Counter-Insurgency

Currently Israel continues its operations to destroy Hezbollah infrastructure. It has called up extra reserves and has scaled back some of its stated goals. Hundreds have died and Hezbollah is still firing rockets. Nasrallah, the hero of the Hezbollah Shi’ite populace, is still alive and publishing messages. He’s probably more popular than ever now. If you watch Anderson Cooper’s special report on Hezbollah, another CNN journalist interviews southern Lebanese families who give full support to Hezbollah for its ability to support them and fund their daily needs.

In Iraq, a month ago, a soldier admitted that he was present during a pre-meditated (and possibly command-ordered) execution. Some Stryker brigade soldiers have had their tours extended and another troop rotation is about to be underway — of interest is the 82nd Airborne Division sending a few thousand troops into Iraq. The security of Baghdad is at risk and therefore extra troops are being sent there. Extra troops were recently sent into Ar-Ramadi.

Al-Zawahiri, the 2nd in command of Al-Qaeda, released a message last week, stating that the battlefront is now the whole world. He also seeks to unite all Muslims, regardless of Shi’a or Sunni, under one Ummah, expressing support for the Shi’ite Hezbollah.

American media weakly claimed this tape was a show of desperation because they are trying to replenish their numbers by solidifying support. They also state Al-Qaeda is desperate to stay relevant in the wake of Hezbollah’s success. These are ridiculous claims that come from people who are convinced that the counter-insurgency is winning and that the terrorists are still in Cheney’s “death throes”. These claims come from people like that FOXNews reporter on the Israel/Lebanon border who was cowering on the air and crouching down when he thought he heard an incoming mortar…but which instead was outgoing Israeli artillery. He was so distracted, scared, and stupid. It was hard not to laugh.

It continues to surprise me how ignorant we are of what continues in the Middle East. The Israeli move against Hezbollah is the most recent example. While from a brutish perspective I can see how making such a massive move in an attempt to rescue the soldiers is admirable (in a short-term, “no soldier left behind” sort of way), it conflicts with long-term goals. Notice that no one is really talking about those soldiers anymore — there’s no good intel on where they are or if they’re even still alive. It’s all about destroying Hezbollah’s infrastructure.

The policy is shifting, just as it did in Iraq. At first we sought WMDs. That didn’t pan out so then it turned into just trying to find Saddam. We got him and then it was a humanitarian effort. Another failure. Now it’s simply about providing security so that the Iraqis can rebuild the country themselves. At first, we were going to rebuild it. Our expectations become lower and lower. Now even government officials admit that things are bad in Baghdad. Adding troops is a confirmation of that fact. As well as the massive embassy the US is building there. Remember when they said it was going great? These pro-war folks are just clinging on to false hopes.

And now Israel is making the same mistake. The whole debacle has reversed a decade or so of success. What’s worse, there is no way Israel can even hope to win this thing unless they just destroy Lebanon and all its inhabitants. Hezbollah has the support of the people, and according to counter-insurgency experts, there is no way to defeat that sort of guerrilla movement. People who wish for “democracy” still don’t realize that they may not always get what they want, which is why the CIA and State Department have for decades been trying to install puppet governments to circumvent their public support for “free elections”. Hamas was elected to power in the Palestine. Hezbollah’s defense against Israel has crumbled the Lebanese government. Watch for more governments in the Middle East and around the world to fall to organizations we label as terrorist groups, particularly as Hezbollah inspires more groups to take active control of their constituents’ daily lives.

That brings me to my main point. I suggest that you read more about counter-insurgency and guerrilla tactics. You can start with this Wikipedia entry on counter-insurgency.

“According to Liddell Hart, there are few effective counter-measures to this strategy. So long as the insurgency maintains popular support, it will retain all of its strategic advantages of mobility, invisibility, and legitimacy in its own eyes and the eyes of the people. So long as this is the situation, and insurgency essentially cannot be defeated by regular forces. Mao Zedong attempted to neutralize this advantage by simply taking away the civilian population that shielded the insurgents; however, this had the forseeable effect of alienating the populace and laying the seeds of later conflict. In the current operations against insurgents in the “War on Terror”, such ruthless tactics are not available to commanders, even if they were effective. Another option in combating an insurgency would be to make the presence of troops so pervasive that there is simply no place left for insurgents to hide, as demonstrated in Franco’s conquest of Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War or the Union occupation of Confederate States with Federal troops following the American Civil War. In each of these cases, enormous amounts of man-power were needed for an extended period of time to quell resistance over almost every square mile of territory. In an age of ever shrinking and increasingly computerized armed forces, this option too is precluded from a modern commanders options.

“Essentially then, only one viable option remains. The key to a successful counter-insurgency is the winning-over of the occupied territory’s population. If that can be achieved, then the guerrilla fighter will be deprived of its supplies, shelter, and, more importantly, its moral legitimacy. Unless the hearts and minds of the public can be separated from the insurgency, the occupation is doomed to fail.”

I also recommend reading T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. My bro gave me this book for Christmas. Lawrence of Arabia talked about his leading the Arabs to attack the Ottomans by means of guerrilla attacks, crippling the superior Ottoman railroads to limit their mobility.

Perhaps the most useful book that I read was Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare. When he talks about how the insurgency develops the support of the people, he is writing at his best.

We have no hope of “winning” this war as long as the same people are elected into power or as long as they do not learn from past mistakes. Counter-insurgency attempts are so primitive that it’s disheartening. There’s no hope that there will be a change any time soon.

As an insurgency takes its toll upon the occupier, you begin to see more abuses and breakdowns in discipline within the occupying force, even if it stresses discipline and human rights. Frustration increases within the ranks as they begin to feel as though their efforts are not working, and that they are just waiting around to get shot at or blown up. You begin to see war crimes and rapes and murders and execution. We’ve seen the detainee abuses. We’ve seen deaths of detainees. We’ve seen alleged rapes and plenty of murders. I mentioned the alleged execution above. Think of My Lai.

We as soldiers are put through hours of briefings on how to act. We are raised and taught to have a strong NCO core that demonstrates proper human virtues and humane treatment of innocents and even enemies. We as NCOs instill these virtues in our junior privates.

But when frustration mounts, deaths of friends occur, and futility sets in, people begin to see all others as the enemy, including civilians. They are all “in on it” and refuse to cooperate with the occupier. Hence they lose their humanity and become animals or objects, justifying abusive behavior. You will see this more and more as the Global War on Terror progresses.

There is a part of me that is deeply saddened that I am leaving the Army in less than a year. If I were to stay, I would try to go to Special Forces selection and try to get picked up. Those guys are as close to what I want to do as you can get. But they are not being utilized properly. Their abilities are wasted. The standards are dropping for many reasons. I enlisted to strike the terrorist directly but all we do is go after mere criminals.

We are not making a dent in the Global War on Terror. It is worse for us than it ever has been. And there’s no stress to change tactics in order to bring about success. I will miss the Army for its nature, its community, its way of life, but I will not miss it for how it is being used as a tool for failed foreign policy.

If I were a neocon, I’d be furious at how this war was being fought. I would pull our troops out of all our strategic bases worldwide and utilize sea-based forces more. The basic complaint against us is that we occupy existing Muslim lands. Take away that big wedge and there’s a lot less behind Al-Qaeda and other major groups. Next, we can vastly increase special operations funding and recruiting. Reduce our massive military strength that will never be needed again. We need teams of special ops soldiers living in the mountains of Afghanistan. We need deals with countries that allow us to operate, but not occupy, within their borders. This way we could have special ops teams operating in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Somalia, where the key leaders often hide. We need greater involvement from the CIA, which has lately been emasculated. We need CIA case officers on the ground, recruiting agents and checking the local situation. Once our international stature becomes better as a result of disengaging, we can rely more on emplacing embassies and consulates to provide a presence of aid and support and legitimacy to different countries. Currently we rely on military schools, underground corruption financing, and other dubious measures in order to keep an eye (or even control) on various countries. It’s no wonder they hate us!

We need to send our airborne and infantry units through the Afghani mountains and through remote areas of Iraq. We need to cut our financial and arms backing of countries we do not entirely trust, to include Israel. Did you know we are currently training Iraqis and Afghanis in insurgency and advanced warfare? Is this really the best idea at this juncture?

This is what I’d be thinking if I were a neocon. I’d be thinking about decreased American presence but more targeted, surgical attacks. I’d push my military to be better than it is, utilizing its rapid-strike capabilities instead of forcing it to be a sedentary police force.

I would not let the terrorists dictate foreign policy. All we do now is wait for Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah or Iran to make a move. We cringe in fear of what will happen next. Don’t you see that they control what we do now? We are merely reacting. That is the easiest way to lose a battle or war. We say we never negotiate with terrorists but that is what we’re currently doing. It’s so depressing.

It is almost as though the United States and Israel are addicted to warfare. It does not matter if the warfare works or not, but it comforts us to see our hard-working military destroying and firing and mobilizing. It shows action is being taken. Bush is popular because he is a doer. A decider. It does not matter that our actions are futile, even harmful to our interests. All that matters is that we look like we’re doing something.

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