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Old 01-12-2017   #1
Bob's World
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Default Strategy begins with empathy: Netflix series "Colony"

I set down with my fiance recently to watch a little TV. As I was surfing the Netflix menu the new series from the creators of "Lost" about an alien occupation of Los Angeles looked interesting. Turns out it is.

Strong cast, good writing, and a focus on the human storyline rather than that of the aliens, so a story one can relate to.

About half way through the third episode - after the audience is completely drawn in and supportive of the plight of the average citizen, the moral quandary of sorting out issues of survival, family, submitting to the rule of law, or supporting or participating in illegal challenges to the government formed by the invaders - I turn to Holly and say, "you realize this entire series is an analogy for the US occupations of places like Afghanistan and Iraq, right?"

So I explained. When a stronger power imposes itself onto a weaker one, and then stays to create and sustain a new government that draws its legitimacy from the invader, rather than from the invaded, it triggers fundamental human nature based responses, and certain roles are automatically created.

There is the invader. fundamentally illegitimate. The very presence creating a resistance affect in the population affected by their actions. The intentions of the invader are not clear in this case, but good intentions only shape the degree and character of the resistance, but resistance itself is a presumptive effect.

There are the collaborators. There will always be those who see opportunity in external disruption of existing power structures to attain power and wealth that otherwise would have gone to others. These collaborators rationalize their actions as being pragmatic. To resist is futile, why not go along to get along?

There are the resistance. A bold few will act out directly. These are the guerrillas. More will support in more indirect ways. These are the underground. Many will morally or tacitly support resistance, perhaps even as they work with the collaborators. These are the auxiliary.

Lastly, there are those caught in the middle. This is probably the majority. Those who are largely apolitical and are simply trying to survive regardless of who is in power.

The twist in this show is that the audience immediately identifies with and builds empathy for the resistance. But in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, this was not our role. We were, we are, the alien invader. That faceless entity employing superior technology and power to impose our will onto others. We too build local security forces, employ drones to spy and kill, and disregard rights of justice we see as fundamental in the US Bill of rights in our hot pursuit of the terrorists of the resistance.

I have only watched a handful of episodes, but I recommend this show as an excellent primer for those interested in expanding their understanding on the nature of resistance insurgency warfare against an illegitimate external presence; and revolutionary insurgency illegal democracy against the governmental structure and collaborators who man them.
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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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Old 01-12-2017   #2
Granite_State
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We had a thread years ago, "What Are You Currently Watching?", that may have covered some of this ground before. Two recent shows that apply:

1. The Wire. The best show on counter-insurgency I've seen. The drug war in Baltimore, surveillance, informants, police brutality, community policing (and the absence of it), and a great demonstration of the "power of weakness" in the first season.

2. Battlestar Galactica. One of the seasons had a "humans occupied by aliens" plot like Colony, which included the humans using suicide bombers in their rebellion.

Moderator adds: The thread 'What Are You Watching?' is on:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8130

Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-12-2017 at 10:18 PM. Reason: Add note and link.
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Old 01-12-2017   #3
Azor
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World
...I turn to Holly and say, "you realize this entire series is an analogy for the US occupations of places like Afghanistan and Iraq, right?"
It reminds me of The Last Valley from 1971 which was an analogy for the Vietnam War, albeit set some 330 years earlier and based upon a book written well before Vietnam...

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Originally Posted by Bob's World
The twist in this show is that the audience immediately identifies with and builds empathy for the resistance. But in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, this was not our role. We were, we are, the alien invader. That faceless entity employing superior technology and power to impose our will onto others. We too build local security forces, employ drones to spy and kill, and disregard rights of justice we see as fundamental in the US Bill of rights in our hot pursuit of the terrorists of the resistance.
That glosses over the nuances of each conflict, particularly where Vietnam is concerned.

Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh may have had more legitimacy than the various leaders of the South due to his struggle against Japanese and French occupation, but to impose Communist rule on the north required Stalinist methods, including the mass murder of Northern civilians. Despite local adaptation, Communism was not indigenous to Vietnam and had to be imposed by force.

The United States certainly misunderstood the dynamics of Vietnam, including those between the Buddhists and Catholics, but there were clear parallels to the situation in Korea: mass murder, imprisonment and deportation was required for each northern and southern state to survive, and would be required again after unification. Better intelligence would have determined that Ho was not Kim and that a Vietnam united under Communism would not have been an outpost for Soviet or Chinese expansion.

Iraq
The issue was not cultural but political. The de-Ba'athification policy was sheer folly and created the Sunni Arab insurgency. Had the US found suitable Ba'athist leaders to govern Iraq and transition it into a more inclusive society, the situation would have turned out differently.

Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been a failed state gripped in a civil war since before the Soviets invaded. It has suffered whether foreign powers are interfering or not. If the US had secured northern Afghanistan and left the south as a no-man's land subject to UAV patrols, there might be a viable state...
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Old 01-13-2017   #4
Bob's World
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I think you are missing the proverbial forest for the trees.

As to Vietnam, the whole construct of "North" and "South" states was a fiction created by the US, so I sadly love the irony of the fact that we view the conflict through the lens of our own fantasy. It was a 30 year resistance against foreign occupation and revolution against the "legal" but illegitimate governments and entities created and protected by those occupiers. Insurgency ebbs and flows, and this was an independence movement from start to finish. Our meddling merely delayed the inevitable and brought an extra generation of hardship to the people of that region.

Was de-Ba'athification a tactical error? Yes. All Iraq needed was a punitive expedition at most. But instead we removed the government, stayed, and put in and sought to protect one of our liking. Strategically that creates presumptive resistance warfare against the occupier, and presumptive revolutionary illegal democracy against the puppet regime. Better tactics would not have prevented the inevitable strategic results of our actions.

As to Afghanistan? A true state whether it meets our standard for that or not. We love to call things "failed" that don't look like what we think right is. As a patronage society where there is "winner" or "loser" and little in between, there is always competition to be the winner. Those who had patronage power under the Taliban will always (rightfully) believe that " but for" the meddling of the US they would still be in power - so there will always be revolutionary illegal democracy against the government we created and protect; and always resistance warfare against our presence to do so.

This is human nature, and we are not exempt because we rationalize good intentions, and believe ourselves to be "exceptional."
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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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Old 01-13-2017   #5
Azor
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World
As to Vietnam, the whole construct of "North" and "South" states was a fiction created by the US…
Not at all. Firstly, Vietnam was unified in the medieval and early modern period from north to south, with the south being consolidated over 800 years after northern Vietnam had gained independence from China. Secondly, Vietnam was divided into three French protectorates for almost a century. There were regional differences between north and south prior to American intervention, including greater Westernisation and use of the French language in the south.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World
It was a 30 year resistance against foreign occupation and revolution against the "legal" but illegitimate governments and entities created and protected by those occupiers. Insurgency ebbs and flows, and this was an independence movement from start to finish. Our meddling merely delayed the inevitable and brought an extra generation of hardship to the people of that region.
That is the popular conception of the conflict in Vietnam. Assuming that is true, why then did the North Vietnamese place themselves in a position of dependency upon Soviet and Chinese support in order to conquer the South? Why did they invite hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers and advisors into their country, when the Americans had not invaded the North? Why risk being at the mercy of a great power that had occupied Vietnam before for a millennium?

The NLF was dependent upon the NVA and the NVA was dependent upon the Soviets and Chinese. This is not to say that the South would have faced no insurgency, but there is a major difference between 1st Chechnya and the Chechen insurgency from 2009 on. Even with massive Soviet and Chinese support, the NLF and NVA were smashed time and time again, but were far from the “golden third” irrecoverable loss rate necessary for winning a war of attrition.


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Originally Posted by Bob's World
Was de-Ba'athification a tactical error? Yes. All Iraq needed was a punitive expedition at most. But instead we removed the government, stayed, and put in and sought to protect one of our liking. Strategically that creates presumptive resistance warfare against the occupier, and presumptive revolutionary illegal democracy against the puppet regime. Better tactics would not have prevented the inevitable strategic results of our actions.
The complete removal of the Iraqi government was both an arrogant attempt to create a client state and a concession to those Americans who would have bemoaned it had the US not reconstructed the country; and why not as a “model” Arab Muslim democracy?

De-Ba’athification was a decisive strategic error, because a provisional government led by Ba’athists could have governed the country as the Coalition worked to bring the Kurds and Shias into the political process.


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Originally Posted by Bob's World
As to Afghanistan?…As a patronage society where there is "winner" or "loser" and little in between, there is always competition to be the winner. Those who had patronage power under the Taliban will always (rightfully) believe that " but for" the meddling of the US they would still be in power - so there will always be revolutionary illegal democracy against the government we created and protect; and always resistance warfare against our presence to do so.
Well, the Taliban failed to take responsibility for hosting Al Qaeda. Yes, there are winners and losers, but should we be compassionate toward those Germans and Japanese who benefited from their countries’ wars of aggression and mass murder?

The Taliban is far from a “revolutionary illegal democracy”. It is a Pakistani construction designed to divert the Pashtun people’s collective energies from ethnic nationalism to Muslim supremacism. Pakistan is an unwieldly mash of several ethnic groups and Islamabad suppresses those centrifugal forces through Islamism and conflict with India. The Pashtun nation straddles the Durand Line, making southern Afghanistan ungovernable unless Pakistan is carved up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World
…so I sadly love the irony of the fact that we view the conflict through the lens of our own fantasy… We love to call things "failed" that don't look like what we think right is… This is human nature, and we are not exempt because we rationalize good intentions, and believe ourselves to be "exceptional."
It sounds as though you are disillusioned. Yet what of the reconstruction of Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan? Failures can’t be dwelled upon in isolation…
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Old 01-14-2017   #6
Bob's World
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You are tossing a bowl of historical fruit salad, mixing your apples with your oranges. True facts, but imo strategically immaterial. We cling to the facts that feed our narrative, rather than devising a more accurate strategic framework and considering the facts in that light.
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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)

Last edited by Bob's World; 01-14-2017 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 01-14-2017   #7
Azor
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You are tossing a bowl of historical fruit salad, mixing your apples with your oranges. True facts, but imo strategically immaterial. We cling to the facts that feed our narrative, rather than devising a more accurate strategic framework and considering the facts in that light.
Well, I was addressing your various points. Note that I have never argued that reconstruction and COIN were easy or quick processes and that a more adept CPA in Iraq or more resources to the Afghan War or leaving Vietnam to the generals would have necessarily led to victory.

I referenced the postwar reconstruction and COIN successes specifically because they each involved a substantial and sustained national commitment and whole-of-government approach to succeed, and they benefited fron having the attrition part out of the way.
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