October 18, 2009
Counterinsurgency Doctrine and the Global JihadBy Jim Sauer
There have been some phony arguments put forth for another "surge" in Afghanistan. We need not a surge of troops, we merely need to let our forces there do what needs to be done - kill the enemy.
There is this misconception about Afghanistan in particular (and Islam in general) that somehow we can bring Central Asia (and the rest of the Islamic world) kicking and screaming into the 21st Century through good will. This is simply not the case. There is no amount of money to spend, infrastructure to build, schools to provide, hospitals to heal, or good will that Americans can display toward the Afghan people that will produce a lasting effect. I was once told by an accomplished Afghan intelligence analyst that, "you can rent an Afghan, but you can't buy him."
The hard fact is that the "hearts and minds" of the Afghan "people" are not for sale! The descendants of "The Great Khan" and their tribal cousins have no interest in being Westernized in any way. And, the human sewers that serve as their political leadership can only be rented. Americans are interlopers in a land where interlopers generally have their heads lopped off.
Nobody read their Kipling. (I know, "who or what was Kipling?" Look it up.) Americans do not know their own history (except the spun trash that passes for "social studies" in our heavily leftist high schools) much less the history of Afghanistan. And, this includes our political leadership! Ask an American on the street -- or a congressman in the House -- to point to Afghanistan on a map, and they will probably start with their finger cautiously orbiting somewhere over Rhode Island.
This writer spent thirty years listening to and deciphering military acronyms and idiotic jargon. The catch phrase today is "COIN" -- Counterinsurgency doctrine. Our political and military leadership act like this is some sort of esoteric Gnostic knowledge that is just now coming to light. That is crap. There is nothing new here.
Counterinsurgency predates Rome. In modern times, the first COIN doctrine called Small Wars Manual was written by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1935 with the final edition being published in 1940. The first few decades of the 20th Century saw Marines intervening as "State Department Troops" from Central America and Hispaniola to China and the Philippines. The Small Wars Manual is a compilation of information describing nation building, establishing "constabularies", civil affairs, infrastructure repair, election management, donkey packing and inspiration, river crossing, intelligence gathering, psychology and ethnicity of native peoples, disarmament of the populace, force composition, supply and logistics chains, public image (both in the target nation and in the United States), and everything else it takes to drag a Third-World backwash into the current day and age. There is even a section on inspecting the feet of native troops for bunions, corns, and severe athlete's foot.
The manual is also full of contradictions. If one were to summarize in a sentence or two the center of conflicting mass, one might say, "Try to be nice, but if they don't go along with the program manipulate them. If that doesn't' work, kill them -- every one of them." It reminds one of a quip from Vietnam that went, "Let us win your hearts and minds or we'll burn your damn huts down."
It seems our current crop of political and military geniuses think that COIN can be conducted in a sanitary manner. This belief is insane. The "small wars" of the 20th Century were every bit as dirty and brutal as any conventional war ever fought.
Legendary Marine Corps hero and two time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley Butler wrote of his "COIN" experience a short tome titled "War is a Racket". It spelled out the misuse of American forces and the waste of American lives during the first three decades of the 20th Century. General Butler was an unlikely critic of the use of military force -- the more reason to heed his caveats.
Though published in 1940, the intervening years of conventional war (World War II and Korea) saw the Small Wars Manual fade into disuse.
The formation of the U.S. Army Special Forces in the 1960s led to an attempt to bring COIN doctrine to Vietnam. While this effort met with some success against the Viet Cong, the introduction of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces diminished the strategic effectiveness of the Special Forces effort. Further, as the NVA entered the fray and the war progressed, the Viet Cong themselves, although diminished by the Special Forces effort, became more sophisticated with regard to their remaining cell structures, logistics, and weapons employment.
There are several things to consider:
1. With the exception of Malaysia, there have historically been very few -- if any -- real, long lasting counterinsurgency success stories.
2. Wars are like fingerprints and snowflakes -- no two are alike
3. The sophistication of the insurgency with respect to tactics, weapons, as well as ethnic loyalties to and from the populace, can negate COIN efforts.
4. The subtleties and grace of Tae Kwon Do are nice, but there's nothing like a good punch in the mouth.
COIN may be a legitimate strategy in a limited sense when the "insurgents" are seen as outsiders -- or at least trouble makers with a foreign ideology -- by the native population in a fixed geographic region. However, the insurgency we face is not limited to Afghanistan. It is a global movement. Civilian casualties must be avoided whenever possible -- not at all costs. There is no excuse for the wanton slaughter of innocents. However, if a COIN strategy is to succeed, our political and military leadership must demonstrate the willingness to adjust the tactics used in the battlespace in order to allow our troops to kill the enemy.
When The Great Khan rode through Central Asia in the early 13th Century, he did not take into consideration public opinion. He had lands to conquer, people to rule, and resources to exploit. He spread fear and misery across Persia and into Europe. Whether an Afghan is Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, or Turkmen, some -- the real Afghan warriors -- still have the spirit of the Mongol Horde in their blood.
That having been said, their blood has been thinned by time and centuries of misery. The current crop of Afghanistan's "Warriors" is almost exclusive to the opposition. The true believers are fighters -- cowards too, but fighters nonetheless. By contrast, the bulk of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are not fighters, nor are they "true believers". They are simply cowards -- frauds -- corrupt to the core by any standard and an apostate to their own faith. They are slovenly, drug-addicted, dimwitted, and totally unreliable at any level. Like the Taliban, they are brutal to their own countrymen. They thrive on their petty powers and refuse to shoulder any burden or responsibility. Does this sound too harsh? Not for the Marines and Soldiers who have been killed by the treachery of ANA and ANP who have purposely led them into ambush. Nevertheless, training and integration of indigenous forces into the fight is critical to the success of COIN.
According to the great military minds of our time, these ANA/ANP forces can be trained and formed to fight their own war. At what cost? How many American lives? How many taxpayer dollars? It would take decades if it were simply a matter of sophistication and military training. However, the obstacle is the way and philosophy of life in the Islamic world.
Iraq is a case study in deception with regard to COIN. You have been told by the media and our politicians that the Iraqi Army is now capable of maintaining order in Iraq with limited U.S. support. Well, read the news. Iraq is still in chaos. As we withdraw it will become worse; Sunni v. Shiite, Kurd v. Sunni and/or Shiite. Arabs are as brutal as Central Asians. However, they are even worse soldiers, and bring new meaning to the term cowardly. An American colonel who tried to train an Iraqi brigade regularly quips that his greatest accomplishment in twelve months was to get the Iraqis to use the toilets. He was not exaggerating. Americans have no idea how screwed up the world is east of Greece. Iraq is not yet a success story. The insurgency is just laying low. The Muslim mind thinks in terms of years, decades, and centuries -- not election cycles. You will hear optimistic talking heads speak otherwise. They will tell you of the great success in Iraq. You will even hear this occasionally from Soldiers, Marines, and "Operators" who have had good experiences with the Iraqi forces. However, their experience is the exception.
For COIN to succeed in Afghanistan, the population would have to share at least some of our values. The fact is they don't! Their "values", whether religious, social, or political, are the same values held by Al Qaeda and the Taliban! Islam is an integrated system! Islam is not just something Muslims do on Friday when it is convenient! The Islamic world is in no way similar to "Christendom" where the faith of many -- particularly in Europe -- has been compromised by progressive secularism. Most Muslims actually believe in the tenets of the Koran. These tenets are not the passive "Five Pillars" and other sanitized junk you read in an English translation. Muslims believe in the tenets that direct that they convert, subjugate, or destroy non-believers -- that means Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even atheists.
Americans have been conditioned and have become accustomed to tiptoeing about, fearing to offend anyone -- even those who are offensive to the bulk of humanity. Thus, there is not an American politician or a media guru who will speak the truth clearly.
Although this writer has read extracts from the Koran, there is no claim from this quarter to any real Islamic theological scholarship. My understanding from Muslim acquaintances is that a true Muslim understands the Koran as literally as an Evangelical Protestant understands the Bible. Those who do not are apostates. Relying on the New Testament we believe that "By their fruits ye shall know them." This is how we know them:
One could fill thousands of volumes with examples of depravity perpetrated by those who adhere to "The Religion of Peace". Thousands of crimes against humanity have been perpetrated against Israel alone. Most shocking is the unrestrained glee -- the actual dancing in the streets -- that accompanies the murder of Westerners, the desecration of their bodies, and the tears of their families. But, lest we think that this barbarism is reserved for Westerners and Jews, Islam promotes:
Having spent the best part of five years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel (Gaza/West Bank), I can tell you that I have personally seen an adult man take off his shoe and beat a toddler around the head and shoulders with its heel. The little boy was wearing only a dust soaked shirt that came up above his belly. Yet, not a tear fell on his dirt-smudged cherubic face. He fell down breaking his fall with his tiny hands, but would not -- or could not -- cry. I have seen an adult man suddenly and repeatedly strike a burka-wearing woman with a stick when she tried to exit a compound through a gate without a male escort. I have seen a man beat a donkey on the legs and back with a club until the panicked, pleading, and bleeding animal fell to the ground.
Kabul has astounding traffic tie-ups. Road rage is limited because one never knows if the other guy may have a flamethrower in his vehicle, but the cursing and honking is legendary. In the spring of 2007, during a massive, two-hour traffic jam on Jalalabad Road, I watched as an Afghan driver and his assistant got out of their flat bed truck in an attempt to beat the heat by lying down in the shade under the tires. The truck was hauling two large containers of medical supplies marked with a Red Cross. The driver apparently forgot to put out the tire chalks, and the truck rolled over both men crushing their heads like peas. Nobody -- nobody -- lifted a finger to help them. Their bodies were simply pulled to the side and the honking and shouting went on as usual. Life means nothing.
Apologists will bring up the crimes of the West -- especially the Crusades. The fact is that the Crusades were waged to counter the Seljuk advance on Byzantium and the atrocities inflicted on Christians and Jews in the Holy Land. The Crusades were waged during a period of time when life in general -- not to mention war -- was totally barbaric. That degree of barbarism is unimaginable to modern Western sensibilities, but still considered absolutely reasonable by Muslims. Had the Crusades not been waged; had the Habsburg Monarchy not turned back the Ottoman tide at the end of the 17th Century; had Isabel of Castile not driven the Moors from Grenada, you would not be reading this diatribe. You would be illiterate, ruled by a tyrant, and squatting on the dirt floor of a mud-brick shack picking your nose.
On September 24th, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He basically put the world on notice. Israel will not tolerate any more nonsense from the Islamic world. In contrast to the incoherent rambling of Gadhafi, the rancorous rants of Ahmadinejad, and the lame political oration given by President Obama, Netanyahu made his points with force, conviction, and clarity. Speaking of Islam he stated:
With cessation of the draft in the early 1970s America cultivated a professional warrior class. For over thirty years we have trained and equipped the most lethal fighting force ever known to mankind. They have sworn an oath to our Constitution that they take seriously. The question is whether or not their political leadership takes their own oath seriously. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are worthy of competent leadership that they can trust. Our president has demonstrated his contempt for America on foreign soil. In speeches around the world he has apologized for our history and failed to recognize our contributions. His personal history is littered with questionable personal friendships and professional associations. He has denied our Judeo-Christian heritage and stated that "Victory" is not in his vocabulary. We need to ask ourselves if he is worthy to be trusted with making policy that may mean the lives of our brave Warriors.
President Obama and General McCrystal need to review their history. When you treat the Afghans with kid gloves, they will bite off your hand.
Jim Sauer is a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major and combat veteran with over thirty years of service. Since retiring he has worked in support of U.S. Government efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.