The End of High-Intensity Warfare Strategy?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cyrus Faizee
Expert on Middle East & US Affairs

The return of US soldiers from Iraq was celebrated through a special ceremony in North Carolina. The Iraq war raged on for nine years. Although less than 120 US troops lost their lives during the original conflict for capturing Iraq, their fatalities gradually rose up to about 4,400 through years of conflict. The figure was a great loss to the United States and also invoked harsh domestic criticism. It was also, at least, among major factors which swept President Barack Obama to power.

After his election, Obama promised to bring the US soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan. His promise has been largely fulfilled now, but this development is also sign of another important change: the end of high-intensity warfare. A simple assessment of political and military developments in various parts of the world will reveal that the time for high-intensity warfare using a great number of infantry troops is apparently over and perhaps, the world will no more witness another major war with high casualties. We can also easily see that the United States and its international and regional allies are still trying to make further changes in the region, at least, in Syria. As such, breakout of other conflicts is quite possible. Therefore, an important question is posed here: if high-intensity warfare has reached its end, what strategy will be possibly adopted by the United States and its Western allies toward future developments which require military engagement?

A) Reliance on Domestic Elements – In this method of conflict, every effort is made to wage a civil war in the target country with one side being in line with the US interests, while the regime which is supposed to “change” standing on the other side. The war in Libya was a prominent example of this method. As for Syria, the West prefers not to be directly involved. Instead, it has decided to send adequate arms into that country, on the one hand, while eroding its military power, on the other hand, to provide good grounds for a possible “revolution” or “coup d’état.”

B) Aerial Surgery – This term has been in common use following the end of the Cold War and was also among important options considered by the United States for a military assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. A more salient example of it, however, was the former US president Kennedy’s plan to attack missile facilities in Cuba as well as the US war in Vietnam. The superior aerial power of the Western countries, topped by the United States, allows them to eliminate any intruding air force and easily target military and industrial facilities of any country they deem necessary.

C) Drone Strategy – Drones are radar-evading, small aircraft which can be controlled via satellite signals. They are now an important component of the West’s military strategies. During the war on Iraq, they bore the brunt of reconnaissance operations before aerial attacks were carried out against Iraq’s military facilities and tanks. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, these planes have carried out successful missions against terrorists. Under Obama, great emphasis has been put on restricting the United States’ involvement in anti-terror operations to the use of drones or, at most, elite units of the US Army. Recent capture of a drone by the Iranian military forces proves increased use of such aircraft in the US military operations. According to Al-Jazeera TV, drones have been present in many joint operations by the United States and Israel in the region, which proves the importance that they attach to drones in military operations.(1) It seems that as long as effective strategic cyber-attacks have not been developed against drones, they will continue to carry out their important and effective role in espionage and military operations. One may even imagine that in case of a future conflict in Syria, drones will carry out the lion’s share of reconnaissance and bombardment missions.

As a result of the above facts, it can be safely assumed that the time for high-intensity warfare is over. New wars, which are very low-intensity and asymmetrical, will be probably a matter of ideology and legitimacy for countries. Promotion of democracy and human rights norms will be the most important motivations for Western countries to launch such wars. Following the recent parliamentary election in Russia, the country was suddenly submerged in street protests to the result of the election. This proves that such wars usually begin with West’s soft weapons and do not recognize geographical borders. Independent countries which are not aligned with the West’s policies should naturally find new ways to counteract Western countries’ new schemes. Otherwise, they will be easily devoured by those schemes.


(1) Trevor Timm, “Drones: A Deeply Unsettling Future”, Al Jazeera (December 7, 2011); available at

More By Cyrus Faizee:

*The United States: From Liberalism to Global Imperialism:

*Charging Iran with Supporting Al-Qaeda:

*Leaving Afghanistan: US’ New Regional Policy:’_New_Regional_Policy.htm

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