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Prepared for Regular War, Losing the Irregular Fight

February 13, 2009
By Henry Kenyon
Vice Adm. Robert Harward, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, warns that the United States must be as prepared to fight in irregular conflicts as it is for conventional warfare.

The United States has yet to strike a balance between being dominant in regular warfare and being able to fight an irregular war, according to the deputy commander of the Joint Forces Command. Vice Adm. Robert Harward, USN, offered that the United States even might be losing the war in cyberspace.

"You can be militarily dominant and irrelevant," Adm. Harward stated as he reiterated what most military experts say-an enemy will not fight you in your area of strength. "Our adversaries know what we're doing ... they know better than we do," he declared.

While the United States may be losing in cyberspace, it will win in Afghanistan, the admiral said. However, the challenge it faces is once again a form of irregular warfare-in this case, information operations. The enemy is portraying U.S. forces negatively to the people of Afghanistan, and the United States must counter that. "The issue isn't who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in Afghanistan," he explained. "The issue is do they [the Afghan people] see us as the good guys or the bad guys."

Future national conflicts may arise from non-state players acting on behalf of a state. Hezbollah, for example, acts on behalf of Iran. This and other sponsored groups could take actions that lead to a war between another nation and the supporting state, Adm. Harward warned.

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