MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin)
Some of the most significant events of the outgoing year were in the military sphere - the defeat of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq, the Israeli army's setback in Lebanon, and the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan despite the presence of 20,000 NATO troops there.
Paradoxically, semi-guerilla units, armed at best with Kalashnikovs, grenade launchers, and explosives they plant in cars or use in suicide bombings, are winning wars against regular armies, equipped with state-of-the-art military hardware and high technologies. The latter have the most sophisticated satellite systems of control and communication, thermal imagers, radars, which can detect any moving or fixed objects, and even individuals, and means of radio electronic warfare. Regular armies have super modern tanks, fighters, bombers, and cruise missiles - everything the great designer minds of the late 20th--early 21st centuries have managed to develop; they are also equipped with most advanced military ideas, tactics and operational skills, and have amassed the experience of all the past wars; these armies have top professionals whose training and education costs astronomical sums.
For all that, regular armies, on which more than half a trillion dollars are spent every year (that is, more than on all other armed forces put together) cannot do anything against the mujaheddins, armed with 50-dollar weapons. Let's try to analyze why this is so.
The first and the main argument military experts quote when asked about "futile force" is that all modern regular armies are designed to fight against similar armies and states. They are not meant to fight guerrillas, no matter how we call them - terrorists, mujaheddins, militants, or insurgents. Moreover, quite often guerrillas do not even have a single control center. They act in small groups which are not connected with each other in any way. In some cases, they rely on the wholehearted support of the sympathetic population. They recruit local people, who are farmers or road workers during the day, and resistance fighters at night. These people do not fight against well organized and equipped military units - they act furtively on the routes of approach, or lie in ambush and then attack small military units at rest. They also act as suicide bombers in occupied cities.
Their tactic is simple - a massive attack, and immediate retreat. They pelt away, and there is nobody to pursue. This is how Hezbollah fighters operate. Afghan mujaheddins, Taliban and al-Qaeda militants act in much the same manner. The same tactic was used in Chechnya.
Military experts have even coined a term for this tactic - "asymmetrical war." It is not yet clear what to do about it.
It is possible to defeat any regular army, or any state, all the more so if forces are incomparable - the 21st century U.S. army against Saddam's army, stuck somewhere in the middle of the past century and depleted by decades of economic sanctions. But it is impossible to rout a nation, be they Iraqis or Kurds, even if these nations, or clans are fighting each other. There is always a point when they join forces to resist the aggressor, sometimes even not realizing that they are united by a common goal.
This is what happened in Afghanistan, where the tribes which had fought each for centuries suddenly rallied against the Soviet troops. Now they are fighting NATO troops both together and in individual clans. This struggle is sporadic and disorganized. Tribes go into fighting when NATO coalition forces get too much in their way - interfere in their centuries-old traditions, or try to impose what radical Muslims will never understand - Western democracy. Their form of government is very different - all members of the tribe obey the chieftain without a murmur, and are ready to sacrifice their lives for him and traditions of their ancestors.
This brings to mind the almost forgotten Lenin's words: "Nobody will defeat a nation where the majority of workers and peasants have felt and realized that they are fighting for their own, Soviet power." If you replace "Soviet power" with "religion", or "national values," or "centuries-long traditions, you will see that, alas, Lenin was right. "Alas" applies to those who do not want to see the obvious, like the current U.S. Administration.
Moscow and other friends of the U.S. warned George W. Bush that a war against Iraq, particularly under a far-fetched excuse might turn into a misadventure with unforeseen consequences. But he did not heed the advice. Nor does he like the recommendations of the James Baker Study Group. The Republican defeat in the Congress elections has not prompted any radical conclusions, while the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq is rapidly approaching the 3,000 mark.
Director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies Sergei Rogov predicts that Washington's departure from Iraq, whether it takes place next year, or in three or four years, can only trigger off more chaos, this time not only in the Middle East, but also far beyond it.One superpower or a coalition of countries, approaching this status, should realize the futility of their efforts when they forget about a sense of proportion, or political responsibility to their own and foreign citizens. Moreover, in this situation the use of force spells disaster for everyone. This is one of the sad conclusions brought by the outgoing year.