Brigadier shocks and awes: there is no war on terrorism
By Cynthia Banham
- - The so-called global war on terrorism does not exist, a high-ranking army officer has declared in a speech that challenges the conventional political wisdom.
In a frank speech, Brigadier Justin Kelly dismissed several of the central tenets of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, saying the "war" part is all about politics and terrorism is merely a tactic.
Although such wars were fuelled by global issues, they were essentially counter-insurgent operations fought on a local level. This would result in Australian soldiers fighting in increasingly urban environments.
Speaking at a conference on future warfighting, Brigadier Kelly, the director-general of future land warfare, also suggested that the "proposition you can bomb someone into thinking as we do has been found to be untrue".
His speech appears to fly in the face of a comment by the Prime Minister, John Howard, last year that the "contest in Iraq represents a critical confrontation in the war against terror ..."
The brigadier said populations were being cut off from their traditional roots, giving them "aspirations that cannot be immediately met", and fuelling a search for identity.
Terrorists were exploiting local issues - such as ethnic wars - to pursue global ends. From a military point of view, the job was now one of counter-insurgency, he said.
As a result, Australia's future soldiers would fight increasingly close to populations, with the enemy "continuing to retreat into complex terrain".
While success in battle was critical, it would not of itself deliver victory - that would come by winning over the hearts and minds of the local people.
The war of the future would be "out of human control". There was "no alternative" but to engage the population and "convince them of your rightness".
"Our proximity to populations enables us to influence and control the populations, [it] enables us to dominate the environment, generate intelligence and eventually bring the conflict to a resolution," the brigadier told the conference last week.
To fight such a war, a new kind of soldier was needed - one not only proficient in the latest technologies, but who had been educated in "cultural understanding" and sensitivity.
Brigadier Kelly said modern war could be defined as "conflict, using violent and non-violent means, between multiple actors and influences, competing for control over the perceptions, behaviour and allegiances of human population groups".
He said he found it interesting that "if you take out violence out of the first line, it's a description of politics".
Copyright © 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald.
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