A while ago, I read a book (can’t recall the title) where someone discussed the fall of the Roman Empire. The character’s thesis was that one of the major causes of Rome’s fall was the decay of the Roman highways. When the Legions stopped protecting them and Rome stopped maintaining them, people stopped feeling safe about travelling. This led to the decline in trade and a major blow to the Roman economy, as well as a breakdown of communication between Rome and the rest of the Empire. I’m no scholar of Roman history, so I don’t know how valid the theory is, but it makes a bit of sense to me.
I was reminded of that recently, with the bombings in London. It occurs to me that terrorists are giving that theory a test today.
If terrorists wanted to simply kill as many people as possible, they’d hit fixed targets like malls, schools, hospitals, clubs, and the like. (And they do, but not as frequently as other targets.) But they’ve focused on public transportation — buses, subways, trains, and the like. These are tougher targets — they’re literally “moving” targets, and often have fewer potential victims than non-moving places. Could they be attempting so subtle as to threaten the economic well-being as well as innocent lives?
On the other hand, on the other side of the world, we have China. They are also facing the West, and realizing that a traditional force-on-force military confrontation will not win them what they want. But instead of looking backwards, they appear to be looking forwards to a new model of warfare. Max Boot, writing for the Los Angeles Times, has done the unthinkable: he’s actually read Chinese officials’ ideas on how to defeat the West, and applied it to real-world events. Boot speculates that we are already at war with China, have been for some time, and are losing — without even fully realizing it. Boot makes a hell of a case, and the points he raises definitely deserve serious attention.
The American military force is the most powerful in history. In fact, it could be argued that it’s not only stronger than any other military in history, but all other militaries in history combined. But it’s not designed to fight the kinds of wars we seem to be facing now.
But that’s nothing new. I don’t recall any war in US history where the military was fully prepared to fight and win from Day One (the first Gulf War excepted). But their track record for quickly figuring out just what needs to be done and doing it is pretty good.
But it ain’t going to be easy.