the use of Military Force, the questions to ask are;

  1. Commit only if our vital interests are at stake.
  2. If we commit, do so with all the resources necessary to win.
  3. Go in only with clear political and military objectives.
  4. Be ready to change the commitment, if the objectives change, since wars rarely stand still.
  5. Only take commitments that can gain the support of the People and the Parliament / Government.
  6. Commit our Forces only as a last resort.

In short, “Is the national interest at stake? If the answer is ‘Yes’, go in and go in to win. Otherwise, stay out” – Cap Weinberger

Do not send in your forces into harm’s way, never lightly, never hesitantly, never with their hands tied and never without giving them what they need to do the job.

  1. Future Strategic Initiatives:

We are today faced with a situation where we have to react to the actions of both China and Pakistan on our North-West Border and China on our North-Eastern Border, and we do not have the luxury of time to build up a comprehensive ‘Effects’ leverage. Today China is vigorously seeking access to the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Myanmar respectively and we do not have any direct way to really prevent it from doing so. In such circumstances we should be prepared to negotiate and settle all contentious issues based on our clear objectives on how to protect our National interests firmly and decisively.

In dealing with Pakistan we need to find ways to exert effective pressure, other than military, to make them forsake sponsoring terrorism and to bring them to the negotiating table on the real issue that matters i.e: river waters, and not let them confuse matters by bringing up other issues (See ‘Pakistan and J & K – The Real Issue – and how India can react to Pak based Terrorism’).

In dealing with China, we should be prepared to settle our common boundary issue at the earliest and also to convince them of the mutual benefits of developing Trade and Cultural exchanges and resolving any contentious issues through bilateral negotiations (See ‘CHINA – Dealing with’).

If this means we need to pursue even other means to get them to recognize the benefits of working together with us, culturally and commercially, or even if it calls on us to build alliances with other secular democracies (USA, Japan and Indian ocean and S.E. Asian countries), so be it.

When exchanging enclaves with Bangladesh we should seek to gain access from Mizoram to the Bay of Bengal. Such access could be made more useful by incentivizing Myanmar to lease, or even cede, such land as may be necessary to India. This will open up the entire North-East and provide it with a very valuable access to the sea. It will also allow for building a naval base in the upper reaches of the Bay of Bengal.

We should now also seek to further extend the reach of all our Military capabilities by establishing extensive and appropriately equipped and manned combined / joint services military bases even at the far corners of our territory, especially on the small and farthest islands of the Andaman & Nicobar and Laccadive & Minicoy archipelago. Considering that the British built the Hong Kong airport, and that China is now building bases in the South China Sea, all on small islands / reefs greatly enlarged by them, we should have no difficulty in doing so at the earliest.

  1. Future Operational Developments:

The vast range of method of warfare / conflicts these days, and the ability to mathematically model scenarios and gather and deal with large amounts of data, have encouraged new concepts on how warfare should be understood and conducted. The doctrine of ‘Air Land Sea & Space Battle’ had evolved into that of ‘Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)’ and has since advanced into three newer schools of thought.

Effects Based Warfare (EBO)-

The concept is to decide on the ‘Effects’ that need to be brought about to attain to the desired objectives. This is termed as ‘Effects Based Operations’ and ‘Effects Based Approach’.

However, as Dr. Milan N. Vego , writes in his hard hitting comment on ‘Effects Based Operations – Critique’ – EBO emphasis ‘Effects’ in lieu of ‘Objectives’ and ‘Tasks’. He explains – An Objective is composed of component parts, called Tasks that collectively lead to its accomplishment. Tasks, which may themselves be composed of component or partial tasks, are those measurable entities that allow the Commander to determine the rate of progress toward mission accomplishment. A ‘Task’ answers the question of what needs to be done, while the ‘Objective’ (or purpose, or aim) answers the why.

Any Military objective, once accomplished, would generate certain effects, in terms of space and time, on enemy, friendly and neutral sides. Proponents differentiate between direct and indirect effects; direct effects can be physical, functional, collateral and psychological. Indirect effects can be functional, collateral, cascading, systemic, cumulative and physiological; there may also be second, third or fourth-order effects. There are too many variables to enable prediction of such effects, as the ‘Law of inevitable and unforeseen consequences’ always evidences.

Hence, the need to take a more holistic view even at the time of finalizing the objective must be emphasized. The inevitable application of the ‘Law of unintended consequences’ will trigger many such unpredictable, and mostly disastrous effects. However, proper planning and preparation will enable considerable mitigation of the damage of such effects. Lack of such planning and preparation was evident in the Iraq war in 2003, where the sole objective seems to have been the removal of the then, Iraq President Saddam Hussain and disbanding of his Forces and Government. No thought had been given to the myriad unforeseen consequences that arose thereafter in the Middle-East, including the rise of the ISIS.

EBO advocates seek to insert the need to determine the effects desired, once the objectives are decided up on, and only then determine the tasks to be undertaken. This is illogical as the effects, many times intangible, can only be predicted after and not before the accomplishment of the objective, which will be after execution of the tasks. Inserting effects, along with the procedures for prediction and measurement, between the objective and the tasks, only weakens the importance of objectives in the decision making and planning process.

EBO and later the Effects Based Approach (EBA) calls for viewing opponents as organic systems where actions could be guided through the integrated and holistic concentration of military and non-military “effects”. As General Paul K. van Riper argues – the danger of such systemic doctrines, was that they misunderstood the amount of knowledge needed to push an open system to a given state.

Israeli analyst Ron Tira criticized EBO and its intellectual cousins, as seeking to jump from purely tactical and operational levels to strategic effects through sleight of hand. The defeat or at least suppression of the opponent matters, and achievement of strategic objectives even in counter insurgency still requires a credible ‘Hard Power’ means of convincing the opponent to back down – a sad truth often ignored in talks of ‘hearts and minds’.

Hence, the concept of EBO/EBA needs to further evolve into a more practical and implementable concept before we need to take it seriously.

Hybrid Warfare:

A better concept is that of viewing the combination of conventional warfare with one, or more, or all of the above described irregular and non-conventional warfare, which is now being termed as ‘Hybrid Warfare’.

This is hardly a new concept, as any student of Military History will recognize that in every era the best strategy was one that used all available methods to attack the enemy and thus achieve one’s aim or objective. The only difference today is that newer technology have opened up newer threats, and that modern civilization, based as it is on intricately linked technological systems, has many more vulnerabilities of which an enemy can take advantage, all of which need to be properly understood and acted up on.

Therefore, considering such modern war/conflicts under the new term ‘Hybrid Warfare’ only has the benefit of compelling the strategists to evaluate, in a more systematic manner, all types of threats and all aspects of warfare and only then decide how best to integrate the response into a comprehensive, or ‘Full Spectrum’, or ‘Multi dimensional’ strategy to best achieve one’s aim or objective.

c.Operational Art:

The US Army defines this concept as the linking together of tactical forces to achieve a strategic end state. It consists largely of major operations (battles and engagements) and campaigns (a series of related major operations) coordinated in time and place to further strategic objectives as set by National policy.

As Adam Elkus writes – The intention is to emphasize adaptation and holism in operational concepts including dealing with increasing Military

operational challenges created by resource constraints, uncertainty and strategic incoherence. “While operational doctrine is necessary to accomplish strategic goals, its growth will remain stunted as long as the strategic aims it is yoked to remain uncertain”,

In the context of the rising mixture of both ‘State’ and ‘Non State’ geopolitical challenges the achievement of our strategic objectives will depend on the ability of our Forces to unify different sources of power and realize them operationally.

Operational Art is defined by Dr. Milan N. Vego is ‘An intermediate field of study and practice between Strategy and Tactics. It is applied across the entire operational continuum and deals with the theory and practice of planning, preparing, conducting and sustaining major operations and campaigns aimed at accomplishing operational or strategic objectives in a theatre i.e. the orchestration of all military activities involved in converting strategic objectives into tactical actions with a view to seeking a decisive result.

It provides a frame work and key inputs for writing joint / combined doctrine.

It reinforces the need for closest cooperation among the Services – ‘jointness’. It sequences and synchronizes the employment of Military and Non-Military sources of Power.

The Grand Strategy Operations of War occur at levels.

  1. The Military Strategic: Concerned with the Grand Plan for fighting the war and the overall conduct of the war. It is the domain of the highest level of civilian and military leaders. It determines theatres (regions) of operation, resource allocation to each, the general plan of action – where to fight and with what.
  2. Operational: concerned with getting forces to the point of battle with necessary resources and is the domain of generals and admirals. Where campaigns (a series of maneuvers and battles over an extended period) are planned and conducted – generally how to fight.
  3. Tactical: Actually fighting the battle. Includes, the details of employment of forces and weapons directly against the enemy and fighting individual skirmishes and battles. Is the domain of ‘Jawans’ to Colonels and Sailors to Captains.

Battles can be won at the tactical levels, but wars will be won or lost at the operational and strategic level. Hence the importance of understanding ‘Operational Art’.

Information will increasingly affect the factors of space, time and force. New technological advances will compress space and time, separating levels of war. New methods of combat force employment will emerge, even as the need for operational levels of command remains.

Strikes will replace battles and engagements (recent Myanmar Operation) while major operations will become the main method of Combat Force employment to accomplish not only operational but also strategic objectives in a given part of the theatre.

Modern technological advances allow increasing automation to reduce the human skills required in tactical interactions. Officers today, need to be taught to make the transition from tactical expertise to operational expertise.

Operational Art must thus the taught at Higher Command levels, where those who do not have the cognitive ability to properly think and analyze fundamentals of social, ill-structured and open

ended problems should be moved out into other career options or retired.

As Major Jones Anderson writes – the connection between the concept of Centre of Gravity (CoG) and Operational Art is fundamental, since analysis of CoG can provide input for what objectives and decisive points that should be accomplished and how to use the Forces in order to reach the desired end-state.

Joe Strange and Richard Iron define the – Centre of Gravity as being physical or moral entities that are the primary components of physical or moral strength, power and resistance. They just don’t contribute to the strength, they ARE the strength. At the strategic level, they are usually leaders and populations determined to prevail. At operational and tactical levels they are almost invariably specific military forces.

Educating officers on the concept of CoG even from the early stage, based on simple scenarios and examples, a combination of theoretical and practical education, is essential.

As Dr. Milan N. Vego writes – Applying Operational Art, requires knowledge and understanding of its theory. History, especially Military History, is the most important source of such experience. Therefore the education of operational Commanders should start early in their careers.


The Special Forces operatives need extensive rigorous and continual training to be exceptional fit, both physically and mentally and be multi-skilled. They also need to be very capable of taking quick decisions and of operating independently. They will also need more extensive and periodic psychological testing and counseling.

Modern technological advances allow the Defence Forces at the tactical level to be more effective, even as they may need less physical capabilities. Also since the very nature of defensive operations do not call for the same levels of fitness as for the Offensive Forces, this would allow for lateral transfer from the Offensive into the Defensive Forces and a much later date of retirement. (Also see ‘Choosing & Training to be a Soldier / Special Forces Soldier / Leader’)

Planning games and war games, field trips and exercises are excellent tools for improving the quality of operational and tactical training.

A fair knowledge of current political and economic trends and connections in likely adversarial countries and extensive knowledge of their military capabilities is also essential.

Early training leads to a better meld of physical and specialist capabilities and developing the right attitude. Boys battalions and Cadets schools and colleges (RIMC and Sainik Schools) leading to the National Defence Academy etc are to be encouraged and expanded. You cannot be an exceptional athlete if you start training only after you reach adulthood.

In addition to an emphasis on Military history and on general history to understand the context, emphasis on a practical curriculum is a must. The Military used to be an innovator, a leader in the education and training field up to World War – II times, there is no reason it can’t become one again now. Setting up a Defence University granting its own degrees, would be a step in the right direction, especially in view of the multi-technical, social and economic understanding the military leader needs to have today. Appropriate tie ups of the Defence University with other universities and institutions will allow for recognition and certification as necessary when applying for employment in the civilian world.


“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everyone can understand” – Michael Korda

To develop leadership we need to understand what it really means to be a leader in the Military context (see ‘Choosing & Training to be a Soldier / Special Forces Soldier / Leader’). However, the study of military history, and the historic context in which it was played out, is essential for the development of strategic thinking of leaders.

“Knowledge of the higher art of war is not acquired except by experience and the study of history of wars and the battles of great captains” – Napoleon.

“The study of history is to hone judgment before the battle, not to dictate decisions during it” – Carl Von Clausewitz. 

As Dr. Milan N. Vego writes – “The most important and proven source of indirect experience is military history”.

Only the study of military history can provide insights into all aspects of warfare. Study of military history must be accompanied by study of the general history of the period under consideration. The most recent wars should be studied first because they are most relevant for the current situation and will be for some time.

One should avoid applying a historical example of one era to completely changed contemporary conditions of the new situation.


The very nature of war & conflicts today in this 21 st century is changing rapidly, now including operations in many new theatres.

It is true also that more the things change, the more they remain the same, especially as the essence of warfare is still the same, in that we still need to defend ourselves from all threats and defeat the enemy’s aggression, in the quickest possible manner with the least cost.


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