Many people have called the recent terrorist attack on the world trade center an act of cowardice, but is it really? I’m inclined to think it is the new way of war for the future. Terrorism is the easiest way to get the most done with the least loss of life (on the part of the attacker.)
War has changed a lot over the last few hundred years. It seems every time we change weapons, the mode of combat changes. Back when the only weapons available were spears, swords, and close-combat melee weapons, it made sense to go at your enemy as a tightly-packed group. If a soldier was standing on his own, he was very vulnerable.
The Europeans went on with this general way of war until the American Revolutionary War. When you think about it, the European way of battle sounds quite insane – they lined up into neat rows and shot until one side gave up or ran out of soldiers. Sure, it was “gentlemanly,” but was it the best way to put the lives of soldiers to good use? Our American troops started picking the British off from the distance. With drastically smaller numbers of soldiers, and the new weaponry available to them, the mode of battle had to change.
The same thing happened with naval battle thanks to the German U-Boats. The old school of thought led to very large battleships and aircraft carriers, because a bigger ship was an unstoppable ship. Submarines were the answer to that, taking down much larger ships without being detected until it was too late.
The Vietnamese showed us the traditional way of battle changed once again. By applying guerilla warfare techniques and more to their jungle fighting, they rendered our army almost useless. Because of advances in weaponry and common sense had been so effective, the way a battle was fought needed to change.
I tend to think the same thing has happened again. Let’s reconsider the facts. First, the United States is pretty well considered to be the single world military superpower. No single country could hope to win a war with us. Second, some things cannot be solved with diplomatic relations. When each country hates the simple existence of another, it is extremely hard to find a peaceful middle ground. As I understand it, that is what a lot of our relations with the Middle East are like. Third, it is logical you should fight a battle with the least possible amount of troops, so that there would be the least risk involved. It’s hard to do well with thirty soldiers or less, and that’s just what the terrorists did.
Finally, what is the end goal of war? In most cases, it is to get a point across. It is to get yourself heard. It is to make people change to your way of thinking. What effect did the World Trade Center attack have? It had an immense one. Every person in the country and most people in the world heard about it. On the other hand, what reaction would you get by sinking a few navy ships? It would be news of the evening, and get the USA to act, but the mindshare would be nowhere hear the same.
Many would argue that terrorist attacks are not war. I disagree. They are the changing face of war. In this day and age, traditional battle against the United States is tantamount to suicide. It is considered “uncivilized” to attack civilians. By the old rules, you attack the military and nothing more. Think about it for a moment, and you will begin to realize something: it has been done before. The US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Were those limited to military targets?