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Sleuths, Poets, Boots and Persistence

Reader comment on item: Must Counterinsurgency Wars Fail?
in response to reader comment: Must counter.wars fail?

Submitted by J. S. Oppenheim (United States), Sep 15, 2008 at 09:47

Most "insurgencies" -- guerrilla wars -- fail, or the world should have an altered political map annually. Some characteristics of guerrilla wars in general bear keeping in mind:

1. Guerrilla war is predominantly defensive on the part of the weak--offensive action is sporadic--and consequently stubborn;

2. However charming, mythologized in real time, and romantic they may be, guerrillas neither start out popular, nor do they easily gain popularity and subscription: more often brigands, murderers, and thieves than sanitized Robin Hoods, they're the number one scourge of the communities they target and exploit, provided incumbent powers do not prove worse repressing them. One ought not match, for example, programs of assassination undertaken by an insurgency with comparatively indiscriminate air strikes against them.

3. Guerrilla movements expand best when unopposed but divide and channel into action under pressure.

Contemporary guerrilla warfare has developed from a universal perspective some particularly egregious characteristics, starting with the development of powerful state sponsorships that transform the efforts of guerrilla bands into low-intensity proxied wars. Moreover, for arms, communications, and funds, arrangements with plainly criminal elements mark a part of the feeding of the machinery. Neither state sponsorship or the convenience and utility of crime channels make guerrilla life more survivable as neither provide the basis for a persistent presence, which is in every instance insufficient local resistance--i.e., absence of robust military and paramilitary defenses within the micro-cultures and related locations affected.

The Islamic Small Wars, which are not the only games in the global town, much to the misfortune of all, have a few additional characteristics, none having particularly to do with religion, which provides a surface intellectual accouterment and drive belying other problems.

1. Deeply personal relationships and privacy enable adverse action in Islam, practically all of it targeting and taking Muslim lives daily as operational opportunities and plans shift. Proceeding through cabal and loose friendships ("kidships"), never have so few mustered so much firepower (and made such an unholy mess).

2. Dear to my heart, seldom has language enjoyed so romantic a flowering in the minds and on the tongues of men wielding Kalashnikovs.

When Fatah al-Islam showed up in Nahr al-Bared last year, they had come to liberate the Palistinians encamped and save all of Lebanon from the "Israeli aggressor"--never mind bringing down the roofs that had sheltered the heads of 31,000 residents; never mind the disinterest shown by Hezbollah and every other Muslim fighting organization; and never mind martyrdom to practically the last man (they were lucky to get a brief truce with then General Michel Suleiman's army and spare the lives of their remaining children and wives): their glory lay in the possession of poetry and standing up within the world laid out by the same.

Three elements will contribute mightily to halting the advance of militant bands and containing the damage they do (in Islam, far more to Islam than anyone else): detectives, poet-scholars, and soldiers.

Air strikes, mortar ,and rockets?

They're good for the newsies.

Ground operations, like those taking place in Pakistan today, work by forcing guerrillas into action (where an army can see them); for Islam, I also have reason to believe that dialogue founded in the language of the Qur'an has a beneficial effect on communities of interest.

From Jesuit assassins to Pancho Villa, long persistence, pressure, and strength on the part of incumbent power grinds away at guerrilla movements. All represent adventurers of sort, and most, like the PKK involved with Turkey, descend into irrelevance or, worse, because they're fighters with fewer and fewer alternative career paths, roving criminality over time.

Submitting....

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