View Full Version : Partisan Warfare

06-19-2007, 11:54 AM
18 June - Interesting Times blog at the New Yorker - Partisan Warfare (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker) by Goerge Packer.

... If Tolstoy is right, then what we call counterinsurgency is doomed to fail, and the Army and the Marines wasted their time drafting a new field manual (http://usacac.army.mil/cac/repository/materials/coin-fm3-24.pdf) last year, and the surge, based on counterinsurgency strategy, is wasting American lives. The conservative military analyst Edward Luttwak makes this argument in a recent essay in Harper's (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081384), showing how parts of the left and the right have converged in the wake of Iraq. Luttwak says that only a Nazi-like brutality against insurgents and civilians ever put an insurgency down, and that America is unwilling to go to such an extreme. David Kilcullen (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/authors/dave-kilcullen/), the Australian counterinsurgency expert I wrote about (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/12/18/061218fa_fact2) last December, recently took time off from serving as an adviser to General David Petraeus in Baghdad to rebut Luttwak’s critique (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/04/edward-luttwaks-counterinsurge-1/).

Who’s right? The argument is couched in fairly technical military terms, but the outcome has the most profound political implications. Should America learn the same lesson in Iraq that we took from Vietnam—never do this again? Or should we learn to do it better? Should we scrap Field Manual 3-24 and return to training for conventional warfare? Should we get rid of this State Department office (http://www.state.gov/s/crs/), the government’s one feeble attempt thus far to improve what is called, almost always derisively, nation building? Should we stay out of wars except when they require air power and huge armored divisions? Should we stop sending police experts to help rebuild shattered states? Where does that leave Bosnia? Afghanistan? Darfur?...

06-19-2007, 12:11 PM
The Nazis failed against several partisan forces with their methods, while the British succeeded in Malaya and Northern Ireland with much more modern, civilized methods.

Peru did also succeed against its pseudo-communist partisans and Bolivia against Ché Guevarra.

Furthermore, defeating the insurgents with brutality would be no victory, but a defeat for the western occupiers in Iraq.

06-19-2007, 02:15 PM
... Luttwak says that only a Nazi-like brutality against insurgents and civilians ever put an insurgency down, and that America is unwilling to go to such an extreme.

Huh? I've never gotten the impression that the German high command ever felt that their counterinsurgency wars in Yugoslavia or behind their lines in Russia resulted in success. I've read several accounts from their Generals pointing out how many men and resources they tied up in these guerilla wars, which were desperately needed elsewhere at the fronts.

For those familiar with his writings, does Luttwak instead have in mind the example of the destruction of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto? I've never really thought of that as an exercise in counterinsurgency, more like levelling a fortified city in your rear. If he feels that the way to defeat the Iraqi insurgency might include sealing off and killing everybody in Sadr City, Ramadi, or wherever, then we have moved a long way from liberating Iraqis from tyranny and bringing them democracy.

Ken White
06-19-2007, 04:05 PM
Doesn't seem to me he's claiming they won anything, only that their methods could be successful. I'd have said Genghis or Tamarlane because the only way you "win" against an insurgency is by killing all the opposition AND their possible supporters and families.

I have no time for Luttwak or any of the talking heads but I submit he has a point. One cannot win a counterinsurgency war, all one can do is achieve an acceptable outcome. That's all the Brits did in Malaya -- I don't think Kenya really qualifies as a success.

I'd also point out that in both those, the Brits had the advantage of being the government, not being an "invited guest" in a host nation, a problem we had to deal with not only in Viet Nam but have today in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and are likely to have in the future. Really constrains ones ability to influence events...

I read it as correctly saying that we're not going to do the 'kill 'em all' thing, so we would probably be better off not trying. I have to agree. We Americans are not tempermentally suited to long wars and counterinsurgency by definition is long. We need to adapt our warfighting doctrine to consider reality and not the ideal state.

The Brits and the Australians as well as some others have the patience for long wars; we and several other nations do not. That is reality.

06-19-2007, 08:08 PM
There are several successful approaches to COIN

- fighting COIN against domestic insurgents can be successful based on the stability of the state instead because of clever strategy

- Mongol method, also successfully exercized by all great European ancient generals (like Alexander, Caesar) and by the USA in Korea in 1950; kill them and destroy the communities

- divide insurgents and population, then hunt them down (does not necessarily need hearts&minds, effective control suffices)

Just to mention those that come to my mind. The brutal method is well-known and proven in the view of a historian, but it should not be misunderstood as the only one that promises success.

Ken White
06-19-2007, 09:49 PM
Number 1 requires stability, a clever strategy -- and time. We seem to lack the first and last items and the second is suspect. Not to base all on the here and now; there have been more failures than successes using that approach over a good many years, most failing due to a lack of a clever strategy. Regrettably, all strategies -- all strategists -- are not created equal. Perfection is just harder to find than it should be.:o

Number 2 requires none of those things and is quick but as a participant in the great night fights and frolics of 1951 (not 1950) in South Korea, I have to tell you there are down sides and in todays world of nice talk touchy feelingness and constant media presence, it's probably not a good approach.

Number 3 requires an extremely large number of people (over 1.5M Viet Namese, US and allied troops could not do it in Viet Nam with a quarter of the area and half the people of Iraq), is rather hard on adjacent and possibly innocent civilians -- not to mention real estate -- and is almost as politically unacceptable today as is the Alexander model. Aside from Veet Nam, the Brits didn't have enough troops and police in Malaya and we do not seem to have enough today...

Alas, we live in an imperfect world.

And I still submit that both the first and last will result in an 'acceptable outcome' not success as in a total cessation of the insurgency and a guarantee there will be no recurrence; some people are just determined to hold a grudge. :confused:

06-20-2007, 12:38 PM
Here is 1 theory how weak win wars.