The Kabul Debacle. Systematic Issues or Leadership Malfeasance?

It is striking that  officially no one  really expected the Afghan  Ahmad Karsai’s regime to survive the pull out of US forces, and with an evacuation date for the US forces firmly set,  it seems inconceivable that one year  later the debacle of Kabul occurred in front  of all the world’s cameras.

The three paragraphs below taken from Anthony Cordesman’s  ( John Hopkins Center for Strategic and International Studies) analysis of the Afghan Military as perceived from the unclassified annual report on Afghanistan, This report is from July 2020.

From the article.

“Here, it is striking that the Department of Defense 1225 report on Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan – issued in June 2020 – makes it clear that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are not ready to stand on their own after U.S. and allied withdrawal – an issue in ways that no U.S. official discussion of the peace process has yet addressed. The Afghan government, the NATO command, and the United States have all steadily classified more and more of the data on Afghan force strength, readiness, and combat capability – but the 1225 Report still makes the limits to the ANDSF all too clear:”

“The full history of the efforts to create effective Afghan forces has yet to be written, but the efforts to build Afghan forces began slowly, were badly underfunded, and were constantly revised. Even the ANA did not have adequate trainers at even the basic training level until 2009-2010, and most were on short one-year tours.

“Many of the U.S. and allied trainers assigned to training had no previous experience in the job until 2009-2010, and for several years, the system reported trainers as being active even if the donor country had only pledged them. Too much emphasis was put on basic and rear area training, and too little focus was put on “train and advise” at the combat unit level.”

How will we ever know the truth of the massive failure of every aspect and competence of our military, foreign service and National command authorities.? There are hints of several minority party congressional probes planned but little can be expected from them as the administration will be in full cover-up status with all the wagons circled and much of the media prepared  to play their parts  as defenders of their chosen political ideology. The political game plan is fairly obvious….delay, divert, obfuscate. The Wuhan virus, the infrastructure circus,  and the every day political turmoil,   are ready made diversions.

What we need and must have is a full fledged and empowered commission  similar to that the 911 commission to dig into this disaster and ascertain the systemic  and personal omissions, sloth, malfeasance, and hubris which allowed this to happen.  It should have subpoena powers and upon conclusion refer culpable individuals for criminal prosecution if warranted. I know this is unlikely. The 911 commission had surfaced many systemic errors but insofar as I know no one  in the intelligence or law enforcement  community   lost their job.  The lack of coordination between law enforcement and the intelligence community was one of the primary reasons for the disaster  but despite all kinds of new bureaucratic “fixes” little has been accomplished.

One of the more intractable problems is the inability to identify  the enemy.  In the 911 Report, after lamenting the low favorable views of the United States, the  Report stated, ” “Many of these views are at  best uninformed about the United States, and at worst, informed by by  cartoonish stereotypes, the coarse expression of a fashionable “occidentalism” among  intellectuals who caricature U.S.  values and policies.” This problems has become much worse, as the word “muslim”  in connection with “terrorism” has  become one of those woke forbidden words.

In watching the dawn to midnight TV  network remembrance of the 911 mass murder, people not around at the time must wonder who were these people who perpetrated this massacre and for what reason.

What is needed is something similar  to the Agranat commission that examined the reasons for the “near thing” ( Israeli unpreparedness for the 1973 war). This report which is examined in some detail in the book The Watchman Fell Asleep by Uri Bar-Joseph. . did  a result in some high officials  losing their jobs, both intelligence and operational leaders.    Roberta Wohlstetter’s analysis (Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision)  of the Pearl Harbor fiasco in which she blamed  human systemic problems writing that  inherent pathologies of the intelligence community adversely “affect honest, dedicated, and intelligent men.” 2 This may be true but there are a host of other issues that never seem to be addressed. They cry out for the light of day.

Somehow the systemic approach does not resonate with me on the Kabul debacle. There are just too many unanswered questions that center around lack of leadership, inertia, sloth, and just plain ignorance. To be sure these after action  reports of disasters are seldom popular among politicians.

Churchill refused to commission a study of the Dunkirk disaster,  believing quite wisely that with a German invasion of the British isles being likely at that point, that the British people could not afford any more bad news. Nor with the Singapore mass surrender. But he was at least honest. saying in a speech to the people, ” thankfulness  at the escape of our army, and so many men. …..must not blind us to the fact that what happened in France and Belgium is a  colossal military disaster.”

We can applaud the last minute mass evacuation of so many Afghans and most Americans  as a well done operation, keeping in mind that the enemy allowed it to happen and could have still stopped the entire  operation with a few mortar rounds. As Churchill observed, “wars  are not won by evacuations.”

The irrefutable fact is that we invaded Afghanistan  to destroy the terrorist Al Qaeda group and those that harbor them, the Taliban. So said president Bush. We failed.

Our military leadership deserves, in fact demands, a close scrutiny, not only of this failure but the general decline of our military prowess, especially in the ethos of martial spirit. We cannot contest other world powers with a military that lacks confidence,  discipline,  and a will to win, something most of which us old soldiers  see or hear evidence of  every day. We must eliminate all vestiges of social engineering and get back to basics.

Finally this commission should analyze how we plan to resettle the thousands of Afghan refugees, keeping in the mind the sad story of the Algerian  refugees from the Algerian war, in which thousands of Algerians ( Harkies) had fought against  their own countrymen   to preserve French rule in Algeria. They  fled to France to avoid slaughter at the hands of the revolutionaries.2 Today the grand sons of these Algerians enforce Jihadi controlled no go zones in a number of French cities. The human condition does not allow gratitude to go very far. We must understand that.

1 However in a later book by  Henry Clausen who did a report on Pearl Harbor for Sec of War , Henry Stimson, (Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement , ) he did indict a number of high officers for negligence in carrying out their duties, including Lt Gen. Walter Short, Admiral Husband Kimmel,  Rear admiral Richmond Turner,  BG Leonard Gerow and a number of 0-6 intelligence types.

2. The Algerians fought bravely in  two world wars  ( in WWII often  better than the French themselves) and IndoChina  for the French empire.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Afghanistan 2021 and Singapore 1942 Calamities Not to be Forgotten

As things in Kabul limp toward some denouement of the Afghanistan tragedy…at least the race to evacuate as many American citizens, and presumably some percentage of the Afghans who aided in our nation building efforts (or were simply enticed into a Western life style) as possible. The odds that will happen are 50/50 for American citizens as the Taliban seems amenable to the propaganda usefulness of allowing Americans to get to the Airport. For the Afghans, SIVs) the odds are very low . How many of the Afghans departing  were truly on our side or simply tribal or cultural enemies of the Taliban is simply beyond the US ability to determine. At present the Biden administration is simply counting numbers, as if the world will be in awe of our ability to convey masses of people by air.

I heard Kamala Harris was in Singapore, probably to get her away from Washington and  avoid her toxic appearances which add gasoline to the many fires, the Administration has allowed to get out of control, such as our Southern border. I am a book worm, especially on WWII, and the part played by our allies…and the saga of the humiliation inflicted on the British by the Japanese at Singapore, thanks to Kamala, came to mind. Churchill called it the worst capitulation in history of British forces,. It was probably the most bitter defeat Churchill ever had to tell his people about. But unlike Biden he was forthright.

Not to worry. Its under control

Leadership is everything

As he told his people.”I speak to you all under the shadow of a heavy band far reaching military defeat. Singapore as fallen…..this, therefore is one of the moments when the British race and nation can show their quality and genius. This is one of those moments when it can draw from the heart of misfortune the vital  impulses of victory.”

In Less than two months  the Japanese battle harden troops moving through the dense jungle of the Malay Peninsula, a feat the British considered impossible, drove ( biking mostly, one of their primary means of transportation was bicycles) south toward Singapore, considered an impregnable fortress by the British military leadership.,  The British troops  were not prepared for war in the jungle,  were  soft from years of garrison life, quickly demoralized, and most of all, afflicted with deplorable military and civilian leadership. Moreover the defense of Singapore was based on defending against a seaward attack , not from the land.  On 15 Feb 1942,General  Percival, the British Commander, surrendered  16,000 British, 14,000 Australian, and 32,oo0 Indian troops, about half of whom joined the Indian National Army, a Japanese puppet unit. They were of no value of the battlefield but a very important asset to the Japanese in their “Asia for Asian” propaganda campaign. Another 30,000 British and colonial troops had surrendered earlier in the Malay jungle war.

In many ways it was a different situation. The collapse was that of the British army and  not  Western trained Afghans. But the impact was the same. The reverberations  of the disaster spread across the world; the far flung British empire ruling a billion people,  held together by a modicum of troops, principally on the deep rooted belief by both the British and their subject peoples that they were they were superior in every respect. In the book  Forgotten Armies by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, the full horror of the British disaster from Singapore is recounted. The Asians who were as anxious to leave as the Europeans were denied passage on British evacuation ships and had to fend for themselves, much as most Afghans are today. A full chapter of the book his devoted to the perfidy of the leadership and the absolute chaos of the  people of Singapore, most overcome by fear and apathy.

What will be remembered is not that we lost then war but the way we exited the war and the people we betrayed

In The Hinge of Fate, Churchill ultimately took responsibility for the lack of permanent fortifications: “I do not write this in any way to excuse myself. I ought to have known. My advisers ought to have known and I ought to have been told, and I ought to have asked. The reason I had not asked about this matter, amid the thousands of questions I put, was that the possibility of Singapore having no landward defences no more entered into my mind than that of a battleship being launched without a bottom.”

General Percival surrenders his forces, more than twice the size of the invading Japanese forces under General Yamashita.

Churchill continued: “I am aware of the various reasons that have been given for this failure: the preoccupation of the troops in training and in building defence works in Northern Malaya; the shortage of civilian labour; pre-war financial limitations and centralized War Office control; the fact that the Army’s role was to protect the naval base, situated on the north shore of the island, and that it was therefore their duty to fight in front of that shore and not along it. I do not consider these reasons valid. Defences should have been built.”

T o Churchill’s shock, among those taken prisoner were 16,000 British, 14,000 Australian, and 32,000 Indian soldiers. About 30,000 had already surrendered in Malaya from December 1941 to February 1942. Churchill called the shameful fall of Singapore to the Japanese the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.

He did not whine about it in public,  blame his predecessors, which he could have very easily done….. in  fact many have pointed out the fact that Singapore was doomed decades prior to its capitulation. It was deemed indefensible by later historians.

That day, Churchill broadcast the tragic news about Singapore to the British people and the world. The Prime Minister said in part: “I speak to you all under the shadow of a heavy and far-reaching military defeat. It is a British and Imperial defeat. Singapore has fallen….This, therefore, is one of those moments when the British race and nation can show their quality and their genius. This is one of those moments when it can draw from the heart of misfortune the vital impulses of victory. We must remember that we are no longer alone.”

Churchill went on to urge fortitude: “Here is the moment to display the calm and poise combined with grim determination which not so long ago brought us out of the very jaws of death. Here is another occasion to show—as so often in our long history—that we can meet reverses with dignity and renewed accessions of strength.”1 Yet Churchill was inconsolable about Singapore.

Lord Moran, Churchill’s physician, wrote: “The fall of Singapore on February 15 stupefied the Prime Minister.” In particular, the surrender of the British troops bewildered him. “How came 100,000 men (half of them of our own race) to hold up their hands to inferior numbers of Japanese? Though his mind had been gradually prepared for its fall, the surrender of the fortress stunned him,” wrote Moran. “He felt it was a disgrace. It left a scar on his mind. One evening, months later, when he was sitting in his bathroom enveloped in a towel, he stopped drying himself and gloomily surveyed the floor: ‘I cannot get over Singapore,’ he said sadly.”

To me, and many like me, the scar of this disgraceful epoch will last a lifetime.Like Churchill I say there can be no excuse, however adroit the word smithing may be. Perhaps then deeper issue is that probably about 50% of our  population  feel nothing, and continue to live in a bubble of ignorance.

History would consider the capture of the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore among the Japanese Army’s greatest wartime achievements. For Churchill it was among Britain’s worst Far Eastern defeats. Without a doubt, the tragic loss of Singapore in 1942 remained in Churchill’s memory for years to come.

Moreover there can be little doubt that the disgraceful loss of Singapore was the end of the British empire. The lost their nerve, and ability to hold their empire toggle. The Japanese and Asians, and in fact people all over the world, looked upon then British capitulation with distain and contempt, and for many many, a great sadness.  The great white memsahibs had feet of clay.

“There was a sense in which the fall of Singapore , seen as the glittering outpost of European civilization, had challenged  its universality. This sense was shared by those who acquiesced in Japanese rule and also be those who fought against it.” quote from  Forgotten Armies.

The evacuation of Singapore was as chaotic as the one from the Airport in Kabul. Australian army deserters forced their way on to departing ships load with civilians  and of some 90 small ships gathered to evacuate the remaining European civilians of Singapore, most were sunk by the Japanese and the survivors machine-gunned in the water. British nurses who treated land were driven to the beach and murdered by machine-gun fire.

The Japanese were just as barbaric as the Taliban…and in fact far worse because they prided themselves on their great civilization. Beheadings, bayonetting soldiers and civilians, who as recounted by the Japanese , simply sat pathetically waiting to be killed.

I, and many others who look to history for lessons in the future, see the debacle in Kabul as a watershed in the history of the American empire. If we had a Winston Churchill waiting in the wings to take over there might be hope, but with the total lack of leadership so obvious in the U.S. today, not only in politics but in every aspect of our culture, there is precious little reason for hope.

But as someone very prescient once wrote, people get the leadership they deserve.

NOTE: another excellent book with a great chapter on  Singapore is The Inferno; The World at War 1939-1945, by Max Hastings. or Winston Churchill , the Hinge Of Fate Chapter 6, ( part of his World war series.)

 

 

 

 


 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

National Disgrace. The Botched Evacuation from Afghanistan

All of those of you still alive and breathing have probably seen the wild stampede and chaos attending the United States military and civilian evacuation from Afghanistan. It rivals and in some ways surpasses the humiliating evacuation from Saigon 30 April 1975.

All presidents from Bush to Biden share responsibility for the ultimate defeat in Afghanistan but only Biden and his incompetent military and intelligence officials can be held responsible for the chaotic and disgraceful  evacuation. Generals Meany, Austin along with Sec State Tony Blinkin and CIA chief William Burns  should resign or be fired.

This disaster includes an extreme failure of the intelligence community. Why did they not know the fragility of the Afghan regime and their armed forces? Were they depending on the assessments by the  US military leadership that kept on repeating the malicious lies that the Afghan forces were improving, and with just a few more years of US occupation all would be well. At some point-and I do not know if it still exists- there was a contracted company doing” sensitivity” assessments of the Afghan people. How did we not know with the thousands of intelligence sources available with contractors, agents, diplomatic circles, military advisors, etc. not know that the Afghan army was a joke…a bad tragic joke?

The Victors.

This intelligence failure rivals and is worse than the well known  Iranian National Intelligence Estimate that saw the Shah of Iran in no danger from Islamist revolutionaries.  For twenty years our intelligence apparatus had the opportunity to mesh inside the Afghan institutions to understand and anticipate the collapse of the regime.What  were they doing? Did the intel community foresee  this collapse and their assessments were ignored By whom?

Did our military leadership  simply go along with rosy assessments of the situation? Did they make provisions for a worst case scenario? Were their ever any exit plans- other than get on a plane in the dark of night and steal away? If so why were they not executed?

Being involved  for a number or years in training troops of allied nations I know how the system works. The battalion advisor submits his report of progress of his unit, usually a bit doctored because after all he has been with the unit for a year and has grown to like many of his trainees, and in his less than impartial eye he sees “problems but improvement” and good things happening. Were he to submit a negative report, his superior is likely to respond, “so what the hell have you been doing for a year?’  So his report, already a bit more rosy than reality  would  suggest will be made rosier as it progresses up the chain.

Vietnam redux

So it was with the Afghan army. The old mantra is still there…. “There are challenges but constant improvement.”  Some Pentagon major  whiz kid probably devised  a digital display that will electronically display Afghan units as combat ready,  ( Green), needs some training ( yellow), and  those not ready( red). He will sell it to his general and voila it will give the briefers charts to show visiting pubahs and you can be sure that this years charts will be better the last and there will be lots of “green” units. The criteria that goes into assessing the readiness will be murky at best.

Bottom line... there must be a special prosecutor appointed acceptable to both side of the aisle to investigate this situation and like the Israeli Agranat  commission after the 1973 war, produce a no holds barred truthful report.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Futility of Nation or State Building in the Middle East

First a couple of definitions. Simplifying  the academic definition of Nation building, my definition is a process by which all the people within the boundaries of a nation feel they are citizens of that nation; e.g., all the people of Iraq believe they are  first of all Iraqis not Kurds , Shi’a, or Sunnis. This process can entail, propaganda, information, industrialization, , and military conscription, etc. For instance Egypt has long used military conscription as a nationalization process for peasant Egyptian youth who had little loyalty to anything or anyone outside their village. On the other hand State -Building entails basically building a viable infrastructure for a modern state; roads, power, water distribution, etc. It appears the United States has hoped to use state-building to create a type of nation-building, i.e., a nation in the political image 0f the United States, ostensibly a democratic nation of free individuals with protection of minority interests. 

For the most part we failed in Iraq and now it appears our failure is even more obvious in Afghanistan. Our troops have departed and the Taliban take more territory every day. There are voices among the  world elite cosmopolitans decrying the fate of the exceedingly thin layer of westernized Afghans who will be at the mercy of medieval barbarians who are poised to take over the rest of the country. We can sympathize with the fate of educated women, who will be relegated back to the conditions of the era of the Prophet and educated young Afghan  men hoping for a better future, but there is little we can do for them. Twenty years  we spent there. The Russians spent nine years there  attempting to set up   some type of Middle eastern version of a communist state. The Russian investment was much less in monetary terms so  but they lost 15000 men as we lost  over 23oo.  As the happy Russian soldiers crossed back into Russia there were many snide articles about the Russians running from Afghanistan with their tails trailing behind them. I assume they are enjoying great deal of schadenfreude at this time.

Russian troops in Afghanistan.

I do not not have a number of lissome lady research assistants gathering stats for me so Im not sure how many billions we wasted on Iraq but in 2018 at a conference in Kuwait the Iraqis asked for another 88.2 $ billion. Of course few countries have officials stupid enough to offer anything near that. One estimate is that we have spent 100$ billion . Nearly all of it wasted.  For those interested in details you can go to the web site of the Office of the Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction.  (OIGIR). Waste and corruption was, and is, pervasive and endemic among the Iraqis and yes…among the tidal wave of American contractors  as well.  Has Iraq made some progress? Yes but for the money very little…some glittering shopping  malls and new government buildings, but overall, as an Iraqi  friend of mine observed on her visit to Baghdad,  it is as dirty and corrupt as it always was. As one might guess the OIGIR recommended the usual remedy that bureaucrats love…. creating an overall agency to coordinate the reconstruction efforts of the DOD, DOS, and the USAID; i.e.,  Hundreds more bureaucrats pulling down good salaries pushing papers across desks, and DOD, DOS, and USAID officials fighting to maintain their piece of the money pie.

Sunni Arabs in Baghdad

I am among the very few  who still maintain we did the right and courageous thing to invade Afghanistan  and destroy the Sunni  Arab – led  al Qaeda and its leadership. It was also the right thing to do  to invade Iraq and destroy the tyrannical Ba’athi regime and their nuclear capabilities. And yes, had we not invaded, the Iraqis would have nuclear capabilities by now. If it makes one  feel safer  that both Iraq and Iran would have nuclear capabilities –  as a number of  pundits seem to suggest…well I can’t argue with that type of hazy convoluted thinking.

The mistake we made in both countries was one usually made by Westerners involving themselves in the Middle East….. we stayed too  long.We were never welcome by the majority of the population in either country, even by those we were saving from slaughter. Of course the knives are out among pundits, experts, and ideologues excoriating their favorite targets, dissecting the reasons for our failures. They have plenty to work with. One group  that has escaped much  of the criticism- but definitely warrants it- has been our military leadership. One article, although it is a bit harsh… because we have some excellent flag officers –but unfortunately not at the top– pretty well exemplifies my thoughts about this.   excerpt  below. found at https://thefederalist.com/2021/08/06/americas-generals-lied-lost-wars-and-looted-the-people-they-pledged-to-serve/

The first King of Iraq, Feisel 1. He was only grudgingly accepted even by his Sunni Arab compatriot. As he bitterly  wrote toward the end of his life. “In Iraq, and I say this with a heavy heart full of sorrow.there is no Iraqi people but unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious tradition and absurdities, connected by no  tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatever.”

 

For too long, America’s generals have relied on a “stab in the back” thesis to justify their failure on the battlefield. The narrative set in after Vietnam and has calcified today. Former national security adviser and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster tweeted on July 8 in regards to the sweeping march of the Taliban that the “US media is finally reporting on the transformation of Afghanistan after their disinterest and defeatism helped set conditions for capitulation and a humanitarian catastrophe.”

McMaster’s attempt to deflect blame for military failure on an insufficiently obsequious media is unacceptable. He and his fellow generals knew full well that Afghanistan was unstable and that our strategy wasn’t working. Instead of speaking up, they lied to the public and then jumped into the private sector to reap the reward of misbegotten trust.”

 

 

It is particularly ironic that H.R. McMaster in his  excellent book Dereliction of Duty  scathingly criticized the Johnson Administration for repeatedly lying to the public and media during the Vietnam war. Lesson learned: If  you continue to write be consistent or penitent if facts force an opinion change..

So what overall wisdom can be learned  from the multitude of recommendations, suggestions, lessons learned ( a misnomer if ever there was one)?

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier. Rudyard Kipling

 

As the bureaucrats and experts were flying to Iraq to join in the Bremer team to build the new Iraq, one journalist reported seeing  them reading books on the reconstruction of Germany and and Japan after world war II.  He doubted they would be of much help. He was correct. Japan  and Germany are nations, cohesive, patriotic, unified.The Germans and Japanese did much of their own reconstruction. Yes we helped with the Marshall plan, in Europe and with about  $182 b. for 16 nations and$ 2.2  b. for Japan. but essentially they cleaned their own messes up.

 

Iraq and Afghanistan are not nations. They are, as one writer termed it ,”Tribes with flags.” The fact that the  old tribal system has largely faded away has in no way changed the culture of the Middle eastern society.  Blood, kinship, and the concentric circles of clan and family still rule. The development of a civil society has not occurred.   Just as Saddam diverted water and power from the Shi’a areas to his “people,” the Sunni Arabs of the north, the Persian ruling Shi’a of Iran divert water and power from the Arab areas to the Persian heartland. Nepotism, the infamous wasta still rules education and employment opportunities.

The Return of Islam,” as Bernard Lewis termed it,  has rigidified the structure of society. The failure of western ideologies, particularly fascism and communism has caused a retreat to the comfortable and  understandable…. the mysteries and solidity of Islamic faith.  On the other hand true democracy has never been sincerely tried. The major pillars of a democratic society are largely counter-cultural to Islam and the vagaries of Middle Eastern culture.  It is unlikely to find a Middle Eastern  home in this century.   There are many reasons. The fact is that few can read and even fewer  understand the scriptures of the Qur’an, in its classical Arabic,  or the multitude of Hadiths( sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) with its varying interpretations. This  ignorance  enables despots in clerical garb,  to have an inordinate influence within the society..    “Westoxidation,” or the adoption or imitation  of Western tenets of civilization  are seen as  great evil and a threat to the religious clerics who exert great power even  beneath the facade of military rule.

Their belief in the triumphalism and superiority of their faith impedes their ability to fully assimilate into a Western civilization or accept its basic tenets. The anguish of Jehan Sadat  went through after the assassination of Sadat reveals the extent of anti-Westernism and hatred for those Middle Easterners accused of associating themselves with  it.  Among her “crimes” according to a leading cleric was “refusing to stay in the sanctuary of her home, cleaning and cooking as the wives of the prophet did.” Finding a home in the West fleeing persecution and starvation of their home countries they tend to settle in ghettoes and insist on living by the same rules of their society from which they fled.The example of the Harkies (Algerians who sided with their  French occupiers  in the civil war) and fled to France to avoid massacre are now a major problem in France as they and their descendants have created little Algerias and challenge French secular rule.

Harkies. Algerians who had fought all vower the world for the French and fought against the Algerian revolutionaries. They were being systematically killed by the revolutionaries when the French departed. Same narrative as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

 

While the ability of the Middle Eastern Islamist are quick and amazingly  innovative in their ability to use Western gimmicks and technology,  they are a people who have learned the dance steps but have yet to hear the music.  Advantages of one segment of society are not to be shared but kept locked up for the benefit of those who possess it. Information is power.

So if (a big if) we must go into another Middle Eastern country…go in  and kill those who need to be killed, destroy the war infrastructure, including their military or armed forces organization, provide some limited humanitarian aid and depart  forthwith and without further delay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arabistan or Khuzistan or Ahwaz

flag of Ahwaz Liberation Movement

 

Iran at present has multiple problems, including the Wuhan virus running rampant through a number of Iranian regions, a failing economy, infighting among their regime elites but currently the most serious problem is the sectarian issue. As I wrote in a previous blog Iran encompasses a number of religious and ethnic minorities. Azeris, Lurs, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Turkomen and a number of powerful tribes such as the Bakhtiari  inhabit the space known as Iran. In fact the Persians, the core people of Iran, constitute only about 50% of the population. The Persians are an ancient and very proud people. Sensitive and highly imaginative, they are also frequently depicted as consummately devious and manipulative. The Persian  intricate societal mores are so nuanced as to be  often imperceptible invisible  to the Western mindset.This is why any negotiating with the Iranians on the nuclear issue doomed to failure.

Iranian Way of War

also see  https://memoriesandreflections.blog/2020/07/13/iran-the-enemy-that-refuses-to-follow-the-rules/

Given that the Iranian regime is confronted with looming sectarian revolt I am looking at just one of the trouble spots today– Khuzistan, or Arabistan as it was known to the British in their colonial days.

Iran is a land of subdued, mostly compliant ,but non Persian peoples. Persians are only about 50% of the total population

The People of Khuzestan 

Residing mainly in the south-west of Iran, the Ahwazi Arabs are one of the Middle East’s most disadvantaged and persecuted ethnic groups. The overwhelming majority of the Ahwazi Arabs live in Iran’s Khuzestan province (accounting for some 67% of the province’s population), which occupies a geo-strategically crucial position. Not only is it the gateway between the Arab world and Asia, but it also accounts for up to 90% of Iran’s oil resources. This ‘accident of natural geography’, far from being to the benefit of the local population, though, has been the source of much hardship. Whilst Khuzestan’s oil forms the backbone of the Iranian economy, its people have been viewed, at best, as an inconvenience, or, at worst, a threat, by the Iranian government. In order to eradicate their threat to the Iranian establishment, Ahwazi Arabs are subjected to a mixture of Persianisation, forced migration, violent political repression and economic exclusion.

Once part of the biblical Garden of Eden It has largely become a waste land, partly by Mother Nature but more importantly by poor water management

The people are mostly Arab despite years of forced Persianization,  emigration, and Persians being hired instead of locals. Despite considerable intermarriage in the coastal urban areas, the Arabs still form a distinct sectarian community. They are primarily Shi’a Muslim but a considerable number are Sunni Arab. This has consequences  in the resistance movement against the Tehran regime. Frequently the people of the region bewilder foreign intelligence predictions. In World War I the British assumed that the Shi’a inhabitants would resist Sunni Turkish military movements in the region  but they actually assisted them. Prior to the Iran-Iraq War the Iraqis assumed the Arab residents of  Khuzestan   would assist the invading Iraqi forces. They did not so so, remaining rather passive throughout the 19 month Iraqi  occupation of  the Iranian city of Khorramshahr and surrounding region.

Water riot in Khuzistan

The lesson here is that the exact sentiments of the people is very difficult predict and this is epitomized by a report of the Jamestown Foundation on Terrorism. “There are various opposition groups which claim to represent the Arab population of Khuzestan. All of them are banned in Iran but operate in exile while claiming to have an active presence in the province. However the most prominent group that claims to be militarily active is the Ba’athist Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahwaz (ASMLA) and its armed wing, the Martyr Mohye al-Din al-Nasir Brigade (MMDNB). The latter’s strategy is to target oil production facilities in the province as a means of weakening the Iranian economy, which depends heavily on the oil of Khuzestan Province. ”

The ethnic issue has been largely exacerbated recently by a serious  water shortage. This has been building up over a number of years. In his book, Mission for my Country, The late Shah of Iran waxes optimistically on all the great hydroelectric  dams and water distribution projects, which in effect drew water from Khuzestan sources  and transferred  it to the Persian urban centers. It is ironic that the source of so much Iranian water is so much in need of water itself. These great hydro-electric plants and dams have proved to be a basic problem and the urban centers of the Persian regime are unlikely to share the dwindling water sources.

 

As the Shah wrote, “The province of Khuzistan in southwest Iran is about the size of North Caroline. Many centuries ago the province produced lush harvests of sugar cane, wheat and other crops.” This he wrote, was erased by the “invasion.”  he is referring to the Arab invasion of  Persia in 637 AD. In Persian history the Arabs are the arch villains, and their descendants in the Khuzistan province are being treated as such. With the advent of the Islamic regime, there was an attempt to bridge the gap between Arab and Persian with Islamist doctrine, but the Iran-Iraq war further enflamed the animosity between Arab and Persian, especially the Bathi Sunni Arabs.

Iranians arresting US sailors who by misadventure sailed into Iranian waters. Underwent subtle humiliation. Obama response. Crickets!

Once the bread basket of the Persian empire it is now depopulated, With decreasing arable land and an undereducated, underfed people to farm it, there is a steady emigration out oof the province.,  The burning ambition of the Middle Eastern states to “catch up”  with the  West, a driving objective of the Pahlavi regime brought up many benefits to Iran but in the Persian mind set, more feelings of hatred for the outsider. As Elizabeth Monroe, a foremost scholar of Iranian studies put it, “Persians have a great sense of their past. They never forget that that their forbears led the world in many branches of civilization , and they dislike seeing evidence of the long start that the modern Western world over the Orient  in material and technical matters.” The below was lifted from the Report of Ahwaz Human Rights organization dated July 2007

“The 1979 Ahwazi Arab uprising led to the biggest massacre in modern Iranian history, with 817 unarmed Ahwazi Arabs slaughtered in the streets of Mohammerah (renamed Khorramshahr) by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards. Most died during one single day of carnage, which has become known as Black Wednesday. During the massacre, General Madani imposed a brutal clamp-down on Arabs in Mohammerah in May 1979 which Ahwazi Arabs regard as a crime against humanity. At the time, Arabs were demonstrating for cultural rights and were supported by Ayatollah Mohammed Taher al-Khaqani, an Ahwazi Shi’ite mullah. Following the massacre, al-Khaqani was put under house arrest in Qom, where he died. His son Sheikh Mohammed Kazem al- Khaqani continues to campaign for secularism, religious tolerance and human rights.”

 

There have been sporadic resistance/terror attacks by Khuzistan militants , the worst being an attack of an Iranian military procession on 22 September 2018 in Ahwaz . 25 IRGC military and civilians were killed. There have been a continuing series off sabotage on oil pipelines and attacks on Iranian officials.

The bottom. line is that the Iranians  regime is involved in a campaign to destroy the Arab culture of Khuzistan through ethnocide, linguicide and genocide. The genocide being conducted by hunger and  isolation off the Arab people. The Iranians are much smatter than the Saddam method of dealing with rebels.

 

So the bottom line. Do these revolts and disturbances deter the Iranian irredentism  and aggression throughout the Middle East  and other parts of the World, particularly  South America? Not at all! In fact in recent weeks the pace of provocative acts by the Iranian regime has greatly increased directly and especially by their surrogates in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Gaza and especially in Iraq. In Iraq as the Shi’a militia battles certain elements of the ISIS. The Iranians appear to be cooperating with the al Qaeda terror group. The Iranians have a chameleon like adaptive ability to play on both sides of the war of the wars.

The Iranian commander of the IRGC is talking fire and brimstone

Hossein Salami commander of the IRGC ( revolutionary Guards) I must admit the the absence of medals as festooned on the chests of US generals appeals to me.

recent article on note on the Iranian situation.

https://besacenter.org/dismantle-iran-now/

https://www.hoover.org/research/prospects-new-iran-deal?utm_source=Strategika&utm_campaign=8e2373a7d4-Strategika_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ec368bf78b-8e2373a7d4-72888501

The above has many articles on Iran. Some like Luttwak’s and Mansoor’s  and maybe Ralph peter’s very good ……others naive at best.

Final note. Iran, like a wounded animal is now more dangerous that ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Second Lebanese war. Lessons learned that the U.S. Needs to Understand

Hassan Nasrallah Cleric terrorist

In July 2006, Hezbollah militants attacked an Israeli patrol along the northern border with Lebanon destroying two vehicles, killing 5 soldiers and capturing three which they took with them back into Lebanon,  ( the second Lebanon War)starting a war which began as an Israeli retaliatory response and ended up in a full 46 day war. There have been a profusion of studies on the why’s and wherefores with many  lessons learned, some  seemingly contradictory. There is no doubt that the  last majority of the Israeli military professionals viewed it as a lost war..a “bungle” a “resounding failure,” although 15 years later some have come up with a success result…i.e. the fact that the Hezbollah have not ventured to initiate another full scale war…not even when their Gazan brothers were being pounded in the recent Gazan dustup.

Hezbollah send off to the Islamic Valhalla

 

Actually the Israelis have invaded Lebanon three times, first in 1978, then in the 1982 Lebanese civil war, and finally the 2006 war. Of course during the whole period from 1948 to the present, Lebanon has been at a pseudo state of war with Israel….a war most Lebanese would love to avoid.

I will stick to those aspects of the Israeli misadventure which should be absorbed by the U.S. military—- as it has a slow building crisis of effectiveness and  burgeoning doubt as to its capabilities.There were many points that the Israelis  found to criticize their military but I chose to single out a few that I see as most relevant to the US army. I used many sources..all good ones by people I know  who stick to the facts without the usual ideological and academic  sophistry.  Relating  these lessons to those of Vietnam are from my study over the years and my own observations.

The Lessons

  1. Edward Luttwak  has used the term post-heroic phase of warfare to depict a casualty adverse society. As Americans our enemies have often used the “body bag” rationale to launch wars they cannot possible win ( example Iraq in desert Storm) but inflict ( in their minds) an unacceptable number of casualties, in a mini war of attrition. The idea among many western journalists, who nowadays who often define the parameters of war, is that despite their  leftie- third wordism outlook they assume  that the “brown people” are oblivious to  casualties. This was disproved by the butcher Khomenei’s accepting a truce with Iraq despite their overwhelming advantage in numbers. Public outcry from Iranian  moms and wives was instrumental in this. The massive loss of life from human wave attacks on fortified Iraqi positions was the pivotal point. Examples of how this works abound.   An Israeli attack on the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil cost the Israelis 8  soldiers killed. This was perceived around the world and in Israel as a catastrophe. The Israelis did not use attack helicopters for fear of losing pilots. Similarly the IAF bombed from high altitudes, every IDF casualty was reported to the Chief of Staff. In one case the an operation was stopped because of one casualty. Sensitivity to casualties on the other side are also critical. 28 Lebanese civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike on Qana and the IAF immediately suspended air operations for 48 hours during a critical phase of their adnate in to Lebanon. On the other hand the Palestinians were seemingly not susceptible to  casualties,  with the usual Arab bravado making a psychological impact on the journalists….for example during one of the earlier Lebanese wars, a Lebanese woman shouted to a correspondent,” I have lost a son but I have nine more to give.” This makes a newsman’s day.

Lebanese people paid a severe price for allowing the Palestinian and the Hezbollah movement to become domineering powerful state within a state in their nation

 

2.The cult of technology. This has been a sore thumb since the  Vietnam war in which we fought third world low intensity conflict with  conventional weapons and more importantly, a conventional war outlook in the minds of our military and political leaders. The Israelis pride themselves on their technical capabilities, and rightfully so, but as so many have pointed out, apparently futilely,  the war against the unconventional foes can only be won by occupying the land on which they live with overwhelming force. One of the major mistakes of Vietnam and Iraq…the” graduated response”   and trying to do the impossible on the cheap. Many old military guys will tell you that  especially susceptible to degradation of military readiness by this “cult of gadgets” is intelligence and close combat proficiency. Perhaps more importantly  with all the informational gadgetry and communication  means, IDF commanders in the Lebanese  war were further and further away from the critical points of combat.  Moreover maneuver was replaced by firepower as the final arbiter of victory…another aspect of the body bag syndrome.

James William Gibson wrote an excellent book  entitled The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam.   His premise was that we did not lose the war because of tactical and strategic mistakes or poor military and political leadership ( although there was plenty of that) but rather we were “unrestrained in our faith in technology.” So it is today. The recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia has the techno gurus all aflutter over drone  warfare.

Combat driven by machines.

 

3.Firepower vs maneuver. The Israelis once masters of maneuver warfare resorted to reliance on firepower to reduce casualties but the major problem was that the Israelis relied on AirPower ” flying artillery” to do the job and they failed. Secondly the Israelis have never invested heavily in a competent artillery component. During the years of occupation duty the armor and artillery units were used as police units in the West Bank– similarly as American artillery, which the Germans in WWII saw as the most effective arm of the American ground forces, were used as convoy protection in Iraq. Most did not even bring their howitzers to Iraq. The IDF artillery fired a massive amount of artillery but it was generally inaccurate and ineffective.  The IDF used more artillery ammunition in 2006 than in the 1973 war against two large conventional armies. Shelling the stone buildings of Lebanese villages created rubble and more excellent defensive positions for the Hezbollah  fighters to use. A prime  historical example of this  being the Battle of Casino in the Italian campaign. The Israelis also bought into the American doctrine  (perhaps unstated) that  you can bomb people into submission. It did not work in WWII and did not work in Vietnam. Nor did it work in Iraq.The pain threshold  of Western nations today is far below that of the third world…in which people have much less to lose.

IAF f-16

4.The Elite Force concept.  Also borrowed from American “defense intellectuals”  was the idea that a small elite force can win wars , it’s an attractive idea because it means reduced conventional forces, it’s economical, and reduces the stress on a society in which males are not eager to  It also is a chimera. The” small smart” units did great things but they failed to win the war. This idea of defused warfare came from -again- American “military intellectuals” as an outgrowth of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), and “effects based operations. ” These widely published theories  like “getting inside the enemies thinking loop,”sound great- and may be-  but to the combat commanders on the ground they mean little. An American example  was publication of the much heralded  FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. An excellent piece of work- a high quality PHD thesis, but as one division commander told me, combat tactical leaders had no time to read and digest the lessons.  The huge impact of social engineering and  extraneous training and education was a burden most unit commanders could not carry. This was particularly true in the Israeli army of 2006 as I will discuss in the  next section.

 

5. The “intellectualization” and politicization of the IDF officer corps.   A number of analysts of the 2006 war concluded the professionalism of the IDF officer corps had declined considerably, to the point that many were disgruntled, and the high praise usually given to officers by the public  has drastically declined to the point some called them “hedonists” because their alleged, (untrue)  higher lifestyle. In many cases intense realistic training has given way to discussions of new idea imported from the US. One writer  called it “superficial intellectualization.” According to this writer this clouded the traditional defense doctrine – battlefield decision- making. Israelis were famed in their conventional wars for their mission type conduct of operations called auftragstaktik .  The adoption of American thinking were termed as “pretentious post modern approach to war.”  It reminds me of a number of American officers, usually junior or field grade who have become well known for their PHD writing rather than their military service.  Many of the senior Israeli military leaders had political aspirations and were followers of specific ideological or political parties. Being political rivals they were often loath to work together. With the number of American general officers lining up on one side or the other of the political spectrum, and many on active duty are merely swimming with  the new political tide emanating from Washington, this trend has become real danger to the American republic.  Moreover the decline in effectiveness of the Israeli officer corps is a reminder of American deficiencies in producing  mediocrities to lead ill trained troops into  battle. It makes painful reading but one should read Command Culture by Jorg Muth, Wherein the Israeli combat leaders  were habitually upfront with the troops,   in the 2006 war they were often far behind the troops using sophisticated communication means to stay clued in– but unfortunately they proved inadequate. Jorg Muth in his book pointed out the  studies that indicated most American soldiers  of WWII in the European theatre never saw their commanders and were usually derogatory in their views of them.  In the early years of the Vietnam war in which I served ed , this was not true, but as the war dragged on,  distrust between officers and their men became common. According to the analysts of the Lebanese war, orders were not carried out, and mistrust was pervasive.

General Franz Haider was asked by American military historians to review our FM 100-5. he made several cogent points. The American system is opposite the German mission type orders. It tried to present every possible scenario rather than expect the commander to react as ingrained by his military education. It discouraged improvisation. It underestimated the worth of the warrior spirit and psychological conditioning. It did not stress the importance of will. Finally he wrote,”the qualities of character are more important than those of an intellect.

 

6.Training the troops and officers.  The vaunted proficiency  of the IDF became severely questioned after the war by the Winograd Commission which examined the issues that hampered the IDF operations. The commission and analysts have found that the training of the regular Israeli soldiers  had been severely  reduced  as well as that of the reserves.  Many training operations had been cancelled and large scale exercises postponed. The fact of the matter was that the Israeli soldier had gone soft after 1973, which to some Israeli leadership meant the end of conventional wars with the Low Intensity Conflict being the wave of the future. Most were involved in policing and  occupation duties in the West Bank. The 2006 war was not a Low intensity conflict.( LIC)war. It was a conventional war being fought primarily in a built up area  against well trained irregular soldiers – and was not winnable by just elite units.   It is a fact that the LIC model has been the subject of US army focus for many years to the detriment of the conventional arms. It has been well established that American training for junior officers and enlisted men in the conventional arms has never been truly first class- especially compared to that of pre-WWII German junior and senior officers. Sometimes it has been shameful.  As related in so many studies of WWII, American eighteen year olds were fed into the German killing machine and dying before their platoon sergeants even knew their names. The corrupt draft system in place during the Vietnam war, and wholly inadequate combat training given the troops resulted  in the same scenario. One Viet Cong document stated that American soldiers were caught in an ambush ambling across a rice paddy like “ducks.”  I could verify this state of training from my own observations. We were not trained adequately for close in combat.  The Chuck Norris’s do not win wars. It is Pvt Smedlap, who would prefer not to be there at all.   Also of mention are the  bloated various headquarters and with too  few out carrying a rifle. The after action reports of the Israelis also noted the rapid growth of headquarters units but without any any appreciable improvement in coordination of the combined arms. In fact it seemed to detract from coordination. Our “green zones”in Iraq  complete with PXs and gyms have been a subject of ridicule for  many outside observers. The inability of the American generals to figure out a way to secure the airport road to Baghdad brought many smirks of contempt from the journalists being told how great things were going.

Uday’s “love Palace ” in the green zone Baghdad

 

 

 Hubris .This is not specifically mentioned in the reports I read but it is very apparent. The Israelis had become to believe their own press notices and were dismissive of their Lebanese enemy- mostly based on the less than stalwart example of the Palestinians  and Egyptians in earlier wars. As Moshe  Dayan was said to have exclaimed after the 1973 war-” We taught the Arabs how to fight and they taught  us how to lie.” So it is that the Israeli political and  military leaders  invented all sorts of victory statements after the war to cover their tracks. Today we hear repeated– ad Nauseam– that we ( Americans) have the best trained and equipped army in the world. Our senior leaders tell us that constantly. They say our mission in Afghanistan was accomplished , which only brings the prestige of our military to lower repute and creates  wide-spread  cynicism. The vainglorious statements of well being are not  supported by facts. Analyses and books by people like Martin Van Creveld, Colonel  TN Dupuy, Chester Wilmot give another side to the story. The American soldier has the human attributes to be the best soldier in the  world. No doubt about it… but they have only rarely gotten the leadership -all all levels – that they need. So it is that both the Israeli soldier of 2006, and the American soldier for decades, has gone to war inadequately trained. Perhaps an example and crux of the problem is the recent inane US Army recruiting slogan..”Let the Army join you.” In order to save this democracy our army must be totally counter-cultural, and while fair, just, and compassionate, its must be hard and demanding.

 

“Kind hearted people might think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed; war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst……it would be futile -even wrong- to try to shut one’e eyes to what war really is from sheer distress at its brutality.” A quote from Clausewitz.  As the Israeli, Ari Shavit, a columnist wrote, for the Israeli leadership, “caution is a recipe for disaster.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Middle Eastern Urban warfare

Thought I would put up a class I did for some years at JFKSWCS. Middle Eastern urban or MOUT has particular problems due to a number of factors as explained in this slider show. The Israelis know this which is why at least for one re4son they choose not to go into Gaza City. It also explains the time it took for the Iraqis to recapture Mosul from the ISIS. From observing the Jordanians rooting out PLO fighters from Amman in 1970  first alerted me to the special tactics and techniques required. The refugee problem is a very large equation to the issue

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lebanon. Once a wonder land. Now just another Arab Disaster

Before 1967 it was the Bridge between the West and the Arab world. A shangra-la that was an. oasis midst the chaos and violence that wracked the Middle East

Today we hear constantly of an imminent Lebanese economic collapse, something we have heard before. The wealthy show up nightly for entertainment at the clubs and as always Lebanese women outdo  the rest of the most sophisticated Western women in dress and makeup. But the poor are trying to survive using paper  money that has little value, and  no prospects for any upturn in the foreseeable future.  Lebanon imports almost all their food, and for centuries have lived on their business acumen and quick wit. Today that seems to have failed them. Most of the poor cannot afford to pay for the  food to keep their families  going.In the massively corrupt Lebanese society , made much worse by the pervasive corruption of the ruling Hezbollah mafia like organization that controls all the major institutions of Lebanon, including the military. Some would go so far as to state that the Lebanese Army is a wing of the Hezbollah organization. It certainly cannot act without Hezbollah blessing.

The slide of Lebanon to disaster and chaos began when the Lebanese corrupt and weak leadership were pushed and pulled into the morass of Middle Eastern politics. When I was there from 1967 to 1970 it was an oasis of tranquility and sophistication drawing tourists from all over the world including Arabs seeking relief from the continuing carnage in their own lands. The students of the American University in Beirut (AUB) who were in class with me were from all over the Middle East and the U.S. It had a faculty far more open -minded than what you find on American  campuses today… despite periodic Palestinian  strikes to close down the school.

American University of Beirut

For instance, one textbook (From Golden River to Golden Road) we used was written by the famous Ethographist Raphael Patai. Now, the writer is seen among elitist Arabs and Islamists as one of the most hated writers on Arab culture, not because he was wrong or denigrated Arabs but basically because he was Jewish. They particularly hate his book (The Arab Mind), the best book ever written on Arab culture in English.

Nasser . the Hero of the Arab world was instrumental in the destruction of  Lebanon

If you can pick a specific date when the Lebanese dream ended, it would be when Abdul Nasser (1968) bullied the weak Lebanese leaders into reaching an agreement with Yasir Arafat to use Lebanon as a launching pad for attacks in Israel. The Egyptian Ambassador, whose name I cannot remember – was known as the pro consul of Lebanon. The Lebanese government always adhered to his demands. It was typical of the Lebanese society that the Egyptian Ambassador was carrying on a not so discrete affair withe wife of the Lebanese Army chief of staff

Nasser, hell bent to erase the igminious 1967 defeat at the  hands of the Israelis saw the Palestinians living ( poorly)  in  Lebanon as a valuable resource to avenge the Egyptian humiliation in the  1967 war. He backed Arafat’s demands on the Lebanese government and  the Lebanese, who always think they can depend on their subtle, sophisticated  skills to  avoid the inevitable, gave way at every demand.

Late Yasir Arafat leader of the PLO and its most powerful group, Fatah

 

 

According to the agreement, the Palestinians were allowed to use the “Arafat Trail” along the tops of Lebanese mountains to attack Israel. In return it was supposed to keep the armed Palestinians off the streets. But of course, they did not, and soon the streets of Beirut were swarmed by swaggering armed Palestinian thugs/freedom fighters in Tiger suits. The Lebanese, as always, acquiesced. Most ironically, prior to the agreement, in 1968,  the Lebanese Army had bested the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in a series of clashes in the mountains.But the usual  malevolent Arab leadership with the assistance of a Western Press, which viewed the Maronite struggle to maintain independence from the creeping malignancy of Arab  nationalism and “Arab Socialism” as their efforts to maintain Christian supremacy. A good  book with an  impartial viewpoint is A.J. Abraham’s,The Lebanese War.

As we know, Lebanon descended into a 15 years bloody brutal war ( 1975-1980)  that belied the Lebanese reputation for a kindler, gentler people. a v last array of nations and different terrorist militia groups became involved and some changed sides as the a war continued. One needed a scorecard to keep up with the multitude of militia groups, mostly formed on tribal and sectarian lines.The surrounding nations all became involved. Syria entered  Lebanon in …….. and remained until………. At first they went against the Palestinian organizations that imperiled Assad’s objective to control Lebanon and after subduing the Palestinians, they turned against the Maronite Christians. To illustrate the bewildering aspect off this war one m needed to read the history of the Lebanese general Michel Aoun. At first he was the hero of the Maronite Christians, leading the remaining elements of the Lebanese Army against the Muslim Palestinians ( most of the army had disintegrated into sectarian militias). Later he split with the main Maronite militia, the Lebanese Forces, and his artillery shelled civilian Christian areas of Beirut indiscriminately. Later as the government split into two entities, East Beirut under  General Aoun control and West Beirut under Sunni Muslim control, the Syrian army intervened to eject  Aoun from the presidential palace in Baabda. He flied to the French embassy and lived in France until he was brought back to live in the same palace  this time as the tool of the same Syrians and Iranian controlled powers that ejected him before.

General, now president Michel Aoun

While the Neo-Arabists of that era tried to paint the war as an ideological struggle, it was sectarian-religious at the core. But it was not strictly Muslim versus Christian. Some Christians, including the Armenians, and Greek orthodox stayed out of it, and the Shi’a turned against the Palestinian Sunni Muslims with a deadly vengeance, in a particularly bloody phase known as the “War of the Camps.” Ultimately the Israelis were pulled in advancing all the way to Beirut, cheered on the Shi’a inhabitants of the Suth, who have suffered under Palestinian. occupation of their territory. Ultimately however, the Israelis made the same mistake we seem to make continually…they outstayed their welcome and the Amal Shi’a organization, the fore runner of Hezbollah began a long war of  attrition against occupying Israeli troops. The Americans, remembering the near  bloodless occupation of the beaches of Beirut in 1958 to save Lebanon from the specter of Russian imperialism seen imperiling the Middle East, re-introduced troops into Lebanon in 1982 along with the French. The marine troops became embroiled in an intra-sectarian war far too bewildering for U.S.  intelligence to make sense of. It ended in the disastrous marine barracks bombing of October 1983.

Aftermath of the Marine barracks bombing

 

One nation with imperial pretentious did profit however….the Iranians who took over the support of the Shi’a militias trained and equipped the Hezbollah into a first class terrorist-hybrid military force with clever and subtle Iranian political support.

 

The majority of the population of Lebanon did not want to be part of the Arab world. Certainly not the Maronite Christians and most of the Shi’a who view “Arab unity” as a term for Sunni Arab domination. As an Iraqi scholar once famously said, “nothing divides the Arabs as much as the question of unity.”

Since then, all the Lebanese, until it was overtaken by an even more malevolent force – the Iranians, have had to genuflect, at least publicly, at the altar of the Arab unity. The Iranians were quick to take advantage of the Shi’a reawakening in Lebanon, a reawakening hastened by the “return of Islam” in effect the radical Sunni movements who view the Shi’a as infidels .The Shi’a of Lebanon were always the underclass of the country, providing the maids and laborers for the rich Christians and Sunnis. This was aggravated by the presence of Palestinian refugees fleeing the 1948 and 1968 wars who took control of the Shi’a region of Lebanon and treated the Shi’a like indentured servants. This ultimately resulted in the “War of the Camps” in which Shi’a fighters roamed through Palestinian refugee camps killing everyone in sight (April 1985).

Qassem Soleimani The Che Guevara of the Middle East. Do not rest in peace

 

Now with Iran’s support, the Shia of Hezbollah control Lebanon and their clerics have enriched themselves at the expense of the people. The “Israeli threat” like most everywhere in the Arab world has become the diversion by which the rulers continue to use as the bread and circuses to keep the people in somnolence.

 

On 4 August 2020, a monstrous explosion rocked the Beirut harbor, the origins of which, in typical Lebanese fashion we still do not know whole story. It is also typical of the mafia type cost eruption which plagues Lebanon and for which there is no antidote.

Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut’s harbor-side blast zone where he got a first-hand glimpse of the public fury toward the Lebanese leadership. A woman who hugged him, later begged him not to send financial aid to Hezbollah government or the political elite “because they will steal the money,” she said. Others called on France to govern Lebanon as a protectorate like it once did. The Christians, Sunni Arabs and other segments of the population, including a fairly significant number of Shi’a despise the Hezbollah and their sometime cleric and full time terrorist leader, Hassan  Nasrallah, but with the support of Syria and Iran, and a large proportion of Shi’a in the ranks of the Lebanese army, it is not likely to be ousted from power.

Today, as usual, the amateurs who comprise the foreign policy-, making  body of the U.S. government are trying to figure out how to convey aid to the Lebanese while denying it to the Hezbollah. My advice  and the only way- based on  history and experience- cut off the tentacles of the Iranian  octopus.

SOME FACTs About the People

When I was in Lebanon, a Palestinian could acquire Lebanese citizenship for a measly 50,000 US…..or through the usual connections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arab Way of War : Gaza Variation

Some years ago I presented to a number of classes at the Special Warfare School one of the subjects that has interested me greatly for half a century…the cultural aspect of war, specifically the Arab way of war. From my studies and observations on the ground for  many years, the impact of culture on warfare is of primary importance, and one which is all too often forgotten or drowned in a morass of stereotypes and wishful thinking.  A basic  and excellent source of the fateful error of stereotyping our enemies and overestimating ourselves is found in the book Knowing Ones Enemies by  Earnest R. May. Certainly the Americans  have been prime offenders in this regard.  Example:  Read Andrei Martyanov, LosingMilitary Supremacy. The recent pollyanna  statements  by Sec Def Lloyd Austin to a reporter is the most recent example of the heads in the sand  ( or elsewhere)of our military leadership. Endless repeating that we have the best army in the world does not make  it so. We remain unprepared for what is known as the Eastern way of War.

As Lawrence wrote the best war is one won without battles.  Using propaganda, seeding distrust among the enemy are part of this way of war.

To be clear the cultural impact on the martial capabilities of a nation or ethnic group have nothing do, with intelligence, courage, or genetics.

But to quote John Keegan, a foremost expert on this issue, ” culture is a prime determinant of the nature of warfare, as the history of its developments in Asia clearly demonstrates.”  The Arab way of war  is coincidental to the “eastern way of a way,  which is fundamental in studying the  tenets of warfare as presented by Sun Tsu, (The Art of War) and Miyamoto Musashi, The Books of Five Rings.

The Arab way of war can be summarized as greatly controlled by the political context, the employment  of evasion, indirection,  delaying tactics,, attrition, the use of standoff weapons, deception, the preference of defense over offense, and most of all  –  psychological warfare.

As seen in the recent Gaza war the non violent part of the Gaza war was the sparking of world-wide latent antisemitism,. Always present waiting for a a spark. Like so many totalitarian hate  movements it draws support from the radical right and, especially these days, the radical left.

The strengths of Arab militaries can be summarized as the low soldier maintenance required, the tolerance for austere living conditions, obedience to authority, the impact of Islam and  the spoken word to galvanize and motivate, their history of dug in dogged defense, and a history of ‘rising from the ashes.’

“War is a continuation of politics by other means,” thus wrote Carl Von Clausewitz. To the Arabs this is instinctive. They did not read that in a book. As Raphael Patai wrote, the Arabs are “conflict proneness,” the closer the neighbor the more prone the Arabs are to fight them. From the beginning of Arab history, with the absence of foreign enemies to fight,  internecine warfare was always present. As it was put by a Yemeni noble,” They (Arabs) fight first and ask later about the cause of the fight. We fight our own relatives, the brother would fight his own brother, the son his own father…” ( Raphael Patai  The Arab Mind.

the will of the nation is paramount say the Oriental strategists. It is more important than numbers or the weapons.

to a certain extent with the help of a clueless media, or one anti semitic in political orientation the picture of Israeli citizens cowering in bomb shelters created the narrative r desired by the Hamas leadership.

The Arabs, as I have written,  are far better at unconventional or irregular warfare. See https://americandiplomacy.web.unc.edu/2009/09/the-arab-as-insurgent/  and integral to that method of warfare is evasion and indirection.  Gazan terrorists had  limited territory from which to evade  Israeli attacks but made up for it with indirect warfare, using not strategic attacks to cripple the Israeli infrastructure and defeat the military in the field, but to instill fear in the civilian population population. The lack of lateral depth was compensated for by building a military infrastructure underground – which they did very well.

Focus on the will of the people.  Target the enemy  civilian population.

While delay is applicable to the Arab conventional way of war, the irregular is not except in the sense that the Gaza officials have always worked on their internal time schedules and inevitably find reasons to step back, delay or obfuscate the process from making decisions when they are in a negative political position.  As any sensible  Middle East historian will tell you the Hamas/ Muslim Brotherhood in an existential war with the Jewish state and simply delay any attempts to bring any lasting peace to this war-stricken region.  Hassan Al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the primary ideology of Hamas, wrote that, “there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Altruistic (or many not so ) Western  diplomats often spend inordinate amount of time  and effort trying to effect some eternal peace settlement to the Palestinian Issue. It is insolvable at present but  does provides a process  of interminable peace negotiations and Nobel Peace prize considerations.

Basically just an Islamic military cantonment area in which many people, would like to simply live their lives in some sort of peace but unlike to make their will known by a despotic government.

 

 

The factor of attrition is paramount to Gaza strategy…. the recent rocket war was then fourth Israeli Gaza war.  The Gaza Arabs in the true Eastern fashion employ the fight, peace, fight, peace strategy. Within Eastern warfare there is no place a permanent peace, only a lull. Moreover in the nature of Islamic warfare as depicted by Pakistani general S.K Malik in his famous piece, The Quranic Concept of War,  correctly states that between “infidels” and Muslims, there may be armistices but no permanent peace.So the current lull is simply a period of resupply and reconstitute.

Arabs have also always preferred the standoff method of war, using arrow, javelins,  and today missiles and rockets.  Victor David Hanson, a preeminent scholar compares the Western “Face to Face” warfare as exemplified by the Greeks, charging into the enemy with short swords to the Eastern way of war of deception, propaganda and often mass terrorist attacks  The Arab insurgency in Iraq was largely a war fought with improvised  explosive   devices and mines combined with long range sniping. The primary point is to wear down the enemy and induce war fatigue.

Deception is integral to the Arab way of war. The Gaza terror leadership  has  employed it very well. While Israeli forces claimed extensive damage to the underground infrastructure, other sources say that equally extensive system of tunnels were  created for the main purpose of drawing Israeli air attacks. Certainly the Israelis did not know the extent of the rocket weaponry and their ability to get above ground , fire the rockets, and return to their burrows. ( Quickness being a main principle of Oriental warfare.) Using apartment buildings as rocket launching sites were part of the deception program…and also of course very useful for prime propaganda, depicting Israeli “war crimes,” with the assistance of  the press,  which is an inordinate number of cases were very favorably disposed toward  Hamas.

Arab defense, usually fixed as was the Gaza defense structure, has historically been more effective than their offensive measures. Partly as a result  of the lack of individual initiative,  and  necessary dependance on higher  authority, fighting from fixed portions  is culturally more adaptable to Arab culture, as opposed  to fast moving offensive movements in which delegation of authority and individual initiative are prerequisites.

Arab Soldier Strengths

The Gaza fighters evidenced the strengths usually found in Arab warfare. Low soldier maintenance is a primacy one. No gyms,  craft beer establishments,  PX’s, cozy lodging or problems of hot meals. Particularly  in warfare waged from their homes and neighborhoods., in which they launch rockets and retire for a meal at home. They, like most Arab peasants and low income people, live close to the ground. They expect very little from their  government  and receive even less. In fact among  many Arabs the ultimate strategy is to remain  anonymous and unknown by the rulers. Unlike the Arabs rocket attacks on  Israel, where the dense urban and highly sophisticated infrastructure, is very vulnerable to relatively unsophisticated Arab terror attacks,  The Gaza urban is distinctly third  world and public utilities low grade. Also Israeli fear of world wide condemnation of their attacks  on a distinctly third world infrastructure. In short, unlike the Israelis , the Gaza people have much less to lose than the Israelis.

Soldiers for Allah

One other aspect of Arab culture works to their  benefit their in those war of attrition and that is then clan, tribal c societal structure. It would appear that the Hamas bosses are not overly concerned about the civilian casualties…… and basically  they are not….unless the casualties are members of their clan.

With a totally authoritarian, close to totalitarian government,  the upper class clans have little to fear from civilian insurrection.  The martyrs are glorified , always important feature of the Arab mentality, and become part of the propaganda effort,

The Arab conquest of the Middle East was met by many reverses but they returned even after calamitous defeats .

Finally as David Holden  of the Sunday  Times, observed  some years ago, the Arabs have an uncanny ability to rise from the ashes, just when one thinks they are vanquishes they arise again. Of course, as he also observed, when the Arabs are on the pinnacle of success, they tend to fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gaza War Winds Down…For Now. Initial Take Aways

It is a a couple of days  the rocketing stopped and of course the gurus will begin  presenting their opinions on who won.  I have no idea because in this kind of war “winning” is not a clear cut term. There are some fairly clear preliminaries;

Hamas won the propaganda war– as is always the case in any Arab vs. Israeli war since 1973.  The Woke generation, in which anti-semitism has once again become fashionable, generated   protests and mob vandalism,  an activity to fill empty days made available by the streams of western  government money flowing into the pockets of idle youth: A youth poorly educated but arrogant in their abysmal ignorance.

 

As I have written before Israel and the Jewish community, in general, failed to counter this onslaught of informational zeitgeist.  They were still riding on a belief that the notion of a small state surrounded by implacable enemies would continue to evoke  international sympathy. It no long does. Moreover a number of Western Jews in their quest to be on the leading edge of every leftish movement, however destructive to their own people, joined in. In an older day they were called self-hating Jews- a term many of them hate, but not sure what else to call them. Other younger Jews seem to have retreated into the “Tikkun Olam” -repairing the world- a utopian religious world  view that crashes against  the harsh realities of the world we live in. It was not that Palestinian  and Arab propaganda was that effective…they simply hitched on a current  emotional current of the amygdala function of the brain …an imprinted instinctive anti-semitic feeling devoid of reason.

British Historian Paul Johnson on anti semitism: It is so peculiar that it deserves to be in a quite a different category. I would call it an intellectual disease, a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and deatructive

 

Israeli technical intelligence was, as usual, top notch, and giving some allowance for hyperbole, the Israelis knew where the arms were stored, the breadth  and extensiveness of “Underground Metro,” characteristics of their rockets, leadership, etc.But what they failed to assess correctly was then “cultural or sensing intelligence.”  The ability of the Hamas to carry on the war, their inroads into the Israeli Arab population, methods of attacking the all-important Gaza will to continue the fight. We made the same mistake in Vietnam assuming we could bomb North Vietnam into submission. Nor could we close down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Going back even further The British “terror ” bombing in WWII did not break the will of the German population to carry on the war. In summation air power alone has not and will not win wars. Its was somewhat surprising that Hamas did not offer any air defense whatsoever….that is somewhat of a mystery. Did they allow undefended air attacks as a propaganda weapon? they are capable off that in that the leadership is imperious to the suffering of their people, beyond  that of their families and clans, presumably well protected from air attacks.

A Palestinian man runs for cover during an Israeli air strike near the site of a tower building which was destroyed in earlier strikes, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza City May 13,

It is a reaffirmation of the problems of a civilized society warring against an undeveloped-in some ways -primitive society.The intricate infrastructsure of advanced society  in which the people are accustomed to efficient and consistently available public services at war against a society or culture in which families or clans are expected to fare pretty much for themselves. Expectations of the public  for public services are low at best. Therefore attacks on the infrastructure  of the Gaza Strip have much less effect, psychologically than the rocket attacks on Israel. If you have little you have less to lose in a war of attrition.

Hamas

It is obvious also that the Israeli leadership had not psychologically conditioned  the people to then duration and intensity of the Hamas rockets attacks. In some areas there were no shelters available, and fear, despite the ” Iron Dome,” permeated within the Israeli society….. which is an entirely urban population. The  Gaza population is more likely to voice  boastful shouts  of victory, but  the real feeling of the Gaza people are not readily apparent, because it is a closed society in which the people have as much to fear from the authorities as the Israeli attacks. The carefully managed media reports form Gaza cannot be seen as reliable or honest in depicting the feelings of the people; another advantage of the authoritarian rule of that of a liberal democratic one.

Israeli bomb shelter

In summation, the HAMAS held most of the cards and played them well. However their future is likely be bleak as they must depend on outside support for almost everything, and as I wrote previously, Arab support was nil and being isolated, their life lines to Iran and Turkey are dependent on many factors none of which they control.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment