Last week, Colonel Lang referred to an article by David Ignatius “in which he [Ignatius] made reference to a RAND study in which the author tries to make the case that SOF forces (Green Berets, Rangers, Delta, SEALS, and other cats and dogs) are the key to success in warfare in the future.” I just want to elaborate on the colonel’s comments. The RAND study is written by Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at RAND who, in addition to numerous articles, has written a couple of books about Special Forces and our special operations forces: “Masters of Chaos” in 2005 and “One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of ” in 2013. I have not read either book and probably won’t. I did read her latest article which Ignatius referred to. Her article, “SOF’s Evolving Role: Warfare “By, With and Through” Local Forces” does contribute to a misguided idea that SOF, rather than conventional forces, is the answer to future wars. I say “contributes to” because I think Robinson’s understanding of the problem and proposed solution is more nuanced than that, but she still doesn’t seem to accept the centrality of combined arms forces in future wars. This view is apparently shared by Ignatius and even General Votel at CENTCOM.
In the crudest sense, this view stems from the overblown publicity that has surrounded years of night raids by the door kickers of Delta, the SEALs and Rangers. Not only do these high speed, low drag operations sell books, but they have influenced a generation of commanders, think tankers and Pentagon bureaucrats to put their faith in SOF.
Not all is lost, however. As our heaviest engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq wound down, the Army took a close look at what they were doing and what they were doing to the Army itself. Armor and artillery units were employed as COIN area commands. Combined arms combat against combined arms foes was becoming a lost art. Conventional Army units were given the mission to organize and train Afghan and Iraqi forces on an ad hoc basis with predictable results. The Iraqi army trained by the US in this fashion disintegrated in front of IS advances in 2014. The Afghan army is unsuitable and unsustainable without continued US presence and logistical support.
The first thing the Army to remedy the situation did was refocus on organizing and training for combined arms maneuver warfare against a near peer foe. The forward to the Nov 2016 publication of Army Doctrine Publication No. 3-0 (ADP 3-0) begins, “In 2011 the Army updated its warfighting doctrine to conduct unified land operations through decisive action and guided by mission command.” These may be new words, but they should be familiar to the oldest soldiers out there. The change, very slight in my opinion, can be seen in the definition of unified land operations.
“Simultaneous offensive, defensive and stability or defense support of civil authorities tasks to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative and consolidate gains to prevent conflict, shape the operational environment, and win our nation’s wars as part of unified action.”
I can’t argue with that. I do believe the Army is serious about getting their combined arms maneuver warfighting mojo back, but they’re not going to forget the experiences of the last fifteen years either. They will continue to organize, train and equip combined arms maneuver brigades with various mixes of infantry, armor, artillery and support units. There will also be lighter, more deployable forces built around Stryker, airborne and light infantry units. And, of course, there are the Special Forces groups and much ballyhooed commandos of JSOC. There is also a new kind of unit that was announced in March of this year. The Army intends to create six security force assistance brigades (SFAB).
These SFAB are to consist of roughly 500 officers, captain and above, and senior NCOs, staff sergeant and above. They will be organized along the lines of combined arms maneuver brigades, essentially taking a maneuver brigade and stripping away the junior officers and enlisted soldiers. All members with receive six weeks of training at a newly established Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning. They will also receive training in foreign weapons at Fort Bragg from SF instructors from the JFK Special Warfare Center. There will also be SF among the approximately 70 instructors at the Military Advisor Training Academy. The SFAB will be regionally oriented and will receive language training after completing their training at Fort Benning. The first SFAB unit will be permanently stationed at Fort Benning. The second one, which is planned to stand up in the fall of 2018, will be a National Guard brigade.
The rationale for these brigades stems from our experiences, both failures and successes, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Robinson, Ignatius and others claim OUR successes stem from our training and advising of local forces, the “by, through and with” of Robinson’s article. Many now see the creation, training and advising of foreign militaries and indigenous forces as the future of warfare. These people are wrong.
I think this reading of the lessons of the last fifteen years is badly skewed. Firstly, any successes in these wars are not OUR successes. They belong to regional indigenous forces conducting as close to combined arms maneuver warfare as their resources allow. Whether it be IS technicals supported by a few T-72s and a barrage of VBIEDs, a similarly light YPG ground force employing the principles of surprise and maneuver to the hilt and supported by Coalition air support, or a Tiger Force column of Stora protected T-90s, BMPs, and technicals well supported by mortars, artillery and air support from Russian and Syrian Air Forces; it is these forces that bear the brunt of battle and determine success or defeat. The trainers and advisors, though important, are secondary to these combined arms maneuver forces.
Secondly, we only have to look at some of the regional failures to see that trainers and advisors are not a magical solution. In Afghanistan we have equipped, trained and advised our way to create a nationally unsustainable force of dubious utility to the government in Kabul. Our years of training and advising the Iraqi Army led to collapse and defeat in the face of the IS onslaught in 2014. And our arming, training and advising of the unicorn army of Syrian rebels is a national disgrace and embarrassment. If the stuff of a competent and capable army is not there to begin with, our equipping, training and advising will lead to nothing.
Having said that, security force assistance (SFA) will remain a significant governmental and defense function for the United States. SFA encompasses foreign internal defense (FID), counterterrorism ((CT), counterinsurgency (COIN) and stability operations. These functions should not be ignored by the Army, but they should never be considered more important or as important as combined arms maneuver warfare.
Now back to the SFAB. Many in SF see the creation of these brigades as another attempt to marginalize the SF. Some of that’s our own fault. In the years since 9/11 and even before that, many in SF listened to the siren call of direct action missions to the detriment of our skills in training, advising and conducting unconventional warfare. Even when we trained and advised conventional forces, we gave the impression that we only train and advise other SOF. Big Army and DOD encouraged this. They were also under the spell of the door kickers.
This was not always so. The 10th Special Forces Group was an important part of the USG effort to help Lebanon rebuild her armed forces beginning in late 1982. Working closely with the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC) in the American Embassy in Beirut, military training teams (MTT) from 10th Group set out to organize, train and advise a modernized and unified Lebanese Army within a factionally fractured and militia ridden country partially occupied by Israel and Syria. We set out to create nine combined arms brigades with a mixture of US and French tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and mortars. This rebuilding was underway less than a year before all hell broke loose in late 1983. The newly formed 8th Infantry Brigade under General Aoun was rushed to the Suk al Gharb ridge to protect the Maronite Christian communities in the hills and Beirut itself from Walid Jumblatt’s advancing PSP Druze militia and the Syrian Army. While several of the newly formed brigades disintegrated and their soldiers sided with the various sectarian militias, the 8th held its ground. It is my strongly held personal belief that the Lebanese Army and Lebanon herself were saved on that ridge. In the ensuing months and years of strife, the 8th Brigade, a true combined arms maneuver force, continued to distinguish itself.
There is no reason that Special Forces cannot continue in this tradition. We should not limit ourselves to conducting UW with resistance forces or training and advising foreign commando forces. It is obvious that the relationship between Special Forces and the SFABs will be close. Army has already said that command positions within the SFABs will be open to SF officers and SGMs. I don’t see the SFABs replacing the SF Groups. I also don’t see the Army capable of fielding six SFABs. They are already having trouble manning the first one and are offering a $5,000 bonus for a one year commitment. Six fully manned SFABs will be a drain on the Army. They will remove the leadership from six combined arms maneuver brigades. That would be a terrible trade off. I’d be surprised if we get past two full SFABs and that would be fine with me. The emphasis must remain on organizing, equipping, manning and training an Army fully capable of conducting combined arms maneuver warfare against peer and near peer foes over extended periods of time. All else will follow from that.
Peer to peer for US would be US vs Russia or China. Current Russia is high on military defensive tech, small in numbers compared to US. Strategically equal as in MAD.
China high in numbers, some leading edge tech at the moment, but due to huge scientific base China has built, tech to shoot up in a J curve in the coming decade. With the current close alliance between Russia China, it seems unlikely there will be any form of peer to peer conventional warfare (assuming US leadership is sane).
Proxy wars – multipolar word vs the hegemon? Unless something changes, it seems the majority of proxy wars may take place in predominantly Muslim countries. From what I have read, Russia has been taking soundings in Libya and Afghanistan.. where does Iraq stand?
The first cold war was capitalist ideology vs communist ideology – but if another cold war is coming, it will be the capitalist hegemon, vs the multi polar world of sovereign states.
TTG in a previews thread you mentioned that some towns or militias in Idlib had reconciled with the Syrian government. This goes back to the second Chechen war.
Putin’s Russia has the runs on the board. As far as I can see, US does not do reconciliation.
No matter how good your conventional armed forces are, if your political establishment is… what’s the word for the Borgs state of mind?…
Wonderful post. Effort well spent. Thank you.
Thank you for this post. I have no real military background, so it is hard to understand much of the writing about the military–especially because of all the shortened forms of referring to things through a string of initial letters.
However, if I understand correctly, your post reinforces the gut feeling I have had recently that the special operations forces have been emphasized too much and have been given too much to try to accomplish. In my mind, special operations should always be “special” and used mostly in as much secrecy as possible.
To this absolutely weak and non athletic older white woman, I am constantly amazed at what they do, just as I am constantly thankful after watching the old documentaries of WWI and WWII for the bravery and courage and abilities of regular forces.
I sometimes think that this current obsession in film with superheroes makes the country want to rely too much on our special operations forces, expecting them actually to be superheroes with non-human capabilities.
In comparison to normal people these men and now, I assume, women do seem to have special capabilities. But I am of the mind that they need to be cherished and used sparingly and with as much back up as possible from the regular forces.
That is, I hope, what this post asserts.
And thank you for providing a blog where non-military people can find some detailed opinions different from the cookie cutter opinions spouted by the “experts”for whom the media have chosen to provide air time.
TTG, I fully agree with your assessment of the Lebanese army situation in the 80s and your considering the 8th brigade as the backbone of that army which is and has always been fighting with their bare hands and raw muscled bodies of superb young men. Today’s achievements of the Lebanese army and its command structure is second to none, given the adversity they face, the lack of heavy modern weaponries, the lack of resources in a country swamped with more than three million refugees between Syrians and Pallies…., and their forward leaning security operations have been absolutely remarkable, since we all know that at least 15 percent of all young men in the camps are sympathizers of the ISIS rats, etc. and all have military trainings and arms …. and weapons are plentiful in most camps….. Hizbullah has also been at the forefront in all theaters on the eastern borders, In country and beyond… the coordination with the army was and still is fluid and functional in all areas…. , otherwise all hell would brake loose, and ongoing attempts at destabilizing the country anew are current and feared by most.
BRAVO ZULU. You nailed it.
Way too much “door kicker” worship
at all levels of the national security
community. The Stafford County Sheriff’s
Office SWAT Team,for example, could carry
out 95% of the missions they perform at less cost,
with less resistance inducing provocation
to the population, and certainly without
the endless interviews books, movies, etc.
After reading this, looking into the and thinking about it (I know, I know, former enlisted men probably shouldn’t do that) I have come to the conclusion that the SFAB’s are roughly the equivalent of helicopter parents.
I will posit a guess that putting in a 500 man cadre with all the NCO’s and concurrent nonsense (I betcha dollar to donuts that there will mosTtcertainly be an EEOer in the TO&E) will lead to a situation where the local security forces will go into combat with US leaders at every level and the locals just doing the
re: “Of course, this might be just the way that the Romans started bringing in the German’s to the legions.”
Ah well, empires need troops.
And then, well, well: To the Romans the Germans were somewhat nasty neighbours. A stone away from where I live the Romans built a large city and the ‘Kastell Divitia’ fortress some 1800 or so years ago. In the image below, the ‘Kastell Divitia’ is the small square on the right side of the Rhein.
And all that said: Not only did the Romans bring Germans to the legions to recruit them since they themselves were often short of recruits.
The Germaniacs, so to speak, had their own peculiar way to get the Romans to bring their legions to the Germans, which, alas, wasn’t neccessarily a nice thing to experience, for both sides in fact I believe …
~*~ “Varus give me back my legions!”~*~
Sorry about the scramble in my last post. That wasn’t at all what it looked like when I hit the post button (and no, I haven’t been dipping into the proceeds from my still…it is a virgin)
Anyway….what I meant to say is that the SFAB’s could well degenerate into a way to conveniently “outsource” trigger fingers and retain US control.
Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!
In 216 BC, Hannibal defeated a much bigger Roman army by pushing the flanking roman cavalry back with slingers. The disorganized roman cavalry was then pounced on & chased off the field by Hannibal’s cavalry. With the flanks cleared Hannibal’s heavy Carthaginian infantry swung 90 degrees & punched in the Roman flanks. The Romans could not retreat because of the Carthaginian & Numidian cavalry at their back. The jammed together Romans could mostly not even raise their weapons. A slaughter ensued.
In the middle ages mounted knights were king of the battlefield but even warhorses will not charge a line of spears. An enterprising commander would push crossbows up to the spears & try to decimate them or make a hole that cavalry could exploit. The Mongols rolled up european spearmen with mounted archers & then routed them with lancers.
In 1918 Ludendorf had gotten 40 divisions from the east front after the Russian collapse. Ludendorf needed a massive victory otherwise American numbers would swamp the tired German army. The Germans had perfected the use of ‘Storm Troops’ the year before, collapsing the Italian army at Capporeto. In early 1918, Ludendorf attacked the big salient occupied by the British
Army. A ‘Hurricane’ bombardment (surprise, predicted) was followed by Storm Troops who flowed through holes in British lines, avoiding strong points (left for follow on infantry) & got back into the British artilery. The British front collapsed.
Ludendorf had a whopping six armored cars & some dribs & dabs of cavalry. The bulk of German cavalry was busy holding down the Ukraine. Storm troops proved to be a ‘one trick pony’. Once they had broken the British lines they could only pursue the retreating British at the same speed: Retreat never became rout. It got worse; as the Germans pursued the British they had to crawl across a broken battlefield; artilery & supplies couldn’t get forward. British resistance stiffened & finally held the Germans in place. Ludendorf tried in a few more places, with the same result. Storm troops would break the line but couldn’t exploit.
Lloyd-George finally released the reinforcments the British Army needed. The British also had tanks rolling off the production lines. The Brits went on the offensive; a massive artillery would be followed up by Brit & commonwealth troops mixed with tanks. The Brits had learned their lessons & Brit offensives did not try to go deep; ‘Bite & Hold’. This process culminated in the battle of Amiens or ‘the black day of the German army’. The Brits didn’t score a huge breakthrough but large numbers of German soldiers surrendered. The German army had been in the trenches for four years & had taken huge casualties. Also, the formation of all the Storm Trooper divisions had sucked a lot of the best men out of the line divisions. The German army of 1918 was a pale reflection of the mighty German army of 1914. All the Germans could do was to retreat…
I have cherry picked examples but I can’t think of many significant historical battles that were not won with combined arms.
Depends on how they’re employed. A SFAB brigade will of course be broken down into smaller teams to train partner forces, maybe as few as 12 – 20 men per battalion. My fear would be the excessive force protection requirements lead to bloated advisor teams, especially in the era of green-on-blue.
Ignatius likes to quote Clausewitz with faux-erudition in his columns (just Googled , but he seems to have missed the essential point of everything Clausewitz wrote! Much like Obama with Reinhold Niebuhr — quoting “learnedly” and missing the entire point of the works quoted, and the way in which these works actually indict the ignorance and vanity of the speaker. The Borgistas are above all colossal frauds, intellectual and otherwise.
I fully agree, nothnig will replace combined arms maneuver forces.
Will SFAB do something near to what OMLT were doing in Afghanistan ?
Yes, the SFAB is formalizing the concept of the ad hoc OMLT (operational mentoring and liaison team) for NATO and the American equivalent embedded training teams (ETT).
I agree that this concept will be billed as a way to get other forces to fight our unnecessary wars for us. As you said outsourcing our wars. At the very least, all those SOBs seeing this as a cheaper way to wage our wars ought to have their mouths slapped dry.
Good luck with the rum.
Great article, TTG. Especially appreciate your homage to local fighters in paragraph eight.
This is planning to continue fighting the forever wars without conscripts. One must wonder to what purpose. If America doesn’t turn around, the Deplorables will be unfit for duty. To have a homegrown fighting force the USA needs free education, a public health system and mandatory training after high school. This is only affordable if the great game to forge a Eurasian Empire is dumped, Mexico integrated and Russia played against China. A North American Costal Defense Force needs to be established with a professional officer corps, a Two Ocean Navy, and militias with healthy young conscripts. Instead, the West is heading towards military contractors fighting for multi-national corporations (if the money keeps flowing to them). America and Europe ripped into ethnic enclaves with free trade and no jobs; a few oligarchs, their servants, armored knights with nuclear weapons and debt serfs. That is if somehow a world war with Russia is avoided.
TTG et al
IMO the Army will find it impossible to man these SFABs with qualified people who have talent for working with native soldiers, tribal fighters, etc. we have always had a problem finding enough of the right kind of men for the Green Berets. pl
I agree. Army is having trouble filling the first one even with the 5K bonus. I’d be surprised if they get more than one active and one in the Guard. I see mostly former SF going towards the National Guard one.
This is really only tangentially related. But I’m curious if there’s a divide within the military about the utility of using PMCs as an extension of US policies.
“The privatization of war is already underway. Denial is not a strategy to manage this growing problem.”
I did this in Afghanistan as well, and despite the nice paychecks, I couldn’t help but see that using contractors–including myself–was anything other than a scam and a sly way to hide the true costs of an unnecessary and, if I may say so, a comically absurd war from the public. A lot of the soldiers were resentful about most of the contractors considering the pay and the perks, and rightly so. Most of us did not have to put up with the same bullshit most of the soldiers did, maybe save the Indian cooks and assorted Afghan/Pakistani truck drivers. But could never get anything concrete out of staff officers about whether the use of contractors was a good policy in either the short or the long term.
The Porkchop Express,
You read the situation right. Even war is moving to the gig economy. The question is not whether it’s a good policy, but whether it’s a necessary policy given Congressional restrictions on hiring vs funding for contracts. I think it’s a lousy policy both in the military and in the IC. That the Army had to resort to contractors to man the training teams in Afghanistan supports Colonel Lang’s contention that the Army will never be able to man the SFABs. And you didn’t count as “boots on the ground” to the politicians or the public no matter what you wore on your feet.
Are the military contractors sucking these type of people out of uniform with offers of better pay?
TTG et al:
I think that this article offers some historical context to the current discussion.
The current SFAB structure will do much to remove the operations of military from that pesky civilian control.
Hahaha. The wartime gig economy. I like it. Though they may as well have titled the piece, “The American East India Company”. I recall that Prince has been on a quest to privatize the Pentagon to “cut costs” for some time. The Ayn Rand acolytes in government, particularly in the military, baffle me to no end. Not that I’m a fan of a massive, free spending government but collective defense is one of those classic “public goods.”
And, of course, for Congress to lift restrictions on hiring and funding, that would entail opening a metaphysical can of worms that would shoot off in every direction. So I can’t see that happening, like ever. Or at least not when political polarization in the US is fast approaching its apex.
Surely you don’t think the WH, State Department or USAID have been exercising “civilian control” over training and equipping or anything else. To do that they would have to have taken their precious civilian asses out into the field where they might get hurt. pl
A retorica question? – Who fights “existential” wars with mercenaries? Or to phrase it differently – What kind of wars are fought with mercenaries? Major General Smedley Darlington Butler comes to mind.
Have to agree wholeheartedly. The wars being fought, the wars for national survival and regional hegemony, not neocon fantasy, of the last 30 years (give or take) have been fought as combined arms. And as African states get stronger and assert their sovereignty, we’ll see more Somalia v Ethiopia esque tank battles supported by fixed wing and artillery, real ww2 stuff. Or Ethopia v Eritrea tanks vs trenches battles.
A few swat team raids will not solve the issues facing these states.
Vietnam Vet – you point out, of current military planning: “This is planning to continue fighting the forever wars without conscripts.” That is assuming that the forever wars are forever abroad.
It wouldn’t take much for the boot to be on the other foot. Therefore I believe that your suggestion that local militias should be in place is sensible.
How do we fight our forever wars abroad? It’s seldom we use great armies for the purpose. There are safer and cheaper ways. Countries with deep ethnic or ideological divisions and frail economies are wide open to destabilisation. Utilising these splits within a country is the foundation of “The Great Game” or “Grand Chessboard” foreign policy approach of Western countries. It’s particularly easy in the Muslim countries because of the chasm in most of those countries between the sophisticated and Westernised urban populations and the rural populations, but we can use any split that comes to hand. In the Ukraine it was between the Easterners and the Westerners, or the Russophiles and the Russophobes; doesn’t matter – as long as there’s a crack there it can be worked on.
The techniques used have various fancy names – unconventional warfare, colour revolution, xth generation warfare, and for the specialist I expect such names all convey meaning, but it all boils down to nurturing or identifying a dissident movement in the target country, training or arming the more extreme elements in that group and then setting them in motion or, with any luck, sitting back and just letting the extreme elements get on with it. Then you play it by ear, injecting foreign fighters, covert special forces assistance/co-ordination, arms supplies, as needed. In some cases it’s possible to degrade the target country’s military by direct attack – most countries don’t have a military that’s up to much compared with what Western countries can bring to bear – but that’s an optional extra and not always practicable. The main thing is to keep probing the various fault lines within the country and utilising them when possible.
It is, as far as one can see, an opportunistic and open-ended “keep the pot boiling” foreign policy approach and if it doesn’t work as desired in one place then there’s plenty to get on with elsewhere. It doesn’t always have as the aim the full overthrow of the target regime. No-one, I’d think, expects trickling Jihadis across the border in Xinjiang to seriously endanger the Chinese government, but there’s always a chance of getting something going and if not, well, it adds a bit of extra stress to the problems the Chinese are facing anyway.
The pot’s simmering in the Stans, the Caucasus, maybe Belarus – our attention is drawn to those locations because they’re particularly sensitive at present – but covert destabilisation is easy enough in most places and is an essential ingredient in our foreign policy armoury. I think it a vicious ingredient myself because a lot of locals get killed and ancient societies get torn apart but that’s beside the point here. It’s what we do.
What’s also scary, to me anyway, is the ease with which small groups of armed thugs – they don’t have to be up to SAS level, just low-tech weapons and an inclination to butchery – can take over large areas of country. Unarmed civilians, unaccustomed to working together in co-ordinated groups and always worried about the safety of their families, don’t stand a chance. Then the thugs get into the urban centres and it’s the devil of a job getting them out, no matter how advanced the weaponry is or how well trained the troops who are given the job of doing that are. As we saw in Aleppo and Mosul, this is hostage warfare and for the thugs hostages are merely another weapon in their armoury.
What if all this were to be done the other way? If the target countries should ever start regarding us in the West as target countries ourselves? Then we’re in trouble. We satisfy all those conditions mentioned above – widespread social dissatisfaction, deep ethnic or ideological divisions and frail economies.
1. The fuss in the States about Russian interference in the American elections isn’t really about who hacked what. It’s about a potential Russian propaganda initiative that on an as yet small scale mirrors precisely the similar initiatives we conduct. We do it with NGO’s, embassies, Foundations and all the rest of it and the purpose is to create a climate of opinion in the target country that favours dissidence and, later on, creates groups of sympathisers. So far for the West, in post-Soviet times, the traffic’s been one way; we can get into their countries for such purposes but they can’t to any extent get into ours. The internet’s changed all that. Others can now try to mould our opinions just as we try it the other way. Panic. That is essentially the response of the Western elites and so it should be. It’s dangerous. For them.
Also dangerous for us, as Manchester showed. The Internet allowed extremely effective ISIS propaganda to be channelled directly to dissident Muslim elements in our own country. Speaking figuratively, it was Dabiq against the Uncle Tom pacification techniques that we use and Dabiq won.
There are two responses to foreign propaganda. The first is the response totalitarian countries adopt. Clamp down on as many foreign propaganda sources as possible. The second response, in a healthy society, is to laugh it off. A healthy society, unified and with some confidence in its governing elite, does just that. In England in the Second World War many people listened avidly to enemy propaganda just for fun – it was ridiculous and in those times they could do with a bit of amusement. These days you click on the Russian news sources, not because you want amusement, but because they’re sometimes saner than ours and usually let more facts out.
We are no longer a unified society with confidence in our governing elite and as far as I can see the authorities have a hankering after the first response when it comes to Russian propaganda and news outlets. Clamp down on them. Discourage access. That’s stupid and savours of the “Brezhnevism” David Habakkuk referred to recently. Attempted clamping down makes people suspicious. Successful clamping down makes them even more suspicious and we’d end up with a dissident Samizdat society the very reverse of healthy. Not a good foundation for an adequate defence. Unless we’re all more or less on the same page how can we get together for defence?
From a defence point of view, as well as from others, the only effective response is to free up our own news outlets and propaganda sources. We’ve got just as many sane people as the Russians have. Probably more. Let them out of the box and let them run free. But that’s dead against the modern Western news management approach. So it’s unlikely to happen much. Therefore we’re always going to be weak on the propaganda front.
2. We’re appallingly weak on the destabilisation front as well but no one seems to recognise it. We had a taste of that here when the conditions were right for destabilisation in Northern Ireland. It was rumoured, and I think it was true, that the Eastern bloc countries and Libya helped the IRA. The Semtex and the guns had to come from somewhere, after all. Plus the finance that, initially at least, came from supporters in other countries. Wherever it came from and to whatever extent foreign help contributed to the mayhem we had all hell let loose that kept a large proportion of our military and intelligence forces busy for decades. Cost a lot, too, and still does. Last time I looked the per capita deficit for Northern Ireland exceeded that for similar mainland UK depressed areas. You don’t get investment or thriving businesses much where there might be riots or even bombs. And all that to get on top of what was in truth not even low intensity warfare in the scale of such things, and with not more than a few thousand active fighters in a population of less than a million and a half.
In Western countries now conditions are right for destabilisation to a greater extent than they were in NI. If ever foreign countries did what we do and injected a few foreign fighters to help things along, or got arms to some dissident minority, we’d be sitting ducks. As for our intelligence forces keeping the lid on it, we’ve had officials recently saying they’re hopelessly overstretched as it is.
Part of a responsible defence policy is to guard against low-probability events. And we do. We’ve got numbers of men and ships and tanks active from the Black Sea to the Baltic on the remote chance that Mr Putin might wake up one morning and decide he’d like WW3 with his morning coffee. What nonsense. If Mr Putin, or more likely his successor, wanted to do us harm he’d do what we do and start working our minorities or dissident groups. He’s not and nor is anyone else, as far as I know, but if anyone did we’d be wide open.
On the Colonel’s site, where every nook and cranny has its military specialist, I’m diffident about suggesting how we should prepare for such probabilities, remote or otherwise, but I do believe that when it comes to home defence our military needs to get away from the thinking that defence of the shoreline or of the border is what it’s all about. Even in the days when that was solely the case we had militia-type units dispersed in the countryside to at least hold unexpected attacks back, or just identify them, so that the regular forces had time to come up and deal with them. Now that the front line can be more internal than external, and now that we’ve seen how easily lightly armed thugs can hold down large areas and particularly urban areas using hostage techniques, it might be the case that in the first instance the best way of protecting the civilian population is to let them do it themselves.
What I am saying is that the “myths” that the authors try so hard to debunk appear to me to be what actually happened in the real world.
The Executive Branch seems to have been out of the loop for years. Trump has enshrined this in his recent “put-the-Generals-in-charge” policy shift.
What the Abrams Doctrine did was recognize the unpopularity among the general population for the “elective” wars (elective as in surgery, not as in votes).
What I posit is that the “outsourcing of trigger fingers” that the SFAB’s will allow is the continuing loss of civilian control over the military.
My cynical impression is that these SFAB brigades are to serve as the nucleus of American forces which could be stood up in a “short” time when needed.
As there are no Arab or Moslem populations which would reliably side with us, the only conceivable place for such a strategy would have to be Eastern Europe. Or possibly Korea.
You may have missed the fact that the Iraqi, SDF, Pesh Merga and Afghan military are and have been under our tutelage for a long time now. this is an attempt to systematize that assistance by creating a sub-race of “trainers.” The ROK forces have had no need of our training assistance for a long time. pl
this has to with the psychology of solders. ho fights existential wars with “mercenary soldiers?” Actually, a lot of people do. In the 1st and 2nd World Wars the French and the British used native troop units from their colonial empires in Africa and Asia to great effect. 4th Indian division in Italy and North Africa was a formidable force. The Germans were afraid of them, and that is saying a lot. The French Foreign Legion fought in both worked wars. In case you do not know the enlisted soldiers are none of them French. they are all “mercenaries.” Legio Patria Nostra is their motto. The Indian Army of the Raj fought endlessly on the Northwest Frontier were all mercenaries. you and your civvie admirer do not understand soldiers. What actually happens is hat group identity emerges as the memory of civilian life recedes. What real soldiers fight for is unit and leaders. If that is not true they are not real soldiers and are dangerous to be around in combat where you will often find such people cowering in the bottom of a hole. pl
“4th Indian division in Italy and North Africa was a formidable force. The Germans were afraid of them, and that is saying a lot.”
How do present-day Indians look back on this sort of thing, the Raj, etc.
I believe from associating with them that both the Indian and Pakistan Armies continue the traditions of these units. I.e., The Guides are to my mind the premier unit of the Pakistan Army, but Brigadier Ali will have something to say about this. pl
The Colonel knows better than I, but this may be of interest:
Bingo. There is a good anecdote in Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike,” about CIA officers, guarded by a SEAL PSD, meeting with Somali contacts on the tarmac in Mogadishu because the spooks were forbidden to leave their plane for reasons of “force protection.” One of the Somalis silently gestured to a pair of female, white, Western aid workers, standing openly on the street a few blocks away.
That would be a pleasure to hear.
I’m afraid I’m out of touch with the latest situation. However, my general impression is that the “old” units of the Pakistan Army still treasure their past history and traditions, and try to imbue new arrivals with these.
The Guides certainly think of themselves as the “premier unit” of the Pakistan Army (though I’m sure many other old regiments would contest this!).
I do wonder how effective different minders or military missions where in general.
Case studies that would be interesting:
1: Effectivity in Soviet, Chinese and US trainers in the Vietnam War
2: Comparing the effectiveness of German support to WW2 China (Falkenhayn), Soviet support to Chiang Kai Shek (Operation Zet was considerably larger then is commonly believed. That Stalin sent Chuikov, later hero of Stalingrad, to lead it is saying something), and Soviet support to Mao (Soviet priorities in China eventually shifted from denying a Japanese victory to enabling a communist one)
3: Effectivity of Nato minders in Ukraine compared to Russian minders in Donbass.
4: French minders in the War of US independence?
My percerption is as follows:
1: The effectivity of a trainer is determined by how culturally/mentally/doctrinally close or how distant such trainers are to those they are supposed to train. This explains the very satisfactory Russian trainer performance in Donbass. They are basically one people (although Donbass identity is distinct from both Russian and current Ukrainian). Syrians used an adopted (some say bastardized) version of Soviet doctrine, and are thus pretty close in terms of doctrine already. This makes it easy to interface and exchange information.
2: It helps if the trainer is not ideologically or doctrinally fixated on a one size fits all approach. This may be mostly a question of the quality of “civilian control”. Russia certainly exercizes civilian control of the military (the very instructive Mogadishu anecdote would never happen like that with the GRU or the SVR instead of the CIA), and Putin is a civilian, (a lawyer even) not a military man.
3: The most effective military missions appear to be by nations who do not have much history in the area they are “training” natives in. I think this is due to 2 causes. First, less history means less preexisting bad blood, and second, if you dont have a history in an area you are more likely to go into that area with an open mind, and more quickly to the situation. Quicker OODA loops are good.
Interestingly, there is a Corps of Guides in bother armies today. pl
I think the memory of Napoleon’s grand Armee echoes through time and people want to assume that all armies are patriotic citizens fighting for the values of the nation state. The Swiss confederation comes to mind, maybe the Cossacks when they carved out their own identity and nation. It certainly is great when people come together for a real cause and roll over the corrupt and decadent cretins around them, but it’s the definitely the exception rather than the rule. Otherwise, soldiers are soldiers good or bad, no matter the method of recruitment.
You don’t know much about Napoleon’s army if you think they were a band of dedicated French patriots. Perhaps you should look at all the Dutch, PoMany European armies recruited foreign troops, and Napoleonic France was no exception. Foreign troops played an important role and fought with distinction in La Grande Armée during the Napoleonic Wars. Almost every continental European country was, at different stages, a part of La Grande Armée. By the end of the conflict tens-of-thousands had served. In 1805 35,000 troops from the Confederation of the Rhine were used to protect lines of communications and flanks of the main army. In 1806 27,000 more troops were called up for similar purposes, plus 20,000 Saxon troops were used for mopping up operations against the Prussians. In the Winter Campaign of 1806–7, Germans, Poles, and Spaniards helped seize Baltic ports at Stralsund and Danzig on La Grande Armée’s left flank. At the Battle of Friedland in 1807, the Corps of Marshal Lannes was formed considerably from Poles, Saxons, and Dutch. For the first time foreign troops had played a role in a major battle, and done so with distinction. In the 1809 Austrian Campaign possibly as many as one-third of the Grande Armée, were from the Confederation of the Rhine, and one-quarter of the Army in Italy was Italian. At La Grande Armée’s peak in 1812, more than half the troops that marched into Russia were non-French and represented 20 different countries, including Austrian and Prussian troops. Grawert initially led the Prussian detachment, but was replaced by Yorck.les, Germans etc. in the army that invaded Russia. ” ” wiki on the Grand Armee pl
Forgive me for not being clear, I mean to say the soldiers were fighting for a new order in their various homes, and their successes relied in large part on their willingness to fight as free men, excuse the cliche, to choose targets on the battlefield that would best suit the group’s purpose. They weren’t the dregs of society whipped like pack animals into firing mindless barrages. Their tactics and technology were important, but so was the ideology of the soldiers.
I’m speaking of the unification of France from 3 de facto separate countries, the recreation of Poland as an idea, all of this infused the armee with a special purpose. These men liked the idea of nations, of rights, of choice. Napoleon was rolling lots of Europe into one Rosseau-ian war machine.
It collected all sorts of men and they became part of something incredible.
As a descendant of many generations of “mindless animals” whipped into line as you imagine it, I can only resent your nonsense. As for the Army of the French Empire, it had little resemblance to the army of the revolution. the foreign units in the Army of the empire were all in the service of their various monarchical lords. pl
Do you not agree that Napoleon fought for enlightenment ideals? Or that the soldiers who fought for him agreed with and brought these ideas home, in large part? It was partially an enlightenment by force, and the eventual defeat wouldn’t end the ideas.
I meant no offense by the whipping remark. It is a historical fact. In europe, it was not uncommon for common soldiers to be treated miserably. I meant no offense to you. One side of my family were Ironsides in Cromwell’s army, went to Ireland, hated it, headed for America,fought in various light cavalry units in the civil war. Since then we’ve degenerated to crypto, accountants, marines, that type of thing. Since I’m having a hard time communicating, I’ll let this be my last reply
Colonel, by the same token, was the US more effective in creating squad-platoon level cohesion with the mountain tribes in Vietnam/Laos compared to ANA or Iraq?
In VN only Green Berets dealt with the tribesmen. Half of us were foreigners ourselves, veterans of various European armies and dealing with the montagnards came easily to us. We were trained to work with foreigners and we liked the work. The tribesmen had a good memory of the French, especially in the “groupements des commandos aeroportees mixtes.” (GCMA) They saw us as having taken up the burden that their French friends had put down. They saw us as their allies against the Vietnamese, any Vietnamese. The Vietnamese units had American line officer advisers who had been put through a six month course in preparation. The result of that was mixed. In 2003 I was distressed to learn that the “big army” thought it could put any group of line soldiers to training the Arabs and Afghans. You saw the result in 2014 when IS virtually destroyed the ISF just by showing up. pl
Perhaps we should all sit back and let Blackwater do the job as Eric Prince and Steve Bannon have proposed
re: “it might be the case that in the first instance the best way of protecting the civilian population is to let them do it themselves.”
An excellent idea. Unfortunately the current trend in Borgland is to disarm the population and deny them any weapons/combat training. Compulsory military service had a lot of positives, but it is pâssé. Given that the Borgistas must know the issues you have so eruditely expressed, I wonder why they are so adamant in the pacification of their populations.
How would you qualify the “alliance” between US and french military in the Sahelian strip? French army is efficient, able to win tactical victories, to get regional military alliances (with chadian “army”/militias, or with Tuareg militias, e.g), with a lot of arab-speaking soldiers, but too small to win at strategic level, and unable to sustain protracted efforts without US assistance in the field of intelligence, air logistics and drones? It can prevent the US to put “boots on the ground” (and a very hostile ground), but at which point this kind of alliance will explode, when it comes to the question of exploiting uranium and other natural ressources abundant in Sahel?
PS : the partnership between US army and Northern Alliance in Afghanistan at the end of 2001 is a good illustration of a tactical win (they chased the talebs from Kabul) but strategic loss (Northern alliance was a tadjik militia in a country largely pashtun-speaking, thus pushing the majority of the Afghan population in the arms of the talebs).
In the main, correct, but a slight clarification. Roman army recruitment only very early on relied on actual Romans. Once the state moved past a certain size, the expectations that you would not use foreigners was unrealistic. But even in the Republican days, it was common practice to use auxiliaries to fulfill roles, such as cavalry or slinging, where the Romans themselves were not expert. Typically, the idea was that you would hire and recruit those who could assist you in all forms of projectile warfare, mobility, light arms, skirmishing, reconnaissance, etc., while the legions provided the core force.
This solved quite a different problem from why we use Kurds, for example. Rather, auxiliaries were part of the Romans’ war of maneuver, not a substitute for it. We don’t typically use foreign forces for their skill sets, but rather in spite of them. Only very late and only in the West did the Romans rely on foreign forces, fighting independently, but by then, things had disintegrated to the point where Rome was really just a name anyway. The Eastern Roman Empire, which was where Constantine moved the capital, never used such a system.
As to recruiting Germans… the Roman legionary combat system itself was very complex and coordinated, and required much training to master and execute under fire. The legionary soldier was expected to be able to flexibly fill the role of any fallen soldier, whose responsibilities in battle might be quite different—in a huge range of scenarios. This required extensive and continual training, which meant that there were no low-skill positions in the army, and, yes, there were never enough legions.
As a result, the Roman system eventually required soldiering to be a lifelong commitment. Enlistment was for a minimum 20 years, after which the reward was land, which immediately placed the soldier in a much elevated social class. It was a very high risk, high reward system. The people drawn to it were, thus, usually pulled from more marginal classes, including foreigners living on the fringes of the empire. It didn’t make a lot of sense for landed Romans to sign up for a reward they already possessed.
As with everything in Rome, the practicalities and advantages of such a system are often ignored in favor of moral explanations.
US strong points are Navy and Air Force.
US ground troops are not very impressive.
So I can not see “symmetric warfare” US vs China, I wonder if calling them peers would be correct…
The only practical war approach it seems for USA would be to lead total war on seas and air routes, destroying all Chinese naval and air trade vessels. And that perhaps is why China wants their OBOR road built.
China clearly is not “high in numbers” when about Navy and Air Force, not yet at least.
But ground invasion of US GI into China mainland? USA almost failed in Korea, failed in Vietnam, and try it again with China?
That would not do. US would try to secure some other soldiers for ground invasion – Japanese, Philippines, Vietnamese, someone. And would be logistics+CAS to them. And I wonder if China would then secure North Korea army help 😀
So, it would be either proxy war or assymetric war, when it comes to US vs China
USSR was very keen on SOF in the wake of WW2.
Like large Kiev Drills of 1935
upload . Wikimedia . org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/Paratroopers_jumping_from_Tupolev_TB-3 . jpg
You know what? When USSR was caught off guard – all those SOFs were lost investment, totally.
Their light ammo and light equipment meant they can not stand again German tanks fist.
German air supremacy meant they could hardly be delivered “beyond enemy lines”, and even if they were there would be absolutely no way to supply them. After such a raider group would run out of ammo and food the only thing for Germans to do would be to build a fence around them and put “concentration camp” signs over it.
So, some of those SOFs were hastily re-trained as conventional foot soldiers and some few were converted to marines, but mostly they were spent as reinforcements to patch never ending new cuts in Soviet defense lines and having neither training to equipment for conventional field warfare – vaporized without trace.
All in all, SOFs are expeditionary forces, when “white civilized man” gives a lesson to “unruly savages”. In this situation of overall superiority (full spectrum dominance, a-ha) a few elite pro’s with light but elite weapons and unlimited supply – they can do a lot. But if there is no total superiority, then the war balances itself to semi-equal field war, and then their weak sides can be exploited devastatingly.
Guys from Syria told that
1. Army units are much more stronger than any insurgents. But they always are late to the party. When terrorists employ hit-and-run everywhere, army units (stronger = more expensive = fewer in numbers) get exhausted just by running here an there and never getting in time. (Maybe it is similar how WW2 started for USSR, when dis-connected heavy-tanks armored units rushed back and forth trying to intercept German break-through light speedy tanks. And in the end Soviet tanks just run out of fuel and maintenance and were but all just abandoned).
2. Police units are just weapon depots for terrorists. Police is trained to deal with street burglars, and to be called to the place and choosing how and when to attack those thugs. Terrorists reverse it. Now they center around idle police stations and do all out as they choose. Police has some chances to survive, but that is at best.
3. The more advanced is civilization, the higher is pyramid of inter-dependent technologies, the more are weak joints to attack and collapse. In some desert village one would have to literally raise every shack and kill them all. In a city one can find water purifier station and let chlorium out making all the block suffocate, etc. High specialization of functions leads to strong cross-dependency and one service would not replace another.
4. People in urban environment do not structure with their neighbors, they instead structure more by professional or religious or some other non-geometric means. When push shoves, they are aliens to one another. Disconnected and confused. Ready hostages, indeed. Note, terrorists do not need to take some preset list of names hostages. If some specific person is giving resistance – they are more than okay to skip him and get next easier victim. They only need numbers.
5. Terrorists do not need to actually get to the power. Not in the first phase at least. Their goal is destruction of civilization. If they in few hours (before disappearing) deal the city damage that would take months to sort out – then they had brilliant ROI. Their initial goal is just to let the state/society bleed out. Internal war of attrition.
6. It was said, that the only practical counter-tactic was to arm and train locals into small highly-cohesive interconnected team. Their goal is like dogs at bear hunting. They are no match for terrorists, but that is not their goal. If one of them sees early stages of the attack – he takes the phone and calls all the group to the place. And there the group starts low-intensity attack on terrorists. They are not truly engaging them, but rather bog them down. They give terrorists more pressing needs than destructing the city infrastructure and they do not allow terrorists group to atomize and hide among the population. They force terrorists to hold together and defend themselves until spec-ops or army comes to finally wipe them. That was said to be more or less successful tactic, but needing very different power-to-people relation structure.
A most illuminating account. Some hard-won experience there, by the sound of it. If you were able to indicate sources that would be something quite useful to send to friends who believe that most Jihadis are a cross between social workers and community organisers.
It’s off topic I’m afraid but your mention of chlorine brought some reports to mind.
Sometimes after urban fighting there are reports of a smell of chlorine gas in the streets. It has been claimed that this shows that the SAA uses chlorine as a chemical weapon. An alternative claim is that chlorine is stored domestically for water purification purposes and artillery fire sometimes ruptures the tanks.
Might I ask, are there any sources that shed light on these conflicting claims?
Have you seen the latest?
American-made M-ATVs and MRAPs are not included in the aid package for the SDF. Also, pictures of the M-ATVs show mounts for the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWs system — a remotely operated weapons system that can be controlled by troops from inside the vehicle. CROWs systems are also not included in aid to Kurdish fighters.
These vehicles have commonly been operated by U.S special operations forces in Syria. The timing and appearance of the large convoys of M-ATVs calls into question their purpose.
and no more CIA covert program to arm the opposition rebels
Perhaps this equipment is a temporary reinforcement to capture Raqqa. I read that that offensive was paused due to increasing SDF/YPG casualties. I have no idea what is meant by large convoys. It may mean a dozen vehicles. Beyond a temporary need to reinforce the assault on Raqqa, I do not want to see the YPG/SDF flooded with weaponry. In fact, we should be planning for the inevitable need to demobilize parts of the YPG/SDF. That should be part of the political solution of reintegration into a united Syria. The Green Berets involved with these forces should be screaming about this critical phase in UW. In fact they should be rubbing CJTFOIR’s and CENTCOM’s noses into this. If that fails, they should shove it down their throats, jam it up their arses or whatever it takes to prevent any attempted establishment of a Coalition protectorate in northern Syria.
The news about ending the CIA’s program to arm our favorite jihadis is most welcome. Trump is to be commended for this decision. Those who are screaming that Trump is doing this because Trump is Putin’s puppet are full of crap. This was decided a month ago long before the two had their face-to-face talks. Now if he eventually starts withdrawing from northern Syria, he will really be on to something.
Thank you, Seacoaster, that is a treasure trove of information.
Just wondering if any of you have read and have any comments on:
“Russia’s superior new weapons”
by MG (Ret.) Robert H. Scales, Jr. (former commandant of the U.S. Army War College), 2016-08-05
He concludes his WaPo op-ed as follows:
Here is a link to a Turkish site w/ an interesting map.
It contains a few links to redacted versions in English therein. Most in the region think that US is after a “Coalition protectorate in northern Syria” and this has the potential of causing some problems for the region, the USA, and the Kurds if USA withdraws from the area.
P.s: I also do most of my auto maintenance. Last weekend’s job: water pump, radiator, thermostat and harmonic balancer on 3.8L Chrysler.
I wrote two posts about Russia’s impressive capability in radio-electronic combat here on SST. I’m glad to see MG Scales is taking it seriously. My guess is that the entire DOD is taking it seriously. As far as artillery goes, we have definitely let out capabilities wither. I know the 25th Division Artillery Brigade was deployed as an area command to Afghanistan rather than as an artillery brigade. I always thought we relied too much on air support rather than organic artillery for the last 15 years. It’s a real shame.
Thanks for that. I read some short blurbs about Turkey publishing a map of US bases in northern Syria, but I didn’t see any of the articles. I knew of the airfield near Hasakah that was under construction well over a year ago. I think it started as a small agricultural airfield. If we (the US) stay there, we are idiots.
I started doing all my auto work in college. There were four in my fraternity with VW bugs. We were always rebuilding an engine or two to bolt in when we needed them. I miss the simplicity of those cars.
I followed the Bundy Ranch with interest but never got a handle on the background to it. Was it merely a dispute about a specific grievance, or was it a generalised sense of grievance that just happened to crystalise at that time? Either way, such occurrences don’t seem to demonstrate that prerequisite for a reliable defence, a unified society with confidence in its governing elite.
Not that I think the American governing elite is any sort of unified entity, with clear goals and strategies. It looks more like ours – an arbitrary muddle with various interest groups slithering about in the decay. Or swamp, you might call it. The groups overlap and interact – the Colonel’s Venn diagrams are I believe the best way of visualising those interactions – but there’s not a lot of vision or purpose in the thing as a whole.
Such vision as there is would, I imagine, have been focused pretty sharply on the Bundy Ranch. I doubt the Beltway understands the background to it that well either, especially when there are State, local and agency levels interposed, but peering through the fog the primitive instinct for survival of a governing elite would be enough for that governing elite to say firmly: “We don’t want any more of that”.
That response was sensible enough in itself – it’s common ground that there are better ways of resolving domestic disputes than waving guns around – but the follow up was wrong. It consisted, again as far as I could see from the outside, of suppression rather than concession.
I’m not being partisan here, merely looking at how such things are dealt with. When a remote governing elite is so out of touch that some grievance gets out of hand to the extent of several thousand people shaping up for a confrontation, then the elite has only two choices. Either pack them all off to the Gulag or treat them with a bit of respect. That means identifying a leader or group of leaders to negotiate with, finding out what’s really behind it all, and giving a little. It’s the way it’s done that counts as much as this or that concession. In the perception of many involved in the incident, and it’s perception that counts when a threat to social stability is in question, there was a bit more Gulag than respect.
To move from that tiny incident to the general, that’s been the response of the European and American elites to the recent regrettable outbreaks of populism; they call it “populism” if ever the deplorables try to say “We’re here too.” Pretend it’s not happening if you can. Knock it on the head if you can’t. Hello, democracy.
Those elites have a broad base of political support. There’s an immense supporting cast, maybe most of the middle class, so they’re not going to move over in a hurry. In fact an elite + the middle class, with the deplorables grumbling away on the periphery, is a common enough model. Juncker et al would be on solid ground when they assume that the model is stable if only they weren’t underestimating the forces that are lining up to test that model to destruction. In the meantime, in this period of ossification that’s our condition at the moment, the governing elites are going to regard large sections of their populations as a threat to be contained rather than a force to be accommodated.
I believe that accounts for what you observe, that they are “adamant in the pacification of their populations.”
That was semi-anonymous and few years ago (2013?) , so I would not have the “first source”. Take it or leave it. But it sounds plausible.
> your mention of chlorine
It was just an example of urban civilization fragility, nothing more. In USSR this example was used at civil training sometimes. Meaning that in case of chemical assault one has to keep his eyes open and think. Like with some gases one has to get to the highest floors of the building, and with others one has to keep down to the ground, etc.
This particular example was disconnected from any specific situation.
Chlorine was vastly used to disinfect tap water in 20th century Europe, USSR, etc.
While today Russia moves to using hard UV radiation instead, but most inherited water preparation stations are using chlorine.
Looking how Syria uses MiG-21 obsolete jets, I think their urban infrastructure is also from 1970-s. Assuming there are chlorine consumers and chlorine producers. And all this chain, health-protecting in peaceful time, is turned into almost ready weapon as soon as someone “unhinged” enough is there.
USSR was mostly preparing itself for conventional European armies invasion, like in 1914 and 1918 and 1941, so it was expecting chlorine-using stations to be targeted by bombers and howitzers rather than jihadies on Toyotas. But the end result of their destruction is similar no matter of methods.
Give it also hot climate and general luck of water in Middle East.
In Russian rural areas one can dig well in a soil or even go to a forest swamp, and water would be consumable without any processing. But not in Middle East.
Also think that to produce chlorine one only needs electricity and salt. It is a very lo-tech weapon, there was a reason it was the first WMD in history…
The point of the very story I retold, though was, what made me remember that story mostly, at the first stage terrorists do not seek to threaten government or population into compliance. That would be unrealistic. They also are much less numerous and strong that the state. So their strategy is much different from what our inertia of thinking make as think.
Wasn’t it breathtaking how strong state of Syria suddenly collapsed?
First months did not suggested it. Sure, some gangs making bad things here and there, but, kind of “so what? more people die in car crashes”, it was expected to be a yet another strain, but no more.
Then suddenly huge parts of state were lost (given up) with no obvious high-profile trigger of reason to do it.
Then in the early 2014 SAA seemed to even almost root ISIS out and was expected to slowly retake land – but ISIS was reinforced and resupplied in Mosul and things turned really awful.
But that was the phase of open warfare. Non conventional army, but warfare was open, claims of landmasses, claims of inhabited points, etc.
Mysterious things was before, how relatively strong state obviously much more powerful than any and all gangs combined – suddenly fled away.
And this account depicts it. Phase 1 of terrorist attack is not targeted at real clash of arms, but instead at making the nation bleed out. Destroying key infrastructure objects without punishment. Destroying key people society cements around. Etc.
Slowly urban industrial cities stop being so, and no one bothers to repair, knowing anything they would fix with hard labor would just be effortlessly blasted few weeks later. And they and their families may be punished for it too. Army gets trained in the idea they can do no good than to endlessly run around until out of force/gasoline/cars. Police learns to barricade and survive inside at any noise, instead of going into the street and protect citizens. Citizens learn army is never there when you need and police does not even try. And so on.
Phase 1 is slow but relentless destruction of (any random) key points of infrastructure and key figures of society, and driving people and institutes into “learned helplessness”.
Traditional anti-terrorism measures of 20th century do no good here, as they were developed to counter very different pattern and source of threat.
Traditionally terrorism is seen as demonstrative “tearing flowers apart” – finding highly visible (for media, national pride, etc)targets to attack by small force.
Counter-intelligence plus hardened security teams around those few high-profile objects can do with it.
In a sense, it is attack to the perimeter, against the surface of what nation thinks of itself it is.
Anti-state terrorism instead uses MANY disconnected teams pursuing MANY random (= unpredictable) targets, spreading state’s elite force beyond their capabilities. Every target is of low visibility ( no one in his mundane casual life thinks of them ), but costs a lot to rebuild. Every action causes little visible damage, but they taken together exhaust state and nation beyond surface.
In the end, the surface is mostly intact, everything looks okay, but it is hollow inside and out of a sudden just collapse “without reason”.
Regarding the very use of chlorine as WMD I have no non-partisan sources, so it is for naught.
Out of common sense though, and looking how Germany used chlorine in WW1
1) chlorine is not that hard to neutralize, for properly supplied army
2) chlorine is “area weapon”, it covers some area, but does not spread around fast, and when it does – it looses concentration.
3) chlorine is heavy, tending to flow downwards
So for what I think
1) It is of little use against rural areas, where jihadi had most support. Population density is small there. You just commit a international-scale crime for depopulating a dozen or two shacks? You can just to it be bullets, with the same effect but much lesser visibility.
2) It perhaps might be of use against underground tunnels, at least temporary. To seal some end for an hour or so.
3) It might be of use in densely populated cities, but those tend to be more secular, less jihadi-friendly.
4) it is a good bonus weapon, like divert from your path to some nearby purifier plant for 10 minutes and blow it off and make this bastards around cry, then continue your way. I’d expect the more small and decentralized group is, the more unhinged it may be to pick this bonus option. So, i’d put less of it on SAA or Iranian spec-ops, but different militia groups on both sides – why not. Especially if there might be rural-origin militia, having resentments against those rich and snobbish and infidel urban-dwellers. Rural vs Urban relationships might be very complicated and unstable, within any nation.
5) But it would hardly be part of some military strategy, both by SAA/Iran high commandment or ISIS/AQ one. Either decentralized opportunists or PR events. The latter do not require real chlorine even.
6) especially since “Toyota wars” emphasize mobility. Oookay, you somehow manage to create chlorine cloud around jihadi-mobile. They just shut the windows and drive half-mile away.
Vandalism as a weapon of war. I don’t think we can determine how much of the vandalism we saw in Syria was spontaneous and how much directed. I do read frequent accusations that we ourselves deliberately destroyed infrastructure in Syria – pumping stations or generating stations – in order to cause disruption. We did destroy Syrian infrastructure extensively but the justification was always, if I remember correctly, that that was a by-product of legitimate military action. I’d imagine that much of the vandalism and killing that you describe was not, however, any part of a directed strategy but the inevitable consequence of letting thugs or terrorists loose on a population, particularly when there are always elements within a population itself, as you indicate, more than willing to join in.
It’s a long way from the “workers’ communes” and respectable “moderate rebels” that such as the NYT would have us believe were the backbone of the “Syrian Resistance”. I don’t have the background to be able to follow your remarkably perceptive analysis all the way into the details, but it rings as true as the generally accepted analysis rings false.
We do, on a miniscule scale, have just a little background in such matters here. The vandalism and, fortunately, the killing was on a quite different scale. It was spontaneous and undirected so there’s a difference there too. But it shows what can happen if things get even a little out of kilter:-
What I remember from 2011 was that the average English man or woman hadn’t the faintest idea how to handle themselves in such circumstances. The Turks and the Kurds did. They knew what to do and had the wit to do it. They lined up outside their shops with what looked like baseball bats and kept the rioters out. Nor is my memory of that time playing me false:-
“The mostly Turkish and Kurdish shop owners along Wood Green, Turnpike Lane and Green Lanes, Harringay, were said to have formed local ‘protection units’ around their shops.”
“Said to have” my foot. They did. And what I suggested in my comment was that we should all of us be allowed to do the same.
Just one snag. If we were to line up outside our houses with weapons for purposes of defence in such circumstances the authorities would, as follows from what Ishmael Zechariah is saying above, be as likely to order us to be arrested as they would the rioters. Our problem, as ever, is not so much those who live alongside us. It’s those who live on top of us.
> We did destroy Syrian infrastructure extensively but the justification was always, if I remember correctly, that that was a by-product of legitimate military action
1) i was tellign about terrorists aka freedom fighters aka democratic rebels aka anti-Asad Syrians. Surely, there could be some SAS officers there sometimes, but all in all that was guerilla – some small arms and mixing with citizens and pretending to be those until sudden attack and immediately after.
NATO Air Force bombing you seems to talk about, that is already Phase 2, totally another case, it was when Phase 1 worked through and Syrian state collapsed enough so ISIS could claim landmasses and declare itself new state.
Then NATO invaders came – claiming Syria de facto ceased to exist – but that was later and different story. That situation was result and purpose of phase 1, where state nominally is exist and is sovereign over all the territory, just “peaceful activists” – all locals of course – blast and kill here and there.
2) Let’s put it into perspective
2a) 2014 and prior – EU loots Syrian Oil through Turkey. Photos of huge auto-cicterns caravans are everywhere. NATO refuses to destroy those caravans, because poor drivers would find no other work, and trucks are their personal property and all that “not a thread of colateral damage” unicorns-speak.
2b) end of 2015 and first half of 2016 – Russian bandits jump in and start destroying those caravans. Free world tries to reason and stop them, to no avail. Wicked Russian cynicaly say collateral damage to trucks and drives is justified by denying ISIS their international trade.
2c) second half of 2016 – as caravans mostly cease to exist, and oil looting into EU is almost stopped, NATO awakes and starts bombing… the last remaining caravans? No, oil refineries. Quoting need to deny ISIS their profits and export capabilities.
Technically 2c could be “a by-product of legitimate military action”, but… not after 2a and 2b.
However, my comments was about terrorists aka local peaceful activists guerilla, not about explicit NATO invasion. Those are different issues.
> but the inevitable consequence of letting thugs or terrorists loose on a population
The terorrists are armed, trained and paid. ISIS used resources of western best PR companies, starting with their banner and to their video commercials.
And that means, their sponsors told them how to act and what to do to get their payrolls.
So, there was some kind of overall strategy. Of course, no one told them “at this specific date at this specific time three of you should take 2kg of this specific explosive and come to this specific address”. That would make no sense. But terroists most probably had pricelist, what and how they can destroy to get this or that reward. And formign such a pricelist was forming the strategy, disconnected and decentralized one, which traditional counter-intelligence is helpless against.
“Only paranoids survive”.
1) Why do you think it was not managed? Remember how Soros crashed Pound ? Market actors reaction to Soros actions was, as you say, spontaneous. But it was not random, it was – en masse – predictable. And being “in the know” Soros pued the strings and controlled the market crash. He did not issued orders to most of actors, but calculating in advance how panicked traders would react he indirectly controlled them and the whole process.
So it could be some non-state global actor just showed to UK national government what havoc he can made. And the government showed how it can or can not supress it. And after showing off, like cats show off before and instead of real fight often, they negotiated something.
Sure, there is no way to check it and no practical value in it, but still.
Also, remember recent blast made by Libyan “freedom fighter” that was protected and shielded by UK secret services no matter how much polcie tried to detooth him in advance.
Was his very act spontaneous? Quite probably. But was the situation, were a man capable of such acts be given green light and virtual immunity, the situation that was constructed through mabny years, was it spontanous too?
Remember “The Strategy Of Indirect Approach” by Liddell Hart
> the average English man or woman hadn’t the faintest idea how to handle themselves in such circumstances.
Yep, and that is what hardline bandits and terrorists are go after.
Shock. Stupor. “This just can not be. I’ll pinch myself and awake.”.
> we should all of us be allowed to do the same.
you are allowed to know your neighbors, you are allowed to pick and own a big wooden stick. It is just people were conditioned to be too “civilized” in bad sense of it.
> Our problem, as ever, is not so much those who live alongside us. It’s those who live on top of us.
Maybe we see, by Trump and Putin, how national/local elites are trying counter-offensive against globalists. Anyway, when elites are in quarrel they may turn to grunts for allies. Afterall, that is wha trevolutions always were, wannabe elites called masses to get rid of ex-elites.
Arioch The – Your account of the mechanics of social breakdown, especially when assisted from outside, is chilling and ought to be required reading for our police and intelligence here. If they don’t know it already. I can’t believe they walk around with their eyes closed.
On the Manchester bombing it looks now as if your explanation is the most likely. We maintained a group of Jihadis here for use abroad and some attacked us instead. But there are no irreproachable sources.
A most worthwhile read. My thanks to you and English Outsider for this very informative discussion.
Forgive my curiosity but was the internal cohesion with the montagnard that made it work, or the ability of you and your brethren to apply “situation adopted leadership”? Or was it that the montagnard saw themselves as fighting for a unified cause under internal leadership they trusted? I know from business how corrosive the effect is on moral when the employees believe that the management is just there for their own enrichment.
Who when faced with Russian artillery transmits on radio from fixed battery position? The Ukr did not camouflage/shoot and scoot/use wire for the artillery positions (based off social media posts showing artillery positions and comment from US officer).
Pity for the airport though. Looked nice during the soccer championship.
In my battalion I am not sure if recon platoon or the wire laying squad worked the hardest!
It was all of that. We were their white friends come back from across the sea, come to defend them from all the Vietnamese. I am a member of two Montagnard tribes and joined FULRO while in my first tour. I am glad I was no longer serving with them when the end came and we essentially abandoned them I might have done something rash. “Mong capitaine, tu mort nous morts” would have been typical of them. pl