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Janar Wasito: What Is the Enemy Intent in This Small War?
  Janar Wasito: What Is the Enemy Intent in This Small War?


About the Author

Janar Wasito attended Harvard University where he served as the President of the Boxing Club and competed in the Massachusetts Golden Gloves. He completed Marine Officer Candidate School at Harvard and was commissioned as a Marine Officer upon graduation. He served in the Marine Corps for 4 years and led a rifle platoon and a weapons platoon. He also served as a rifle company executive officer and as an assistant battalion and regimental operations officer. He received his law degree from Stanford University, and currently works for a hedge fund in San Francisco. He serves as a staff member of Team in Training, a Leukemia charity. He has completed over 5 Olympic distance triathlons with Team in Training. He currently resides in San Diego, and is working on a book about the 1st Marine Division's use of the Small Wars Manual in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.

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May 3, 2004

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The military theorist, Sun Tzu, wrote that the acme of skill in war is to defeat the enemy strategy. In this Global War on Terror (GWOT), what is the enemy strategy? The problem with answering that question outright is that it is hard to define the enemy. Is it Al Qaeda, or Iraqi Insurgents? Is it all extremist Islamic terrorist organizations? Nonetheless, even from a safe distance, it is possible to discern certain patterns which seem to add up to the collective intent of our opponents. On 3/11, a series of bombings in Spain just before an election caused a change of political power and a withdrawal of 1400 Spanish troops, which is being executed now. A few weeks later, a tape recording of Osama Bin Laden reportedly offered a "truce" to Europe. In late March, the horrific images of 4 burned Americans caused Coalition forces to encircle and lay siege to Fallujah.

My interpretation of these events is that our opponents are trying to separate American Hard Power (military force, raw economic power) from American Soft Power (economic development, education, the attractiveness of our culture and history). Our opponents' intent is also to separate the American military from American public support. Historically, the United States has deep ties with Europe - but the Spanish coup, and Osama's proferred "truce" only deepen the rift between America and its cross-Atlantic allies. America shares the Western cultural heritage with Western Europe and Australia. Our opponents would like to divide these loyalties. Moreover, the images from Fallujah seemed deliberately calculated to recall the Tet Offensive in 1968, which decisively undermined American public support for the Vietnam War, and the Black Hawk Down episode in Somalia in 1993. Our opponents would like the American public to withdraw its support for the troops in Iraq.

In this context, I think that it is a useful exercise to compare two books written by the same author, but in different time periods. The first book is The Village, by Bing West. The Village is an account of a Marine Corps Combined Action Platoon (CAP) conducted in 1966 in the Vietnamese village of Binh Nghia. A rifle squad of 14 Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7) joins forces with about 28 South Vietnamese Popular Forces soldiers to protect the village. The combined unit endures attacks which eventually kill 50% of the Marines, yet the Marines chose to remain in the village voluntarily. At least until 1970, the village succeeded in resisting Communist domination. A website devoted to CAP Marines testifies to the lasting impact made by CAP Marines in the lives of the Vietnamese villagers they encountered. But, the website also offers evidence that the CAP Marines felt that they were "All Alone..."

Fast forward 37 years. Bing West's novel, The Pepperdogs, is a book about a small team of Recon Marines in another Small War - Kosovo. They encounter many of the same situations that the CAP Marines of 1/7 encountered in The Village: ambushes, patrols, tribal feuds. But, there are important contrasts in the context. First, because of the ingenuity of one of the Marines, the Recon Team is never really alone - it is posting its exploits on an hour by hour basis through an internet enabled, global cell phone, until its fate becomes a matter of national interest to the popular media. Also, the conflict in Kosovo is typical of the post Cold War, "Clash of Civilizations" described by Samuel Huntington. The Pepperdogs is set in the Balkans, where Western, Slavic-Orthodox, and Islamic Civilization share violent faultlines. Nonetheless, though the circumstances have changed, it is the loyalty of the Marines to each other that pull them through a difficult situation.

The differences between Small Wars in the era of The Village (1966), and Small Wars in the era of The Pepperdogs (2003) are really summarized in the original article defining 4th Generation Warfare, and the other articles on that subject. These articles are on the web at the Defense and the National Interest website. Basically, technology has advanced and made the world smaller through faster communication, travel, and general advances in mass media. As well, conflict now is a result of ideas - which is another way of saying we are seeing a "clash of civilizations." One interesting phenomenon is the rise of webblogs. In a way, this column is one. Another interesting story is the rise of the Spirit of America foundation. (Full disclosure: I am a volunteer for this organization.) In January, it donated about $60,000 worth of toys, Frisbees, and other humanitarian items to the 1st Marine Division to be given to the Iraqi people. Just today (29 April 2004), it delivered $100,000 worth of television gear to the Marines aboard Camp Pendleton. Moreover, it has received $1.5 million in cash donations in 10 days following a Wall Street Journal article about 2 weeks ago. In attendance at the event was the web blog personality, who maintains various sites, Lt Smash. The Spirit of America was able to raise these funds, in part, through the word of mouth effect of web blogs. Another notable web based effort which has originated in the past few months is the organization, A Million Thanks which seeks to send a million thank you letters to the troops in Iraq.

All of this reminds me of my Entrepreneurship classes at Stanford Graduate School of Business in the hey day of the Internet boom in the late 1990s. The buzzwords, "network effects" and "first mover advantage" come to mind as I follow this phenomenon. Now, there is an opportunity for individual Americans to click through a site, to make a donation, and to see how that donation can make a difference to a military unit in Iraq. As the Marine handbook on Warfighting says, the moral effects of weapons are often more important than the actual effects of those weapons. In this case, it may well be that the moral effects on both the givers of this aid, and on the recipients of this type of aid, is the most important aspect of these Internet phenomenons in the ongoing history of 4th Generation warfare. When an American makes a donation, or sends a thank you letter, that person then has a stake in the endeavor, even though only a small minority of Americans serves in uniform. When an Iraqi receives a donation, then that person generally will be affected by the act of generosity. Most importantly, through these kinds of efforts, the American service members in Iraq need not ever feel like they are out there, isolated, alone, and forgotten by their country.

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2004 Janar Wasito. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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