Asymmetrical Warfare: Its Real Meaning

Don't worry, it's just a game, and we have the best toys
Don’t worry, it’s just a game, and we have the best toys

When U.S. military theorists talk about asymmetrical warfare, they nearly always mean that the enemy has a diabolical advantage against us (They use human shields!  They have no qualms about endangering women and children!).  Rarely do these theorists recognize our own asymmetries, the enormous advantages they convey, and the seemingly irresistible temptation to use those advantages to smite our enemies, real or imagined.

Our enormous military capability and virtual invulnerability to direct attack combine to actuate “proactive” and “kinetic” aggressiveness whose means are entirely out of proportion to the ends.  We “shock and awe” because we can, and because the targets on the receiving end of American firepower have little recourse and no ability to reply in kind.

How likely would it be that we’d meddle in Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya or Syria if these countries could strike with equal fury against the U.S.?

As the U.S. military responds with “urgent fury” in the name of “enduring freedom,” ordinary Americans are reduced to spectators at a bloodless video game, watching on American TV stock footage of missiles being launched, jet aircraft taking off, etc.  We’re supposed to gaze, with pride, at our arsenal in action, and applaud when U.S. missiles, at a cost of $50 million plus, slam into their targets.  It’s all bloodless (to us), just explosions from a distance blossoming on our TV screens in our living rooms.

So, when we talk of asymmetrical war, let’s remember our own asymmetries: the asymmetry of enormous American firepower, and the asymmetry of seeing war as a bloodless video game even as various enemies (or innocents) get vaporized by remotely-launched American missiles.

Our government has worked tirelessly to insulate the American people from the true costs of making war, which makes it far more likely that our war on terror, in one form or another, will continue indefinitely.

Let us recall, once again, the words of James Madison: No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

W.J. Astore

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