In which I attempt to advance my English writing skills from poor to mediocre.
a few distinctly unoriginal thoughts on what has worked in the past; what will work in the future
Published on May 27, 2004 By dreamtime iliaster In History
Among many Americans, there is the sentiment that the "war on terror" cannot end, and the occupation of any foreign country will lead to a quagmire; the United States can't possibly be topped by guerrillas, and any action taken against the guerrillas will only increase their numbers. Have the fundamentals of warfare really changed more in the past few decades than in the past few centuries?

For as long as there has been warfare, successful anti-guerrilla campaigns have shared some common focuses. For instance, in the Philippines (46-54) and Malaya (48-60), the government was extremely careful about inflicting civilian casualties, a quality that has rarely been seen in unsuccessful campaigns, but is common among successful campaigns. By historical standards, the United States has been very in good in limiting the number of civilian casualties; under modern standards, with the modern media, a single civilian death can be enough to bring international condemnation and local outrage. Normalizing for context, it is impossible for the U.S. to be careful enough. Another key in anti-guerrilla campaigns that is more difficult now than ever is isolating guerrillas from the outside world; modern communications technology makes it impossible to cut off lines of communication easily.

Anti-guerrilla campaigns have had great difficulty when they have been unable to demonstrate the efficacy of the government in serving the needs of the people. In Iraq, this is going well, considering that only a year has passed, but the effort has been under funded, and will collapse entirely if the United States pulls out too early (on the current schedule). In Afghanistan, the United States has already failed, and is making only a token effort to remedy the situation.

Historically, successful anti-guerrilla campaigns have rooted out corruption, and brought wrongdoers do justice, quickly and publicly. There has been talk about Bush's Texas cronies, and corruption in Halliburton, but so far it's come from the same whingers who complained about Regan's West Coast cronies, Bush Sr.'s Big Oil connections and so on and so forth. Months before Abu Ghraib became a household name, Allen West, a U.S. colonel who interrogated a prisoner improperly (by brandishing a pistol, and threatening the prisoner) was punished quite severely, considering the amount of harm he did. The upper-level leadership, however, is not willing to take responsibility for its orders. Moreover, even if the military behaves well, private military corporations, have proven that they will not. PMC employees, have, for example, been caught running sex-slave rings, but since their employees do not fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. military code, or U.S. law, and local court systems are weak, they are not seriously punished. A number of those caught selling prostitutes were fired, but on trivial charges; time card violations, and the like.

There is also direct action. Unfortunately, it won't be possible to tell how the U.S. is doing in terms of direct action until they release information on how well the infiltration of guerrilla organizations is going; how much intelligence they are getting from the population; how effective the anti-guerrilla teams that are dispatched into affected areas have been at destroying guerilla infrastructure, isolating them from the population, and damaging their coordination and communication. It is important for those same teams to recruit and train local militia, which has been done. The militia have been ineffective at best, and grossly incompetent when heavily pressured.

The new government in Afghanistan is faring so badly that some pundits who supported to incursion have taken to saying they never really believed that a stable government would be established; no one really knowledgeable about the whole affair ever expected things to be different from they are now, they claim. By historical standards, Iraq is a toss-up, but it's not too late to do the right thing.

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