Monday, March 4, 2013


I was doing some research and I came across this 1982 New York Times article.  A very interesting perspective and some "deja vu all over again."

By RICHARD HALLORAN, Special to the New York Times
Published: August 21, 1982

The Army's ability to fight guerrillas is being rebuilt at the Special Forces center on Smoke Bomb Hill here after an increase in insurgency and terrorism in Asia, Africa and especially Latin America.

Twenty years ago, President Kennedy made respectable what the military calls counterinsurgency, a mixture of political and military tactics to combat guerrillas flitting through the night to strike where least expected.

But a decade of struggle with meager success in the jungles of Vietnam gave counterinsurgency a bad name, and the Army's ability to do battle with insurgents nearly disappeared in the late 1970's.

Today the Special Forces, better known as Green Berets, are rebuilding with an emphasis on training foreign armies to cope with insurgents that threaten their nations. Although the Green Berets are capable of fighting, their primary responsibility is to devise strategies for other governments on how to defeat insurgents.

''We have a very viable mission today,'' said Brig. Gen. Joseph C. Lutz, the commanding officer here. ''We kind of feel we're on the upswing.'' Unit on the Upswing

That upswing is supported by the Reagan Administration, where the policy on unconventional warfare is laid out in the classified fiveyear plan called Defense Guidance. The document says, ''We must revitalize and enhance special operations forces to project United States power where the use of conventional forces would be premature, inappropriate, or infeasible.''

The Special Forces are made up of both experienced leaders and young, perceptive students of unconventional war. A Special Forces research unit has delved into the lessons of Vietnam and other insurgencies of the last 40 years to distill their causes, strategy and tactics and to devise basic principles for fighting them.

In the field, the Green Berets have gained fresh experience by training a battalion of Salvadorans here, a battalion of Liberians in their own country and other foreign armies as members of teams that teach the use of American weapons and equipment.

But that may be as far as their ability goes at this time. Whether the United States itself could mount a serious and effective counterinsurgency mission in, say, El Salvador, is open to question, according to military planners in Washington. 

''Too Much Macho''

The Green Berets are authorized to have 8,600 soldiers but are shy of officers and experienced sergeants. Also, many officers here said, they suffer from a poor image remaining from Vietnam. ''We're seen as either snake-eaters or mafia in uniform,'' said one officer. ''We've had too much macho.''
Moreover, according to officers in Washington, the Army emphasizes preparation for a massed land war in Europe and considers counterinsurgency out of the mainstream. Army officers normally receive little instruction in unconventional operations, and regular Army units get little training in the dispersed, small-unit tactics for fighting guerrillas.

Political constraints may be greater than military weaknesses. President Reagan and Congress may be reluctant to deploy the Green Berets in any sizable force for fear the move will be considered a prelude to the commitment of regular divisions, as in Vietnam, according to senior officers in Washington.
At bottom, Americans may not have the patience for fighting a guerrilla war. Military strategists from Sun Tzu in China, 2,500 years ago, to Vo Nguyen Giap in Vietnam in this century have proclaimed that insurgencies will almost always be protracted before they are successful. 

No 'Stomach for Long Wars'

''But Americans like neat, quick solutions and don't have much stomach for long, drawn-out wars,'' said an officer here. Douglas S. Blaufarb, a specialist in guerrilla war who is retired from the Central Intelligence Agency, may have put it best in his book ''The Counterinsurgency Era'' when he said that effective counterinsurgency ''is a complex and difficult manuever for which the United States has shown no talent.''

Even so, the Reagan Administration has begun to revive the Army's ability in counterinsurgency. Administration officials in Washington said that the Special Forces would be enlarged in the next few years, although by how much and in what units has not been decided. They said that more money would be spent on sophisticated but compact communications equipment, on air transport for infiltration, and especially on training, not only here but with similar units in the Navy and Air Force.
The Green Berets are also working on their image. ''One of my goals is to improve our image by our behavior,'' said General Lutz, a muscular, articulate man with a master's degree in human relations. ''We are demonstrating to the Army and the other services that we are, in fact, mature professional soldiers.'' 


Maj. Thomas J. Kuster Jr. of the Bronx speaks fluent Spanish, has served with Special Forces in Panama and can quote from such insurgent strategists as the famous Ernesto (Che) Guevara of Cuba and the little-known Carlos Marighella of Brazil.

Major Kuster is among a dozen specialists inhabiting small offices on the sixth floor of the Institute for Military Assistance here, where they have scrutinized the guerrilla operations of the Vietcong of Vietnam, the Maquis of France in World War II, the Irgun in Israel, the Hukbakhalahaps of the Philippines, the Chinese in Malaysia, Fidel Castro in Cuba and guerrillas he has backed elsewhere in Latin America, and the ''wars of national liberation'' supported by the Soviet Union in Africa.

At their disposal is a flow of intelligence reports, analyses written by civilian specialists on guerrilla warfare and a library stocked with treatises on insurgency. Ho Chi Minh's thoughts are expressed in the book ''On Revolution'' and Che Guevara's in his ''Episodes of the Revolutionary War.''

From those sources, the analysts in camouflaged jungle uniforms have concluded that in countering an insurgency strategy and tactics must be fitted to the circumstances. ''There is no immediate, automatic response where you just plug in and go,'' Major Kuster said. 

Will of the Government

Before the United States offers to help counter an insurgency, General Lutz said, it is vital to determine the will of the government under attack. ''If that country doesn't have the will and wherewithal to meet the insurgency,'' he said, ''the United States cannot do it.''

Close behind that, Major Kuster said, is the need to catch the insurgency as early as possible. Then the insurgency must been seen in all of its political, economic, social and military parts. General Lutz quoted Mao Tse Tung: ''You must take care of the people.'' Major Kuster added: ''We just can't say, 'That man has military problems so he needs military help.' ''

To assess an insurgency and devise a counter, the Green Berets have adapted a five-phase scheme worked out by Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corporation in California, an authority on terrorism and insurgency. Unless the insurgency is stopped at one stage, this plan holds, it moves on to another and can then be beaten only with a greater, most costly effort.

In the first phase, insurgents often seek publicity, for example, by blowing up power stations or assassinating politicians. Stopping that is primarily a job for the police, but political aims of the insurgents must be battled with psychological and civic programs. 
Road Checks and Curfews
(Continued at the link below)

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