Thursday, 30 November 2017

Winning Wars Amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict - Peter A. Kiss

This review was submitted to Army History magazine.

Title: Winning Wars Amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict
Author: Peter A. Kiss
ISBN: 978-1612-347-004
Publishers: Potomac Books
Pages: 289
Maps: 5

Asymmetric conflict is the modus operandi of the modern insurgent fighter and the Wests traditional methods of addressing using conventional forces has proven challenging in the extreme. The author has endeavoured to outline through an analysis of a series of unique, but related (insofar as asymmetric warfare has a common methodology), engagements, the characteristics of what he refers to as 4th generational (4G) warfare. He uses the examples as case studies in order to facilitate explanation of the causes, means of response and how successful (or not) authorities  were in both containing and reversing the insurgencies/instabilities. 

Each case study: Rhodesia 1962-1980, Punjab 1980-1994, Kosovo 1996-1999, France 2005 and modern day Hungary is broken down and analyzed using the criteria of response outlined in the beginning chapters of the book. These criteria relate to the paradigm shift required to address the characteristics of 4th generational warfare. Kiss spends the initial part of the book outlining what constitutes the shifts between generations of war, paying particular attention to the nature and characteristics of 4G. Thus, the 1st to 3rd generations have their origins in the Westphalian school where conflict centres upon the nation state and inter-national conflict. This represents the more traditional view of warfare.

Conversely, fourth generational warfare is defined by a series of traits that stand in unique contrast to the previous generations:

            1. sovereignty is limited;
            2. state loses monopoly over war;
            3. a majority of the population is neutral;
     4. belligerents behaviour is not constrained by the               responsibilities inherent in state existence                         because they are not a state;
            5. there is no clear victory or defeat;
            6. the conflict is more a clash of wills than a trial of                      strength; and
     7. belligerents will utilize means that are not                         considered to be military in nature (ie                               street politics and riots).                                                                                    

Kiss outlines that the people are medium within which the conflict between the government and non-government belligerents unfolds. The use of military force, as opposed to its traditional role of being the final arbiter, is now merely one of a series of supporting means utilized to reach each sides goals. 

He then goes on to outline how it has come to pass that the State, as the final international structure of interaction, has diminished in stature and influence. He focuses on two distinct areas of development: economic and political integration as well as eroding sovereignty. The first comes as the result of the transfer of state authority to supranational organizations such as the UN, the rise of international business and criminal organizations (who do not owe their existence to a particular nation) and newly accepted theories of international conduct (ie the Right to Protect) that supersedes national authority. Additionally, Kiss makes very lucid and telling observations regarding the diminishment of the state due to the internet, ease of international travel, the failure of the state to guarantee the security of its citizens, demographic changes and the failure of minorities/immigrants to accept the values and standards of the host nation. 

What all of this is leading to is a growing challenge to the States effectiveness at being able to overcome 4G insurgencies. The State, regardless of the nature of its leadership, is forced by its very existence to operate within a series of guidelines and limitations that the 4G insurgent is not. However, Kiss also advances the notion that pure terrorism (defined as being violence without goal) does not exist and therefore, terrorists/insurgents will always have an end state that they are working towards. Thus it becomes the challenge of each side to best determine how they are going to tailor their challenge/response in order to outlast the other.

The author's real world examples emphasize the timelines, complexities and uniqueness of 4G conflict. Each is representative of a different facet of this warfare and displays methods that were military successes but political failures (Rhodesia), asymmetric successes (Kosovo) and counterinsurgency successes (Punjab). He concludes each example with an outline of the lessons to be learned. His study of the outbreak of French minority violence is particularly sobering as it serves both as a lesson in response techniques and a cautionary tale for the future of intra-state relations.

Kiss's book is a thoughtful and insightful look into a mode of warfare that is rapidly becoming the norm for traditional nation states to address. It is a style not confined by borders, ethnicity, religion nor economy but is influenced by all. His style is clear and lucid and his arguments for the future convincing. His work is well worth studying for those involved with developing policies that will serve as the framework of responses for nation states in future conflicts.

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