Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Winning the War Against Insurgents

Winning the War Against Insurgents

Can the US, or any other nation-state win a war against terrorists, or insurgents?  The history of such conflicts; Viet Nam, Algeria, the Soviets in Afghanistan, Israel against Hezbollah,  the US against al Qaeda, leads most to say that insurgents wine.  Primarily because the extended conflict destroys popular support for the conflict.  If true, the future looks bleak for Democracies, or those nations that aspire to be Democracies.

Yaakov Amidror, a retired Israeli major general, disagrees with this assessment. In a recent study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience, he convincingly argues that states can beat non-state actors.  It's a 42 page PDF, but an interesting read for those interested in geo and cultural conflicts.  Amidror concludes:

"one can essentially vanquish terror, even if it is a victory that only prevents terror from successfully implementing its plans, while it does not influence the terrorists’ intentions. Victory of this type requires constant and determined effort from the moment that it is attained, for if not, conditions will revert to their former sorry state as soon as the terror organizations deem themselves strong enough.
An evaluation of the war on terrorism must address the question of the level of victory over terror that can be obtained under conditions of the battle theater – total victory, temporary victory, or sufficient victory – and how one can improve the level of victory over time. It is clear that such a discussion is relevant only if one embraces the contention that the democratic state is essentially capable of subduing the terror that menaces it."

Interestingly, here's a piece from Today's Wall Street Journal reviewing Bob Woodward's new book "The War Within".  It would have been more appropriately posted with my earlier post about Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane  excerpted from the same book.  Between all the hold-over Democrats in the State Department, Justice Department, and the overly-cautious and resistant General officers in the Military, it's a wonder that President Bush has managed to accomplish anything....

Generals Behaving Badly

When Abraham Lincoln famously sent word to Gen. George McClellan that he'd like to "borrow" the army if the general wasn't planning on using it, the commander of Union forces likely did not take it kindly. McClellan, after all, was a man whose letters home referred to Lincoln as an "idiot," "a well-meaning baboon" and other colorful language.
[Main Street]
Gen. George Casey.
In the first few pages of "The War Within," Bob Woodward opens with another presidential remark that offended another wartime general. This time the recipient was the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey. During a videoconference with Baghdad, the president said, "George, we're not playing for a tie. I want to make sure we all understand this." Gen. Casey, Mr. Woodward writes, took this as "an affront to his dignity that he would long remember."
Whether or not Gen. Casey long remembered, "The War Within" makes clear his disdain for his commander in chief. If the views and remarks attributed to Gen. Casey are not accurate, Mr. Woodward has done him a grave injustice. If they are accurate, they come as further evidence of the obstacles President George W. Bush had to overcome to get his commanders to start winning in Iraq.
Opening with Gen. Casey also says something about Mr. Woodward. There's a case, I suppose, for using the general who opposed the surge to open what is hailed as the definitive account of that surge (not to mention using Robert McNamara, the Defense secretary who helped lose Vietnam to end the book). Surely, however, that would be the same case for wrapping the definitive account of the strategy that brought Robert E. Lee to Appomattox around Gen. McClellan.
Gen. Casey, after all, was the commander who all along maintained that the solution in Iraq was for America to draw down its forces -- even after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. He was the commander who later that year was given his own chance to secure Baghdad with Operations Together Forward I and II, and failed. Most of all, he is the commander who was wrong when the president was right to insist that Baghdad could be secured and al Qaeda dealt a harsh blow with more troops.
Gen. Casey's continued adherence to a failed strategy does not make him a dishonorable man. It does make him an odd choice to serve as the foundation for the charge that the president was out of touch with the war. As evidence, both the general and the journalist point to questions about how many of the enemy we were killing as a sign that "the president did not get it."
Then again, maybe it's Gen. Casey and Mr. Woodward who did not get it.  MORE....


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