As the People’s Armed Police gather with their vehicles in Shenzen, it looks like Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy may soon be at an end. I haven’t exactly been shy about casting the Red Chinese as villains in the past. Despite the propaganda that they’ve been spreading around, and that has been often parroted by those with financial ties to Beijing, they’ve certainly earned it over the years. (Try to get any official Chinese outlet to talk about Tianamen Square sometime.) While it might be tempting, given the sheer weight of Chinese products sold to the West, to think that China has truly “embraced” the free market, the Chinese Communist Party is still firmly in charge.
So far, the Maelstrom Rising series has mostly focused on the fact that conventional combat in future war is anything but dead. But there’s an irregular side to it, too, and the future is going to feature as much of the irregular, asymmetric side as the conventional, combined-arms side. There’s an article over on Borderland Beat about just that side of warfare, a side that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern world. Future conflicts will mostly be waged by drug cartels, mafia groups, gangs, and terrorists. It is time to rethink our rules of engagement. Wars are on the rebound. There are twice as many civil conflicts today, for example, as there were in 2001. And the number of nonstate armed groups participating in the bloodshed is multiplying. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), roughly half of today’s wars involve between three and nine opposing groups. Just over 20 percent involve more than 10 competing blocs. In a handful, including ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, hundreds of armed groups vie for control.
I’ve delved into Mexico a bit in my fiction. The deepest was The Devil You Don’t Know, which not only looked at the overall situation in Mexico, but also the consequences of focusing too much on High Value Targets. We seem to be obsessed with getting the “leaders,” the HVTs. (Not saying that there aren’t people working on “going up the killchain,” but culturally, our focus is always on getting the guy at the top. Whether it was the “Thunder Run” to Baghdad, that was supposed to end the war in days, in a repeat of Desert Storm, or the focus on getting Bin Laden, or al Baghdadi, or El Chapo. The idea seems to be that if you get the guy at the top, then the bad guys will collapse. Except that it doesn’t work that way. It never really has. Capturing and executing Saddam didn’t end the insurgency. Killing Bin Laden wasn’t the end of Al Qaeda. And from the trial of El Chapo, it’s evident that he really wasn’t that important to the Sinaloa Cartel, either. As of this writing, the prosecution and defense have finished their closing statements and we don’t know how it will end.
Ordinarily, I might leave this kind of thing alone. But the fact that it was published on Soldier of Fortune I find immensely disappointing. It’s gobsmacking, actually. And given that firearms and combat tactics touch on the interests of a lot of my readers, this needs a smackdown. Apparently, somebody named Kris Osborn, who is billed as a military expert, even though I can’t find any reference to him spending a day in uniform, thinks that the M17 pistol is going to revolutionize combat tactics. Yes, you read that right. Go read it. I’ll wait.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEDU1OC_pNI] Doing research for the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series can get interesting. Since most of my experience has been in the Middle East, sometimes I’ve got to dig to figure stuff out for other regions. As I point out at one point in Frozen Conflict, much of combat tactics boil down to common sense, and therefore there are certain common factors in good tactics. But sometimes, groups and nations don’t necessarily teach good tactics. So, trying to figure out what Transnistrian Army soldiers would do when trying to clear a structure, I had to dig for some regular Russian Army footage (not the carefully tailored, backflipping hatchet attack Spetsnaz stuff; these are regular grunts). It’s still going to be an approximation, but I found a bit of urban warfare footage in the above video, mostly starting at about 2:20. It’s a doozy, too. Lets just say that we’d have had the snot bubbles thrashed out of us at Bn for the kind of fire discipline (or lack thereof) these guys show… Sucks to be a hostage…
Mexico isn’t really the focus of Brannigan’s Blackhearts #3 – Enemy Unidentified (certainly not like it was in The Devil You Don’t Know), but the violence, corruption, and crime that is endemic there form part of the backdrop. In addition to a scene I recently wrote, where Santelli and Tanaka are gearing up for the team’s mission in Texas, this recently caught my eye. Borderland Beat has long been a good source to find news about the ongoing narco-insurgency in Mexico and much of the government corruption and malfeasance that continues to fuel it while ignoring the plight of those Mexicans caught in the crossfire. Well, recently they published an opinion piece that repeats a number of talking points that have been used in reference to the drug war, namely that it’s all ultimately the US’ fault.
While Russia has taken front and center attention recently, due to the use of Russian agitprop to influence the internal affairs of Russia’s chief strategic rival (i.e., us), Russia is not the only major power that sees the US as a rival in its regional and global strategic goals. (Strangely, most of the outrage over Russia right now seems to be focused on their information and influence operations, rather than the continuing frozen conflicts in Ukraine, Transnistria, Nagorno-Kharabakh, and South Ossetia, to name only a few. But that’s another matter for another post.) China, in addition to conducting quiet resource-gathering operations worldwide, with a pronounced tendency not to care what kind of criminals they’re doing business with (see: shipping illegally mined iron ore out of the port of Lazaro-Cardenas in Mexico while that port was under control of the Caballeros Templarios cartel), has been expanding its regional military power projection, mostly focused on the South China Sea. Not only do several major shipping lanes pass through the South China Sea, making control of the waters there strategically important for reasons of power projection, but the two primary disputed island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, are thought to contain oil
One of the themes I tried to explore a little in Lex Talionis is civil strife and out-and-out civil war. (The line between “revolution” and “civil war” is thin, murky, and often non-existent. A “civil war” ends up, much of the time, being a “revolution” that didn’t succeed right away.) Some of the reason for this was, admittedly, in reaction to not only some of the civil strife we’ve already seen on the streets of American cities (and out in the boonies, as well, with the Cliven Bundy bunch), but also some of the calls I’ve seen on the blogosphere and social media, on both sides of the political divide, for “revolution” or “let’s get the civil war over with already.”
While I’ve generally tried to stay away from the current partisan mudslinging, anyone who has read Lex Talionis should know that I don’t see the current hyper-ventilating divide getting better anytime soon. And that I also don’t see it as completely homegrown. There has been a lot of hysteria (and casual dismissal) about Russian Information Operations in regard to the election, lately. The Democrats are claiming that the Kremlin “hacked” the election, while the Republicans are demanding proof of actual Russian cyber warfare to effect the election results, which so far is not forthcoming. But what keeps getting lost in the shuffle is what Information Operations are.
This post, while following on from the last one, will be addressing a bit more of a broad problem across genres. It’s gotten a lot more talk in the science fiction and fantasy genres (particularly fantasy) than it has in the thriller genre, but it still applies. The fantasy version of this has been most recently highlighted by the work of George R.R. Martin, though there are plenty of authors working along a similar vein, which has been coined “grimdark,” a term that became at first something of a joke, based on the tag-line for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop sci-fantasy wargame: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” Taken to its extreme, it can become so ludicrous that it shades into “grimderp.”