David Barno and Nora Bensahel identify the most important strategic book you haven’t read.
In 1999, two Chinese colonels wrote a book called Unrestricted Warfare, about warfare in the age of globalization. Their main argument: Warfare in the modern world will no longer be primarily a struggle defined by military means â€” or even involve the military at all.
They were about a decade and a half before their time.
Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui argued that war was no longer about â€œusing armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to oneâ€™s willâ€ in the classic Clausewitzian sense. Rather, they asserted that war had evolved to â€œusing all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept oneâ€™s interests.â€ The barrier between soldiers and civilians would fundamentally be erased, because the battle would be everywhere. The number of new battlefields would be â€œvirtually infinite,â€ and could include environmental warfare, financial warfare, trade warfare, cultural warfare, and legal warfare, to name just a few. They wrote of assassinating financial speculators to safeguard a nationâ€™s financial security, setting up slush funds to influence opponentsâ€™ legislatures and governments, and buying controlling shares of stocks to convert an adversaryâ€™s major television and newspapers outlets into tools of media warfare. According to the editorâ€™s note, Qiao argued in a subsequent interview that â€œthe first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.â€ That vision clearly transcends any traditional notions of war.
Unrestricted Warfare was an explicit response to the reigning Western military orthodoxy of the time. The preface is dated January 17, 1999, which the authors note was the eighth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War. In many ways, their argument refuted many of the Western lessons drawn from that conflict: that wars could be short, sharp, and dominated by high-technology weaponry used with stunning precision to shatter an enemyâ€™s armed forces in hours or days.
Read the whole thing.