Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:00

The Role of the USA and NATO in the Asymmetric War (May 19, 2013)

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After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the rhetoric of US President George W. Bush in his speech, "Now, every nation must decide, either you are with us or with terrorists!..." had been on global televisions for days. 

These statements are intended to “justify” the intentions and purposes, strategic visions, and policies of the countries with a Muslim population, in order to better fight against “global terrorism” of the countries and other countries that will bear the burden of the coalition in Afghanistan and also it is a psychological and strategic communication model aimed at creating change. Because the world public opinion generally supported the operation due to the loss of prestige of the USA and its position as a victim. However, the USA could not fully realize this change in perception and attitude in Afghanistan, which it occupied under the name of "Operation Eternal Freedom" on October 7, 2001. As a result of this; Just like in Vietnam, “Asymmetric War” emerged when the fighting power of one of the parties who wanted to turn the conflict of interest between them in their favor was at an analytically insurmountable level compared to the other.

Unbalanced combat power inevitably brings with it asymmetric war. The asymmetrical approach of the weaker one of the conflicting parties to the strong one is the use of unexpected, unavoidable, or normally undesirable methods, weapons, and technologies, anytime, anywhere, in order to defeat the immense power of the strong one by taking advantage of its weaknesses. The side which has a strong and regular army structure, does not think of any other option but to use conventional tactics to deal with the resistance force against it without considering the consequences. However, it is neither possible nor rational for the weak to apply the same war tactics. The weak side that resists will aim without hesitation to attack the weak areas of the other side, including the territory of the other side, rather than resisting on a symmetrical front to maintain its fighting power. It is one of the greatest weapons of the weak side that the strong side does not want to risk the loss of people and the people of weaker side who risk their life for their country. The September 11 attack, on April 7 last southern Afghanistan city Zabul bomb-laden car attacks targeted a NATO convoy in the city and not even on the agenda of the terrorist organization is the action of taking advantage from terrorist organizations, “the American State Within” conspiracy, even though the terrorist attacks on the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 are the examples of asymmetric approach.

ICAP-13 (International Air and Space Power Conference), which we can describe as the most important international conference of recent years in the military sense, with expert academics and expert soldiers from 57 countries and I had the opportunity to attend, was held at the War Academies on March 27-29. Addressing the importance of today's air and space power, of which purpose was determined as to provide an original, academic forum for the presentation and discussion of defense and industrial research by focusing on theoretical and applied information on the interaction of air and space power with technology as well as other areas of interest. Air and space strategist Dr. Benjamin Lambeth, who worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for many years and taught at Harvard, said, “The importance of air power in conventional warfare, which is the opposite of asymmetric warfare, has been confirmed. However, the effect of today's aerial weapons on insurgency suppression and causing civilian casualties is debatable…” In fact, it should not be forgotten that the operations that cost the lives of innocent people, as in the case of Afghanistan, fueled the asymmetric war and delayed the results. The half in the “two and a half war” strategy put forward by retired Ambassador Şükrü Elekdağ is an expression of the fact that asymmetrical methods have taken their place in war terminology. In this issue it is possible to say: If military successes turn into a fiasco rather than a strategic success, the planned and desired peace will not become reality rather than remaining as wishes and the asymmetrical war will continue in its most primitive form, taking the people behind it with all its speed and strength. From this point of view, the USA and NATO experience a loss of strategic flexibility and blindness. In the spectrum of conflict, they do not take into account the basic human values, social and traditional reflexes before and after the conflict, and they cause the asymmetric war instruments to expand further and this cycle to continue for years. The fact that a NATO convoy was attacked on its way to donate books to a school in the region does not justify NATO's aerial bombardment of 12 civilian Afghans, mostly children. Likewise, no matter who did it, the attack on the Boston Marathon should be evaluated within this scope.

Unfortunately, the aim of the allied western global powers since the September 11 attacks, with the on-site determination of Italian participant Prof. Luciano Bozzo at ICAP-13, “it is not just about achieving victory, it is about healing the social wounds of the country. Nobody wants to do that right now. What has been done and aimed is only to change the management styles and to pave the way for global dominance in the region by dominating the neo-liberal market economy…”

Desiring to transform itself from a defense organization operating in the Euro-Atlantic region into a global security actor in accordance with the new global security parameters in terms of “public diplomacy” in political terms, “strategic communication” in military terms, NATO must consider the strategic management of communication as an important administrative function in this process. NATO's allies and member countries in the region, such as Turkey, should take over the responsibility from western countries, which drag the region into an asymmetrical war, whose legitimacy is discussed and where the perception of the enemy is increasing, with proactive studies and efforts instead of reactive reflexes, with a "soft power" policy, so to speak; that is, they should find ways to make Taliban and the Afghan government at least able to negotiate and sit around the table face to face, at least in minimum commonality, with a synergy and perspective that builds strategic communication in a healthy and real way.

Despite the questioning of its legitimacy as a "cold war leftover" with the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO still maintains its identity as the most important international organization in terms of security. According to Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, the former secretary general of NATO, “it is imperative that NATO, which must adapt to the changing global security environment, reinterpret the concept of security in order to realize this transformation in the new period and meet the emerging threats 'outside the area' without affecting the Euro-Atlantic region, and therefore turn to closer cooperation with other countries and international organizations.” Despite being at a time when transatlantic relations are becoming more and more important in the globalized world, NATO continues to lose credibility with the perception that it has a hidden agenda at the international level. In the regions where it tries to establish a sphere of influence, it gets into a position that has become the reason for asymmetric warfare with its presence in the first place. In this respect, it does not seem possible to shape perceptions and opinions about NATO in a positive way and in a way that will strengthen corporate reputation, at least for now, outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Deep fault lines have emerged on the ground of legitimacy in Afghanistan and similar countries regarding the communication strategies of the US Army and NATO. The perception of "The West is at war with Islam" in the peoples of the region inevitably made this legitimacy questionable. On the other hand, civilian casualties frequently encountered in operations criticized by the Afghan government and partly by some countries in the region continue to raise questions about NATO's “goodwill” and cause its reputation to erode. NATO could not develop a communication strategy that would appeal to the normal citizens, as it directed its communication activities to the elite segments of the society with an elitist approach in the regions where it was trying to create a new sphere of influence. In the context of social projects, for example, in western-oriented health projects; in many places, the child faces difficulties even in vaccination due to the confidence crisis. When the literature on NATO's communication projects in Afghanistan is reviewed, it would be correct to evaluate the great gap between Afghan elites and Afghan people's perceptions of NATO in this context. Likewise, in the 2010 results of the "Transatlantic Trends" survey organized by the German-based Marshall Fund (GMF) every year, no visible change has been detected in the pro-NATO attitudes of the elites in the countries surveyed since 2004, when this survey was held for the first time it is quite remarkable that while the rate of support for Turkey was 53% in 2004, this rate decreased to 30% in 2010. Again, in the survey of the same organization GMF, the rate of Americans who wanted the troops to withdraw from Afghanistan was announced as 35% in 2011, while the rate was 44% in 2012. The number of Americans seeking increased troops in Afghanistan has fallen from 30% in 2009 to 5% in 2012.

Despite this, developments in the region show that although a US withdrawal from Afghanistan has been agreed by the end of 2014, it seems unlikely. It is said that there are currently 66 thousand US soldiers and 15 thousand will remain after the pullback. As a matter of fact, former American Ambassador Robert Finn, who served in Afghanistan for many years, also stated in an interview with Zaman on April 18 that the USA would actually stay in Afghanistan.

When evaluated in the light of all these determinations and analyzes, Turkey needs to highlight its claim to be a global actor and regional leading power in the concept of peace and security in the name of regional stability in its own areas of responsibility. Especially when it is foreseen that the "Peace and Brotherhood Project" of the AK Party government will be successful, it is very possible to take it as a model to the problematic areas in the whole region.

It is published on May 19, 2013.

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