One of the problems of modern media, is that people get so much information, they can begin to think they fully understand an issue, when in fact they are just scratching the surface. This is particularly true in the case of war, which the media has used for the past generation not only as a means of entertainment (movies and television shows), but also as a platform to advance Leftist agendas and politics. As a result, many people have been unable to understand the nature of the conflict in the Middle East, especially Iraq. This article evaluates the essential nature and effects of the so-called ‘insurgency’ in its true character as guerrilla warfare, and is intended to demonstrate why it cannot succeed, and has been turned on itself to drive the wave of representative government ahead.
It is a stale truism, that generals generally prepare to refight the last war. This is not surprising, really, since wars also repeat themselves in many respects. The American Revolution was not very different, in logistics and tactics, than the French-and-Indian Wars before them. Many of Hitler’s generals in World War 2, simply followed the same successful routes they used in World War 1 to invade France. Communists in Angola overthrew the government in a rebellion patterned after Castro’s successful uprising in Cuba. But some people are able to also look to the past and learn lessons for the present. Patton used his knowledge of military history to select the best roads and to anticipate weather conditions. Japan used a successful raid from a war against Russia, as a pattern for their successful raid on Pearl Harbor. It follows that while knowing the future is impossible, planning for the future may be as simple as learning the lessons from past events.
Karl von Clausewitz is a staple among political leftists, who all too often forgot his letter to his wife, wherein the general warned his wife that he had by no means completed his works, and “should the work be interrupted by my death, then what is found can only be called a mass of conceptions not brought into form... open to endless misconception”. Indeed, von Clausewitz succumbed to Cholera in 1830, and it was his estate which edited and published his collected works, including “On War”. It happened, therefore, that Clausewitz’s disciples picked up his maxims and rules without any sort of caveat or balance from their teacher. In any case, Clausewitz wrote little on guerrilla warfare, ignoring totally the brilliant effect Wellington put the Basques to in Spain in his harassment of Napoleon, as an example Clausewitz certainly knew about. He wrote a small chapter on the subject, which he buried in Book VI after 30 chapters on other matters. Clausewitz made his disinterest in guerrilla warfare clear from his apportionment of so little space to it.
T.E. Lawrence wrote far more extensively about guerrilla warfare in his book, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. This is of particular interest, since Lawrence wrote about and took part in guerrilla warfare in the Middle East during World War 1. Lawrence’s work was, for more than half a century, the only serious military consideration of guerrilla warfare in the Middle East by a Western military officer. Unfortunately, Lawrence only focused on the offensive value of guerrilla warfare, and never seriously considered that the nature of his warfare hurt the cause for Arab independence from Europe, especially as Arabs came to blame the guerrillas for the harm they caused when the Germans and Turks withdrew.
By far, though, the most interesting work on this topic is B.H. Liddell Hart’s masterpiece, “Strategy”. Hart also spent relatively little attention on guerrilla warfare, and he made the same mistake that Clausewitz and Lawrence did, in believing that the conditions of his day were permanent. In Hart’s case, that included the assumption that the Soviet Union would remain a major player in world events indefinitely, that nuclear confrontation would be a factor in any major military action, and that any guerrilla warfare situation would be a popular revolt against an occupying power. To his credit, however, Hart presented a good working description of the guerrilla method. Hart noted that guerrillas take advantage of “social discontent, racial ferment, and nationalist fervour”. Certainly, these attributes correctly describe the major uprisings since World War 2. Hart also commented that guerrillas enjoyed being “shielded by the population”. However, Hart also noted that guerrillas were very unlikely to accomplish much on their own effort, unless they were supported by a strong regular army. That is, they could be very effective harassing the enemy’s rear if the enemy was already committed to a front, but they could not accomplish major goals on their own. Further, Hart observed that guerrilla warfare also creates the handicap of encouraging the young to defy authority, and any existing government. This makes the eventual rebuilding that much more difficult, especially since the guerrillas often end up connected to organized criminals, who have no intention of giving up a lucrative practice. Stability, wrote Hart, is very difficult “on a foundation undermined by such experience.” And that sums up the strategic condition of the Arab Jihadists, whatever one calls them. They know they cannot win, so for the last half century they have committed themselves to denying peace, stability, or freedom to anyone else. Look at the historical record - Cuba, Vietnam, Angola, Zimbabwe, the Sudan. and Iran (as examples) all used insurgencies to overthrow the existing government, but none of them has grown into a stable and prosperous nation.
With all this in mind, I now turn attention to U.S. Military Theory. I have always found the European pride on the matter of military analysis to be amusing in its cheek. Clausewitz is the European’s idea of a master thinker, yet he failed to anticipate and warn the Germans about the possibility of a militant group rising to overthrow the government, as essentially the Nazis did a century after Clausewitz’s death. Lawrence carried encyclopedic knowledge about the tactics and customs of Arabia, but could not understand that the method of warfare he encouraged, created social chaos in the countries he was trying to help, and pushed back their independence instead of bringing it back. And Hart failed to understand that the conditions of guerrilla warfare could also be turned back on themselves, to help stabilize a nation and bring popular support to a government of reform.
After the Vietnam War, American generals spent a lot of time and effort looking at what went wrong, and how to correct it. Despite the slogans and jibes from the Left, the loss came from a variety of causes, but mostly because the United States failed to keep its commitment to South Vietnam. There were, however, improvements in battle management to consider, not the least of which was interaction between the branches. Over a period of time, AirLand was created, which revolutionary changes were made obvious in the first Gulf War during the first President Bush’s Administration. AirLand tested every assumption in military theory, threw out what was faulty and replaced it with a better, functional option. Not only was AirLand a better plan than anything else being practiced in the world, it was not something an enemy could implement on his side. Partly, this was because the U.S. had better weapons systems than anyone else, partly because AirLand had to be trained at all levels, and depended on a level of professionalism you can’t achieve in a short course, or at all using conscripted troops. It was also impossible for our enemies to implement, because it granted troops at every level far more personal authority and discretion of judgment than any autocratic regime can afford to allow their military. AirLand not only improved the performance of military strategy, it established a political prerequisite to that level of ideals, attainable only by those nations least likely to ever fight a war against the United States.
The terrorist organizations of the Middle East largely came into existence during the Cold War, and some of them were originally sponsored, supplied, and trained by the Soviet Union. The clear intent by the Soviets was to destabilize the Middle East, and in this were largely successful. This, however, also explains why the Soviets were themselves unable to accomplish much to their advantage. The Ayatollah Khomeini, for example, certainly hated the United States, but it should also be recalled, that one of his first orders after taking power in Iran, was to find and kill every communist in the country. The removal of the United States from the Middle East, in diplomatic terms, also began to soften the mood against Americans. That is, by the time George W. Bush came to office, most Arabs had heard the hate-filled slogans against America, but had no personal reason to hate the USA. Without a reason to trust Americans, it’s reasonable that Arabs would resent American forces being sent into their part of the world, 9/11 or not, but even then a small number were fed up with the traditional corruption they knew in the Arab world, and hoped that maybe this time things would be different.
The Afghanistan invasion itself was the first sign. Where invaders before had always used overwhelming force, this time the Americans made deals with native Afghans, and threw out a group widely regarded as an oppressive invader itself; the Taliban. When the US made clear that self-rule for Afghanistan was a substantial commitment, it started a ripple. When the US led the invasion into Iraq, it enforced that message, especially as the Coalition was careful to avoid the heavy-handed tactics expected. Al-Jazeera discovered that America bashing was not always applauded, especially as details of Saddam’s brutality began to be revealed.
The Bush Administration understood the nature of guerrilla warfare,and worked to remove the causes for its support. To address social discontent, the United States rebuilt schools, and constructed new water treatment and power plants. The US immediately allowed for licenses to Iraqis, to create and run their own businesses. To address racial ferment, the Coalition made clear that no racial violence would tolerated, nor would the Coalition favor one group over another, except on actual actions against the peace and law. And to address nationalist fervor, the Bush Administration worked hard to rebuild and supply the Iraqi police and Militia. In fact, most of the actions taken now to hunt down terrorist cells in Iraq, are planned and manned by Iraqi Militia. The US assists, but it’s the people of Iraq who are taking their nation back. And this is why the terrorists cannot hope to be shielded by the population. The population now understands they bring nothing but pain and death, and more and more of them are being turned in by Iraqi people.
George W. Bush has shown he understands the culture and nation of Iraq, and has a pretty good grasp of the region. Accordingly, the troops are in good morale and confidence, because they see we are winning. The military retooled and regrouped with a plan named AirLand. I would say that US Foreign Policy has also been revamped, and I would call that plan SandLand.