Small War Strategy

The Economist:


A growing body of opinion, both in the Pentagon and outside, has concluded that insurrections are best fought indirectly, through local allies. “It is extremely difficult for Western powers to defeat insurgencies in foreign countries in modern times,” says Max Boot, author of “War Made New” (2006). “At the same time, there are very few instances of insurgencies overthrowing a local government. The problem is that Western armies lose the will to maintain imperial domination.” Western forces always have the option of going home; for local governments, though, fighting insurgents is a matter of survival.

There is much more in this essay about counterinsurgency warfare.

I have been watching DVD's of HBO's Rome and in an episode on Caesar's battle with Pompey's forces, Caesar's smaller forces are cornered and he says "We have no choice but to fight or die. Pompey's forces have other options." That sums up Boot's argument above, but I think it understates the dire consequences to the US if we lose in Iraq, and ignores the substantial benefits of victory.

Other adversaries have already indicated they would use insurgency warfare to defeat the US elsewhere and thwart US policy. If we can demonstrate that insurgency strategies can be defeated, it will make it less likely that we will have to fight and more likely we can have favorable negotiations with these countries.

If we lose it means our enemies will continue in an undeclared state of war with us and we will be attacked for years into the future. If we can show that this strategy is not a magic bullet for defeating the US, the world will be a better and more peaceful place. The main reason that no one wants to challenge us in a conventional war is that they know they would lose. We need to establish the same clarity on insurgency warfare.

Fred Kagan looks at the depths of al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, "Al Qaeda leaders seem aware of their defeat. General Ray Odierno noted in a recent briefing that some of al Qaeda's foreign leaders have begun to flee Iraq...." He goes on to describe how a change in strategy accomplished al Qaeda's defeat.


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