Thoughts on the Russo-Ukrainian War

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine devastates the country, its people, and even the world. How far will he go? Does it matter? What matters the most is how the US-led NATO responds to Putin.

Back in 1994, in the wake of the Persian Gulf War, Grant Hammond, Deputy Director of the Center for Strategy and Technology at the United States Air Force, summarised the following in one of his reports entitled “Paradoxes of War”:

War is apt to defy its traditional image in the future. If the end of past wars was to win by fighting better than one’s adversary (violence marked by a hardware-driven, physical contest to destroy the enemy’s means), the end of future wars maybe not to lose by not fighting an adversary (peaceful competition characterized by a software-driven, moral and cerebral contest to change perceptions). This is not simply a choice between conventional and unconventional images of war. We must reinvent war by redefining its nature. Armed conflict, as it has been known, is beyond the capacity of most nations today. Military victory no longer enjoys the cachet that it once bore. By understanding the paradoxes of war, we will help to ensure the future success of the Armed Forces.

After almost 30 years since Hammond’s reporting, even today, it still reiterates how we should fight future wars. Hammond opened his argument by stating:

Sun Tzu argued nearly 2,500 years ago that war is based upon deception and that the acme of skill is to subdue enemies without fighting them.

Hammond concluded by saying:

To deceive enemies and not ourselves may or may not always be possible, but we must try. Not doing so is an admission of incompetence or acceptance of failure. Neither is a hallmark of our Armed Forces. To ensure that they never occur, as the Chief of Staff of the Air Force argues, requires changing our attitude and emphasis on thinking and imagination. Such a strategy must be based on a prerequisite of mental mobilization and an acceptance of the ancient injunction of Sun Tzu as a new paradigm for the American military: Subdue the enemy without fighting him. It may literally be the only way we can afford to compete in the future.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), foreground, leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group Five ships as Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and Navy F/A-18 Hornet aircraft pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018 in the Philippine Sea Sept. 17, 2018. The biennial, U.S.-only field-training exercise focuses on integrating joint training among the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. This is the seventh exercise in the Valiant Shield series that began in 2006. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Miciano)

Air-Sea Battles and Dominance must shape future wars and remain the central deterrence against possible enemy aggression. It is an integrated battle doctrine developed as a critical element of the United States military strategy. This thinking became official in February 2010 and was renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC). Whoever controls and can maneuver Global Commons (maritime, air, space, or cyber) will dominate the planet as a hyperpower. This integrated modern warfare concept must be facilitated by technological intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), which can be effective even without troops since the superior forces can operate remotely.

In a report entitled “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons: A New Joint Operational Concept,” published by the National Defense University, notable scholars argue the following:

The desired realization of the JAM-GC concept will be a joint force—ready and trained—with interoperable land, naval, air, space, and cyber forces having the necessary capabilities to overcome and defeat the increasingly sophisticated threats that potential competitors are now fielding. Such a realization will in turn sustain the ability of the joint force to project military power wherever and whenever needed to help counter aggression or hostile actions in the global commons against U.S. and allied interests. […] Early returns on JAM-GC are promising. Actions taken in concert with the transition and application of this concept are already informing and guiding related nascent capability and force development efforts by the Services.

​Besides, the US-led NATO must pledge robust psychological warfare projects (PSYWAR), or the fundamental aspects of modern psychological operations (PsyOp), including military information support operations (MISO), political and economic warfare, information warfare, counternarrative strategy, and media framing, whereby the US-led NATO could win hearts and minds. The U.S. is still prominent in all these domains, not Russia, China, or Iran. Hence, as Hammond puts it, the US-led NATO must reinvent the war by redefining its nature.

American political scientist Joseph Nye (2008) emphasized, “in the information age, success is not merely the result of whose army wins, but also whose story wins.” Nye went on to state that today’s global quagmire requires what he calls “smart power,” a combination of soft and hard power approaches:

Hard power is often necessary, Nye explains. In the 1990s, when the Taliban was providing refuge to Al Qaeda, President Clinton tried—and failed—to solve the problem diplomatically instead of destroying terrorist havens in Afghanistan. In other situations, however, soft power is more effective, though it has been too often overlooked. In Iraq, Nye argues, the use of soft power could draw young people toward something other than terrorism. “I think that there’s an awakening to the need for soft power as people look at the crisis in the Middle East and begin to realize that hard power is not sufficient to resolve it,” he says. Solving today’s global problems will require smart power—a judicious blend of the other two powers.

Over the last 20 years or even more, the United States foreign policy and military doctrine have been in parallel with and are defined by the “law of the hammer,” commonly known as Maslow’s hammer. Simply put, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This concept is relied on excessively in advancing the United States foreign policy interests, with the hammer being military might.

Alternatively, Joseph Nye’s concept is that the United States and its allies must rely more on a “smart power” approach, which must indeed be supported by hard military might. However, the Western diplomatic community must craft a winning counternarrative that is NOT just Western liberal democratic values and morals. It must find connective diplomatic bridges with non-Western nations – bridges that legitimately give these countries, for instance, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Georgia, and Croatia, which are all severely affected by the war – a leadership role and executive management of the narrative. This will allow both sides to portray a partnership that gives the Eastern European nations dignity, soft power responsibility, and global legitimacy. This has so far been relatively absent from Western counternarrative strategies.

In one of his articles entitled “Recognizing Outdated Power and Eliminating the Divide: Countering Terrorism through Smart Power,” published by Project O Five, this author asserted the following:

In higher academia, it is the Realist School of Thought that emphasizes hard power, especially the hard power of the state, while Liberal Institutionalist scholars emphasize soft power as an essential resource of statecraft (Wilson, 2008). Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2014) explain that Realism has been the dominant theory of world politics since the beginning of academic international relations. Realism has a long history in the works of classical political theorists including Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau (Baylis et al, 2014). Realism argues that states find themselves in the shadows of anarchy and that their security cannot be taken for granted. Although we have seen heightened criticism of Realist assumptions since the Cold War, Realism continues to attract academicians and policy-makers at the dawn of the new millennium. Realism, that views the ‘international’ as an anarchic realm.

Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2014) argue that Liberalism is a theory of both governments within states and good governance between states and peoples worldwide. Unlike Realism’s anarchic realm, Liberalism seeks to project values of order, liberty, justice, and tolerance into international relations. The peak of Liberal thought in international relations was reached during the inter-war period in the works of idealists who agreed that warfare was an unnecessary and outdated way of settling disputes between nations. Liberals nonetheless disagree on fundamental issues, such as the causes of war and what kind of institutions are required to deliver Liberal values in a decentralized, multicultural international system (Baylis et al, 2014).

Hence, America and other Western liberal democracies should refrain from exclusively supplying military hardware to the Eastern European region. Instead, the United States-led nations should turn the tables politically, economically, and diplomatically – via soft power measures – and strive to strengthen Ukraine and other regional allies with a more significant responsibility and leadership power to deal with the Russian masses and encourage them to revolutionize against Putin. This ‘Platov’ in a bunker can only be put in his place through a fusion of soft diplomacy and hard military might. As Roosevelt said, “speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Homo homini lupus est is a Latin proverb meaning: “A man is a wolf to another man,” in other words, as long as there are humans on earth, there will be wars; however, “change is the law of the universe, nothing is permanent but CHANGE.” There will be wars, but it is about how we fight battles. Humanity has come a long way since the wheel was invented roughly 6,000 years ago, yet why do people like Putin still hang onto the same idea of the “wheel” 6000 years after? It is long due for Putin to rethink the “wheel.” That is, the planet of the earth at the present era has so many issues. Other than ongoing and upcoming military conflicts and power projections, the world faces nuclear proliferation, terrorism, piracy, cybercrime, climate change, poverty, overpopulation, pandemics, and depletion of natural resources (freshwater, fossil fuel, and arable lands). Against this backdrop, toleration, moderation, and peaceful coexistence in one world are the only way forward. We need to “change the global order into a new paradigm.”

Featured image: Financial Times

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