There has been a lot of noise in the ‘net about the future of the A-10 “Warthog”, probably the best CAS airplane ever, due to obsolescence of the project and for setting the stage for the new F-35. For the non-initiated, the acronym CAS stands for Close Air Support, where “close” means attacking a few meters from the ground in very hostile environments, in order to give a real support for the troops. The whole set of polemics touched moments of absolute estrangement from reality, until the will of the US armed forces has been made clear: the A-10 MUST stay, until something better will come under way. So our american friends will keep their fantastic tank-killer on duty for some more years, leaving the same old question for the European allies: what will you do to give any CAS to your troops?
In the last ten years or so, we got more and more news in the feed about the use of drones in all the major conflict zones. Acronyms like UAV or UCAV became part of our lingo and countless videos on YouTube or Vimeo showed us in full degree what happened in Afghanistan or in Iraq (or in other places) when a Hellfire missile hit its intended target on the ground.
As they say September 11th, 2001 is a kind of milestone, a separation between two different way of feeling. With the terrorist attacks on american soil the message was quite clear: no place is safe, for nobody.
That was a hard lesson, the same already learned by other countries in the past. When war became asymmetric, then there are no limits about where the battlefield is, there are no rules at all and the only victory available is the annihilation of the enemy, no less.
After 12 years we can say that a new kind of symmetry has been found for this kind of conflicts. What happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan were the last traditional operations in the old line of warfare, with an invading army that became an easy target shortly after the “success” of the invasion. For any insurgent group having so many target is one hell of invitation to a bloodfest.
So, the new symmetry has been found. UCAV to strike almost everywhere with no warning to balance IED and car bombs, Special Forces strikes to balance the attacks against civilians. Then you have to add the extraordinary renditions performed by CIA and/or Special Forces all around the world. It’s nothing new, Israeli forces did the same for decades.
To tell the truth, it’s nothing new for a lot of countries. Ask to the French about overseas operations made from the ‘60s to the present days (Chad, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia), think about what UK forces did worldwide from the ’50 (they set up the rules of the modern black ops). Russia, China, Australia, India, South Africa… almost every country crossed the legal line.
Yes, there WAS a line to be crossed. Given by the respect of International treaties, from the basic idea of national authority and so on. The real difference between now and then is in the media coverage. Today we are told about what has been done, more or less. Yesterday it was a matter of unconfirmed news, media noise covered by official denial notes and bags of lies.
What we still do not see is not the blood of the victims, there’s a plenty of it. We do not see what’s the price to pay for this kind of safety. The only law is in the military or economic power, no matter the level of legal violations. The message we get is elementary: there’s no such thing as a common law both for terrorist and for nations. Such a situation is the same that “authorize” big companies to enforce their rule with PMC when needed (i.e. Nigeria).
What we have now is a bunch of dirty little wars with the only real difference between them is about how much they look good on TV. Ratings, anyone? You see, it’s for our sponsors.
Last november, in 2012, Iran captured an advanced american UAV (RQ-170 “Sentinel“) on its territory; that was quite embarrassing for USAF, the unmanned aircraft was captured intact ant the potential for a technological leak was a real threat. Many hypothesis were considered about how Iranians could get their hands on an intact drone and no official statement has been done from USAF about it.