by Sam Culper III
I just read an interesting article entitled, “Epic Landpower Fail,” in which the author, a US Army Major and strategy professor at West Point, makes the point that today all landpower is attributional. What he means is that landpowers – armies – can be attributed to a specific country. You can’t just mass a force in a foreign country without the entire world knowing to whom it belongs. As we saw recently with Russians in Ukraine, even putting a small contingent of troops in a country is going to draw attention. They may look different, act differently, or exhibit all those ‘C’ factors (Contrasts) that good analysts look for when identifying threat characteristics. Those threat characteristics, or signatures, are going to lead analysts to believe that those men were/are Spetsnaz or FSB.
But what about when we can’t tell our different enemies apart? The opposite – what we might call “nonattributional warfare” – is the fight against an enemy who’s intent is to remain hidden or anonymous. This thought reminded of me being in Iraq and Afghanistan and trying to decipher which group, cell or leader perpetrated specific attacks. There were what we call ‘indicators’, which are Signatures.