Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

The US Strategy of Limited War is Stupid

Why is the US pursuing a policy of limited war and covert operations around the world in Libya, Syria, Chad, Mali, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Honduras, Sudan, Philippines and so on?

THIS IS A LOSING STRATEGY.

Ye gods we know that from Viet Nam.

We know that from the USSR in Afghanistan.

We know that from Central America.

And you can read it in the chapter that was added to Capt B H Liddell Hart’s classic book, Strategy: The Indirect Approach for the second edition which came out in, I think, 1947. Wars under in the nuclear age will be fought by proxy, with deniable guerilla groups acting semi-autonomously, but puppeted by the great powers through covert action. This is to avoid massive retaliation. Liddell Hart clearly points out that these guerilla movements will have a huge advantage in both efficiency and freedom of use compared to conventional forces.

But the United States, with its massive fleet, its 10 aircraft carriers, its air superiority doctrine, its armored divisions, is prepared to refight World War II. The lack of sufficient good old fashioned light infantry like the 10th Infantry leads to the overuse of special forces for tasks which should belong to the regular army. At the same time, the regular forces, except air power to a limited degree, are pretty useless against guerilla groups or hybrid guerilla groups like IS. So the special forces get to fight them too, undercover, without normal rules of engagement and fire support. This has led to a huge expansion of the very expensive and specialized special forces.

The US spends more on its military than the next ten military powers combined and yet IS, with maybe the equivalent of three divisions of light infantry, mostly low paid conscript ‘volunteers,’ can flummox the US in the Middle East, destabilize Europe, and fuel Brexit and Trumpism. That’s partly because it is always hard to fight religiously-fueled warriors with a martyrdom cult.

But the US knows how to fight a guerilla war. 50 US advisers trained Ho Chi Minh’s forces in guerilla warfare during WWII, for crying out loud.

This idiotic strategy is being driven by the politics of deniable operations that don’t have political consequences unless they have a Eugene Hasenfus-type incident, and that eternal war is hugely profitable.

Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy

31 July, 2016 Posted by | guerilla, Iraq, Liddel Hart, military, politics, scanlyze, strategy, stupid, USA, war | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

The head of the British Army has made clear Britain’s quasi-imperial ambitions in Central Asia. The British Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt says that Britain is, “On the edge of a new and deadly Great Game in Afghanistan.” The “Great Game” was a term coined by a British Intelligence Officer, Lt. Arthur Connoly of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry in 1834, to describe the rivalry between the British Empire and Russia in Central Asia. Dannatt envisions a state of permanent war. He asks, “how do we prepare ourselves for potentially a generation of conflict?”

Dannatt’s speech is here: CGS speaks on “Tomorrow’s Army, Today’s Challenges”

Mentioned in The Guardian: Miliband leaves way open for Iraq troops reduction

Dannatt has attracted considerable controversy regarding public comments which have been seen as suggesting that Britain should withdraw from Iraq: General seeks UK Iraq withdrawal

So Dannatt’s comments about Afghanistan are perhaps more a warning than an endorsement of Her Majesty’s Government’s position.

See also, What if Bush has a strategy working as intended in Iraq and Afghanistan? What could it be?
New Great Game (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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28 August, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, Army, Britain, CGS, Chief of Staff, grand strategy, Great Britain, Great Game, Iraq, military, news, oil, peace, permanent war, Richard Dannatt, scanlyze, speech, strategy, war | Leave a comment

The Guardian: US commanders admit: we face a Vietnam-style collapse

An interesting article in the Guardian says that General Petraeus and his staff have concluded that the US faces a collapse of political and public support for the war in Iraq within the next six months. In addition, due to low morale, poor readiness and the high morale and level of experience of the resistance groups, the US faces a military collapse similar to the French collapse in Viet Nam in March-May 1954 or the collapse of US forces in Korea in October-December 1950.

US commanders admit: we face a Vietnam-style collapse

Elite officers in Iraq fear low morale, lack of troops and loss of political will

Simon Tisdall
Thursday March 1, 2007
The Guardian

An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq – or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.The officers – combat veterans who are experts in counter-insurgency – are charged with implementing the “new way forward” strategy announced by George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial “surge” of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the “Baghdad brains trust” and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, according to a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations…

US commanders admit: we face a Vietnam-style collapse The Guardian

Battle of Chosin Reservoir (wikipedia)
Battle of Dien Bien Phu (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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1 March, 2007 Posted by | Algeria, Bush, collapse, David Petraeus, Dien Bien Phu, Guardian, guerilla warfare, Iraq, Korea, Korean War, media, military, peace, politics, resistance, revolt, scanlyze, strategy, war | 2 Comments

More on the Najaf Incident: hundreds of terrorist children defeated?

I’ve collected some more links on the Najaf ‘incident’. I find it very peculiar that the US media are sticking to the rather unlikely sounding ‘official story’. BBC to its credit followed up its initial reporting of the ‘official story’ with a skeptical analysis by Roger Hardy (no relation AFAIK). Apparently of the 500-1000+ casualties being reported among the ‘terrorists’ over 100 were what I guess in the Orwellian Newspeak of the Bush Administration would logically be termed ‘terrorist children’.

Roger Hardy Confusion surrounds Najaf battle BBC

The official version of events has not gone unchallenged.

According to accounts on an Iraqi website and in the British newspaper The Independent, the drama began with a clash between an Iraqi tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint.

The fighting escalated, army commanders called for reinforcements, and US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment – with significant loss of life.

According to this account, the involvement of the Soldiers of Heaven appears to have been accidental.

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily Pilgrims massacred in the ‘battle’ of Najaf Asia Times, Feb 1, 2007
Battle in Najaf: Is US-Iraqi Claim of Gunfight with Messianic Cult Cover-up for a Massacre? Democracy Now Includes interviews with Patrick Cockburn and with a local doctor, Dr. Amer Majid who says he treated the wounded. Video and Audio feed available.
Peace Voter Najaf: Victory or Massacre? Daily Kos
James Risser Massacre in Najaf: Maliki learns that the best way to deal with dissent is with US bombs Daily Kos
Mike Whitney The Media Cover-up of the Najaf Massacre uruknet.info
DoD Identifies Army Casualties AubreyJ.org

See also: Keyword ‘Najaf’ on scanlyze

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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1 February, 2007 Posted by | 1984, 1st Cavalry, Army, audio, Bush, children, covert operations, intelligence, Iraq, massacre, media, military, Najaf, national security, news, Newspeak, Orwell, peace, politics, protest, repression, scanlyze, strategy, video, war, war crimes | 2 Comments

What if Bush has a strategy working as intended in Iraq and Afghanistan? What could it be?

Let’s imagine that George W. Bush is intelligent, that he is not insane, and that he has a strategy at work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s imagine further that Bush’s strategy is working as intended. What could that strategy be?

The Great Game/Containment

In this theory, the bombs fall on Baghdad and Helmand but the target is Moscow.

The term, The Great Game is attributed to a British Intelligence Officer, Lt. Arthur Connoly of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry. He used the term in, Journey to the North of India through Russia, Persia and Afghanistan, London, Richard Bentley, 1834, to describe the rivalry between the British and Russian empire in Central Asia.

A similar theory, now called containment, was proposed in a famous article by George Kennan. In The Sources of Soviet Conduct, Foreign Affairs, July, 1947, Kennan, writing as “X”, proposed that the Soviet Union be crippled economically through an economic and cultural blockade, while it would be destabilized through covert actions and propaganda. He wrote,

…it will be clearly seen that the Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points…

…we have in Russia today a population which is physically and spiritually tired. The mass of the people are disillusioned, skeptical and no longer as accessible as they once were to the magical attraction which Soviet power still radiates to its followers abroad. The avidity with which people seized upon the slight respite accorded to the Church for tactical reasons during the war was eloquent testimony to the fact that their capacity for faith and devotion found little expression in the purposes of the regime.

In these circumstances, there are limits to the physical and nervous strength of people themselves. These limits are absolute ones, and are binding even for the cruelest dictatorship, because beyond them people cannot be driven. The forced labor camps and the other agencies of constraint provide temporary means of compelling people to work longer hours than their own volition or mere economic pressure would dictate; but if people survive them at all they become old before their time and must be considered as human casualties to the demands of dictatorship. In either case their best powers are no longer available to society and can no longer be enlisted in the service of the state.

Managed chaos

The idea here is that the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan is not an aberration but is in fact calculated and intended. Doctrines of “asymmetrical warfare” hold that terrorism and armed propaganda are “force multipliers”… therefore we destroy the pillars of civil society so that our own “freedom fighters” can do their asymmetrical thing. This could be considered similar to the Sudanese strategy in Darfur, or the Contra war the US has conducted in Latin America, most notably in the 1980’s.

Peter Beaumont et al After the surge … what next? The Observer, Sunday January 14, 2007
David L. Grange, Asymmetric Warfare: Old Strategy, New Concern, National Strategy Forum Review Winter 2000
James Johnson Implications for the Ten Division Army: Selective Engagement or Managed Chaos Masters Thesis, US Army Command and Military Staff College, 1994

Opium Wars

Afghanistan

world’s largest producer of opium; cultivation dropped 48% to 107,400 hectares in 2005; better weather and lack of widespread disease returned opium yields to normal levels, meaning potential opium production declined by only 10% to 4,475 metric tons; if the entire poppy crop were processed, it is estimated that 526 metric tons of heroin could be processed; source of hashish; many narcotics-processing labs throughout the country; drug trade source of instability and some anti-government groups profit from the trade; 80-90% of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghan opium; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering through informal financial networks

CIA Word Factbook, Field Listing, Illicit Drugs

This is the full report of the opium survey of Afghanistan that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime made public in September 2006. There was considerable alarm when it was announced that opium cultivation in Afghanistan rose to 165,000 hectares in 2006, a 59% increase over 2005.

This 6,100 tons of opium gives Afghanistan the dubious distinction of having nearly a monopoly of the world heroin market.

Major traffickers, warlords and insurgents are reaping the profits of this bumper crop to spread instability, infiltrate public institutions, and enrich themselves. Afghanistan is moving from narcoeconomy to narco-state.

While criminals prosper, the rest of society suffers. In Afghanistan, opium is choking development and democratization. The rule of the bullet and the bribe exists where there is no rule of law.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Opium Survey 2006

Britain fought two Opium Wars from 1834 to 1860 to force China to buy British opium. After World War II, the United States has fought a series of wars and proxy wars in the worlds major opium growing areas, including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Columbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Kurdistan.

see also,

William E. Colby, Heroin, Laos, and the USA New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.
Gary Webb, The Dark Alliance, San Jose Mercury News, 1996.
Jensen-Stevenson, Monika and Stevenson, William. Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam. New York: Dutton (Penguin Books), 1990 [namebase entry]
Kwitny, Jonathan. The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987. [namebase entry]

Oil War

This is a common theory, the only twist here being that the intent would be not to obtain the oil but simply to drive up prices by restricting supply. As long as Saudi Arabia remains on board (how much longer?) the US-aligned corporations have enough excess capacity to meet the oil demand. So to guarantee profits, the Seven Sisters need not to obtain more supplies, thus putting yet more oil on the market; but to simply insure the destruction of the productive capacity of their rivals.

Divide and rule

In this scenario, the US would intentionally foment sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and elsewhere. The US would favor the Shiia because they are in the minority and the idea would be to destabilize the Sunni regimes in particular Saudi Arabia, which has an economic stranglehold on the US by means of its massive investment portfolio and oil reserves.

Divide and Rule (wikipedia)

Permanent war

The theory of Permanent War is eloquently articulated in George Orwell’s novel, 1984:

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed…

War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

George Orwell, 1984

The basic authority of a modern state over its people resides in its war powers. (There is, in fact, good reason to believe that codified law had its origins in the rules of conduct established by military victors for dealing with the defeated enemy, which were later adapted to apply to all subject populations. ) On a day-to-day basis, it is represented by the institution of police, armed organizations charged expressly with dealing with “internal enemies” in a military manner. Like the conventional “external” military, the police are also substantially exempt from many civilian legal restraints on their social behavior. In some countries, the artificial distinction between police and other military forces does not exist. On the long-term basis, a government’s emergency war powers – inherent in the structure of even the most libertarian of nations – define the most significant aspect of the relation between state and citizen.

In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system has provided political leaders with another political-economic function of increasing importance: it has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level further and further above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” The further progress of automation can be expected to differentiate still more sharply between “superior” workers and what Ricardo called “menials,” while simultaneously aggravating the problem of maintaining an unskilled labor supply.

The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships. Obviously, if the war system were to be discarded, new political machinery would be needed at once to serve this vital subfunction. Until it is developed, the continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of its internal organization of power.

Lewis Lewin, Report From Iron Mountain

Shock and Awe: A Strategy of Terror

The purpose of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might be to establish for the world and the internal population, the utter ruthlessness of the Government and its willingness to use maximum force against those who disagree with its agenda.

Harlan K. Ullman and James Wade Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, National Defense University, 1996
Scanlyze review of The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis

Establish dictatorship

A strategy of permanent war could be a means to establish dictatorship inside the US, suppress dissent, co-opt the media, and take control of the reins of power at home and abroad. The use of torture and concentration camps abroad will provide the legal and social acceptance of such measures in the Fatherland, er, Homeland.

And finally the ever-popular,

All of the above!

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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31 January, 2007 Posted by | 1984, 6th Bengal Light Cavalry, 9/11, Afghanistan, Arthur Connoly, Bush, capitalism, containment, corporations, covert operations, dictatorship, Gary Webb, George Kennan, grand strategy, Great Game, intelligence, Iraq, Lewis Lewin, managed chaos, military, oil, opium, Opium War, Opium Wars, Orwell, peace, permanent war, politics, Report from Iron Mountain, scanlyze, shock and awe, strategy, war, William Colby, X | 1 Comment