Thoughts on 1982 as the last near-peer-to-peer conflict

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Thoughts on 1982 as the last near-peer-to-peer conflict

Postby flm » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:07 pm

The 1982 South Atlantic Conflict is the last conflict between near-peer opponents that are technically sophisticated.

First proposition: The conflict is by definition a peer conflict, otherwise it would not have happened. The calculus made by the Argentine military government was that the decreasing capabilities of the UK to maintain and project military power away from the British islands and Europe meant that it was unwilling to engage itself in the South Atlantic. Although this calculation proved to be wrong, it did reflect the fact that UK military capability had been steadily decreasing prior to the war.

Second proposition: The nature of the conflict confined both sides to use limited capabilities, which resulted in rather similar operational capabilities. The limitations imposed by operating around the task force for British forces, and due to the distance from the mainland for Argentine forces (particularly air), constrained the operational theater of action and the effective capabilities of the weapon systems available for both sides.

Third proposition: The characteristic of the conflict as a primarily naval and aerial engagement means that it cannot be anything but a peer/near-peer conflict. Naval and aerial warfare is much more dependent on weapon system capability, while technological complexity confers great benefits to the side who may boast a monopoly of advanced weaponry. The weapons systems available to either side stood at rough parity.

One major unquestionable discrepancy is in submarine warfare, where the RN nuclear submarines wildly outstripped ARA capabilities. Even then, the ARA could and did attempt to carry out submarine operations, and the ARA San Luis managed to penetrate the task force picket but failed to engage due to being plagued by electrical and torpedo-related problems. So even in this field, which seems to be the most discrepant, there was some capability of one side to still employ a realistic capability. From the Argentine side, the British forces had nothing comparable to the Dassault Super Etendard-Aerospatiale Exocet weapon system, but also did not have much need to engage surface combatants in the same manner, and thus made due with the Sea Skua (4 being used to disable ARA Alférez Sobral).

In fact it is in the air that we see the greatest discrepancies in force provision, and it is in this field that the Argentine Air Force and Argentine Naval Aviation suffer the most. The marked advantage of British air-to-air capability on the Sea Harrier accounts for 21 aircraft downed (out of 75 lost from all causes), for example. Argentine aircraft being unable to reply, and operating at the very lip of their flight envelope in limited conditions, Daggers only carrying short-range Shafrir 2 (not comparable to the AIM 9D/G or 9L).

The British forces also enjoyed a large edge in intelligence and electronic warfare.

As regards other weapons systems I believe that there is rough parity. In some cases the same equipment was used (Type 42 destroyers, FALs, MAGs, Lynxes, Chinook, Sea Kings, Hercules, etc.) although perhaps not engaged against each other.

Discrepancy in ground combat comes more from the standard of training of each opposing force. The terrain and poor logistical situation prevented the usage of vehicles or large artillery pieces. The professional training and high level of motivation of well-equipped British troops stood in contrast to Argentine conscript forces, with the exception of elite units eg. the Naval Infantry (which were comparable in fighting effectiveness to British formations). Nevertheless, the ground campaign was hard fought, especially on the approaches to Stanley/Puerto Argentino.

In overall terms, I believe that there was a rough level of parity between the forces committed, and that Argentina offered a near-peer effort during the campaign as a whole.

Why are there no other near-peer conflicts between well-equipped militaries?

Direct conflict between first-rate powers was not possible during the Cold War. Due to the limitations of WMD, and incredibly high stakes, the probability of direct conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces ultimately proved to be low, excluding some close calls. Post-Cold War, the overall level of conflict and world tension between first-rate powers has been lowered considerably. Chances of open warfare between high-capability states is probably lower than ever before.

Conflict between states with second-, or even third-, rate military capabilities is often one of low-level intensity. Non-first-rate powers lack the capability to decisively conclude a conflict within a short time span when they face a near-peer. This is because parties tend to have limited capabilities, weak force projection, and reduced stores of effective military equipment. More sophisticated conflicts of this nature are the Abkhazian war, the Yugoslav wars, or the Cenepa war, in which neither side has the capability to carry out a knockout blow. Usually, high-intensity conflict is brief during the initial period, as both manpower and materiel is used sparingly due to the fear of loss of overall combat capability. If they are employed, it is in limited offensives, or as individual assets within the context of low-level fighting (i.e. the deployment of a squadron of tanks to take a village vs. the deployment of entire mechanized brigades to sweep a whole province). These conflicts either end quickly, with low losses, or drag on and force composition is broken down piecemeal.

Conflict between first-rate powers and other states tends to be lopsided. Such conflicts rarely have a prolonged conventional phase between standing military forces. Afghanistan (both USSR and NATO), Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, are almost entirely one-sided aerial campaigns, and if they are followed up by land forces they only encounter limited resistance from conventional forces. Such conflicts, if prolonged, turn rapidly into insurgencies as it is the only form for the technologically inferior side to present battle effectively.

For example, let us consider the Ten-Day War as a conflict between secondary-capability states. It was fought between the Yugoslav armed forces and formations of the Yugoslav armed forces that had defected to the nascent Slovenian government (along with police and auxiliaries on both sides). It is clearly a peer conflict, but it is a limited one, and the level of technological sophistication of the Yugoslav armed forces had begun to slip from its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, operations were not carried out in intensive large-scale fighting, but instead the bulk of the fighting was carried out by small-unit actions acting within a limited scope. The same can be said of the Croatian war. Even Operation Storm, the most sophisticated operation carried out by Croatia, had entire formations composed of irregular troops or dragooned police units. One can make the argument that Republika Srpska had an on-paper strength of 300 tanks, but only some of these were modern examples, and they were largely deployed piecemeal in limited action.

Brief overview of other conflicts:
I hope to have included every other conflict since 1982, ongoing or not. I have made effort to cast as wide a net as possible, including all manner of conflicts even if they can be dismissed out of hand. This list excludes, however, conflicts that are de-facto extended because of diplomatic errata.

I have bolded those which I consider to be the best examples against the statement put forward, if there is any argument to be made I think these are the most contentious examples.

Please let me know if any of the labelling or descriptions are unclear. In general terms the labels are a bit flexible, but should be understandable. Low-level conflict, for example, can refer both to the reduced intensity of fighting and also the complexity of the operations carried out.

Commenced pre-1982, but concluded after:
South African Border Wars (1966-1989): Overwhelmingly an irregular conflict. Limited peer-to-peer clashes between South African and Cuban formations, but hardly representative of the entire campaign.
Malaysian Communist conflict (1968-1989): insurgency
The Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-1998): insurgency
Ethiopian civil war (1974-1991): largely low-level warfare and insurgency until Eritrean independence
Angolan civil war (1974-2002): Related to South African Border Wars (the large-scale fighting), largely insurgency otherwise
Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990): Limited large-scale operations by Israel result in urban fighting, insurgency. Limited intervention by USA, Italy, and France as peacekeeping.
Cambodia-Vietnam War (1975-1989): Peer conflict, but limited in scope and capability
Argentine Dirty War (1976-1983): Low-level insurgency
Mozambique Civil War (1977-1992): Low level insurgency
Chadian war (1978-1987): Limited scope, irregular warfare
Sino-Vietnamese conflict (1979-1990): Large-scale war in 1979, otherwise limited border skirmishes or individual actions
Kurdish 1979 Iranian uprising (1979-1983): insurgency
Iraqi Al-Ansar conflict (1979-1988): insurgency
Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989): Large-scale operations are brief and decisively won by the USSR, conflict is overwhelmingly an insurgency
Salvadorian Civil War (1979-1992): low-level fighting, largely insurgency
Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988): peer enemies, technologically similar levels with the employment of some high-level weapons systems (eg. F-14s, Mirage F1s). However, the vast majority of the fighting was defined by forces that cannot be characterized as modern formations comparable with the capabilities of front-line states. Grand offensives were limited in scope and a lot of fighting was static, with both sides deploying increasingly underequipped ersatz formations as the war goes on, although Iraqi forces retained a technological and equipment edge.

Lebanon War (1982-2000): Insurgency, limited large-scale operations against non-peers
Ethiopian-Somali War (1982): low-level fighting
Invasion of Grenada (1983): Lopsided regime change
Sri-Lankan Civil war (1983-2009): largely insurgency and guerilla warfare
2nd Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005): guerilla warfare
Siachen conflict (1984-1987): low-level conflict
Agacher strip war (1985): limited conflict
South Yemen Civil War (1986): low-level conflict
Thai-Laos border war (1987-1988): limited low-level conflict
Bouganville (Papua) civil war (1988): limited low-level conflict
Mauritanian-Senegalese war (1989-1991): low-level conflict
USA invasion of Panama (1989): Lopsided regime change
1st Liberian Civil War (1989-1996): low-level conflict
KDPI conflict (1989-1996): insurgency

Gulf War (1990-1991): Large-scale warfare is one-sided
Rwandan civil war (1991-1993): Low-level conflict
Tuareg uprising (1990-1995): low-level conflict
Mindanao conflict (1990): low-level conflict
Ten-Day War (1991): low-level conflict
1st South Ossetian War (1991-1992): Limited large-scale warfare, lopsided by Russian intervention
Djiboutian Civil War (1991-1994): Low-level conflict
Croatian War (1991-1995): Limited large-scale warfare
Sierra Leonian Civil War (1991-2002): Low-level conflict
Algerian Islamic civil war (1991-2002): low-level conflict
Georgian Civil War (1991-1993): Tied to 1st Ossetia War, low-level warfare
Iraqi 1991 uprisings (1991): low-level conflict
Transnistrian war (1992): low-level conflict
1st Abkhazian war (1992-1993): low-level conflict
Bosnian War (1992-1995): low-level conflict
Tajik Civil War (1992-1997): low-level conflict, insurgency
Burundian Civil War (1993-2005): low-level conflict, insurgency
Russian constitutional crisis putsch attempt (1993): limited clashes
Kurdish civil war in Iraq (1994-1997): low-level conflict
Bophuthatswana putsch (1994): limited clashes
1st Chechen War (1994-1996): low-level conflict, insurgency
Cenepa War (1995): Peer conflict, but limited in scope and theater of operations. Both Peru and Ecuador count with some high-tech weapons systems (eg. Mirage 2000Ps for Peru), they were limited in availability and even fewer were operational. The conflict was largely fought between SF and light infantry formations in cramped jungle environments.
Nepalese civil war (1996-2006): low-level conflict, insurgency
1st Congo War (1996-1997): limited large-scale operations, largely a low-level conflict
2nd Abkhazian War (1998): low-level conflict
Kosovo War (1998-1999): low-level conflict, NATO air intervention is overwhelmingly disparate
Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000): large-scale open warfare is carried out, but the conflict is largely low-level confrontation or static infantry clashes.
2nd Congo (1998-2003): limited large-scale operations, largely a low-level conflict
Guinea-Bissau civil war (1998-1999): low-level conflict
Kargil War (1998): Peer confrontation, but it is limited firstly by scope, mainly to Kargil district in Kashmir, and secondly by scale. Pakistan infiltrated mostly light infantry and SF, and supported insurgents already in Indian-administered Kashmir. Confrontation between properly-equipped formations on either side was limited, as evidenced by the comparatively high loss of life (~3000 total?) to the low number of complex weapons systems lost (handful of armored vehicles, one Indian fighter jet and one helicopter.).
East Timor Crisis (1999): low-level conflict, largely avoided as a whole
2nd Liberian Civil War (1999-2003): low-level conflict
Ituri War (1999-2007): low-level conflict
Dagestan War (1999): low-level conflict
2nd Chechen War (1999-2009): low-level conflict

2nd Intifada (2000-2005): low-level conflict
1st Ivorian civil war (2002-2007): low-level conflict
Iraq War (2003-2011): brief period of lopsided large-scale warfare followed by insurgency
CAR Bush War (2004-2007): low-level conflict
Houthi uprising in Yemen (2004-2015): insurgency
Chadian civil war (2005-2010): low-level conflict
Fatah-Hamas war (2005-2011): low-level conflict
2nd Lebanon War (2006): low-level conflict
Tuareg Rebellion (2007-2012): low-level conflict
Anjouan invasion (2008): low-level conflict
Cambodian-Thai border dispute (2008-2012): low-level border fighting
Georgian war (2008): large-scale fighting is lopsided and dominated by Russian intervention
Gaza war (2008-2009): low-level conflict, insurgency

2nd Ivorian civil war (2010-2011): low-level conflict
Libyan NATO intervention (2011): lopsided air campaign
Northern Mali war (2012-2015): low-level conflict, French intervention
Iraqi-Kurdish conflict (2017): low-level conflict

Ongoing, date of commencement given:
Korean conflict (1945-): Not an open peer conflict since armistice in 1953
Myanmar civil war (1948-): insurgency
Congolese insurgencies, primarily Katanga (1960s-): low-level insurgency mostly
Thailand ethnic/religious Malay conflict (1960s-): low level insurgency
Xinjiang conflict (1960s-): low-level insurgency
Colombian conflict (1964-): insurgency, guerilla warfare, drug war
Naxalite conflict (1967-): insurgency
Paupan Indonesian repression campaign (1969-): insurgency
Philippine conflict (Moro, Islamists, etc) (1970-): insurgency
Oromo conflict (1973-): insurgency
Cypriot conflict (1974-): Open warfare halted after 1 month
Cabinda conflict (1975-): insurgency
Greek Communist extremist conflict (1975-): low-level insurgency
Laotian Hmong Insurgency (1975-): insurgency
Turkish-Kurdish war (1978-): insurgency
Afghan Civil War (1979-): insurgency
Peruvian Conflict (1980-): insurgency, low-level fighting
Lord’s Resistance Army Campaign (1987-): insurgency
Kashmir conflict/intifada (1989-): insurgency
Nagorno-Karabakh war (1988-): open warfare 1991-1994. Conflict was largely low-level apart from limited major offensives and operations. Only few formations utilized modern equipment, which was used sparingly.
Somalian Civil War (1991-): low-level conflict
Chiapas conflict (1994-): insurgency
Odagen conflict (1995-): low-level conflict, insurgency
2nd Afar conflict (1995-): low-level conflict
ADF uprising (1995-): insurgency
Yemen Islamist conflict (1998-): insurgency
War on Terror (2001-): irl sms shitpost
Enduring Freedom (2002-): insurgency
Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan (2001-): insurgency
Darfur war (2003-): low-level conflict
Iraqi civil war (2003-): low-level conflict, insurgency
Balochistan war (2003-): insurgency
North-West Pakistan War (2004-): insurgency
PJAK Iranian insurgency (2004-): insurgency
Niger Delta conflict (2004-): insurgency
Mexican drug conflict (2006-): low-level conflict
Boko-Haram conflict (2009-): insurgency
Libyan civil war (2011-): low-level conflict
Sinai insurgency (2011-): insurgency
Syrian civil war (2011-): low-level conflict, large operations are limited and the overwhelming majority of the fighting is not done by well-equipped and trained forces. Including the general ISIL war, Turkish and Iraqi intervention, etc.
South Sudanese internal conflict (2011-): low-level fighting
Russian invasion of Ukraine (2014-): low-level fighting, no significant direct confrontation between elite peer elements of the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces or their pro-Russia Donbass auxiliaries. Russia cannot deploy advanced weapons systems en masse due to deniability reasons, Ukraine either lacks the equipment or is unable to use it in a prolonged manner.
Yemeni civil war (2015-): low-level conflict, insurgency
Maghrebi ISIL insurgencies (2015-): Insurgency

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Re: Thoughts on 1982 as the last near-peer-to-peer conflict

Postby flm » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:23 pm

your thoughts ?

: )

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