10 years, 3 months ago
Eschatology, or the study and philosophy of the last things, is key to the proper understanding of counterterrorism warfare, but not usually mentioned in the same breath. Theologians do not usually engage in discussions of military strategy, and infantry officers do not usually read books in religious philosophy. Yet, on a grand scale, the two are intimately connected, and eschatology is the determinative factor in the motivation of the terrorist, even if his view of the end only involves the fulfillment of secular goals such as the will to power.
The Baathists had threatened to retaliate should the “crime” of executing Saddam Hussein be committed, saying that “The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime.” FNC had reported just prior to Saddam’s execution from they U.S. officers in contact with the tribal leaders supportive of anti-coalition efforts that these tribal chiefs were propositioning them to “release Saddam, and he and the U.S. would handle the Iran problem together.”
Even for those who rejected the religious eschatology of victory embraced by al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunnah, they were loyal to the end, and hopeful for a resurgent Sunni rule in Iraq led by Saddam. Those who sided with the terrorists (Saddam’s secret police and the Fedayeen) merely found expediency in objectives: the driving of the coalition forces from Iraq.
So determined are the anti-coalition forces that they are willing to pursue a “scorched earth” policy to achieve their objectives. It was reported on October 23, 2006, that 500 000 Iraqi citizens had fled Iraq (primarily from the Anbar Province) to Syria. As of December 3, 2006, it is reported that 700 000 Iraqi citizens are in Syria and another 700 000 in Jordan, for a total of 1.4 million displaced citizens. One anecdotal piece of evidence is given to us by an otherwise non-remarkable person in the Anbar Province:
The gunman stood at the foot of his bed. “Are you al-Jaboury?” he yelled. It was 2 o’clock on a stifling July morning, and al-Jaboury had been sound asleep next to his wife. After hearing his name, the young Iraqi police officer didn’t hesitate. Grabbing the gun he had been stashing under his pillow every night since he’d joined the police 18 months earlier, he shot the intruder in the throat. The gunman’s accomplices all fled.
But the danger wasn’t over. “I knew the insurgents would come back, and maybe they would blow up the whole house,” al-Jaboury says. “My wife blamed me for joining the police. She said that I am a Sunni and that I know that the insurgents don’t like this, and that I would get killed sooner or later.” The next day, al-Jaboury left his wife, his daughter, and his home in the troubled Diyala province and took off in a neighbor’s pickup truck, loaded with fruit, and headed for Syria. He had $300 in his pocket.
Literally splitting families apart, the insurgents are willing to destroy the population and infrastructure to effect their end. They are willing to do this for the same reason that the 50 million dollar bounty on the head of Bin Laden is meaningless to those with whom he lives. They believe that they will win.
Until they are no longer convinced that victory awaits them, U.S. government largesse means nothing to the insurgents. No amount of so-called “nonkinetic” operations on the part of U.S. forces will “win the hearts and minds of the people” when wives are concerned about their husbands siding with the police for fear of them getting killed by insurgents.
This problem is exacerbated and compounded when religious pre-commitments are involved. Secular eschatology doesn’t compare in strength to religious eschatology. The Baathists need to see tangible results in time and space. When final defeat becomes obvious, although not yet fulfilled, the remnant might be persuaded to stand down, or simply disappear from the scene. Those who have a religious commitment need not see tangible results in time and space, and so nothing can dissuade them from their deadly adventures.
Guerrilla warfare is not the unique development of the twentieth century. Francis Marion fought the forces of Cornwallis to a standstill in the swamps of South Carolina, with an eschatology that was at least in part based on religious commitment. Even in the twentieth century, Vietnam was not the first example of such tactics. In my studies of World War II many years ago, I was fascinated to learn about the existence of “Hitler’s Werewolves.” A brief description of their accomplishments follows.
What did the Werwolf do? They sniped. They mined roads. They poured sand into the gas tanks of jeeps. (Sugar was in short supply, no doubt.) They were especially feared for the “decapitation wires” they strung across roads. They poisoned food stocks and liquor. (The Russians had the biggest problem with this.) They committed arson, though perhaps less than they are credited with: every unexplained fire or explosion associated with a military installation tended to be blamed on the Werwolf. These activities slackened off within a few months of the capitulation on May 7, though incidents were reported as late as 1947.
… Goebbels especially grasped the possibility that guerrilla war could be a political process as well as a military strategy. It was largely through his influence that the Werwolf assumed something of the aspect of a terrorist organization. Where it could, it tried to prevent individuals and communities from surrendering, and it assassinated civil officials who cooperated with the Allies. Few Germans welcomed these activities, but something else that Goebbels grasped was that terror might serve where popularity was absent. By his estimate, only 10% to 15% of the German population were potential supporters for a truly revolutionary movement. His goal was to use the Werwolf to activate that potential. With the help of the radical elite, the occupiers could be provoked into savage reprisals that would win over the mass of the people to Neo-Nazism, a term that came into use in April 1945.
And from an article on Minutemen of the Third Reich.(history of the Nazi Werewolf guerilla movement) The Werewolves specialised in ambushes and sniping, and took the lives of many Allied and Soviet soldiers and officers — perhaps even that of the first Soviet commandant of Berlin, General N.E. Berzarin, who was rumoured to have been waylaid in Charlottenburg during an incident in June 1945. Buildings housing Allied and Soviet staffs were favourite targets for Werewolf bombings; an explosion in the Bremen police headquarters, also in June 1945, killed five Americans and thirty-nine Germans. Techniques for harassing the occupiers were given widespread publicity through Werewolf leaflets and radio propaganda, and long after May 1945 the sabotage methods promoted by the Werewolves were still being used against the occupying powers. Although the Werewolves originally limited themselves to guerrilla warfare with the invading armies, they soon began to undertake scorched-earth measures and vigilante actions against German `collaborators’ or `defeatists’. They damaged Germany’s economic infrastructure, already battered by Allied bombing and ground fighting, and tried to prevent anything of value from falling into enemy hands. Attempts to blow up factories, power plants or waterworks occasionally provoked melees between Werewolves and desperate German workers trying to save the physical basis of their employment, particularly in the Ruhr and Upper Silesia.
In the end, the “Werewolves” were merely Hitler youth, lacked moorings and leadership, and lacked a cogent world view, and within a year or so they were finished. This is instructive. They saw that they had no chance to succeed, and vanished into the landscape in short order, lacking a vision for victory.
In this time of post-Saddam Iraq, we now have the knowledge that we have destroyed the only true enemy of Iran. Does the vision for the GWOT include considerations for the future of U.S. forces in the region to impede Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon? Does victory in Iraq include the notion of the creation of an ally in the GWOT? Does victory in Iraq mean that the Iraqis are able to stand on their own immediately, or is the lesser goal adequate – that of the U.S. providing security now so that some day this might take effect? And if we bring security, how would we do this? The casualty rate in December of 2006 rivals the casualties in the first and second battles for Fallujah.
It has been said to me recently by one serviceman that “since we were battling Saddam’s forces, defeat of the remaining Sunni insurgency in Anbar means victory.” This is true, given a minimalist definition of victory. But when the generals themselves cannot define an eschatology of victory, the servicemen are left to devise their own. With nuances, there will be as many definitions as are there are servicemen.