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TankHunter

Modern Insurgencies: Ideas and Stratagems

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Very true, Tank Hunter; the military and/or intelligence types would, in many respects, be the most vulnerable with so many arrows pointing in their direction. Cell structures can help to reduce this, but not eliminate it, especially when such individuals are the cadres themselves, and thus have to have contact with multiple individuals, not just one or a few.

It seems that OSW groups would most likely require the implicit or inadvertent complicity of the media, or at least sufficient freedom of access to telecommunications in order to both try to get their message out, and to gather information on what's going on, and who's done what. The media might be dealt with more or less effectively by a determined government (or perhap by a corporation or corporations - or other non-state actors), through misinformation or censorship.

But disrupting telecommunications between individuals and even groups, from phone/cell calls and text messaging, the internet, hand-helds, and the like, could be pretty tough, potentially. AQ operatives have frequently used cell phones and their associated accounts for just a single call before discarding them in order to minimize their chances of detection. Even attemtps at rigid control of telecommunications means by government security services could by no means be expected to achieve completely consistent results. Even in places like China, dissidents still manage to get their messages through, even if just temporarily.

This raises another issue, however, about a possible strategy, or character of OSW. What if, in a tightly-controlled public sphere, an OSW group or movement of otherwise independent groups simply by-passed the general media (assuming it might even be tighly controlled by the government and thus more or less denied to the OSW groups as a medium for their own message), and resorted to modern personal telecommunications as a means by which to coordinate individuals within an OSW group, or even different OSW groups, in a campaign in the shadows against, say, a government?

What I am suggesting is that the OSW groups, practically denied access to the public media, simply forego trying to move the public one way or the other, and just go for the jugular - the organs of the state (or non-state actor) and the officials who run them - straight away? A war waged wholly in the shadows, by shadows. An exceedingly high-risk approach - a gamble really - , but for the fanatically determined, an approach with potentially very high payoffs, if enough damage can be done whilst evading detection or destruction by the security forces. So a question to be asked is, is it possible for an OSW group, or a series of roughly similar groups bound by a common motive or objective, to inflict enough damage on a State (or for that matter, a non-State actor) to either bring it down or at least to coerce it into making certain concessions?

That said, OSW groups would likely have a typical life-span of a few days to weeks once they began engaging in openly violent, active OSW operations against a State; a few more competent, or fortunate groups might persist for months or even years. Against a non-State actor, such as a corporation, an OSW campaign might last for months or years, even if the OSW groups were brought down.

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I really am having a hard time understanding why intelligent people would consider terrorist insurgency a fourth generation type of warfare? The title itself may be new, but the dynamics of smaller inferior groups running raids, ambushes, and sabotage missions is as old as time. This should be called 1st generation warfare. This crap took place before conventional armies ever faced one another.

War has not evolved to "terrorist insurgencies". War is still war, terrorist insurgency is just "a different kind of war". Personally, for all intents and purposes I do not believe it deserves to be called war. A conventional army versus a conventional army is a war. FIghting terrorist cells is like bad ass policing at best. NOT to disregard or take away from the bravery and selflessness that allied soldiers display in fighting in this conflict, and not to suggest dying one way is any less deserving of respect and deepest gratitude than another, but for purely languistic maintenance I really don't understand how this is "a war" by definition in the proper sense. Its a conflict in which a conventional orginzation is policing an area affected by insurgent groups against those insurgent groups. Its a military conflict, but not a war. Does no one else see it that way? Wars change the world. If Germany won WW2, things would be VERY different (supposedly anyway). If Napolean had won, things would be very different (again we assume that anyway). If the insurgents in Iraq win? Um.. Iraq goes back to sucking even more than it already does? And the rest of the world? Unaffected? No one cares? Pretty much...

Lets say hypothetically in 50 years once its economy is up and running and the standard of living has increased, China decides its time to take over the world. (I do not necessarily believe this, but its a decent example). Is China going to take over the world by sending small random groups of guys who are going to bomb stuff and ambush vehicle columns every once in a while? That may well be part of it, but only a fraction. China would role over Europe with CONVENTIONAL methods because that is WAR and that is how you CONQUER and utterly defeat someone.

Terrorist Insurgents only use insurgency because they don't have the means to a real military. If they could feasibly put together a military that stood a chance and use it to throw out occupying nations, they would. Insurgency is welfare warfare, nothing more.

Edit*: Sorry I also wanted to add one last point. I reread my message and don't want it to come off differently than I intended. I am NOT saying that researching, studying, understanding, and learning how to defeat terrorist insurgency is not important. Not at all is that what I am saying. Its the type of conflict that we face today and we need to understand it and overcome it. My arguement is that people are losing sight of what war is. They think that future "wars" are going to be fought the way things are being fought in Afghanistand and Iraq, but they aren't. People are giving insurgency a 10 out of 10 on the "hardcore-scale" and its really like a 2. WW2 is a 10, TI a 2. Any conflict where the kill ratio is like a billion to one in favor of one side, isn't a war.. its a conflict.

While we all write books on insurgency, and build armies made to fight insurgents, we are distancing ourselves from threats that actually COULD destroy us, not ones the government scares us into think could destory us, but ones that actually could... aka conventional warfare that is here to stay.

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Sorry for failing to respond sooner. I have been busy with other subjects.

I would say that OSW would require telecommunications technology to at least some extent or it would need some other way to share information freely.

As regards personal communications equipment (such as cell phones) I think that is already being used to organize attacks and provide information to different groups. Apparently the Taliban in Afghanistan uses this tactic. Though the technology can be a problem too. One threat the Taliban face is that people may call the government to inform them of insurgent activity, though the Taliban have started to coerce cell phone service providers to shut down service at certain times of the day.

http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/03/falling-towers-of-babble.html

Simply because of their desire to shut down communications for certain periods, rather than shutting it down completely or at least disrupt it actively, that indicates to me that they are relying on the service to at least some extent.

Anyway, even if they attempt to just go after the state itself, rather than win over the population, they can still do this via disrupting services. Sooner or later, the people will start to see that the state is weak, fails to provide basic services and as a result is illegitimate. Then they will look for local groups. In this way a conflict of this type could be a sort of foco insurgency. But rather than attempting to replace the state with another state, the objective would be to cripple the state and replace parts of it by non state groups. It would be tough to hide that the state cannot provide fresh water and electricity (or security, etc). As such, the locals will look for another source.

Also, the thing about these kinds of groups is that even if you manage to inflict a potentially fatal blow to them, they may just rebound. MEND a few months back suffered a major blow, its leader was captured, but they are apparently getting back into their old ways.

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I really am having a hard time understanding why intelligent people would consider terrorist insurgency a fourth generation type of warfare? The title itself may be new, but the dynamics of smaller inferior groups running raids, ambushes, and sabotage missions is as old as time. This should be called 1st generation warfare. This crap took place before conventional armies ever faced one another.

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My thoughts exactly. We (mankind) has been involved in this so called 4th Gen warfare for a long time. A few kids in collage have put a modern name to a age old problem, lets hope they walk the walk, from their talking the talk.

We will defeat the terrorist, however it will require backbone.

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Back from the world of braindeadedness (AKA college).

From my understanding, 4GW's main difference from previous insurgency type wars is the mass media.

Industrialization changed war by making it so that whole states could be mobilized and involved in a war, mechanization allowed for mobility to dominate and the era of mass media made it so that an organization can defeat the will of a state's politicians and people without the need to win battles or conduct invasions on the target state.

This is why you generally don't see ancient counter insurgency techniques succeeding in these modern wars. You cant engage in what can be seen as genocide (which is the only fully effective CI technique. No people, no problem). You cant because of obvious reasons, the media. But the media has more of an effect than just that. It can turn a tactical success into a strategic loss. It can turn relatively minor incidents into a catalyst for resistance against the state. Brutal treatment of prisoners, promoting one's theological beliefs, etc by individuals may not be major incidents in an age where the media was not as prevalent, but today it can mean the success or failure of a counter insurgency campaign.

As regards the comment about counter insurgency being "bad ass policing" that is probably a good analogy. Both require the state to try to deescalate situations.

I will need to dig up my copy of TX Hammes' book to properly give the 4GW argument (he gave a good definition of it IIRC).

Now the reason for my thinking that this will be the dominate form of war is that states have rarely been fighting each other. There is not much benefit in it. A war will disrupt trade which can be devastating. It also risks it turning into something much different from what you originally expected which can be down right deadly in the age of nuclear weapons. A war involving China risks escalating into a conflict in which tactical or strategic nuclear strikes happen. It also risks the trade routes that China relies on. As such it would be highly unlikely for it to happen. Just look at the cost benefit of it. You risk alot of cost for little benefit. State vs non-state is what will likely be the future.

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I'm convinced that a "modern insurgency" boils down to the following:

1) access to low-cost and powerful comms (cell phones come to mind)

2) access to low-cost and powerful weapons (RPG comes to mind)

3) access to low-cost and extensive transportation (globe-spanning passenger and cargo networks - well, this expense is increasing)

4) access to low-cost and powerful propaganda (the chicken-little and fear-prone western mindset comes to mind - the terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming! let's work up into a frenzy because the terrorists are coming)

5) access to high-value and high-yield profit sources (drugs and sympathetic contributions from wealthy benefactors comes to mind)

Other than these very important factors and force-multipliers, insurgents are still the same garden-variety insurgents that have always existed: an underdog with a grudge and a willingness to fight and die for it.

The tools in the hands of a modern insurgency are hard to control in many places and cases. Further, peicemeal, precision and targeted reactions requires a longevity and patience lacking in Western cultures/societies. The great war which holds as a source of pride in the West (mainly the U.S.) lasted from 4-6 years (depending on which side you root for) whereas anti-insurgency could go on for decades. One short-cut is scortched-earth/Angel-of-death type stuff, but world opinion looks low on that sort of thing unless you are an African doing it to other Africans, then you only get lip-service pooh-poohs on it and no punitive action.

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Yeah, the only "real" strategy for counter insurgency is to plant yourself in the middle of the insurgent stronghold areas and bait them to fight by making it impossible for them to avoid it. In other words, you plant yourself right in the center of their safe havens and sanctuaries so that if they avoid fighting then the counter insurgent forces only grow more powerful and an increasing hindrance to insurgent day to day operations. Once the fight has commenced, destroy them where found while at the same time trying to gain respect and admiration of the local populace by rebuilding and assistance and *bettering their quality of life*. The latter is the most important, for by improving the quality of life for people that have nothing will provide them something to live for and some optimism to the future. Once that happens, it is a down hill slide for an insurgency as the populace is won over and helps to counter it -- at least that is what the US has been constantly learning since Vietnam.

In the case of Iraq, studies have shown that there was a turning point where the Iraqi citizens had enough with AQI and other extremist group's heavy handed tactics against them, and they took action into their own hands. Once that happened AQI and others recognized the err of their ways but tried to counter the tide by assassinating tribal leaders. In Iraqi society, this only made people resist AQI and others even more so the insurgents essentially doomed themselves. The important thing about what happened (and I am sure it will be studied for both side for years to come), is that it shows that the struggle for the support of the local populace is important for both sides. I think it has long been thought that local populace support was something that counter insurgent forces had to create, where the insurgents could just simply "exist" and be successful, but the events in Iraq show how insurgents can turn the population against them and how it turns out to be more devastating than anything else.

Continuing with Iraq, I think the only obstacle to the Iraqi people now (since their security forces are constantly becoming more capable and numerous) is Iran's tool for exerting their influence, Muqtada al Sadr and his insurgent followers. It is believed that Iran is using him and his 'militia' to exert influence so as to one day get him in power and, in the immediate future, to fight a war by proxy to get US forces out of Iraq and away from Iran and to "make trouble" in the coming months in order to influence US elections towards pro withdrawal candidate (think Tet Offensive -- my prediction). The solution here is the same though, the Iraqi people have to decide al Sadr's fate as well as what they want to do with a neightbor that is meddling in their affairs through an insurgency aimed at destabilizing the government. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the next decade, especially as the Iraqi people gain more confidence in themselves and their government.

Anyway, believe the studies or not, I was not meaning to cross over into current events. The point is, I agree and I think the most important way to go about dealing with the insurgents is through the respect and admiration of the locals.

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