‘SHOCK AND AWE’: I’ve been

‘SHOCK AND AWE’: I’ve been doing a little research on the hottest strategic concept being talked up by the Washington hawks these days. ‘Shock & Awe’ is a strategic concept advocated most ardently and publicly by former naval commander Harlan Ullman. It involves throwing large numbers of allegedly “smart” cruise missiles into Baghdad in the first two days of a war, with the goal of causing total psychological collapse in “the enemy”.
Ullman recently told CBS News that, “We want them to quit. We want them not to fight… So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes.” He invited his listeners to engage in a thought exercize: “You’re sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you’re the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out.” Apparently switching sides to then talk about the Americans, he added, “You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted.”
How much do we need to unpack these statements? Like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima? … You get rid of their power, water?
We could just dismiss Ullman as a sad old blowhard, a swaggering schoolyard bully. And yes, it is evident that a lot of the Pentagon’s “information policy” these days is aimed at trying to intimidate potential Iraqi opponents. So we could perhaps say that Ullman’s utterances are in themselves “just another example” of this effort at psy-war.
But I also think we should take people’s statements seriously. Actually advocating perpetrating something like another Hiroshima, or the intentional disabling of the power and water systems for an entire city is a serious business. In fact, the latter kind of an action clearly qualifies as a crime against humanity under the definition agreed on in Article 6 of the Charter for the Nuremberg Tribunal. (Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war…)
I cite the Nuremberg Tribunal definition because it was developed mainly by the Pentagon’s own lawyers. Since then, the Nuremberg Principles, including its definitions of these kinds of crime, have been adopted by the entire international community. Cutting of power and water to an entire city would, I think, count by anyone’s definition as an “inhumane act” committed against a “civilian population.”
Ullman’s words must be held to have weight. And inasmuch as many people in the Pentagon claim that Shock&Awe is their doctrine of the day, I think we need to get the official word from the Pentagon and the White House as to whether the U.S. government will disavow these statements from Ullman, or whether they actually plan to go ahead and implement these inhumane threats.
I’ve been trying to get hold of a copy of the 199-page book, published by the National Defense University in 1996, in which Ullman and six colleagues first laid out the S&A concept. The book is called Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. The work on it was sponsored by NDU’s “Advanced Concepts, Technologies, and Information Strategies group”. (So yes, my fellow-Amurrcans, your tax dollars have been generously at work here.)
I think I can get to a microfiche copy of the text in the next couple of days. But in the mean-time, I found a review of it, published in the Naval War College Review in 1998 that makes some intriguing points.
The author of the review, an Air Force Major called Mark Conversino, clearly didn’t like the way the book was written. “Unfortunately, it is the reader who is ‘shocked’,” he huffed. “While the authors are all eminently qualified to expound on military affairs and strategy, the text is rambling, repetitious, and at times incoherent.” Moreover, “a number of egregious errors call its credibility into question.” He goes on to list a few of those.
A little later comes the really tanatalizing part: “The authors make a strong case for Germany’s blitzkrieg campaigns as an example of shock and awe… As in blitzkrieg, rapid dominance produces shock and awe through four elements, including ‘rapidity.'” [Well yes, Mark, rapid dominance might indeed seem to be endowed with that quality.] Then, he has this to say about Ullman et al’s study: “In an incomprehensible leap of logic, the Nazi Holocaust is classified a ‘state policy of Shock and Awe.'”
So let’s hear it for ‘Shock and Awe’, shall we? A strategic concept that, its authors claim, promises us not only all the fine qualities of Hiroshima, but also those of the blitzkrieg and the Holocaust.
Who on earth are these people?
I did notice that if you go to the CSIS website, you can find a bio for Harlan Ullman that includes a phone number and an e-address. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give him a call.