Tag Archives: counterinsurgency

Stratfor remembers Ireland’s Easter Rebellion, 100 year ago

Summary:  A century ago the Irish Rising shook the British Empire, already weakened in the midst of WWI. Here Stratfor looks at this pivotal event, with echoes still heard today.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

Stratfor

Remembering the Irish Easter Rising a Century On

Stratfor, 24 April 2016

A century ago in Dublin, the spark of a revolution that would end with Irish independence from London was lit. Curious bystanders listened to an impassioned speech by erstwhile schoolteacher, lawyer, poet and political activist Patrick Henry Pearse from the steps of the General Post Office on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) declaring Ireland’s emancipation from English rule. Most people nodded in agreement, then went about their business, unaware that what was about to transpire that Easter Monday would shape the future of the nation.

Pearse was a logical choice to make the proclamation of independence, having previously given a rousing graveside speech at the funeral of Fenian supremo and Irish Republican Brotherhood leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. Pearse’s words expressed the discontent felt by many in Ireland at the time, effectively galvanizing public support for a militant struggle.

“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

The “purchased half” referred to the Irish unionists in the north, who harbored equally strong feelings about freedom and coexistence. Yet in the south, the republican movement had the fervor, the opportunity and the means to take drastic action, at a time when the British Parliament was distracted by World War I.

The Proclamation of the Republic on April 24, 1916, was the starting pistol for a six-day uprising, which began later that day when around 1,200 irregulars from the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers took up arms in protest of centuries of unyielding British governance. In practical military terms, the action was a tactical disaster.

Planning deficiencies and poor organization combined with a shortage of manpower and weaponry hamstrung the revolutionaries. Even a British military distracted and depleted by global conflict soon overmatched the Irish fighters. Dublin paid the price: Good portions of the capital were blasted into rubble. Of the 485 or so who died in the uprising, around half were civilians, and a quarter were British soldiers. It was a tolerable loss from London’s perspective, given the requirement to rapidly crush any domestic unrest in its colonies. But the heavy-handed approach that secured victory for the British ultimately became a rallying cry that contributed to the partition of Ireland.

Continue reading

We don’t need a new army to fight modern wars, we need a smart one

Summary;  Our long war goes badly, as the flames of Islamic revolution spread following our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Some ask if the US military can cope with the challenges of fourth generation war. Here Gary Anderson (Colonel, USMC, retired) gives an answer.

USMC logo

 

We Don’t Need a New Army to Deal with Fourth Generation Foes;
we need a Smart One

By Gary Anderson (Colonel, USMC, retired)

One of the primary fallacies regarding Fourth Generational Warfare (4GW) is that the United States must totally retool its force structure to deal with this emerging evolution in warfare; this is not the case. 4GW means that foreign and domestic non-state actors are challenging the monopoly that nation-states have enjoyed on the application of force since the end of the Thirty Years War. That does not mean that war between nation-states has become obsolete.

The fact that the United States enjoys a temporary overmatch against most plausible conventional foes has not made traditional warfighting a thing of the past. Some potential American foes intend to combine a combination of conventional and unconventional warfare in any conflict with the United States in a concept known as hybrid warfare. However, any hybrid war will probably begin with a conventional stage, and only go hybrid if America’s enemy perceives that it is losing.

The United States would be ill-advised to sacrifice its technological edge to prepare to fight low-end 4GW opponents for two reasons. First, success in 4GW is primarily a matter of operational art, particularly in the application of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism principles. There is no special technological or force structure formula for 4GW warfare. Each situation will be unique and the studied application of task organization to meet the terrain and situation will be a key to success.

The primary difference between 4GW and traditional insurgencies is that insurgencies generally have the objective of replacing one form of government with another in a specific country. Many 4GW actors are transnational and look to control a region regardless of existing borders. In that; ISIL, Boko Harem, and to a lesser extent Islamic Courts (al Shabab) do not recognize traditional largely colonial drawn international borders. However, the tactics that they initially use more resemble the classic first two stages of insurgencies with terrorism being used as an early tool.

Continue reading

14 years of assassinations: Stratfor describes the result

Summary: Slowly America’s geopolitical leaders see the futility of the assassination programs which are one of the three tools we rely on to win the Long War that began with 9/11 and President Bush’s imperial surge which followed (bombing and local militia are the other two, also failures). In this article Stratfor describes the meger results achieved by 14 years of assassinations. Perhaps soon they’ll see the Darwinian Ratchet.

Stratfor

The Lives of Jihadist Leaders Drop in Value

By Scott Stewart of Stratfor, 6 August 2015

Much has been written since the July 30 confirmation that the Taliban’s longtime leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, died two years ago. Most of the discussion has focused on the future of the Taliban movement, the impact of his death on the al Qaeda core — which had pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar as Amir al-Mu’minin, or “commander of the faithful,” — and of course, the Islamic State’s efforts to take advantage of Mullah Omar’s death.

Certainly, the announcement has caused existing rifts among the various factions of the Taliban to become more pronounced. But these divisions have always existed, and the Taliban have long been anything but a cohesive, unified organization. The announcement also became fodder for a massive Twitter campaign by the Islamic State “Twitteratti,” who are seeking to exploit the intentional deception of the Taliban cadres who sought to hide Mullah Omar’s death. The Islamic State had publicly challenged the Taliban to publish proof of life for Mullah Omar, suggesting that word of the Talban leader’s death had leaked. This likely forced the Taliban to admit that he was dead.

Islamic State gloating aside, I personally doubt we will witness the same scale of defections from the al Qaeda orbit of the jihadist universe that we did after the declaration of the caliphate last year. This is because the battle lines in the al Qaeda vs. Islamic State fight for the heart of the global jihad have become well established, and much of the shine has worn off the Islamic State’s claim to be an inexorable force.

From my perspective, the more interesting aspect of the announcement of Mullah Omar’s demise is that he had been dead since April 2013, but nobody really missed him. Concealing someone’s death for one “Weekend at Bernie’s” is one thing, but maintaining such a ruse for two years is quite another.

Continue reading

Darwin explains the futility of killing insurgents. It makes them more effective.

Summary: During the past decade we have deployed our most skilled warriors and most advanced technology in an assassination program with few precedents in history. Result: the Middle East in flames and our foes resurgent. I and others predicted this, the natural result of putting the force of evolution to work for our foes. It’s called the Darwinian Ratchet. It’s a well-known concept in science, but one we prefer not to see. Victory remains impossible until we overcome our inability to learn this and other basics of modern warfare.  This is cross-posted on Martin van Creveld’s website; he described this as “absolutely fascinating.”

“What does not kill him, makes him stronger.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche in Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is (1888).

Ratchet

Contents

  1. Our learning disability
  2. Biologists explain the Darwinian Ratchet.
  3. The Darwinian Ratchet at work in war.
  4. Conclusion
  5. For More Information.
  6. An insurgent’s theme song.

(1) Our learning disability

The great mystery of our post-9/11 wars is our inability to learn from history and our own experience. My previous post discussed one aspect of this: our blindness to the consistent failure since WWII of foreign armies fighting insurgents. Another aspect is what Martin van Creveld calls the “power of weakness”. This essay discusses a third aspect, how an insurgency brings into play a “Darwinian ratchet” in which our efforts empower an insurgency.

This post shows the origin and history of the “ratchet” concept and its slow recognition by American geopolitical and military leaders. But there are no answers to our inability to adapt our tactics to the ratchet, just as there are none for our failure to learn from the history of insurgencies (as explained in Why the West loses so many wars, and how we can learn to win).

(2) Biologists Explain the Darwinian Ratchet

It’s an old concept in biology, first developed by Herman Muller in his famous 1932 article “Some genetic aspects of sex”. We’re personally experience the Darwinian ratchet when we take antibiotics in too-low doses or for too short a time, creating a colony of slightly drug-resistant bacteria. When done by a society we breed superbugs, as Nathan Taylor explains in “What are the risks of a global pandemic?“ (Praxtime, 23 March 2013).

“The genetics of disease resistance are worth discussing here. We can think of resistance to disease as an arms race. As a population gets exposed to more and more diseases, a darwinian ratchet effect occurs, and only those with stronger immune systems survive.”

The literature of biology and medicine has many articles about the Darwinian ratchet, ranging from complex (Alexander Riegler’s “The Ratchet Effect as a Fundamental Principle in Evolution and Cognition”, Cybernetics and Systems, 2001) to the incomprehensible. The concept has spread to other fields, as in William H. Calvin’s The Cerebral Code: Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind (1996).

Continue reading

A powerful new article shows why we lose so many wars: FAILure to learn

Summary:  Slowly America begins to come to grips with its defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, as experts provide simple easy explanations. Here we look at the 3rd such major article, a demonstration that the main lesson of our defeats is that we refuse to learn from them. Eyes tightly closed we stumble onto a rough road to the future.   {2nd of 2 wars.}

 

 “Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars?

by Dominic Tierney
(Assoc Prof of political science, Swarthmore)
Excerpt from his new book

“Since 1945, the United States has experienced little except military stalemate and loss — precisely because it’s a superpower in a more peaceful world.”

Prof Tierney vividly demonstrates one reason America keeps losing: our US-centric view of the world. It’s all about us. As with health care and other public policy issues, we have little interest in the experience of other nations — and so draw stunningly bad conclusions on our little history.

Why does the United States struggle in war? How can it resolve a failing conflict? Can America return to victory? Today, these are critical questions because we live in an age of unwinnable conflicts, where decisive triumph has proved to be a pipe dream.

We can’t win, so obviously nobody can win. This displays an amazing blindness to history. The post-WWII era of anti-colonial wars ended in 1992 (i.e., Afghanistan vs. the USSR) with a series of decisive wins by local peoples over foreign armies. It’s been an age of victory parades, not unwinnable conflicts.

Continue reading