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Unrestricted Warfare War and Strategy In the Globalization Era


Today I am going to be writing you about a passage from the new book, Cold War 2.0: Dawn of the Asian Millennium.


Chapter 5, Introduction, Unrestricted Warfare.


“On avait oublié toute à fait que sous l’homme, même le plus civilisé, on attient vite le sauvage.”

It has been completely forgotten that if you scratch the surface of man, even at his most civilized, you quickly reach the savage.

Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Genevan political theorist and witness of the French Revolution, Napoleonic Era, and French Restoration


“A new generation of Unrestricted Warfare is upon us” which was a concept created in 1999. It is known as 超限战 in simplified Chinese and 超限戰 in traditional Chinese, respectively, which both translate to “warfare beyond bounds.” This is a modern form of military doctrine written by 2 colonels in the People’s Liberation Army, Qiao Liang (乔良) and Wang Xiangsui (王湘穗).


As the American proverb points out, generals are always prepared to fight the last war. The concept focused on the 4 critical areas of offensive actions: Lawfare, Economic Warfare, Network Warfare, and Terrorism. With technology advancing at light speed, mainly thanks to Moore’s law, the theater of war is dynamic. What may have been a check and balance a few years ago can be upended and change the direction of military investments for the next decade.


In recent times, we have seen drones become perfected for use, mainly for light recon and heavy drones for autonomous missions. We even have suicide drones now. In a few short years, drones became an invaluable part of the military, playing crucial roles in the current conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. But what does it mean to go to war? Are economic sanctions a form of war? How about cyber terrorism?


The nature of warfare has undergone as much transformation as the technologies that facilitate it, and so has its definition. The book Unrestricted Warfare set out to not only define these methods but also exhibit how China, from an underdog position, can defeat a technologically superior opponent such as the U.S. through a variety of nontraditional means. Though, as we see, these methods have been deployed by various actors on the world stage. In the book, these methods can “have the same and even greater destructive force than military warfare, and they have already produced serious threats different from the past and in many directions for...national security.”


First, the book detailed an alternative form of warfare called “Lawfare”. It is a term that is often considered to date back to an essay by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. in 2001, a now-retired Major General in the U.S. Airforce. Dunlap defined the term as “the use of law as a weapon of war.” He later elaborated on it, saying it is “the exploitation of real, perceived, or even orchestrated incidents of law-of-war violations being employed as an unconventional means of confronting a superior military power.” Hence, Lawfare uses political actions, either officially or unofficially, through transnationals and NGOs to cause policy change.


This reminded me of George Soros, the famous billionaire who likes to dabble in societal change. By using private organizations like NGO’s, the need for an expensive and troublesome organization, such as the CIA, becomes unnecessary. Effectively, these are boots on the ground, without the legal backlash and plausible deniability.


Furthermore, if these organizations are persecuted, it will give the media an excellent narrative. Isn’t it surprising that so many organizations have received large amounts of funding over the last decade, leading to many nations banning their activities? Under a guise of activism, it is much easier to enact policy changes in a country through “grass-roots” proxies. The use of these proxies eliminates the need to use direct military actions to achieve end goals.


Next, there is “Economic Warfare” which has a severe effect within an interconnected, globalized society. We have seen nations like America and her allies put economic sanctions on countries as a form of punishment to anyone who opposes them. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (USDT), as of May 2020, the U.S. has 32 active sanction programs against numerous counties—some dating back decades like Cuba (1958). These countries include Afghanistan, Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, China (PR), Côte d’Ivoire, Crimea Region, Cuba, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Fiji, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Palestinian Territories, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.


Furthermore, this does not account for the numerous individuals that the U.S. has identified and put under sanction. According to USDT, economic sanctions can take a variety of forms and come in varying degrees. It can involve a ban on arms imports or exports, restricting technology access, economic assistance, waiving diplomatic immunity, and, most of all, the restriction of access to financial institutions. In fact, we are witnessing the Bank of England being pressured by the U.S. to refuse the return of Venezuela’s gold stored in their vaults. As well as the oil restrictions the U.S. imposed on Venezuela and Iran, effectively cutting them off from the world’s markets.


Then, we come to “Network Warfare,” a severe threat to nations and a critical part of any modern warfare strategy. This involves government, public and private satellites, telephone and other communication mediums, internet access, apps, and power grids. In the case of Israel and Iran, it means nuclear energy.


In a technology-based society, access to reliable electricity and communication are necessary. Cyberwarfare is the new hot spot in military doctrine, even though it generally goes unreported. While forms of electronic warfare have existed since WWII, it was only in recent years, with the development of the internet and jamming technologies, that this previously shadowed and highly specified sector became better known to the public.


Increasingly, shutting down power networks, along with other vital areas, have become parts of a coordinated attack strategy. As early as 2014, we heard reports of Russian media claims about jamming technologies being used to disable American warships. On April 12, 2016, these claims became evident when 2 Russian SU-24s made as many as 12 close passes with the destroyer U.S.S. Donald Cook. However, the Americans refuted this. Regardless, it is well known that the U.S., Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and many more have active electronic warfare units already integrated in their respective militaries. At the same time, there are numerous private contractors in the arena. Hence the reason why there are so much controversy over 5G networks and apps such as Ticktock and WeChat.


Finally, we have the traditional form of “Terrorism,” updated and modernized. The Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Terrorism has become popularized in modern terms but has a proven and public track record. One nation’s terrorist is another nation’s freedom fighter. The book detailed that terrorism can be used to achieve one’s end goals and can have an especially brutal effect on a nation’s social fabric.


Simply take a look at the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks with the extensive security measures put in place that changed many aspects of daily life. A nation’s sense of security and well-being can come into question after a terrorist attack. These attacks are exceedingly difficult to predict and even more challenging to stop. To top it all off, we have seen how anything can be used as weapons: from a mere kitchen knife to everyday vehicles. However, as we see in the Middle East, too many terrorist events can desensitize people to atrocities. But terrorism can be a useful tool, especially if the goal is general chaos, which is a much easier target than full regime change.


While the nature of warfare has changed with technology, the complexities it amounted to create challenges in identifying adversaries and predicting possible attacks. Gone are the days when a nation’s leader will declare war with the public’s approval. Instead, we live in a world where we are always unknowingly under attack in one form or another. We live in a state of perpetual warfare, a concept made famous by George Orwell in his book 1984.


Warfare has come to mean something different in the 20th century than it did in the past. It is not a matter of “if we are at war,” it is with “who and how much.” War is part of human nature since the dawn of humankind. There has been no part of the world able to live without it for prolonged periods. The period of prosperity the developed nations experienced following WWI and WWII was only made possible because of the bloodshed left by these terrible events.


Let us not forget the 26 million Soviet citizens who gave their lives during WWII. For many North Americans, and even some Europeans, warfare may be a distant problem for nations that does not affect us. But in our interconnected world, we see supply chains shut down, resulting to job losses in domestic markets. Food and consumer goods shipments, along with migrant agricultural workers, are restricted in numerous countries. When the GDP of nations begins to drop respectively and the population looks for someone to blame, war becomes the easy way out.


While many think the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union, it only transformed into something different. Today, we are in the Cold War 2.0, meaning, the war never stopped.


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