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Breeding More Terrorists

I’m not sure I agree, from a counterinsurgency perspective, that breeding more terrorists than we’re killing is really an important issue. I’m not sure how you really assess such a thing anyway. No one likes having their country invaded and occupied, this much we know, but how many examples in history can we find of exactly this happening? Any military operation against a foe is quite likely to breed more of that foe than you’re currently killing.

Britain’s colonization of any number of places, from South Africa, to India, certainly bred it’s fair share of resentment, but the British Empire was certainly able to bring these people’s under its sphere of control. It was only after the British Empire was weakened through new challenges from Europe, that it would give up these possessions. India would ultimately guilt the British into surrendering it, through a non violent independence movement.

In our own history we can find examples of this. Lincoln’s decision to raise an army to invade the territories that had decided to actively challenge federal authority certainly created more soldiers for the Southern cause than were actively being killed for quite some time, but in the end, the Army or Northern Virginia was to surrender.

In Vietnam, as is the goal of any counterinsurgency, the Viet Cong eventually built up its number to the point where they felt the time for the hit and run operations was at and end, and so executed a general offensive, known as The Tet Offensive. The VC decided to come out of the jungles, and acts as an army does, to seize and control of territory and men. Unfortunately for the Viet Cong, they were effectively destroyed by the US military. From Tet onward, we were fighting the North Vietnamese Army, and the counterinsurgency known as Victor Charlie would cease to be relevant, even though up until that time they were building their power.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of insurgencies rising up and defeating great powers; we owe our own independence to this. The British lost three armies trying to keep North America, and for them, given they faced a real, existential threat from France at the time, was just too much for them to handle, and here we are.

War is more than just a contest of people. It’s more than just a numbers game. It’s a contest of wills. All the military advantages in the world amount to a hill of beans if you lack will. Whether we have the will to see this conflict through to a just conclusion isn’t clear yet. But it’s not a matter of whether we’re breeding more terrorists than we’re currently killing.

8 Responses to “Breeding More Terrorists”

  1. “I’m not sure I agree, from a counterinsurgency perspective, that breeding more terrorists than we’re killing is really an important issue.”

    No. It probably isn’t. But from a global war on terror issue (the real macro issue here) it certainly is.

    That said, we’re also breeding insurgents faster than we’re eliminating them. How do we know that? Simple–the insurgency isn’t going anywhere, and if anything the sectarian strife is picking up steam.

    Look, the JCS, the DOD, the NSA, the CIA, and the other intelligence gathering bodies all but uniformly agree that we’re making terror worse, not better. If you think you know something they don’t, I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you’d share it with the peanut gallery :).

    ” No one likes having their country invaded and occupied, this much we know, but how many examples in history can we find of exactly this happening?”

    Lots. What we should be concerned about is a different question: how many examples in the last century or so can you find of a foreign industrialized military power successfully occupying a 3rd world country en force and actually suppressing a insurgency like what we’re facing? Hint: none.

    “The VC decided to come out of the jungles, and acts as an army does, to seize and control of territory and men. Unfortunately for the Viet Cong, they were effectively destroyed by the US military”

    Sure it was a tactical loss for the VC. But what you’re missing is that it was a huge strategic win. The VC didn’t need a tactical victory to achieve their end goal, any more than AQ needs a tactical victory in the battlefields of Iraq to get what they want.

    “From Tet onward, we were fighting the North Vietnamese Army, and the counterinsurgency known as Victor Charlie would cease to be relevant, even though up until that time they were building their power.”

    That sentence doesn’t really quite sound right, but if I take your meaning correctly, you must have studied a different Vietnam war. The insurgency there remained extremely relevant, because it was able to operate within the very population we were occupying. You have to understand that the Vietnamese (who would have gone communist by vote overwhelmingly) had been fighting the better part of the 20th C. to end an occupation. They’d outlasted various other interests, Chinese, French, etc, and they would have outlasted us no matter how long we stayed.

    The Iraqi insurgency isn’t too different; they’re not leaving *their* country. Whether it takes a year, 10 years, or 25 years, they know eventually it’s going to be Sunni vs. Shia squabbling for the scraps and the control of the oil fields.

    What exactly do you think would constitute a victory or a finished job over there? Even if every insurgent over there took a holiday, laid down his AK and his IED, and laid low, allowing us the pyrrhic victory we’re ostensibly looking for…once the US troops come and the ticker tape parades are over, they’re going to be right back at it.

    Unless you can discern a concise, precise, clearly articulated, defined, and achieveable objective to pursue, it’s time to call it a day and wrap up.

  2. jason says:

    So, if we did just call it a day and wrap up and go home, what do you expect the situation to be like 1 year from now? 5 years? 10 years?

    Seems to me everyone calling for pulling out just points out how screwed up things are, but doesn’t provide a decent long term analysis that shows why pulling out is the best option.

    As I see it pulling out now is trading short term peace for a much larger and more violent conflict further down the road. I have yet to see a likely chain of events proposed that starts with pulling out and that leads to a good long term outcome.

    Now I do think that the conflict is likely to expand even if we do stay engaged in Iraq (I keep hearing from people in Israel that they expect to be involved in a major war soon), but I think that expansion will be less violent than if we pull out and just let things stew until they explode.

  3. “So, if we did just call it a day and wrap up and go home, what do you expect the situation to be like 1 year from now? 5 years? 10 years?”

    The end result is going to be the same, whether we leave today or a year from today or two years from today. I think you’re missing the point.

    “Seems to me everyone calling for pulling out just points out how screwed up things are, but doesn’t provide a decent long term analysis that shows why pulling out is the best option.”

    2005 AM Radio called, they want their talking points back. I’m not just pointing out how screwed things are, I’m pointing out how we’re making it worse, not better. Why is that hard for you to understand? Not sure what a ‘decent long term analysis’ consists of in your book, but the reality is that our continued presence isn’t making things better, most of the Joint Chiefs and Defense Dept and NSA/CIA spooks agree its making things worse, and you can’t point to a single viable achievable objective that merits our staying.

    This is cost us lives, prestige, and ungodly amounts of money. The onus is on you to explain with clarity why we should stay.

    “As I see it pulling out now is trading short term peace for a much larger and more violent conflict further down the road”

    Peace? I don’t think it’s going to create peace per se at all–there’s already essentially a civil war going on that we’re just barely containing (if we’re containing it at all). It’ll be more of the same, just fewer Americans getting killed in the process.

    What’s this larger, more violent conflict you’re positing? Us versus Shiites? Sunnis? Who would we be fighting?

    Talk about lack of analysis.

  4. jason says:

    We are fighting a large group of very loosely organized people all infected with a certain culture, a certain set of ideas. Call it militant Islam for lack of a better term. Sucks to be us that the enemy is so poorly defined, but thats the way it is. We have to deal with it one way or another.

    You are too focused on Iraq, instead of the larger picture.

    I notice you didn’t actually answer my question. Just went back and pointed out how wrong things are. Its very easy to find flaws in things, even things that are basically correct.

    And big problem with how this whole debate tends to play out is people start arguing if we should stay or go. Pro or anti-war. That not at all the right question to ask. We should be asking what we should do next, and the debate should be about a whole wide range of options.

    Do I have the answer? No (but I would put withdrawing from Iraq down near the bottom of the list of choices). Most of the plans I can come up with fall apart when you factor in Russian and China (so its good I’m not in charge, though I wouldn’t say I’m particularly happy with the people currently in charge either. :) ). But I’m amazed by people who are adamant withdrawing from Iraq is the right thing do to while refusing to address the larger issues.

  5. “We are fighting a large group of very loosely organized people all infected with a certain culture, a certain set of ideas. Call it militant Islam for lack of a better term.”

    The Iraqi Sunnis were actually pretty secular by ME standards. I think you’re pretty misinformed here. The Sunni insurgency isn’t fighting to turn the US and Europe into a caliphate or subjugate you to their religious will. They’re fighting to regain the influence, power, and oil revenue they stand to lose when the Shiites dominate Iraq.

    “You are too focused on Iraq, instead of the larger picture.”

    Actually, you’re the one with that problem my friend–if the goal is big picture terror reduction and fighting AQ, staying in Iraq is only hurting that end.

    “I notice you didn’t actually answer my question”

    What question was that? The 1-5-10 year question? You need some work in the reading comp department homeboy–my answer was succinct, precise, and generally what most experts in the regional politics of the ME seem to agree upon, and that is that our continued presence is merely prolonging the inevitable. The picture is the same no matter how long we stay. There’s your answer, cap’n.

    If that flies over your head…well…maybe posting on the Internet isn’t your thing. :)

    “That not at all the right question to ask. We should be asking what we should do next, and the debate should be about a whole wide range of options.”

    No disagreement here–but that wide range of options should consider what the real endgame is here, and that’s a reduction in the threat that terrorism presents. The stark reality is that our engagement in Iraq is hurting, not helping that picture.

  6. “Do I have the answer? No (but I would put withdrawing from Iraq down near the bottom of the list of choices”

    But you still refuse to qualify why it’s near the bottom of the list. Is it some emotional attachment to the idea that we can someday go BANG!!!, shoot the last terrorist, blow the smoke away from the barrel, and reholster the Colt and ride off into the sunset? Do you really think we can bomb our way out of this mess?

    I’m not saying military engagement is never the answer. It was the answer in Kosovo. It was the answer in Grenada. It was the answer in Panama. It was the answer in both world wars of the 20th. C. But it’s not always the answer, and in the case of Iraq, as I said, the onus is on YOU to explain why we should stay. What’s the clear, defined, achievable objective that you think we’re pursuing? Talk about questions that people don’t seem to want to answer.

    ” But I’m amazed by people who are adamant withdrawing from Iraq is the right thing do to while refusing to address the larger issues.”

    Hey, I’m all for big picture thinking. Which is why I want you to consider that in terms of terror, what we’re doing is making the problem worse, not better.

  7. jason says:

    “You need some work in the reading comp department homeboy”

    “If that flies over your head…well…maybe posting on the Internet isn’t your thing.”

    Ah yes. Resorting to insults.

    I guess you must be right, since I’m just a homeboy.

  8. Sebastian says:

    The argument seems to be that if we leave, Iraq and probably the entire region are going to go to hell in a hand basket, and we’re going to end up having to fight a much larger war later. Maybe that wouldn’t happen, but it doesn’t seem, to me, to be an unreasonable assertion. In that case, I don’t see why it’s a bad idea to ask proponents of withdraw to outline how we’re going to deal with the consequences of that, and what those consequences would be.

    I don’t deny there are a lot of local issues at work in the fighting going on in Iraq, but there are certainly global ones as well. Islamic radicalism, whether they are calling themselves Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, or whatever, aren’t going to go away just because we leave. These groups have ambitions that extend beyond Iraq. Iran, if the rhetoric of their leaders, and funding of international terrorist organizations, is any indication, have ambitions that extend beyond their borders as well, and they are working hard to acquire nuclear weapons.

    So what happens in the bigger picture when we pull out? I think it’s a legitimate question.

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