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07/28/2004

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Oscar

Is there an editing foobar? I cannot find Peters "first mistake" in any part of the article before the phrase "Peters' second mistake".

I liked Peter's article ( I have read most of his in Parameters and elsewhere), and I think your comments are spot on as well. However, let me commend to your attention to how the Mogols successfully handled the long Nizari terror campaign (which , in fact, predated the Mongol rule in the ME.)

ali

He has a point when you look at Iraq. War-Lite is a disastrous idea. You don’t destroy an army’s will to fight by elegant maneuver. You don’t let them go home with their weapons. You don’t make a defeated officer corps unemployed and expect peace. Killing lots of soldiers, Mongol style, or as Stormin Norman did has its merits.

But I have a feeling a lot of folks are living in a cloud cuckoo land on counter-terrorism, and Peters’ is one of them. To anybody who grew up in a Uraban-Terrorist war attrition looks about as useful militarily as Polish cavalry charging at Panzers.

Terrorism is cheap, campaigns typically last decades. It requires very limited military skills. Leaders are easily replaceable; every cell head is a leader. A competent terrorist won’t concentrate forces to be destroyed by main force.

In N.I PIRA only concentrated when deep cover British assets misled them, they were then easily destroyed. Even with patchy support in a small country, facing a 40:1 troop/population ratio, packed with CCTV, monitored by Echelon and crawling with Spooks PIRA proved elusive and deadly enough to mortar No 10, nearly kill Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet in Brighton.

Four cells armed with box cutters carried out 9/11, and they weren’t even technically very capable, they were just willing to die and for a low chance of success. Madrid shows a far more sustainable tactical ability, and seems to have been carried out by Moroccan amateurs, who survived the attention of the Spanish authorities less well than bumbling heavily penetrated ETA.

If attrition can play a role it is in breaking the will to violence in the supporting population. It hasn’t worked for the Israelis, they’ve simply multiplied threats. In Chechnya the Russians are drowning despite having killed 20% of the population. In N.I we had 30 years of targeted attrition, an ASU member had a likely operational life of 6 months, but PIRA only stopped fighting when seduced into politics, and the practical abandonment of their rhetorical goals. They still "Have'nt gone away".

Kingdaddy

Peters mistake #1: Terrorist troops are the center of gravity.
Peters mistake #2: Counterinsurgency and counterterrorism are much the same.

People have lost patience with the terrorist before, as did the Uruguayans with the Tupemaro "urban guerrillas" (really a terrorist cell), and as many Palestinians in fact have with the suicide bombers. However, there's obviously enough genuine support, outrage, or fear to keep bringing in new recruits for suicide bombing operations.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments from both of you. Something finally struck me about this "get tough on the terrorists" rhetoric: it's not really tough. To use an analogy, anyone can go to the gym for a day, sweat a bit, feel their muscles firm up slightly, and never go back again. The one-day exercise fanatic has no claim to being a great athlete, or just physically fit. Those results take time, diligence, discipline, study, and a willingness to deal with occasionally disappointing results. These qualities define a tough athlete--and a real counterterrorist, worthy of the description, "tough on the enemy."

Oscar

Thanks
#2 was obvious from your wording. But I kept looking in the quoted section for #1. I understand it now, but it is still not obvious given that you follow the quotation with the words: "He's right". But enough nitpicking about style.

As to attrition, I again refer to the Mongol campaign against the Nizari (better know to Westerners as the assasins.) The Mongols killed so many of the base supporters, that the rest renounced the Nizari flavor of Ismailism, and today the most common sects (e.g. the Bohra) are not only relatively non-violent, but even progressive, at least for Shiites. (I find their flagelationism repellent, but that probably only shows that like Britanicus in Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" I am a barbarian becuase I confuse the customs of my tribe with the laws of the universe.

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