reads articles that say that HQs should be bigger; or need more process. Experienced commentators, like
Dave Banks, always say the opposite. We should ask ourselves why that is.
Steve Cornell’s article on the operational level of war takes a conceptual but very practical view of the
subject. He concludes that ‘[w]e need abstractions to make sense of the world. The Operational [level]
is but one abstraction. It is probably always being to be controversial - identifying what happens (if
anything) between soldiers on the ground and our home capitals is always likely to be amorphous and
ever-changing. Rigidly applying such an abstraction as the answer is a harmful approach, rigidly rejecting
it is probably equally harmful.’ That seems reasonable. If, or since, much of war and warfare is about
human behaviour, it does not seem appropriate to make narrow, restrictive and categoric concepts and
definitions. Clarity need not imply excessive precision.
Nilanthan Niruthan’s article ‘International Law and The Counterinsurgent’s Nightmare: A Sri Lankan Case
Study‘ examines a practical aspect of the asymmetry between insurgents and counterinsurgency forces.
He remarks that ‘[w]hile insurgents can get away with nearly every illegality, States are subjected to
restrictions that are often crippling.’ Taken out of context, that may appear overstated; but it does highlight
an important issue. It is paradoxical that ostensibly weaker insurgent bodies can exist and operate in the
presence of ostensibly far more powerful security forces. It has been suggested that the insurgents operate
in an evolutionary niche. Such niches are different in every case but often have social, cultural, economic
and legal facets. Nilanthan Niruthan’s article serves, not least, to bring attention to an important aspect of
how land forces could, should or do fight.
Gerry Long is one of Military Operations’ editorial advisory panel. At time of writing this editorial he has
spent several months mentoring a unit of the Afghan National Army. His article ‘The Green Mountain
Boys: Mentoring an Army from the Ground Up’ reflects on his experiences to date. As ever, Gerry tells it
‘like it is’. His article is all the more valuable for that.
We wish Gerry a safe return home at the end of his tour of duty.
Editor, Military Operations