Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Guerrilla Myth by Max Boot

I would say that most of our adversaries and the adversaries of our friends, partners, and allies are waging various forms of unconventional warfare (though Max makes a good point in terms of regularity this type of warfare is neither irregular nor unconventional – what we term as conventional warfare is really the "not regularly conducted warfare".   But our description of unconventional warfare doctrine (activities to enable a resistance or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area) really describes in various forms what many adversaries are doing around the world and Max does a good job of explaining why they do so.  However, we need to not only be able to conduct unconventional warfare when and where necessary but perhaps more importantly be able to conduct counter-unconventional warfare in support of our friends , partners, and allies when it makes strategic sense for US interests.  And we should realize that in places where uniformed armies may square off (e.g., on the Korean Peninsula) we are still likely to see this type of warfare occur during and after (especially after) the period of what we call conventional warfare.  Some interesting excerpts:

Calling guerrilla warfare "irregular" or "unconventional" has it backward: It is the norm of armed conflict.

Their experience suggests that few people have ever chosen guerrilla warfare voluntarily; it is the tactic of last resort for those too weak to create regular armies. Likewise, terrorism is the tactic of last resort for those too weak to create guerrilla forces.

In reality, though guerrillas have often been able to fight for years and inflict great losses on their enemies, they have seldom achieved their objectives. Terrorists have been even less successful.

A spectacular vindication of this approach occurred during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was defeated not because it had lost on the battlefield but because public opinion had turned against the war. The same thing almost happened in Iraq in 2007, and it may yet happen in Afghanistan.   (This is why we should study Dau Tranh strategy)

Hearts and Minds:
The best-known term for this strategy is "winning hearts and minds"—a phrase popularized by the British Gen. Gerald Templer, who saved Malaya from a communist insurgency in the 1950s. But the term is misleading, since it suggests that a counter-insurgency campaign is trying to win a popularity contest. In reality, the populace will embrace the government only if it is less dangerous to do so than to support the insurgency. That is why successful population-centric policies aim to control the people with a 24/7 deployment of security forces, not to win their love and gratitude by handing out soccer balls, medical supplies and other goodies.

Rather than hearts and minds we need to think in terms of perception of legitimacy and credible capability to coerce:
c.  The insurgent, the counter-insurgent, and the peace keeper/enforcer have only two fundamental tools to work with to accomplish their goals:

                        (1)  The enhancement of popular perceptions of legitimacy.

                        (2)  The credible capability to coerce

            d.  Success or failure is determined by each sides understanding, application, and the mixture of these tools (which is determined by the political leadership NOT the military leadership)

            e.  Remember that no armed political disturbances begin without significant lead times.
The Guerrilla Myth
Unconventional wars are our most pressing national security concern. They're also the most ancient form of war in the world. Max Boot on the lessons of insurgency we seem unable to learn.

Author Max Boot discusses his new book, "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present," with WSJ weekend Review editor Gary Rosen.

For a student of military history, the most astonishing fact about the current international scene is that there isn't a single conflict in which two uniformed militaries are pitted against each other. The last one was a brief clash in 2008 between Russia and Georgia. In our day, the specter of conventional conflict, which has dominated the imagination of the West since the days of the Greek hoplites, has almost been lifted.

But the world is hardly at peace. Algeria fights hostage-takers at a gas plant. France fights Islamist extremists in Mali. Israel fights Hamas. The U.S. and its allies fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Syria's Bashar al-Assad fights rebels seeking to overthrow him. Colombia fights and negotiates with the FARC. Mexico fights drug gangs. And various African countries fight the Lord's Resistance Army.
These are wars without front lines, without neatly defined starting and end points. They are messy, bloody affairs, in which attackers, typically without uniforms, engage in hit-and-run raids and often target civilians. They are, in short, guerrilla wars, and they are deadly. In Syria alone, more than 60,000 people have died since 2011, according to the United Nations. In Mexico, nearly 50,000 have died in drug violence since 2006. Hundreds of thousands more have perished in Africa's civil wars. The past decade has also seen unprecedented terrorist attacks, ranging from 9/11 to suicide bombings in Iraq. To understand today's world, you have to understand guerrillas and the terrorist movements that are their close cousins.

Unfortunately, our ignorance of guerrilla war runs deep, even as we find ourselves increasingly entangled in such conflicts. Contrary to popular lore, guerrilla warfare wasn't invented by Che Guevara or Mao Zedong, and terrorism long predates the 1972 Munich Olympics. Nor is insurgency, as some have suggested, a distinctively "Oriental" form of warfare, difficult for Westerners to grasp.
Examining guerrilla warfare's long history not only brings to light many compelling, half-forgotten characters; it lays to rest numerous myths and allows us to come to grips with the most pressing national security issue of our time. What follows are lessons that we need to learn—but haven't—from the history of guerrilla war.

1. Guerrilla warfare is not new. Tribal war, pitting one guerrilla force against another, is as old as humankind. A new form of warfare, pitting guerrillas against "conventional" forces, is of only slightly more recent vintage—it arose in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. Calling guerrilla warfare "irregular" or "unconventional" has it backward: It is the norm of armed conflict.
Many of the world's current boundaries and forms of government were determined by battles between standing armies and insurgencies. Think of the United Kingdom, which was "united" by the success of the English in defeating centuries-old Scottish and Irish guerrilla movements. The retreat of the British Empire was partly the result of successful armed resistance, by groups ranging from the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s to the Zionists in the 1940s. Earlier still, the war waged by American colonists, some of them fighting as guerrillas, created the U.S., which reached its present borders, in turn, by waging centuries of unremitting warfare against Native American insurgents.

It is hard to think of any country in the world that has avoided the ravages of guerrilla warfare—just as it hard to think of any organized military force that hasn't spent a considerable portion of its energy fighting guerrillas.
(Continued at the link below)

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