A defense analyst I spoke with, who advises American ground forces, said to rebuild the Georgian military along conventional lines might be the wrong approach. Instead he suggested a different force model, that of Hezbollah. What Hezbollah did so effectively, as was shown in the 2006 Lebanon war, was combine modern weaponry with a distributed infantry force that fought in guerrilla fashion. Fighting as distributed networks, Hezbollah rarely presented an inviting target for Israeli air and artillery attack, but their well trained tactical units were able to swarm at the point of attack of Israeli armored incursions and hit the Israelis hard with precision anti-tank weaponry.
Equipped with top-shelf anti-armor systems, such as the U.S. Dragon and Javelin and the Russian-built RPG-29 and AT-14 Kornet, such a force would perhaps better be able to exploit Georgia’s mountainous and urbanized terrain against channelized Russian armored columns than a conventionally organized combat brigade, as Hezbollah did in south Lebanon. The lessons from the initial Russian incursion into Grozny in 1994 are instructive as well. Fighting in small tactical teams organized around close range anti-armor weapons, the Chechens savaged Russian tank columns.
Hezbollah managed the difficult trick of mounting a territorial defense without providing a target sufficiently concentrated to be vulnerable to ground and air attack. In principle, this would seem ideal for Georgia; the problem with a conventional organization is that any force concentration large enough to stop the Russians is valuable enough for the Russians to spend blood and treasure destroying it. A Hezbollah type organization (territorial defense combined with guerrilla tactics) also avoids the most serious problem with insurgent/guerrilla strategies, which is that they concede substantial control over territory to the enemy. To pursue a traditional guerrilla/insurgent strategy, Georgia would have to give up its state in order to defeat Russia in war, which in most cases won’t be a good trade.
But then there are some problems. Hezbollah didn’t come together overnight, and while it certainly received substantial assistance and training from outside parties, it developed its combat capacity through near continuous small scale engagement with the IDF. I’m not sure that Georgia is willing to pay the price necessary to developing that kind of combat efficiency. I’m also not sure who precisely is supposed to train the Georgians to become like Hezbollah. I certainly wouldn’t trust the US Army or the IDF with the task, even allowing that the latter has regular contact with Hezbollah. In order to become like Hezbollah in any meaningful sense, Georgians would probably have to at least observe how Hezbollah operates.
Moreover, normal states have conventional military organizations for a variety of reasons other than defense of territorial integrity. For one, it’s difficult to interact with other organizations if you don’t share a set of bedrock principles regarding military organization and the use of military force, and military-to-military linkages make up an increasingly significant percentage of all diplomatic contacts. For another, military organizations provide a state with prestige, both by the types of advanced weapons they possess, and by their ability to deploy abroad. Hezbollah doesn’t carry out peacekeeping missions, and would probably be bloody terrible at them if anyone asked it to. The Georgian Army, on the other hand, wants to be the kind of organization that can support multilateral operations in distant locales.
Given the friends and allies that Georgia has, I’m inclined to think that the high-tech, modern force route is the way to go. If the United States and Western Europe are willing to foot the bill, a relatively small but highly capable force could exact severe costs for any Russian aggression [to be clear, I’m not arguing that this is a good deal from the American point of view, just that if the Georgians could get the Americans to pay the bill, it’s a reasonable route]. The Russian advance, while competent, was almost tailor made for destruction by an advanced, RMA capable military organization. Without networking and with relatively primitive missiles, the Georgians still managed to put a dent in the Russian Air Force. With modern armor, air defense systems, and communications systems the Georgians could probably accomplish something similar to what a Hezbollah-style guerrilla organization could do, without paying the organizational costs.