15 September 2017

Non-State Actors Biggest Threat in War Against the West

French counter-insurgency expert David Galula once explained that protracted guerilla warfare was so cheap to maintain and so expensive to suppress that it even­tually could produce a crisis within the counter-insurgency camp.

In the context of tension between North Korea and the US, the “fire and fury” rhetoric from President Donald Trump sends a message to other nations as much as to North Korea: a war with the US would be so costly as to be ­inconceivable. As Republican senator Lindsey Graham has emphasised: “If thousands are going to die, they will die over there.”

More rational non-allied states will have calculated the calamity of a state-on-state war with the US and its allies. That is why the risk of future warfare will increase significantly from non-state actors working by, with and through other nations, and novel interactions between technology, terrorists, insurgents, international drug traffickers and cyber criminals.

Every attack on a Western country since the end of World War II has been conducted by a non-state actor.

A cheaper alternative to conventional conflict for opponents of the US and its allies like us is to engineer endless “wars of the flea”, as guerilla war authority Robert Taber described them. In the war against the flea, the state suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend against a small, agile, ubiquitous enemy.

This war will take place across a variety of terrains, through a network of borderless non-state actors. Whether it’s al-Qa’ida, Islamic State, Antifa G20 rioters, Somali pirates, WikiLeaks, the Taliban or transnational criminal organisations, these players continue to have an impact on warfare, domestic security, regional stability and investment.

Non-state actors and states that use them as proxies have understood the power of decentralised, globally networked operating models where each node along the network can be a force multiplier and disproportionately amplifying their efforts…

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