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Thread: Hey, let's just call them idiots...

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    Default Hey, let's just call them idiots...

    From The Atlantic.

    They blow each other up by mistake. They bungle even simple schemes. They get intimate with cows and donkeys. Our terrorist enemies trade on the perception that they’re well trained and religiously devout, but in fact, many are fools and perverts who are far less organized and sophisticated than we imagine. Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?
    Sure, the enemy can make mistakes and apparently uses its most expendable men for its most hazardous, if not complicated, operations. This is apparently what qualifies as insight in open source analysis these days.
    PH Cannady
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    Quote Originally Posted by Presley Cannady View Post
    From The Atlantic.



    Sure, the enemy can make mistakes and apparently uses its most expendable men for its most hazardous, if not complicated, operations. This is apparently what qualifies as insight in open source analysis these days.
    Yes, one wonders how these same idiots are able to give both the US and Brit forces the run around?

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    Default We have no shortage of our own idiots.

    We have no shortage of our own idiots. The enemy doesn't have a monopoly on stupidity.

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
    -Albert Einstein

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    Default The Point

    The point of the article isn't simply the brutality, stupidity and perpertedness of our foes, but this is the start of a new narrative that is long overdue. Our military and media have hyped the Taliban almost to the level of Samarai warriors in some cases, and now we're presenting a more accurate narrative to the world that in time could have a telling effect.

    As for our own stupidity, brutality etc., the media does more than an adequate job of covering that. This article is long overdue.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Global Scout View Post
    Our military and media have hyped the Taliban almost to the level of Samarai warriors in some cases, and now we're presenting a more accurate narrative to the world that in time could have a telling effect.
    The overhype may be true, but I don't think this narrative of stupidity is helpful or accurate.

    Are the Taleban tactically impotent against the professional soldiery, offensive support and technological superiority of ISAF? Absolutely. Does this make them stupid? Certainly not.

    I also think that the characterisation of ISAF/ Western forces as 'stupid' is both inaccurate and unhelpful. There is certainly a lot of inefficiency and a fair amount of incompetence, but there is also a lot of smart, dedicated people out there doing there damndest to win over there. Reading the posts on this board of those actively involved in the struggle - the Maj Gants and the Col Roberts - should be enough evidence to dispel any blanket label of foolishness or stupidity.

    We need to be honest with ourselves in that we are struggling to get to grips with a tactically primitive enemy and, as some on the board point out, this enemy is not a good yardstick to base future tactical undertakings on. We also need to be honest with ourselves in that we, ISAF, are operating in an alien and very complex and hostile environment. Difficult yes, inefficient certainly, illogical at times maybe. But stupid? No.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    The overhype may be true, but I don't think this narrative of stupidity is helpful or accurate.

    Are the Taleban tactically impotent against the professional soldiery, offensive support and technological superiority of ISAF? Absolutely. Does this make them stupid? Certainly not.

    I also think that the characterisation of ISAF/ Western forces as 'stupid' is both inaccurate and unhelpful. There is certainly a lot of inefficiency and a fair amount of incompetence, but there is also a lot of smart, dedicated people out there doing there damndest to win over there. Reading the posts on this board of those actively involved in the struggle - the Maj Gants and the Col Roberts - should be enough evidence to dispel any blanket label of foolishness or stupidity.

    We need to be honest with ourselves in that we are struggling to get to grips with a tactically primitive enemy and, as some on the board point out, this enemy is not a good yardstick to base future tactical undertakings on. We also need to be honest with ourselves in that we, ISAF, are operating in an alien and very complex and hostile environment. Difficult yes, inefficient certainly, illogical at times maybe. But stupid? No.
    A quick and simple answer to you is that the Taliban sit and watch the ISAF forces day after day and in their medieval minds they note weaknesses which they exploit. This while the ISAF forces arrive in Afghanistan with the attitude "This is how we do it". The prognosis for ISAF remains poor.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    A quick and simple answer to you is that the Taliban sit and watch the ISAF forces day after day and in their medieval minds they note weaknesses which they exploit. This while the ISAF forces arrive in Afghanistan with the attitude "This is how we do it". The prognosis for ISAF remains poor.
    Still, my point remains. Neither side is 'stupid', and using such a label is both inaccurate and unproductive.

    As to the prognosis of ISAF, that's another topic altogether and is one I'm unqualified and poorly placed to comment on.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    It doesn't matter what kind of guys they are, the only thing that matters is whether we beat them.

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    Default The Point

    Chris you are missing the point of information operations. In this case the points made by the author are factual, so whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Do they reflect the behavior of every Taliban fighter? Of course not, just as the behavior of our Soldiers in Abu Ghrab didn't reflect the behavior of our Army at large, but that didn't stop the enemy from maximizing the propaganda value of those ugly facts. By all means exploiting the enemy by focusing on his weakness is the appropriate thing to do. We're not engaged in a college debate, we're engaged in a war (we should be). Until we get past these naive views that we shouldn't speak negatively of our enemy, while allowing them to broadcast propaganda that grossly inaccurate we deserve to be in the position we're in. Not all of us consider MAJ Gant and COL Jones' views to be helpful, and may in fact be very harmful to the effort.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Default Interesting...

    Quote Originally Posted by Global Scout View Post
    Chris you are missing the point of information operations...
    I am in agreement in that we should not be creating an invincible bogey-man out of the Taliban.

    My point is that we are not helping ourselves, though, by characterising them as naive, stupid or foolish. I agree that each and every side has examples of the village idiot (my time in the military seems to indicate that I am a magnet for this personality type so I have seen my fair share!) but I don't think either side, Tb included, is stupid. I think that to do so as such is counter-productive to our efforts to defeat them.

    I believe that our IO operations should reflect reality, and that we need to understand and promote the view of the Tb as being tactically impotent. I also think that this needs to be balanced with the acknowledgement that they are clever - natural selection has taken it's toll - and we face a devious, clever and committed enemy whom have a game plan and are working towards it.

    I have no problems in speaking negatively of enemies. I'd suggest, though, that we ensure we speak accurately about them first and foremost (cue Sun Tzu quote about knowing your enemy and Clausewitz about id'ing the war you find yourself in).

    I'm not in complete agreement with a lot of what 'our' side (the Maj Gants and Col Jones) say, either, but my point was that - agree or disagree - the label of 'stupid' is inaccurate.

    As Pete said, the very real point is that we beat them. My view is that in order to beat them we have to identify and understand as much of our enemy as we can. Saying they are 'stupid' is an incorrect characterisation and one that will not help us to victory.

    NB: I just realised my typo in an earlier post (Col Roberts rather than Col Jones)... my bad, sorry Sir!
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    Still, my point remains. Neither side is 'stupid', and using such a label is both inaccurate and unproductive.

    As to the prognosis of ISAF, that's another topic altogether and is one I'm unqualified and poorly placed to comment on.
    As I stated somewhere before to win a war all you have to be is slightly less incompetent than your enemy. Something has gone badly wrong with the conduct of the war in Afghanistan which extends beyond the narrow actions of ISAF. I accept that the boots on the ground try their best on a day to day, contact to contact basis. Evidence of incompetence (stupidity) is widespread and regrettably to be expected (we had enough of it in my little war back then).

    Now put the boot on the other foot. Surely the Taliban are using the same propaganda angle? They will tell their recruits that ISAF aircraft bomb their own forces, they kill there own troops through shooting (friendly fire) accidents, they crash more vehicles than the Taliban shoot out ... etc etc

    We used to differentiate between the "hard core" and the "cannon fodder". The bad news is that one never knows which you are going to contact on a given day... and to take the "hard core" lightly at your peril.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    It doesn't matter what kind of guys they are, the only thing that matters is whether we beat them.
    ...and the chances of beating them increase exponentially the more you get to know your enemy. Calling them stupid is not helpful.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    No enemy is 10 feet tall, and the Taliban is not exception to this; but this is a foe who has earned my respect.

    Is it easy to get yourself in a bad situation tactically when your opponent has "unblinking eye" ISR, complete dominance of the air, and highly trained and well equipped ground forces? Certainly. Is it easy to conduct an enduring campaign against those same sophisticated forces for years and drive them to dance to your tune and not the other way around? No way, yet that is what is happening. These guys are largely uneducated, but they are also largely every bit, if not more, intelligent than we are. Never forget that fact.

    Sure its funny when an IED emplacement team blows itself up. But go make a batch of HME in your garage and devise a firing system from the crap in your kitchen junk drawer, and then sneak out onto a busy street and emplace it without getting caught without using any lights to assist, and see who blows themselves up or gets caught first.

    Knowing one's enemy and not over-estimating him is critical to success. Underestimating or mocking the same is the path to defeat.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Mocking the enemy equates to defeat?

    Bob's World please explain using a historical example how mocking the enemy equates to defeat? Also explain how boosting the enemy's image, such as your comments do, will help us win? As you well know both sides are fighting to win over the fence sitters, and in my view your approach to doing this is to simply tie our hands behind our back and not challenge the outrageous TB propaganda that they receive with a more balanced view, to include numerous examples of where the TB doesn't walk their talk.

    As for the TB having a good strategy, perhaps, but I really think the issue is we have a bad one (for Afghanistan), and almost any group of fighters in the world could give us a run for the money based on our current tactical, operational and strategic approaches. What you list as strengths (our unblinking ISR), etc. are exactly what I see as weaknesses. That type of intelligence is only 25% of what is needed, again it is our overwhelming tendency to find technical solutions to non-technical problems. Our combat is largely focused on chasing HVIs (which hasn't helped us much in the past nine years), instead of focusing on taking and controlling terrain (I realize now we're starting to attempt this, but in my opinion it is being poorly executed).

    I must admit you have a unique view of warfighting, and while I admire Young Turks (and not so young Turks) who push new views, that doesn't mean every new view is value added or correct. An argument could be made we're not making significant progress because we have ignored the lessons from the past and substituted them with a new politically correct version of war fighting. I still find it almost comical that the UN, U.S. and most Western countries continue to accuse Sri Lanka of war crimes instead of congratulating them on their victory. Seems that every nation that actually "wins" a COIN effort is labeled brutal, and there sir is the underlying lesson. Winning requires tough fighting, not just in the physical realm, but also in the psychological realm.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I believe I said it is "the path to defeat" not "it is defeat." That may seem a nuance to some, but it is the nuance of COIN engagement that separates success from failure.

    As to my views on warfighting, they are pretty much in line with everyone else. Where I differ is that I do not believe that insurgency is best countered through warfare; and should not be considered as such.

    Certainly insurgency as we define it is a violent challenge to the existing government, but even though a segment of the populace feels compelled to resort to violence as their best option for driving political change, it does not mean that the best course for the government is to in turn wage warfare against its own populace.

    Violence is a choice by the insurgent, it is not the insurgency. The insurgent is the overt actor, but he too is not the insurgency. By casting insurgency in the light of warfare one drives themselves to an approach that inevitably becomes one of meeting violence with greater violence, and defeating the insurgent rather than addressing the insurgency.

    Insurgency is , more accurately I believe, a political challenge to the government by illegal means. The majority of successful insurgencies are actually non-violent; though often a movement may have attempted a violent approach and when counterinsurgent operations are successful against them, come back with a non-violent approach and achieved the ends that violence could not.

    Governments do not do themselves a service by casting themselves in the role of victim, and by setting out to wage war against those members of their populace who feel compelled to challenge them in such ways. Better to see insurgency as a civil emergency, that granted is often quite violent, and then being pragmatic and honest in assessing what failures on the part of government have led to this situation.

    Often one finds that institutional and cultural biases have led to the insurgent segment of the society being treated with a disrespect that limits their ability to fully participate in legitimate society, so they resort to illegitimate means to act out against this situation.

    Other times governments feel no need to give the populace legal venues to affect change of governance, leaving them no choice but to take illegal approaches when they come to believe that change is required. (Many of the gulf oil states do not tax their populace, and the ruling class joke that while a populace may complain about "taxation without representation," that where there is no taxation, no representation is therefore required. This is a joke that is wearing thin in many of these populaces IMO).

    Other times the rule of law as applied to either all or just some segment of a society is not perceived as just and fair in its application.

    Many times the populace does not recognize the power or process that produced or sustains their government in power over them.

    One or many, or all of these causal conditions are in play when segments of a society feel compelled to act out illegally, and either peacefully or violently, to produce political change. All of these factors are within the power of the government to address; but once one has declared war on their own populace it is difficult to make these changes without feeling like one is somehow "losing" or "appeasing" the enemy. A society loses when it allows itself to devolve into such violence, and meeting the reasonable demands of the people is not appeasement, it is the primary function of government.

    So, no, I do not have odd views on warfare. What I find odd is that so many are so quick to cast all violence as warfare. This simply is not the case. Just all populace violence is not insurgency, sometimes it is motivated by profit or power in a small group; or the actions of some isolated sect that is as out of touch with the society they emerge from as they are with the government they challenge. Dumping all of these distinct situations into one bucket and applying a universal solution of "warfare" is as illogical as it is ineffective.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 08-16-2010 at 09:07 AM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Not so quick

    Some people consider Ghandi's movement an insurgency, and perhaps it was, but the vast majority of insurgencies are actually armed (violent) struggles for power, not for good government.

    This is only my opinion, but I would like to see historical examples that counter it, not politically correct assumptions. Insurgencies are a struggle for power, who is going to rule (whether the entire state, or a portion of the state). Once the contest elevates to the level of an armed conflict, you will not take the wind out of the oppenent's sails by acquiesing to their demands, which are nothing more than propaganda most of the time anyway. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was an externally sponsored insurgency group (UW), and Pakistan's objective was to establish control/influence over Afghanistan. If the communist state of Afghanistan simply focused on governing better instead of fighting, the Taliban would have won sooner. It wasn't a hearts and minds struggle, it was a power struggle, and the HAM approach only augments the power struggle, it isn't what the power struggle is about. If the combatants don't need the popular support to win, they'll disregard this effort. The Taliban doesn't popular support to win, they just need to intimitate the populace (which we're doing a very poor job of protecting), and support from Pakistan to maintain their effort.

    Every insurgency is different, and has you have stated many times it is critical we understand what that means. In Sri Lanka, it didn't matter how well the Sri Lankan government ruled to the LTTE, their leader wanted control of the Tamil region, and he killed off his Tamil competition in the pursuit of it. This wasn't a fight over hearts and minds.

    North Vietnam couldn't win through their hearts and minds approach, so instead they had to launch a conventional invasion and only when the tanks rolled into Saigon did they win. To ensure their victory they implemented draconian population control measures that included mass murder and re-education camps.

    Our softball approach to dealing with insurgencies (assuming we should be involved in the first place) has failed us every time. Our so called COIN experts who promote this effort are a greater threat to our national interests than the enemy we fight.

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    Default The real question - The Atlantic touches upon this

    A "boots on the ground" response to The Atlantic article, yes it touches upon other issues too:http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=3453

    Of course that bring the real question to mind which is why aren’t we beating the snot out of them but I’m going to leave that alone for another post or two.
    Plus another example of Taliban skill.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-23-2010 at 06:54 AM.
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    "North Vietnam couldn't win through their hearts and minds approach, so instead they had to launch a conventional invasion and only when the tanks rolled into Saigon did they win. "

    You realize that this is exactly in accordance with classic Maoist insurgency that Ho modeled his campaign after, right? Phase III is to surge to conventional military operations to finish off the the counterinsurgent government and its forces. They tried to reach this level a few times, and had to back off when beaten up for surging too soon. This does not make it suddenly not an insurgency because they seek to rise to conventional combat, it just means it is a Maoist insurgency.

    As to the stats on the number of successful non-violent insurgencies vice violent ones, they have been gathered, I have seen them, but don't have them handy. I'll see if I can get them to share here.

    Lastly, "politically correct" is to hold to the current position that is shaped by current norms and deemed therefore acceptable...you may, Mr. Global Scout, want to check your bathroom mirror for the next target of this accusation. My positions are based upon what I believe will work best based upon my experience and research, no more and no less; but thanks for calling my politically correct, as that is, I believe a first.

    I don't adhere to the "population-centric" success through development and protection of the populace that gentlemen like Dr. Nagl promotes; I see not historic basis for the position. Neither do I subscribe to the "COIN is war, just defeat the insurgent" school of thought, as similarly, I see not historic basis for that working either. I'm trying to sort out what works, and you can neither bribe nor kill your way out of insurgency, you actually have to assess where you are failing as a government and address those failures. Portions of both of the above mentioned approaches have a place within a successful strategy, but neither, IMO, is a successful strategy unto itself.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default where has good governance worked?

    Going with your view it sounds like the opponents are never wrong. All fault at all times lies with the government. Insurgencies have nothing to do with hatred, greed, and grievance (or grievance is the only cause due to bad government).

    The blood diamond conflict in W. Africa still exists, because some people actually involved in those conflicts thought the conflicts were over access to a commodity, not about good governance. Obviously that wasn't the case.

    The Khmer Rouge arose because the Cambodian government failed its people? I'm sure if the Cambodian government quickly built some roads, schools, etc. the Khmer Rouge would have laid their weapons down, because again they really care about gaining power, they just wanted good governance.

    Just because the USSR support communist insurgent/resistance groups in Europe, didn't mean that they then turned these resistance groups into insurgent groups to overthrow pro-western governments. They simply arose from the ground up because of bad government. I guess if the Greek government governed better the communist insurgents would just quit, because it wasn't about obtaining political power and joining the Soviet sphere of influence, the conflict was about good governance. Yet they were defeated militarily.

    The list goes on and on. Insurgencies are a struggle for power, not about good governance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I'm trying to sort out what works, and you can neither bribe nor kill your way out of insurgency, you actually have to assess where you are failing as a government and address those failures.
    When the US goes through this process, though, we are not assessing where we are failing as a government: we have no insurgencies. We're generally assessing where some other government is failing. That brings certain complications into the picture.

    Our assessment of the failures of other governments is likely to be influenced by oir own preferences and our own assumptions about what constitutes good government and what other people ought to want. These assumptions may or may not be relevant to circumstances in another country.

    Even when we have accurately assessed the failures or another government, we do not necessarily have the capacity to compel another government to address those failures. The government may not have the capacity to address the failures. It may have its own assessment of the situation, which may not be compatible with ours. Even when we think we are acting on behalf of the populace, both populace and government are likely to take a rather dim view of external meddling in domestic affairs.

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