Prioritizing Conventional vs. Asymmetric Warfare

Re. Betz vs. Mazarr: not taking a side on this one, because it’s not an either/or issue – except to suggest that the crystal clear answer to the question "which major conventional aggression are we talking about" is the next one. Obviously.

Three points:

1. The question that consistently rears its head in asymmetric scraps is whose interests are served by the actions of irregular forces and their outcomes? Such interests almost always defers to those of states. Surrogacy is, like sanctuary, and extremely elastic concept. The implication of this is that irregulars as extensions of statecraft are de facto components of the conventional arsenal, notwithstanding their roles as ultimately autonomous agents.

2. Definitionalism and categorization can also too easily and quickly become excuses for glossing over contingency. The trend has been to consider local conflict detail more carefully, not default to macro perspectives. Granularity is the new spatial mantra.

3. "War amongst the people" is an essentialist crock. We dealt with that in the 1990s. Then, it was thought of in slightly less charitable, genetically-embedded terms: "they’ve always been that way", and intervening or helping is an exercise in futility, so let’s not bother. That kind of fundamentalism doesn’t sit well in this corner. We know R2P is dead – witness how neatly we now respect Sudan’s and Burma/Myanmar’s sovereign borders. That’s no reason to concede to neo-con pap.

 

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