That war is regarded as something terrible and woefully destructive is a rather recent notion. Up until the Great War, or WWI, men and women thought of war as something distant and romantic from whence men returned transformed into their best versions. Hardly any mention of the lasting damages war made to people was made, and in all senses war was seen as almost desirable by nearly every portion of society.
Naturally, politicians advocated war when it meant territorial gain and national pride. WWI represented that and more: it meant the crushing of an ideology that threatened to bring the civilized world to its knees. It needed to be squashed with no regard for human life, property or territory. Forces never before used in that scale came into play: airborne, marines and foot soldiers were deployed by their grand numbers and a version of victory was achieved in loud fashion. But a silent enemy had been created, inadvertently.
These great wars had until then been fought on major land extensions where no one lived, so the only caualties were soldiers. The terrain suffered, but it all went no further as urban centers were heavily guarded and great distances away from the battles. That reality has changed, even if armies have not.
The democratization of technology, along with the rise of popular protests have brought war to the city arena, to the place where it once was unthinkable to wage combat. Simply explained, war is where the enemy makes base. As the reasons for wars used to be something out of the public mind, its development and outcome did not use to matter to most people, except for the safe return of their loved ones. Now there are so many social movements and news outlets that it is impossible to keep these things secret. For the same reason there are too many people involved in wars, even if not actively in armed combat, which makes modern wars more dangerous as their potential damage is far greater.
Eventually, armed combat reached the great cities. Eventually the people who stayed behind in times of combat found themselves in the midst of it, and themilitary was not prepared. One may ask why, and find that the military always considered combat to be its own exclusive membership club. Military commanders have always longed for combat in order to have a reason to flex their muscles and show off all they have been working so hard on for so long. It is not a matter of defending the honeland for them, but rather an opportunity to have their training efforts rewarded. That is why combats keep happening, and down the road this leads to the dehumanization of the enemy.
But the most worrisome outcome of this evolution or war is that it is crawling into cities, where there are other members of society not supposed to be engaged in armed combat. This is an inevitable trend, partially because war still retains some of its romantic appeal, and hence there are still too many enthusiastic individuals who throw themselves into war and combat. Rebel and opposing forces have already learned that, and are fighting with different techniques, more aimed at the discouragement of the public than at the lives of the soldiers. Still, the incredible amounts that governments keep spending on military development are completely missing the picture when the real war is being fought inland, on the streets. In this regard, governments ought to be spending on police development, not army strengthening.
I read today a presentation about a book that deals with the rise of urban guerrillas which shed some light on the need for better military defense and preparation in the cities, and the need for a move away from the traditional battlefields.
To sum up, I just remembered a conversation I once had with an American friend. He argued that the current US Army was the greatest military in human history and that it could not be defeated. I argued that his perception was faulty because since the Civil War –go figure- the US Army had not had a major domestic conflict that tested and improved its skills, and that all its recent military engagements had happened overseas. I told him that when the US Army had to fight a war in their own territory, right next to its cities and its civlian population, it would learn the truth about itself: that both the Army and the country were not prepared for the evolution of warfare. I am not talking about digital warfare, since we all got so good at and involved in that kind. I am talking about warfare with immediate civilian damages.
And not only is American society unprepared. Most of our societies are not ready for urban combat. The majority of our cities lay under siege by latent enemies that traditional military tactics simply cannot see. Enemies like extortion, microtraffic of drugs and weapons, local prostitution, and so forth. The army will never see, find or defeat these enemies, and social change takes too long. It is the police forces that need to be invested in.
The police, being a public force, knows its turf as it operates daily in it. As opposed to invading forces, which I wonder why still exist today at all, the police does not have to strive to recognize the ground it fights on. Its very scheme of operation holds it closer to the heart and reasons for criminality. Of course this has accounted for much corruption and unholy alliances, but these last have helped achieve some of the greatest feats in law enforcement. Hardly any major threat to public order has been defeated purely through officially approved parameters. And though many may frown at this, it is also true that the police operates at this level on a daily basis. Forget about secret agencies. Crime is defeated facing it directly.
My perspective is, then, that armies have not evolved along with warfare, that police forces have adapted to the new ways of fighting wars through operating within and with gangs, and that their effort is the only one that can effectively protect civilian populations in the long run.