Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ambush Alley Would Like to Kick Our Ass

Fascinating read, this Back to the Street without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam and Other Small Wars by Robert M. Cassidy on Parameters.

The "Street without Joy" is the title of a book by Bernard Fall that, according to Mr. Cassidy, explains why the French failed to defeat the Viet Minh during the Indochina War, which began in 1946. This war ultimately lasted nearly thirty years, but starting in 1954 it came to be known as the Vietnam War, a civil conflict in which the United States helped South Vietnam fight against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. The "Street without Joy" is also the nick-name for Highway 1 on the coast of Indochina (the area now composed of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) also known as "Ambush Alley," and ironically, the place where Mr. Fall was killed by an IED during a Viet Cong ambush in 1967.

Mr. Cassidy draws not only from that conflict, but also from the Banana Wars, a series of conflicts in and around the Caribbean, including but not limited to Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (1909-1926); the Philippine Insurrection (or Philippine-American War 1898-1913); and even the Indian Wars of the early United States of America (1775-1890); chapters of history made no less pertinent by the passage of time to our present situation in Iraq, where we face a highly mobile enemy who is difficult to strike with a massive war machine.

Cassidy references Robert Taber's book, The War of the Flea: Guerrilla Warfare in Theory and Practice, in which Taber wrote:

"Analogically, the guerrilla fights
the war of the flea, and his
military enemy suffers the dog's
disadvantages: too much to defend;
too small, ubiquitous, and agile
an enemy to come to grips with. If
the war continues long enough
--this is the theory--the dog
succumbs to exhaustion and
anemia without ever having found
anything on which to close its
jaws or to rake with its claws."

And, in Cassidy's words:

"An overarching principle, though, is not
to fight small wars with big-war
methods--the goal is to gain results
with the least application of force
and minimum loss of civilian
(non-combatant) life."

While we might utterly dominate anyone who would be so foolish as to meet us in a conventional war, in the "war of the flea" we can easily have our asses handed to us. Which is not to say we can't win it, only that it requires a much different approach and execution.

"In small wars, tolerance, sympathy, and
kindness should be the keynote to our
relationship with the mass of the

Occasionally, numbers describing Iraqi support for our military in Iraq are bandied about. Some sites I've read suggest a healthy percentage of people living in Baghdad support us; other sites I've read suggest nothing of the sort. Cassidy makes the point that the support of the population is indispensable. So if we don't have it, we need to get it. Once people are on our side, we can work with them to reach a common goal. But convincing them to be on our side could be tricky considering how much ordnance we've dropped on Iraq so far.

Methods of engendering popular support include rebuilding infrastructure and showing respect and compassion to the civilians, particularly the women and children. Perhaps if untrustworthy companies such as Halliburton (google.com) weren't given no-bid contracts at our expense, we could get some serious work done. Why the American people tolerate such a blatant conflict of interest in the second highest office is beyond me (The Boston Globe). I can only assume people are not paying attention. That or perhaps they are all out fucking themselves right now.

Much more information can be found in the article. I am challenged by the sheer volume of essays and articles at Parameters.

Here's another good one from Parameters: In Praise of Attrition by Ralph Peters. In this essay, Mr. Peters underscores the importance of killing and how our military's troubles can be traced to a timidity that has crippled our armed forces ever since Vietnam.

We live in interesting times.


Blogger factory_peasant said...

I'm pleased you read that article, Wad.

We will ultimately lose in Iraq. Our military leaders have failed to learn from those previous hard lessons and the Government is still playing that old worn out tune, try to win with the least amount of forces on the ground. It never works. Politically the gamble is that if they actually commit what's needed to win a war the public won't stand for it. It will be seen as too costly and therefore the Government will lose popular support- election time. Strange times we live in, indeed.

Another thing to consider (and I learned this in high school from a 'Nam vet) is that every time the U.S. media throws out troop numbers, just remember that for every soldier in the field it takes like 5 guys to support him. That means cooks, doctors, truck mechanics, etc. Foget about the Halliburton subcontractors. So if they mention we have 100,000 troops in Iraq let's say, only a fraction of those guys are actually out in the field at any given time with weapons trying to close and brawl with the enemy.

Thanks to the way many of our soldiers have conducted themselves around Iraqi civillians they have strained our relations and eroded the popular support.

All of the U.S. forces you now see in Iraq should have been in Afghanistan this whole time.

North Korea continues unchecked...

9:10 PM  
Blogger fugginWad said...

I'm afraid you're right. My belief is that America has a very large portion of crow coming up, and no steak sauce. The vice president, the president, and all of their business associates/friends, will laugh all the way to the bank, of course, but they'll be laughing up their sleeves as the country they were supposed to be serving foots the bill for their excess.

Of course, there's losing, and then there's losing. Many people feel we were winning in Vietnam when we pulled out. Probably, many will say we won when we pull out of Iraq, regardless of reality.

I don't know why we don't let it break apart. The Kurds, who have never wanted to be part of Iraq, are doing very well rebuilding their territory in the north. They appear to have no affinity for the Sunnis or the Shi'as, and it appears to be mutual. So why should they live as a single country? Lessons from the break up of the Soviet Union are fresh and bright, hard to ignore. Why should these people have less right to determine their identities than, say, Latvia, Estonia, or the Ukraine, or Kuwait for that matter?

It's a cobbled-together load of bullshit anyway. In 1920 the British made up borders on a whim and arranged for the oil to be split up between themselves, us, France, and the Netherlands, screwing the natives completely (wikipedia) out of all their oil revenue. Maybe if we stopped being such fuckers and let them get on with their lives we'd all be better off. Well, except for Halliburton and friends. But who gives a fuck about those assholes?

12:07 AM  
Blogger factory_peasant said...

My understanding of the Kurdish situation is that no one wants a Kurd breakaway country in the region, except for the Kurds of course. Iraq, Iran, and Turkey all have a Kurdish minority and those governments fear any establishment of a Kurdish homeland for a variety of reasons. The Turks have been fighting their Kurds for the last few years and things got extreme.

I doubt anyone is going to support the Kurds other than to politically integrate them into Iraq. That is a pipedream of the White House and it isn't likely to survive long after we leave the area.

10:33 PM  

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