Monday, June 02, 2008


Now you turn your back on,
all the things that you used to preach.

Now it's let him live in freedom,

if he lives like me

--Which Way are You Goin'
Jim Croce


Historically, combat is aimed at destroying an enemy's will to fight, thereby allowing you to successfully impose your will upon them.

By this paradigm there is a fundamental problem with the Iraqi and Afghanistan military projects: we will never destroy the will to fight of any country which we occupy unless we are willing to do a Ghengis Khan. Yet that objective is at cross purposes to the lie that we are there to democratize the population, a lie which restrains our military options.

Generals Lee and Meade did not engage at Gettysburg simply to kill each other's soldiers. The goal was to physically defeat and remove the opponent's ability to fight, and to destroy their will to fight.

The firebombings and bombings of London, Berlin, Dresden and tokyo in WWII and Hanoi in the Indochina Wars were primarily collateral efforts to remove the will to fight, while the maneuver armies were destroying their ability to fight.

We could destroy the Iraqi's and Afghani's will to fight by shutting down the power grid and denying food, water and electricity, but why would we do that? What is the justification, and what would we gain? We can not be both helping and fighting them -- these are incompatible projects.

Despite the rhetoric that everything changed after 9-11 and
the new fly terminology (4 GW, systempunkt, asymetrical warfare) the objectives of warfare remain the same.

The U.S. military is proficient at seriously breaking things and killing people, but since 1947 the Department of Defense has yet to win a war in a meaningful manner. Grenada, Panama and Gulf War I can be viewed as training exercises with live ammo. No strategic victories there.

Forgetting Korea as it was a conventional war, the republic of Vietnam was clearly a conventional and UW loss that reverberates still through the Pentagon. The mistakes of RVN are also the mistakes of Mogadishu, Afghanistan and Iraq. That mistake is the inability to destroy the enemy's will to fight, or even to understand why they are fighting us.

In Mogadishu the adversary was a rag-tag collection of militia men loyal to a local warlord. The U.S. "Peacekeepers" conducted military operations that were pin pricks to the locals. Even after the fight that left possibly thousands of militia members dead, it was evident their will to fight had not been crushed. The Rangers quit the fight, not vice versa.

Mogadishu showed that killing a lot of "bad guys" was not a formula for success, but its lessons are often ignored.

Fast-forward to Iraq and Afghanistan, campaigns being marketed as a War on Terror, something new. In fact, they are tired old UW / GW campaigns reminiscent of Napoleon's campaign's in Spain, and OSS activities in Nazi-occupied territories of WWII. Malaya, the Philippines, Haiti and Nicaragua are also analogs.

Our own nation was won through the efforts of UW / GW fighters. Rogers Rangers, The Green Mountain Boys, Francis Marion, Light Horse Harry Lee, Morgan, Mosby, NB Forrest, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph are our heroes and we call them patriots. But when the shoe is on the other foot, we call the other side's fighters "terrorists." Truth be known, they are inheritors of a proud legacy of resistance.

These OIF and OAF are the centerpieces of the Phony War on Terror (©), but they are neither new nor revolutionary. They boil down to the following: Foreign armies of occupation attempting to impose their will and political agenda upon an unreceptive indigenous population.

Call them what you will in Iraq and Afghanistan, our strategic air command and our superior firepower can not remove their will to fight.
In fact, the opposite is the case as our application of combat power only steels their will to resist.

The Battle of Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan is but one example. There, SOF assets engaged Chechens in shower sandals at high altitudes in freezing temperatures, but regardless of casualties claimed, U.S. combat power never occupied a battle area or denied hostiles from moving in the battle area.

In the Murphy MOH scenario (Operation Red Wing), hostiles engaged and destroyed U.S. SOF assets while remaining militarily viable. They were able to engage a U.S. Marine conventional battalion at task Force level, in effect, a reinforced battalion (battalion plus). Result: the U.S. targets evaded and escaped destruction by moving to a safe haven.

From the hostile's point of view, the U.S. is simply another foreign occupier in a long list, all of whom were ultimately defeated. The Marines can maraud and maneuver at will and the locals will sidestep, fight and evaporate until the Marines move on. Is this victory?

Same in Iraq, where U.S. forces may destroy and occupy Fallujah, but when we leave, the local fighters return. When the time is convenient, even the new Army of Iraq will turn on its U.S. sponsors. We are fighting by WWI rules, though no longer in the trenches. It is a war of attrition that does not favor the U.S.

We talk of COIN but fight battles of attrition which are meaningless expenditures of American lives. The hostile fighters know that U.S. forces are operating at the end of their tethers. They lack the assets and ability to fight protracted engagements. In addition, U.S. forces lack clear military objectives.

We have freedom of maneuver yet it leads to no quantifiable objective. Our freedom of movement gives the illusion we are winning when in fact it we are running through a meat grinder chewing up convoys and troops, a fact which enhances the enemy's will to fight and diminishes ours.

Ranger can not think of any instance of an invading army destroying a resistance movement's will to fight. The vaunted Nazi military could not eliminate the partisans in France, Russia and Yugoslavia, and the Brits never achieved dominance in Northern Ireland. The resistance perdured. Time is on their side.

We object to U.S. military operations that are not aimed at threats to the U.S.

Threats facing the U.S. include gas, food and housing prices, disappearing jobs, runaway budgets, falling student academic achievement and a depressed economy. These are real threats to the security of America.


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Anonymous Labrys said...

Afghanistan, especially, has always proven to have more "will to fight" than anyone invading that hard land. We Americans generally crowed with delight when the Russians found it hard going there (especially after Charlie Wilson saw to the Afghani weapons problem); it makes me wonder how hard the Russians are laughing now.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 10:10:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the Russians are happy or amused that the U.S. is having trouble pacifying Afghanistan. They are just as vulnerable to terrorism as the Americans, and even more so in terms of Afghanistan due to the long memories of groups like the Taliban.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 10:36:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Actually I think the Russians are quite happy to have us fighting the Taliban. The Taliban are not, and never have been, a terrorist threat to anybody. They are an indigenous Pashtun organization and incapable of operating outside of a majority-Pashtun environment (i.e., central Afghanistan and the Pashtun areas of Pakistan). If we're fighting the Taliban, we aren't fighting the Russians -- and Russian paranoia means they're always afraid of being invaded (thus their objection to NATO expanding eastward, which they view as having only one objective -- the invasion of Russia by NATO).

Regarding "winning" an insurgency, there are only two ways to do so -- genocide, or politically. If you are not willing to commit genocide, you cannot obtain victory against an insurgency via military force. And if you are using military force against an insurgency, you cannot win a political victory against the insurgents. The tighty righties will then bring up Malaysia. But in Malaysia, the victory was obtained politically by rousing the Malay majority against the Chinese minority that was in rebellion against the central government and thereby being able to use police forces against isolated individuals no longer capable of hiding in the sea of the greater population, not via defeating the insurgency militarily. The coup de grace was when Britain granted independence to Malaysia -- that basically eliminated any support the insurgency had amongst Malays, and the insurgents fled to Thailand and from there their leaders ended up heading off to China. In short, Malaysia is the rule that proves the rule that you can end an insurgency only via either genocide or via political action. It was political action -- granting independence to Malaysia -- which ended the insurgency once and for all.

Compare/contrast with the U.S. victory over insurgents in the Phillipines, or the British victory over the Boer in South Africa. In both cases genocide was a major component -- the Boer and Filipino civilians, in areas where guerilla action were occurring, were rounded up and placed into concentration camps and their crops destroyed, leaving them subject to the whims of the military logistical system for their sustenance. Which of course was not sufficient for hundreds of thousands of civilians. We probably killed a million Filipinos (out of a population of 5 million) to subjugate the Philippines -- and even then, we ended up giving them great autonomy as part of a political solution to the insurgency after the military solution was approaching its "final solution". In 1912, the insurgency pretty much ended even in the South after a great degree of autonomy was granted to the Filipinos and a national legislature elected to handle the day-to-day rule of the colony.

But then, we had no pretenses about why we were in the Philippines. We weren't there to bring democracy to the heathen Filipino. We were there to set up coaling stations so we could extend American power into the Far East as a counter to European power in the area. Killing 20% of the population didn't affect that objective, so we did it. But even if we were intent upon reliving that history upon Iraq, killing 5 million Iraqis would be no small feat. I question whether we have sufficient bombs and bullets to do so short of use of tactical nukes, regardless of whether there is any national interest to be served by doing so. And indeed, the question of what national interest is served by genocide against Iraqis certainly is a puzzle -- as is the question of what national interest is served by having the U.S. military in Iraq at all, at this point in time.

- Badtux the History Penguin

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 3:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly if the Russians are happy to have "us" fight the Taliban, then they would like "us" to be successful in that fight against the Taliban. I don't see how the Russians could simultaneously wish the U.S. to fight a war against the Taliban, and yet be happy that the U.S. is not able to defeat the Taliban. Unless you think the Russians are so worried about the U.S. military that they want an endless Afghan war to tie up our military resources. I don't buy that, especially since Afghanistan is in Russia's backyard, geographically speaking, and these conflicts destabilize entire regions, not just the the combat zone.

Also, your atttempt to draw a line between the Taliban and terrorism does not make sense. The Taliban are a radical Islamist militia who make no attempt to hide the fact that they harbor terrorists. Even given your assertion that the Taliban themselves comprise no terrorist elements or capabilities - though I doubt this is the case - we may rightly call the Taliban terrorists for allowing overtly terrorist groups like al Qaeda to use Taliban-controlled Afghan territory as a redoubt and a training ground.

As for the rest of your post, I don't see how genocide is relevant to the Iraq War. Nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki was genocide. But, as much as I am opposed to the Iraq War, I do not think it is anywhere near to being genocide.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 6:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Err, I never claimed we were committing genocide in Iraq. I am saying that genocide is the only way to win a military victory in Iraq. Since we are not willing (or perhaps even capable) of committing genocide in Iraq, we are incapable of winning there militarily -- period. The same, BTW, also applies to Afghanistan. There is no military solution that will work there short of genocide. Since we are not willing to commit genocide, we thus cannot win there militarily.

Regarding the Russians: The Taliban ruled Afghanistan for six years before we overthrew them. During that time there was never a single case of terrorism against Russians that originated from Afghanistan. I don't think the Taliban much worries them, especially now that they have buffer states (Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, etc.) between them and Afghanistan. NATO expansion eastwards, on the other hand, scares the living #$%@# out of them, because Russian paranoia can think of only one reason to do that -- as a prelude to an attack upon Russia. And given that the U.S. Army is the bulk of NATO's offensive capability (most of NATO's forces are oriented around defensive, not offensive, operations), they're overjoyed to have the U.S. Army tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than sitting there in a threatening posture on their own border in one of these new NATO states.

Now that I think about it, the Taliban have never been accused of terrorist activity even *within* Afghanistan. al Qaeda has. And al Qaeda is Saudis. The proper way to deal with that is to pay the Taliban to take out al Qaeda, with cash upon delivery of Osama bin Laden's head to the nearest NATO commander -- and if you think they wouldn't take the bribe, you don't know Afghanistan. It wouldn't be the first -- or last -- time that Afghans happily took out even one of their own leaders if given sufficient cash to do so.

Other than that, the Taliban are no threat to either us or the Russians. They attack our soldiers because our soldiers are enemy occupiers of their homeland, but prior to that, they were on quite friendly terms with the United States. If paid enough money, they could be "friends" again. That's just how Afghanistan works, in the end -- Afghans are, in the end, a practical people, and have no problem at all swearing allegiance to anybody who pays them.

- Badtux the Practical Penguin

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 6:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. Clearly I have gotten in over my head. I need to go back and do some pushups until I can piss farther than you.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 7:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

an alternative to genocide comes from caesar's gallic campaign. after a rebellion of the belgian tribes he was faced with what to do with the captured insurgents. the slave market was gutted by his recent defeat of vercingetorix and it would have cost him more than the slaves would bring to ship them to the parthians.

his legions had been through two years of pretty desperate combat and he felt mass executions would turn into a mob scene.

caesar ordered the hands cut off of nearly 20,000 gauls. then he turned them loose on the countryside to beg or steal what food they could. he hoped some of them would travel east into the spanish provinces so they would know what was coming should they choose to misbehave.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 9:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous mike said...

The Rangers are a military unit that America can be proud of. Although I never served in the Rangers, I include myself as one of their admirers.

Having said that I never did understand the fascination with Robert Rogers.

He might have done great work back in the 1750s, but during our Revolutionary War he was a Tory and formed the Queen's Royal Rangers. Many claim he was responsible for capturing Nathan Hale by pretending to be a Patriot.

Many of his Lieutenants during the French-Indian Wars detested him 20 years later. They were the true heroes, not Rogers. Israel Putnam, a former Ranger became the hero of Bunker Hill. John Stark, another former Ranger, won the Battle of Bennington which contributed to Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga. Moses Hazen, also a former Ranger raised a Canadian Regiment to fight for the American Revolution, he served at Brandywine, Germantown, and Yorktown.

I understand that Rogers was stripped of his command of the Queen's Rangers for drunkenness. Yet he is remembered fondly while Rangers like Putnam, Stark, and Hazen are forgotten. Go figure.

Monday, June 2, 2008 at 10:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

badtux, thanks for the historical overview, it's as always thoughtful and addresses the key point- what are our objectives and what is required to fulfill them?And are they legal and relevent. jim

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 9:06:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

arkhamite, i believe badtux is trying to convey the idea that the Taliban cannot project their program beyond the region , which includes but is not limited to Pakistan border regions.
Please bear in mind that US policy in the region has utilized Terror groups to implement policy.Examples include the anti- Iranian groups that raid into Iran at our behest.Simply brushing on the Terror label is not the way to solve the problems of these phoney wars. jim

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 9:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

mike, thanks for the fascinating history.We need to get this info over to socnet and soforp so they can attack his qualifications as a Ranger.
I believe we should revoke his tab.How sad another turn coat Ranger.
Thanks, jim

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 9:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous mike said...

Jim -

I meant no disrespect to the Rangers, an outfit that I highly respect.

As for Rogers, he was a hero in his youth in the French & Indian Wars. His "rules-of-ranging" are a classic and are admired by many Marines as well as by many foreign militaries. I would surmise that Rogers was probably adopted as the Rangers legend because of the 1940 Spencer Tracy classic "Northwest Passage". Hollywood as usual screwed up and only told the first half of Ken Robert's book of the same name which told of Rogers entire life, warts and all.

I am just saying that there are better heroes for emulation. In addition to Putnam, Stark, and Hazen, consider Knowlton and Whitcomb as well as Captain Allen McLane of Delaware.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 3:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I should have explained better--I'm being sarcastic to these people at socnet and soforp. Both of these groups of supposed Ranger-types have unjustly attacked my credentials in the past in a most inappropriate manner.

I enjoyed your comments and the history lesson as most appropriate. We have a friend who is the progenitor of the Revolutionary Ranger Hazen whom we met through this site.

You couldn't insult me. We aim for unvarnished repartee here.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 3:29:00 PM GMT-5  

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