Southeast Asia Again
Here are links to two non-Iraqi hot spots. The first is from the redoubtable Small Wars Journal, which looks at the counterinsurgency efforts in the Philippines, some results of which are encouraging. The other is from an AP report on the insurgency in southern Thailand, which argues there are indications that its character is changing from a movement to win autonomy to becoming part of the global Jihad.
"Basically the southern Thailand conflict is becoming more regionalized. But we are at the very early stage of it," says Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore and wrote "Inside al-Qaida: Global Network of Terror." Islamic militancy is spreading in Southeast Asia, he says, and "What is happening in Thailand will not be an exception."
Others disagree, likening the insurgency to the Muslim uprising in Indonesia's Aceh province, which shunned foreign help and was resolved with U.N. mediation.
In the previous post I wrote about the rebirth of the Iraqi air force from a classic airpower-oriented organization to one optimized for counterinsurgency. Thinking about it now in the context of the today's security threats, I am not so sure it is a step downmarket. The requirements needed to fight many of the actual wars in the world today, such as are found in Iraq, Thailand and the Philippines, have less to do with such operations as strategic bombing than surveillance, logistics support, airmobility and civic action. Maybe the future model for non-superpower air forces will in the end be the new Iraqi air force rather than Saddam's old prestige organization.
The really important defense investments in the coming years, at least in places like Southeast Asia, may be investments in people: intelligence, language skills, technical capabilities and the like. The challenges facing operators in the Philippines and Thailand are those of understanding enemy networks and strategies and countering them effectively. The enemy's strategy may be a mystery -- ironically even to them -- as they continue to evolve according to changing conditions. Keeping one step ahead requires being "better" from a human resource perspective than the Jihad.