Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the Global War on Terror, Know Thy Enemy

Sun Tzu & Gen Sir Richard Dannatt

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you win one and lose the next. If you do not know yourself or your enemy, you will always lose.
In light of the recent report of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's report to Congress, it is appropriate to make note of a comparable report issued this week by the British Army Chief.

I have featured the views of Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, in my pages almost a year ago. (See Brits Want Out of Iraq.) So, his views on Operation Iraqi Liberation are well known. Yesterday, Sir Richard presented a lengthy address to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Much of the impact of his remarks stung the British press because he was extremely critical of the divisions between society and the uniformed services. That is not of concern to me now.

What piqued my interest is how determined he was to use precision in identifying our adversaries. I wanted to post two or three excerpts from his statement as they appeared to confirm my own doubts as pertains to Bush's conflation of 'our enemies'.

I'll try not to editorialize, but I couldn't resist a compulsion to add my own emphasis. Here's what Sir Richard said about who confronts us in our occupation of Iraq:
So, because as an Army we are enemy focussed, some words on our adversaries in southern Iraq. The militants (and I use the word deliberately because not all are insurgents, or terrorists, or criminals; they are a mixture of them all) are well armed - certainly with outside help, and probably from Iran. By motivation, essentially, and with the exception of the Al Qaeda in Iraq element who have endeavoured to exploit the situation for their own ends, our opponents are Iraqi Nationalists, and are most concerned with their own needs - jobs, money, security - and the majority are not bad people. In amongst them, however, are a hard core of well trained, well motivated, ruthless individuals who have the capacity to organise and control a highly effective campaign, or perhaps better described as a matrix of campaigns, of violence and intimidation. They live amongst the people, are difficult to track and human intelligence, HUMINT, is difficult to obtain. They have the capacity to generate forces quickly, they will offer extreme violence against us in large urban areas through the use of complex ambushes and IEDs. They also offer violence against each other in the South, not just an account of any Sunni / Shia divide, but within the Shia community. We, meanwhile, are channelled in these urban areas, which makes the operational environment 3-dimensional, truly complex and challenging.
And here's what he said about the NATO-Taliban theater:
In Afghanistan, we fight a rather different campaign. Again our adversaries are also quite complex and I would prefer to once more use the term militant and to be careful not to demonise the people we fight in Afghanistan. There is a lazy tendency for them all to be lumped under the term "Taliban", but it is not as simple as that. Yes, there is a hard core of Islamist extremists of varied ethnic and national origin, but the great majority of the people we are engaged against are those who are fighting with the Taliban for financial, social and tribal reasons. So we must beware of tarring them all with the same brush, as I am sure that one day we will need to deal with and eventually reconcile the elected Government with the majority of these people. And the character of the people who oppose here is different to that of the people in Iraq. Afghans are a hardy people, who respect force and the warrior ethos. They are generally more impressed by a company of infantry, fighting bravely with bayonets fixed than by high tech ISTAR and offensive support. Their current choice is to fight in the cultivated areas where the visibility and fields of view can be measured in tens of metres, where basic skills, not technical prowess are most important. Indeed, it is a form of operation that our fathers would recognise from the Normandy bocage - indeed on their part it is clever, because we are denied the hi-tech advantages of stand off and range, but our training gives us the edge.
And Sir Richard clearly weighed the campaign in Afghanistan as more critical than the occupation of Iraq:
I strongly believe that the Army we are developing now has to be physically and mentally prepared to be engaged in this struggle against extremism for quite some time. If the Second World War defined its generation, then this will be the conflict that defines this generation. And it is being played out not only in Afghanistan, but also at home - as we know only too well. I think that success in Afghanistan is crucial to the national interest of the UK - it is central to the triangular security relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UK. Afghanistan is a key front in the Away dimension of our domestic security, but we also need to support our allies in Pakistan in dealing with their dimension of it, too. The home and the away coincide here. I was fortunate enough to visit the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan recently, where I saw for myself the huge efforts they are making and the considerable sacrifices they are making.
Sir Richard clearly defines our current adversaries and accurately delineates the central front on the GWOT. His observations stand in stark contrast with Bush's elastic, plastic and bombastic enemies list which has proven to be beyond counterproductive. It has proven to be self-destructive.


  1. Bush is fond of saying on each anniversary of 911, that

    We didn't ask for this global struggle, but we're answering history's call with confidence, and a comprehensive strategy.

    Well, he's right. We didn't ask for it. Bush asked for it. When he said, "Bring it on." Now he's got our troops stuck to his flypaper in Iraq. Not content with an international policing problem, he's bequeathing a world of war.

  2. You can't possibly get more conflated than GWB's grandiloquent and quasi-religious terms, when he vows to “rid the world of evil,” a patently absurd task that never received the ridicule it deserved.

  3. People here may as well drop the Bush bashing. If it were not him doing the fake war mongering that kills real people for special interests, it would be another special interest/belief system Politician directing this Imperial American agenda.

    It has very little to do with Bush, and more about what this Englishman military man is talking about 'interests'(read British Petroleum/Bank of England).

    I would add that the English still consider America a wayward colony to pillage in what ever way is feasible, and I would remind people here that England is the #1 investor in the American economic system.
    "I strongly believe that the Army we are developing now has to be physically and mentally prepared to be engaged in this struggle against extremism for quite some time. If the Second World War defined its generation, then this will be the conflict that defines this generation. And it is being played out not only in Afghanistan, but also at home - as we know only too well. I think that success in Afghanistan is crucial to the national interest of the UK "

    So I say this. Who cares about the national interests of the U.K., and lets retrench here in the U.S. and tell the Taliban, and the English to drop dead, and leave us alone.

    We are England`s poodle.
    While they continue to cash in on us. They are allies, so who needs enemies.
    Screw the Bank of England and the Church of England also.
    They represent some of the worse elements of the current culture of the world.

  4. U.S. Major General Joseph Taluto, then head of the US 42nd Infantry Division, admitted (Gulf News 9-June-05) that he could understand why some ordinary Iraqi people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".

    In an interview he said:

    If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us].

    ...There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.'

    ...I think there is a small core of foreign fighters. I don't know how big that is but there is some kind of capability here, and it's being replenished.

    ...Then there is a group of former regime personnel they're the facilitators. They make all the communications, move the money, they enable things to happen. Their goal isn't the same as the foreign fighters but they're using them to do what they want to do.

    ...Then we have the foot soldiers. Some are doing it for the money. Some are doing it because they're offended by our presence and believe we are a threat to their way of life. There are various levels."

    ...Who knows how big these networks are, or how widespread? I know it's substantial enough to be a threat to the government and it will be for some time.

    I just found this in a comment on Heathlander!

  5. Paris reading Sun Tzu? If photoshop didn't exist the only explanation would be she thought it was some sort new technique in professional sun tanning.
    And I'm sure the recent Blackwater murder of civilians has offended a great many more Iraqis.

  6. He invaded an innocent country then got all pissy because they didn't bend to his will, they fought back. I'm no military expert, but even this old woman could have told him they would. We would, wouldn't we?

    Of course in shrubs mind, those in Iraq who want us out of their country are terrorists. He tosses that word about like it's pennies from heaven. It no longer has meaning other than "whomever bush does not agree with". Next, I'm sure, it'll be those who hold anything but a GOP card.

  7. In May 1966, retired Gen. David Shoup, former commandant of the Marine Corps, said this about the escalating war in Vietnam:

    “I believe if we had, and would, keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own ... not one crammed down their throats by the Americans.”

  8. But the quote of the day:

    The Bush-Cheney administration has surrendered much of Afghanistan to the Taliban and much of Pakistan to al-Qaida. They have turned most of Iraq over to Iran, creating the very danger over which they now threaten another disastrous war; they have strained the U.S. Armed Forces to the point of exhaustion, turned the Defense Department over to private contractors, the Justice Department over to the Republican National Committee, and the national debt over to foreign creditors, while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions. And they dare to lecture us on national security?

    Barnett R. Rubin, Informed Comment - Global Affairs

  9. The Pentagon is coming around to new, more proactive way of identifying the enemy. By shooting him.

    Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

  10. More than a year ago, the Liberal Avenger published a piece on Sun Tzu and the dangers of occupation, which crystalizes what I have been trying to say in so many ways - about occupations - forever. Liberal Avenger quotes passages from Chapter II of the Art of War:

    Victory is the main object of war. If this is long delayed, weapons are blunted and morale depressed. When troops attack cities, their strenght will be exhausted.

    When your weapons are dulled and ardour damped, your strenght exhausted and treasure spent, neighbouring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to lay good plans.

    When a country is impoverished by military operations it is due to distant transportation; carriage of supplies for great distances renders the people destitute.

    The reason troops slay the enemy is because they are enraged.

    And then Liberal Avenger concludes:

    And there you have the recipe for Haditha. Soldiers are not policemen or security guards.

    It is unfair to send soldiers on a mission they are bound to fail. Chickenhawks can bitch all day long about how they don’t necesseraly support all aspects of the Iraq occupation, but that really doesn’t matter, because in the end they will lose. Not because they’re not capable of winning, but because their leaders have set them up for failure. The die is cast and it is tricked. And it is even more disgusting to send them on a doomed mission, knowing full well they won’t refuse to go, it’s a gross abuse of confidence.

  11. Good, so lets get at the cause of the occupation.
    Money, as that general of the 60`s said.
    Bush or another, must make the system grow.
    War or occupation, with the Fed.Government leading spending, is doing that. War is a shortcut to growth.
    Disaster lies ahead.
    Change WILL occur.
    Not by politicians or religious leaders though.
    Their so called civil society operations are our downfall only.

  12. Am I the only one who think Richard Dannatt looks like Dr. Evil?

  13. It's Sir Richard Dannatt, to you, M.D. And no, He doesn't at all look like Dick Cheney!

  14. I don't know about that. How many of us have really seen Darth Vader's hair line?

  15. Maybe M.D. has. We could ask him/her about that. Might be a story here, with legs....

  16. Boris, you are disturbed. Both you personally, and your website. And your politics.

  17. Vigil,

    Sir Richard is dead on: "I think that success in Afghanistan is crucial to the national interest of the UK."

    I've always said myself that success in Afghanistan is crucial - it will determine the success not only of the UK but of the West or the grouping of 26 nations under NATO as a political fighting force.

    Sir Dannatt is a brilliant military analyst and strategist. His has experience in combatting terrorism and knows what he is talking about.

    The man has credibility at home and abroad, something some American generals sorely lack.

  18. Karl von Clauswitz said: In formulating a strategy for invasion -- and occupation thereafter -- it is imperative to determine people's power of resistance. Resistance is found in the mind - not very easy to defeat an enemy when their resistance is founded on ideology.

    In essence, it is primordial to know thy enemy.

    Bush drew his gun and starting shooting in all directions. Absolutely diabolical!