Isn’t the failure to remember history instilled in nearly every school kid? The title of this post comes from a thread on a listserv that began with a comment about the US Army (US Armed Forces in general perhaps) forgetting a text from the 1980’s on counter-insurgency (COIN).
Discussions about the nature of the ‘war’ the United States is presently fighting naturally requires a discussion on how we to fight the war. Understanding the right mixture of people, technology, military and police is critical. So is finding a balance between coercive pressures of economics, ideology (culture and religion), politics, and violence. It is like using the equalizer in iTunes. For some music, you push one slider up a bit and another down a bit and so on. For, say, gospel, the some or all of the sliders will move away, up or down, from where it would be for vocal or "spoken word" (audio books for example). Likewise, the sliders will move again when listening to Metallica. Each slider is independent of the other but yet they work best when operating in unison. This is what war is and has been like, and this is where Fourth Generation Warfare fails.
There are an increasing number of questions about what is piracy. This is a brief primer to get the reader started on the road of what piracy may be. As you read, consider the US capture of a Somali pirate in January and how strategy, tactics, and global affairs fit into the game of Risk.
A starter read is the United Nation’s Atlas of the Oceans portal is Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea.
A better, up to date read is from Tech Central Station – Un-Jolly Rogers (16 Nov 05), with highlights below, emphasis added.
War on Terror features counter-pirate operations. Singapore’s Internal
Security Department told me in 2002 that the difference between
battling pirates and stopping terrorists is often slight. The Straits
of Malacca, located between Singapore and Indonesia, is a prime terror
target. The strait is jammed with container ships and oil tankers.
fall 2001, a CENTCOM officer and I explored several "ship assault"
scenarios in the straits. One scenario had the plotscape of a novel,
with Indonesian or Malaysian pirates helping al-Qaida operatives hijack
a tanker. Spilling a million barrels of crude creates an eco-disaster.
Sinking the tanker drives maritime insurance rates sky-high.
June 2005, I received two briefings from CENTCOM naval officers on
coalition naval operations off Africa’s Somali coast and in the Red
Sea. Chasing pirates is a key mission. Stopping piracy protects African
and Arab fishermen and shippers, so it’s good politics. There’s also
little doubt that al-Qaida has paid local pirates to smuggle personnel
patrols off Somalia, however, didn’t deter last week’s audacious — and
unsuccessful — pirate assault on the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit.
Somali pirates, riding in small boats, attacked with rocket-propelled
grenades and automatic weapons. The liner’s captain and crew maneuvered
their ship, using it as a weapon — it’s big, and it generates a
massive wake. The liner also employed a directional "parabolic audio
boom-box." The non-lethal "sonic weapon" emitted an eardrum-shattering
sound. The frustrated pirates retreated.
Somali attack generated international headlines. Though international
monitors recorded 259 "piratical incidents" in the first nine months of
this year, piracy receives very little media coverage.
The spike in media interest may give Jack Gottschalk and Brian Flanagan a belated bestseller. Their "Jolly Roger With an Uzi: The Rise and Threat of Modern Piracy,"
published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, documented the rise of
"new piracy," to include smuggling and maritime scams, as well as
terrorists operating at sea.
and Flanagan identify three "requirements" for piracy, which apply to
Viking pirate raiders as well as contemporary Somali sea thieves:
Pirates prowl waterways where the targets are lucrative.
geographic area where pirates prey must be one in which the risk level
of detection is acceptable."
3) If possible, pirates have "safe havens"
where they can "hide, seek repairs and obtain supplies."
piracy takes good intelligence. The authors also offer this warning:
Piracy "has never been reduced through any process of negotiation."
Historically, only armed force suppresses pirates.
With the impact on commerce and security clear, it would be interesting to investigate why piracy has not achieved greater prominance in the news. It seems to have all the necessary attributes, except, perhaps, a perceived unitary backer. While "Islamic Terrorism" is perceived to be part of the Us vs Them scenario described by so many, mostly notably and unfortunately the President, there is no single Chief Pirate, Chief Propagandist Pirate, or ideological thread to build a fascinating singular story around. Is it possible the cruise ship attack was a lure to allow the TopCat mission? Or was it an chance opportunity?
The debate is increasing over fuel demands on today’s high tech and gas hungry mobile military. The blurring of forward and rear areas has meant supply convoys hauling ammunition, spare parts, food, fuel, and other things are being hit hard. The largest component of these convoys is fuel. Fuel to power generators, trucks, tanks, and aircraft. Stepping around the question of increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles (<1mpg for M1A2 tanks?), what if soldiers had their own energy supplies? Hummers were hybrid?
William Lind’s website d-n-i.net is anextraordinary source of knowledge and analysis I strongly recommend be a part
of any reading list focusing on the future of conflict. William S. Lind writes
a column on this site which is valuable in its content and as a topic for
conversation considering the wide audience it reaches.
21 June 2005 column I found
his closing statement troubling…
failure is strategic, not tactical, and it can only be remedied by a change in
strategic objective. Instead of trying to remake Afghanistan, we need to
redefine our strategic objective to accept that country as it is, always has
been and always will be: a poor, primitive and faction-ridden place, dependent
on poppy cultivation and proud of its strict Islamic traditions.
other words, we have to accept that the Afghanistan we have is as good as it is
going to get. Once we do that, we open the door to a steady reduction in our presence
there and the reduction of Afghan affairs to matters of local importance only.
That, and only that, is a realistic strategic objective in Afghanistan.
The statement that Afghanistan “always has been and always
will be…poor, primitive, [etc]” is a failure to appreciate its history and the
failure of the “strategic objective” itself. It is a hard argument to make that
Iraq did not distract from the American and international communities
commitment to rebuild Afghanistan.
While the UN and NATO did move in to augment and replace
American troops, the political will and economic engines to drive development
and provide viable and realistic alternatives to poppy farming failed to
materialize. Strategic economic solutions are being built, but as in Iraq, fundamental
security has failed to materialize. This is not because of an overwhelming
insurgency against the liberators but because of disillusionment and
intimidation of the liberated.
It seems Mr. Lind appreciates Thomas P. M. Barnett’s Pentagon’s
New Map. While Mr. Barnett provides a convenient explanation for the current
world situation, complex historical and local causes are misrepresented, not
given their true value, or are simply ignored. Mr. Lind falls into the same
trap by failing to connect the past to the present.
The strategic objective should have been to create a
successful federal state out of Afghanistan. The objective should have included
security and market reforms to raise the stakes of individuals, and not of
warlords, to achieve a successful transition. This includes micro-credits,
appropriately modernized agricultural practices, an effective transportation
system (only parts of which are barely coming online now), and restoration of
the education system.
If a towel is going to be thrown in, let’s make sure we know
the real reason why and not create scapegoats. Blaming the failure of strategic objectives is avoiding responsibility for either an errorneous objective or erroneous implementation. I firmly believe it was the failure of appropriate follow through that has led to the present loss of objectives. While not fatal, significant setbacks need to be corrected before moving on to where we could have been if the eye was not taken off the ball.