29 April 2007

Would Sun Tzu Surge?

Sun Tzu, Art of War

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. (3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Is victory in Iraq still possible? The answer is fundamentally three-fold.
  1. Enduring will.
  2. Articulating a Rule of Law.
  3. Effective administration of the law, equally among the governed.
IOW, good governance and a determined persistence not to give up. In order to muster that enduring will, we need to understand the enemy and understand ourselves in conflict with that enemy.

Every conflict, especially asymmetric warfare (guerrilla war and terrorism), is unique (idiosyncratic). It is important, in a critical analysis of Iraq, that we conceptualize the type of conflict taking place there: the tactics and strategic goals of the guerrilla and terrorist forces.
The guerrilla's goal is to impose costs on the adversary in terms of loss of soldiers, supplies, infrastructure, peace of mind, and most importantly, time. In other words, guerrilla war is designed "to destroy not the capacity but the will" of the adversary.
The tactics rely on their ability to attack using methods that not only take advantage of constraints placed on a government attempting to adhere to lawful combat, but are also intended to maximize civilian casualties and force the counterinsurgency into compromising combat situations that can be used as propaganda (i.e., using mosques for storing ordnance or as sniper positions). As Davida Kellogg wrote in Guerrilla Warfare, When Taking Care Of Your Men Leads To War Crimes:
Guerrilla warfare has at its very fond et origo an overarching strategy of turning any attempts on the part of opposing forces to adhere to the Law of War against them by using nominal civilians including women, the elderly, and even children, whom they know their enemy is legally and morally bound to treat as innocents, as un-uniformed irregulars. This "use of civilian clothing by (de facto) troops to conceal their military character during battle" is a war crime (U.S. Army Field Manual FM 27-10) because it violates the principle of distinction of the Hague Conventions which legally define belligerents. I know of no cases in which insurgents, or their superiors or governments, have been brought up on charges for this act, though perhaps we should start doing so, because it is by virtue of this deliberate blurring of the distinction between combatants and noncombatants that guerrilla warfare conduces to further war crimes against innocents.
This type of warfare has long been problematic for Americans, and until the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, there was strong resistance to engaging in guerrilla wars. As General Paul Gorman, former SOUTHCOM commander, veteran of Vietnam, Korea, and unspecified intelligence work described it:
It is “inherently a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object. Its perpetrators are secretive, conspiratorial, and usually morally unconstrained. Their operations are the antithesis of respect for human rights.” There is also a suggestion that the enemy’s ruthlessness gives them an edge: “They can succeed if all they undertake is death and destruction, and yet they can impose on a defending government grave imperatives for restraint, heightened regard for human rights, creative reconstruction and societal reform under stress.”
There is no cookie-cutter template from past insurgencies that can be applied to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. James Dunnigan wrote for Strategy Page:
All of this makes Iraq a rather unique rebellion, guerilla operation, civil war, or whatever you want to call it. Comparisons to other guerilla wars will be difficult, because the size of the population supporting the guerrillas has a direct bearing on the chances of the guerrillas succeeding. In Iraq, the small portion of the population supporting guerilla operations indicates that the possibility of success is very low. But the fighting could go on for a while. The Malay insurrection of 1948-60 was carried out largely by the Chinese minority (37 percent of the population of 6.2 million). The Malay unrest, like that in Iraq, was pretty low key, with most of the population never bothered by the violence or military operations. The Malay situation eventually left 6,710 rebels and 3,400 civilians dead. The armed forces lost 1,865 (1346 Malayan and 519 British).
The question that needs to be answered by critics of the surge in Iraq is, "How does increasing or decreasing the number of troops in Iraq contribute to our willingness to endure, the articulation of a Rule of Law, or the effective administration of that law equally across the population?"

Si vis pacem, para bellum
Iraq v2.0

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