Monday, October 18, 2010

Now they have.

"Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not."
(Hilaire Belloc)

Jason over at Armchair Generalist has a good little discussion about the icon of modern rebellion, the AK-47. Jason objects, sensibly, to the sensationalist journalism that labels the rifle a "weapon of mass destruction" but points out that
"What makes the AK-47 such a distinctive weapon system isn't its accuracy or the number of widgets that you can add onto the rifle. It's a cheap, long-lasting, low-maintenance system that has an overwhelming abundance of available ammunition (that is )not the best weapon to use against other militaries, but works fine against noncombatants and poorly-armed security forces."
For what it's worth, I would opine that the combination of the cheap, rugged, low-tech automatic weapon and the mine are what has made colonialism such a mug's game since the middle 1940's.Back when it was us having the Maxim gun and they had not it was pretty simple to run an empire on the cheap. But now every dimestore Westbumfuckian Liberation Front can lay their hands on a couple of shiploads of AKs and a bunch of PMD shoebox mines (or just some Semtex and a Palestinian- or Iraqi-for-hire to show them how to wire the things for sound) and all of a sudden the White Man's Burden becomes hard for low-population-growth, expensive Western volunteer armies to bear.As the Sri Lankans showed us, crushing these groups is possible, but you have to be able to use genocidal-level force, and for a Western occupier in the age of CNN/Al Jazeeera I'm not sure that's possible anymore.

So the Sunni rebellion in Iraq is controllable, either by buying out the rebels as "Sons of Iraq" or by arming their Shia and Kurdish rivals and letting them do the genocide. But absent a truly competent government, and given the strength of the rebel forces on the outside, this may not be possible in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, and for the Western press and governments to pretend otherwise seems extremely irresponsible.

Obviously it's hard to predict the arc of competence here, but I would suggest that if the ANA/AP haven't managed to outperform their rivals after eight years of Western instruction the window for their doing a Sri Lanka on the Talibs is closing fast.


  1. Chief,
    You've heard me say this before, but this started with the Mauser rifle of 1888.
    Look what the Boers achieved with 93 Mausers against the best Army in the world. Arguably.
    Firepower is meaningless unless you can fix the enemy. Also the enemy must be stupid enuf to endure beaten zones etc..which most insurgents prefer to avoid.
    The Taliban would be just as effective with Mk 4/303 British rifles with same cal Bren guns. Remember the Wehrmacht fought ww2 largely with bolt rifles.
    It's not sophistication that they need but rather reliable abilities when they choose to engage.
    Remember that the sturmgewehr was born with the mp43/44/stg44 and was the child of close combat.

  2. To the comments so far I would add . . .

    Because it's an assault rifle and has certain advantages. You can kill a lot of people at close range rather quickly, much easier than doing it with 98k's.

    Imagine that theoretically speaking - five soldiers with 98k's ordered to execute 20 prisoners . . . or one selected guy with a couple of AKs at a selected place . . .

  3. Thing about the Boer War, Jim, is that the British had fielded as good a rifle (or better, IMO), the MLE, the predecessor of the 303 Enfield. Sure, reservists had the Lee-Metford, but even that was a decent weapon. The Boer advantage was better tactics, smarter fieldcraft.

    But to hit something with a bolt-action rifle requires marksmanship, and that's tough to train. And bolt-action rifles are tough to maintain, too, with the pull-through cleaning wire and all. The AK is so simple damn near a monkey can use it, and I'm not surprised that the hard men in the world's hard places are adopting it.

    Like I said - you don't have to have a superb killing tool to make occupying the dirty corners of the Earth difficult for the Western democracies. You have to have something almost disposible that can kill effectively, tho, and the AK (and the mine/IED) fit the bill perfectly. So you lose one, or 500? What's one dead rat to the pack? That's where the genocide comes in. You can beat these people if you can kill and kill until you just flat-out kill them and their woves, kids and families out. It's a hell of a dirty way to fight a war, but it works.

    Just not for the outsider. It has to be an inside job, or the locals won't lay down for the killing.

  4. Chief,

    The irony is that there is a big debate going on in the military about the inadequacy of the M4/5.56 in Afghanistan because most engagements take place at long range and comparatively few casualties are from gunshot wounds. A long-barrel bolt action rifle would make the various Afghan fighters more deadly in many cases (and they do and are still around).

  5. Color me an old timer, but I always preferred the M-14 to the current M-16 and modern variants. The M-14 was magazine fed, and after a couple of years, I learned to trust it as much as the venerable M-1 I had previously carried. More significant is the M-14's effective range, well over twice that of the M-16 family of weapons. The M-14 has been upgraded for use as a "combat marksman's weapon" by the USMC.

  6. Aviator,
    Correction- the Army developed the xm/m21 system AND THE USMC is resurecting the critter with new whistles and bows. Take the lipstick off the pig and a m21 is underneath.
    I never liked the 14 roller bearing as it is a weak link in the design.
    I'd favor a bolt gun IF IT HAD A DETACHABLE box mag like the 14. The other strength of the 14 was the ability to recharge during a lull, by using stripper clips. This was negated by adding the scope, the new 14 scope mounts utilize the stripper guide base to add stabilility to the scope.The xm21 was weak in this area.
    The m14 broke every record made by the M1.
    I especially like a weapon that you can blungeon people with. Also the 7.62 puts down a target.
    In RVN saying that you are going to 7.62 someone was the same as saying that you were gonna f..k them up.
    Anyway, i digress. An automatic wpn is useless as a individual weapon. They only have value when utilised by trained troops doing fire and manuever. Putting people in a ditch is not a soldierly function. A mob armed with ak's is still a mob. Example-MOG.
    Exactly my point. The modern Taliban would do well to issue bolt 7.62 Russian or SVD,s.
    No enemy soldier has ever jumped up and said-shoot me.As i always say- it's hard work being a soldier, and if it were'nt then civilians would do it. Maybe politicians also.
    Aye mate, my point goes beyond tactics and weaponry. The Boers and Taliban/VC had the home court advantage.

  7. Andy; Point well taken, and it's good to remember that in war, like sex and politics, there's nothing really new. The Brits complained about the advantage that the Afghan hillmen's jezail gave them in long-distance marksmanship over the issue Martini-Henry back in the 1880's and '90s. Their lightweight field artillery went a ways towards negating that advantage but it never really went away.

    I'll take the contrarian position of not wanting to hump any more weight than I have to. The M1-M14-M21 series of rifles are good weapons, but those bastards and their ammunition are damn heavy. And in most combat situations the advantage of range is minimal. The high plains of central Asia are an odd singularity, infantry country (i.e too rugged for armor) but without infantry cover. For an army with the possibility of engagement in many different theatres to rearm for central asian warfare would seem to be an unlikely possibility. A better answer would seem to be to avoid an infantry-intensive occupation of the high plains of central Asia (ya think??).

    It's instructive to note that the Brits, who have/had more experience with marauding Afghans than any other Westerners, had the good sense to do their most of their ruling in A'stan through purchased proxies, and their military contact with the tribes was pretty much purely punitive. When they didn't - as in 1844 - they usually regretted it.

    Jim: Mogadishu is a GREAT example of the "problem facing a Western power confronted with an armed mob with AKs". What was the kill ratio, something like 200:1? But the end result was the same; the deaths of the U.S. troopers on what seemed like a pointless wog-bashing mission in West Buttfuckistan made continuing the expedition too politically costly for the U.S.

    100 years earlier the kill ration would have been something like 500:0 and we would still be sitting in Mog, pretending to "rule" the chaos that is the Horn of Puntland...

  8. Chief,
    Concerning the weight thingy- even our finest light infantry-airborne, ranger or sf is riding around like road warrior, so why is weight a factor?
    On MOG- if they are willing to take the casualties then they will attrit your butt, same in the PWOT, but they are still a mob. That's why we are soldiers and disciplined fighters-we know how to discipline our fires.

  9. jim; point taken on the weight - we used to joke the the only thing "light" about light infantry was our paychecks.

    I loves me some fire discipline, too, but the bottom line is that if the other guy is willing to soak up enough of your lead with his flesh he can beat you, or at least beat you up enough to convince you to give up trying to be king of his castle. If the mob is reckless enough it doesn't matter how good a soldier you are; it's like high-angle artillery - it kills the smart troop in defilade just as easy as it kills the dumbass standing on top of a knoll.

  10. Chief,
    As you know our UW/GW philosophy was that if we kill 10 to 1 then we can win. But this is as crazy as believing that any nation could win a nuclear war.
    We've lived thru both lies, you and i to include all the other old farts here. In fact we still believe that we can pop nucs and survive, and if this isn't true then why do we have them??
    Anyway , i digress.
    The point is that if we kill 500 to 1 we will still lose. And technology won't save us.

    Next point, on fire discipline i'm talking sectors of fire also. Fire cards and all that stuff which i doubt the wogs at mog never even thought about, but for sure the US dudes did .
    You are exactly right about their castles, but why do we even care?
    It's my castle that keeps my attention.

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