Chief lesson of 9-11: technology is terrain.
The USA is shielded from enemies by the vastness of two oceans. Technology creates “hyperlinks” across them. I simply point out that the 9-11 hijackers and other Islamic infiltrators since, showed their passports stamped with visas by our State Department, boarded airliners, and flew over our oceans, using our legal system and the technology of air travel to erase our naval terrain advantage.
It gets worse: the Islamic enemy’s terrain is not the Middle East or North Africa, it’s communication. There is no “front” to secure other than our own borders, seaports and airports. The enemy occupies space at his peril, and is better off to move on, once his butchery attracts enough of our attention. The enemy has proven that he may hit anywhere, from an embassy in Kenya, to a rock concert in Paris, to the Boston Marathon.
Technology is a new dimension of terrain: communicate instantly to erase distance, and use the West’s airliners and legal system to erase topographic barriers.
So, all of that is prelude to this question. How do we Americans change the way we fight, to account for what is literally a new dimension — technology that warps or even erases terrain advantages?
In one acronym-laden article, we learn that the Army is reorganizing to free Special Operations Command from the geographic restraints formerly imposed by the separate geographic worldwide “commands.” In other words, for example, if the CIA reports an increasing threat in Benghazi, must all go through the current geographic Command before we strike? The 4-star general in charge of that part of the world probably thinks so. But, now, the people wanting to strike have to work through the geographic command structure to get not only the green light, but the support necessary.
The obvious advantage is coordination among our forces, and those resources found within a large army command. The obvious disadvantage is that the new terrain — technology — does not remain static. The enemy may move, our information may become quickly dated. Speed: we need speed.
SOCOM — Special Operations Command — is being given new authority to conduct operations independent of the necessity of obtaining the order through the affected geographic command. This is a major change. It may not work. But, when technology changes the way wars are fought, we either adapt to the new terrain dimension, or we die. If it creates other problems, or does not work, then we adapt again. And again.
Because, technology has changed the world we live in, and the way wars are fought. Technology changes so rapidly that it is likely to warp the “terrain” again and again, sometimes by surprise. We don’t want to be surprised.
We should have learned this at Pearl Harbor, and we did not. General Doolittle’s raid even taught the Japanese that technology made their Pacific Ocean barrier permeable, too, but, somehow we forgot the lesson. We overlooked that other enemies arose and saw how the new technology of air travel made long range raids possible, even by motley handfuls of suicidal fanatics.
I’ve written that mobility — that ability to deploy the crushing force necessary, fast, over great distance, anywhere in the world — is the key. You can’t do that when everybody and his grandmother have to hear about it, criticize it, have a piece of it, and give permission. I hope this works, without letting SOCOM “go rogue.”