The problem is on this end
Posted by aogThursday, 31 August 2006 at 20:49 TrackBack Ping URL

I have been meaning to comment on this editorial which has as its thesis

And yet these two [USA, Israel] militarily muscular powers find themselves strategically impotent in the face of age-old guerrilla tactics married to high-tech capabilities.

This is only the second paragraph and the editorial has already gone off the rails. If there is any strategic impotence to the USA, which has toppled regimes around the planet, I haven’t seen it. Beyond that, the difficulties facing the USA and Israel in dealing with guerilla tactics is purely internal constraints. Ironically, it is because these two nations, rather than being the cruel and bloodthirsty hegemons of Old Media portrayal, value the lives of foreigners more than the guerillas value the lives of their fellow country men / co-religionists.

ZOG even value foreign lives over efficacy. There are the standard claims that this would breed only more violence and enemies, but one need merely look at how the USSR was treated at the height of its power to see how ahistorical (even for recent history) this is. The USSR started having serious troubles with guerillas precisely when its military machine was shown to be ineffective. That’s not a problem ZOG would face any time soon. The enemy is skillful not in battle or logistics, but in leveraging this perplexing but dependable weakness.

The articles gets close to a good thought with this:

We need to focus not just on polishing our military strategy but on which fights are winnable at an acceptable cost.

but fails to address what metric to use to measure an “acceptable cost”. We now, for the first time in our history, define this partly in terms of enemy dead. That would have been quite the inexplicable point of view to previous generations. Yet this sea-change is left completely unaddressed.

The article then wanders off to more standard delusions, such as

To win with our conventional military, we would have to fight like beasts, slaughtering noncombatants.

Like we did in Iraq? It seems our military won without having to do that. And it wouldn’t even be necessary against guerillas. There is a fairly wide band between our current rules of engagement and slaughtering non-combatants. We could simply be indifferent. This would be bloodier to start with, but would in the longer term make the guerillas much less popular. The standard counter-examples cited involve government troops slaughtering wantonly, rather than fighting or responding to guerillas. A more focused, calm yet deadly approach, would be quite a different thing. It is also quite arguable that it would save more non-combatants by ending the violence sooner.

Finally, by not grasping that the limiting factor for the current conflict is internal restraint, not guerilla cleverness, such critics fail to consider what will happen if the American Street finally tires of the whole thing and demands a “kill ‘em all, God will know his own” policy. It is again ironic that many critics such as this author buy in to the theory of a vicious, brutal history in America yet fail to consider the implications of such a history in looking at modern policy. They not only ignore real history, but their own propaganda as well.


1 Here’s a classic example from Brothers Judd

Instead of hundreds of dead civilians, the Israelis were therefore losing one or two a day, and even after three weeks, the grand total was less than in some one-man suicide bombings.

That made it politically unacceptable to launch the planned offensive that would kill young soldiers and family men, while not eradicating Hizbullah anyway, because it is a political movement in arms, and not just an army or a bunch of gunmen.

The limiting factor here was Israel’s unwillingness to inflict casualties on the Lebanese, not its inability to conduct a successful military operation against Hizb’allah. Such an action might not destroy Hizb’allah, but it could certainly have suppressed them for another decade or so.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Duck Saturday, 02 September 2006 at 09:34

Spot on analysis. Here is some more specious reasoning from the editorial:

But as anyone watching the news knows, these enemies are not stupid, so they do not cooperate by fighting in the way we are suited to beat. Instead, in Afghanistan, the resurgent Taliban pins down NATO forces in hit-and-run attacks. In Iraq, opponents stymie U.S. control with roadside bombs, sniping and raids. From Lebanon, Hezbollah fires missiles into Israel’s heartland. And on the Internet, Al Qaeda boasts that it will use radiological weapons.

Along with suicide terrorism and a willingness to incur massive civilian casualties on their own side, these guerrilla tactics threaten to transform nationalist insurgents and Islamist terrorists from manageable irritants, who cause suffering but never severely damage a great power, into formidable threats to the basic security of the U.S. and its allies

Pins down NATO? Who is pinned down? Which side can travel the country at will, and which side has to hide in caves?

Stymie US control? Again, how do the roadside attacks keep us from carrying out those missions that we undertake? Were we stymied from pacifying Baghdad in recent months?

Their tactics just make it harder to root them all out in one fell swoop, but at the cost of ceding control of the territory to us. The author’s points are counterfactual, we control the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The existence of small scale terrorist activity does not alter that fact. I say small scale because even when terrorist actions kill 3000 people as on 9/11, this is small change compared to the devastation wrought by state military actors in real wars. We killed ten times that many at a minimum in one night over Dresden, which was just one day’s worth of warmaking. 9/11 and 3/11 actions are both small compared to conventional war engagements and less frequent. During the Civil War battles with 7000 killed followed each other in monthly succession.

Terrorist tactics have only one chance at succeeding, and that is by weakening the resolve of the superior power. Analyses like the author’s are exactly the results that these tactics are intended to produce.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 02 September 2006 at 12:10

I also like the “massive civilian casualties on their own side”. As Ayn Rand would say, that’s a clever package deal which slips in the presumption that the guerillas are allies of the civilian population, which is hardly a given.

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