Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Combating Unrestricted Warfare

It's February, 1999, and two senior colonels from China's PLA, namely Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui depressed the world's military thinkers by coming up with a study on the future developments and potential of asymmetric warfare in a surprising move next to the overall discussion always orbiting around symmetric warfare. The study itself entitled "Unconventional Warfare" is an ugly combination of Sun Tzu's 3D perspective on warfare in combination with guerilla approaches to achieve one of Sun Tzu's most insightful quotes - "One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful." Here's a summary of the study :

"Two senior PLA Air Force colonels wrote "Unrestricted Warfare", presented here in summary translation, to explore how technology innovation is setting off a revolution in military tactics, strategy and organization. "Unrestricted Warfare" discusses new types of warfare which may be conducted by civilians as well as by soldiers including computer hacker attacks, trade wars and finance wars."

During the years, and especially since 9/11, the tipping point acting as the wake up call that asymmetric warfare is also getting embraced by the bad guys, many other niche research papers were published in the context of information warfare and cyber warfare such as :

Cyber Warfare: An Analysis of the Means and Motivations of Selected Nation States

Each of these is a visionary reading by itself, but perhaps it was the need for setting a new milestone into such warfare thinking that prompted the public release of the Unrestricted Warfare Symposium Proceedings Book in 2006 and in 2007. An excerpt from the introduction of the 2006 edition :

"To compensate for their weaker military forces, these actors will employ a multitude of means, both military and nonmilitary, to strike out during times of conflict. The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules; no measure is forbidden. It involves multidimensional, asymmetric attacks on almost every aspect of the adversary’s social, economic, and political life. Unrestricted warfare employs surprise and deception and uses both civilian technology and military weapons to break the opponent’s will."

Moreover, the 2007 edition is covering in-depth such popular asymmetric threats posed by jihadists (pages 135/143) debunking the use of WMD as a priority, and the cyber dimension (pages 251/297) with some remarkable analogies post Cold-War strategies applied to modern digital threats :

"Technology alone is never going to solve the IA problem. We have no informed national defensive strategy in this area. The situation is starting to change and improve, in large part because visionaries like General Cartwright are in key slots. But we do not have a lot of time. The intelligence community is not sufficiently engaged in conducting, analyzing, and reporting those issues. During the Cold War, we analyzed Soviet capabilities exhaustively. We did everything possible to understand our adversary and manage that gap. We need to do the same thing today. The bottom line is that it is dangerous to underestimate the capabilities of our adversaries. They do whatever it takes to win. Good adversaries know our strengths and weaknesses. They develop surprising partners that sometimes do not even know they are partners—they will give someone an honorarium to talk at a conference and ask that person for information on associates. They play by a different set of rules. They see offense as a systems problem, while our defense is fragmented."

All of these reports and Ebooks are highly recomended bedtime reading, and so is the last but not least one, namely "Victory in Cyberspace" released October, 2007. Besides generalizing cyberspace war activities, it includes a comprehensive summary of the events that took place in Estonia during the DDoS attacks.