Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guest Post: FIDling while Rome burns?

Lisa and Jim at RANGERAGAINSTWAR asked me to post this, which I do with great appreciation for their work there and a comment:

"A question came and went in a discussion thread, but I would like someone to address it: 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 my 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, IMHO."

My comment would be that this would have to be restricted to:

1. Post-1945. The pre-war world was a very different place, both in terms of what people knew about the less-paved parts of the world (almost nothing, in most cases) and how they felt about it. Prior to the end of WW2 there were a LOT of people who felt it was perfectly OK to kill bogloads of brown and black people if it meant good things for Western and/or white people. As far as I can tell the only places left that still think this was are the editorial board of The Weekly Standard and the inside of Charles Krauthammer's head. And,

2. places where the foreigner is not a former colonial power with a large internal colonial population and a taste for ruthlessness - and here I'm thinking Algeria. The French DID pretty much defeat the FLN militarily...but under circumstances I have to consider a "one-off". And they were defeated politically, which counts for something.

Anyway...have at it.


  1. Please define "terrorist network" and "domestic insurgent terrorist network." I think answering this will depend on how those are defined and, by extension, what historical groups are included.

  2. Andy,
    Hell man I'm just a dumb Ranger and can't define these terms.
    Since we are a few years into a war vs.these terror networks let's just use DOD/White House and /or State definitions.Just for fun we can throw in the CIA/FBI/just for shits and giggles.
    They have defined these terms, have they not?

  3. Jim,

    Probably so. I'll look them up at some point today and post them here.

  4. Rome vs Boadicea, first century.

    Boadicea used "non-conventional" tactic's till she was able to muster a superior force which was eventually defeated by combined arms of the elements from the Ninth, and Second legions which were still numerically inferior to the undisciplined mob that was her army.

    Anothe example is the Roman sack of Jerusalem where the zealot's after years of skirmish warfare finally met the full brunt of an enraged Roman army. It is also the only time in the history of the Legions that the Roman Command staff lost control of their army.
    The final nail in the coffin for the zealots was Masada where the Romans breached the wall and butchered wholesale everyone there which were mostly women and children. Hence the reason why the Roman's preferred the story of them committing suicide rather than rolling through the place slaughtering women and children. Though men were present, their numbers were not sufficient to warrant the kind of attention they got from the Roman army.

    Um...hmm...trying to think where else...uh...hmm, well, I could advance the time line to the William's sacking of the Britain...but the rebellion there were pitiful and unorganized.

  5. Oh right, modern.
    Well, the one that comes to mind is the Syrians vs the Sunni's at Hama in the 80's sometime...they solved that little bit of nastiness with something even nastier.
    The Syrians never had a problem with the Sunni's after that...of course, no one survived Hama either...

  6. Andy,
    Someone on this pub said that the White House goals were to disrupt T networks.
    If this is true then the WH MUST HAVE A DEFINITION.

  7. Not sure if you will find a definition, I think policy makers and military leaders like a the vague definition because of the flexibility.

  8. Flexibility is another way of saying that you can't find your own ass with two hands engaged in the task.
    If you can't define a terror network then how can metrics for success be quantified?
    This is the National Command Authority that we are discussing and not Mr. Rodgers.Or am I missing something.

  9. AEL,
    I will research your proposed scenario.
    To wit -was this T/Insurgency/separatist movement/rebellion?
    I hope to do this forthwith.

  10. Hmm, one of the rare cases where Wikipedia is actually useful:

    BTW, is it at all possible to get a different comment system here? This is the only blog where I can't copy/paste, put in links, etc. using firefox and often I can't even do that. I don't know what the problem is, but the comments and firefox don't seem to play well together.

  11. This is completely off-topic but I thought it would be useful enough to bring to your attention.

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

    I did mention this on the Gentile thread. There's a confusion in terms reflecting a larger confusion in COIN theory here, since an "external occupying power" would not be engaging an "indigenous insurgent terrorist network", since the former has not established a legitimate state entity for the domestic network to be acting against. Galula doesn't really apply to what is going on in Afghanistan.

    JCS Pub 1 defines "insurgency" as "an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict". I would think that "constituted" assumes that the agent is the political community the state/government is meant to represent, not that of the occupying power, which would simply be a "puppet government" with no or little legitimacy.

    JCS Pub 1 defines "terrorism" as "the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

    Notice that the addition of "unlawful" makes terrorism the method of non-state entities, or the method of states which are considered as "criminal", whereas the same methods used by "legitimate" states are by definition not "terrorism". This is an ahistorical perspective and rather politically self-serving since the origin of modern terror as a method of political coercion is "state terror" as practiced by the revolutionary French state after 1789. The Bolshevik state in turn resorted to "Red Terror" (there were even public rallies held in support of this policy) in 1918 to shore up support for their new state.

    So, Ranger, I agree with your comment above, but would also add that both sides could use "terror" as a method, whereas the natives would not be "insurgents", by definition.


    Cut and paste seems to work if you are recognized in the "comment as" box under the "post a comment".

  13. Ael: I'm gonna be the referee here (since I appended the comments on conditions) and say no-go on Sri Lanka because the primary force applied to suppress the rebellion was internal.

    The Indians supplied some assistance but the majority of the troops and the majority of the killing was by (and of) Sri Lankan.

    And I see you caught yourself, Sheer, re: Boadacea's Rebellion. Back in the Good Old Days putting down rebellions and guerillas was a snap - you just killed every fucking living thing. Presto! No more rebellion.

    Nowdays, not so easy...

  14. Soviets in Hungary 56 - no terrorists you say, and you are probably right by our standards, but there were a few revenge killings of state security folks and murders or some known pro-soviet Czechs

    Brits in Kenya in the fifties - breaks rule #2 possibly or possibly not as it depends on how you define "large colonial population", the Brits in Kenya were a miniscule part of the population as compared to the large percentage of French Pieds-Noirs plus all the Spnish, Italian, and Maltese in Algeria

    Northern Ireland

  15. Also the Hukbalahaps in the Phillipines in the fifties



  16. "Internal" is a funny word. Some Tamils might not consider Sinhalese as fellow countrymen (and vice versa). Still, it murky, so I won't argue too strongly for it.

    How about Israel/Palestine - Second intifada.
    Or is that also an internal squabble?

  17. Post-WWII is also when there was a significant improvement in easily concealable portable firepower available to insurgencies. The ubiquitous AK-47 and RPG-7 flooded the planet in the decades after the war (okay, so the RPG-7 didn't start flooding the planet until the mid 60's, but still.)

    Okay, post WWII then. *lots* of pre-WWII examples, including two starring the United States (the Filipino War of 1899-1904, which defeated a native insurgency and imposed U.S. military rule upon the northern Philippines, and the Moro War which imposed U.S. military rule upon the southern Philippines). Most of these early-20th-century actions followed the Boer War template -- round up all the civilians and intern them into concentration camps, and any military-age men encountered outside of the concentration camps are assumed to be insurgents and are killed. The goal was for there to be no food and no civilians outside of the concentration camps, removing the logistical support and civilian cover that the insurgency needs to succeed.

    After WWII, successful defeats of insurgencies become more difficult but are still there. Stalin whacked the UPA in the Ukraine big-time, by the end three guerillas couldn't get together without two of them being in the pay of the MVD, the MVD moved Ukrainians around to break up their networks and settled their own agents in villages that they felt harbored insurgents, then when insurgents were identified, an MVD brigade would swoop in and take them out. Mao did a number on the Tibetans too, the Chinese invasion of 1950 ended with the surrender of the Tibetan army, then the rebellion of 1959 ended in utter disaster for the Tibetans, resulting in an insurgency that by 1962 was basically finished and has never resumed. Tibet was an independent nation for over 150 years prior to the 1950 invasion and is culturally and ethnically distinct from China proper so this was definitely an indigenous insurgency that failed against a foreign invader.

    And then there's Biafra. The Nigerians dealt with the Igbo rebellion there the old fashioned way: Genocide. Roughly 3 million Igbo died of starvation after the Nigerian government stopped all food shipments into the area where the Igbo lived, and in the end the Nigerians just walked right in because there was nobody left with the strength to fight, they were all too starved. Oh, the "G" word isn't used by the West for Biafra because, well, we get oil from Nigeria, and besides, starving people to death is way different from marching them into gas chambers because, uhm, they're deader or something I guess if they get gassed? Whatever.

    Hmm. Ukraine, Tibet, Biafra. Similarities: 1) Geographically adjacent to the occupying power, 2) Desire to permanently annex them on the part of the occupier (or keep them from splitting off, in the case of Ukraine and Biafra), 3) *no external support for the insurgency*. Without external support, the insurgents basically ran out of ammunition.

    So it appears that the only failed insurgencies I can think of in the post-WWII period are basically insurgencies against annexation actions. Other than that, insurgencies in the post-WWII typically succeed in making themselves so expensive that a political compromise is finally arrived at which gives the insurgency a large portion of what they wanted when they rebelled. Well, except Sri Lanka, of course... which I guess is the trouble with trying to formulate a general rule about these things.

  18. BadTux: You hit on a critical element in successful counterinsurgency. If you kill every fucking thing, you're done - rebellion over!

    The hard part of that, though, is being able to come into some place you don't own...AND can't control the information flow from...and going all Stalin on them. It's made it hard even for the old colonial powers.

    Take Britain. It's colonial devolution had a couple of successes if you consider (and I do) the installation of a friendly government in the former colony as a success. Kenya, definately. Malaya, though you kinda have to consider that a gimme because the MLRA was so fucking awful. On the other hand, Palestine was a disaster, so was Iraq. India/Pakistan wasn't really that good an outcome for the Brits, neither was South Africa/Rhodesia or most of the other African colonies - Uganda, of course, being especially bad but Nigeria (descending into the Biafran War) wasn't much better.

    So even when there's no insurgency/domestic violence the post-occupation records of the Western powers don't look that great.

    Like I say, I can only think of a handful.

    Britain: won in Kenya (straightforward win over the rebels) Malaya and Oman (special cases). Lost Palestine, Iraq. Defeated by nonviolent popular movement in India. Northern Ireland in progress, may be a win.

    France: Won the guerilla war in Algeria but lost the fight for public support, lost in Indochina.

    Portugal: lost in Angola/Mozambique.

    Belgium: lost in the Congo

    U.S.: Lost in Vietnam, lost in Lebanon ('86), draw in Iraq (defeated Sunni muj & Sadrists in '06-07 but didn't get political outcome it wanted), Afghanistan in progress.

    Also had success assisting gov't in El Salvador, Philippines. Assistance to rebels in Nicaragua ineffective. Assistance to government in Columbia problematic.

    Israel: lost to Hezbollah in S. Lebanon. Draw or better with Palestinians in WBank/Gaza but not resolved.

    Spain: Relatively successful against Basque separatist ETA. Fought successfully in Morocco and Western Sahara (1958) but also lost the political struggle to the locals by 1975.

    Anybody else I'm forgetting?

    Bottom line is that the successful counterinsurgencies generally fall into a pretty small group. You have to have reliable local allies. It helps to have a substantial group of your people domiciled in the place. The guerillas have to be pretty stupid, or unlucky. It helps to be ruthless (France, Algeria).

    A purely "disinterested" Western counterinsurgency - that is, one fought by a Western nation that did not intend to run the place as a colonial power - is a real anomaly, and from what I can see is pretty much confined to US/Vietnam, US/Iraq and US/Afghanistan. You can count US/Somalia, I suppose. So I think the answer is 0/1/2 - a draw for Iraq, losses in Vietnam and Somalia, and Afghanistan going into injury time...

  19. Good comments so far. I'm still thinking about this one and am busy to boot.


    You got me thinking about Israel and specifically the West Bank. I've been reading some history of Israel's secret wars and it seems to me Israel was successful there but not in Gaza. Of course things could change, but then they always can.


    Good catch on Ukraine. I was thinking about the USSR/Russia myself and your post reminded me of the program where we (the US) dropped a bunch of agents into Ukraine to cause trouble and support the "rebellion" there. The Soviets were so effective, however, that I don't think any of the agents were ever heard from again.


    Sometimes I get the comment box and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I can copy-paste into it but usually I can't. I'm not sure why. I may just get myself a blogger or gmail account to see if that helps. BTW, this is only with firefox - internet explorer works fine.

  20. Andy: I'd call the Israel/Palestine situation pretty fluid. The big X-factor is that there are so many variables. How Biblical are the Israelis willing to get? How much backing from Jordan, Egypt and Syria can the Pals pull in? What level of violence can the two enemies live with? Will we (the U.S.) back Israel indefinately - even when it becomes clear that it will NEVER return a foot of the West Bank it now controls? Can we strongarm Jordan into resorbing the West Bank and Egypt Gaza?

    And what about the "population bomb" - the Pals are out-reproducing the Israelis. To continue to occupy the West Bank makes it very likely that by 2050 the Israeli jailers will be outnumbered by their prisoners. In a regular jail this isn't a problem...but in the Territories?

    Tough call. I'm just glad I'm not the Israeli Minister of Defense.

  21. FDChief,
    Out breeding an opponent is a pretty good tactic in any situation. We have no shortage of examples.
    To all,
    It is obvious that we all have a grasp on the topic.
    The replies are so broad as to preclude answering all of them, so let's extract basic ideas.
    Hungary was a revolution or even could be seen as an insurgency b/c they were in opposition to the legitimate gov't. Yes it was the govt although we all found it distasteful.
    The bottom line is- any force whether internal or externally sourced can win if they wish to be brutal and will use violence as an attention getter. My point is that western govts cannot win in any of these environments without employing unpalatable tactics.
    I'm sorry that i can't continue this b/c i'm unable to think.
    I'm in a very noisy coffee shop and can't concentrate.
    I'll continue after relocating.

  22. Note that all of the examples involve distinct geographic areas.

  23. Charles,
    It is rather predictible-is it not.?
    I forgot to tell you how much i liked FIDLING and how you used it. You, me and Minstral Boy should write country music, we'd do better than Toby Keith.
    To all,
    Uruguay is a good example of how to defeat an internal threat.They slapped that baby right outta the ball park. They used the most violence that a state can employ against their citizenry and virtually eliminated all anti govt activity. Of course they tortured /killed /and held people guilty by association.
    But my emphasis is on external forces forcing their will on a occupied territory.

  24. Jim: Your Uruguay example points out the critical difference between an internal suppression of a rebellio and an external one. The domestic government - regardless of its type - has a legitimacy that a foreign occupier will never have. So long as some portion of the population is willing to support that government it can be pretty brutal and still successfully suppress the rebels. Enough Uruguayans were behind their government to permit it the necessary brutality to scortch the earth under the guerillas. Same-same with the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and the Ulstermen in Northern Ireland and so on...

    Think of it in terms of our own country. Imagine if the only way we could have suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion was to send Rochambeau and his troops against the rebels. What do you think the rest of the country would have taken that to say about Washington's administration? In that instant the U.S. government would have lost its legitimacy for much of the nation - a nation that wasn't much of a nation at that point.

    Hence the problem with occupiers doing FID - there's SO many ways to do it wrong and in the process deligitimize the very "government" you're supposed to be supporting. And very few ways outside of simple genocide to do it successfully.

  25. Chief,
    The Whiskey Rebellion was one of the 1st campaign? by the new Army, and your point is rock solid. It had to be US troops enforcing US legitimacy/law.
    I agree with your assessments except N Ireland which i see as a foreign army/police of imposed authority from an exterior source. But your point is still valid as this has a base of support from sections of the people.
    I never can understand why people in the US just don't get what we're talking about. Especially those way above our pay grade.

  26. Jim; thing about NI that makes it so difficult is the whole perception of most Irishmen that this is a foreign occupier whilst the Ulstermen see themselves as Britons first and Irishmen second. That's why I say that, for all that things look more likely to settle down now than they have for 40 years, there's still a real possibility that the place will blow up again.

    And I think what's happening is an illustration of Mark Twain's old rule that the chance of someone understanding something is directly proportional to the economic or intellectual need of his NOT understanding it.

    So all the people who are making bank off this stuff NEED to not understand just how unlikely it is that their approach will be successful. And so it goes...

  27. Andy: "You got me thinking about Israel and specifically the West Bank. I've been reading some history of Israel's secret wars and it seems to me Israel was successful there but not in Gaza. Of course things could change, but then they always can."

    Gaza is perhaps best thought of as a vast open-air prison, or Boer War-style concentration camp. The people there have been really, really, really f*cked by the Israelis, to the point where being in the West Bank would be a huge step up. Israel isn't going to rule Gaza, just surround it, bomb/shell/strafe it and run tank columns through it shooting people every so often.

  28. Chief,

    I think NI was more about sectarian divisions, though there was certainly the element of divided loyalties (ie. nationalist vs. unionist). Catholics, after all, welcomed the initial British troop deployments since they were intended to protect Catholic areas, but the Brits managed to screw that goodwill up pretty quickly.

  29. Andy: Agree, but the whole problem w/ NI has been that the sectarian and nationalist divide tracks pretty closely. So most Catholic Irish are nationalist while most Prods were unionist. In the south the Prot/unionist link has been pretty much broken, but the Ulstermen still cling to it. If all sides can work out some sort of arrangement where you can be just Irish and not have to check your confirmation card...well, let's just that that in Glasgow your church still determines whether you support Celtic or Rangers and I suspect that this might be a difficult problem.

    And you're also right that the original troop deployment was welcomed, as the RUC had been hammering the republicans pretty hard. Bloody Sunday put paid to that (and reminded us that while paratroops are good at war, they're not so good at peace...).

    Every year that goes by without reopening of the shooting makes me a little more hopeful. It took generations and a clearance to pacify Scotland after the '45. Perhaps this won't be quite so drastic...

  30. Chief,

    I'm almost done with a really good book on Northern Ireland called "The Dirty War" by Martin Dillon. It's mainly about the covert activities by both sides from 1968 through the 80's and it's pretty fascinating.

    I hope the shooting never returns as well. I think and hope that both sides learned the limitations of violence and hopefully the next generation does not repeat the cycle of violence.

  31. Under this unrelenting manipulation, she tightened her grip on the chair, held her arms rigid. One thing he did have was a huge load of cum andhe sure filled me up.
    free gay male sex stories
    female mummification bdsm package stories
    aunty sex stories post
    free new incest stories
    forced animal sex stories
    Under this unrelenting manipulation, she tightened her grip on the chair, held her arms rigid. One thing he did have was a huge load of cum andhe sure filled me up.