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TankHunter

Modern Insurgencies: Ideas and Stratagems

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I decided to start a thread on the subject of modern insurgencies (also known as 4th Generation War by those who subscribe to the theory brought forth by Lind). It is an interesting subject and some may find whatever that comes out of this discussion interesting.

So, let me start with my own ideas on the subject.

There are two basic ways to fight modern insurgencies as the state.

Escalation – Use of large amounts of force to basically kill off or strike fear in the opposition.

Pros: Has been used in the past and is known to be effective. Doesn’t require high levels of training or cultural knowledge.

Cons: Unlikely to be used by western states and could incur negative geopolitical results such as the UN getting involved to an invasion to stop the act. Devastates the region’s economy. The risk of having the locals hate you rather than fear you is increased.

De-escalation – Attempt to reduce the level of force that your side uses and avoid acting when the local government can engage in the needed act instead (no matter if they may be less competent at it than you). In other words attempt to keep the local government’s legitimacy as strong as possible. Foreign troops should be limited to spotting for the locals and should use bribes if the option is available (to pay off local groups). Also needed items from the locals should be paid for at greater than the average rate (to buy them off too). The use of geopolitical multiculturalism is desired. In other words do not try to change the local culture.

Pros: Less problematic in the moral realm that the escalation option. Less risk of the locals hating you.

Cons: Expensive, likely will be costly in troops in the short run. Requires at least a moderate knowledge of the culture and large numbers of troops who know the language or large numbers of translators are needed. Local translators are not ideal for they may have sympathies towards the opposition (and thus change the meaning of what you want conveyed to the locals). May cause heartburn to politicians at home.

Mixed Strategy – A combination of the two stratagems. The use of force to try to beat the opposition down, and the use of troops to try to win over the locals to your cause. Attempts to avoid civilian casualties.

Pros: ?

Cons: Sends a mixed signal to the population. Likely to cause hatred without causing fear. Reduces the legitimacy of the local government. Harmful in the moral realm.

The Insurgents Fight

Relies on loyalty by the civilian population. The loyalty could be based on family ties, political ties, cultural ties, etc, etc.

Avoids pitched battle, instead they attempt a Fabian strategy. As long as they are still alive, they are winning for their continued existence proves the state’s weakness.

Targets gaps in the state’s strength and avoids its surfaces. As mentioned before, they avoid pitched battle, but may engage in infrastructural sabotage. A few thousand dollars in explosives can cause millions in damage to the state’s economy.

Capitalizes on excesses by the state. I.E., killing of civilians (inadvertent or otherwise). The state killing civilians ends up causing hatred among their family members and thus increases the chance that they will join an insurgent group. Hence a mixed strategy by the state fails. It is either all or nothing.

Typically they do not rely on a single center of gravity. Their motivations could be for love of money to hatred of the occupying force and anything in-between.

The insurgent could very well be prepared to fight till doomsday. The state on the other hand (unless it has claims on the region) will have much less tolerance for such a situation. If the state has claims on the region, then the war could very well last till doomsday.

Modern insurgencies may not be of a Maoist model. They may not look to replace the state but instead keep it weak enough so that it is not a threat to them. As a result, there is less of a chance of the state targeting tangible centers of gravity.

Vanguard insurgent groups (such as Al Quada) can be very damaging to the state and its legitimacy. They prove the state is weak and force it to either wait for them to be neutralized by the security forces, or to escalate against the areas that these groups operate from. Lack of action can cause militias to form and cause the state to lose legitimacy, escalation can make the population to distrust and/or dislike the government and cause the population to oppose it.

They tend to target the security forces if possible. If there are no police, there there is no security. If there is no security, the state has lost much of it's legitimacy for it fails to do the basic job of protecting it's population.

If I can think of anything more, I will add it. Hopefully this will be enough to start a good discussion of the subject.

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Tank Hunter,

I would start off my reply by stating what someone else said, "You don't win in COIN, you just seek to achieve the best possible outcome." The underlying causes of the insurgency are very often beyond the ability of a foreign country to completely grasp - one old Middle East (and a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam) hand on another board recently said that despite all the years he'd spent in the ME, and all he'd learned from the people in several countries, even he understood no more than 50% of what the locals themselves could.

Escalation has a spottier record than some of the 4GW advocates claim. It didn't work for the Germans on the Eastern Front in WWII, and it hasn't led to final success in Chechnya in recent years either. And where it has worked, it has left deep hatreds that very often re-emerge later, and contribute to future wars, insurgencies, or genocides and the like. The Balkans and the former Soviet Union are good examples of this. Given these examples, Escalation appears to have only temporary results when it works, and when it doesn't work, the best result is a quagmire.

De-escalation requires far more restraint, and it requires a degree of self-sacrifice on the part of the foreign power engaging in COIN, namely a willingness to suffer losses rather than to strike back at the insurgents with full force. If full force is used in most cases, then because most of those cases involve heavy fighting in areas crammed with civilians, any civilian deaths that occurr may be blamed on the foreign power fighting the insurgents. Any civilian deaths that occur can completely undo months, even a year or more of carefull COIN operations and creating ties with the locals. Ultimately, it's the locals who have to turn on the insurgents and defeat them; the foreign power is their to hold the line and otherwise help out when it can (and when such help is accepted).

The way to defeat an insurgency is to look less bad to the population than the insurgents. Avoid however possible accidently killing civilians; offer them the means to rebuild and safeguard their families and their lives; live amongst, cultivate relationships with, and protect the local population; and in time, hopefully they will see that they have more to gain from going along with you than they have from going along with the insurgents - ideally, they will come to see the insurgents as the problem, and that it is the insurgents who are holding the people back from seeing their lives improve. You don'y have to make the people love you, or even like you, and you probably wouldn't succeed in doing so either. You just have to look better than the insurgents.

The other thing that has to be done is to have an effective, and efficient police force, more so than an army in COIN - after all, the foreign power is providing those, and as the insurgency is shored up and pushed back, the local police have to already be in control, and stay in control. Building up the local military is probably secondary for COIN - but not other - purposes.

People love infrastructure spending and projects - whether that be in Pennsylvania or Afghanistan, Yorkshire or Al-Anbar - and if you have the means, the locals usually (not always) are willing. And when insurgents come around to destroy infrastructure or stop its construction, as long as you can provide a measure of security for the local population, the insurgents will probably look like the bad guys to the locals.

When insurgents turn on the population, it's a very high-risk strategy. They often get away with it when the foreign military power and the local security force simply can't provide enough protection to the population to prevent the latter from being terrorized into submission. The Taleban have done this in Afghanistan, and the foreign military powers, never mind the local police, do not have enough strength to provide sufficient protection to the local population, and are losing ground in some areas.

But when the foreign military power and the local police can provide a more-or-less reasonable, if imperfect, degree of security, then the population turns against the insurgents. That's what has happened to Al-Qaeda in Iraq after it turned on the civilian population, but was more-or-less beaten back.

I would rule out an Escalation Strategy entirely. A De-escalation Strategy is the only real way, with all its attendant risks, of possibly defeating and insurgency, because the strength, and the weakness, of the insurgency derives from its relationship with the civilian population. The COIN forces must supplant the insurgents in that relationship, assuming their plce in relation to the civilian population and then proceed to marginalize the insurgents and turn the population against them. When the population finally turns on the insurgents and defeats them, that's when the insurgency ends. But the role of the foreign power in COIN is limited to getting the civilian population to that point; it is not the foreign military power that defeats the insurgency.

Norfolk

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I'm not sure of your application of the term 'stratagem'- a stratagem is a deceit, generally; in military terms it's a deception or a feint of some sort. At the kind of scale you are proposing, you aren't so much employing stratagems against a civilian population or widescale, broad ideology, even if the PR stunt is to present a suitable image to them.

The other issue which confronts us is that we are tied in some way to the societies which we have problems with- you can't simply wipe them out, nor can you isolate and ignore the problem. Everyone was so amped up about taking down Saddam and his Baa'thists that they either forgot or didn't want to remember that the 9/11 hi-jackers were Saudis, Kuwaitis and Egyptians. So the connection was invented to settle some old score of some sort or propagate someone's domino theory of Western consumerism and democracy for the Middle East, and finally to further the ambitions of some very ignorant and opportunistic personalities in the US government, while neglecting some of the most crucial components in the 'War on Terror.' Then there's always the proposition of complicitly supporting cruel, sociopathic governments in exchange for apparent stability or intelligence gains in the near term. Last week the newswires were reporting that a Saudi woman who had been raped was convicted of some trespass, because she was out in public with a male at the time it happened.

I'll say this- the effing think tanks and advisers and that have been running or otherwise strongly influencing the show operate with impunity- they act like an extra arm of the government with no accountablity to the voters nor to any judical or administrative branch when they convene their circle jerks and press on some fabulous vision- which is I suppose at least doing something rather than nothing, but is based on some very bad vision, if not blatant nepotism which put them there. Often these people are simply strong business interests or they can trace back to their fraternity days with someone in government. They otherwise have as much insight as a game of Civilization when you click on the 'change government' button.

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I strongly recommend that you should stay away from the current war in the Middle East.

If you are going to post in this thread, do not make provacative statements which will surely draw a hostile response. This is not directed at anyone specifically, but rather a reminder to think before you post it.

There is one strike already from the last thread.

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Norfolk

I am in agreement with you that we are liable to not understand the local cultures in any given state, especially ones which we have little commonality with culturally.

As regards escalation, then again there is the Syrian city of Hama (I think that is how it is spelt). From what I understand, the Moslem Brotherhood attempted to takeover the city and in response the Syrians had for all intents and purposes obliterated the place. Maybe if one is to escalate one should follow Machiavelli’s idea (as far as I can remember it at least). That if you are going to engage in violence, that you should do it all at one time rather than keep it protracted and do it a little at a time. If you keep it protracted and do it a little at a time the locals may see you as being bloodthirsty.

As regards de-escalation, I fully agree with you. It is generally the better of the three options, especially for a westernize state.

CC

The genocide option wasn’t so much in relation to the situation that the US faces but more in relation to a situation similar to that in Sri Lanka. I.E., you have an ethno nationalist movement looking for independence.

As regards supporting states which may have opposing social values in comparison to ours, all that I can say is that in the geopolitical arena one must chose states that are necessary for bettering the position of your state, or keeping the position of it stable. Attempting to impose our social customs is liable to worsen our position in the region. So one must chose between a few minorities (from what I understand, the woman in question is a Shia) living on the lands of an ally or potential ally, or chose what is better for your own state. Hence my previous statement about geopoltical multiculturalism and 4GW/modern insurgencies.

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I admit I didn't know much about 4GW so I did some research. Am I missing something because it reads a lot like rehashed unconventional war doctrine. Unconventional wars are traditionally fought by special forces and what Lind writes pretty much describes their mindset, tactics, techniques and procedures.

During my research, I came across this : http://www.military.com/Opinions/0,,Lind_Index,00.html It has 4GW and ancillary articles, some of them makes good points but some of them are "out there" (Note there is a 4GW manual in there if you are interested). I am trying to be objective when reading his writings but it's sometimes hard to take him seriously.

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Someone coined it and it took hold- it may be just a concept and nothing more. There's no guarantee that the thing a word denotes exists. Why should 4th Generation Warfare exist? Because a pundit happened to invent the word at some point when he subjectively could see a new set of conditions that the term refers to? Again, the think tanks and commentators may indeed believe they can adequately describe something, and perhaps they are right to some degree or another, but it's not even worthy of the status of Theory in the scientific sense such as in the theory of gravity or electronics theory.

That's why I can't believe you can even discuss it without talking about specifics- i.e., the Middle East, as if such a term exists in a vacuum or without context. Otherwise, you get the kind of thinking that went into many failed visions in the past, or ones that ran into trouble when they assumed to apply some formula.

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From my understanding, the 4GW concept was born in an article that Lind and others had written in I think it was a USMC magazine or some such. From what I understand of it (I haven’t read the article) the paper was about what the next generation of war would look like. There was some argument, again from what I gather over whether the change would be towards a higher tech way of war or if it would be something else. Eventually that something else became the modern insurgency.

The idea is that as new technology develops new ways are developed to exploit it in war. Industrialization helped develop wars such as the ACW and WW1, motorization had at the very least helped with modern maneuver war and the development of mass media helped with modern insurgencies. Mao’s people’s war was the first example of 4GW based on the theory. According the Hammes the concept of avoiding combat when you are in a poor position and attack only when you have the advantage (which is summarized in the following rhyme

“When the enemy advances, we withdraw

When the enemy rests, we harass

When the enemy tires, we attack

When the enemy withdraws, we pursue”)

and that keeping the peasants on your side is key. The locals can provide unlimited manpower, great intel, and can provide manpower, food etc. In other words making it so the locals and the army are friendly in political terms is key. Helping the locals when they needed it, and seeming to oppose the Japanese invasion more than the Nationalists helped give them more legitimacy than their opponents. Another thing that he did (and which had helped to give him power of the communist faction) was that he avoided concentrating his forces. It worked when the Soviets ordered an offensive on the cities. Those who looked to take the cities were defeated with heavy loses, and Mao was proven right in his idea of surrounding them rather than take them. But the main thing was that he wanted to turn a war into a political movement thus involving the civilian population intimately. He seemed to believe that political strength rather than military strength was the most important aspect.

The idea was refined by later insurgencies (some were successful like in Vietnam, others failed at least at that time like with Che). Since around the 60s it seems as if the main objective is to wear down the nation that you are fighting. You can’t do it via plain attrition for you would lose. You do it by wearing down their will to fight. The more that the war is covered, the more that it is seen in the news, the more bad news about it, the better. A lovely example is the Tet offensive. It failed militarily. The VC were for lack of another word, physically stuffed. Even with this, it was one of the deciding points in the war. That is due to the simple reason that it was covered in the media extensively. We thought that we had it under control, Tet proved to your average TV viewer that we had nothing under control. “Look, the VC are inside of our embassy for Pete’s sake!” was the likely reaction.

Now 4GW has developed into a situation in which you have two modes. The Maoist style insurgency where you have a relatively centralized organization (Liberation Tigers of Tamili Eelam for example) and then there is the version which is based off of primary loyalties (today’s Somalia and Iraq are examples). In other words an insurgency which may have one immediate goal but the different players in it have different long term goals and have competing loyalties. One group may be nationalists, another may be loyal to a local gang, another may be loyal to a religious sect and so on and so forth.

That is the basic idea of 4GW. If I muddled the waters any, all that I can say is that it is near 1 in the AM here. But I think what I just wrote makes sense…

And I agree with CC. Talking about modern insurgencies without looking at Iraq, Afghanistan, etc is like talking blitzkrieg without talking about Fall Gelb and Operation Barbarossa.

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For the most part, I do not see anything in 4GW, at least to my own understanding, that I do not already see stated either explicity or implicitly in the Chinese military classics, or at least anticipated in said. Other than 4GW's clear identification of non-state actors engaging in war not unlike state actors may do, I would have to agree with Captain Colossus and Homer that it's little more than a restatement of Unconventional Warfare by pundits. CC also makes the observation that context is vital - completely agreed; every situation is unique and cannot be handled by a rote formula and must be dealt with on its own terms. What worked in Malaya will not work in Afghanistan, nor what worked in Iraq/Kuwait in 1991 will work in Iraq now. You have to find what works in the war you're fighting now.

I would also argue that taking Clausewitz's classic statement that "war is the continuation of politics by other means" and defining "politics" as "simply how people relate to each other" (Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote this in the early 1980's), and you have the necessary theoretical basis, using traditional war theory, for dealing with practically all variations of warfare. 4GW is little more than a warning against ignoring non-state actors able to wage war while one may be focussing on state actors.

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For the most part, I do not see anything in 4GW, at least to my own understanding, that I do not already see stated either explicity or implicitly in the Chinese military classics, or at least anticipated in said. Other than 4GW's clear identification of non-state actors engaging in war not unlike state actors may do, I would have to agree with Captain Colossus and Homer that it's little more than a restatement of Unconventional Warfare by pundits. CC also makes the observation that context is vital - completely agreed; every situation is unique and cannot be handled by a rote formula and must be dealt with on its own terms. What worked in Malaya will not work in Afghanistan, nor what worked in Iraq/Kuwait in 1991 will work in Iraq now. You have to find what works in the war you're fighting now.

I would also argue that taking Clausewitz's classic statement that "war is the continuation of politics by other means" and defining "politics" as "simply how people relate to each other" (Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote this in the early 1980's), and you have the necessary theoretical basis, using traditional war theory, for dealing with practically all variations of warfare. 4GW is little more than a warning against ignoring non-state actors able to wage war while one may be focussing on state actors.

I think that John Robb describes the subject of 4GW better than I

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/4gw_fourth_gene.html

The only problem with Clausewitz and 4GW/Modern Insurgencies is how do you target the center of gravity (that which your enemy derives his strength) when dealing with one of these wars? You could very well do it when it comes to something like the LTTE, but what about with something like Iraq or Somalia? How do you target the COG of a 17 year old hopped up on khat? The source of his motivation could very well be to seem as tough or tougher than his mates and impress the women. Not an easy thing to target. So when it comes to chaotic situations, the Clausewitzen view may very well break down. Though when it comes to a nationalist movement, political movement, or even a religious/cultural movement the targeting of your opponents' centers of gravity would be effective. You fight the LTTE by preventing Tamilis being persecuted by the government. You fight Al Quada by allowing the locals to follow their cultural traditions (even if it may seem uncivilized to us). This is because those acts would target at least some of their COGs.

I would say that you are right on with the indication that there is no panacea in warfare. Though it does seem that legitimacy seems to be key in these kinds of wars. If you are helping a nation state fight a war such as this, that state cannot lose it's legitimacy that it's people have for it. This is why you have insurgents in Iraq targeting police and other security officials. If the locals don't feel safe, then whatever else the state does matters little. If the people don't feel safe, they lose any use for their government and as a result coalesce into smaller groups based on anything from family ties to political ideals to which gang they may be part of. This is for self defense and as a result the clan, gang, etc is more legitimate than the state. Or if the state seems to be a puppet of another state then why should one fight and die for slavery and/or vassalage? Thus the side which is most legitimate wins. That explains the Chinese Civil War nicely. The Nationalists wanted to wait for the Americans to take care of Japan (and save their power for the Communists). This was opposed to the Communists actually fighting the hated Japanese. The Communist faction was more legitimate than the KMT even though the KMT was more powerful and was seen by the world as the legitimate power in China. Just because the Communists were seen fighting the Japanese and trying to liberate China.

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I think that John Robb describes the subject of 4GW better than I http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/4gw_fourth_gene.html

The only problem with Clausewitz and 4GW/Modern Insurgencies is how do you target the center of gravity (that which your enemy derives his strength) when dealing with one of these wars? You could very well do it when it comes to something like the LTTE, but what about with something like Iraq or Somalia? How do you target the COG of a 17 year old hopped up on khat? The source of his motivation could very well be to seem as tough or tougher than his mates and impress the women. Not an easy thing to target. So when it comes to chaotic situations, the Clausewitzen view may very well break down. Though when it comes to a nationalist movement, political movement, or even a religious/cultural movement the targeting of your opponents' centers of gravity would be effective. You fight the LTTE by preventing Tamilis being persecuted by the government. You fight Al Quada by allowing the locals to follow their cultural traditions (even if it may seem uncivilized to us). This is because those acts would target at least some of their COGs.

I would say that you are right on with the indication that there is no panacea in warfare. Though it does seem that legitimacy seems to be key in these kinds of wars. If you are helping a nation state fight a war such as this, that state cannot lose it's legitimacy that it's people have for it. This is why you have insurgents in Iraq targeting police and other security officials. If the locals don't feel safe, then whatever else the state does matters little. If the people don't feel safe, they lose any use for their government and as a result coalesce into smaller groups based on anything from family ties to political ideals to which gang they may be part of. This is for self defense and as a result the clan, gang, etc is more legitimate than the state. Or if the state seems to be a puppet of another state then why should one fight and die for slavery and/or vassalage? Thus the side which is most legitimate wins. That explains the Chinese Civil War nicely. The Nationalists wanted to wait for the Americans to take care of Japan (and save their power for the Communists). This was opposed to the Communists actually fighting the hated Japanese. The Communist faction was more legitimate than the KMT even though the KMT was more powerful and was seen by the world as the legitimate power in China. Just because the Communists were seen fighting the Japanese and trying to liberate China.

Some excellent points Tankhunter.:) And I especially like your example of how the Communists gained "legitimacy" in the eyes of many Chinese by fighting the Japanese in areas where the Japanese Army had committed atrocities aginst the local populations, while the Nationalists tried to preserve their strength for fighting the Communists. Very shrewd strategic move on the part of the Communists, and that was what gave them both their strategic base of support and subsequently the strategic initiative vis-a-vis the Nationalists.

Back to the topic at hand. In Northern Ireland the British found some of the same motivational factors for many of the younger IRA members as described in Somalia. Much the same is perhaps also present in Iraq, et al. Anytime you've got restless, hormonally-charged young men in seriously disordered societies with access to weapons, by definition, you have a problem. But the centre of gravity here isn't the younger men, it's the older men who would normally keep these guys more or less under control. Macho behaviour, even with guns, quickly gives way to something more akin to order when the older men see fit to weigh-in and whip the youngsters into shape. If the local tribal or clan leaders have a real incentive to get their boys under control, they'll do it, and usually that incentive involves money, infrastructure projects, political power arrangements, and the like.

Just because the young "men" are running around with guns all hopped-up on booze or drugs and trying to demonstrate their virility to the local girls and their toughness to each other, doesn't make them "men". Most of them don't know how to handle themselves, let alone their weapons, like the "older" guys do, and in most cases they are not willing to challenge an older man who is probably going to mop the floor with and humiliate them if they don't get their act together when they're told to. Not to mention that they're not going to marry any of the older men's daughters if the older men see them as little more than armed poseurs.

In all insurgencies the "centre of gravity" is the population - but you have to identify the sources of their unrest and then set upon a strategy of helping them to deal with those sources. And usually that involves creating personal relationships and understanding with the local traditional leadership. That is certainly the case in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And then you assist the population and the local traditional leadership in dealing with the roots of the insurgency themselves.

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I think that John Robb describes the subject of 4GW better than I

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/4gw_fourth_gene.html

There are two items that weren't addressed: Sponsorship and Urbanization.

Insurgencies invariably have external sponsors in one form or another. Arms, supplies, training, recruiting, etc. requires money, space and the freedom to carry out such tasks. If any long solution is to be had, you need to deal with the puppet master too. On that note, you have to remember that not only nations such as the US have to combat insurgencies, we also sponsor them too.

More significantly, the world is urbanizing. Traditionally, insurgencies have been rural endeavours and urban operations were used to distract attention away from what was happening in the rural area. I dont have the numbers but the world population is again moving back into cities because of factors such as globalization. Three excellent examples of modern urban insurgencies are The Troubles in Ireland, Soviet-Afghan war, and Chechen war.

It's easy to discuss and dissect what to do and why to do it... but I never see the most important part: HOW to do it?

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John Robb has a few interesting articles on the subject.

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/10/guerrilla_entre.html

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/07/the_bazaar_of_v.html

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/images/Bazaar.html

Lets look at Somalia as an example. Before the ICU (and Ethiopian intervention) groups were funded by local businesses (as a protection measure) and via what we would describe as criminal activities, etc. Funding doesn’t need to come from outside sources. I remember reading about local businesses still funding the various gangs because a lack of government gives business more freedom of action in some respects (especially in ways that the locals are used to). From what I know of the LTTE they get their funds from donations, blackmail and extortion. I would say that part of these wars is economic as well as physical and mental attrition.

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It is indeed interesting, Tank Hunter. The Al-Qaida analysis makes some striking points about their defeat of three central assumptions of US National Security Strategy: "Early Warning", "Preventive Strike", and the "Principle of Deterrence". I am however, unclear as to the exact meaning of the usage of "Preventive Strike". Is the author referring to the US Strategic Doctrine of "Pre-emptive Action" that was formally promulgated after the 2001 terrorist attacks, or was he just simply referring to Al-Qaida's avoidance of serious damage in the wake of US strikes on Afghanistan in the late 1990's?

The rest of the analysis appears rather more mixed in accuracy; granted, this is from 2002, and subsequent events have changed the strategic situation considerably. In particular, the references to 4GW Warfare Theory that are used to help support a thesis of Al-Qaida's certain future victory. No 4GW Warfare Theory is necessary to explain how previous foreign invasions of Afghanistan have usually turned out badly, not least the Afghan Wars of the late 19th Century that precede the Maoist Doctrine of "People's War", or for that matter the Mahdi Army in Sudan at about the same time. As is, Al-Qaida seems to be trying to take credit for the victories won largely by traditional (and non-Al-Qaida) guerillas. Their role in Afghanistan in the 1980's and now is much less than they seem to imagine it is.

It would have been rather more accurate (and truer to 4GW Theory anyway) if Al-Qaida had recognized itself as akin to the Medieval Assassins of northern Iran and eastern Lebanon. And Al-Qaidi, for all its spectacular successes in terrorism, seems already headed in the same general direction as the Assassins. They're definitely more and more finding themselves behind the 8-ball in Iraq (in hindsight a Strategic blunder it would seem on their part), and at present they are accomplishing little more than just surviving in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We'll see what happens over coming years and decades, but the strategic initiative is no longer with them; they've lost it for the foreseeable future.

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I am not sure what the author is referring to also. I would assume that the author is talking about targeting Al Quada logistics. I guess this is one of the downsides of getting information from a second hand source.

As regards AQ taking credit for other people's actions, I don't think that is the case. I suspect that they are discussing successes of the "caliphate" (AKA Moslems in general) rather than AQ itself. AQ likely wouldn't have been involved with Lebanese Hezbullah due to differences in religious doctrine (AQ would likely see Hezbullah as heretics) and in Afghanistan IIRC AQ wasn't active in combat but was active as a logistics organization. Thus the author would be fully aware that if he claimed those victories for AQ he would be dishonest.

As regards AQ's strategic blunders, I would say that they fell for what most groups like them are tempted to do. That is force their political views on the locals before winning the war. I remember hearing that in Iraq they may have been forcing local women to marry their members. If that is true, that isn't going to help them with the locals I would suspect and could explain the backlash they have been experiencing.

As regards Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal regions, all AQ and any other insurgency would need to do is keep from suffering a decisive defeat. As long as this threat is prevented, they will be successful just because their continued existence proves their opponents as weak and/or incompetent.

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I am not sure what the author is referring to also. I would assume that the author is talking about targeting Al Quada logistics. I guess this is one of the downsides of getting information from a second hand source.

As regards AQ taking credit for other people's actions, I don't think that is the case. I suspect that they are discussing successes of the "caliphate" (AKA Moslems in general) rather than AQ itself. AQ likely wouldn't have been involved with Lebanese Hezbullah due to differences in religious doctrine (AQ would likely see Hezbullah as heretics) and in Afghanistan IIRC AQ wasn't active in combat but was active as a logistics organization. Thus the author would be fully aware that if he claimed those victories for AQ he would be dishonest.

As regards AQ's strategic blunders, I would say that they fell for what most groups like them are tempted to do. That is force their political views on the locals before winning the war. I remember hearing that in Iraq they may have been forcing local women to marry their members. If that is true, that isn't going to help them with the locals I would suspect and could explain the backlash they have been experiencing.

As regards Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal regions, all AQ and any other insurgency would need to do is keep from suffering a decisive defeat. As long as this threat is prevented, they will be successful just because their continued existence proves their opponents as weak and/or incompetent.

Excellent points Tank Hunter. It would make sense if the author was indeed referring to Western/US attempts to interdict their funding, inforamtion, and networks, etc.

The way I took part of the article was that AQ seemed to be claiming that it was their victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan; the Mujahideen seemed to come across almost as auxiliaries in the author's treatment - or simply the author had no intention of making a real distinction between the two.

Yes, the part about local women being sought for and coerced into marriage with the AQ men was certainly occurring, and the tribal leaders took real issue with (and offence to) that. You are quite right to say that this was a real factor in turning many local Sunni clans and tribes against AQ.

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Hi,

In "Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare", Rothstein argues that a significant problem fighting with unconventional forces is the organization of conventional forces. I'm still half way through the book, but so far it looks like a grim future awaits ahead unless there is a radical change in the way the US military works. He claims that it is possible to defeat an unconventional enemy, though.

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Hi,

In "Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare", Rothstein argues that a significant problem fighting with unconventional forces is the organization of conventional forces. I'm still half way through the book, but so far it looks like a grim future awaits ahead unless there is a radical change in the way the US military works. He claims that it is possible to defeat an unconventional enemy, though.

It would seem there is some debate about whether insurgent forces CAN be beaten.The Malaya crisis after WWII was a classic example of how a well established insurgent force can be defeated.

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Open-Source Warfare (OSW); a prototype 5GW Doctrine. Very interesting, TankHunter. Self-selecting, self-directed, loosely-bound by shared motives, yet networking implicitly and as such providing mutual support (in theory) to one another.

It would take either a very powerful idea, or a set of grievances amongst a common community, to turn this into something other than old-fashioned terrorism. Doable, I'm afraid, but very difficult to achieve in practice (mercifully). It might would almost require at least one competent individual at the heart of each independent group with either a military or a field intelligence background to really get going, and stay going, at least through the early years.

And not just for matters of selection, training, organization, administration, and operations, etc. But also to provide something of a common basis for the coordination of the efforts of the various independent groups/cells; as there would, initially at least (I rather suspect Empire-builders would in time seek to bring the disparate groups under their common control), be no common authority over them to formally coordinate their efforts. As such, those individuals within each independent group who come from either a military or field intelligence background, could be critical to discerning when, where, and how, etc., to act in order to make best advantage of prior acts of other independent groups sharing similar ideological or other motives or objectives.

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Well, a sort of OSW with a sort of group intelligence seems to be waged on Scientology at the moment. So it seems that they are being waged and waged for relatively minor reasons (I.E., Scientology’s tendency towards lawfare and suppression of bad news about the group being the apparent casus belli).

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/03/journal-anonymo.html

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/03/anonymous.html

I will say that if one wants to get an idea of what war may look like in the future, this little situation may be ideal to follow.

I am thinking, if an OSW type of group is not only able to “recruit” members, retain them and provide them increased levels of experience, they will be pretty damned powerful. The only way to combat them is to marginalize them, and create enough friction for them that their members quit the movement. Or, better yet, target members with a large amount of links to other members. This way the movement becomes fractured and as a result is weakened (though media reports about acts may help them in targeting, but methods may not be as easy to get hints about from that source). Another result would be that attacks would be of reduced quality because of the lack of communication between the various groups.

Those individuals with a military background could very well be those members with a large amount of links just because of the knowledge that they would have.

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