Lessons from History:”The political side of counterinsurgency.”

December 21, 2006 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

Looking back at history one learns many lessons that those who came before. One can see solutions staring people in the face and read and find example for people willing look back and see situations in the world of fifty years ago that  are not dis-similar.

One classic example is the current issues involving counter insurgency. Nearly fifty years ago a former US Army Colonel who acted as a advisor to the Philippine Government then dealing with a insurgent problem observed the problems posed by the mixture of political issues and perception in countering rebel gains in the field.

Also how Terrorism and labels often caused problems with the realities and images most people saw for themselves from Rebel groups who for the most part worked hard to build ties and help communities they influenced.

The classic story from 1957 told before the US Defense college was this:

[] “… If the people fear and hate the army, they will fear and hate the government . . Col. Lansdale cited communist military occupation policy to emphasize communist understanding of the above point. When a communist army or guerrilla unit initially enters a village . . . individual soldiers . . . lay aside their arms and offer their help ill chopping wood plowing, etc. They scrupulously respect property . . . and take nothing by force…. This is in marked contrast with the normal performance of governmental soldiery…. [In] the Philippines before 1950, government troopers probably killed more civilians unnecessarily than the Huk[balahap] did, despite the accusation that Huks obtained civilian support only through coercion and terrorism…” []  Then Col. Edward Landsdale USA, JUSMAG 1957

While later in his career he was often blamed for many things that went worng in the exesses of US Policies of direct military and indirect advisory excesses in South & Central America and Vietnam. His words as seen from comments he made then prove a point now almost elemental in several areas where the global war on terror is present.

Ideologies of the 1950’s and 1960’s may of course be seen from many perspectives as very different to todays current discord over a clash of civilizations and middle eastern and western views but the bottom line is still the same. War of a non-conventional nature are never won by force of arms alone. In particular when ideological issues are at forefront of the battles fought.

Iraq’s current situation is well for-told in many another conflict ranging back to the era of another ‘Adventurer’ of Imperialism – in this case  of the British kind – who described the fighting in then Mesopotamia in terms that do not differ much from todays conflict in Iraq.

[] … ” The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia (Iraq) into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. …. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace… and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster. …'”[]  Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1888-1935), British soldier and author, 1920 Sunday Time UK

The old lesson many do not remember and too often forget are those who fail to study history and lessons it teaches often are condemned to repeat the same. The fighting style of the insurgents then does not much differ from today’s and the infighting between groups also are not unfamiliar.

However there are external forces driving the situation – as in many other political and ideological conflicts of warfare. Overall there are parallels and conflicting issues from both periods. Then as now – the reasons for the warfare were both driven by a need to dominate and region and resources – but overall actions and failure to take action in many areas led to a major failure to secure the end of large scale conflict and victory that presented.

Are there solutions to what is happening now? Will this be just a repeat of history – that is Doubtful – But it will be long time coming for that region to rebuild government and peace.

The danger now present is of a post insurgency rise and return to a ‘strongman’ control concept anew – instead of democratic institutions and choice. Only people there however will have the final say – one thing is certain – no-solution proposed by Washington or London or anywhere else will matter. What is needed is for Baghdad and Iraq to decide when and what Government they will end up with…. whatever the outcome of the present conflict – a conflict not just rooted fighting – but a War fueled by Political theory and power flowing out of barrel of a gun where bullets are ballots and voting is currently held by IED.

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Entry filed under: 911, Al Gore, al qaeda, asia, border security, Bush, Calfironia, china, Filipino, free speech, freedom of speech, India, Iraq, Iraqi Civil War, USA, Views, war, war on terror, World War 3.

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