November 27, 2013
A couple of items:
Lynn Rees over at Zenpundit has posted an impressive compendium of all material concerning RADM J.C. Wylie that is available online, including blog posts by myself, Mr. Rees, and Seydlitz89. Who is J.C. Wylie? Mr. Rees’ post answers that question.
The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division is a blooded combat unit that has seen multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and traces a lineage back to the First World War. Recently, however, soldiers in the barracks were made aware of a new enemy on the horizon:
I took this photograph myself and I investigated the authenticity of the poster; it was a genuine project conducted my military and wildlife personnel. They have since been removed, and for good reason. Soldiers I spoke with were justifiably insulted and felt infantilized by such a bizarre and pathetic “warning.”
Despite my best efforts, however, I never spotted the hyper-aggressive, man-eating variant of the Eastern Grey Squirrel.
November 17, 2013
Hunting is an activity that sharply divides rural and urban populations, the latter often associating it with the uncouth country folk that roam the vast hinterlands beyond the suburbs. This prejudice extends to the implements of hunting itself, including firearms and the wide array of commercial camouflage that has become available in recent years. Despite its technical effectiveness (much more so than the Army’s UCP, which only works if you happen to be fighting in a granite quarry), hunting camouflage carries the stigma of rural backwardness, and is often wholeheartedly embraced by hunting enthusiasts as a form of defiance to the same stigmatization.
Urban disdain of rural sports is nothing new, but the truth is that hunting and the clothing associated with it are ingrained in American culture, owing to their unique role in the nation’s founding. In March 1775, the second Virginia Convention established a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington to study the possibility of forming a militia to protect Virginia in the upcoming war with Great Britain. According to their plan, all infantry would be uniformed with a “hunting shirt,” essentially a homemade, loose-fitting frock that hanged to the thighs. From Kevin Hayes’ The Road to Monticello, an intellectual biography of Thomas Jefferson:
“This choice of weaponry and uniform was largely based on what was available locally. The preceding year the First Continental Congress had agreed to an association similar to the Virginia associations of earlier years. Like the others, this new association forbade colonists from importing most goods of British manufacture. Consequently, Virginia militiamen would be outfitted in a uniquely American fashion. The hunting shirt had long been an article of clothing identified with backwoodsmen, those unsavory and uncivilized characters who inhabited the fringes of colonial society, somewhere in that middle ground between the westernmost plantations and the wilderness. It now became the uniform of a patriot.”
November 11, 2013
Posted by NerveAgent under Books
, irregular warfare
, strategic thought
| Tags: Afghanistan
, colonial warfare
, irregular warfare
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By the end of next year, America’s 13-year war in Afghanistan will officially come to a close, notwithstanding a smaller residual force that might remain to conduct training and counter-terrorism operations to keep the fledgling Afghan government afloat. Including the war in Iraq, the U.S, has lost about 6,775 personnel killed in action, tens of thousands more seriously wounded, and has incurred financial obligations that will eventually total between $4 and $6 trillion. The strategic payoff of these sacrifices is rapidly evaporating as Iraq slides back toward sectarian warfare and Afghanistan continues to be…well, Afghanistan: a failed state with a central government unable to project power beyond a few urban areas, completely dependent on foreign financial support. With this kind of return on investment, it is not hard to fathom why isolationism is finding flavor among the American people.
Sustained counterinsurgency operations do not have to be this expensive. Between 1961 and 1974 – a length of time similar to America’s presence in Afghanistan – Portugal simultaneously waged colonial wars in three widely separated theaters of operation – Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique – and achieved relative military success in all. At the outset of hostilities, Portugal was clinging to the fringes of Western civilization, having fallen so far from its imperial heyday that it was barely considered a First World state. It’s GDP was $2.5 billion and the military numbered only about 80,000 with a budget of $93 million (for comparison, U.S. GDP was $509 billion). How did such a European backwater sustain three different colonial wars so effectively?
May 5, 2013
The lack of decision in Syria’s civil war, now entering its third year, can be explained by the failure of the various rebel groups to coalesce into more coherent military formations and develop beyond the low-level guerrilla tactics they have been using since the beginning of the uprising in 2011.
In Syria, unlike the other states that have experienced the turbulence of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the rebels are facing an entrenched regime based in a threatened minority population: the Alawites. Consequently, for the regime itself and the 2.6 million Alawites of Syria, holding onto power is an existential question; victory is survival and defeat is annihilation. These are primary interests not subject to mediation or compromise motivated by the gradual exhaustion of political will. In other words, the Assad regime will not lose the will to fight. This leaves only one strategic path for the rebels: military victory. A tall order, but not one without precedent or doctrine. For guidance, they must look to the eternal form of war for the weak: guerrilla warfare. They are already practicing this at the tactical level, but their challenge is to produce strategic outcomes.
December 23, 2012
From the David Wootton translation:
No new ruler, let me point out, has ever disarmed his subjects; on the contrary, when he has found them disarmed, he has always armed them. For, when you arm them, their arms become yours, those who have been hostile to you become loyal, while those who have been loyal remain so, and progress from being your obedient subjects to being your active supporters … But if you take their arms away from those who have been armed, you begin to alienate them. You make it clear you do not trust them, either because you think they are poor soldiers or disloyal. Whichever view they attribute to you, they will begin to hate you.
The Prince, Chapter 20.
May 14, 2012
A few months ago I posted a link to an article I published on smallwarsjournal.com, in which I argued that the principle of destruction – as defined by Clausewitz – constitutes an important continuity between regular and irregular warfare. To achieve victory, a guerrilla movement must be able to defeat its enemy in battle; in essence the object of guerrilla warfare is to build enough strength to shed its guerrilla nature and transform into regular warfare, a process Mao called “protracted war.” The major exception occurs in situations where the enemy belligerent has only a secondary or tertiary interest in the conflict, and it is therefore possible to defeat him by exhausting his political will to continue fighting with constant guerrilla warfare.
Thus, irregular warfare can achieve the political object by one of two paths: protracted war, or political exhaustion. I created a chart to visually represent these two simple processes of irregular warfare, but I did not include it with the article:
Of course, political exhaustion is not a strategy exclusive to irregular warfare; Hans Delbucke noted that strategies can be divided according to the categories of annihilation and exhaustion, and that holds true for all warfare.
January 6, 2012
2011 was not the year to quit blogging. The world is on fire. But I have been unable to study the flames.
Because I’m now in them.
In other news, I’ve hit the big time: an article based on my work in graduate school was recently published by Small Wars Journal. The abstract is as follows:
According to the principle of destruction the best way to achieve victory in war is to disarm the enemy by destroying his forces in battle. However, irregular warfare is commonly assumed to operate through processes that make the principle of destruction irrelevant. An analysis of the writings and military experiences of T.E. Lawrence, Mao Tse-tung and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, three of the 20th century’s most influential theorists of irregular war, supports the argument that the principle of destruction remains valid in irregular warfare. This conclusion admits of one major exception in conflicts where a sharp asymmetry of interests exists between the belligerent parties, when it is possible for irregulars to achieve victory by exhausting the enemy’s political will, rather than by destroying his military forces.
I encourage all my readers to head on over to SWJ and take a look, though unfortunately, my present circumstances preclude me from active participation in the discussion.
Until next time: Happy New Year.