Targeted Assassinations Or The Pushbutton War

By Terrell E. Arnold
8-6-10

The arrival of General David Petraeus in command of forces in Afghanistan was accompanied by a fundamental change in strategy. The counterinsurgency, COIN for short, is now passé. Instead of trying to counter what the insurgents do and get them to change their habits, our goal is now to identify and kill their leaders. This strategy must be based on a first blush assumption that, without leaders, the Taliban will become harmless. This reduces the combat force need in Afghanistan to some as yet to be configured combination of intelligence officers and assassins.

Since the assassins are likely to be various remote weapons operators, flying drones into the appropriate target zone, the assassins mostly would not need to be in or even near Afghanistan. Rather, they could operate from the remote and safe surroundings of military bunkers in some US state. Or they could hover over their keyboards in the quiet spaces of a high flying aircraft. With this we have arrived at pushbutton war, remote, impersonal, and probably useless except as a way to justify buying billions of dollars worth of equipment.

Future modifications of their warfare obviously are called for by the other side. Warfare that depends on one side serving as a sitting duck obviously can be terminated quickly if the enemy simply decides not to put in an appearance. If the enemy, in this case the Taliban, decides to resort to similar tactics, their first list of targets obviously would be within Afghanistan. The Afghani, US and allied military leadership cadres would be obvious choices and the Taliban operational premise would be the same as the American one: If you kill the leadership, the followers will leave you alone. It would take considerable gearing up for the Taliban to compete successfully with US button pushers, but eventually they would acquire some suitable technology and get the hang of it.

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