Friday, April 13, 2007

Words to reflect upon...

Greg Mills the "great war against terror":
"The death of one insurgent creates many more in societies where blood ties and nationalist zeal are stronger than ideology."
The quote comes from Greg Mills, "Ten Counterinsurgency Commandments from Afghanistan," which I received April 10, 2007 in an e-note from the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

I had previously reflected on this paradox to the American counterinsurgency efforts in kinship-based societies like Afghanistan and Iraq: "the more you win, the more you lose."

If the death of any given insurgent raises up ten more, then unless one is willing to contemplate genocidal warfare, a counterinsurgency effort that focuses upon body counts is bound to lose.

Mills sets forth a more complex strategy, which I won't try to summarize here since I have a presentation to give this morning. Eventually, the paper by Mills should show up on FPRI's E-Notes site, though it hasn't yet, so keep on checking if you're interested.



At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Max Boot's "America's Small Wars" describes in some detail the method used successfully by the USMC in the PI. It worked very well, but it took a lot of solders. A seminal method on a much smaller scale worked well for Special Forces in Vietnam as well.

We “won” the fight against Saddam’s military with less than most armchair warriors – and some actual generals – thought possible. But that level of troops just didn’t cut it for the insurgency we see today. In either Afghanistan or Iraq. And I don’t think a “surge” of ~20k troops will do it either. More like ~200k.

Well, within a few months my commissioning paperwork should be done and I’ll be back for round two, although in the reserves this time. Maybe I’ll get to be a part of the next surge.

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't know what happened, but please change that to, "similar."

At 6:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Change what to "similar"? Oh, you mean "seminal"?

By "PI," do you mean "Philippine Islands"? Or "Pacific Islands"?

Round two where? Here in Korea? If so, drop by for a beer.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry - PI is the Philippines.

Round two, for me, is reserves, so when (but not if) activated it could be anyplace. Probably someplace sandy, hot, and dry (not Vegas).

Next time I'm in Korea, regardless of the reason, I'll be sure to get in touch before.

And I got Boot's book title wrong;

"The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power"

A good read.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shalikashvili knew it, so too Zinni, these were not armchair soldiers, they were familiar with the Nam example. And now perhaps the US will learn the true horror of tribal/sectarian warfare.
Turkey is poised to make an incursion into Iraq. The fractious government, unable to defend itself in it's most secure "Green Zone" and neither able to distance it's presiding members from their own obligations of "blood"; are likewise unable to quiet the tribal Kurds.
The time for any coherent strategy to take effect by any surge against indeed "a war of genocide" may be past it's tipping point. And the US may well find itself infighting amongst a longstanding NATO partner, and the aforementioned insurgency which has at it's roots, as many names as it has "sleights to it's honor".
The PI example is proper, as far as it goes but I admit I've not read Boot. My understanding of the events following the Spanish-American War lead me to suggest we re-commit to Afghanistan. Let the faceted foes of Iraq fight the war we bestowed upon them (leaving a quick reaction force nearby in Qatar capable of supporting whichever party maintains control of Iraq's media) then, after the bloodletting dies down, declare victory.
And would the last person leaving the tunnel, please turn off the light.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Richardson, for the follow-up with additional information, and I look forward to the beer.

My treat, naturally.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:58 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Anonymous. You sound like you know your stuff. As for me, I know too little about military things, but I know enough about culture to see why tribal insurgencies would be hard to defeat without becoming what we don't want to be.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Dr. Hodges, and that is the crux. B-41, having had direct experience both as a former head of the CIA and as a young fighter pilot experiencing first hand a shoot-down knew enough to be able to go against the advisors.
Unfortunatly some of those same advisors made it to B-43's team. A smattering of historians among 43's group would've been helpful. A simple look at the widely available film and photo evidence following the Kuwait thing should have been enough to let the armchair generals (had they looked at the results along the so called "Highway of Death") that the Iraqi military was severely degraded and was thus a paper tiger.
Historians would have been able to insert some cultural contexts into the run up to this current situation.


At 5:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I ought to have recognized you, given the context. Thanks again for the input.

I had to think a bit to figure out the B-41 and B-43 codes, simple though they were. I'd never make the grade as a spook.

And despite being a historian, I probably would have made the wrong decision back in the Gulf War, for I wanted Saddam Hussein out. I hadn't realized the profoundly tribal nature of Iraq, nor had I had this insight into tribalism's implications for warfare.

As for this Iraq War, I had more qualms about starting it in the first place. I didn't exactly oppose it, but I had no enthusiasm for it. I happened to think that Hussein had WMDs (and happened to be wrong), but I thought that the UN inspections ought to be allowed to run their course.

I don't know if that would have been right either, or how I would have felt about seeing Hussein continue on as sociopath-in-chief, but I can't see that we've handled Iraq well at all.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:59 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I think cultural anthropologist rather than historians should have more input into think tanks that provide policy for government. I cant say for sure, but I would think that historians would not necessarily focus on kinship in any significant way.
I thought Bin Laden had enough money just to buy a bomb from some Russian or Ukraine scientist. I think that right now Iran is jerking our chain and already has the bomb. It takes no time today to build one of the Hiroshima type. They have the fuel.

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd quote the Latin but instead I'll make it short, "In laboring to brief, I become obscure". I agree the first gulf war was the correct thing to do. So too do I agree with our post 9/11 initial focus on terror, that being Afghanistan.
I say historians because they are able to provide a synthesis of all the related humanities, in this case cultural anthropologists as well as sociologists. But yes I agree with your assessment hathor.
Too,they have the added benefit in being able to provide recent examples, ie the experience of the Brits and the French in Iraq as recently as the 1920's (before such efficient destructive tools were widely available).
My reference to 41's outcome was simply that he understood what taking down the government would entail. I do admit that at the time he was constrained by the Arab members of the coalition.
A simpler, of course ongoing example is the Israeli/Palestinian/proxy conflict.
I think it most likely Iran does have it's bomb. Testing such a weapon in the region however is not something even a monomaniacal regime such as Iran would undertake at present.
Unlike the knee jerk Western Powers, the holders of Power in that region of the world take a much longer view.
Saddam, evil as he was, was contained. Sanctions were in place following the first Gulf War and aside from oil sales he was unable to rearm (major systems). And much of his major bloodletting was over. His successors I admit would likely have had to have exercised their own bloodlust in consolidating their power.
My concern during the buildup was that not enough thought had been given to "what's next". All this of course is academic. Once a western power places it's foot in dog doo, it is extremely difficult to get it to wipe it's foot.


At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I think that you're right about cultural anthropologists having more insight into kinship-based societies than historians do.

On Iran, I'm not yet convinced that they have a viable nuclear program. I've read reports arguing that their technology isn't good enough yet for their centrifuges to separate enough enriched uranium.

But what do I know...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, why do you think that Iran has the bomb already?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your region of the world an example, NK's recent test. The good Pakistani doctor who specialized in exporting knowledge is likely to have had contacts there. He did indeed have contacts with Iran.

For a couple of centuries Iran seems to have harbored desires to resurrect the Age of Darius. There are numerous reports in various media that Iran does possess in excess of 3000 centrifuges. Plus Iran posesses in huge amounts Brain Power. Especially compared to NK.
During the 80's war with Iraq, Iran realized that it needed more than cannon fodder to overcome it's regionally immediate threats. I think that is when the thoughts of at least a Horoshima type weapon were considered.
Following the Gulf War further consideration may also have inculcated a desire for a showcase program that would highlight Iran's stature and bring it closer to the Darien dream as well as let the Western Powers know they couldn't simply repeat what had been done to Iraq.
As I said earlier, there's a long view that generally prevails. However when a great power invades a country on your eastern edge and then in very short order it invades another country on your western edge: you begin to feel a bit squeezed.
That I think was the original impetus to begin to consider the rapid acquisition of at least an atomic weapon. And the Iraqi invasion had unexpected consequences (for the coalition), and those consequences made it even more imperative for Iran to be able to feel secure.
Now mind this is only supposition on my part as to motivations, actual knowledge as to Iran's precise capabilities are beyond my ken. But given the very distinct possibility that a wider conflict will at some point erupt, well it shouldn't take a rocket surgeon to keep on with his suppositions.


At 8:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, JK, I'll reflect on this. For the moment, I'm off to the second day of the "Asia Rising" conference.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:41 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Iran should be modern enough to manufacture its own instruments or be able to buy from the Russians.
When I was an engineering student in the 60's, there were many Iranian students in the science and engineering programs. Nuclear Physics and Engineering was big on our campus, because we were 40 miles from Oak Ridge. Some of those scientist even taught classes at our school. I wouldn't say that these engineers and scientist are still in Iran, but they certainly had the expertise. It is not a leap to be able to make weapons from the existing unclassified knowledge. They have the fuel. It only takes a golf ball size of Uranium to make a decent size bomb.
BTW, I didn't make it through engineering.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Realizing thay my answer to your question is rambling at best and, forgetting a quote from Kurt Kraus, I'll make one last observation with Kraus in mind, "It is better not to say what one does mean than to say what one does not mean".
In other words: consider, prepare, edit, reflect, re-edit, hit "send".
But Hathor's last comment is instructive.


At 3:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I agree that the Iranians are plenty smart, educated, and motivated. And I know little about nuclear technology (though I'm told that, in principle, it's rather simple).

My doubts derive solely from reports that obtaining highly enriched uranium through the centrifuge process would take longer than usually projected and that it would require better equipment, and more spare parts, than the Iranians have.

But this might be wishful thinking.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, your comment was certainly instructive, giving evidence of things that I know little about.

I gather that the Islamic revolution hasn't countered the desire for Darien glory?

Perhaps not, given the Iranian annoyance at the new movie, The 300. The Iranian reaction suggests that not all was jahaliyya back in the pre-Islamic past.

That could be both good and bad.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the Rev's are more interested in that regard than most of their predecessors. For their own reasons. They just don't use the name.
I sent you msg. I'm off for business a bit.


At 4:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, got it. Thanks.

Jeffery Hodges

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