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Rifleman
04-01-2007, 10:40 AM
In spite of the frequent rhetoric about "another Vietnam," etc., the author makes a case that the GWOT is best compared to the Indian Wars. Agree or disagree I found the comparison interesting.


The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is, like all historical events, unique. But both its supporters and opponents compare it to past U.S. military conflicts. The Bush administration and the neocons have drawn parallels between GWOT and World War II as well as GWOT and the Cold War. Joshua E. London, writing in the National Review, sees the War on Terror as a modern form of the struggle against the Barbary pirates. Vietnam and the Spanish-American War have been preferred analogies for other commentators. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Anne Applebaum, says that the war in Iraq might be like that in Korea, because of "the ambivalence of their conclusions." For others, the War on Terror, with its loose rhetoric, brings to mind the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs."

I'd like to suggest another way of looking at the War on Terror: as a twenty-first century continuation of, or replication of, the American Indian wars, on a global scale. This is by no means something that has occurred to me alone, but it has received relatively little attention. Here are ten reasons why I'm making this suggestion:

Complete article here:

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0120-20.htm

goesh
04-01-2007, 03:24 PM
I couldn't argue against the Indian wars analogy. Most everything we need to know is already there. One nagging element of comparison is the problems caused by translators who either by incompetence or complicity create all kinds of tactical and political problems. The classic example IMHO occured in 1877 when Crazy Horse the principal war leader of the Lakota brought in his band. They came in fully armed, undefeated. At the same time, Chief Joseph and Looking Glass of the Nez Perce were causing problems to the West. Crazy Horse was approached in an effort to enlist his help against the Nez Perce. Lakota oral tradition tells that during the meeting of some Officers and Crazy Horse, CH told them, " I will fight them until they are no more". There were several Lakota present at this meeting. The interpretor told the Officers present that CH said, " I will fight you until you are no more". This then caused his attempted arrest and subsequent killing. This in turn caused Sitting Bull to keep his band out for another 5 years and many Lakota say the killing of CH was a prime factor in the Lakota participation in the Ghost Dancing, which in turn caused more problems in 1890. The last Indian combat occured in 1973 at Wounded Knee II when Lakota militants occupied that site and had a stand off. Federal forces, Marshals and FBI, and Indian warriors exchanged gunfire more than once. This action also resulted in a fire fight at the Jumping Bull compound later on which resulted in 2 Marshals KIA. Incidentally, there was Ghost Dancing at Wounded Knee II and at least one authentic Ghost Dance shirt from the previous dust-up was worn. Two Medicine Men, Crow Dog and his Uncle, played a significant role at WK II. I don't think we've ever fully understood the interplay of spirituality and combat but that's a topic for another discussion. It's all been done already starting with King Philip's War in the 1600s to Wounded Knee II in 1973.

Bill Moore
04-01-2007, 04:57 PM
I read the article, and personally think the author is grasping at straws. The Indian wars were not wars of ideology, but rather conquest and while not genocide, it was definitely was racial/cultural. We're coming, join us or get on your reservation.

It was largely an internal war; though other nations used the Indians as surrogates throughout the years.

The war we're fighting now is global (with a homeland defense requirement), it is a war of ideology (political religion) that ultimately will decide what laws and economic models those being fought over will live under. It is a war that is waged on the internet, in the media, mosques around the world, and it is not restricted to tribes (Anyone can become a Muslim from Indonesian, Thailand, N. Africa, Ohio, Canada, etc. regardless of race, not everyone can become an Indian), cover actions, and overtly on the battlefied. It is very much like the cold war, except the nation state (with the possible exception of Iran) isn't the main the threat. Our objective isn't total defeat (we can't do it), but rather to win over large segments of the Muslim population to a non-radical view. During the Cold War our objective was win over large segments of the global population from communism to other forms of government and economic models (we didn't start pushing democracy that hard until after the collapse of the USSR, we didn't have that luxury until then).

There may be several loose parallels to the Indian wars, but it is a stretch, and not near as close a parallel as the Cold War in my opinion.

120mm
04-01-2007, 05:36 PM
I think the current GWOT is very very parallel to the 300 years Indian War on the N. American continent, in theme. Two conflicting cultures which are non-compatible;

The role of "young bucks" committing acts of terror, regardless of their elders.

The back and forth "embracing of the noble savages" alternating with "kill all the bastards" attitude..

Yep, very familiar.

The settling of the West was not a planned, purposeful event, uniformly supported. The farther you headed East, the more sympathy there was for the Indian, and blame for the settlers. The rhetoric in the press was similar, also. Lots of "noble savage" publishing, but Easterners could get worked up right after an Indian massacre.

Steve Blair
04-01-2007, 05:58 PM
There are certain strong similarities, but the parallel is not exact. But I also don't see much similarity with the Cold War model. The parallels with the Indian Wars are mostly in the tactical and operational areas. The only similarity I see with the Cold War is the scope of the AO.

Pressed for time now. When I have a chance I'll post some of the Indian Wars parallels I see. Been doing a fair amount of thinking about this one.

Rifleman
04-01-2007, 08:17 PM
It occurs to me that there are some similarities between the Army today and the fronter era Army.

The frontier era Army often had small units scattered across large geographical areas instead of the massed formations of the Civil War. Many of the officers were never quite comfortable with that too. They would have preferred the Civil War's massed formations and large cavalry actions. Some officers today are not really comfortable with COIN, low intensity operations, etc.

The frontier era Army was often understrength and accepted troops that were not really qualified. In that case it was often immigrants that could barely speak English. Today the Army is lowering educational standards, raising age limits, and waiving gang tattoos. But either way they often had/have a less than ideal troop.

During the Civil War the entire country was at war, but America was not on a war footing for the Indian Wars. The Army was at war but not the nation. While there were political activists, many citizens in the east scarcely thought about it. America as a whole isn't at war today either. Not like during WWII. The military is at war, America is at the mall.

Bill Moore
04-02-2007, 01:15 AM
I think the Cold War parallels are numerous, while the parallels to the Indian Wars are extremely limited, and as you stated the few that exist are mostly at the tactical level and even that is a reach. Regardless the war against radical Islam or the war on terror, is neither the cold war nor the indian wars, and drawing conclusions from loose parallels in either could lead to dangerously wrong conclusions.

goesh
04-02-2007, 04:31 AM
Proffering trinkets and sugar to the Natives to bring them in closer to the forts and to sign treaties is no different than offering Democracy to a paternalistic culture wherein half the population, the women, are essentially chattel property and non-power holders in the economic and political arenas, a culture with no backdrop of representative governance and a religion that essentially forbids personal income tax. It's a tough sell, like giving Indians pocket watches and turning them into farmers. Our Westward expansion and our strategic, geopolitical maneuvering are close cousins. Hell, we still can't sort out the Imams/Medicine Men from the warriors. We're still combatting spirituality with science but what I see of the COIN mentality in this forum is encouraging. Some of these guys in the old days would be married to Indian women and eating dog and buffalo tripe from time to time. I mean, have any of our men even been in a Masjid in Iraq - you know, take off the boots, wash the face, hands, feet then sit quietly in the back? I don't know, you tell me. To a Jihadi, the God of our troops is nailed to a cross and telling you to turn the other cheek. That's part of the reason they view death in combat so differently than we do and it impacts their tactics and our anticipation of their moves as well. We've fought this fight before, many times.

120mm
04-02-2007, 07:33 AM
Actually, I think damned few of the parallels are operational and tactical. All the ones that count are strategic.

1. Intergenerational struggle - check
2. Culture clash of completely and utterly incompatibles - check
3. Incoherent strategic goals of "our side" - check
4. Love them one day, murder them the next - check
5. Out of control "loose cannons" in the enemy camp who generate overresponse by "our side" - check.
6. Implacability of the conflict - check.
7. Inequity of the concept of "humane treatment" - check.
8. An enemy divided within itself - check.
9. Inevitability of one side destroying the other regardless of what batch of "neato, nifty good ideas" are generated by the "egg-heads" - we'll see.

Where the conflicts differ, here, is that Islam is not restricted to race - also, American Indian populations were not self-sustaining and self-replacing, whereas the Islamic parts of the world are growing.

I have an airplane historian friend who can argue for days that a J-3B Cub is a "completely different airplane" from a J-3C Cub. This is a similar argument from my point of view.

tequila
04-02-2007, 09:53 AM
120mm - The major conflict issue in the Indian Wars is missing. The West is not attempting to physically conquer and destroy the Islamic world as it was the Western tribes. AQ believes this to be the case, but other than in the Palestinian territories the Muslim world generally doesn't buy AQ's case yet. Indeed, the No. 1 IO mission is to ensure that this remains the case. No. 2 IO mission is to convince the wider Muslim world that AQ is not the defender of oppressed Muslims but rather the Islamic Jacobin radicals that they really are. We are, I believe, far away from accomplishing this feat and getting further away every day.

Unfortunately the problem with IO nowadays is that it is near impossible to control the media environment, especially with regards to a wider global population. In the U.S. case control is not even an option --- simply gaining entry to the necessary media markets is a problem. At some basic level policy changes will have to be made in order to have an effect --- a better form of BS is not going to do a damn thing.

Goesh - I have yet to encounter any Islamic text which asserts that personal income tax is illegal. Are you referring to interest on savings?

Regarding women's rights and democracy, I point you to Western culture's rather recent conversion to the same. The West had democracy far before it had any concern for women's property rights. The Napoleonic legal code in Egypt actually removed the property rights for women they had previously held under sharia law. Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia headline culturally Islamic countries where women have held the presidency or prime minister's chair, which has never occurred in the U.S. Japan and Korea, are textbook examples of how a country can achieve modernity and democracy while at the same denying women equality in the cultural and economic spheres.

120mm
04-02-2007, 02:03 PM
Good point, tequila. I hadn't put that into the equation.

But there is the oil issue. Extractive economies almost never benefit any but a few. In the end, we will have figuratively "stolen" the value of their land, which I guess is similar to stealing their land.

An interesting question will be how will the "end times" of oil production affect the Middle East?

tequila
04-02-2007, 02:13 PM
But there is the oil issue. Extractive economies almost never benefit any but a few. In the end, we will have figuratively "stolen" the value of their land, which I guess is similar to stealing their land.

This forms a part of the terrorist manifesto, but it is not convincing to many IMO. The vast majority of the Islamic world does not live in oil states. I would argue that the key "evidence" of imperialism for the vast majority of Muslims is represented in Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and the occupation of Iraq. However, there are many other things to factor in, especially since as Kilcullen has noted the disaggregation of conflicts and issues represents a crucial part of our IO message. For instance, anti-Americanism in Pakistan is a far different animal with different motivations than anti-Americanism in Saudi Arabia, for instance.

I disagree with those who argue that things like this (http://www.lbcgroup.tv/staracademy/)represent Muslim disgruntlement with the West.

goesh
04-02-2007, 02:50 PM
Tequila - Zakat/alms is a personal responsibility, a Quranic obligation as you know and income tax would create double-dipping out of the individual's pocket, since in Democracy, the state assumes varying degrees of responsibility for orphans, the infirm, cripples, etc. From a mere economic perspective, the more booty/plunder that can be obtained, the more can be given via Zakat - an economic consideration in the expansion of the Ummah.

Western women have had the right to be President/PM for quite some time and it pretty much coincides with industrialization. The Islamic world hasn't yet resolved the issues of honor killing and clitorectomy for example, even in areas that are semi industrialized. In the epitome of industrialization in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, women can't even drive cars. Rigid paternalism is sanctioned in Al Qu'ran, there is no way around that. The prescription for divorce, punishment for adultery, property division, the authorization for multiple wives etc are fully paternal.

Regarding the Indian wars, genocide, resource depletion, reconciliation, placation and aculturation were all employed in varying mixes in the 260+ years of conflict. There was no one set prime directive. Tactically, the most successful forces were the mountain men/free trappers who adopted Indian ways and some of their spirituality. How else could small parties of 'infidels' move so freely and successfully so deep in Indian country? More and more, COIN/CAPS it seems is the only way to go in Iraq.

tequila
04-02-2007, 03:30 PM
Zakat/alms is a personal responsibility, a Quranic obligation as you know and income tax would create double-dipping out of the individual's pocket, since in Democracy, the state assumes varying degrees of responsibility for orphans, the infirm, cripples, etc. From a mere economic perspective, the more booty/plunder that can be obtained, the more can be given via Zakat - an economic consideration in the expansion of the Ummah.

Zakat can also be collected and administered by the Islamic state. Muslim states throughout history generally have found little difficulty in collecting taxes. You can find a decent discussion of taxation and Islamic history in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddima. Note once again that income taxes are an innovation in Western practice, only lately levied, just as women's rights are comparative latecomers in the history of liberalism.

The Islamic world hasn't yet resolved the issues of honor killing and clitorectomy for example, even in areas that are semi industrialized. In the epitome of industrialization in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, women can't even drive cars. Rigid paternalism is sanctioned in Al Qu'ran, there is no way around that. The prescription for divorce, punishment for adultery, property division, the authorization for multiple wives etc are fully paternal.

Honor killing is most often found in clan, tribal, or caste-based societies and are hardly restricted to Muslim countries. They are, for example, a major problem (http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2103/stories/20040213001205000.htm)in democratic India among all religious groups. See also, for instance, a recent occurrence (http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,,1740444,00.html)in Catholic Italy. The same goes for female genital mutilation, which largely continues as a sub-Saharan African (http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGACT770071997?open&of=ENG-2AF)practice and is common in Christian as well as Muslim countries in Africa - for example Ethiopia, where the Coptic Church sanctifies the practice.

Steve Blair
04-02-2007, 05:08 PM
I think the Cold War parallels are numerous, while the parallels to the Indian Wars are extremely limited, and as you stated the few that exist are mostly at the tactical level and even that is a reach. Regardless the war against radical Islam or the war on terror, is neither the cold war nor the indian wars, and drawing conclusions from loose parallels in either could lead to dangerously wrong conclusions.

I have yet to see many good arguments for the Cold War parallels aside from some vague mutterings about clashes of ideology and the geographic scope of the conflict.

I don't draw conclusions; rather, I look for similar mindsets that could lead to future mistakes. It has always baffled me why people seem to think that if you're looking at history you're automatically looking to draw conclusions. This isn't directed at you, Bill, but at folks in general who try to make that leap. We do not exist in a vacuum.

Bill Moore
04-02-2007, 08:53 PM
I'll take a quick stab at some parallels:

1. Global in scale and a competition between two ideologies.

2. Like the cold war, there were some hot spots, and victory in the hot spots for the big players (U.S. and the USSR) was so much a physical victory (win a battle), but rather a psychological victory where we both aimed to defeat the support base at home. The communists defeated ours during Vietnam, we defeated theirs during Afghanistan. Neither were important in themselves.

3. Like the cold war several countries that would not normally be important strategically to our national interests like Algeria, Somalia, etc. have become very important (it is like a another Domino Theory), one falls to radical Islam, then another, etc.

4. It is a moral fight on the international front.

5. Political Islam is not communism, but like the Cold War it is an effective ideology at mobilizing populations (or segments of the population) around the world. It is subversive in nature, and initially starts off as terrorism, and gradually evolves into a full scale insurgency (much like a Maoist approach).

6. Like the cold war each side attempts to win more players over to their global coalition. We have the coalition of the willing and they have the Al Qaeda associated movements.

7. Like the cold war a large part of the war will be fought covertly.

Very loose parallels admittedly, and the more I look at the less I like it. I do think are important lessons that we take from the Cold War though (ones most if not all on this site know), and that is the importance of maintaining support of the critical audiences whether they be in our own citizens or in England or in Spain. The damn them, we'll do it on our own approach won't work. Coalitions are critical (why do you think the Al Qaeda makes such as effort to sever them?), and if we have to compromise on some issues to keep the coalition together, then we have to compromise. Realpolitic isn't pretty.