RANGER AGAINST WAR: Terrorism and the Military <

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Terrorism and the Military

--Good vs. Evil, Mr. Fish

[Note: another favorite cartoonist, Mr. Fish, was axed last week.
"I was cut as a cost-saving measure."]

We are the champions - my friends

And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -

We are the champions

We are the champions

--We Are the Champions
, Queen

A simple question: Can anyone posit a historical example of military action defeating a terror network?
Further, can anyone provide examples of an occupying military power defeating a terrorist network solely via military means? We can restrict our survey to the 20th-21st centuries.

It is Ranger's position that while you can eliminate an externally imposed threat in another country (parachutists), you will never defeat an indigenous insurgent movement. Che in Bolivia and the Chinese guerrillas in Malay might be examples.

An external occupying power will never defeat an indigenous insurgent terrorist network.

[Cross-posted at MilPub]

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Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Jim and Lisa,
When a $1 trillion/year military can't subdue goatherders living in caves, you have to wonder why "We the People" tolerate the erosion of our liberty and the robbery of our paychecks to finance this outrage.
Thanks for saying the things that need to be said.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:05:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Underground Carpenter

"We the People" are trumped by the Military Industrial Complex who will gleefully transform us into "Goatherders living in caves" before they are done raping us and this country.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Rez Dog said...

That lesson became painfully clear when I realized that I was fighting an adversary in Vietnam who hid supplies under rocks in the jungle. Apparently, my country is a much slower learner.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "purely military force". Stalin did it pretty well in the Ukraine between 1946-1956, and did it pretty well in Chechnya too, but only via mass deportations, genocide, and a vast secret police infiltration of the guerilla movements until if three guerillas met, two of them were probably Soviet agents. The Chinese also did it fairly effectively in Tibet in 1959-1961, now that I think about it -- by the end of 1961, Tibetan resistance against the Chinese invasion was effectively at an end. But again the Chinese used a combination of "soft power" and military force, not military force alone.

So I guess my answer to your question is "No, but you're asking the wrong question." Military support has been vital in providing the firepower needed to perform the police actions necessary to deal with insurgencies, but as you point out is far from being sufficient short of caedite eos. Military support has to be a backup for police action and "soft" activities intended to gain support from the general population, not the other way around, to effectively deal with insurgencies.

Of course, caedite eos was, I might point out, pretty effective at eliminating the Cathar resistance in B├ęziers in 1209, and the Muslim resistance in Jerusalem in 1099, but genocides of that sort seem to have fallen out of favor in the intervening years. But you restricted our survey to the 20th-21st century so I suppose those examples are not relevant anyhow.

One thing that *has* become quite apparent is that modern insurgencies cannot survive as militarily effective opposition without a source of external support. Whether it is the Saudi oil money flowing to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, Iran and the Hezballah army in Lebanon, or the Soviet arms flowing to the VC and NVA, or the American funds flowing to the drug cartels of Columbia, external support seems to be required for any insurgency to be effective. Without access to external support the fate of all insurgencies is the fate of the UPA or the Tibetan resistance. That tends to change the scope of the problem somewhat, since then it becomes clear that the most important thing to target is the external support, without which the insurgency will wither and die.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bad Tux,
I like your cmts.
Would you consider passing this reply on to my crossposting at milpub.com/shown on our linked sites.
I did not want to do this w/o your permission.
Stalin wasn't dealing with Terrorists or insurgents but rather nationalists seeking autonomy. That's my take.
The same could be saiud about Tibet, unless i'm way off base.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bad tux,
Your cmts about external support are clearly succinct and to the heart of the matter.
Indig groups are easy to defeat and usually stay low on the spectrum of conflict unless they have outside support-in all senses of the word.
The 70-89 euro terror groups got great boosts from the Stasi/kgb/palestinian networks.I'm not trying to suggest that they were controlled by these elements, but rather that this added to their operational capabilities.
Afgh. pretty much fulfills the things that you say.In addition safe haven is always a big big plus.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Ranger, I am unclear what you are asking or to what site you are referring.

Regarding the UPA (Ukraine) and Chechnya, yes, I suppose you could say nationalists seeking autonomy. That is not, however, true of Tibet. Tibet was governed as an independent nation with a separate ethnic identity for hundreds of years before the Chinese invasion of 1950, and continued to be largely autonomous until the 1959 rebellion, which met all criteria to be called a nationalist resistance movement.

The observation about external support is not original to me but is adapted from a comment in a military history text whose provenance I cannot, alas, recall. Said text (aimed at officer candidates) did not explore the implications since those tend to be beyond the scope of military operations, but the implications are clear if you step outside of the realm of military operations and view the problem of terrorism and insurgency as a whole.

Now that I think further, I have three other examples of highly motivated nationalist insurgencies that failed against an army of occupation. The tactics used in these successful occupations were similar to those of Stalin: Scorched-earth removals of entire populations to either concentration camps or dispersing them to other locations in such isolated numbers that the critical mass for an insurgency could no longer be maintained in those pre-Internet days, genocides, and divide-and-conquer tactics that exploited ethnic divisions amongst the populations. I am talking about the Second Boer War in southern Africa, the Filipino-American War that won the northern Philippines for the U.S. by 1903, and the Moro War that won the southern Philippines for the U.S. by 1913. In all these cases, well motivated nationalist movements lost to the invaders due to lack of external support. While the Philippines victories had a significant political component (Black Jack Pershing, whose tactics basically wrapped up the Moro War, would have been disdainful of U.S. tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was careful to build alliances of local leaders and understand their cultures rather than try to impose something from outside), the military ran the show in both cases.

Uhm, and now I blather on. But you DID ask for examples of insurgencies against external invaders that failed, and 1901 IS in the 20th century ;).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

also, while you can list times of failure, like the irish many times over and over again against the british, eventually, they will usually prevail in one form or another.

but, a pure military solution is not one that i have seen which didn't involve genocide or some other kind of absorbtion of the local population.
the irish fought in formal insurrection about twice a generation (the rebels would fight once, and fail, as order takers, then fight again, and fail again, as leaders) for nearly six hundred years. even then, the victory was only partial.

caesar's campaign in gaul could be cited, except gaul really wasn't one place. it was a tribal land and in a masterful blend of playing one against the other, settling his veteran troops locally, along with typically roman efficient atrocities applied when warranted (in one city caesar reduced he sold the women and children off to the parthians and cut the hands off of every full grown man, then turned them out into the countryside).

thing is, tribal social structures are the cockroach of civilization. they are nearly impossible to wipe out. also, genocide has a bad effect on the troops committing it. soldiers sign on to fight, not slaughter.

most of the time an invading power which remains in an area prone to revolt has made many political and social adjustments to make their presence more tolerable to the locals.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I think Jim appreciated the breadth of your comments, and was hoping you'd cut-and-paste them over at MilPub (I've linked to that site at the bottom of the piece.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Range, don't forget that little insurgency in July of 1776.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Range, don't forget that little insurgency in July of 1776.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:02:00 PM GMT-05:00

Thanks and I think they were called something like the minuteman the first true terrorist.
It's amazing when you think about.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Uhm, sorry, 1776 wasn't an insurgency, it was a war of secession by one portion of a country wishing to secede from another portion of the country. The "Minutemen" made almost zero (no) difference to the outcome of the war, in all but the initial attack on a small party of British soldiers at Lexington and Concord they ran so fast when the real soldiers opened fire on them that George Washington threw his tricorn hat down in frustration and declared the militia useless. The War of American Secession was won by organized military forces (the Continental Army) with extensive French and Spanish logistical support, combined with the efforts of the Sons of Liberty terrorist organization, which eliminated supporters of the Crown in areas occupied by British troops and thereby made the logistical situation extremely expensive for the British Army since they had to send out extensive heavily-armed foraging parties to gather supplies. But if not for the fact that the English Crown simply ran out of money, God Save The Queen would be our national anthem still.

Which of course is one way an insurgency can win -- by making occupation so expensive that the occupier is forced to withdraw. But at the time of the War of American Secession, the weaponry available did not support insurgency as such, rifles were useless from a military standpoint due to slow rate of fire and inability to mount bayonets, meaning that mass fire tactics were what won battles. And irregular forces (that is, those which have not had the opportunity to drill extensively) simply don't do well in mass fire situations... and forget the sniping from trees nonsense, the British had skirmishers to take care of that silliness, remember, they'd defeated the French and their Indian allies in North America only a few years earlier so they certainly knew how to deal with irregulars sniping from trees.

It is only modern weaponry that appears to enable a *successful* insurgency. The widespread availability of AK-47's, RPG's, and effective improvised explosive devices means that small insurgent teams can inflict significant losses via ambush/shoot-and-scoot tactics that simply were not possible with the weaponry of even the 19th century. In the end, the myth of the Minuteman was just that -- a myth, created, if I recall correctly, in the 1830's by the same pastor who created the story of little George Washington and the Cherry Tree from whole cloth. I.e., by a man with no military background or training, 50 years after the fact, who had no trouble simply inventing things from whole cloth if it fit the story he wanted to tell.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah tux, that is the insurgent's golden rule:

become more fucking trouble than you're worth.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 12:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Yep. The NVA couldn't win a battle against the U.S. Army, but they didn't need to. All they needed to do was keep bleeding us at the end of a long logistical tail until we ran out of interest in shoveling more men and more money into a bottomless pit. They coulda been taking a page out of George Washington's playbook there ;). The Rethugs are still whining that we were winning when we left Vietnam. Winning what? Short of genocide, there wasn't a way to any military victory there.

Okay, now that we get back to the g word again, thought of another insurgency that failed miserably: Biafra. The Nigerians ended that one the old fashioned way: outright genocide. They cut off the food supply to the area where the insurgency was based, and waited until a few million Igbo died of starvation, at which point the insurgency was basically finished because there was nobody left with the strength to fight.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 2:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, jo6pac, instead of wearing black pajamas, keffiyehs or burqas they wore knickers and 3-corner hats. But now we've become the damn redcoats.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 8:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Well it's not 20th or 21st century but look how well putting down the Christian movement worked for the Romans. Oh wait.....

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 3:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

If the goal of terrorism is to create fear then the various christian churches are terror organisations since they use fear of hell to compel their members to be goody two shoes.

Friday, January 22, 2010 at 9:58:00 AM GMT-5  

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