Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brand A and Brand B

How well would a country with no almost no accountability to the public, able to apply unrestricted amounts of brutality and firepower and unconstrained by legal or humanitarian rights fare against a Jihadi foe? While those who believe that President Bush actually is Hitler may think the foregoing is a reference to the US campaign in Iraq, it is more accurately a reference to the Russian campaign in Chechnya.

The Russian campaign in Chechnya is interesting as a control case to Iraq not only because it lets the historian examine a counterinsurgency waged without American political constraints but also provides a real-world benchmark for what constitutes a truly brutal campaign as opposed to one only imagined that way by Hollywood directors like Brian de Palma. The Chechen campaign provides an an actual example of a counterinsurgency waged by an ex-socialist country compared to the actions of what has been described as a bestial colonial power, the United States of America. It's a contemporaneous side-by-side comparison by two different systems waged against a similar foe. And how have the two fared?

An unpublished paper presented at the American Political Science Association by AM Lopez has this succinct judgment.

This paper is a preliminary look at the similarities and differences of the insurgencies in Iraq and Chechnay and at the similarities and differences of American and Russian counterinsurgency efforts respectively. It argues that the Russians have some inherent advantages in Chechnya--smaller country in terms of both terrain and population, greater will to fight the war--than the Americans in Iraq. However, Russian counterinsurgency policy, and in particular the over-reliance on force and failure to include Chechens in the local politics, has increased the likelihood of long-term failure. In Iraq, while the Americans have not conducted themselves flawlessly, their more measured use of force and incorporation of a wider swath of Iraqi society into the political scene increases the likelihood of long-term success. The danger for the Americans, however, is in the short-term.

In plain language, the US appears to be doing better than the Russians, despite the ability of the Russians to be significantly more violent and brutal. The Jamestown Foundation has a detailed evaluation of the Russian position in Chechnya prepared on Oct 18, 2007. It basically concludes that the Russians have not succeeded at any of the goals they have set for themselves.

Yakov Nedobitko’s [ the commander of the Russian Joint Military Group in Chechnya] comments imply that the Russian authorities have not yet achieved any of their key goals, which include:

1) Shifting the responsibility for maintaining the stability in the republic from federal bodies to local authorities;

2) Withdrawing most of the troops from the republic, leaving in Chechnya only one division and one brigade that will be stationed there permanently in large garrison camps;

3) Destroying the centralized command structure of the Chechen and Caucasian rebels;

4) Disbanding or at least reducing commandant offices of the Russian armed forces in the republic.

Of particular interest are the factors that did not help the Russians in their campaign. "Neither knowledge of the local language, nor the knowledge of the terrain and the other advantages cited by Nedobitko, helped the units to defeat the guerillas who are hiding in the mountains."

Although it is fashionable in certain "sophisticated" circles to deride it, one of the key American success factors in Iraq may be the policy to "bring freedom" -- political empowerment -- to the Middle East. Rather than being a naive emotion at odds with "adult" foreign policy, the idea of politically empowering a population may actually have great practical value. This is not to say that the Russian campaign in Chechnya has been without result, but a straighforward comparison between the two campaigns against a Jihadi foe shows that the American campaign has been surprisingly effective.

It's interesting to note that at the very moment that al-Qaeda seems have been defeated in Iraq it appears to be augmenting its presence in Chechnya. Bill Roggio reports today that "Doku Umarov, one of the last remaining original leaders of the Chechen rebellion and a close associate of al Qaeda, has declared an Islamic emirate in the greater Caucasus region."

The setbacks of the Russian campaign stand in some irony to the persistent left-wing criticism of the American strategy in Iraq. If the former Soviet Union and its successor state in Russia are at all representative of how the left wing would fight a counterinsurency it suggests that not only would they be more brutal but they would also be far less successful.


Blogger amr said...

Brute force didn't work for the Nazis either. If using brute force is your method, then emulate the Mongols and you might win; kill every living soul. Even the Russian populous may have problems with that method. I wonder if the Left would cry foul if the Russians moved in that direction, since the Left marches with the jihadists routinely; a decision would have to be made on which side to support or just blame America.

11/28/2007 05:23:00 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

There is one small detail that probably wrecks the analogy between Iraq and Chechnya, at least when it comes to brutality. Unlike Iraq, Chechnya is considered by the "invading" country to be a breakaway republic of said "invading" country (and thus the word "invading" can be used only loosely; hence the scare quotes). Therefore it seems to me that the war in Chechnya is more analogous to the American Civil War than to the war in Iraq.

This distinction is not insignificant. A nation can only be expected to be far more zealous, and far less restrained by domestic politics, in putting down a breakaway enemy on its own soil than in pacifying some far-flung nation, strategic considerations be damned. As for how restrained the Union was in the Civil War, of course I need only mention one name: William Tecumseh Sherman.

11/28/2007 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger ADE said...

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken"

eg, that:

Islamic women may want to dress beautifully;

Islamic women are beautiful;

Islamic women want their children to grow up;

Islamic women want to feel a V8 respond to their right foot;

Islamic women (OK teenagers) want to be topless on a French beach;

Islamic boys want to see them;

Islamic women want to say "I was a Flower of the mountains yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him and yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes."

George W Bush was right.

11/28/2007 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

It is several steps beyond obvious to say that the Russians, via the Soviets and before them, the Czars, created the “problem” they face in Chechnya as a result of the brutal techniques, imperialism, and failed policies inevitably associated with totalitarianism.

In Iraq, the USA is trying the fix the problems that resulted from the brutal techniques, imperialism, and failed policies associated with totalitarianism. As well trying to fix the problems associated with the not quite as brutal and not quite as failed policies associated with Ottoman and British imperialism as well as American Realpolitik.

It is very difficult to address a problem that you refuse to admit you caused in the first place – or that you refuse to admit even exists. I have seen that approach work with technical problems “Well, let’s not discuss whose fault it is or if this design was a bad idea from the start; let’s just go fix it.” Try that with broader problems and you end up with disasters, as the Democrats seem determined to prove again and again.

And Joshua, relative to “A nation can only be expected to be far more zealous, and far less restrained by domestic politics, in putting down a breakaway enemy on its own soil…” Yes, indeed! That is why we kill all those Mexicans crossing the border every day.

11/28/2007 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

"George Bush was right"

So lonely a voice in so vasty a wilderness just might be true.

11/28/2007 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

Maybe the Chechens are a good control in a grand counterinsurgency experiment, but a couple of cautions are in order. I think that in an authoritarian system, there might be a longer time line -- even the short term might be 50 years. Moreover, whatever happy talk goals the Russians may proclaim in public, the real goals are probably different, probably the Russians don't care whether the place develops, or what the literacy rate is, or whether the water is drinkable: probably all that matters to them is that the Chechens are reasonably quiet about their sullenness and that they aren't bad examples to other would be rebels.

It does look as if, by every measure that we would apply, that the Russians are doing it wrong. But does it matter ?

Say that they reduce their garrisons to the division and brigade advertised in the Jamestown group's study, and the predictable happens -- the guerrillas emerge again. Then what ? Barring some dramatic change in Russia herself --i.e, another 1999 -- the Russians just send back their troops and ramp up the brutality again.

The Russian method clearly precludes the Chechens ever willingly buying in to being a part of Russia. But does it matter ? Is there ever a point at which the Russians will decide the cost in blood and political treasure makes imperialism not worth the candle? American political constraints tend to set this bar very low. But does the bar even exist in a country like Russia ?

Maybe the Russians aren't Mongols or Nazis, but over the long run, does it make a difference ? While we're on analogies, could they be more like Cromwell in Ireland or the Romans in Spain ? Those parties used counterinsurgency methods we'd hardly approve nowadays, but they worked pretty well.

In any case, rather than abandoning a bad job, seems to me there's much more chance that the Russians give the Chechens 20 years or so to settle down, and if that doesn't work, they'll make a desert and call it peace.

11/28/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/28/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

11/28/2007 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

We seek to end the insurgency in Iraq by giving the Iraqis hope, the Russians seek to end their insurgency by giving the insurgents despair.

11/28/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...

Yeah, Bush was and is right.

I still believe the US could have calmed Iraq down more quickly with more agressive and brutal ROE. But we could get a good but more brutal without going as far as the Russians.

11/28/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I agree with Joshua, it is a flawed comparison. Russia is fighting an internal insurgency in Chechnya while the US is in a foreign country and there is a totally different calculus to be made between the two types of counterinsurgency campaigns. The correct comparison is between he Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. If you wanted to do an objective comparison and looked to see where the Soviets were after five years and the US is today in Iraq you would have to say that in Afghanistan you didn’t have a foreign country (Iran) controlling a healthy portion of the territory. And you didn’t have the Soviets caving into the demands of the insurgency as the US caved to the Sunnis (yes, giving them hope to resurrect a new Sunni dictatorship) in allowing them de facto self rule and tacit support for their eventual re-conquest of Iraq.

War is about imposing your will upon others – nothing more and nothing less. The US has abjectly failed to impose its will on Iraq – just as the Soviets failed to impose their will on the Afghanis.

11/28/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Iraq will be independent. Chechnya will not. It's about that simple.

Iraqis have a better future ahead of them than the Chechens do. What do the Russians have to offer them, other than an end to the war? What future is there as part of Russia rather than an independent state?

11/28/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

There's an interesting article in Wired entitled "In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic" in which Gen Petraeus argues that a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic, "weapons that shoot and sometimes weapons that don't shoot" are the key to winning a counterinsurgency. It's not an either/or.

The comparison of Chechnya with the American Civil War is an interesting one. But does Russia have, or maybe I should say, can it ever have the equivalent of Reconstruction. This question really goes to the heart of what Russia is; or rather what it aspires to become in the post-Soviet era.

Stalin may have proved that brutality alone can bring about a certain facsimile of brittle order. But it was always on the edge of shattering. Saddam in fact, was in charge of a country in a frozen state of civil war for decades. He solved the problem by putting one clique permanently atop the rest. Yet once a crack began, the whole edifice crazed.

The US in Iraq found itself in the middle of what could have been a civil war. In that sense there may be more parallels with the Civil War than are obvious at first glance. But what may prove decisive in the War on Terror is not the quality of US military power, though it is a necessary part ("things that shoot") of the equation; what may prove decisive is the nature of America itself.

Maybe Scott Keyes was on to something when he wrote:

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Maybe why one does things matters.

11/28/2007 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger The Duck said...

Sherman was quite restrained and to compare his to the Russians in Chechnya is ludicrous. People who start wars should understand what is involved in fighting and winning them.

11/28/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger LifeoftheMind said...

This thread is a good example of why I read the Belmont Club, Thank you.

11/28/2007 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Nice little dance you're doing, Kevin.

Keep hope alive, I guess. What with the abject failure of imposing its hegemonic will now the apparent talking point, an ever'thang.

11/28/2007 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

In 1998, the United States Marine Corps was presented with an opportunity to conduct interviews with Chechen commanders and key staff officers who participated in combat operations against Russian forces in the 1994-1996 conflict...

The Chechens and Urban Operations

11/28/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

In strictest terms, neither the U.S. “Civil War” nor that between the Russians and Chechnya are definable as civil wars.

The Confederacy only wished to be left alone by the US. It had no interest in taking over the North, no matter how victorious it was on the battlefield. The war was not about slavery but rather was based on the recognition by the South that it would forever be at a disadvantage relative to the setting of national policies, and those national policies were being set so to the advantage of the industrial North rather than the agrarian South. Ultimately, the conflict was about differing geographies and climates rather than philosophies. There was very little difference between the Constitution of the USA and CSA, and those type of differences are still a major subject of debate in the USA.

The war in Chechnya is about differing basic philosophies. But I doubt very much that the Chechnyians would take the keys to the Kremlin if it they were offered to them. They want the Russians gone, and preferably, dead, based on the last few hundred years of disagreement, but they don’t want to take over the whole country. You do wonder that if Chechnya was given its independence if they would end up with a country that looked much different from Russia in terms of national policies.

Note that the Baltic states wanted the Russians gone after the USSR fell and they pretty much got their wish. That is probably much more practical in their case and more acceptable to Russia than Chechnya, deep within the country.

I suppose that both the US Civil War and that in Chechnya would have to be called "Wars of National Liberation" (to coin a phrase).

11/28/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger chris said...

another interesting metric is the cost in men and material, between the two approaches. the russians lost what, 15000 men in Afghanistan ? wikipedia estimates they lost the same amount in the two chechnya campaigns. "less efficient!" "less effective!"

11/28/2007 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

The Russians adapted...

A 'Crushing' Victory: Fuel-Air Explosives and Grozny 2000

Similar tactics

Will the adaptation be similar to the Russians?

11/28/2007 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Joshua -- Sherman was very restrained during the War. After the capture of Atlanta, during Sherman's march to the sea he fought and killed almost no one. Lost almost no one. Used mobility and resource destruction to keep the South from fightin. Mostly by wrecking the railroads. After a while he wouldn't even bother to burn warehouses full of supplies. With no rail they would simply rot in place.

What he did do was apply limited violence to the wealthiest that convinced the powerful, wealthy plantation owners in Richmond that it was better to surrender and stay rich than fight and stay poor. Straight out of Machiavelli.

The Machiavelli criticism of the Russian effort is that they could not find allies who depended on them from external enemies, whereas the sectarianism of Iraq (Sunni-vs.-Shia, AQ-vs. Tribes, Sunni vs. Shia vs. Iranians, etc) allowed the US the decisive ability to create local allies. Failing to create local allies Machiavelli would advise colonizing Chechnya, which the Russians lacking people cannot do.

Brutality itself is not the issue; rather it is how violence is applied to separate the enemy from the ability to fight against a power. [Kevin's argument is fundamentally unserious and childish.] What IS interesting is that despite short supply lines and ample domestic support (if Russia allows Chechnya to go it's own way it loses the rest of the Caucuses which is the explicit goal of the Islamists).

The other thing that is interesting is that no Liberal really *CARES* about brutality in and of itself. Certainly neither Kevin nor Joshua would ever condemn the very brutal actions from the very top including Putin in Chechnya. What Liberals really care about is making the US LOSE. Hence fussing about Abu Graib but never a word about Grozny (which makes the former look like a Care Bears episode).

11/28/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger DocMike1484 said...

I don't really buy the comparison between Chechnya and the American South. The states that formed the Confederacy were an organic part of the British colonies that formed the United States from the very beginning.
Chechnya was conquered by the Russian Czars in the 18th century. The cultural and social fault lines were much deeper than in North America.

An interesting comparison was made between the US in Iraq vs the French in Algeria some years ago, but I can't find the essay. Has anyone seen any more recent articles about the Algerian war?

11/28/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The Algerian War could be compared to the US fighting a counterinsurgency to retain Hawaii. Algeria was at the time part of Metropolitan France.

"One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French [...] Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession."

The crisis lasted 8 years, from 1954 to 1962. At one point the French deployed 400,000 men in Algeria and suffered 28,500 KIA. And the French were not gentle.

Late in 1957, General Raoul Salan, commanding the French army in Algeria, instituted a system of quadrillage, dividing the country into sectors, each permanently garrisoned by troops responsible for suppressing rebel operations in their assigned territory. Salan's methods sharply reduced the instances of FLN terrorism but tied down a large number of troops in static defense. Salan also constructed a heavily patrolled system of barriers to limit infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco.

At the same time, the French military ruthlessly applied the principle of collective responsibility to villages suspected of sheltering, supplying, or in any way cooperating with the guerrillas. Villages that could not be reached by mobile units were subject to aerial bombardment. The French also initiated a program of concentrating large segments of the rural population, including whole villages, in camps under military supervision to prevent them from aiding the rebels -- or, according to the official explanation, to protect them from FLN extortion. In the three years (1957-60) during which the regroupement program was followed, more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages, mostly in the mountainous areas, and resettled in the plains, where many found it impossible to reestablish their accustomed economic or social situations. Living conditions in the camps were poor.

In objective terms it is almost ludicrous to compare the campaigns Chechnya, Algeria with Iraq. Although no one should belittle US casualties, Former Spook recently observed that US casualties today (with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq) are actually lower than peacetime casualties from the 1980s. Without the Bush=Hitler campaign of hyperbole in the press, it would have been possible to view Iraq in its true perspective. It has faults; it has horrors, etc. But they are not the horrors and faults that Brian de Palma's recent movie Redacted, for example claims to representatively display. We'll have to clear away a whole layer of lies about Iraq in the coming decades before it can be viewed with anything approaching historical accuracy.

11/28/2007 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

docmike, (and others that have made similar responses to my previous comment): Sure, there are a lot of differences between the Confederacy and present-day Chechnya. But the bottom line is what they have in common: They were/are both territories within the borders of a larger nation which was/is loathe to give them up - which, I might add, has historically been par for the course under the Westphalian world order.

Regardless of how the real estate in question was acquired in the first place, the economic value of that real estate, or any other historical or cultural baggage that might come with it, for a nation - any nation - to yield sovereignty over any amount of its national territory on anything short of its own terms is to send a message of national weakness, and is (or at least was, back when the Westphalian world order was still more or less uncompromised by globalization), and should be, utter anathema to any nation that values its place in the world.

Abraham Lincoln understood this when he waged war to keep the Union intact. Margaret Thatcher understood this when she waged a less-than-universally-popular war to defend the distant Falkland Islands from Argentina. And Vladimir Putin understood this when he committed to all-out war to keep Chechnya as the sovereign territory of Russia.

11/28/2007 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Why did the French consider Algeria as a part of Metropolitan France? Looking at it with 20-20 hindsight, it seems insane to have incorporated a Moslem territory into France. What was France's motivation?

11/28/2007 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Joshua --

The big differences which you will NOT acknowledge were the ability of the Union forces under Sherman to split the wealthy landowners off the rebellion by the plausible threat of making them poor.

Of course, the slaves in the South formed a counter-force against compromising, the former masters knew well they faced a reckoning from their former slaves. Hence the secession in the first place. A free South would have absolutely resulted in political punishment at least of the former slaveholding class and they knew it well.

As for Algeria, Muslim pirates had raided coastal France for millenia. France acquired the place after the US finally lost it's patience with the Barbary pirates and reduced them. Shaming the European powers who had simply paid them off.

As a "frontier" Algeria served to have a convenient place for men without place or power back home who would only cause trouble. See: Russia and Chechnya, Japan and Korea, Manchuria, England and Africa, Asia.

France fought so hard to keep it because it was one of the few possessions left able to buy social peace in France (Germany's lack of colonial opportunities left it without that ability to buy social peace through colonial adventures). Hence the periodic riots that upend French regimes.

11/28/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

Is U.S. exceptionalism seen in the way it makes war? It's hard to find (I can't find any) examples in history where a country has shed its blood so liberally for its friends AND enemies, asking so little in return (other than the storied "a place to bury our dead.")

If civilization fights with the humanity it can afford the U.S. must be very wealthy indeed (and it appears shockingly willing to take casualties where others would not, to avoid injury to an enemy who just might be an innocent because the enemy will not identify and separate themselves from the innocent per the first rule of war).

Perhaps the ex-USSR is just poorer and they'd fight with our gentility (and precision weapons) if they could afford same - I suspect not, though I was thankfully surprised they didn't use one of the least expensive weapons per kill (a nuke) in response to Beslan.

11/28/2007 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

1. Thinking of Chechnya as being internal to Russia or part of Russia is an error. The Chechens were an autonomous mountain people until the Tzars conquered them in the 19th century. Since then the Chechens have been imperial subjects. That is all. There is no love lost between the Russians and the Chechens, not even the respect that white Americans had for the Indian warriors. The Chechens don't want to be part of Russia, never did, never will. But, ...

2. The candle in the game is the Caspian Sea, which hides enormous quantities of oil and gas. Chechnya's current boundaries (which are internal Russian administrative boundaries left over from the Stalin era) are about 100 kM from the sea. If the Chechens successfully revolted against the Russians, they could threaten Moscow's access to the Caspian.
If the Russians have to kill every Chechen, man, woman, and child, to prevent that, they will.

The importance of the Caspian is the reason the Russians are making nice to Iran, which they should fear if they were at all rational.

3. "The war was not about slavery" is a canard of southern appologists. Lincoln knew better:

"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war."

11/28/2007 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The example of Algeria is quite interesting because it actually straddles ( is on the midpoint) the two types of insurgencies, domestic (as in Chechnya) and foreign (as in Iraq or the Soviets in Afghanistan). As Wretchard mentions, Algeria was considered as part of Metropolitan France but in fact only the pieds-noirs had voting rights and the vast majority of indigenous Algerians were excluded from “French” political institutions. The best current example of this type of set-up would be in the West Bank with Israeli settlers enjoying full rights as citizens of Israel but with the Palestinians not being considered as Israelis (by mutual consent of course).

So during the Algerian War, many French citizens (particularly those living is what is commonly considered France) did indeed regard the FLN as foreign insurgents while many military officers and the French people living in Algeria were much more passionate about the conflict and considered it an internal insurrection. These two differing conceptions of the war is further demonstrated by the two coup attempts against the French leadership that occurred during the war. The first spelled the end of the Fourth Republic and brought Charles de Gaulle to power, and the second, the “General’s Putsch” led to a small scale French civil war. As the war progressed and defeat loomed on the horizon for France, a small group of “dead-enders” created one of the most horrific terrorist groups that has ever existed, the OAS, which perpetrated indiscriminate massacres of women and children to show the world that their were no moral limits that they would stop at in the struggle to keep Algeria French. In the end, President de Gaulle faced a choice of either making all Algerians full citizens of France or letting Algeria become independent. The correct decision was pretty obvious.

After a decade of grumbling and icy relations, the former colonial masters in France developed close relationship with the new leaders of independent Algeria. Together the two governments fought (with the Algerians doing the actual fighting and the French running diplomatic interference) another insurgency starting in the early Nineties, this time against the radical Islamists of the GIA. This insurgency is even closer to being a purely indigenous struggle, more so than the Russian effort in Chechnya where the rebels there are not seeking to take over all of Russia but are only seeking independence for a specific portion.

Naturally this all leads back to Iraq. One way to see the US experience in Iraq (at least the Sunnistan portion of it) is as a temporal compression of the two Algerian wars into one conflict. The United States failed to impose its will on the Sunni insurgents but was wise enough to realize this. Because it is a foreign insurgency and there really is no domestic emotional pressure to continue the war (quite the opposite in fact) the US was strategically nimble change to get past the decades long grumbling stage that typically follows a military defeat. Instead they have instantly joined forces with the Sunnis to fight their now-mutual enemy Al Qaida.

11/29/2007 05:28:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Much better, Kevin, much better.

And quite at odds with the "abject failure" assertion but hey, if it makes you feel better to insist that America has not imposed its will on a people who previously insisted on dominating the whole of the country -- and no longer do so -- cool, cool, cool.

11/29/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

If using brute force is your method, then emulate the Mongols and you might win; kill every living soul. -amr

This is not an accurate description of the way the Mongols waged war. In many cases, communities (indeed, whole nations)were left intact by the Mongols, as long as they swore fealty to the Khan and offered tribute. Witness the Uyghur Turks, who became a valued part of the Mongol empire after submitting peacefully to their rule. They ruled with great tolerance for other religions/beliefs.

However, if they met resistance rather than cooperation, the response was brutal indeed.

It's likely that neither the tolerance or the brutality used by Mongol armies would adequately serve in this day and age.

11/29/2007 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas said...

I'm glad others posted before me with usefully corrective views of "Uncle Billy" Sherman. It's worth reading Shelby Foote to get a more measured view of the general, as well.

The fact is that Sherman was tough and hard-headed, but by no means was he bloodthirsty or even all that brutal. Not only was the March to the Sea relatively bloodless (as whiskey points out), but he forced Joe Johnston back on Atlanta as cleanly as he could, turning the Confederates out of good defensive positions with painstaking maneuvers rather than direct assaults. To the bosses in Richmond, it looked like Johnston was giving up Atlanta without a fight, but Sherman left him with no choice but to retreat.

It was Johnston's successor, John Bell Hood, who instigated most of the bloodshed in which Sherman's army was involved, in the battles in which he tried to break out of Atlanta.

11/29/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Joshua, the same William Tecumseh Sherman who forced the Confederates to refrain from employing torpedo's by using captured southern troops for removal.

.. IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day's provisions for the command and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.

V. To army corps commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms. ...

– William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864. This is a Wiki quote.

11/29/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger tlear said...

In a way Russians face a much harder task. Vast majority of the Chechen population genuinely hate them. There is no real external fighters of note that can be isolated from the population.

In the end Russian need to either kill every last Chechen alive, get out, or settle for a never ending war (literally).

11/30/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Temporarily casting aside Civil War comparisons, closer examination of what constitutes America's true goals might show things in a very different light.

In plain language, the US appears to be doing better than the Russians, despite the ability of the Russians to be significantly more violent and brutal. The Jamestown Foundation has a detailed evaluation of the Russian position in Chechnya prepared on Oct 18, 2007. It basically concludes that the Russians have not succeeded at any of the goals they have set for themselves.

With all due respect, this is a notion that may not be borne out by more careful analysis. While not wishing to seem too cynical, certain metrics are not being applied that might call into question just how successful we have been in Iraq or even Afghanistan for that matter.

First off, let there be no question that the surge in Iraq has delivered some truly needed results. That seemingly points towards increased and not decreased use of force as being desirable. As to the much larger and significant question of whether seeds of democracy have been planted in Iraq, any answers are vague at best. The corruption that is endemic in nearly all Islamic countries has assumed its usual role in Iraq as well. This is proving to be a major stumbling block—not just economically but also militarily—due to how factionalism and sectarianism still pose huge ongoing issues. Recent alliances with Sunni factions are hudnas at best arising from their discovery that the West protects them from Shi’ia predation better than they can themselves. Rest assured that religion will trump sectarianism when the time comes to resume hostilities against the West.

The entire question of how successful the West has been at installing democracy in these newly liberated Islamic countries is encapsulated rather well by a single incident. Abdul Rahman returned to Afghanistan as a Christian convert. Immediate and forceful calls were made for his execution on charges of apostasy. This, despite Afghanistan being a signatory to the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which guarantees freedom of religion. At no time did Hamid Karzai seek to impose his country’s rule of law in opposition to this murderous outcry. In a blatantly transparent attempt to skirt shari’a law, Rahman’s apostasy was attributed to “mental illness” or “insanity”. It is readily apparent that—regardless of the Taliban’s ouster—shari’a law still rules the roost in Afghanistan.

This same problem confronts us in Iraq and directly contributes to a disproportionate amount of grief being experienced there as well. That America liberated these two Islamic nations without excising shari’a law from their newly adopted legal codes represents a policy failure of monumental proportions. Very little interpretation is required to recognize that jihad is one of the central tenets of shari’a law. Allowing this barbaric legal system to remain in place essentially guarantees that both Iraq and Afghanistan will—upon our departure—revert to becoming terrorist factories.

We have already witnessed the Taliban drop all pretense of holiness and assume control of Afghanistan’s opium production. One can only speculate as to what sort of Islamic aggression will originate from Iraq once our counteractive presence disappears. The vast amount of precious blood and treasure being expended in the MME (Muslim Middle East) would be far better spent eliminating shari’a law, even if it required setting up harsh military dictatorships wherever we go. Islam and shari’a are inseparable, which necessitates elimination of this savage legal code as a precursor to much larger task of dismantling Islam for once and all time.

All of this harks back to whether we have been that much more successful than the Russians. While one can certainly maintain that we have not acquired the reputation for ruthless brutality like Russia has, neither are we able to claim a significantly greater degree of victory. Neither of us have extinguished a root cause cause of Islamic terrorism and that is shari'a law.

Shari'a and democracy are wholly inimical. In no way can we pretend to have installed democracy in Iraq while leaving intact shari’a law. Islam will always view the law of Allah as superceding any manmade rule of law. A key metric to our overall success in Iraq and elsewhere must be in the elimination of shari’a law. Little else matters by comparison.

12/02/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger 1389 said...

The Russians will have to be far more ruthless than the US in order to win, simply because the Chechens are not the Iraqis. The Iraqis were mostly (but not entirely) Muslims living under a dictatorship, but the entire society was not criminalized.

The Chechens are affiliated closely with al Qaeda and they more a criminal band than a society - as is true of the KLA (or whatever they call themselves now) in Kosovo. Unfortunately, in the Balkans, the US and NATO fought on the wrong side, empowering what was, and is, the local branch of al Qaeda in the Balkans.

The Chechen jihadists are no different from those of the Balkans. Their entire society is criminalized and its economy is largely based on brigandage. They are infamous for taking hostages, kidnapping, and enslaving their Slavic and other Christian neighbors. In the Caucasus, this has been going on for many centuries, and it follows the tradition of brigandage inherited from Mohammed himself. Neither the Russians nor the Soviets made them what they are.

I like to think that there may be some way to civilize people like that by converting them to Christianity, as the Vikings were at the turn of the prior millenium... but if that proves impossible, the inevitable outcome will be a war of extermination, whether anyone likes it or not. And if they get hold of any of the loose nukes floating around, we may be on the receiving end.

12/02/2007 07:38:00 PM  

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