Search through history and you’ll find something about counterinsurgency that won’t please those who want bloodless conflict: It almost never works.
Actually, counterinsurgency techniques may play into the insurgent’s hand. The techniques take too long and the insurgent wishes to draw a conflict out, to bleed his militarily superior enemy of political and public will.
Martin van Crevald, military historian and analyst, states rightly, that the problems for the superior military power in confronting the guerilla force is not so much political or military, but moral. In order to truly defeat most insurgencies, atrocity may be the only option. In the Third Servile War (73-71 BC), Crassus had 6,000 captured slaves, once led by Spartacus, crucified and hung along the Appian way which linked Rome to Capua. The message was clear as the blood was deep: You revolt against the Empire and you die.
It may be that we cannot win, most times, these types of wars if we adhere to Western values. This is not a value judgement on my part, merely an observation. We must choose what we are to do. There are three options. 1)Attack the enemy viciously, letting morality stand second in line to victory. 2) Involve our fighting men in wars in which many times will result in long, drawn out conflict and end stalemate. 3) Refuse to get involved in insurgencies whatsoever. Fight, destroy, then leave as quickly as possible.
Insurgencies arise from perceived injustice. Insurgencies in Western culture are rare, because the nature of Democracy tends to address, to a large degree, perceived injustice. When a segment of our society feels with significant passion that they have been wronged, they have a vote that gives some sense of power. They can protest. In other societies and in empires of the past, the truly dispossessed have no inalienable rights. The Roman slaves were property. There was no other way to address the injustice but to turn to the sword.
There is virtually no historical record of what is now being used as counterinsurgency techniques being successfully used in quelling an uprising. An uprising is likely to continue until the perceived need or injustice is addressed or sufficient pain is applied to the rebels, pain that makes them stop fighting. The foolishness of some of this over-hyped counterinsurgency bit in its use against modern jihadism, is simple when we hold it to the light: If insurgencies arise from perceived injustice amongst the people, any Western society will simply provide for the people’s need. Most uprisings of the past occurred in totalitarian or monarchal regimes in which all men were not created equal. However, the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the one that boils beneath the surface in Pakistan, is driven by religious zealotry. There is no perceived injustice per se, except that, in the eyes of the Muslim extremist, the world should live according to the Will of Allah, and that Will is interpreted by al Qaeda and its ilk. Even in Palestine, the perceived injustice of Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and the settlements of the West Bank are much easier to rectify than the desires of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
So, the modern jihadist requires something that Western culture cannot provide: That the whole world capitulate to Sharia.
The Taliban is now emboldened by the US’s defensive stance. Instead of ruthlessly hunting the Taliban, the US’s forces are walking through city streets shaking hands with people who care little. They know they don’t want the Taliban to show up and force their sons to fight for the insurgents. Shaking the people’s hands changes nothing. They do not have the ability to fight against the Taliban. Leaving the Taliban intact will not change the problem. It places us in a purely defensive stance hoping that farmers will like us more than the extremists. The Taliban is free to move from one area of Afghanistan to the other until it finds a place where there are no US troops–and there are plenty of those places. Modern counterinsurgency estimates would call for approximately 500,000 troops. Who are we kidding here?
The only answer, since we have decided that Afghanistan is so crucial (why is a country that isn’t really a country so important? Why more so than Somalia, which is teaming with militant Islamists?), and that we must be rid of the Taliban, the only answer we have is to hunt them and kill them, never let them gain their balance. Instead, they’re taking full scale military action against our outposts and even Pakistan’s Army Headquarters. We’re losing precious time. Pakistan’s government is far more pro-American than its general populace is. 300,000 uneducated and roiling people. They stand ripe for the extremists’ picking.
Pakistan is planning its third large offensive into the Taliban’s mountain strongholds along the Pakistan/Afghan border. The two previous attacks were repulsed by the rebels. If America is to end this war, we must attack the Taliban. Counterinsurgency plays into the enemies hands by making it easier for him to live and making the war last longer. Not to mention the fact that only an ascetic warrior like McChrystal could think he could make it work with so few men.
In the Third Servile War, Spartacus: forced into southern Italy by Crassus’ legions. Pompey’s army, ordered by the Senate to move south and assist Crassus, marched inexorably down the Italian boot. Seeing that his men were to be crushed between two juggernauts, Spartacus swung his formations around for a last gasp attack on Crassus. But there would be only the freedom of death for Spartacus. The vice closed and 100,000 slaves, slaughtered.
President Obama should give Generalhis 40,000 and tell him to destroy the enemy. Like Crassus and Pompey, the US and Pakistan should drive to the enemies’ heart, compacting and destroying him. Yes, we will take casualties, but failing to go for broke risks bleeding us dry of will, money and blood–and we could see Pakistan lose its very existence.
And the fight must be powerful and fast, before the media can yet again rush in to rescue the militant extremists.