Saturday, October 10, 2015

A long rant

This is going to be a long rambling post but I will still tie things together.

Let's begin first with an article I read the other day concluding that the US military is still might enough to defeat Russia, at least in a conventional war.  Many electrons were needless slain by the writer in pointing that the US has more, and in most cases, better stuff than the Russians.  Ipso facto, the US wins!  Unfortunately, the writer fell victim to the same flawed reasoning as many other military analysts do, namely superior numbers means victory.  To be sure, whenever one engages in battle you want to have superior force which often means superior numbers.  However, numerical or technological superiority alone does not mean an automatic "W" for the home team.

Look at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s.  A vastly superior military in numbers and technology, on paper it looked like a victory for the Soviets.  However, the Afghanis knew how to utilize their terrain to greatly negate any advantages the Soviets had.  Or look at the US in Vietnam.  Another case of vastly superior numbers and technology losing to a more determined enemy entrenched on the homeland were also able to negate the US.

The first flaw with any analysis of US versus Russia is to first determine where such a war would occur.  Most likely the war would not be on the US or Russian homeland.  The likely scenario would be somewhere like Ukraine or Eastern Europe.  US public support may not allow Washington to send more than airstrikes negating any advantages other branches of the US military might bring to the table. More likely Russia would have more of a home-field advantage in such a war as opposed to the US.

But this is only the first problem.  The second and even larger flaw in most analysis is to assume that the war would resemble some type of "force-on-force" conflict.  The first Gulf War was more of an anomaly that large standing militaries will square off to clobber one another.  The current wars have been more regional conflicts waged more like guerrilla warfare than conventional war, albeit on nearly a global scale.

What analysts seem to have failed to grasp from the last 13 years of war is that nothing in the past resembles how the war will be fought in the future.  Some analysts early on adopted the term "asymmetrical warfare" to try to convey this concept.  But time has made the ridiculousness of this term though obvious.  Is there really such a thing as "symmetrical warfare"?  No one attacks unless they think they can win and they only attack when they perceive they have the advantage thus any conflict can be referred to as "asymmetrical".

If the US finds itself going against Russia in a regional or global conflict, it will not resemble anything the analysts have predicted.  Russia will not attack US forces in a linear, predictive way.  Instead, Russia will use every means to shut-down use military technology.  For example, Russia will use a variety of energy weapons (both short and long range), to shut-down or blind US targeting systems and communication nodes.  Russia knows if US forces are blind, they won't go in.

Drones are becoming the go-to system of the US military but drones are highly susceptible to both physical as well as electro-magnetic attacks.  The increasing dependence on unmanned systems by the US means Russia and others have surely focused on taking drones out of the picture.

A global scale attack won't begin with Bear bombers flying over the north pole or even Russian cruise missiles being launched from subs.  If the US and Russia square off on a global scale, expect the first shot to be cyber.  Shutting down US power grids and infrastructure via cyberspace would be crippling on a far greater scale than even a nuclear attack.  Citizens will panic enmasse.  The US economy would shut-down.  Even if the US military could still launch attacks, it won't mean anything because the American public will be too busy trying to survive.

Think about how losing your smart phone or internet connection causes disruptions to your day.  Now multiple that by losing communications and/or power across the entire country.  Yet the wimp who is the current commander-in-chief calls out Putin "weak" for Russia's airstrikes against ISIS.

Now the US Navy is being sent in to challenge China's claims to some artificial islands.  We already know that China regularly launches cyber attacks against the US.  What is the point of upping the game now?

So it come as no surprise that this same mentality of expecting things to be the way they've always been has crept into how law enforcement and the public have viewed school shootings.  In fact, the very term shows how limited our thinking is about the problem.  School shootings are in fact attacks on soft targets.  The majority of those attacks HAVE involved firearms, however before you pull out your NRA card or gun-control cards allow me to call your attention to another phenomena that has caught the national attention yet.

About two weeks ago, one of the local elementary schools here in my small town (not Cincinnati) received a bomb threat.  The school was dismissed and no bomb was found.  At the same time, several bombs threats were made at Dayton elementary schools.  Then on Thursday, a bomb threat was made to a different elementary school here in town again.

So far, indications are that these threats are being phoned in by teenagers but unlike incidents in the past, these seem to be coordinated virtual attacks by a group of teenagers.  There is no way to know in advance if the "bomb" is real or not so critical response plans have to be activated.  The results are same regardless as young children are scared and parents may not want to send their kids back to school.

Cyber attacks, unlike firearms or explosives, give no "tell" until the attacker launches the attack.  Depending on the sophistication of the attacker, it may be difficult if not impossible to trace the attack.  Regardless, the victims are still just as terrified as if the attack were real.  While the country further divides itself along the pro or anti-gun control, the real threat is mastering the art of cyber attacks.  It won't be long, if it hasn't already happened, before these cyber-terrorists figure out how to shut down power grids, disable traffic control systems, or use meaconing (interception and rebroadcast of navigation signals) to create even more havoc.  Even our cars are now susceptible with the addition of WiFi systems, it is even easier to hijack a car's system and shut it down.

So the next time you read some experts threat analysis, ask yourself a question.  Are they merely regurgitating past practices as scintillating analysis or have they really come up with how a threat will act in the future?  Remember, it's all about selling copy.

No comments: