Rules of Engagement and Counterinsurgency Malpractice

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 6 months ago

From The Australian:

AUSTRALIA’S defence chiefs are already reconciled to a long-term Australian military presence in Afghanistan.

Yesterday’s announcement of a return of special forces to Afghanistan confirms that that country remains at the centre of Australia’s military contribution to the global jihadist war.

The SAS and the commandos are essential to ensuring that our engineers and trade specialists can go about their civic rebuilding tasks with the support of localAfghans. The ground forces are sustained by headquarters, intelligence and logistics staff, as well as vital air support, bringing the total size of the force to at least 1000.

The experience of the past few months has shown that without aggressive, long-range patrolling and intelligence gathering by Australian special forces, the threat posed by Taliban insurgents in Oruzgan province will soon rebound. Tight rules of engagement for a number of NATO countries, including The Netherlands, inhibit their combat forces from taking on the Taliban in offensive operations

We will revisit this last sentence in a few moments.  In a recent article in Harper’s Magazine, defense policy expert Edward Luttwak weighs in on the current conflict in Iraq in an interesting article entitled Dead End: Counterinsurgency Warfare as Military Malpractice.   After recognizing that involvement of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and effective political machinations are necessary for victory in any counterinsurgency, he makes the following observation that becomes seminal for his article.

Much more questionable is the proposition that follows, which is presented as self-evident, that a necessary if not sufficient condition of victory is to provide what the insurgents cannot: basic public services, physical reconstruction, the hope of economic development and social amelioration. The hidden assumption here is that there is only one kind of politics in this world, a politics in which popular support is important or even decisive, and that such support can be won by providing better government. Yet the extraordinary persistence of dictatorships as diverse in style as the regimes of

Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Syria shows that in fact government needs no popular support as long as it can secure obedience. As for better government, that is certainly wanted in France, Norway, or the United States, but obviously not in Afghanistan or Iraq, where many people prefer indigenous and religious oppression to the freedoms offered by foreign invaders.

The very word “guerrilla,


Comments

  1. On April 19, 2007 at 1:54 am, kat-missouri said:

    My major problem with Luttwak is that he used incomplete historical references to try to prove his point.

    One of the main issues is to believe that people will, for the most part, fight against their best interests for an ideology. That may be true for some, but not all and counterinsurgency bets on the those who are not part of the “some”. That is why there is both a military and socio/political part of a counterinsurgency.

    One of his references was to Roman’s and their brutality in putting down “insurgents” as if this indicated the major reason the rest of the empire did not revolt.

    What is missing there is the piece where there were benefits to being part of the empire. Security, economics and even religious freedom and potential for political/social advancement.

    In short, not all people will fight against benefits or be accepting of those that do.

    However, I will agree with the point that people need to feel secure in order to feel the “benefits” of a politico/socio/economic system. However, like our own society, that security does not necessarily mean a total cessation of violence.

    For instance, the latest mass murder in Virginia. Having seen and heard about it, we may feel “less secure”, but we do not feel so insecure that we believe our government or local forces/laws are incapable of protecting us.

    This is the security that must be reached. Not utopia, but something visibly and empathetically less than it is today.

    This does not require that we do “total war” on the whole of Iraq or even parts of it. If we were to subscribe to Luttwak’s notions completely, than we would have seen Fallujah and Najaf in 2004 change the battlefield completely. In otherwords, the “brutality” of these fights would have instilled enough fear to make population sit down and shut up.

    And, based on Luttwak’s notion, it is not as if we should have to do it everyday everywhere. He specifically noted that the Romans were more about making examples. Specific incidents of brutality few and far between that were just brutal enough to keep the people down in between each event.

    That cannot be the only answer since, as I noted, we have certainly had plenty of brutal acts in between, not to mention the daily beating down of doors and rounding up of men who are currently in the prison system in Iraq.

    I think that talking about this and imagining it as THE solution is disingenuous wishful thinking at best and criminal at worst.

    My complete commentary here:

    http://themiddleground.blogspot.com/2007/04/middle-ground-on-total-war-ii.html

    and here

    http://themiddleground.blogspot.com/2007/04/middle-ground-on-total-war.html

  2. On April 23, 2007 at 6:14 am, Bob said:

    Very interesting article.

    The bold accented bit is not true though. The Netherlands has and is taken part in offensive operations against the taliban. During Operation Medusa with ground troops, firesupport in the form of artillery and air support with F-16s and Apache gunships. The same for Baaz Tsuka and the current Operation Achilles in which a Dutch para was killed just recently.

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You are currently reading "Rules of Engagement and Counterinsurgency Malpractice", entry #494 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Rules of Engagement,Small Wars and was published April 16th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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