Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Last Maginot Line

Australia is acquiring new cruise missiles: Australia says to acquire new "most lethal" cruise missiles
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia announced plans to acquire long-range cruise missiles that will give its defence force the “most lethal capacity” for air combat in the region.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Thursday the air-to-surface missiles would have the capacity to destroy air and sea targets up to 400 kilometres (250 miles) away and would enter into service between 2007 and 2009.

The new missiles’ range would be up to four times the range of any missile now available to the air force, The Australian newspaper reported.

The plan comes amid heightened fears about North Korea’s nuclear missile programme and mixed relations with neighbouring Indonesia, widely perceived in Australia as the country’s biggest security threat.

Hill said Australia would pay 350 million to 450 million dollars (248-317 million US) for the missiles, to be used on F/A-18 Hornet fighters and AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

...“Combined with the new air-to-air missiles and upgraded precision-guided bombs, Australia’s fighter jets will be the region’s most lethal capacity for air combat and strike operations,” he said.
All fine and well. The irony is that the greatest threat to life and liberty in democratic Australia will not be dispensed on the tip of an enhanced No-dong or RX-250 missile. It will be in a suitcase or a small truck. Or it might come in a small glass vile, or perhaps a small boat. While threats from other sovereign nations continue to emerge, warfare of the twenty-first century will not be of the Clauswitzian variety. Modern war will be unfamiliar; we might find ourselves watching the skies for attack planes, when we should be wearing gloves when we open our mail.

The current issue of Policy Review has an essay by Walter Laqueur, who is co-chair of the International Research Council at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Laqueur's analysis studies the motivations of terrorists---The Terrorism to Come:
Over the past centuries rules and laws of war have developed, and even earlier on there were certain rules that were by and large adhered to.

...Terrorism does not accept laws and rules, whereas governments are bound by them; this, in briefest outline, is asymmetric warfare. If governments were to behave in a similar way, not feeling bound by existing rules and laws such as those against the killing of prisoners, this would be bitterly denounced. When the late Syrian President Hafez Assad faced an insurgency (and an attempted assassination) on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama in 1980, his soldiers massacred some 20,000 inhabitants. This put an end to all ideas of terrorism and guerrilla warfare.

...The problem will not arise if the terrorist group is small and not very dangerous....[if] the very survival of a society is at stake, it is most unlikely that governments will be impeded in their defense by laws and norms belonging to a bygone (and more humane) age.

...Terrorists want total war — not in the sense that they will (or could) mobilize unlimited resources; in this respect their possibilities are limited. But they want their attacks to be unfettered by laws, norms, regulations, and conventions. In the terrorist conception of warfare there is no room for the Red Cross.
We cling to our principles, because that is who we are. But the terrible, relentless and catastrophic onslaught of a religious cult bent on the destruction of the West will ultimately debase the canons upon which we all rely. What is at stake is our very soul as a culture; we are challenged by the darkest impulses of humanity, where the rules are cast aside.

We should be mindful that the waves emanating from 9/11 were initiated with box cutters, not fancy military hardware. Expensive missile systems are a contemporary Maginot Line, easily routed and dismissed. We prepare for traditional threats while the emerging threats of our time elude cognitive debate. Free people should recognize their conundrum: to apply laws and rules to the enemies of civilization opens the door to our own demise, as those laws are leveraged against our system. Yet, to put aside our canons in order to effectively fight the Beast will betray who we are.

No attack from China, Korea or Indonesia carries the seeds of our own self-destruction; box cutters are all that is needed to shake the foundation of our civilization.