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Thread: Rhodesian COIN (consolidated thread, inc original RLI)

  1. #21
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Sharp analysis, and you might just be right.

  2. #22
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Shades of the past?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    The Rhodesian armed forces were tactically superior to their enemies and yet today Rhodesia is no more.

    Seems like the lesson is that good tactics usually can't compensate for poor strategy in the long run; and, like it or not, strategy is sometimes more political than military.

    Are we seeing a repeat of that in the middle east?
    Could well be. One of the more effective ploys that was pulled was to create a mediaspace in large parts of the Commonwealth where the insurgency was popularly viewed as opposing an export of apartheid rather than as a tribal-based insurgency. Mugabe was especially effective in pushing Smith to pass laws that the Crown was forced to repeal, which had the basic effect of shifting perceptions that Smith's government was "beyond the pale".

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Seems like the lesson is that good tactics usually can't compensate for poor strategy in the long run; and, like it or not, strategy is sometimes more political than military.

    Are we seeing a repeat of that in the middle east?
    I would say that is a truism for small wars in general. A quick study will bring several examples of where a conventional army consistently defeats the guerrillas in the field, but the nation fighting that battle finds its larger goals frustrated in the end - politics winning out over the gun.

  4. #24
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default ZIPRA and ZANLA

    Marc,

    Just a quick point to something you should look at:

    Bob Ramsey's paper on advisors has some great insights on the cross-cultural misread in our advisory efforts.

    Back to the Rhodesia issue, timing is often everything. The Rhodesian war reached its peak as the government and army of South Vietnam collapsed. And to a large degree, it was popularly seen as an extension of dying colonialism. It is interesting to look today at the Wikipedia entry for the Second Chimurenga (The Rhodesian War); the article identifies the 2 rebel groups as communist, split by theior backers: Russians the ZIPRA; Chinese and NK, ZANLA). To find that the 2 were actually ethnic based, you have to go to sublistings for their armed wings. Nkomo's ZIPRA was Ndebele. Mugabe's ZANLA was Shona.The Ndebele were offshoots of the Zulus and had long dominated the Shona. In independent Zimbabwe, Mugabe ultimately made sure that the Shona won. Unfortunately Zimbabwe is still losing.

    best
    Tom

  5. #25
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Tribal warefare by any other name...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Marc,

    Just a quick point to something you should look at:

    Bob Ramsey's paper on advisors has some great insights on the cross-cultural misread in our advisory efforts.
    Hi Tom,

    I just downloaded them, but I haven't had a chance to read them yet. I'll probably get to them on the weekend (too much other stuff on the go right now).

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Back to the Rhodesia issue, timing is often everything. The Rhodesian war reached its peak as the government and army of South Vietnam collapsed. And to a large degree, it was popularly seen as an extension of dying colonialism. It is interesting to look today at the Wikipedia entry for the Second Chimurenga (The Rhodesian War); the article identifies the 2 rebel groups as communist, split by theior backers: Russians the ZIPRA; Chinese and NK, ZANLA). To find that the 2 were actually ethnic based, you have to go to sublistings for their armed wings. Nkomo's ZIPRA was Ndebele. Mugabe's ZANLA was Shona.The Ndebele were offshoots of the Zulus and had long dominated the Shona. In independent Zimbabwe, Mugabe ultimately made sure that the Shona won. Unfortunately Zimbabwe is still losing.

    best
    Tom
    The older I get, the more suspicious I get about history (wry grin). I remember when I was a kid of about 9 or so, talking with my great uncle about his fathers' part in the Boer War. Since my father was doing a fair amount of work in South Africa and Botswana at the time, I got really interested in the historical movements of the various tribes and groups and tried to read up on them There's actually a surprising amount of anthropology on Africa - part of the links between British Social Anthropology and the policy of indirect rule that was used throughout large parts of the empire).

    Later on, I think it was 1974 or 1975, I remember when Nkomo's brother came to Ottawa trying to drum up support for ZIPRA. What I found fascinating was that he was quite open about the tribal nature of the conflict: he called it a three-cornered civil war. I can't remember if he ever said that in a public forum, but he certainly did in private small groups.

    I found the dichotomy between the private understandings and the public rhetoric, both in Rhodesia and in South Africa, to be quite informative. I think it's why I have a tendency to look at mediaspace now whenever I consider conflict.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  6. #26
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Ah the memories

    When I was a snot-nosed sophmore in college, I wrote a paper about the Rhodesian crisis, as I thought there was an amount of cognitive dissonance going on with the African peoples within the borders. I was specifically delving into rationale behind the recruitment, employment, and retention of African troops, fighting for a government that was viewed by most of the world as racist. I was curious about the perspective of the African soldier fighting under the Rhodesian flag. What drove him to do it, considering the years of public outcry against the Rhodesian government after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence against the Crown. Did he belive that the government was subjugating his people, but also believe that the fabric of his society was at risk and thus necessitated his service? Or was it something more primitive and tribal, Shona vs. Ndebele?

    I've since studied the situation more closely, and realize that there were so many more dynamics involved that the picture is not clear. The matter of advisors is, however, an interesting one if you step back and look at the situation of certain units (e.g. Rhodesian African Rifles and Selous Scouts). The RAR was a predominantly all-African formation, with Anglos serving as the officers. A book titled The War Diaries of Andre Dennison is an excellent insight into the world of a white who serve as the OC of one of the companies.

    I look at what I've read about Rhodesia since my sophmore days and now begin to wonder. We've had previous threads about "turning terrorists" and developing indigenious forces in the image of insurgent groups, so that they may fight them at their own game. We can look to the Selous Scouts for lessons on the snoop and poop aspect, but can we also learn something from the more conventional Rhodesian units, and the white OIC/leader issues then to the current advisor issues we face today?

    Just some fodder for discussion.

  7. #27
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Edit

    Also, South Africa did play a significant role during the waning days of White Rhodesian rule, and it wasn't solely in the form of military support. IIRC, much of the pressure that Smith faced stemmed from S. Africa's political game, and Johannesburg saw the writing on the wall. Rather than have a violent overthrow of the Rhodesian govt., it saw accomodation as a means to an end, and expended considerable effort driving the point home that a transitional government, followed by majority rule was in Rhodesia's best interest. In fact, many argue they were looking to cover their own rear ends.

  8. #28
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Lessons from Rhodesia

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    In fact, many argue they were looking to cover their own rear ends.
    I would certainly agree with that! It would be interesting to look at who is doing the same in Iraq right now.

    I'd like to go back to an earlier comment you made and "muse" on it for a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    can we also learn something from the more conventional Rhodesian units, and the white OIC/leader issues then to the current advisor issues we face today?
    One of the "lessons" coming out of Rhodesia was that the conflict operated at a whole series of different levels: military, political, ethnic and, most important to my point at the moment, how a "state" is perceived. Is a "state" going to be equivalent to an ethnic/tribal group, or is it going to be composed on multiple ethnic/tribal groups in some form of a powersharing relationship?

    I think that discussions of exactly what the state is / will be are important if for no other reason that you have to have an acceptable reason for fighting for a state. It is usually fairly easy to develope that mind state of "why to fight" in a monocultural state which is, after all, the basis of modern nation states. It it much harder to do so when you have multi-cultural states where core cultural values may be in direct opposition to each other.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  9. #29
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default States and non-States

    I think that discussions of exactly what the state is / will be are important if for no other reason that you have to have an acceptable reason for fighting for a state. It is usually fairly easy to develope that mind state of "why to fight" in a monocultural state which is, after all, the basis of modern nation states. It it much harder to do so when you have multi-cultural states where core cultural values may be in direct opposition to each other.
    The interesting thing about this point and this discussion in general is that for the most part all elements in the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe war could agree that they were fighting for a state (the definition of which was the center piece issue of the war). The same held true in Rwanda: defining that state centered on defining the Tutsi as either an alien race (the Hutu Power position) or an integral part of the Rwandan ethnic quilt (the RPF position). The aftermath of both conflicts is still unfolding. In the case of Zimbabwe, I spent a little time there in 84 and heard the stories of American mercs who had fought on the losing side, lost their citizenship, and stayed in the newly consolidated military. Their stories were NOT happy ones; one was a parapalegic who had been an SF engineer sergeant, fought as a merc, and then was used--literally--to clear mines until his luck ran out. I sponsored a Zimbabwean officer at Leavenworth in 85; he was Ndebele. It took several months but he finally started talking about how his future looked in the Shona dominated government. I believe that Zimbabwe is going to hit bottom soon; the results will not be pretty.

    As for Rwanda, I gave a 2-3 hour lecture the other day on COIN in Rwanda 94-98; key discussion point in that lecture was amnesty/reconciliation/and integration of the 2 militaries. My overall point in raising those issues was that the RPA could win on the battlefield but could not win the peace until those issues were addressed. That was very hard to do after genocide killed 14% of a state's population, most of whom were from an ethnic group constituting less than 20% of the pre-war population. (The return of long term Tutsi exiles effectively offset the losses of the geoncide in numerical terms; that does not mean in any fashion that their return lessened the social impact of the genocide.) Two critical things had to happen: a. an end to impunity in ethnic killings to satisfy genocide survivors and b. reconciliation (especially integration of the militaries). The first condition was achieved with the first public executions after trials in 98. The second actually began in 94 when the RPA opened the reintegration program for ex-FAR officers at Gako. By 97 and 98, graduates of the Gako program, Hutu (and former ex-FAR) officers were commanding RPA battalions and brigades in the COIN campaign in western Rwanda. They proved absolutely critical in defeating the insurgency that year. I admit freely that in 1994 I was very sceptical about the Gako program; the Rwandans proved me wrong.

    Finally I would hold up the Congo as an example of the other extreme: where a state does not really exist and a Congolese "people" do not really exist. It has been a problem since King Leopold carved out his private empire in the 19th century; independence in 1960 brought all the tensions to the fore for the next 5 years. Mobutu more or less (actually less given that foreign interventions became almost common place) held it together from 65 to 97 when the Rwandans showed him the door. In Congo-like conditions, it is VERY difficult to establish a military that has the state as its center of gravity.

    best
    Tom

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    As a child during this very war I read with interest the comments and viewpoints. I find myself wondering if the learned gentlemen here posting know whether information from sites such as this is ever used or considered when the bigger decissions are made by the politicians. As a species we do not appear to be learning much from history yet the views on here show that a problem has been recognised.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arty8 View Post
    One of the best primary sources I've read on the Rhodesian Light Infantry. This book is worth reading and rereading. I thought it was particularly interesting how all their vehciles were designed to survive mine explosions, and this was back in 1979.


    Chris Cocks also wrote another book called "Survival Course" that details his time as a reservist the PATU - Police Anti Terrorist Unit. It's another very good read.

    I actually met Chris at a book signing in Pietermaritzburg South Africa and he is truly a gentleman

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    Default Rhodesian COIN (consolidated thread, inc original RLI)

    Tomorrow is the birthday of the RLI. Also known as The Saints and The Incredibles, 1st Battalion, The Rhodesian Light Infantry was formed on February 1, 1961.

    www.therli.com

    Moderator's Note

    In April 2010 this thread was re-titled and became the current "catch all" for posts on Rhodesian COIN, including the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) and in Post No.78 is a list of other Rhodesian threads.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-13-2010 at 07:25 PM. Reason: Add Moderator's Note

  13. #33
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Rifleman, you rule!!!

    Great post! where you come about this link? There hasn't been much web-based RLI stuff to come along in a while. Many have tried, but several of those sites are dead links now.

    Even more interesting is the notification of a book launch:

    30° South Publishers is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of The Saints – The Rhodesian Light Infanrty by author Alex Binda and compiled and edited by Chris Cocks. The book will be launched in London on 14 June 2007.

    The Saints
    Alex Binda
    The Saints contains a wealth of previously unpublished, material, significant anecdotal and historical contributions, personal writings and over 5,000 photographs.
    This will almost certainly be a must-have. Heck, even Charles Melson gets a nod http://www.therli.com/images/Saintsflyersmall.pdf (which reminds me that he would be a nice addition to the SWC):

    An ‘international’ regiment in the truest sense—with foreign volunteers from North America, UK, Europe, Australasia and South Africa—and nicknamed ‘The Saints’ or ‘The Incredibles’, The 1st Battalion The Rhodesian Light Infantry was formed on 1 February 1961. In its short 19-year existence, this airborne commando unit carved a reputation for itself as one of the world’s foremost proponents of counter-insurgency warfare. This was achieved through their innovative ‘Fireforce’ operations and daring pre-emptive strikes against the overwhelming tide of the communist-backed ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrillas of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, based in Mozambique and Zambia. For these reasons, Charles D. Melson of the USMC has described the RLI as “The Killing Machine”.
    I will be eargerly waiting the arrival of June.

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    I just found the site googling/surfing. I recently ordered Fireforce by Chris Cocks from Amazon (it hasn't arrived yet) and that sort of got me to looking for RLI information on the internet.

    Most people on this site are probably aware of T.A.L. Dozer's Selous Scouts site. Although mainly about the Selous Scouts it also gives a nod to the RLI, Grey's Scouts, and the Rhodesian SAS. For those who haven't seen it here's a link.

    http://selousscouts.tripod.com/

    It's a great site. If you print out all the notes and articles on combat tracking and put them in a binder you've got a little tracking book that's as good as anything you can buy in the nature section of Barnes and Noble.....if not better.

  15. #35
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    JC I second that about Charles Melson and the website! Did you see the pictures of the obstacle course? Man
    Last edited by slapout9; 02-01-2007 at 03:17 AM. Reason: spelling

  16. #36
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    Default O courses

    Didn't look any worse than the Darby Queen! Not that I could do either one now....

  17. #37
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Other titles

    If you find that you like Fire Force, you will enjoy The Elite: Rhodesian SAS. It is a great book...pricey on Ebay, but you may get lucky and find an auction for less that $30.00

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    To those who served in one of the greatest light infantry regiments in history - whether you ever read this or not - some of us continue to be inspired by your courage, professionalism, and dedication to your comrades and country.

    With respect, honor, and sincerity - Present...ARMS!

  19. #39
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I invited an ex-pat American to join the SWC tonight. He served with the RLI, and graciously shared some of his experiences with me a few years ago as I developed material for a MC Gazette article.

    If he shows, welcome him. He can certainly be as colorful as Stan.

  20. #40
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    Thank you.
    Lest we forget . . . . . .

    Regards

    Chalkie
    Ex 2 Commando, RLI

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