Now of course we have them announcing that frankly they can win the war in Afghanistan without us. Guess we can leave.
Mr. Gates said: "Our guys in the east, under [American Major-General David] Rodriguez, are doing a terrific job. They've got the [counterinsurgency] thing down pat. But I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with." The Los Angeles Times story develops this idea, quoting a senior U.S. military veteran of Afghanistan as saying NATO forces are "taking on a Soviet mentality ... They're staying in their bases in the south, they're doing very little patrolling, they're trying to avoid casualties, and they're using air power as a substitute for ground infantry operations, because they have so little ground infantry."
Their record of success in counter insurgency wars is very public. Let's see Cuba, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Angola,Nicaragua, nope no real victories there. Perhaps Chile, but that was a CIA funded coup. So it doesn't count. I know the invasion of Grenada and then Panama. Whew knew they had success somewhere.
No wait those weren't counter insurgencies they were invasions. The population was not mobilized in opposition to those invasions. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are still fighting insurgents.
Yep send in the marines. But make sure that they are using the British Guide to Counter Insurgency in Malaysia, circa the 1950's. Which is what their counterinsurgency strategy is based on.
In any event, the American army and marines have produced a new counter-insurgency manual. One of its authors, General David Petraeus, is now in charge of the “surge” in Iraq. It may be too late to turn Iraq round, and Afghanistan could slide into greater violence. But the manual offers some comfort: it says counter-insurgency operations “usually begin poorly”, and the way to success is for an army to become a good “learning organisation”.
According to Mao's well-worn dictum, guerrillas must be like fish swimming in the “water” of the general population. T.E. Lawrence, helping to stir up the Arab revolt against Turkish rule during the first world war, described regular armies as plants, “immobile, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head”. Guerrillas, on the other hand, were like “a vapour”. A soldier, he said, was “helpless without a target, owning only what he sat on, and subjugating only what, by order, he could poke his rifle at”.
Western armies have unsurpassed firepower, mobility and surveillance technology. Guerrillas' main weapons are agility, surprise, the support of at least some sections of the population and, above all, time. The warren of Iraqi streets and the fortified compounds of Afghanistan compensate for the insurgents' technological shortcomings. The manual, however, attempts to change the army mindset: in fighting an enemy “among the people”, it says, the central objective is not to destroy the enemy but to secure the allegiance of the citizenry. All strands of a campaign—military, economic and political—have to be strongly entwined.
Much of this thinking is drawn from the British experience in Malaya, but conditions today are vastly different. In Templer's day, securing “hearts and minds” did not mean just acting with kindness to win the people over; it also included coercion. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese, among whom the insurgents mainly operated, were uprooted and moved into guarded camps known as “new villages”, where they were offered land. If the British could not find the fish, they resorted to removing the water.
None the less Afghanistan is Bush's mess, left behind in the rush to invade Baghdad. Laying the blame for military failure in Kandahar at the foot of NATO when your own nation has the vast majority of troops and fire power is simply passing the buck.And a failure to follow advice already given you.
Instead of using outdated tactics from the Cold War or quoting Sun Tzu perhaps the American Military and its NATO Allies need to read Machiavelli's; The Prince.
A general hits out
Gates' criticism draws heavily from a recent study authored by the US general who commanded the forces in Afghanistan from October 2003 until May 2005, Lieutenant General David W Barno, in the prestigious journal Military Review. Barno is an influential voice in the US defense community. He chose to begin his paper devoted to the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, citing lines by ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
Barno claimed the US counter-insurgency strategy during his period produced "positive and dramatic" results. He gave the "center of gravity" in his strategy to the Afghan people and not the "enemy". He kept in view the Afghan people's "immense enmity to foreign forces" and deduced that eschewing the "Soviet attempt at omnipresence" in Afghanistan, only through a "light footprint approach" instead, could the war be successfully fought.
Barno wrote that Afghan people's tolerance for a foreign presence was "a bag of capital [that was] finite and had to be spent slowly and frugally" and, therefore, under his charge US forces took great care to avoid Afghan casualties, detainee abuse, or transgressions in observance of respect to tribal leaders or causing offence to traditional Afghan culture.
Second, Barno outlined that he and the then-US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, bonded as a team and they had a "unity of purpose" in ensuring perfect interagency and international-level coordination. According to Barno, the slide began in mid-2005 after he and Khalilzad were reassigned. Washington then decided to publicly announce that NATO was assuming responsibility for the war and that the US was making a token withdrawal of 2,500 troops.
"Unsurprisingly, this was widely viewed in the region as the first signal that the United States was 'moving for the exits', thus reinforcing long-held doubts about the prospects of sustained American commitment. In my judgement, these public moves have served more than any other US actions since 2001 [the fall of the Taliban] to alter the calculus of both our friends and our adversaries across the region - and not in our favor."
Barno implied NATO messed up the top-notch command structure he created. The result is, "With the advent of NATO military leadership, there is today no single comprehensive strategy to guide the US, NATO, or international effort." Consequently, he says, the unity of purpose - both interagency and international - has suffered and unity of command is fragmented, and tactics have "seemingly reverted to earlier practices such as the aggressive use of airpower".
Barno makes some chilling conclusions. First, he says the "bag of capital" representing the tolerance of Afghan people for foreign forces is diminishing. Second, NATO narrowly focuses on the "20% military dimension" of the war, while ignoring the 80% comprising non-military components. Third, the "center of gravity" of the war is no longer the Afghan people but the "enemy". Fourth, President Hamid Karzai's government is ineffectual "under growing pressure from powerful interests within his administration". Fifth, corruption, crime, poverty and a burgeoning narcotics trade have eroded public confidence in Karzai. Finally, "NATO, the designated heir to an originally popular international effort, is threatened by the prospects of mounting disaffection among the Afghan people."
Barno sidesteps the ground realities. The US strategy's real failure happened, in fact, in the 2003-2005 period when he was in charge of the war. Of course, the failure was not at the military level, but at the political and diplomatic level. That was a crucial phase when the window of opportunity was still open for a course correction over the Taliban's exclusion from the Afghan political process. The Taliban should have been invited to come in from the cold and join an intra-Afghan dialogue and reconciliation. The extreme emotions of 2001 had by then begun to ebb away.
On the contrary, Khalilzad's diplomatic brief was that the US presidential election of 2004 was the priority for the White House. The "war on terror" in Afghanistan was a milch cow in US domestic politics. Presidential advisor Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney shrewdly calculated that an enemy in the Hindu Kush was useful for the Republican Party campaign, while resonance of the booming guns in Afghanistan would be a good backdrop for election rhetoric against a decorated war veteran like John Kerry.
And, showcasing of Karzai in Kabul's presidential palace helped display Afghanistan as a success story. A victorious Karzai indeed landed in the US to a hero's welcome from George W Bush on election eve. Bush went on to win a second term, but the Afghan war was lost. The slide began by mid-2005 as the embittered Taliban began regrouping. As the year progressed, as Everts and many others pointed out, the Iraq war "sucked the oxygen away from Afghanistan". How could Gates possibly admit all that? He would rather NATO take the blame. But then, it is a sideshow in actuality.
But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful.
I conclude, therefore, that no principality is secure without having its own forces; on the contrary, it is entirely dependent on good fortune, not having the valour which in adversity would defend it. And it has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength. And one's own forces are those which are composed either of subjects, citizens, or dependants; all others are mercenaries or auxiliaries.
A principality is created either by the people or by the nobles, accordingly as one or other of them has the opportunity; for the nobles, seeing they cannot withstand the people, begin to cry up the reputation of one of themselves, and they make him a prince, so that under his shadow they can give vent to their ambitions. The people, finding they cannot resist the nobles, also cry up the reputation of one of themselves, and make him a prince so as to be defended by his authority. He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him.
Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, whilst the former only desire not to be oppressed. It is to be added also that a prince can never secure himself against a hostile people, because of their being too many, whilst from the nobles he can secure himself, as they are few in number. The worst that a prince may expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned by them; but from hostile nobles he has not only to fear abandonment, but also that they will rise against him; for they, being in these affairs more far-seeing and astute, always come forward in time to save themselves, and to obtain favours from him whom they expect to prevail. Further, the prince is compelled to live always with the same people, but he can do well without the same nobles, being able to make and unmake them daily, and to give or take away authority when it pleases him.
Therefore, to make this point clearer, I say that the nobles ought to be looked at mainly in two ways: that is to say, they either shape their course in such a way as binds them entirely to your fortune, or they do not. Those who so bind themselves, and are not rapacious, ought to be honoured and loved; those who do not bind themselves may be dealt with in two ways; they may fail to do this through pusillanimity and a natural want of courage, in which case you ought to make use of them, especially of those who are of good counsel; and thus, whilst in prosperity you honour yourself, in adversity you have not to fear them. But when for their own ambitious ends they shun binding themselves, it is a token that they are giving more thought to themselves than to you, and a prince ought to guard against such, and to fear them as if they were open enemies, because in adversity they always help to ruin him.
Therefore, one who becomes a prince through the favour of the people ought to keep them friendly, and this he can easily do seeing they only ask not to be oppressed by him. But one who, in opposition to the people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above everything, to seek to win the people over to himself, and this he may easily do if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their benefactor; thus the people quickly become more devoted to him than if he had been raised to the principality by their favours; and the prince can win their affections in many ways, but as these vary according to the circumstances one cannot give fixed rules, so I omit them; but, I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity.
That prince is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty. For this reason a prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack, as I said Nabis the Spartan did.
But concerning his subjects, when affairs outside are disturbed he has only to fear that they will conspire secretly, from which a prince can easily secure himself by avoiding being hated and despised, and by keeping the people satisfied with him, which it is most necessary for him to accomplish, as I said above at length. And one of the most efficacious remedies that a prince can have against conspiracies is not to be hated and despised by the people, for he who conspires against a prince always expects to please them by his removal; but when the conspirator can only look forward to offending them, he will not have the courage to take such a course, for the difficulties that confront a conspirator are infinite. And as experience shows, many have been the conspiracies, but few have been successful; because he who conspires cannot act alone, nor can he take a companion except from those whom he believes to be malcontents, and as soon as you have opened your mind to a malcontent you have given him the material with which to content himself, for by denouncing you he can look for every advantage; so that, seeing the gain from this course to be assured, and seeing the other to be doubtful and full of dangers, he must be a very rare friend, or a thoroughly obstinate enemy of the prince, to keep faith with you.
And, to reduce the matter into a small compass, I say that, on the side of the conspirator, there is nothing but fear, jealousy, prospect of punishment to terrify him; but on the side of the prince there is the majesty of the principality, the laws, the protection of friends and the state to defend him; so that, adding to all these things the popular goodwill, it is impossible that any one should be so rash as to conspire. For whereas in general the conspirator has to fear before the execution of his plot, in this case he has also to fear the sequel to the crime; because on account of it he has the people for an enemy, and thus cannot hope for any escape.
For this reason I consider that a prince ought to reckon conspiracies of little account when his people hold him in esteem; but when it is hostile to him, and bears hatred towards him, he ought to fear everything and everybody. And well-ordered states and wise princes have taken every care not to drive the nobles to desperation, and to keep the people satisfied and contented, for this is one of the most important objects a prince can have.
There never was a new prince who has disarmed his subjects; rather when he has found them disarmed he has always armed them, because, by arming them, those arms become yours, those men who were distrusted become faithful, and those who were faithful are kept so, and your subjects become your adherents. And whereas all subjects cannot be armed, yet when those whom you do arm are benefited, the others can be handled more freely, and this difference in their treatment, which they quite understand, makes the former your dependants, and the latter, considering it to be necessary that those who have the most danger and service should have the most reward, excuse you. But when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these opinions breeds hatred against you. And because you cannot remain unarmed, it follows that you turn to mercenaries, which are of the character already shown; even if they should be good they would not be sufficient to defend you against powerful enemies and distrusted subjects. Therefore, as I have said, a new prince in a new principality has always distributed arms. Histories are full of examples. But when a prince acquires a new state, which he adds as a province to his old one, then it is necessary to disarm the men of that state, except those who have been his adherents in acquiring it; and these again, with time and opportunity, should be rendered soft and effeminate; and matters should be managed in such a way that all the armed men in the state shall be your own soldiers who in your old state were living near you.
Princes, especially new ones, have found more fidelity and assistance in those men who in the beginning of their rule were distrusted than among those who in the beginning were trusted. Pandolfo Petrucci, Prince of Siena, ruled his state more by those who had been distrusted than by others. But on this question one cannot speak generally, for it varies so much with the individual; I will only say this, that those men who at the commencement of a princedom have been hostile, if they are of a description to need assistance to support themselves, can always be gained over with the greatest ease, and they will be tightly held to serve the prince with fidelity, inasmuch as they know it to be very necessary for them to cancel by deeds the bad impression which he had formed of them; and thus the prince always extracts more profit from them than from those who, serving him in too much security, may neglect his affairs. And since the matter demands it, I must not fail to warn a prince, who by means of secret favours has acquired a new state, that he must well consider the reasons which induced those to favour him who did so; and if it be not a natural affection towards him, but only discontent with their government, then he will only keep them friendly with great trouble and difficulty, for it will be impossible to satisfy them. And weighing well the reasons for this in those examples which can be taken from ancient and modern affairs, we shall find that it is easier for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged him to seize it.
Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after infinite treacheries and cruelties, should live for long secure in his country, and defend himself from external enemies, and never be conspired against by his own citizens; seeing that many others, by means of cruelty, have never been able even in peaceful times to hold the state, still less in the doubtful times of war. I believe that this follows from severities being badly or properly used. Those may be called properly used, if of evil it is lawful to speak well, that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which, notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with time rather than decrease. Those who practise the first system are able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to maintain themselves.
Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.
And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil, shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and no one will be under any obligation to you for them.
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