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Elkus on the Troubled History of Raiding


Adam reminds us that punitive raiding is not by itself a substitute for clear strategies or coherent policies in a well-written piece posted at The Atlantic Monthly :

From Romans to SEALs, a Troubled History of Raiding

The Osama bin Laden raid has been hailed as the centerpiece of a new style of “collaborative” warfare that leverages intelligence fusion and networked interagency teams to focus precision force on America’s enemies. Collaborative warfare, while impressive, is only the latest and greatest in a genre of military operation that dates back thousands of years: the punitive raid. From the days of the Roman Empire through Sunday’s raid in Abottabad, Pakistan, governments have relied on punitive raids and manhunts to eliminate challengers to state power without resorting to costly, large-scale occupations. 

But a look at the history and evolution of punitive raiding reveals that it is not a substitute for sound strategy — and can be far more costly than policymakers might suspect and may have political costs that outweigh the strategic benefits. Punitive raids — whether they consist of a large column of raiders advancing by horseback or an airmobile squad of commandos about to drop into an enemy cross-border haven — have always been deceptively appealing as low-cost alternatives…

Read the rest here.

2 Responses to “Elkus on the Troubled History of Raiding”

  1. Mercuto Says:

    punitive raiding reveals that it is not a substitute for sound strategy

     With all due respects, that sounds like arguing that brushing one’s teeth regularly is not a substitute for diet and exercise.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Punitive raiding is a tactic.  It is not like brushing your teeth.  Your personal "grand strategy" will always include dental health, so the tactic of toothbrushing will always be called for.  If your grand strategy does not include intermittently dealing with tough hombres whom you have to intimidate but don’t want to conquer, then the raiding tactic will not be necessary.  If however, you want to be a global hegemon who guarantees the security of the commons, and there are groups that have a habit of shooting at you and your allies and trading partners for reasons of their own, but who are too remote and poor and nutty to cost-effectively crush outright and occupy and weave into your network, then punitive raiding makes cost effective sense as a tactic.  Whether or not you do punitive raiding turns on what you want to do, which derives from who want to be, which in turn derives from what you think you are.  If the prior boxes are not checked correctly, it does not make sense to do punitive raiding.  

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