On counterinsurgency: Conclusions. Let’s hope we learn soon.

Summary:  In this last chapter of “On Counterinsurgency” Martin van Creveld sums up the results of the post-WWII history of counterinsurgency. this was first published in 2005; hopefully we’ll learn these lessons soon.

As the first phase (Iraq, Af-Pak) of our mad foreign wars winds down — and the second phase expands — we can still learn from this analysis by one of the West’s greatest living military historians. We can still turn off this path.  The passage of time closes options; we might soon pass the last exit to avoid serious war.


  1. Summary of the previous chapters
  2. The last chapter of this essay
  3. How did the US Military react to van Creveld’s advice?
  4. For More Information

(1)  Summary of the previous chapters

For those who have not read the previous chapters, here’s a summary of the counterinsurgency problem from Chapter 6.2 in Martin van Creveld’s Changing Face of War (2006):

What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.

Counterinsurgency can damage even the finest army

(2)  The last chapter of this essay:

“On Counterinsurgency”
by Martin van Creveld

From Combating Terrorism,
edited by Rohan Gunaratna (2005).

Posted with the authors’ generous permission.


For background see The first lesson of our failed wars: we were warned, but choose not to listen.

This paper has into 4 parts:


  1. How We Got to Where We Are is a brief history of insurgency since 1941 and of the repeated failures in dealing with it.
  2. Two Methods focuses on President Assad’s suppression of the uprising at Hama in 1983 on the one hand and on British operations in Northern Ireland on the other, presenting them as extreme case studies in dealing with counterinsurgency.
  3. On Power and Compromises draws the lessons from the methods just presented and goes on to explain how, by vacillating between them, most counterinsurgents have guaranteed their own failure.
  4. Conclusions.

Part Four:  Conclusions about counterinsurgency

In conclusion, and as the countless defeats suffered by would-be counter-insurgents since 1941 prove without a shadow of doubt, something has gone very, very wrong indeed. This applies both to Western nations and, as the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan showed, former Communist ones. Both to developed nations and to many undeveloped ones; both to those who, like the Germans in Yugoslavia, were utterly ruthless, and to those who, like the Israelis in the Occupied Territories, only killed 4 or 5 enemies for every casualty they suffered. Each time a failure occurred rivers of ink were spilt trying to explain the reasons, to no avail. One might almost apply Hegel’s words: the only thing one can learn from history is that people do not learn from it.

A spoon, plunged into salt water, will rust. To prevent this from happening, it is possible to do either of two things. One is to scoop out all the water and withdraw the spoon, wipe it clean, and return it to the cupboard where it belongs. The other is to stir the water very carefully and, by so doing, prevent it from becoming even saltier than it already is.

Assuming both methods are equally effective in principle, seen from a humanitarian point of view the British one is undoubtedly superior. There may, however, be circumstances when it cannot be applied: either because the uprising has already gone too far, or else because the character of the nation and the instruments of power at its disposal do not permit it. Under such circumstances Bismarck’s dictum that politics is the art of choosing between the bad and worse applies. Unless you are prepared to recognize this fact and draw the consequences, perhaps the best course is to stay out of the counter-insurgency game in the first place.


(3)  How did the US Military react to van Creveld’s advice?

What happens to military experts when their advice contradicts the plans of the US military? William Lind describes one such scene, from his 4 June 2004 “On War” column:

I recently encountered a horrifying example of its success at the Marine Corps Command & Staff School at Quantico. At the end of this academic year, the Command & Staff faculty simply got rid of 250 copies of Martin van Creveld’s superb book, Fighting Power. This book, which lays out the fundamental difference between the Second Generation U.S. Army in World War II and the Third Generation Wehrmacht, is one of the seven books of “the canon,” the readings that take you from the First Generation into the Fourth. It should be required reading for every Marine Corps and Army officer.

When I asked someone associated with Command & Staff how such a thing could be done, he replied that the faculty has decided it “doesn’t like” van Creveld. This is similar to a band of Hottentots deciding they “don’t like” Queen Victoria. Martin van Creveld is perhaps the most perceptive military historian now writing.

But in the end, the books went; future generations of students at Command & Staff won’t have them.

(4)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See a list of his publications and links to his other online works at The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld.

Posts about Fourth Generation Warfare:

  1. A solution to 4GW — the introduction
  2. Why We Lose at 4GW – About the two kinds of insurgencies
  3. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
  4. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
  5. Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
  6. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
  7. 4GW: A solution of the second kind
  8. 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Vandergriff is one of the few implementing real solutions.
  9. The War Nerd shows how simple 4GW theory can be, 22 January 2009

24 thoughts on “On counterinsurgency: Conclusions. Let’s hope we learn soon.”

  1. “When I asked someone associated with Command & Staff how such a thing could be done, he replied that the faculty has decided it “doesn’t like” van Creveld.”

    There’s your answer; the status of your Hope. They don’t like him. Have you ever seen such a childish answer from an adult when faced w/a formidable analysis of historical failures? Repeat those words again and again—“they don’t like him”, like him….as if that has even a scintilla of relevance.

    You don’t really harbor any hope that the Imperial Armies of the USA and the MIC that supports them and all the families who rely upon the manufacture of the instruments of death and genocidal apparatus will turn away from their lifetime of feverish belief in the primacy of the USA Military, based on some historical analysis? Do you?

    Don’t you personally know Lt Colonels and above? Grads of the great Military academies who inhabit the bases all over the USA and in that bastion of Defense in DC? Don’t you? Will they engage in a discussion in the abject failures just recently seen by all in Iraq and Af/Pak? Not the ones I know. Will your friends?

    I surmise that in the absence of another humiliating denial of honor by the Citizens of the USA towards these terribly deluded Servicemen (a shattering defeat!), such as they experienced when arriving back to the USA (at the Oakland Army Terminal/Base) in the days of madness during Viet Nam, there is no chance that any type of acknowledgement will arise to give reality to your hope.

    There is Hope for this country. It is in the continued resistance by disparate elements that still have a social conscience. That alone may coalesce into a force that can finally gain the vision and politcal legs required in these days of the slow decay in a once great Nation. It will never be found in the USA Military. Never, The best one can hope for is that they retreat into the shadows of their own troubled minds. Even their leaders spend their social gold on sordid affairs with the female courtiers…(and some of those also wear uniforms.)


    1. “Don’t you personally know Lt Colonels and above? Grads of the great Military academies who inhabit the bases all over the USA and in that bastion of Defense in DC? Don’t you?”

      Yes, I do.

      “Will they engage in a discussion in the abject failures just recently seen by all in Iraq and Af/Pak?”

      Yes, many of them do. Some even in the public media. Such as Gian P. Gentile (Colonel, US Army, now teaching at West Point).

  2. I don’t think this process has anything to do with learning. Methinks it’s more about institutional inertia, groupthink, cognitive bias, and most of the tremendous river of gold gushing out of America’s military-police-surveillance-prison-torture complex.

    The incentives to keep the endless foreign wars going, to keep the massive panopticon surveillance in place throughout America, to ramp up the weapons procurement tempo, to impercetibly blend the military overseas operations into the domestic paramilitary drug-enforcement and crowd control operations, to spend more and bigger for worse weaponry that doesn’t work, are so enormously lucrative that they’ve become impossible to resist.

    People today in the military or the defense industries or in congress who try to turn away from America’s current military path risk losing their careers, their livelihoods, their reputations, their families, their life savings, and the good will of their fellow Americans. Few indeed will risk such brutal punishments merely in order to tell the truth, or to do the right thing.

    1. “I don’t think this process has anything to do with learning. Methinks it’s more about institutional inertia, groupthink, cognitive bias, and most of the tremendous river of gold gushing out of America’s military-police-surveillance-prison-torture complex.”

      Perhaps that explains the US military’s failure to learn — leading to repeated defeats. But why have Americans not learned? If not from Vietnam, from over a decade of war? We remain as gullible as on 9-11. Look at how easily much of the population has been excited about the threat from Iran, and almost identical propaganda campaign to that conducted by Bush Jr for the invasion of Iraq?

    2. I fully agree with this More’s view. But I would go further: we should be as wary of a military that learns as of a military that does not learn.

      No, the US military did not learn from Vietnam. Nor from Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc, and it stumbles from one disastrous (especially for the hapless countries in its aim) endeavor to another.

      What about an army that learned? Say, the Germans?

      They learned from fighting Napoleon, and Gneisenau, von Clausewitz & co turned it into the efficient machine that crushed the Danes and the Austrians simultaneously in 1866, and then the French in 1870. From those fights, it learned even more, and von Moltke & co improved it into the redoubtable steamroller that bled the Allies white on several fronts in parallel. And from the defeat of 1918, it learned still more — resulting in the even more formidable waring monster that would take on every other adversary — and all at the same time — till 1945. Since then, the German army has been mostly kept small and in its caserns, and employed very sparingly.

      The conclusion is that it matters less whether the military learns: what really counts is whether the politicians in charge, and the populace which elects them, learn — and stop embarking on murderous, bellicose adventures that only benefit a small coterie of arms merchants and mining companies.

  3. norman broomhall

    It`s easy , really … obey International Law , the UN Charter , the Geneva Conventions and don`t invade , destabilise or blockade other countries . Don`t support those who do . Not hard to understand .

    1. ” Not hard to understand .”

      Agreed. But difficult to do. Execution is usually the hard part. US society has become militarized in some senses, and our foriegn policy even more so. Not easy to change that.

  4. On counterinsurgency: perhaps we should take the advice of the WHOPR:

    “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
    War Games (1983)

  5. And you are surprised FM?

    I mean, read ‘Blackhawk Down’. The authors comments was that there has been no attempts to analyse and understand that fiasco within the US forces.

    One thing that I personally hate is the re-writing of WW2. Just take D-Day for example, like when has anyone heard recently that there was 5 invasion beaches ..2 UK, 1 Canadian and 2 US. The, preventable disaster at Omaha got Bradley so scared that he asked Montgomery (his superior) if he could bring US troops through the UK beaches .. all airbrushed out of history (like Cobra was Monty’s plan, created before the invasion and the real issue was that the US forces were very slow to ‘break out’, to be fair there was some bad luck in that).

    So this, 1984 tendency to ‘airbrush inconvenient truths’ so that all disasters were actually ‘victories’ … and so on. Means that the US forces (overall) cannot learn and improve.

    So counter insurgency has no chance of being any different in US forces.

    The other thing is the inability to:
    1. Understand that your enemy can be just as smart as you are, worryingly they may be smarter. Worse they could be smarter than you and be able to fight better.

    2. Understand that invading somewhere means they will fight you. They don’t like you .. you invaded them. Even people who have hated each other for generations will band together against you. I mean, what if someone invaded the US, would Americans fight against them? (That in itself is a very interesting question).

    So you have a, being kind, a corrupt military system, incapable of learning. That, basically, lurches from disaster to disaster.

    Heck FM, you (and your team) were part of this. I am sure you were part of the reformers that tried to change it all.

    But you can’t change it unless the overall system is changed. Which, in US terms means it MUST be reduced. Cut it all by 80% (clearing out all the corruption and deadwood along the way) , then you can create a proper military. Small, lean, effective .. but too small to be misused by politicians ‘wars of choice’ … or corporate greed.
    But more than capable of defending the US and aiding key allies.

    Unless the overall system is changed, then, no matter how good they are, the ‘reformers’ will lose in the end. No matter how hard they work and sacrifice their careers.

    Take, one of my great heroes, John Boyd, he won .. for a while. But the F-15 was still an over expensive plane. The F-16 and the A-10 were brilliant … but now you have the F-22 and F-35 .. total clunkers.

    The ‘system’ has now come back to normal. And it always will, therefore the ‘system’ has to be destroyed totally.

    A FM + a John Boyd + etc, etc, etc …… = nothing versus a ‘political General’ .. and you know who I am thinking about these days. But that man is just following a tradition set far earlier.

    Personally my opinion was that the the rot was set in WW2 by Eisenhower. The first, really totally ‘political’ general, even more so than MacArthur (who Ike served under for quite a few years). A GIs life was worthless compered to a good newspaper report as far as he was concerned. And everyone since then, to a greater or lesser degree has tried to emulate him.

    1. Old Skeptic,
      While I concede that Eisenhower was a political general, you’re going to have to show me proof that Eisenhower was more concerned about good press than a GI’s life.

      Please balance your proof against the fact that Eisenhower, more than any US general in history before him, had to balance a large number of political powers (some of which were enormously powerful) to successfully bring the war to a conclusion. Imagine trying to run a war effectively while reporting simultaneously to Churchill, Roosevelt, deGaulle, and a large number of other, less well-known political powers that all had their own agendas.

      Churchill, in particular, had no hesitation to interfere with the war effort for political reasons. But the others were hardly saints to work for.

      My personal single biggest gripe with Eisenhower’s performance was his authorization of Market-Garden, but I’m not about the state that the ensuing debacle occurred because he valued good press over soldier’s lives. He made the best decision he could with the facts available at the time. I don’t know about the political fallout of the operation so perhaps you can lay some blame on him for that.

      Politics in a democracy do not end when war begins, I would argue that quite the opposite occurs.

      1. “While I concede that Eisenhower was a political general … ”

        I’ll second Pluto’s comment. Ike was leading a multinational coalition force, among the most difficult tasks for a senior commanders. That requires a general with exceptional political skills; many lacking such skills have led their armies to defeat.

        Old Skeptic’s recitation of WWII history is absurd. All wars are largely a series of errors, especially for each army in the first year or two of combat. Like everybody else, the Brits made errors beyond counting (about which Old Skeptic appears to have amnesia). As did the US. No surprise given its rapid expansion. The US Army had 175,000 active duty people in 1938; 270,000 in 1940, and 8.3 million in 1945 (almost 50x increase) — deployed across the world.

        It’s a miracle that the US army functioned at all, let alone functioned adequately. And wars are often won by adequately training and led forces, operating with superior logistics.

      2. Stories are not evidence, but they’re still interesting. From an C-Span interview with the late great David Hackworth, 7 May 1989 (he enlisted at age 14, retired as a highly decorated Lt Colonel). This incident took place when he was assigned to the 351st Infantry Regiment of the 88th Infantry Division, stationed on occupation duty in Trieste.

        When I was 15, I was in Italy, and General Eisenhower, who is a five-star General, stopped in front of me and probably because I was just a little 15-years-old kid, he said, “Well, how do you like it here?” So then I said, “Oh, just fine General.” And he said, “How’s the chow?” You know, the normal thing that a General is going to ask a little boy. And I said, “Oh, it’s terrible.” I said, “We eat Spam everyday.”

        And he went down the line and he said, “Why do these guys eat Spam everyday?” You know it went from the Lieutenant General to the Major General down to the little Major and the reply came bubbling up, “Oh the depot from the war is filled with Spam. We’ve got to get rid of it.”

        So Ike said, “Stop it. Give these guys fresh food”.

  6. I make (and never had) any dispute with Ike as a superb Supreme Commander. This is fundamentally a political role. But as an actual Field Commander he was terrible, if for no other reason that he tried to do two jobs at one time.

    But my major concern with him (and a lesser extent MacArthur) is the model he set for later US Generals. That personal politics is more important than clear military decisions to achieve an aim (which is, of course, fundamentally set by politics). And that they should be held accountable at the highest level FIRST.

    The US Army of the day was very quick to kick out people from the divisional level on down … but very slow (nearly non-existent) above that level. So lots of, potentially good people got the boot, while (for example) Bradley was never held to account for his many (and often repeated) failings (like Omaha beach).

    Plus the ‘system’ was military ‘Taylorism’ of the worst kinds. The ‘repple-depple’ system meant that troops just got fed in endlessly to the grinder. Funny historical parallels. The US Army worked like the Luftwaffe, not the Wehrmacht (or the UK or Canadians), If you were a soldier then you just kept fighting endlessly as your buddies died then new unknown replacements turned up .. and died. And there was no end to it. I have read too many accounts of US soldiers who just fought endlessly .. with only the very lucky surviving.

    The first part has resonated to today. Get up high enough and you can get off scot free with just about anything. And anything (well except for sexual stuff) is just about anything.

    The latest data about, ‘the revolving door’ between the US military and defence companies, the 2010 Navy report abut poor readiness, the latest about the appalling basic skill levels in a tested Stryker group show a system in crisis.

    Eisenhower’s fault? No of course not. But he set a dangerous precedent. The staff officer who made good, the man that never fought himself. The first dead body he ever saw was in North Africa. The man that got there by being, very often, very ambiguous, who would try to ‘compromise’ between different military plans, the man who made plans based on ‘public opinion’ (as more often than not by the headlines he got) … all good qualities in a politician .. a terrible ones for a military leader. Basically he set the model for any US Army (the Marines are different of course) ambitious General.

    There were worse of course, the US Army has never been short of ‘drama queens’, like Mark Clark, but Ike was the biggest and most successful (to the chargin of ‘Mac’).

    As for the story about the food. There are far worse ones about the US forces than that. My favourite was about the ‘Bulge’, when (in a bit of a panic as usual when thing went wrong) Ike passed over the Northern command of the US forces to Monty (since Brad has completely stuffed up .. again).
    Monty, as he always did, ‘tidied’ things up, but he was horrified when (as always) he looked at and spoke to the troops about the food they were getting. In freezing weather many hadn’t had a hot meal for weeks (or even months for some) .. and then made sure it happened.

    It was not a good system for looking after ordinary soldiers and turning them into ‘mission command’ fighters .. and still isn’t.

    1. Oldskeptic,

      Your comments display a deep prejudice against the US military in WWII — accompanied by a cheerleaders’ view towards the British military. But you seldom state any evidence, nor any comparative data for your slanders. It’s as if your standard of comparison are the armies you see on TV. This comment is esp absurd.

      I recommend reading actual research to learn something about the subject. Such as Thomas Ricks’ new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. For example, the US Army relieved 16 front-line divisional commanders and 5 corps commanders during WWII. What were the equivalent numbers for the Brits?

      That’s not to say the US army worked well in WWII. We didn’t have the long history of brutal big wars that so honed the european armies, so they could efficiently conduct mass slaughter of one another. Napoleonic Wars, Crimea, colonization of the world, WWII — all produced a military tradition the US lacked from its indian wars and the Civil War (our involvement in WWI being too brief to learn much). So you can exult in the UK’s superior ability to engage in war, then enjoy yourself to the full.

      Your comment about Taylorism shows the unbalanced nature of your critique. While it produced many ill effects (eg, the individual replacement system you mentioned), it might have been the only efficient way to quickly mobilize a large nation from an almost cold start in late 1940 (FDR signed the draft law in Sept 1940). The Brits started mobilization in 1938. The UK passed its draft law in May 1939, and had drafted over a million men into the army by the end of 1939 (at which time the US army was aprox 200 thousand total).

      Suggestion: cite some evidence to support your views. Or even better, some experts’ views.

      1. A broader note about the Allies’ generals in WW2: few of them were top-tier. We can only guess at the reasons. Perhaps the generation of peace since WW1, so they lacked experience and the incentive to prepare for war. Perhaps the anti-militarism and slow promotions prevented them from recruiting top-quality people.

        Whatever the reason, Allied armies were man for man grossly inferior to the German’s at the start, with the gap growing smaller but never closing. That’s true of the generals, as well.

        Broadening the scope of this discussion.

        As a thought experiment, imagine if the German’s had the advantages enjoyed by the Allies in equipment, supplies (including fuel), and the ULTRA (reading their enemies radio traffic). With these it still took a year to win after D-Day. WIth these reversed would the Allies have been able to win?

        One of the best efforts to quantify these differences was the research of Trevor N. Dupey (Colonel, US Army, retired). (this is from memory) he calculated that the UK and US armies were roughly equivalent, and roughly 20-30% less effective per man than the German Army.

        For a detailed comparison of US and Germany armies see Martin van Creveld’s Fighting Power (1982).

    2. Oldskeptic,

      Here we have criticized the US military in detail, but with a greater grasp of reality than you display. Guessing, you have some sort of emotional antipathy or ideological fixation that distorts your visions.

      Re: Omaha Beach failure

      What an odd view. I was, for unrelated project, just read three Brit accounts of the Omaha landing: The Britannica, The Oxford Companion to American Military History, and John Keegan’s The Second World War. None mention your odd theory. Can you provide any supporting citations?

      Re: the Battle of the Bulge

      We’ve discussed this before. Your description is largely bogus, contrary to well-known facts.

  7. While questions about military effectiveness ought to be an urgent topic of public discussion in any Republic, I find it hard to get excited about this subject of late. I think questions about the uses to which a military is put ought to have primacy over those concerning its effectiveness–partly because those uses have direct consequences on the quality of that military. If you decide to cut rebar with a knife, does it make any difference if you use a Sabatier or a Stainless China?

    We may look with disdain on the shallow careerism of the hugely bloated U.S. military’s officer corps and upon the general inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of those military organizations, but isn’t this rotteness merely a reflection of the greater corruption that embraces all of Washington? Should we rejoice if our Army were to suddenly and miraculously become as effective as the Wehrmacht of 1940? I think not. Such dreadful competence might at first increase Washington’s power to inflict harm on the world, but in the end this military too would be ground into dust by the same kinds of forces that destroyed the Wehrmacht. The details of the misuse would differ, but in the end fools destroy their tools.

    Heck, talking about war just isn’t the fun it used to be.

    1. I agree but believe the subjects are related.

      We do foreign wars because we believe ourselves to be good at counterinsurgency. If we didn’t believe we could win, we would be far less likely send the Army to intervene in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

  8. But if you truly think “9-11 changed the course of a great nation, turning America decisively toward the dark side”, how could any of that war stuff possibly matter?

    *********************** EPIPHANY ENSUES ***************************

    I feel like a such a fool. For a long time, I have wondered how the SAME GUY could have so many divergent opinions. Sometimes, it seemed to me as though Fabius Max was a committee–opinions all over the place, a mind as elusive as quicksilver, brilliant one moment, dumb as a rock the next. This perceived inconstancy is why I have often been grumbly with the…er…author. Well, I finally looked at the “about the authors” page. (The plural kinda piqued my interest.) You ARE a committee. I mean…well, you have multiple personalities. To be more precise, you ARE multiple personalities. More than one person, even. Jeez.

    How long have I been the only one in the world who was so completely wrong about dear old Fabius? Did you start out as One? Have I always been this dumb?

    1. Reynardine,

      That’s a provocative comment. But it’s a bit vague. Can you provide examples of these things?

      • “opinions all over the place”
      • “dumb as a rock the next”

      The first charge appears to be of inconsistency (“all over the place”). If by that you mean “not on the conventional left-right political spectrum”, then I plead guilty. IMO that no longer meaningful represents our world. And it’s easily seen by looking at the positions adopted by our current President, many of which fit no standard definition of “liberal” — let alone the charge of “leftist” thrown at him by the GOP.

      Even more interesting is the “dumb as rocks”. The length of the “smackdowns” page (and it does not record all the errors) shows imperfections enough. But let’s see some examples of “dumb”.

    2. “But if you truly think “9-11 changed the course of a great nation, turning America decisively toward the dark side”, how could any of that war stuff possibly matter? ”

      I don’t understand your question. Wars always matter (somewhat proportional to their size). How does that contract the belief that America has changed course? In fact, wars often mark nations making a change in their direction or nature.

  9. In what fundamental way was President Assad’s suppression of the uprising at Hama in 1983 and, say the way the Germans conducted themselves in Yugoslavia different? They both seem to be brutal uses of force without apology, but why do you recommend one and not the other?

    1. Apollo,

      To discuss the mechanisms of war does not mean “approval”. War is a blight on humanity, but must be understood.

      The difference is a matter of scale. Assad met a rebellion in a city by destroying it. I don’t believe the NAZI’s acted on the same scale (note WWII Yugoslavia had a lower population than 1982 Syria). For example, their reprisals in Czechoslovakia for the assassination of Heydrich (Operation Anthropoid), in which they killed several hundred people. Hitler’s initial response was to execute 10,000 people, but was talked out of it.

      Also, the massive war deaths in Yugoslavia — from the NAZIs, the resistance, the intramural fighting — created a “background” level of violence against which a “Hama-like” response would be difficult to do — and even to imagine.

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