Sunday, June 18, 2006

Re: U.S. Military becomes Peace Corp

Here is a response via a friend, from someone she knows in the military, in Iraq, I think:
OK. For a start, "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife," along with a number of other works on anti-guerilla warfare, are necessary to read to understand the war in Iraq. In this type of conflict, if it’s to be won, the actual military force is only a small part of the equation.

In the words of Mao Tse Tung, the originator of modern guerrilla warfare, the insurgent is "a fish that swims in the sea of the people." He lives and hides among them and survives by their acquiescence, forced (mostly) or unforced. He does NOT exist as a conventional army does, with observable military bases and standard military formations such as of tanks, artillery, trucks bases, etc., that one can engage, surveil and engage directly with one's own forces on a marked battlefield or battlefields. He will NOT engage one's army by those means UNTIL he thinks that he can finally defeat it after he has weakened it enough through his guerrilla tactics. He has to come up to the "conventional" stage to ultimately reach his objectives (seizing power) but that is the final stage, the climax and conclusion of his guerilla war.

Therefore, the fundamental principle in winning a guerilla war is to separate the "fish from the sea," that is, the guerilla from the surrounding population. Once isolated, one can destroy him. It cannot be done by massive amounts of (indiscriminate) firepower ALA W.W.II. All that does is alienate the population and even drive them more completely into the guerilla's arms. It will not destroy the guerillas. They will simply fade away and hide only to regroup and attack again and again.

In Vietnam, General Westmoreland, the US commander until 1968 was asked by what means the US would defeat the Viet Cong. His reply: "FIREPOWER." Well,the US poured the firepower on, in indiscriminate fashion, and could never find and defeat the Viet Cong. Or establish conditions (political, economic,and military) that would lead the Vietnamese people to support our side and risk their lives helping us to separate the Viet Cong from them. We could never separate the guerillas from the South Vietnamese population and therefore isolate and destroy them.

So yes, all those "humanitarian" projects, are key to winning this type of war. In guerrilla warfare, believe it or not, military measures are not primary in and of themselves. They are a consequence, the climax of the “separation of the fish and the sea”.

One must first give the people a reason for supporting one's side, then one must establish the conditions that will give them protection from the insurgents if they do. Only then will they themselves start separating the
insurgent "fish" from themselves by giving the counter insurgent forces the intelligence necessary to find out who and where the bad guys are.
What many people are advocating is the FIREPOWER approach.

What this approach must lead to, in actuality what is REALLY being advocated (see ARI essay: "level Fallujah") is KILL EVERYBODY. It is the complete, wanton, mass extermination of everyone and destruction of everything, innocent, indifferent, and guilty alike. This way one will destroy the guerilla fish because one has exterminated all the sea of the people. To all the people who advocate such a move, are they really willing to advocate such measures?

I would agree with Schwartz that we just "impose" a new Constitution on Iraq, but only after we've firebombed/nuked their major cities and killed three quarters of the population. At least. Then they would, perhaps, be quite docile and amenable to such a Constitution. But we didn't. (Again the question to ask is: should we have?) and now we face a terrorist/guerilla war (directed mostly at the Iraqis) whose outcome will have incredible historical reverberations for the Mideast and the US. Guerilla war and terrorism, AKA "asymmetrical warfare," is how we are going to be primarily engaged, NOT by conventional warfare.

I'm not advocating we intervene in areas that have no bearing on our national interest, and I would have taken down the Mullahs in Iran first, but here we are in Iraq. And the stakes are incredibly high. Even if we took down Iran first and then turned to Iraq, we would still be in the same position there. As much as I'd like to agree with the position that we should have just gotten rid of Saddam and then pulled out and let the Iraqis sort it out, I don't see that just "pulling out" would have been the answer in this context. Because then what would come next? Another dictatorial regime that will still threaten our interests. There wasn't the capability by Iraq of fighting off, alone, a determined, ruthless guerilla movement combined of the remnants of the Baath party and Islamicists, both supported from the outside. What would happen if they took over?

Iraq wasn't just some otherwise isolated country somewhere in east slobovia with an otherwise isolated madman in charge who we could just whack and forget about. It's in a key region of the world that must finally begin to enter the modern world.

Also Schwartz by thinking we should (and can) just impose a new government on Iraq implies that the conditions there are the same as those of Japan and Germany after WWII. They aren't. And even then it sure as hell took us a long time to "impose" a new Constitution on Germany and Japan.
And here is my (Robb's) answer:

A quick remark after briefly scanning Jeff's comments.

In a word: he's completely off the mark and his comments epitomize so much of what's wrong with our military policy. I don't know how to properly answer him without an essay, but in a sentence, he's only seeing trees, not forest. He's thinking like a lieutenant rather than a general (which is also how most of our own general's think, but that's another topic). Truly, books like "Eating Soup with a Knife" are irrelevant when you're "Fighting a Jackal with Both Hands Tied Behind your Back and Snakes Wrapped Around Your Neck".

To be brief:

First of all, no one is advocating killing every single enemy civilian, but as I've said elsewhere, when you're at war, you don't pick through the population of an enemy city looking for soldiers instead of civilians. You bomb the city. In bombing the German ball-bearing factories, you don't seek out the guards at the plants. Etc. Would Jeff have had us invade Japan without Hiroshima and Nagasaki? THAT would have been a guerilla war. And an incredible loss of life for our soldiers. (Remember the estimates? A million soldiers lost. Do I hear Jeff saying only a few thousand in Iraq? One is too many.)

Second, the reason we are in a guerilla war in the first place is because we failed to take the proper strategic actions. He cites Vietnam. Give me a break. The reason that turned into a guerilla war was cause the U.S. failed to attack the real enemies -- China and Russia. Arguably, attacking China would have been sufficient, because the Russians were not the primary source of fighters (though Russia was a major source of munitions).

We can debate about Russia, since they had been given nuclear weapons technology by the commies in our own country, but China at the time was a military joke. (Though at the very least we should have stopped Russian arms shipments well before we started bombing Hanoi.) Yet we pretended the border with China (or Cambodia, or Laos) was "sacrosanct". This is politics gone mad in warfighting.

Jeff is completely, utterly off the mark on his presumption that we could have won "hearts and minds" (he didn't use the phrase, but it was clearly his intent) in Vietnam and that would have been enough. Again, give me a break. Sure, there were many good Vietnamese whose "hearts and minds" we did have with us, but so long as the real fuel of the war was left untouched -- Hanoi, China, Russia -- the war had to be lost. We weren't just sacrificing our own soldiers, we were sacrificing our own friends. I'm not advocating glassivating South Vietnam, but I damn sure would have glassivated Hanoi and Beijing to end it in year one (1959).

And keep in mind, too, that it was this idiotic policy of "containment" that caused Vietnam in the first place -- Patton was right: we should have dealt with the Russians in WWII, and MacArthur was right -- we should have dealt with China while in Korea.

Third, there's the situation we're in right now in Iraq. Now that we're in there, we don't glassivate the place. But we damn sure can declare regions of the country war zones and treat them as we did Germany.

Jeff is completely wrong in his premise that we're winning hearts and minds in Fallujah, Haditha, Ramadi, Sadr City, etc. I've read or heard NOTHING to suggest this. Sure, there will be people there who might sympathize. It's going to matter matter as much as did the Germans who wanted to see the end of the Nazis. When the insurgency started in Fallujah, that damn sure HAD to be treated as an "unlimited" war zone. To hell with the Sunni "hearts and minds". They hate us anyway. But morally, we would have been totally in the right to flatten the place, and militarily, it was a necessity to subdue the populace.

But most importantly, we are re-enacting the errors of Korea and Vietnam all over again -- failing to go after the root of the problem. Iran, first, Syria second, Saudi Arabia, third. The last without an attack, but that sheikdom has to be brought down. (They are the puppeteers behind so much of what's going on in the Islamic world, while playing both sides of the fence.) Secular government has to be imposed in Saudi Arabia or this problem will go on and on like the Energizer Oil Bunny.

But most important right now -- Iran. (Syria is almost a tactical issue in the short-term.) The Iranians are the Chinese of this war -- and to play this idiotic game of containment is simply sacrificing our soldiers' lives and failing to win the overall war. The tragedy is that it doesn't require glassivating Teheren. Just destroying their military and their leaders with a week of bombing would do it. Some civilians will be killed, yes. That's a fact. Iran has located many nuclear weapons development sites in the middle of civilian areas. But that makes them legitimate military targets. Has to make them military targets. Strategically and morally.

But to think we should expend untold numbers of billions of our dollars and thousands of our soldiers lives to "isolate" the enemy from the populace as Jeff says, is absolute madness. In a mopping up operation after defeating the root of the problem (Iran, Syria, Saudi) -- yes. There's no military point then in mass destruction. But to do it in the middle of a major war?? It's like fighting the Battle of the Bulge and calling a "TIME OUT!" in the middle to clean up bodies on the battlefield.

This is the key: we ARE in the middle of a major war, but refusing to acknowledge it, and therefore, refusing to really win it. That's the root of the problem.

(As an aside: Jeff's advocacy of the necessity of humanitarian work to "win" is just beyond misguided and so totally on the altruist premise as to almost be beyond my comment. Unfortunately, as I noted before, it has become official DOD policy that wars will only be won by "winning the peace". Give me a break. Again. [I'm not being metaphorical -- I have extracts from policy papers that discuss this at length. When I say soldiers are being turned into social workers, I mean it *literally*.])

Last, going back to Jeff's original point: he quotes Mao Tse Tung. Quoting your enemies has become SO passe among wannabe military experts (Mao, Sun Tzu, yadayada). Or modern notions of "asymmetrical warfare". Another notion that only arises when you fail to wage war in a the way it has to be waged -- to win total surrender. Then it's not "asymmetrical", except to our advantage (then it's called "crushing victory").

Please. Let's follow our own premises. I don't think we should EVER follow the premise of an enemy or ever follow the military or moral premises of wannabe intellectuals in guiding our actions.

One more item. A critical element missing from Jeff's analysis is his appreciation of the intellectual roots of the problem in the Middle East. He seems to think respect for enemy civilians, humanitarian work, contained warfare, patience, etc., are actually going to solve all our problems, bring the Middle East to our side and all will be well in the world, with everyone walking hand-in-hand into the sunset with a rainbow arching overhead.

NOT. Not in my lifetime, not ever. The root problem is not to be solved by the Rodney King philosophy of "Can't we all just get alonngg??" or Christian notions of kindness and charity, love they neighbor, ad nauseum.

You defeat your enemy and root out wrong ideas that their people hold. We're doing neither, which is why I get worked up by all this. Our soldiers are GREAT at the tactical level. But the depth of the strategic errors being committed put us somewhere beween Custer and the Marianna Trench. In the 50 to 100 year timeframe -- we are losing, and badly.

Does it mean Islam takes over the world? Not necessarily. It means we're going have a very nasty war down the road and a whole lot more people are going to die along the way than would have otherwise.

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