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The trinity of modern warfare at work in Afghanistan

13 July 2009

Clausewitz spoke of a trinity of the people, the government, and the military.  The rise to dominance of fourth generation warfare has made this conceptually useless, providing only a perspective from which to see how the world has changed.  During the past 60 years a new trinity of modern war has emerged for armies fighting in foreign lands.  Chet Richards discovered it, looking at the similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq Wars — but it applies to most foreign wars.

Modern armed forces, whether of developed or undeveloped nations, tend to rely on a trinity of operational methods.  None of these are new of course (almost nothing is new in war, it’s all a matter of combinations and emphasis).

  1. Popular front militia
  2. Massive firepower on civilians
  3. Sweep and destroy missions

Also interesting is that armies tend to re-discover these 3 methods, dressing them up in the fancy terminology befitting radical innovations.  Let’s take a quick look at each.

(1)  Popular Front Militia

Popular front militia were a core component of our fighting in Southeast Asia, but when we recruit local militia in Iraq it’s COIN — new, new, new.   And of course that’s a staple of our fighting in Afghanistan, as seen in these posts by Joshua Foust at Registan (an essential site for following the increasingly important conflicts in Central Asia):

Update –  more use of militia:

(2)  Massive Firepower on Civilians

A signature of warfare since the blitz in 1940, it plays a role in almost all foreign wars.  Despite its proven ineffectiveness in almost all cases since and including the blitz.  Each month, almost each week, bring new incidents of our forces killing Afghanistan civilians.  This is a forensic analysis of one such incident:  Afghan civilian deaths:

  • Who is to blame?“, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2009 — “A Times investigation. Commanders and villagers give conflicting accounts of the attack that Afghan officials say killed 140 civilians, a toll disputed by the U.S. But injured girls make clear the costs for two families.”

Here’s a question people in Afghanistan probably ask themselves frequently in their second generation of continuous warfare…

  • Are Afghan Lives Worth Anything?“, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 7 July 2009 – Engelhardt is one of the few tracking civilian casualties in Afghanistan.  The echos from Vietnam are stunning.  Excerpt:

Back in the Vietnam era, General William Westmoreland, interviewed by movie director Peter Davis for his Oscar-winning film Hearts and Minds, famously said: “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”

The activities of General McChrystal echo those of an earlier General, in Vietnam.

At an early intergovernmental meeting on the importance of psychological warfare, one of Harkins’ key staffmen, Brigadier General Gerald Kelleher, quickly dismissed that theory. His job, he said, was to kill Vietcong. But the French … had killed a lot of Vietcong and they had not won. “Didn’t kill enough Vietcong,” answered Kelleher.
— From David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest (1972)

(3)  Sweep and destroy missions

Just like the one now underway in Helmand Province.  Like #2, it seldom works — but believers in raw force will seldom admit it.  The result is consistent and inevitable …

On Thursday morning, 4,000 American Marines began a major offensive to try to take back the region from the strongest Taliban insurgency in the country. The Marines are part of a larger deployment of additional troops being ordered by the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, to concentrate not just on killing Taliban fighters but on protecting the population.

… In many places, people have never seen or felt the presence of the Afghan government, or foreign forces, except through violence, but the Taliban are a known quantity, community leaders said. … Foreign troops continue to make mistakes that enrage whole sections of this deeply tribal society, like the killing of a tribal elder’s son and his wife as they were driving to their home in Helmand two months ago. Only their baby daughter survived. The tribal elder, Reis-e-Baghran, a former member of the Taliban who reconciled with the government, is one of the most influential figures in Helmand.

… In parts of Helmand and Kandahar, resentment and frustration are rampant. People who traveled to Lashkar Gah from the districts complained of continued civilian suffering and questioned American intentions. “They come here just to fight, not to bring peace,” said Allah Nazad, a farmer. People from Marja said that foreign troops carrying out counternarcotics operations conducted nighttime raids on houses, sometimes killed people inside their homes, and used dogs that bit the occupants. “The people are very scared of the night raids,” said Spin Gul, a local farmer. “When they have night raids, the people join the Taliban and fight.”

For more information from the FM site

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.  To see all posts about our new wars:

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. mike j permalink
    13 July 2009 2:17 am

    I’ve been in a long argument today on another site about changing our behavior in Afghanistan. I don’t understand why this country believes “…But we didn’t mean to…” is an adequate excuse, especially when it then continues on as before. I can only conclude your assertions are correct.

  2. Major Scarlet permalink
    13 July 2009 2:44 am

    FM, What do you mean by “conceptually useless”? We haven’t used the trinity in a war since WWII. That doesn’t mean it has become overcome by events.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a powerful question! I meant this in a narrow sense — that most of Clausewitz’s theories do not apply to the 4th generation wars we’ve fought after Korea, nor to our other transnational struggles: the war on terror and war on drugs. All of these are non-trinitarian conflicts, for a world beyond Clausewitz. I discuss this at length elsewhere. “A solution to 4GW – the introduction” is the best place to start.</

    That’s not to say that conventional inter-state warfare will not happen to us in the relevant future. It could, of course. But nuclear proliferation makes it less likely with every passing generation. Eventually technology will give Boy Scout troops the ability to build WMD’s, and it will be a different world. One my imagination cannot see.

  3. SRL permalink
    13 July 2009 5:47 am

    Re: (2) Massive Firepower on Civilians.

    If you goal is to win, it really doesn’t work in a society where revenge is a virtue. Rather, civilian death just convinces people to either actively join the fight, or at least tolerate it. “I ain’t seen nuthin’, officer…”

    FM: “Eventually technology will give Boy Scout troops the ability to build WMD’s, and it will be a different world. One my imagination cannot see.

    I think technology is already there. Some of the work currently being done by “cyber-hackers” probably qualifies. As such (with the exception of computer-based attacks), possibly, more physically destructive WMD’s will be less likely to be used. Bioweapons are probably the technological path of least resistance. Explosives and chemical weapons take more resources than most small groups or individuals can muster. And even if they can, such as occured in OKC in 1995, it will be larger than a bread box.

    For a really scary fictionalized account read Greg Bear’s Quantico. The story involves weaponized BST. Shudder.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: All good points! The FM site has two articles mentioning cyberwarfare, and its something worth more study!
    * Words to fear in the 21st century: Lǎo hǔ, lǎo hǔ, Lǎo hǔ, 14 July 2008
    * Obama knows how to lead America by exploiting our fears, 5 June 2009

  4. Robert Petersen permalink
    13 July 2009 7:41 am

    I have a comment regarding the idea that conventionel warfare is on its way out. I honestly no longer believe in it – on the contrary I am increasingly convinced that we are about to make the very same mistakes others commited before 2003 in refusing to take counterinsurgency seriously. Since 2003 it has become fashionable to believe that COIN and 4GW is the only game in town, but this is likely to prove just as faulty.

    First of all: There has been plenty of conventionel wars in the last twenty years: The Gulf War 1991, Yugoslavia 1999, the invasion of Iraq 2003 and the Russo-Georgian War in 2008. It can be claimed that intrastate warfare has become far more prominent, but honestly this has always been the case. There is nothing really new about this and I can mention plenty of examples of insurgencies, civil war or “unrest” before 1945 like the Irish War for Independence 1919-21. It is also worth noticing that there has historical periods with very few conventionel wars like in Europe between 1815 and 1914. The current calm might just be the calm before the next storm. Second of all if conventionel war is on its way out we should expect all dominant military forces in the world to restructure their forces to wage counterinsurgency. This is most certainly not the case in China, Russia or India – on the contrary they are modernizing their conventionel forces. Why do they do that if it is a waste of effort? Third: State are – despite claims to the contrary – still extraordinary powerful actors in the world, perhaps even the only powerful actors in the world. As far as I can tell states have combined their efforts and succesfully defeated Al Qaeda and when the world economy is in crisis it is the large transnational companies who cry uncle and wants help from the governments – not the other way around. Actually North Korea is a pretty good example of a state – although extremely totalitarian – who has survived despite starvation, an economy in shambles and almost no friends in an extremely hostile world. The idea that conventionel war is on its way out is directly linked to the idea of the downfall of the state, but it is honestly hard to see this. The states that break down (Sudan, Congo, Somalia) weren’t really states in the first place. We still have to see a strong state collapse under internal and external pressure.

    Finally there is the question of nuclear weapons preventing war between states. I believe that nuclear weapons prevented war from breaking out in the Cold War, but only because East and West massed so many nukes it would have made no sense to use them. Today we are facing a world with far fewer nukes and the numbers are keep going down. If there really is a nuclear taboo against the use of nuclear weapons we (I suspect) are increasingly likely to see it put to the test, because with fewer nuclear weapons it will become more and more tempting to simply see nukes as just another kind of bomb. We might see a nation loose a city or two, but for some political leaders this might be an entirely acceptable price to pay to win a war. We might realize that the nuclear taboo only existed in our own imagination.

    For the sceptics please notice that the predecessor to the A-bomb was poison gas and this weapon was universally condemned after WW1. Hardly anyone used it since 1918. Between 1918 and 1939 it was feared that poison gas would be used in combination with air raids against cities and that it would destroy whole populations. In fact it was never used – not even by Nazi Germany in 1944-45. This lead to the belief that there was a taboo against poison gas, but if that was the case Saddam Hussein most certainly destroyed the illusion i the eighties with his use of poison gas against Iranian human wave attacks in the first Gulf War 1980-88, his use of poison gas as a tool of internal repression (Halabja 1988) and as a deterrence (against Iran and the United States). Even when he destroyed his own stockpiles after 1991 he still maintained doubts if he still didn’t have something left until just before the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then it was too late.

    It can be claimed that nuclear weapons are different. I agree with that. But we should also keep an open mind regarding the fact that someone might view nukes differently than we do just like Saddam Hussein had a different view on chemical warfare, because for him the use of poison gas made perfectly sense. The idea of a universal taboo honestly smells too much of a simplistic and wishful world view originating like a lot of bad ideas (democratic peace theory, peace through trade and globalization, peace by the UN etc) from the Western World. Just like many other ideas it only waits to be debunked.

  5. Major Scarlet permalink
    13 July 2009 10:57 am

    adding to what Robert said. in the trinity, nationalism (or primordial violence) has not been seen in war since WWII. there are many reasons for it, the politically correct culture warriors, development of internationals laws that prevent the killing of civilians, the multiculturalism that inhabits our learning centers and governments, etc. we no longer have the national will to resist a real enemy because we are too afraid to hurt people’s feelings, much less kill them because they are trying to kill us. if you look around the world, you’ll see other countries that really don’t care about those rules and they realize that what matters most is survival and having a proper metric to know when your survival is being threatened. we no longer have that metric because it has been distorted by years of progressive teachings and by the softness that advanced economies develop.

    ask yourself this, do you think anyone in our government has the nuts to actually drop an atomic bomb on someone? for what reason would they do it? what laws would be breached if we did it? is it even legal these days?

    then ask yourself, what other countries would drop a bomb us and for what reasons? china has a first strike policy against us btw.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What is your basis for “China has a first strike capability against us.”

  6. Ski permalink
    13 July 2009 11:50 am

    Nuclear weapons provide deterrence. If someone uses them, it’s most likely going to be an option of last resort as the response to deploying a nuclear weapon is going to be a nuclear response (especially if the intial strike was against a nuclear armed nation).

    Nationalism is still alive and well despite rumors of its demise. Ask the Georgians, the Pakistanis, the Indians, or the North Koreans if nationalism is dead or on its deathbed. Not a single European country there by the way.

    The fact remains that two nuclear armed nations have never fought a war – a conventional war at least – against each other. The Indo-Pakistani conflict in the Kashmir could be viewed as an exception I suppose.

    I think there is a different reason why conventional warfare is on its way out. It’s become too expensive, especially in countries where there is no mandatory military service. Personnel and equipment costs continue to rise in Western nations. Why man, equip and train an armored brigade of 4000 people and 250 tanks when I can build a light infantry guerrilla battalion of 300 men, divvied into cells, and equip them with RPG’s, IED’s and AK-47′s? When you come into my country, I’ll blend in with the population to the best of my abilities, attack you when I want, and the longer you stay in my country, the more expensive it will become for you…in men, material and in the media.

  7. Major Scarlet permalink
    13 July 2009 12:49 pm

    Ski, To what end would you (and who is you) deploy a force of 300 within a country of 300 million?

    As Sri Lanka proved, guerrilla armies are no match for a well executed counter-guerrilla campaign that includes conventional forces commanded by leaders that care little for casualties.

    I agree with you that Nationalism is alive in other countries. Not ours.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Sri Lanka showed that strong governments can defeat insurgencies. That’s not news, since there was already much evidence of that. “{C}ounter-guerrilla campaign that includes conventional forces commanded by leaders that care little for casualties” usually lose when conducted by foreigners (allied with weak or puppet governments). It like some wierd blind spot that you seem unable to see this simple and obvious distinction.

  8. Indian Investor permalink
    13 July 2009 3:02 pm

    Fabius Maximus, The misunderstanding of what happened in Sri Lanka – viz. that it was a case of victory of righteous Government troops against “insurgents” through violent aggression ignores the geopolitics behind the recent events in Sri Lanka. (Please search for links on the internet on the topics below if you feel my summary is unreliable.)In 2005, a Norwegian oil company was engaged by the Sri Lanka government to study the availability of oil reserves and they made out their report on successful oil exploration in the Gulf of Mannar. Subsequently The Lanka government auctioned the 8 exporation blocks to the British Cairn Energy plc, and provided a couple of blocks each preferentially to China National Petroleum Corporation and ONGC Videsh Ltd. The Norwegian firm, together with the governments of Normay and Russia, instigated the LTTE to bomb oil storage facilities in Colombo and elsewhere.
    In retaliation, the Anglo-American Empire decided to obliterate the LTTE – even at the cost of death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The US treasury in ‘anti-terrorist operations’ froze all US LTTE assets and US money flows to them. The US Department of State prevailed upon India not to interfere, despite massive public protests and bandhs in India against the massacre of innocent civilians through blatant artillery fire. Many hearty congratulations to the barbarian Sinhala Army and Ambassador William Blake on their victory against terrorism. They managed to send waves and waves of armoured divisions flattening little towns in the middle of scenic forests and hills, killing all that came in their path.What a fantastic example of American military theory winning heroically!
    Let the parents of those Marines and theorists feel ever more proud of this sterling valor, courage and supreme strategy.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Where do you get this “victory of righteous Government” nonsense? Certainly nothing I said. Big-time insurgencies seldom arise against “righteous” governments. They arise against government’s with low legitimacy, at least amongst large elements of their population. And that usually results from serious defects in governing.

  9. IronTriangle permalink
    13 July 2009 3:36 pm

    The ‘holy trinity’ of dominating a colony is the following:

    1) an intelligence service capable of ingratiating itself with the various factions, and keeping the elites enriched by the central government such that dissent is rapidly identified and destroyed.
    2) the ability to rapidly mobilize overwhelming conventional onslaught against any attempt to mobilize a rebellion against the status quo
    3) the political will to crush pluralist ‘self-government’ when it emerges.

    Without 1, conventional forces must continuously reconquer ground. Without 2, 1 cannot succeed, because the tribes will test the power of those attempting to dominate them. Without 3, the inevitable unification of the elites will push the foreigner out.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You must be kidding. Nobody has successfully run colonies since WWII, no matter how much force they use. Everybody who has tried, has failed. {Tibet was conquered and absorbed by China; few nations have sufficiently high fertility to do so today, or China’s population density.}

  10. Major Scarlet permalink
    13 July 2009 3:39 pm

    i have no such “blind spot” as you call it. Gen. Bell had a successful anti-guerrilla campaign in the Philippines and used tactics that today would be considered war crimes. the difference being, he was not confronted with strong outside support from another country but local insurgents. that is an important detail to consider when you are looking at the success or failure of insurgencies. what effect did outside support have? if we had successfully cut off chinese and russian support during Vietnam, i think we would have won. however, the (sur)realist thought they could make deals about “interests” that would motivate the Cong to stop attacking instead of dealing with the real issue.

    it is a bad decision to appoint “puppet governments” until after an insurgency has been squashed, IMO. they usually lack legitimacy and end up making things worse. the proper way would be to establish constabulary forces as we did during WWII. Our grand experiments with nation building have been a disaster because we put the cart before the horse.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: For the zillionth time (your blind spot in action, again), the effectiveness of insurgencies increased when Mao developed the theory of 4GW to maturity. Hence the increased success after WWII, and the difference from General Bell’s (died 1919) experience in the Phillipines. As for Vietnam, you can refight it in your imagination till you die — the result remains the same.

  11. Indian Investor permalink
    13 July 2009 5:08 pm

    And what is the Afghanistan conflict REALLY about? Extract from a wikipedia article on the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline (TAPI) – also sometimes called as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.
    “In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. Since the United States military overthrew the Taliban government, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Always nice to see news from the Gamma Quadrent. The believers in this theory require no evidence, and are immune to contrary evidence. As shown by the many many other times this has been debated.

  12. Indian Investor permalink
    13 July 2009 5:37 pm

    Pakistan’s Daily Times reported on May 14, 2009: “ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to reactivate the multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, and is considering taking 25% of the total amount from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for this purpose.”

    If you think Iran has nothing to do with oil, think again. The competition b/w the Nabucco project and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline drives the US controversy with the Iran regime. Excerpt from the Energy Information Administration’s country analysis brief on Iran.

    “A controversial pipeline proposal is the $7.4-billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) line which would
    transport Iranian natural gas south to the Asian subcontinent. With a proposed 1724 miles and a
    5.4 Bcf/d capacity, the pipeline has been stalled in the past due in part to disputes over the cost of the shipments. Iran and Pakistan have finalized gas sales and purchase agreements, but withoutIndia’s participation in the negotiations. It is probable that Iran would extend its domestic IGAT-7 pipeline into Pakistan, avoiding the creation of a new, parallel pipeline.”

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    Fabius Maximus replies: More pipe dreams. Probably a reaction to the pretty ceremony in Ankara pretending to approve the Nabucco pipeline (see Stratfor’s analysis). Eventually one or more of these will be built, but nothing — nothing — is happening now.

  13. anna nicholas permalink
    13 July 2009 10:41 pm

    Indian Investor , your post was most interesting . I talked with several articulate Tamil ex pats and recent refugees, at their protest camp in London in the spring ,and asked whether there was foreign commercial interest in the Sri Lanka coflict . They tried , but couldnt think of any . Can you make sense of that ?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I have a post in the pipeline about this. It is of great importance, the first sign of China exerting direct influence on world events. Note that, unlike the US military’s dreams, they are using money — not force. Power comes from many things, not exclusively (as Mao said) from the barrel of a gun.

    The dragon’s NIMBY concerns are central to its expanding orbit“, The Golbe and Mail, 19 June 2009 — “Without China’s military supplies and diplomatic cover, Sri Lanka’s victory over the Tamil Tigers couldn’t have happened.” Excerpt:

    For two decades, Chinese diplomacy has been guided by the concept of the country’s “peaceful rise.” Today, however, China needs a new strategic doctrine, because the most remarkable aspect of Sri Lanka’s recent victory over the Tamil Tigers is not its overwhelming nature, but the fact China provided President Mahinda Rajapaksa with both the military supplies and diplomatic cover he needed to prosecute the war.

    Without China’s backing, Mr. Rajapaksa’s government would have had neither the wherewithal nor the will to ignore world opinion. So, not only has China become central to the global financial and economic system, it has now demonstrated its effectiveness in a region traditionally outside its orbit. On Sri Lanka’s beachfront battlefields, China’s “peaceful rise” was completed.

  14. seydlitz89 permalink
    13 July 2009 10:51 pm

    Greetings FM- I’ve posted my response here: “Strategic Theory or 4GW, Take Your Choice Since You Can’t Have Both“, posted by Seydiltz89 at MilPub, 13 July 2009. I don’t think Mao would have understood what 4GW is. . .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I doubt that very much. That’s like saying Darwin would not have understood DNA. BTW, this post discusses applications of 4GW. Non-Trin and 4GW theory are discussed in these posts:

    A solution to 4GW — the introduction
    How to get the study of 4GW in gear
    Why We Lose at 4GW — the two types of 4GW
    Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
    Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
    Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
    4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
    4GW: A solution of the second kind
    4GW: A solution of the third kind – Vandergriff is one of the few implementing real solutions.
    Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics

  15. anna nicholas permalink
    13 July 2009 11:31 pm

    I wonder what is being done on each side in Afgh regarding :- Prisoners; Enemy dead and wounded ; collective punishments ; Sabotage .

  16. Ski permalink
    14 July 2009 3:07 am

    Major Scarlet

    Why would I deploy my small light infantry battalion anywhere? I am interested in self-defense and self-determination. I don’t even need them to be full time soldiers, guerrillas or terrorists. It’s very simple to use these weapons, a two day training course can be put together by a small cadre of about 25 trainers. There is a need for specialization with IED’s and EFP’s, and a few well trained engineers are worth their weight in gold. Of course, there will be attrition as the stupid, unlucky and fearless/fearful are killed off. But the simple presence of a foreign invader is more than enough to provide propaganda fodder for the people on my side.

    The longer you stay, the more expensive it gets. Sri Lanka was no exception. It took decades for the Tamils to give up the ghost, at great cost to the Indians as well as their own people. But enough of their own people were willing to fight and die for their beliefs to extend the conflict for three decades. While this is an extreme – most insurgencies reach a culmination point between 8 and 12 years – it is a very good example for the world to dissect. The Indians paid a heavy price for their victory, although I would not classify as pyrric at this point, but close.

    As for who I am, does this really matter? Would it make much difference if I was Stan McChrystal, Dave Petraeus, a company grade infantry officer, a junior NCO in a field artillery battalion or an academic trying to tie multiple trends together from all of this chaos that has been unleashed since the turn of the millenium?

  17. Major Scarlet permalink
    14 July 2009 3:51 am

    Ski, i’m trying to establish how 300 fighters would achieve your ends. i’m trying to establish who you are because you have to have an reason to take such a high risk of being found out that you would risk the safety of your country. your plan and objectives make no sense to me. As Sri Lanka demonstrated, when a nation gets fed up playing by the guerrillas rules, they fight back hard. it doesn’t matter how long the Sri Lankan war was.. what matters is that eventually, the Sri Lankans got tired of it and wiped out the terrorist. that is the point you are missing. guerrillas have less success when the miltary/government they are facing stops playing by their rules.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I appreciate you attempting to debate Ski, but this is off-topic here (unrelated to this post). And probably hopeless. Anyone who believes 300 men could making a difference in a nation of 33 million people and 650 thosand sq K is beyond help. Please, no more discussion of this here — by anyone.

  18. nweaver permalink
    28 November 2009 4:27 pm

    #3: “Cyber war” is an interesting area… There are some serious potentials for economic warfare in that area, there are at least two credible “shut down the US for weeks to months” scenarios which could be conducted by a well funded adversary.

    But at the same time, its not a “Boyscout with a WMD” category. Its really a September 11th or nation-state level of operation, as you need a core of 5-10 REALLY good people, and a good budget for testbed/toys to pull off.

    AND it wouldn’t get a body count, which is a serious bug among many of those willing to spend that level of resources, and there is a huge risk of tipping your hand: weapons that can only be used once have interesting dynamics, especially if they fizzle.

    #13 (FM’s comment): Using money is not just the Chinese strategy, but its the “Ankh-Morpork” strategy (for all you terry pratchett fans), the national anthem (nobody remembers the second verse of a national anthem anyway, so just make it mostly ‘ner ner ner’):

    When dragons belch and hippos flee
    My thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee
    Let others boast of martial dash
    For we have boldly fought with cash
    We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes
    We own all your generals – touch us and you’ll lose.
    Morporkia! Morporkia!
    Morporkia owns the day!
    We can rule you wholesale
    Touch us and you’ll pay.

    We bankrupt all invaders, we sell them souvenirs
    We ner ner ner ner ner, hner ner hner by the ears
    Er hner we ner ner ner ner ner
    Ner ner her ner ner ner hner the ner
    Er ner ner hner ner, nher hner ner ner (etc.)
    Ner hner ner, your gleaming swords
    We mortgaged to the hilt
    Morporkia! Morporkia!
    Hner ner ner ner ner ner
    We can rule you wholesale
    Credit where it’s due.

    (Taken from wikipedia).

  19. annanic permalink
    28 November 2009 8:38 pm

    Stop worrying ! Gordon Brown has a new policy , tried and tested in the UK .
    The Afghans have been set targets – on corruption , police training , community engagement etc . Each has a specified , so-many-months-ahead deadline .
    At home , Brown allocates a budget to an area , such as a hospital . Target not met – get less money . Target met -get more money . No need for target any more- close project , no more money at all .
    Replacing the word ‘ money ‘ with ‘NATO troops ‘ we now have a roadmap , reducing NATO casualties and eventual withdrawal .
    The Afghan people , like us Brits , will soon work out how to acheive targets . More trained police in Helmand ? Count them twice and add in last years rollcall . Corruption ? That would not be the same as the administrative service charge . Community engagement ? Record everytime you wave and smile to a NATO soldier ( even if you then shoot him ).

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