Monday, March 31, 2008

We continue to refuse to win

The Long War Journal reports on the situation in Iraq that after taking heavy casualties Sadr has ordered his followers to "end all armed activities." I'm not clear yet on the response of US and Iraqi forces but I strongly suspect that, much like the recent war Israel fought with Hezbollah in Lebanon, this will leave Sadr free to recover and to fight another day. The casualties are in the hundreds, yet the Mahdi Army numbers in the tens of thousands. Also, Iran remains heavily involved.

Similarly, Douglas Farah has a post on the Counterterrorism Blog describing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan:
The Taliban, in a move the seemed inconceivable in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, is back, moving easily through the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with secure supply lines, money from heroin and other criminal activities (ransoms paid for foreigners included), and a will to win.

On the other side is a weak and ineffective government help in place by a foreign force, protecting ever-small swaths of territory, while Taliban areas of mobility and access increase.

It is not necessary for the Taliban to control vast swaths of territory, they simply need to be able to establish their presence, execute a few of their enemies with impunity, and create a general climate of fear and terror.
The most frustrating thing about both of these conflicts is the fact that the main enemy, Iran, is still only being confronted diplomatically, even though there is plenty of evidence that it does not hesitate to confront us militarily.

Nevertheless, if one wanted an example of how to definitively deal with small irregular, terroristic forces, one could look to the post-WWII reaction of the allies to the Nazi Werwolf organization as detailed here. Here are some excerpts of what the Americans did:
While American troops generally avoided the excesses of the Soviets and French, they were sharply criticized by the British for using excessive brutality and force in suppressing the Werwolf. General Eisenhower ordered the execution of all Werwolf fighters captured in civilian garb.

It was understood among U.S. troops that they had a green light for applying frontier justice to terrorists, with no lawyers or trials. The counterinsurgency manual issued by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expedition Force (SHAEF) recommended that troops simply ignore Geneva Convention rules when dealing with the Werwolf.

SHAEF instructions allowed using captive Germans in forced labor; seizure of German civilians as hostages; collective punishment; shooting of hostages; and massive bombings of civilian areas containing terrorists. Threats to shoot all curfew violators were commonly made. At Lutzkampen, Allied troops threatened to burn down the village if there were any violations of curfew.

When U.S. troops were attacked at Aschaffenburg in Lower Franconia, the entire town was annihilated by Seventh Army artillery. In the fall of 1945, well after the surrender, U.S. forces still regarded Werwolf bands as “one of the biggest potential threats to security in both the American and Allied Zones of Occupation.”
The only way such policies could be implemented is if the US abandons its neoconservative altruism in foreign policy and starts to concern itself once again with its own interests.

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