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A Hybrid Military for Hybrid Wars Pt. 2

October 15, 2008

This is an astonishing revolution in warfare that I think we sometimes take too lightly. Dramatic advances in battlefield sensors with the addition of precision guided munitions (PGM) certain of hitting its target, will in the future make the traditional maneuvering of land armies and navies extremely hazardous. Just when greater numbers of platforms are required to survive this impending onslaught, Western armed forces are conducting major cutbacks in all categories of planes, tanks, and warships.

The fault in our logic is to think “bigger and heavier” as well as “invisible” when faced with the PGM threat. Herein lies the root cause of weapons which are ever more costly and can be bought in fewer numbers each generation. The remedy of course, as it has been in all military history is a return to basics.

The ancient Byzantines provide us with an example of a Hybrid Military from the Dark Ages. As the “world’s only superpower” after the Fall of Rome, her tactics combined the best of their barbarian foes with Romano-Hellenistic discipline. This adaptability allowed them to combat a variety of foes over the centuries, giving its famed capitol Constantinople a lifespan of over 1000 years without conquest.

 The Greek Kingdom used well-trained cavalry called cataphracts as well as armored infantrymen dubbed skoutatoi as a combined armed force unique for the period.  The cavalry wasn’t as heavily armored as Western Knights, giving them greater mobility. A favorite tactic was a feigned retreat which was adopted from their Asian antagonists, hence the name “Parthian Shot“.

Though the armored cataphracts were symbols of the nation’s power, the roles of infantry and cavalry were often reversed according to the needs of the battlefield. The foot soldier were often used to open a gap for the cataphracts to exploit when faced with the heavier Frankish cavalry. Frequently the skoutatoi were used as a base of maneuver for the horsemen.

A famous military manual titled Tactica by Emperor Leo VI was in fact a handbook for fighting Hybrid Wars against the nation’s numerous enemies. These included Lombard and Frankish heavy cavalry, Magyar and Patzinak light cavalry, and Slavic (Bulgar) mountain troops. Peer enemies like the Parthians were often a major concern. The most feared were the Saracens, of whom Leo described as “Of all our foes, they have been the most judicious in adapting our practices and arts of war, and are thus the most dangerous.”

We see in the Byzantine example a possible lesson in our own wars against failed states and peer conventional armies: the best of the tactics utilized by our enemies adapted for our own needs. Rather than invisible jets, costly composite tanks, or giant stealth battleships, the future force would be an amalgamation of high and low tech. New robotic gadgets will be loaded on off-the-shelf planes, ships, and vehicles, which themselves should be cheap and easy to build quickly. More basic equipment married to precision weapons would allow the Hybrid Military to defend itself against a variety of foes and tactics, without the periodic budget crises we face far too often today.

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