Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

In a certain sense, the events depicted in the book Black Hawk Down very much reflect America’s concerns in the (recent, 1993) post-Cold War world.  The Iron Curtain was down, the Soviet Union had collapsed, and we were the world’s only superpower.

Along with this hubris came missions like that to Somalia, outwardly a humanitarian effort, inwardly a nation building exercise. This was American at its shining, superpower best, or so it seems: using its might to deliver food to starving people, right wrongs and defeat thugs around the globe.

But the sub-title of this book: 'a story of modern war', tells the other side of the Battle of Mogadishu.  It was written in 1999, before the bombing of the USS Cole, before 9-11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.   The term modern war is prescient if we change the word modern to what they author really means :asymmetrical.  

For the Battle of Mogadishu clearly showed the major difficulties of fighting a very determined enemy, on his own turf, even with the benefit of the latest military, surveillance, and intelligence apparatus.  Things can still go terribly wrong, and in this new kind of new war, they certainly have.  Mogadishu was a herald of challenges to come; shades of a decade of war among hostile people intent on using their weakness to their own strategic and tactical advantage.  Forcing the United States to realize that being the only superpower on the block is not synonymous with invincibility.

Bowden’s book does not have this long view, as it was written in 1999.  But the inference is there: this is the face of 21st century warfare, and it is unlikely to change very soon.  

No comments:

Post a Comment