Anthropology An Emerging Element of Military Strategy

Written By: Lt Col Abid Latif

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die as well the minds which are preventing from changing their opinion.” (Nietzsche) Human society is governed by only one constant that is never-ending and ever spiralling: ‘the change’. Alvin Toffler in his book, The Third Wave defined the developmental stages of human beings, as the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age and the present, the Information Age. The same third wave concept was later given by Samuel P Huntington who linked the concept to the rapid democratization of African, South American and Eastern European countries till early 90s.

There seems to exists a strange triad of things taking a cue from clash of civilization thesis of Huntington: there are three major religions; Islam, Christianity and Judaism which will define the course of history in 21st century. The political Islam, political Christianity and political Judaism, if we may call, are therefore misnomers, as long ago church has been separated from state, the method of governance is open ended in Islam and Judaism. The failure of one political form is not the gain of other. A country is also the interplay of three tangents: the people, the state and the government.

More so, in nation state system a country is defined by its borders which is managed through three techniques: the application of nationalism, the comprehensive Border Management Mechanism and the removal of welfare disparity level of population on both sides of border. If discrepancies in dealing these issues persists then these are bound to enhance in their manifestation and will eventually result in some form of insurgent tendencies. Again this can be controlled by checking the inflow of three vectors: the weapons, manpower and money (Terrorism can also be deoxygenated by curtailing these three). Defining the above mentioned analogy of these triads actually points towards a cardinal fact that the wars in 21st century will be governed, executed and won on the anthropological plane.

The military strategists and the doyens of international relations agree that the fourth thing or the fourth wave to all the already discussed triads will be the culture. The information age and the globalization will diminish the weak or fragile cultures but the prevailing will dominate the world in coming decades.

The new concept of world order given by Henry Kissinger in his recent book is therefore based on something more than the mere military and economic might. Anthropology, the study of human development, customs, culture and beliefs is the next strategic study of the resilient military minds. Fighting terrorism, extremism, obscurantism and fundamentalism through only one line of operations i.e. military is not the right approach to address a complex situation which is to be dealt along different lines; be it economic, sociological, political and ideological etc. The ever evolving concept of defence anthropology is therefore the likely scaffold upon which we can build on. Anthropological plane therefore is not the contrapuntal conundrum, and neither a immiscible concept, it is simple arithmetic of human aspirations manifested in physical forms.

In 21stcentury, warfare is already touching the non-linear curve to the umpteen. The biological vectors, the USA’s climate control programme, the Nano revolutions, the robotics and the miniaturization of computer chips to half the size every eighteen months, will lead us to El Dorado where scientific geeks will be popping vitamins and amino acid pills instead of food. This will probably not happen as every revolution has a counter revolution. The revolutions generally follow the five steps: first it is pronounced, sometimes with a visible leadership and many a times conversely the leadership emerges from the revolution; secondly, immediately the class of society which is the target of revolution tries to launch a counter revolution usually with unpopular means; thirdly, both the trajectories of revolution and counter revolution are formed, fourthly; the modifications of opinion occur in both the camps which may result into accommodation; and lastly; the forward momentum decides that which camp will eventually prevail. Revolution is the class struggle with a combination of politics, money and personalities. Revolution in military affairs, in information technology or high end non-linear concepts is also a class struggle between electronics haves and have nots. There ultimately comes the governing sense of anthropological dictates which, at the end, supercedes all advancement and imposes human nature upon everything else. That is why the Defence Anthropology is needed to study whatever is going on around us.

The advice of anthropologists, sociologists and manpower economists will be binding for the policy makers. Pakistan is today facing the worst form of terrorism rarely encountered by any nation in the known history of human beings. Holocaust, fall of Baghdad, Jallianwala Bagh etc. were all linear cruelties. The answer to Pakistan’s vows cannot only be sought through operational logic. There has to be a triangulation of mere logic, native logic and the operational one. Andre Beaufre was first modern strategist to pointout the same.

Fighting insurgency is not an equation of Law of Diminishing Returns, if it is, then you are not fighting. Disparity in technology is usually advantageous for the stronger side but in case of Pakistan, this disparity is creating a crisis instability between Pakistan Armed Forces and the Taliban and their cahoots. Taliban edges away on the non-linear curve and hoon upon the advantage of submerging in the ethnic and social hues of Pakistani society. If you want to kill the beast, you have to drain the lake first so that the alligator is turned turtle. The lake of forbidden water is the political economy of the terrorist. This can be easily countered, need not to ask Thomas Piketty of “The Capitalist” fame to give a solution. It is simple logic, we have to jump start the local economy of the people who are being made hostage en masse by the fifth columnists. Diffusion of amenities has to take place with a pace which should commensurate the modern era, why leave societies at the mercy of mountain squirrels, conifers and the westerly winds. There is a dilemma, National Security Policy of country deals with hardcore military policy efforts to curtail the menace, it hardly covers the anthropological negative space, the actual hiding place of the terrorist. This dilemma can be addressed by identifying the communal, municipal and legal departments of the state and then lining them like spooks in a wheel. Dilemmas are there to be circumvented, the solution to these are sometimes very simple and straight forward. All the law enforcement and municipal departments have to create a common currency to address the issue, only the intelligence agencies can’t pull the cart any longer.

Pakistan has never addressed this issue under the dictates of sociology and anthropology. The present crisis also revolves around the need to define and then making sacrosanct the borders between Pakistan and its neighbours. Pakistan can follow any model of border management – USA-Mexico, the cohesion one; Russia-Central Asia, the deterrence based; and Indonesia with its neighbour, the cooperation one. Indonesia with hundreds of islands was used to be called as the geographical absurd, but due to excellent border management and mitigation of snags one by one it is enjoying the peripheral buoyancy.

Trans-border illegal movement of people and goods is an international phenomenon. Here at international border it is different; since centuries the nomadic people, pawindas and merchants cross these borders to reach the regions of their destination. A mechanism of border management rather than the barricading or creating walls is required to be initiated immediately. You can fight anything but not the sociology or centuries old anthropology at play, in and around the border. As per Barry Buzan, the regional security complexes are bound to emerge but probably this might not happen in South East Asia and around Indian Ocean as it is already at the conflux of many regions and has implications for Pakistan. Pakistan even being part of different regional organizations has to address its security challenges independently as these are sown, grown and harvested in the sociological plane. Modern wars are surely going to be limited, non-linear and most of time non-kinetic. Low intensity has to reap more on lying low than the squelching of intensity. Whatever is going on at Pakistan-Afghanistan border and inside is driven by non-state actors and proxies. Such actors and state confront each other, whereas initiative most of the time lying with the non-state actors. Three things – the tactics, the technology and the paradigmatic metaphor decides the result of this warfare.

In Afghanistan, Allied troops were technologically very advanced but never had a paradigmatic metaphor and were also inferior in tactics; that is one of the reasons the order is not restored despite so many years down the road. While fighting the menace of terrorism, Pakistani state has to achieve the ascendency in all three, which can be done when the people are ideologically, socially and culturally invested. Winning hearts and minds should not be unleashed as a campaign rather it should be generic concept of any state’s dispensation toward its people. Joseph S Nye’s ‘Soft Power’ is exactly poised towards the anthropological and cultural manifestations. The strategy to deal the terrorists comprehensively should be based on this new emerging trend. Let prudence be Pakistan’s smart power and operational perserverance, bonhomie, ethnic assimilation, social development be its war stamina for the times to come.

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