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Old 07-16-2017   #41
Bill Moore
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Default Originals

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
by Adam Grant

https://www.amazon.com/Originals-How...move+the+world

I was looking for some light and entertaining reading for a recent trip, and I found it in the well researched Originals. While the book does provide insights on what it promises to deliver such as how to push through a new idea, break the status quo, and how to recognize a good idea (something managers are not good at, but through a simple exercise they can improve dramatically), etc., it provides much more than this.

Surprisingly I found insights, even if indirect, for the practice of small wars. One example is his discussion on the narcissism of small differences resulting in a condition known as horizontal hostility. It goes a long way in explaining why Islamic VEOs impose such suffering upon on their own people. Common goals often drive groups apart. It is these fractures that are called horizontal hostility. Even though the groups share a common objective, radical groups often disparage more mainstream groups as impostors and sellouts. The more strongly you identify with an extreme group, the harder you seek to differentiate yourself from more moderate groups that threaten your values.

Then he points out, that even when groups care about different causes, they often find affinity when they use the same methods of engagement. This may explain why terrorist groups exchanged terrorism tradecraft with other groups that were not ideologically aligned over the years.

There was another section that spoke at some length on how to mobilize a resistance movement. For example, people prefer to challenge state sponsored oppression / terror as a group. Instead of facing the terror of standing out as lone resister, people were able to see themselves as members of a group based on seeing symbols in many locations that indicates others feel the same way. It’s easier for wan to be rebels to rebel when it feels like an act of conformity. The book provides several examples.

The author does have a website where he addresses some of these topics.

http://www.adamgrant.net/
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Old 09-12-2017   #42
Bill Moore
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Default Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages

Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages
Stuart A. Herrington

This book is basically the author’s memoir of his experiences as an advisor to the Phoenix Program in Vietnam (after the Tet Offensive). In some respects his story supports my impressions of the war. More importantly though, his story is a narrative that those who have worked as advisor from the Cold War through the War on Terror will readily identify with. As a reluctant warrior, he gave it his all to win his war in the villages, and in the end provided his insights on why that would never be enough. In my view, his reflections apply equally to our conflicts today.

The book’s preface frames the general U.S. view going into Vietnam. Similar to Iraq, we initially entered with great confidence and self-assurance. JFK
s "bear any burden speech," set the national mood at the time. This was amplified by the Green Beret motto, De Oppresso Liber, which symbolized the challenge of the sixties and our involvement in Vietnam. This mood helps propel us to endeavor to protect the “freedom” of the South Vietnamese and disprove Mao’s maxim that all “political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” While the author focused his story on his experiences at the village level as an advisor to the Phoenix Program, it provided a unique optic to the larger picture in post Tet Vietnam.

The author’s description of the Phoenix program parallels our current operational concepts tied to: interagency and intelligence fusion, the find, fix, finish, analyze methodology; and village stability operations. Conceptually it all made sense, but due to cultural realities and the sand running out of the hour glass it was bound to fail when the locals started questioning the willingness of the U.S. to continue their support. This book provides a professional education on conducting effective intelligence operations to identify and neutralize adversary shadow government structures. It indirectly addresses effective practices to counter propaganda also.

The Vietnamese people in the villages for the most part were indifferent to the governments in the North and the South. They made decisions based on pragmatic realities and generally sided with whatever side they thought was winning at the time. Most villagers had no use for communism, but they also despised their own government due to its corruption. No one should buy into the myth that corruption doesn’t matter in COIN and FID, it can be the decisive factor. The government of South Vietnam did itself no favors.

In the last chapter, the author reflected on why he thought we couldn’t win. Ranging from the loss of political will to sustain the effort, corrupt local governance, etc. Yet, he notes that when we pulled out of Vietnam the South Vietnamese military had very high morale based on their recent heroic efforts that defeated 13 North Vietnam divisions that conducted the Easter Offensive. They were in fact a proven and highly effective fighting force. However, they still needed U.S. support (material and air support) to stave off a large conventional invasion from the North that was supported by the USSR. It is sad to think we could have perhaps won if we honored the commitment we made to the Vietnamese people. What a different world it would be today if we didn't go through 10 plus years staring at our belly buttons and reflecting after the war.

Cultural differences were significant, the Americans and Vietnamese lived in two very different worlds in so many ways it was remarkable they were able to do anything together. It was worse when the advisor couldn't speak Vietnamese and had to rely on interpreters. Very few of the terps could effectively translate what the advisor what said. This is no different than our current experience in the Middle East.

Also like today, the Phoenix advisors attempted to force different Vietnamese intelligence, military, and police units share information with one another to root out the VC infrastructure. The Vietnamese were not inclined to support this due to distrust, ego, etc. Finally, since the Americans anticipated the Vietnamese military would have its hands tied after the Paris Peace Accord was signed, they tried to transfer the Phoenix program from the military to the national police. As expected, this proved to be a major failure due to the high level of corruption in the national police. In the end, our forces and Vietnamese allies had numerous tactical successes, but victory is not measured by tactical successes alone. Everyone will draw their own conclusions after reading this book, and whether you agree with mine is secondary from what you will learn reading this book.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 09-13-2017 at 01:12 AM.
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Old 09-13-2017   #43
Mike in Hilo
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Default Comments on Moore's Review of Herrington

Bill,

Herrington's book is an outstanding memoir of what it meant to be an adviser at the time, and your review captures the essence. I was on the CORDS team in the adjacent province, Tay Ninh, at the same time, and I concur in your conclusions. Hau Nghia, also the setting of Bergerud's The Dynamics of Defeat, was a difficult province, with its rubber plantation workers among the earliest (1946) groups to be organized as Viet Minh cannon fodder. I might point out that Phoenix in Hau Nghia Province, as throughout the Region, was largely a failed enterprise. This is confirmed in the Hau Nghia monthly province reports (available on-line), Phoenix input to which is assuredly Herrington's, in which the writer justifiably, bitterly complains about Phoenix being a revolving door, with apprehended VCI routinely given ridiculously light sentences.


You may want to read Herrington's' second VN book, Peace With Honor?, which takes the reader through to the unfortunate 1975 end. I cannot forget my Vietnamese counterparts asking me in those last months, "We don't need your material assistance, we need US tactical air support; will we get it?" It gave me no pleasure to tell them that was out of the question.

Cheers,
Mike.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #44
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Default wake of the flood

The Hidden History of the Korean War by I.F. Stone


Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone


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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #45
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Default the grasshopper lies heavy

In a Time of Torment 1961-1967 by I.F. Stone


Polemics and Prophecies 1967-1970 by I.F. Stone


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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #46
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Default The China Mirage

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia
by James Bradley

https://www.amazon.com/China-Mirage-.../dp/0316196681

The “mirage” he refers to in his book is the perception the U.S. public had of China based on a 1930s American propaganda pamphlet that described China as a great nation that loved America and embraced Christianity. I can’t recall reading another book in recent times that was so well written, yet so very simplistic and dishonest overall. This book certainly is not authoritative history, rather it’s simply a diatribe about how the U.S. “needlessly” got involved in three wars in East Asia.
The mirage argument has some merit, but he gives it far more weight than it deserves. Bradley argues this “mirage” shaped U.S. policy to such an extent it led us needlessly into WW2, the Korea War, and Vietnam. To be fair, the author presents some interesting facts on our early diplomatic history with China, and power of lobbies on U.S. foreign policy in East Asia. However, as a whole the book is almost completely void of the broader historical context that shaped strategic decision making.
He implies we should have supported or acquiesced to Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere in East Asia. He claims our oil embargo against Japan as his justification for his claim our war against Japan was unnecessary. No doubt, the oil embargo accelerated Japan’s time line to aggress beyond Northeast Asia, Japan already had plans to take over the Dutch Indies to secure raw materials to sustain their war effort in China. Bradley does not discuss agreements made between Japan and German in the 1930s, then culminating with the Tripartite Pact in 1940. Bradley only focuses on East Asia, but assuming he believes our intervention in Europe in WWII (yes finally actualized after the attack on Pearl Habor) was just, doing so would have prompted Japan to declare war on the U.S. The underlying argument I’m making is war with Japan was going to happen regardless.
Throughout the book, Bradley expresses his support of Mao, as though he was more legitimate than Chiang. A historian would have pointed out that both leaders were deeply flawed. Oddly enough, the left still embraces Mao in the West, while Maoism is largely rejected in China today. After the Civil War Mao killed 45 million of his own people to establish his “legitimacy.” In contrast, Chiang’s Taiwan, while initially a dictatorship was much more successful, and eventually blossomed into a prosperous democracy. The argument that Mao was a nationalist more than a communist has been refuted by history, even the Soviets found his methods excessive.
Bradley claimed the Flying Tigers were insignificant and only conducted one raid of note, and that the investment in logistics to sustain this outfit was simply based on the influence of the China lobby in Washington, D.C. and not for sound military purposes. I have no expertise on the Flying Tigers, but the historical summaries I looked up recently provide an alternative view. Historical accounts state that the Flying Tigers destroyed 2,355 Japanese planes and compared to the loss of 127 American planes. Supposedly this record was never beaten? Maybe they haven’t have a decisive strategic impact, but it certainly contributed to Japan’s culmination.
Bradley leverages the same tired arguments regarding the U.S. involvement in Vietnam War. In his view Ho Chi Minh wasn’t really a communist and wanted to be friends with the U.S. Our involvement in the Vietnam War was complicated and arguably our strategy was deeply flawed. All U.S. Presidents during that time period admitted we couldn’t win without an effective government in the Republic of Vietnam. While true, that doesn’t mean Ho or his successor were any better. Strategically, they were much better at indoctrinating their people and mobilizing them in pursuit of a dream that rapidly dissipated once the communists won. After winning, Le Duan said he would turn Vietnam a bastion of Stalinism. Contrary to the legitimacy claim based on nationalism, he forced his people into collective communes that went strongly against the grain of Vietnamese culture. Like all communist economic theories, it failed, people starved and revolted. The Vietnam government was forced to make reforms in the mid-80s. Another so-called legitimate leader and his legacy bite the dust.
Today Bradley argues China is not an aggressive country, and that we simply misunderstand them. I suspect we do misunderstand them, and not everything China is bad, but many nations in East Asia think China is increasingly aggressive based on China’s behavior, not a propaganda booklet. In the end, I think Bradley is either naïve or a fraud, what he is not is a historian.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #47
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Default Bandit Mentality: Hunting Insurgents in the Rhodesian Bush War by Lindsay O’Brien

A well produced paperback (358 pgs) from UK-based Helion & Company:http://www.helion.co.uk/bandit-menta...-a-memoir.html

This is a refreshingly honest account by a New Zealander who volunteered to serve in Rhodesia’s British South African Police Support Unit, as the insurgency gained momentum 1976-1980. The Support Unit was the still largely civilian police’s para-military unit (1200 strong), with black African other ranks & NCOs and officered by regular, white police officers and those whites doing National Service.

What motivated him to serve? Simply ‘a selfish love of combat and life with a complete lack of routine…I was hooked on the adrenalin rush…adventure for the sake of adventure’ (Pg.267). Plus the opportunity between six week tours in the bush to drink, party and relax. By 1978 even with his experience no-one bothered to persuade him to stay, so the author left and ended up as an adviser to newly recruited UANC fighters, known as security force auxiliaries.

Little has been written about the ordinary black African role in Rhodesia’s insurgency; I exclude the Selous Scouts who were mainly turned ex-guerrillas. Loyalties were not fixed, the author recounts in the autumn of 1976 a captured guerrilla recruit claimed to be a serving policeman’s wife (Pg.79). Their motives were mixed, paid employment, revenge for some; they were loyal to the Support Unit and the BSAP – who ‘watched over them’ and like the French Foreign Legion ‘gave solid service in return’ (Pg.172).

The stance of the majority, rural African population in the Tribal Trust Lands facing violence from the guerrillas and the Rhodesian security forces was to steadily change. The Africans would claim ignorance of the guerrilla’s presence to actively supporting them. A good illustration at a Rhodesian firepower demonstration from an old African man asking ‘He said that if we are so powerful, why are there so many CTs in the bush? A good question’ (Pg.80).

Counterinsurgency warfare success is based on the security forces protecting the civilians from the insurgents; Rhodesia simply had extremely limited spending power, let alone forces able to live with the rural Africans and protect them (Pg.132). Personally I doubt the white Rhodesian government had the motivation to ever protect "their Africans", an attiude that hardened as the war developed.

This is a book which rightly concentrates on hunting insurgents, although criticisms of the Rhodesian approach abound, for example the lack of any briefing and debriefing (Pg.289). It helps to explain why Rhodesia failed to survive as the numbers of disaffected Africans grew, with so many leaving to join the nationalist guerrillas the security forces could not “hold the line”.

Worth reading, in part for the author's recollections and what can be learnt today. "Holding the line" is an appropriate phrase, yes a negotiated settlement was reached in 1979, but the "line" was simply full of holes and lacked after the Portuguese exit in 1974 strong foundations.

*Copied to Rhodesian COIN thread*.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #48
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Default What are you currently reading in 2017?

I recently read a brilliant, new book (272 pgs) by a RUC / PSNI veteran of 'The Troubles': 'Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat the IRA' by William Matchett and available via:http://www.secretvictory.co.uk/ Plus the usual outlets.
It is worthy of a new thread, especially as the US Army adopted the 'Attack the Network' theme - which was taken from Northern Ireland.

As the title suggests this is about the missing dimension of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland 1969-1999. The author served for thirty years, mainly in the police’s intelligence department, the Special Branch and then became a police adviser in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.

For many, notably politicians, especially Provisional Sinn Fein, The Good Friday Agreement 1998 (which led to a peace settlement in 1999) was a successfully negotiated compromise between the paramilitaries, Ulster political parties, the British and Irish governments. The author argues strongly that was not true: The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) by the early 1990’s ‘had run out of road’ and needed a face-saving exit. Half the IRA was in jail and most of the rest fugitives living in the Irish Republic (pg.8).

The author’s argument is that a rule of law approach endured – and the best weapon in the counter-terrorism armoury was the intelligence war conducted by the Special Branch (SB). Not to neglect the role of the Army, who had primacy over the police for seven years (1969-1976); with 30,000 serving in 1972, dropping to 15,000 in 1998. The police grew from 3,000 to 13,000 in the same period (pg.146) and in 1986 the SB had 640 officers or 5% of the force (pg.206).

The beginning of the end was the PIRA attack on Loughall police station, the PIRA attack was identified – minus many details – and the SAS ambushed them, killing eight hardened killers. PIRA was totally clueless how the SB knew. Attacks would still happen and 85% of mainland attacks were prevented (pg.219).

There is a mass of detail. I would draw attention to him writing 60% of gathered intelligence came from agents (pg. 22), 20% technical, 15% surveillance and 5% routine policing & open sources (pg. 98). Arrests occurred 96% of the time (pg.23) and the specialist uniformed support unit (E4 HMSU) had an impressive record: 99.5% of covert operations confronting armed terrorists resulted in arrests (pg.220). PIRA volunteers knew in a year’s time they would behind bars or dead. The SAS who dominated covert operations along the border between 1986-1992 killed twenty-one of PIRA’s top operators (pg.231) and in 1997 in South Armagh, the heart of ‘bandit country’ a PIRA sniper team were arrested by the SAS and E4 HMSU.

‘Agents were the decisive factor’ and eventually surveillance, armed response and tactical co-ordination were added – a combination that forced PIRA to capitulate (pg.112)

Much has been written on ‘suspect communities’ and today is often applied to Muslim communities in the UK. The author argues what emerged, under PIRA leadership and strategy, were ‘counter-societies’ that harnessed subversion and political militancy to accompany and support terrorism (pg.69-71). The aim was to make Nationalist areas un-policeable and therefore ungovernable.

The criminalization policy, also known as “Ulsterisation”, led to the PIRA recognizing the criminal justice system and having to defend their actions in criminal courts (minus juries) under public scrutiny (pg. 157). Behind the scenes and yet to become public documents were seven reports by senior Security Service authors (pg. 163).

There are chunks of the book which are controversial, the "shoot to kill" episode and the book fades out as peace approached. Perhaps it is too early even today to place more information in the public domain?
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Old 1 Week Ago   #49
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Default don't get high on your own supply

In The Shadows Of The American Century by Alfred W. McCoy


The Language Of The Third Reich by Victor Klemperer


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