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Thread: Palestine and British COIN (catch all)

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    Default "Arab Rebellion" official history?

    Moderator's Note

    I have merged two threads today on the Palestine COIN campaign, this thread was entitled The insurgency Jewish terrorists won and an older 2010 smaller RFI thread "Arab Rebellion" official history?

    The thread is now called Palestine and British COIN (catch all), so it covers the pre-1939 Arab Rebellion and the post-war campaign (put simply).(Ends).


    Hi all,
    I'm currently researching the Special Night Squads (SNS), a COIN unit formed by (then) captain Orde Charles Wingate during the "Arab Rebellion" in Palestine (1936-1939).
    I'm currently looking for British source material regarding the rebellion. While there are many primary sources dealing with the subject, I did not find, as yet, a British "official history" work describing it.
    Does anyone know whether such a history exists?
    Thanks,
    shlomz
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-19-2016 at 12:03 PM. Reason: Add Note
    "Nowadays people seem to imagine that impartiality means readiness to treat lies and truth the same, readiness to hold white as bad as black and black as good as white. I, on the contrary, believe that without integrity a man much better not approach a problem at all." Orde Charles Wingate, 1938

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    You might want to try my book, 'Orde Wingate and the British Army, 1922-1944' - there is an extensive bibliography in there.

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    Thank you very much, Dr. Anglim. I have already read your (excellent) book, as well as your articles regarding Wingate and the SNS (published in "The Occasional" and in "Contemporary Security Policy"). I have found the bibliography included in these works very helpful.

    I did not find, however, an official British account of the Arab Rebellion. My guess is that perhaps no such history exsits, perhaps on account of the outbreak of WW2.
    "Nowadays people seem to imagine that impartiality means readiness to treat lies and truth the same, readiness to hold white as bad as black and black as good as white. I, on the contrary, believe that without integrity a man much better not approach a problem at all." Orde Charles Wingate, 1938

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    There isn't one. The British Army did not make official histories of its Small Wars. However, there are narratives and digests of lessons learned in the Public Record Office at Kew.

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    I suspected as much... Thank you!
    I hope that a synthesis between British and Israeli documents (and perhaps Arab documents as well, if I will be lucky enough to find any) will allow me to construct a clear description of the unit's modus operandi, achievements and impact on the rebellion in northern Palestine.
    "Nowadays people seem to imagine that impartiality means readiness to treat lies and truth the same, readiness to hold white as bad as black and black as good as white. I, on the contrary, believe that without integrity a man much better not approach a problem at all." Orde Charles Wingate, 1938

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    Default Palestine and British COIN (catch all)

    Bruce Hoffman's new book 'Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947' opens with:
    “Does terrorism work?” His answer is that in contrast to what most governments claim, terrorists can attain at least some of their fundamental aims, provided they operate under “the right conditions and with the appropriate strategy and tactics.”
    It was reviewed today in the NYT and opens with:
    On July 22, 1946, seven milk churns containing concealed bombs exploded in the basement of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Six floors of British government and military offices collapsed, and 92 people were killed, most of them Arab, British and Jewish civilians. What was at the time the most lethal terrorist attack in history was perpetrated by the Irgun Zvai Leumi (Hebrew for National Military Organization) headed by Menachem Begin, a future prime minister of Israel. The organization’s main aim was to force the British out of Palestine, which they had ruled since 1917.
    That was a lethal action, the most significant action, a murder was:
    ...on Nov. 6, 1944, two Jewish terrorists assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister of state resident in the Middle East, based in Cairo. The assassins were members of another terrorist organization called Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, better known as Lehi or the Stern Gang.
    Link:http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/01...-hoffman.html?

    Mixed reviews via Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Anonymous-Sold.../dp/0307594718
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-01-2015 at 03:15 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    I remain constantly surprised that this is an issue. Does terrorism work? It depends. Despite Begin's assertions, the Irgun's urban terrorism against Arab civilians and the British authorities wasn't the key to the founding of Israel, but it certainly undermined the Mandate authorities.

    Now if Lehi's attempt to bomb the Colonial Office in London and its letter bombs to Harry Truman, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, and Anthony Eden had gone off successfully - we might be talking about something else entirely.

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    One thing seems to be clear, for an terrorist action or insurgency to work it has to have two components: the first is the fighters who are willing to kill military and innocents alike in order to undermine whatever authority is currently in power, and a "legitimate" component that is works within the accepted political framework to offer a "solution" to the problems.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    One thing seems to be clear, for an terrorist action or insurgency to work it has to have two components: the first is the fighters who are willing to kill military and innocents alike in order to undermine whatever authority is currently in power, and a "legitimate" component that is works within the accepted political framework to offer a "solution" to the problems.
    Wouldn't that depend upon their goal? A criminal organization may conduct terrorism to effect state capture (yes that is a political objective) to facilitate their criminal/economic activity. They don't require a legitimate framework to achieve their goals, they simply need to coerce the government and population. IS on the other hand used terrorism to establish territorial control and establish control of the population. If we really stretch our imagination we could call their government structure legitimate, but I'll pass on that.

    One also needs to describe effective in a temporal context. I recall similar voices that Assad's government would fail years ago, that ISIS would collapse upon itself, etc. That may all prove to be true, but for now their versions of terrorism has worked to achieve their goals. The USSR used terrorism to control their population, it took over 50 years for their political system to collapse.

    We Americans tend to have a nave view of the world based on how we perceive our history, and our so called natural and universal laws. The real world can be quite rough, and rough works when you're the roughest. It may or may not result in an enduring solution, but history speaks for itself if we would only listen. Fortunately we have a system in place that at least currently prevents control of the populace and government through terrorist tactics, but that truth doesn't apply everywhere in the world.

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    Bill,

    I don't subscribe to the idea that criminal organizations engage in political terrorism. There motivation is usually monetary gain, not forming or reforming a political entity. If they do engage in acts that involve terror, like extortion, their motivation is not political.

    I did not believe that Asad would fall easily, but I must admit that ISIS was unexpected and I totally misjudged them.

    While I normally would agree with you on our Western bias, here is the one time that the Western bias matters. I have written elsewhere that there are three levels of legitimacy. The first level is the legitimacy of the individual leader - did he gain power through the appropriate channels and is he ruling according to the dictates of society. The second is the legitimacy of the system - does the system follow the expectations of the population. The third level is legitimacy between states - does the international community see the government as legitimate. ISIS may be the defacto government of a swath of northern Iraq and western Syria, but unless the Western world accepts them as a real, legitimate government. That requires another element, some organization that can give ISIS, or any other group, legitimacy amongst it's peers - other States. That is just a fact.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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    Default Stern Gang, Etc.

    No question these groups undermined the Mandate and likely heightened the Labor Government's resolve to disengage...But the pertinent question, I think, is would such terrorist tactics have worked had Palestine not been ruled by a liberal democracy; and moreover, one which was broke and beholden to a US not reluctant to exert pro-Jewish pressure--a US in which the Truman Administration and congressional Democrats were slipping into an increasingly pro-Zionist stance. Notably, substantial numbers of Palestine Police transferred to Malaya, where they were less constrained (and more successful) in countering terrorism...

    Cheers,
    Mike.

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    I don't subscribe to the idea that criminal organizations engage in political terrorism. There motivation is usually monetary gain, not forming or reforming a political entity.
    This has probably always been a false assumption, but it is certainly a false assumption today. Political power is political power regardless of the reason one seeks it. It is a false dichotomy to claim terrorists are political and criminals are profit motivated. That line only exists in our academic world, it is a line drawn to support bureaucratic rice bowls (who owns the problem and who gets the funding to deal with it). If terrorism is directed against the citizens and/or the government it is political. Political motivation can be quite varied, thus the character of the terrorism can vary significantly, but at the end of the day they often both have political aims. We have an outdated lexicon from the Cold War that no longer accurately describes the world we live in today (if it ever did).

    Mike,

    would such terrorist tactics have worked had Palestine not been ruled by a liberal democracy; and moreover, one which was broke and beholden to a US not reluctant to exert pro-Jewish pressure--a US in which the Truman Administration and congressional Democrats were slipping into an increasingly pro-Zionist stance. Notably, substantial numbers of Palestine Police transferred to Malaya, where they were less constrained (and more successful) in countering terrorism...
    I'm not as familiar with this history as I should be. Are you arguing that liberal democracies are more vulnerable to terrorism than other forms of government? Regarding your point about Malaya, it seems you're arguing that countries willing to implement rather severe population control measures are more successful than countries that won't. That seems logical, but the West defeated a wide range of left leaning terrorist groups in Europe and the U.S. without implementing severe population control measures, so it seems there are more variables involved than this.

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    It is not about what the illegal actor wants that is important, it is WHY they want it. That is what determines both the nature of the problem and the nature of the cure. We tend to be far too symptomatic in our analysis. If something looks like problem A, apply solution A. The reality is that several types of problem might look like our symptomatic type A, each demanding a unique solution. This is the principle flaw in the AQAA construct and why the logic behind it has driven our strategic failure to date in dealing with illegal challenges to governance and stability

    For example three broad categories of motivation for posing an illegal challenge to governance with very distinct natures demanding equally distinct solutions are:

    1. Revolutionary insurgency to coerce change or illegally overthrow a domestic system of governance coming from an internal base of popular support. Largely a form of civil emergency, demanding a lead effort on the part of governance

    2. Resistance insurgency to defeat or expel a foreign occupation (either physical or by manipulative policies). Typically a continuation of warfare demanding a lead effort on the part of military to defeat this segment of the population as one has likely already done with the government and security forces.

    3. Profit motivated criminal activities designed to exploit some illicit market space with significant popular demand. This demands a blend of law enforcement and law reform to find the mix best for sustainable stability.

    All three forms of motivation may be in the same place, the same organizations, and the same individual; and a smart governmental response appreciates the blend and creates an appropriately blended response as well.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (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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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike in Hilo View Post
    No question these groups undermined the Mandate and likely heightened the Labor Government's resolve to disengage...But the pertinent question, I think, is would such terrorist tactics have worked had Palestine not been ruled by a liberal democracy; and moreover, one which was broke and beholden to a US not reluctant to exert pro-Jewish pressure--a US in which the Truman Administration and congressional Democrats were slipping into an increasingly pro-Zionist stance. Notably, substantial numbers of Palestine Police transferred to Malaya, where they were less constrained (and more successful) in countering terrorism...

    Cheers,
    Mike.
    I think the question of motivation works here more so than the question of liberal democracy. The British were certainly not liberal democrats in the Empire, and Arabs and Jews were subjects, not citizens.

    More important than that - the post WWII priorities of Britain were quite different from those of pre-WWII. The Empire was becoming a political and economic burden to an exhausted and bankrupt country. The motivation to "keep" Palestine, which contributed nothing but the threadbare prestige of Jerusalem, was lower than low. The Brits were on the way out even in India - Palestine was the sideshow of sideshows, and the British were glad to be shed of it.
    Last edited by tequila; 03-02-2015 at 02:11 PM.

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    Default Does terrorism work? Two essays

    Bruce Hoffman has a short, recent article, partly based on his book:http://www.chroniclecareers.com/arti...-Works/190353/

    Max Abrahms wrote this journal article in 2012 'The Political Effectiveness of Terrorism Revisited':https://www.academia.edu/1595455/_Th...es_March_2012_
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    It is not about what the illegal actor wants that is important, it is WHY they want it. That is what determines both the nature of the problem and the nature of the cure.
    I agree wholeheartedly. I only wish that more people would examine these conflicts from the point of view of the motives of the actors.

    It gets even stickier when the motive of the leaders is revolution or resistance, and the motivations of the average fighter is personal self-esteem or revenge.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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    Tequila: Concur. Atlee's gov't was resolved to disengage from the area, for sure. I suggest Stern atrocities reenforced this (and perhaps accelerated the timetable).

    While the empire wasn't run democratically, Jewish citizens back home in the UK did have recourse to the processes of democratic government to exert influence....although, arguably, US pressure was more effective in tipping the scales....The difference is striking between the ham-fisted punishment of civilians who abetted the (unsuccessful) Arab Palestine insurgency 1936-39 and the far gentler tactics employed vis-a-vis the Yishuv...

    Bill Moore: My argument is indeed as you say...But my generic argument implies "ceteris paribus".....Each case has its variables, and they certainly make a difference.

    Cheers,
    Mike.
    Last edited by Mike in Hilo; 03-03-2015 at 03:05 AM.

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    Default "Jam in the middle"

    I do wonder if this insurgency in Palestine was successful for the Jewish people as: 1) the British were exhausted by WW2 even before the insurgency resumed; 2) post-1945 the British quickly became the "jam in the middle", often a thankless task and 3) the Jewish cause was massively reinforced by the Holacaust, in terms of legitimacy and potency with other audiences.

    I know from talking with Bruce Hoffman he covers how the British response was for a long time police-led, by a colonial force, the Palestine Police, which had local and expatriate members. A very slim Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine_Police_Force

    Following an exchange I have a PDF copy of a biography by one such expatriate member of the Palestine Police. Geoffrey Morton, was a colonial policeman (1930-1954), notably in Palestine:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_J._Morton

    Drop me a PM with an email address, it is a large PDF (19 Mb).
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly. I only wish that more people would examine these conflicts from the point of view of the motives of the actors.

    It gets even stickier when the motive of the leaders is revolution or resistance, and the motivations of the average fighter is personal self-esteem or revenge.
    I think you would be hard pressed to make a case that we don't study these conflicts from the view point of the actors. What our liberal views tend to promote are that America is always wrong and inept, and we simply dismiss the nature of war which is a contest between two or more opponents where each attempts to "impose" their will upon the other. Furthermore, the result is never final, so the argument that we need to address underlying issues to get to a final solution can and is often overstated. We have objectives as a country that we have chose to use war to pursue, which means we recognize that our opponent's objectives are at odds with ours and we will have to use force to achieve them. It does not mean we don't understand their ends, in fact it is quite the opposite. If you disagree with why we went to war that is a different manner, but quite different from what you wrote.

    This view of war is what has led to the myth that if we just give people jobs they'll quit fighting. PRTs became the main effort and the use of force to impose our will became a secondary manner. We created a condition where both approaches would fail. LTG McMasters is right that we have separated war from its nature, so understandably we seldom accomplish our objectives regardless of its duration and the amount of money we spend. I disagree with Bob that insurgency and COIN, and even CT are not war. They clearly are, but their character is very different than interstate war where the principle objective is to defeat that state's military forces, so we can impose our will upon them. War is inhumane and it shouldn't be our first choice to achieve our objectives. When we chose to use it as a tool, then we need use it correctly. While cruel, it is less cruel than dragging conflicts out forever with no end in sight. This multigenerational approach destroys societies.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 03-03-2015 at 11:33 AM.

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    There is an old saying in the infantry: "Every form of maneuver is frontal assault for the lead squad."

    While that is true, and largely unavoidable, once one steps back and looks as the larger picture, the true essence of the maneuver being employed is revealed. But it sure looks and feels like a frontal assault for that lead squad.

    This leads to the problem (and point of strategic disagreement I have with my good friend Bill Moore - we argue this over beers as well as on line) - everything that looks like war is not war. War is a specific form of violence between two or more separate political entities. As many brilliant military theorists note, "the nature of war is constant as it is rooted in human nature; but the character of war varies widely" (case by case for myriad factors of history, geography, cultures, technology, etc).

    Resistance insurgency (not as USASOC and SOCOM define it in their UW doctrine) is a form of war. For me resistance is a unique form of insurgency that occurs in the context of war between two or more distinct political entities. The people often are the only ones left in the fight in rear areas as the formal forces are pushed back (think partisan warfare against the Nazis in their rear areas as they pushed the Soviets back); or the final gasp of a state once the Government surrenders and the formal forces are defeated (think the French resistance in France following their defeat by Nazi Germany and prior to their liberation by the Allies). This is a form of insurgency that is a form of war. The critical factors are the primary purpose for action, AND the nature of the relationship between the parties involved.

    But many of the French and Ukrainian resistance fighters against the Nazi German invasion also had a separate line of insurgency motivation to fight. Revolutionary insurgency motivation against the illegitimate Vichy regime working for the Germans in France; and against the Soviet governance in Eastern Europe.

    Revolutionary Insurgency often looks exactly like Resistance Insurgency - but is fundamentally different in nature. Revolution is internal to a single political system, and as such is more accurately a form of democracy than a form of war. Revolutionary insurgency must possess four components or it is something else.

    1. It must be political in primary purpose.
    2. It must be internal to a single political system.
    3. It must rise from a base of support within a significantly aggrieved identity-based population within that political system (i.e., not a coup led by a disgruntled Colonel to quickly topple a government).
    4. It must be illegal in form under the laws of the political system where it takes place.

    Some key implications of these four core characteristics of Revolutionary Insurgency:
    1. The only difference in nature between revolution and democracy is legality.
    2. Violence is a tactical choice, and in no way affects the nature of the problem; so revolution can be violent or non-violent, it is still equally revolution if the four core components are present.
    3. What is Revolution in Egypt or China (for example), is merely citizens expressing their concerns acting within their constitutional rights in the United States.
    4. The fastest way to reduce revolutionary energy is to grant degrees of political empowerment to the population writ large, or extend those empowering mechanisms to the identity-based population acting out that may well be denied equal access to those mechanisms (need for the Voting Rights Act as part of the US response to the Civil Rights Movement). This must be done in a manner that makes sense in the context of the culture of the people involved (the US running elections in Iraq and Afghanistan; and helping to write constitutions for those places based upon OUR culture is not a good example of this).
    5. Revolution can become war once the "cell divides" and a new political system emerges around the revolutionary leadership. (Current example, ISIL was a revolutionary insurgency against the governments of Syria and Iraq; but has separated and formed a distinct new political system; and now this is war between distinct states. This calls for an added caution - if we do "defeat" ISIL, the problem does not go away, it just reverts into a powerful, fragmented collection of revolutionary insurgencies).
    6. If the primary purpose for action is to make profits through organized crime, and threats to governance are merely a side effect, or supporting line of operation to support that profit motivated illicit business, it is not revolution (or insurgency at all, IMO, as it requires a very distinct solution blending law enforcement and law reform to address, and is about profit, not politics).

    I could go on, but I believe I have laid out enough distinctions here to further this conversation. In fact, I will cut and past this to a new thread, as this is much larger than the small issue of Bruce's book pointing out that of course terrorism works.

    As to LTG McMasters, clearly he is a smart and successful Army officer. But his perspective is overly tactical and symptomatic, in my opinion; AND he is the lead advocate and front man advocating for the Army in particular and Land Power in general in the face of looming peace and budget cuts. In short, he is very biased in his public statements, he is doing his job; and painting all violence as war demanding a large, warfighting Army is the marketing strategy of the Army that he is implementing. I respect his position, but I also respectfully disagree.

    Bill, in DC next two nights if you have time for a beer...
    Last edited by Bob's World; 03-03-2015 at 12:52 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (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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