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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not All Wars Are Soft Wars

Nitin Pai, at The Acorn, writes that the nature of wars is changing and that it is now a clash of convictions. While I don't disagree with his analysis, I think it applies only to certain types of wars. I think traditional wars will still be fought and won.

Hard Wars

Wars that have clear definition of victory and use of exacting force (usually costly) and can be fought quickly are traditional wars or hard wars. While public is knowledgeable about hard wars, they stays on the background as long as they see progress. Kargil and Gulf (Iraq I) wars had a clear definition of victory – evicting the enemy from foreign land - that enabled use of exacting force and were fought quickly. These were hard wars. Even Afghanistan I falls into this category because the objective was clear, although it was fought through proxies (Mujahideens and Paks) and US left as soon as Soviets did.

Soft Wars

I think the public opinion becomes a component of war, by and large, in another type of war - those for which victory is hard to define, that is those that are fought slowly and usually start of cheaply. J&K (and Naxalite and ULFA), Iraq II, and even Afghanistan II wars have no clear enemies and no clear objectives - promoting soft and squeezy democracy. These are the soft wars. All these wars started with clear objectives - that is, as hard war - and the public stayed tuned but, by and large, stayed away. Soon they got transformed into soft wars because they were done on the cheap early on - their total cost in terms of dead and treasure would be much higher - and all had an on-and-off (pull-back or ceasefire and reengage) component to the war. The recent Israel take on Hizbollah is another example - PM Olmert kept expanding the scope of victory before finally cutting its loses and pulling all out. Also, usually the enemies in soft wars are dictators, terrorists, and insurgents, or a combination of these. The dictators can lie and call defeat a victory, as our Pak friends do. Terrorists and insurgents are answerable to no one but they can always claim moral superiority, as Osama and Prachanda do.

Hard wars, I think, will still be around - when a border is forcefully changed or massive terror attack happens - and can be fought and won. However, soft wars are likely to predominate because it imposes little cost on the perpetrators and they may end up winning by not losing. It may be that most hard wars will be transformed into soft wars if the fighting nation(s) go beyound the original intended definition of victory. But all wars don't have to be soft wars.

Cross-posted on INI Signal


Apun Ka Desh said...

Good Subject to blog about!