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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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"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
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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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"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
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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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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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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.

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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
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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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"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 01-14-2017   #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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Old 01-14-2017   #8
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I am talking about the strategic framework of these types of conflicts. All are unique in countless fascinating ways that must be taken into account in shaping one's campaigns and tactical approaches. But it is our blind belief in what I call the "Humpty Dumpty " strategic approach that framed all three of these conflicts for failure at inception.

Step one, rationalize the need to replace a government one does not like somewhere with a new government one believes will be less "failed," contrary, or of the wrong brand of form or ideological approach.

Step two, believe in the fantasy of "effective" government and "controlled" populations and the power of American brand democracy to creating stable societies. Then set upon "stabilizing" the population as one sets out in earnest to build a virtual "wall" of security force capacity and institutions, governmental effectiveness and institutions, and development. And then put your Humpty up on that wall and grant him the guarantee as your new "ally" that if he should ever fall you will spare no expense to put him back on the wall again.

This creates presumptive resistance and revolutionary forms of political conflict in a complex devil's brew regardless of intentions or interesting peripheral facts. Yet we never learn and rationalize away our failures to these peripheral factors.

As to Germany and Japan, in both those the entire population was as defeated as their respective governments and military. But they still did not want to be little Americas, no, we were the lesser of two evils, so they tolerated our presence to avoid a far worse fate at the hands of the Russians and Chinese who had very legitimate axes to grind...
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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 01-15-2017   #9
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Now look to the British school of hard knocks and the strategic lessons they learned (but seem to have also largely forgotten) in regards to the true drivers of, and resolution to resistance insurgency warfare and recolutionary insurgency illegal democracy.

First, why make the distinction? Simple, because warfare solutions work against war, but political solutions are necessary for democracy. War is a violent political conflict between two distinctly separate entities. Illegal democracy are those illegal, and often violent to a war-like degree, activities to coerce change of governance within a single system of governance. Historically we call the military suppression of revolution a COIN "win" for the state. Truly "good enough for government work," but in reality, unless governance evolves to address the driving issues, this approach makes the actual insurgency worse even as it tamps down the symptoms for 10-15 years.

British lessons began in the Northern Ireland and American colonies, though took a century or so to sink in. The mid-1800s resolution to grant to the British colonists in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia the same rights previously ask for by and denied to the American colonists is one example of strategic learning. This paved the way to the relinquishing of colonial control and fostering the emergence of self determined governance in Malaya a century after that.

Those lessons were somehow lost on Americans who deluded ourselves to believe that our superior rationale and lighter touch for imposing our political will onto others would somehow make us exempt from the laws of human nature. So while we often borrow British tactics, we cling to American strategy, with tragic results.

Why have the British COIN efforts embedded within US led operations failed to yield durable strategic results? Simple, because good tactics cannot overcome bad strategy.
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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 01-16-2017   #10
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Bob,

An interesting commentary on British COIN in the above post. My own reading recently has found several books on the subject, the catalyst for their writing being the more recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I would argue that since 1945 British COIN has been defensive, as we retreated from our imperial / colonial commitments with a few exceptions such as Dhofar / Oman, a close ally. The difference with Afghanistan and Iraq was they were intrusions into nation states, with varying degrees of in-state or local acceptance and reliance on coercion. Both those states were also "broken" and even defeated.

What might have worked historically could not work, either tactically or at the strategic level.

In some places there was certainly empathy, partly a historical legacy before conflict began. Cyprus and Palestine come to mind.

As this thread is about a US TV series, which has yet to appear here; there are irregular media portrayals of such issues, often with a Northern Ireland theme.
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Old 01-16-2017   #11
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David, My point that I am trying to convey, is that the fundamental strategic framework for these types of conflicts is rooted in human nature, and therefore largely the same. It made little difference to the people of India what British intentions were in different eras any more than it matters to the people of Los Angeles in this TV series. It is the simple fact of a foreign power occupying either physically, or even virtually through policy, that creates a presumptive resistance effect.

British "COIN" was designed to suppress this effect while they had the power to do so, but as British power became diffused over broad holdings and British technology (steam transport by sea and rail, telegraph, literacy) shifted relative power to connected and evolving populations, it forced Britain over time shift from a colonial system of control to a much more influence-based approach with the Commonwealth. The US only captured the shift in military tactics. Not that we did not see the strategic shift rooted in policy - we just believe that what we offer is so good, and that what we oppose is so bad, that our efforts will not trigger this effect, or that when it does we can suppress the symptoms.

This is the danger of buying in too completely to the idea of "American Exceptionalism."

With your long history in law enforcement, you appreciate full well the dangers of assuming that when entering a home on a domestic violence call that the very wife or child one is saving from some drunken husband's abuse, will not launch their own resistance insurgency against the officers as they work to subdue or arrest the husband. A family is a microcosm of a state, so the same factors of human nature apply.
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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 01-17-2017   #12
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Default RE: "Colony"

I came across Colony on Netflix, and I decided to watch a couple of episodes because of this thread.

Unfortunately, it is a blatant attempt to reflect the US occupation of Iraq: the walls, the “green zone”, the drones, the MRAPs, the references to “IEDs”, the checkpoints and even the shape of the helmets as well as the weapons.

Yet its creators clearly have no idea about living under foreign occupation, insurgency or terrorism. Their very notion of the occupation of Iraq has been gleaned by watching CNN rather than visiting Baghdad at the height of the killing. Nor have I come across an occupied people as clueless as those in Colony.

When the Germans swept across Europe, even the lowliest peasant knew why they were there and what they wanted. When the German tide ebbed and the Soviet one surged across Central Europe, no one was surprised. What do these aliens want that is worth the resources expended on securing human cities? Why keep the humans alive? For the Germans, people were kept alive temporarily to be of use as slave labor or to produce food or defer their death by helping the Germans kill others. The Soviets wanted people contributing to the Stalinist system, working in its factories and mines, and protecting the Soviet Union from invasion from the West.

Terrorism and insurgency are interesting things, and are hardly ever two-sided:
  • From the Irish War of Independence to the end of the Troubles, the Irish conflicts were overwhelmingly ones of Irishmen killing fellow Irishmen, not the British
  • During the Algerian War of Independence and after, the brunt of the slaughter was born by the Algerians, who continued to slaughter one another after the French left
  • The same is true of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq

If Colony expects to be accurate, then various human factions should be slaughtering one another with the alien occupation being a rallying point, but with the aliens less involved in the violence than the humans.

Americans care about their role in occupation, when Americans are doing the killing and dying. When the Americans are not present and the locals kill and die in the same numbers or even higher, Americans barely care at all.
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Old 01-17-2017   #13
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Yes, TV shows are TV shows. One can fixate on tactical facts and miss the larger picture, or one can step back a bit and consider the nature, rather than the character of a conflict from a different perspective.

Northern Ireland was Britain's first modern colony. The resistance insurgency (warfare) against the English occupiers, and the revolutionary insurgency (illegal democracy) against those who collaborate with the occupiers are two separate conflicts, each very unique in nature, while often very similar in character. More accurately they are two distinct lines of motivation. One insurgent may be 20% motivated by the occupation, and 80% motivated by the fundamental illegitimacy of his government. Another may be the opposite in his motivations. They both may look the same, adhere to the same ideology, and apply the same tactics. That is why the distinction must be made and accounted for at the strategic level, because at the tactical level the distinctions are largely moot.

Likewise Algeria. Galula commented in his classic on COIN how most of the insurgency was against the largely local government of Algeria, and not against the French themselves. Like many colonial powers, he rationalized this as a sign of the relative goodness of what the French brought to Algeria, and the frustrations of the population with the ineffectiveness of the Algerian government. A less biased perspective recognizing the different nature of the two forms of insurgency and recognizing the presumptive drivers of resistance against any foreign occupation (again, physical or by policy); and against any local government deriving its legitimacy more from some foreign power than from the population it claims to serve, would have made his book a more strategic guide.

And yes, the same is indeed true of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
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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 01-17-2017   #14
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Yes, TV shows are TV shows. One can fixate on tactical facts and miss the larger picture, or one can step back a bit and consider the nature, rather than the character of a conflict from a different perspective.
Well, earlier you said that Colony was “an analogy for the US occupations of places like Afghanistan and Iraq”. On the contrary, it is an analogy for popular American perceptions of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly in the minds of those that never participated and who know the occupation only through what they saw and read in the mainstream media.

You also noted that the fact that the audience is meant to identify with and build empathy for the resistance is a “twist”, and yet it is a well-worn one, from the various film and television about German-occupied Europe (actual and alternative such as An Englishman’s Castle) to those about the Troubles (Crying Game, In the Name of the Father), and to similar ones involving aliens such as Star Wars (1977) and V (1983). Colony is treading old ground, and even the references to the US military aesthetic of the War on Terror can be found in 2009’s Avatar.

If your “larger picture” is that the “invader” is “fundamentally illegitimate”, then that applies as much to the Union soldiers in Confederate territory and Allied soldiers in the ruins of Germany, as it does to the Soviets in eastern Poland, the French in Indochina or the Americans in Afghanistan.

If one has no legitimacy on the territory of an other on the basis of not being an other, than a simple solution presents itself: use standoff weapons to pulverize any threatening person or object on that territory, without occupying it. It would have been far easier for the United States to turn North Vietnam into a wasteland and prevent the orderly unification of Vietnam under the North, than it was to preserve South Vietnam. It would have been far easier for the United States to wipe out the Taliban from the air in 2001, let the Northern Alliance do what they could, and come back if new terrorist camps spring up

Where the United States went wrong with its interventions, was when it wasn't prepared to do what was necessary to accomplish its objectives. It had all sorts of preferences, but the efforts were on the whole half-hearted, and this is true of Vietnam on. Note that all of the successes I listed earlier involved these countries being fully integrated into American economic and defense relationships.

US COIN or FID then became a fluid blend of cynical kinetic operations combined with disinterested attempts to "win hearts and minds". The US then tried to remake Iraqi state and society on the cheap, which meant cannibalizing resources in Afghanistan that were being used to build that country's first viable state in over 30 years.

Nevertheless, all of these insurgencies required massive foreign support in order to make life difficult for the United States.
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Old 01-17-2017   #15
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You are crossing your streams again.

None of these insurgencies "required" massive foreign support - but if we create an insurgency and dedicate ourselves to grappling with it, our opponents will certainly leverage our stupidity to their advantage. Be it to advance their own interests, or simply to cause us pain the pursuit of what we believe to be ours. No different than what we have done to dozens of other when the roles are reversed.

First, the US Civil War example. The strategic brilliance of Gen Grant's strategy was that he recognized in warfare between nations was new and different than warfare between kingdoms. He could not simply impose costs on the South by defeating Lee's army, or capture the capital and "win." He had to do three other things to mitigate the resultant resistance insurgency against our presence following the war, and to mitigate the revolutionary insurgency against the governance in those occupied former Confederate territories.

1. Ensure the population of the South were as defeated as their government and their military. He sent his two best Generals on that mission, in Sheridan and Sherman.

2. Implement total and immediate reconciliation as soon as the conflict was won. That began at Appomattox, and though damaged with Lincoln's death, was still a critical component.

3. Allow self-determination of governance IAW the Constitution.

This was brilliant COIN to reduce the degree of resistance and revolution following the end of the conflict.

Where we went wrong in our interventions was in not understanding the nature of resistance and revolution. This led us to opt for far more invasive regime change approaches where punitive expectations would have been more effective. It also led us to not take steps that could have mitigated the resultant resistance and revolution once we opted for regime change as a COA. We applied war theory to non-war problems, and believed that what we brought was so good that the people would not respond to us as they would to some less good-hearted invader.

All avoidable. And to blame our troubles on ideology or the UW efforts of others, or to not appreciate the fundamental difference between WWII occupations in Germany and Japan vice our interventions onto unvanquished populations elsewhere is to keep our heads deep in our 4th points of contact and ignore the strategic lessons before us.
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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 01-18-2017   #16
Azor
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Originally Posted by Bob's World
None of these insurgencies "required" massive foreign support
Firstly, the North Vietnamese war effort depended upon Soviet and Chinese support, which also involved interference in Cambodia and Laos that enabled the North Vietnamese to use those countries as lines of communication and staging areas. North Vietnam did not have an industrial base of any significance, and depended on the Soviets and Chinese for everything from small arms and ammunition, to artillery, aircraft and advanced air defense systems.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Soviet volunteers and advisors (~300,000) served in North Vietnam, operating air defense radars, SAM sites, transporting materiel, training North Vietnamese forces and even participating in combat as volunteers with the NVA (esp. pilots). By the time of Johnson's escalation, North Vietnam had developed one of the world's densest and most advanced IADS' in the world. The Soviets and Chinese competed with one another to replace North Vietnamese losses faster...

Secondly, the Afghan Taliban depended upon the support of their brethren in Northern Pakistan for logistics, staging areas, arms and ammunition. They also received the support of sympathetic members of the Pakistani government, and in particular the ISI, who kept the Durand Line porous and the weapons and fighters flowing.

Thirdly, Iraq was certainly awash in weapons and ammunition in 2003 after the fall of Hussein. However, Syria sent Islamist fighters to Iraq to join the Sunni Arab insurgency and the Iranians provided arms to the Shia militias, in addition to inserting members of the Quds force.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World
...but if we create an insurgency and dedicate ourselves to grappling with it, our opponents will certainly leverage our stupidity to their advantage.
This is certainly true.

An insurgency in southern Afghanistan was inevitable given the stateless Pashtun nation astride the border with Pakistan, the subversion of Pashtun nationalism into fierce Islamism and Pashtun disdain for the ethnic and religious groups of northern Afghanistan. The notion that they would accept rule from Kabul and would have greater affinity for the polyglot north rather than the Pashtun of northern Pakistan was ludicrous. The country needed to be divided at least internally, with the south having considerable autonomy bordering on independence.

Again, de-Ba'athification assured that the Sunni Arabs of Iraq would fight against the perceived threat of Shia domination and vengeance, and the Americans were considered in league with the Shias.
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Old 01-18-2017   #17
Bob's World
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As I said to begin the thread, "strategy begins with empathy."

And like every journey, one is not going to get very far without taking that first step.

The attached link is to an perspective on Vietnam that closely mirrors my own assessment of the nature of that conflict. For those who buy into the uniquely American perspective that "we defeated the insurgency in South Vietnam, and it was only after we left that the state of South Vietnam was defeated in traditional combat by the state of North Vietnam," this will require taking a more empathetic perspective.

I have heard General Keane state in person, but many other "experts" as well, and certainly the dominating theme in US written histories of the conflict is the "we won but they lost after we left" perspective. That is, IMO, not being able to see the strategic forest for the tactical trees.

A good read, regardless of personal perspective:

http://discover.wooster.edu/jgates/p...ar-in-vietnam/
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Old 02-01-2017   #18
Azor
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
As I said to begin the thread, "strategy begins with empathy."

And like every journey, one is not going to get very far without taking that first step.

The attached link is to an perspective on Vietnam that closely mirrors my own assessment of the nature of that conflict. For those who buy into the uniquely American perspective that "we defeated the insurgency in South Vietnam, and it was only after we left that the state of South Vietnam was defeated in traditional combat by the state of North Vietnam," this will require taking a more empathetic perspective.

I have heard General Keane state in person, but many other "experts" as well, and certainly the dominating theme in US written histories of the conflict is the "we won but they lost after we left" perspective. That is, IMO, not being able to see the strategic forest for the tactical trees.

A good read, regardless of personal perspective:

http://discover.wooster.edu/jgates/p...ar-in-vietnam/
Hello Bob,

Apologies for the delay in replying. I was out of town for a while.

I read Gates’ article thoroughly. I completely agree with you that the United States did not militarily defeat the NVA/NLF, and American victory in battle was as irrelevant to this outcome as German victories in 1939-1943 were to the outcome of World War II in Europe.

Here is where I agree with Gates:
  1. The CPV was engaged in total war. I will not use the terms “people’s war” or “protracted people’s war”, as they are merely a variant of total war, tailored to local conditions
  2. The CPV pursued a strategy of “long-term” or “prolonged” war against the French and Americans
  3. The CPV fluidly used subversion, guerrilla war and mobile warfare separately and in combination
  4. There was no “border” between North and South Vietnam, only a military demarcation line
  5. North Vietnam was considered by the CPV as a “revolutionary base” from which to unite Vietnam rather than a sovereign state
  6. The war was more one of some South Vietnamese fighting for autonomy and secession rather than an inter-state war

Here is where I either disagree with Gates, or where I find that he supports my views:
  1. Gates notes that the NLF was “an element” of the NVA rather than a separate insurgency that received NVA support. Therefore, American forces in Vietnam were fighting both local insurgents and NVA infiltrators, and were forced to tackle combinations of subversion, guerrilla warfare and conventional warfare which they had a difficult time adapting to. NVA border infiltration and conventional warfare was crucial as American soldiers could not simply engage in light peacekeeping or policing duties in insurgent areas (against subversives and guerrillas), as they could then find themselves in heavy battles with the NVA. Nor was entering these areas with heavy armor in preparation for clashes with the NVA particularly conducive to gaining the confidence and trust of the villagers in question. Add a single booby-trapped hut to the equation, and well…

  2. The use of North Vietnam as a “revolutionary base” was key to NVA operations and for supporting the NLF. The micromanagement of and restrictions on the air campaign against North Vietnam rendered it worthless, except in bodycounts. North Vietnam took advantage of this situation to establish one of the densest IADS’ then in existence, to create an inviolate staging area for infiltration of the South and for receiving Soviet and Chinese supplies, and to redistribute resources no longer necessary for defense. By the time the Nixon Administration took the gloves off, the North had had years to prepare for the onslaught. Early airstrikes against all legitimate NVA targets would have severely curbed the North’s ability to infiltrate heavily armed forces into the South, and would have allowed the South Vietnamese and American ground forces to focus almost exclusively on anti-guerrilla and anti-subversion activities. Would the NVA/NLF had won if they had had no revolutionary base?

  3. The total war as practised by Mao and Ho was clearly ineffective against the Japanese occupiers of China and Vietnam. On the contrary, it was practised against weakened opponents (KMT, France, South Vietnam) and against democratic governments who had to answer for drawn-out bloody conflicts (France, United States). Germany was not deterred by the high casualties inflicted by resistance movements in Poland, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and these areas were only liberated by conventional forces practising conventional warfare. The same is true of the Japanese in China, Korea and Southeast Asia. At no point did Berlin or Tokyo envision completely defeating insurgency without killing every person capable of resistance, and both seemed to envision a future in which insurgency was reduced to a more “acceptable” level and insurgent-held areas would be similar to a “Wild West” where future soldiers could make a name for themselves. The French and Americans by comparison seemed to picture a future in which their soldiers could march from one end of Vietnam to the other unmolested.

  4. The case for South Vietnam was much weaker than that for South Korea, yet I believe that it would have been possible to establish a state based upon Saigon that could have existed in a state of siege and which would have eventually been viable. Unfortunately, this would have meant an American whole-of-government effort to: (a) get the people of South Vietnam behind the project, (b) prevent the North from being used as a base and (c) develop a South Vietnamese leadership that has as much perceived legitimacy as possible.

  5. Lastly, Gates cannot discount the immense support provided by the Soviet Union and China to North Vietnam, which included advanced equipment and some 300,000 advisors, trainers and regulars (pilots, SAM operators, radar operators, materiel personnel, etc.). You had might as well deprive the Red Army and Soviet partisans of the factories in the Urals and Allied aid against Germany. Without this support, it would have been possible to fight Hanoi to a stalemate and reduce the local insurgency to “acceptable” and declining levels.
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