Comments Posted By andy
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I stand by my original statement which you quoted. In hindsight, I probably should have been more thorough in my wording: If you look at insurgencies throughout history they are sometimes quelled through force of arms, but never eliminated by force of arms alone. Take a look at Yugoslavia. Insurgency there was driven underground by force of Arms, but it reappeared with bloody vengeance decades later because the underlying grievances were never resolved. There are other examples in history as well.

My second sentence that you quote is certainly true and here are a few examples: Northern Ireland, Basque Spain, Shri Lanka, Chechnya, Kurds in Iraq, Turky and Iran, Ossetia and Nogorno Karabakh, Kashmir, Pashtuns in Pakistan, Palestine/Israel, Zapatistas in Mexico, FARC, Algeria, Nagaland (India), Nepal. Those are the ones I can name off the top of my head. There are so many in Africa and South America alone that it's almost impossible to keep track of them. The Russian method of CI as seen in Chechnya is illustrative of the futility of a military-only approach. Apparently, the Russians learned little from Afghanistan. Despite leveling the capital, Grozny, and decimating much of the landscape, the majority of Chechnya remains beyond Russian control and is still part of Russia in name only. The Russians have done about everything wrong they possibly could have in fighting the Chechen insurgency and they will pay a heavy price for their mistakes for years to come. Chechnya is the clearest modern example that military forces alone cannot defeat insurgencies.

The translation you quote is old, but it’s not so different from newer translations that the meaning was lost. I understood your intent and my criticism was admittedly nitpicky.

Finally, just because I voted for Bush doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything, or even anything, he does. I won’t rehash my agreements and disagreements here, but I will say there are some policies I strongly support and others I strongly oppose.

PC VA Beach,

While probably true in the case of Iraq, more troops does not always = better security. Often more troops, especially foreign troops, strengthen an insurgency. Obviously, since we destroyed the entire Iraqi security apparatus at the end of the war, a large number of troops were needed to provide basic police and security functions. I don’t know what an ideal number would have been, but I think 500-700k would probably have been too much, even assuming we were able to field that many at one time (which we were not and are not able to do). If I were to guess I’d probably say 250-300k would have been a good number. One thing to keep in mind is that Turkey’s last-minute decision to prevent us from opening a significant northern front meant that we were understrength for the war’s beginning and the beginning of the occupation. The decision was made, wrongly, that those troops left in transit would not be needed following Saddam’s overthrow. Had they flowed into Iraq to reach the originally planned end-of-conflict strength, we might have been better able to contain the initial phases of the insurgency.

But that is all spilled milk now. Some of the idiot TV talking heads have said we need to dramatically increase or troops now to crush the insurgency and “retake” Baghdad. Even if the now sovereign Iraqi government would support such an increase (which they wouldn’t), the likely result would be greater alienation of the Iraqi people to US forces. The psychological perception of such a large increase would weaken the legitimacy of the newly born Iraqi government in the eyes of everyday Iraqis. So for those and other reasons, I don’t think that course of action is realistic. Our focus has to remain on building Iraqi institutions, especially the police, as well as bringing the majority of the Sunni population fully into the democracy tent.

Comment Posted By Andy On 11.06.2006 @ 15:17


You have yet to demonstrate how insurgencies are defeated solely by militarily means in the modern era. Obfuscation by quoting Clausewitz (actually you misquote him) does not prove anything about fighting insurgencies. My basic premise is that insurgencies cannot be defeated militarily while they have popular support among the population in which they operate. The Army Field Manual on counterinsurgency agrees with me.

It’s telling you cast your arguments in the light of US political party affiliation, and frankly, it belittles your arguments. For the record, I’ve voted for Bush twice now, but I don’t drink the kool-aid from any political stripe or party. I’m officially an independent and I call shots as I see them and vote for candidates based on their policy positions, not their party affiliation. Blanket statements like “the anti-war” party are meaningless in our two party system since each party must have a variety of viewpoints in its tent. “Anti-war party” is as meaningless a gross generalization as “religious right party.”

As for Iraq, it’s a classic case where the US military cannot defeat the insurgency militarily. Our military (of which I am a member) knows that. We study counter-insurgency more than anyone and understand intimately from past experience that military operations are only a piece of the solution (unlike conventional warfare where destroying enemy forces is the primary objective). Ultimately the Iraqi population must decide to stop the insurgency by ending support for insurgents. We are holding the line and providing security until the Iraqi government is able to satisfy the needs of the majority of the population. That won’t happen until the Sunnis and other factions get off the fence and finally decide that a political solution is better than supporting the insurgency – an goal which will require a State that represents their interests. From the look of things, that State is at hand. The next few months will tell whether the Sunnis will buy into the process fully or not. If they do, then we’ll see violence decrease because of eroding support for the insurgent fighters and, directly tied to that, the increased effectiveness of our CI operations. Once that happens there will inevitably be some hard-line insurgents to deal with, but without a popular base of support they will be routed and crushed. Similarly, foreign fighters (who are not insurgents) will have no sanctuary in which to hide and plan and conduct operations. As I said in my original comment and on my blog, we are already seeing that sanctuary shrink as AQI tries to morph into a domestic Iraqi organization. They are not doing this because we are killing them, or because they lack foreign fighter recruits to die for Allah – they are doing it because the Sunnis got sick and tired of their bullshit and stopped supporting them. In order to have a base of support, they had to change to become an “Iraqi” organization.

I’m not even going to respond to your Vietnam comments because there is no point in arguing about it and this post is long enough. Goodnight.

Comment Posted By Andy On 11.06.2006 @ 01:32


I don't want to rehash Vietnam here, but the fact is we lost. Whether it was because of the "democrat anti-war party" or other factors is beside the point. Besides, Vietnam was a civil war, not a true insurgency.

Despite over $6 billion dollars of us taxpayer money, the Salvadoran government never defeated the insurgents. This was despite the atrocities and brutal repression campaign carried out by the government. That conflict finally ended with a peace agreement – not through military action.

The same holds true in Nicaragua - the Communist government never succeeded in wiping out the Contras (who were never a real threat to the government either).

Admittedly an argument could be made in the case of the Philippines, but the shameful acts that America resorted to in order to crush the opposition could not be repeated today. Also, the Philippine war took place at the end of the colonial era, where Western powers were able dominate their colonies for several decades. Two years after the final PI forces surrendered, America granted them independence anyway. Finally, the Islamic insurgency on the south islands was never brought under control and endures to this day.

The Brits in Malaysia used a combination of engagement and a “kinder, gentler” version of ethnic cleansing. The insurgency was ethnically-based in support of the repressed Chinese population. To defeat it, the Brits relocated 4/5ths of the Chinese population to deny the insurgents their base of support. As the conflict dragged on, the Brits forced the new Malay government to grant Chinese voting rights. When Malay was granted independence and the Chinese had voting rights, the reason for the insurgency pretty much died. Again, the insurgency was not militarily defeated.

The defeat of the Shining Path was ultimately due to their rejection by the Peruvian population. Early in the conflict, SP took over large areas of Peru, but they quickly lost any support and sympathy they had in those areas because of their brutal and backwards tactics and ideology. Without any population to support them, the Peruvian security forces eventually captured or killed all the key figures. In this case the military victory was possible only because the insurgency lost popular support.

In all the cases you mentioned, perhaps with the exception of the Philippines, military force alone did not defeat the insurgency, so your examples only further prove my original point.

Comment Posted By Andy On 10.06.2006 @ 15:34

In Rick's defense, David, he can't spend all day responding to his whacked-out commenters. Maybe he cuts Scrapiron some slack because he's a regular, who knows.

The fact is, there are moonbats on the right and left and both have populated this comment thread. We know AMZ well, and his origins, rise and fall have been well documented but not widely or accurately reported. Semantic arguments over whether or not he "slaughtered" US troops miss the larger picture entirely. At the time of his deserved demise, he was a waning military power who was increasingly marginalized by his Sunni base of support. His influence as a symbol of fear and hatred was still strong even if he could no longer plan and conduct the spectacular attacks that were his trademark. At the peak of his influence his AQI organization almost single-handedly brought the simmering undercurrents in Iraq into open sectarian civil war – a threat which has diminished somewhat, but has not completely passed. As the Sunni population began to climb the fence separating open resistance and engagement, they increasingly pushed AMZ to the side. His wanton slaughter (yes, he definitely DID slaughter) of Shia and Sunni alike further diminished local support for his organization of primarily foreign fighters. Although the insurgency is still often described as foreign-based, it has morphed over the last year into largely Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. Over the last few months, even AQI tried to reinvent itself as a domestic Sunni group by using fewer foreign fighters and “employing” more Iraqis. Maybe with AMZ gone they will succeed.

The final point I’d like to make is that unlike traditional war, killing the enemy will not win an insurgent war, despite what TV pundit idiots say. The political talking heads on Fox News and others wouldn’t know an insurgency if it bit them in the ass. The lifeblood of an insurgency is not its fighters, but the population that tacitly and openly supports them. Killing the active fighters will limit the insurgency’s impact, operational ability and scope, but force of arms alone can only win battles, not the war. Ultimately, there are two ways to end an insurgency: Pull out and let the powerful kill or ethnically cleanse the weaker population, or, enable conditions to make insurgency a less attractive option than peace. For Iraq, the latter option means engagement in the political process, which the Sunnis are currently still on the fence about.

Compare Iraq to what happened in the Balkans. As sad a chapter as it was, Croatia and Serbia are peaceful today because they ethnically cleansed opposing populations away. No opposing population = no insurgency. If you look at insurgencies throughout history they are sometimes quelled through force of arms, but never eliminated. In the modern era, western nations have, to put it nicely, a poor track record in defeating insurgencies. The only thing that will save us from following in their disastrous footsteps is through a strong, representative Iraqi government. I give Bush credit for not taking the easy road and installing a repressive stooge government like we and the western powers have done so many times before. At least it appears we’ve learned that lesson from history.

Comment Posted By Andy On 9.06.2006 @ 22:55



Tano pretty much answered your question, but yes, I don't think the Iranians understand our position completely. They see themselves in a position of strength. High oil revenues and endless media reports about America's "overstretched" and vulnerable military reinforce that position. They do not seriously believe that we are able, much less willing, to attack them over this issue.

Tano raises an excellent point about the problem of media diplomacy. Messages to Iran delivered through the media must be carefully nuanced to take into account all the audiences that will hear them besides Iran: The US domestic audience, our allies, our enemies, other potential proliferators, and those parts of the Iranian government and population that do not support the mullahs. Private talks will allow use to deliver our message, and hear theirs, without all the muddlement. Private talks will allow us to confirm if Amahdinejad's crazy statements are truly Iranian policy.

I don't discount the apocalypse theories completely, but I think the core decision makers in Iran are more rational than the impression provided by the Iranian President. Iran is still a factious society and the government and military is no exception, even with the recent purges of moderates.

I hear a term thrown around frequently in regard to Iran: “Can we afford not to….” Specifically, I read blogs that advocate attacking Iran because “we can’t afford” not to believe Amahdinejad will do the worst. Rather than predicate our policy and course of action (especially in regard to war and peace) on a worst-case assumption we should instead try to discover the truth since the threat is not imminent. Direct talks will help do that.

Seymour Hirsch was making judgments based on his own bias with only a few pieces of the evidence pie. His statement regarding attacking Iran is idiotic on its face. The military planning that he reported is not only necessary but it is a legal requirement as well. I’m sure the military has plans regarding the worst-case apocalypse scenario among many scenarios for and Iranian conflict. Hirsch and others – mainly on the left – make the mistake of equating planning with policy.

Steve Sturm:
“There’s nothing we could/would say to Iran that would make them back down.”

I assume to have evidence to support that conjecture? You can't know what will make them back down until you go find out.

Comment Posted By Andy On 31.05.2006 @ 17:27

Tano is correct that Iran has the right to master the nuclear fuel cycle for civilian purposes under the NPT. As we all know, it's a relatively small step from mastering the fuel cycle to making a bomb - perhaps 3 months to a year depending on a variety of factors. That's the crux of the issue for us. It's not reactors that are the problem, it's fuel enrichment. They have the right to do it under the NPT, but the reason they are able to exercise that right currently is because they gained the technology by violating the NPT. That is the legal issue we can press, among others.

So Condi stating that is not "giving" Iran anything.

I think the change in strategy is good. Iran has never buckled under pressure from threats, which is all we've brought to the table to this point. Talks with Iran (which are different than negotiations) will help us determine what the true Iranian intentions are - making policy based largely on the whacky Iranian President's public rhetoric is not wise. Talks also afford us an opportunity to sit down, look them in the eye and make clear our position and views. It's pretty clear that much of our message isn't getting through to the leadership.

Comment Posted By Andy On 31.05.2006 @ 16:03


I've always loved soccer since I started playing as a kid. I "grew out" of it, as many in my generation did, but then I lived in England for several years and rediscovered the game. It's funny to hear my fellow American's now talk about the Super Bowl or World Series as "big" sporting events. The World Cup dwarfs them put together.

I'm really looking forward to watching the American team, which is probably the best ever. I hope we make a good showing.

Comment Posted By Andy On 30.05.2006 @ 21:55


I wish more people would consider 3rd party and independent candidates. With the rules and districting the Republicans and Democrats have set up, though, it's about impossible for any 'outsiders' to break through their duopoly on the political process. A real grass-roots effort is needed, but the political center just doesn't have the activisim necessary to make real change.

It's hard to imagine that the present dominance by the two parties was intended by the framers.

Comment Posted By Andy On 30.05.2006 @ 11:04


This is certainly a complex issue. The Michael Crichton quote is very interesting and largely true, but the problem with global environmental science is that the scale and complexity of the systems don't lend themselves well to "verifiable" and "repeatable" results. How is it possible to test a global warming hypothesis accurately and free from bias? I don't see how it can be done.

We do know that man's influence affects climate from the local up to at least the regional if not the continental level. The jury is still out on global climate change, but I don't think it's unreasonable to extrapolate that we may have an effect on global systems.

From what I remember of the global cooling scenarios from the 1970's, they seemed to primarily revolve around nuclear winter scenarios and pollution from fires and power plants. I don't really see what that debate has to do with global warming today. As an interesting side note, I watched a Tivo'd episode of Nova the other night that talked about "global dimming." According to the scientists on the show, pollution has increased cloud cover and therefore decreased the amount of solar energy that reaches the planet's surface. They calculated that the global average of the effect was about 1 degree centigrade, which is a rather large amount. So ironically, pollution is “saving” us from even greater warming. Maybe we should build more dirty coal power plants.

The most interesting part of the show was an analysis of temperatures across the USA during the time aircraft were grounded after 9/11. Contrails over certain congested parts of the country were significantly reducing the amount of solar energy hitting the USA and moderating temperatures. During the 3 day period where there were no flights, the range of temperatures across the USA increased, meaning that nights were slightly cooler and days were slightly warmer. The changes (which were averages taken from about 6000 readings across the country) were more dramatic during that 3 day period than at any other since at least the 50’s.

Finally, one thing I don't hear discussed much is the mini ice age that struck Northern Europe from about the 15th – early 19th centuries. When I lived in England, I remember seeing paintings from that time of people ice-skating on the Thames - something that's unthinkable now. That this mini ice age occurred is undeniable, but I haven't seen any studies that try to answer the big "why" question. It's certainly conceivable that the increase in temperatures we see now is at least partly the result of the warming from the end of this "ice age."

In any event, this is certainly an interesting and controversial topic. I would also like to see a more rational discussion. The sad fact is, it seems like 1/2 the people in the country are zealots in one direction, and the other 1/2 in the other direction

Comment Posted By Andy On 27.05.2006 @ 15:36


You're right to remain a reluctant sceptic on WMD's to Syria. The interview you mention is from a guy that defected to us prior to the 1991 Gulf War. He hasn't been in Iraq for 15 years, so his claims are pretty much baseless. While it may be true that Iraq had plans to transfer WMD's to Syria in the 1980's, that doesn't mean they existed in 2003. And this flies in the face of the evidence we have from the Iraqi Perspective's Project, which shows that Saddam, until the end, though the Russians and French would prevent an invasion. Once the invasion started, he still believe he wouldn't be overthrown. It wasn't until our tanks were in Baghdad that the truth finally dawned on him. Why would he move WMD's to Syria if he thought we wouldn't invade? That's only the beginning. We have captured all the principal actors in the Iraq WMD program including Saddam himself. I find it hard to believe that none of them would out such a plan if it existed.

Comment Posted By Andy On 26.05.2006 @ 21:04

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