19 July 2007

It's Dumb Looks Time with: John Derbyshire and COIN!

Today's contestant on all things Counter-Insurgency (COIN) is John Derbyshire of The Corner on National Review Online! And for his great offering let us take his post response to Jonah Goldberg on COIN. A big round of applause to Mr. Derbyshire to step into the spotlight on this! So to start off with we will look at his posting and examine it for any and all Dumb Looks that can be given to it completely for FREE!

Here he begins thusly:

Jonah: Nope, don't care whether Iraqis "choose our side" or not. And I believe the American people have a much higher tolerance than you think for bloobaths caused by our giving up on people who—I think the American people would say—were so intrinsically hopeless, we had no choice but to give up on them. The American people barely turned a hair at Pol Pot.
Oh, my! Mr. Derbyshire has decided to call the American People heartless, callous and having a high degree of tolerance for the deaths of foreigners! And lets take that in reverse order, so we can find out why he says such a thing.

Pol Pot was the genocidal maniac leading Cambodia into its era of the Killing Fields! And do you know WHY Americans 'barely turned a hair' to that genocide? Because the Mainstream Media of the day DIDN'T REPORT ON IT DAILY!! Yes news reports did NOT flood in, day after day, from village after village, witnessing the carnage of this bloodthirsty tyrant who gleefully slaughter all of his opponents inside Cambodia. That lovely Communist formed up Democratic Kampuchea and then, because such groups as: Buddhist monks, western trained intellectuals, anyone with a decent education regardless of source, anyone who had any contact with western Nations, people who 'looked intelligent' (including those wearing glasses), the crippled, lame, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Laotians, ethnic Vietnamese. And does Mr. Derbyshire know *why* there was so little reporting on this?

Because Pol Pot killed the reporters who were: intelligent, intellectuals, had contact with western Nations and had a decent education!

Oh, my! The 'Dumb-Looks-o-Meter' is moving hard over on that concept: the American People didn't KNOW about the genocide and almost no one else DID EITHER. It took getting rid of Pol Pot's regime to know the true horror and vast scale of it as it concentrated on first eliminating the weak links with the outside world. Mr. Derbyshire has just intimated that the American People should be outraged about something that only came to light YEARS after it went on.

But, lets be fair, there is a good reason WHY there was no good reporting on this beyond Pol Pot's willingness to just kill those that could report on it. We did NOT give up on the Cambodians because they were 'intrinsically hopeless'! No we gave up on the South Vietnamese as 'hopeless' as was the war we were fighting there. And WHY did the US give up on that? Because we only fought to preserve the South Vietnamese and NOT take out North Vietnam. And who did North Vietnam supply?

Pol Pot!

There you have it, the South Vietnamese were hard pressed because the US would not liberate North Vietnam and, so the Cambodian People were 'intrinsically hopeless' because we would not bring down the regime that supplied Pol Pot!

Uh, oh! The 'Dumb-Looks-o-Meter' is squarely into the DUMB LOOKS territory and going hard through that into the HEADSHAKE OF IMPOSSIBILITY region!

So there you have the basis for 'the American People having a much higher tolerance for a bloodbath of foreigners' concept! It comes squarely on the US inability to fight to WIN against an enemy, then FLEEING the region leaving no trustworthy journalists behind who would, in any event, have been caught up in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia and KILLED so we couldn't learn about it anyways! Perhaps the American People are supposed to be MIND READERS?

That is *just* the opening paragraph by Mr. Derbyshire, perhaps he can get back to simple DUMB LOOKS and not head into the SIGH OF EXASPERATION territory.
And I must say, your ruthlessness seems pretty tame to me. REAL ruthlessness is what Winston Churchill (disapprovingly) called "frightfulness." I think you'd have to conclude, looking back after the last century or so, that modern Anglo powers simply don't do "frightfulness"—not as a land-war tactic, anyway: the city-flattening air raids of WW2 were in a category of their own. The Brits tried the well-proven Roman-Ottoman style counterinsurgency tactics in Ireland (the Black and Tans) and India (Amritsar—that was Churchill's context), and discovered they had no stomach for it. That's why Ireland and India are independent. I doubt we have the stomach either.
Oh, my, here he purports that the Roman-Ottoman style of COIN was utilized in Ireland and India. Now here it is difficult to tell just *which* COIN campaign waged by the Romans or the Ottomans he is talking about. Is this the placement of Roman troops and leadership amongst barbarians to civilize them? Or is it more along the lines of losing a revolt of indigenous peoples one once controlled, as the Ottomans clearly demonstrated they couldn't do in a losing Campaign in the Middle East during the Arab Revolt? Perhaps he is talking of the Belisarius North African Campaign to retake that area from the Vandals during the reign of Justinian? Or perhaps the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks?

Just which, pray tell, COIN mind-set does Mr. Derbyshire refer to? Because these are all EMPIRES not democracies that are waging COIN and using drastic and draconian means to do so. Empires, typically, have only one good path to COIN: kill until peace is achieved.

Is that what he is referring to for the US and the UK? That we do not LIKE GENOCIDE? He is quite correct, but not, I think, in the way he means. If that is Mr. Derbyshire's conception of 'successful COIN' then he really does have a limited view of it.

Yes it is the SIGH OF EXASPERATION time! Someone saying that genocide is the only means to peace and that ethnic cleansing, as it is now known, is not liked by democracies and so they will ALWAYS FAIL. That is one of the most highly negative views of modern civilization I have ever seen and looks to be pining for the days of successful genocidal campaigns to pacify regions that I have ever seen.

The 'Dumb-Looks-o-Meter' is nearly pegged over at RAMPANT NEGATIVISM, and the needle has been replaced by numerous contestants who have broken the poor thing by their outlooks at the incapacity of Western Civilization to do any good whatsoever in the world. Let us hope that Mr. Derbyshire doesn't wander into *that* territory:
The very interesting question, raised by Luttwak and others, is then: Does any other kind of counterinsurgency work? I think both a priori considerations of human nature and the historical evidence say "No." Still, I'm happy to wait for General Petraeus's report in mid-September.
Luckily this is all for that post, but it will be time for another needle replacement job, I can see. Previously I have left thoughts at the Bereft site on this very matter of Luttwak and his outlook, so let me lift from my response on that:
Luttwak makes the common mistake of assuming that once the oil slows from the ME, the power will wane. Terrorism now uses multiple sources for funding: narcotrafficking, bank fraud, grey market goods sales, theft, kidnap for ransom, and the ever popular murder for hire. Petrodollars make it worse, yes, but the present idea that free markets and cheap goods are making things safer and the world freer is misguided and no place more so than the Middle East. Trade does not get freedom. International insitutions do not get freedom.

If either of those were true then
after 90 years of having it go on in the Middle East, it should be the freest place on the planet. I do not see that for some very strange reason.

This is primarily not a money flow question as that area has been a haven for tyrants, thugs and Empires for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Of freedom and liberty based upon the rights of man, there has been scant evidence of it. In fact the drying up of money will make things more restive, more tense and those new sources, like Canada with the tar sands and the US with its oil shales, even more hated for 'taking such riches away'. That is, of course, irrational. Perhaps Mr. Luttwak has not noticed the lack of rational actors in the region?

Mussolini still managed to get a lot of folks killed, threaten the vital supply link of the Suez and had an outside chance, with Germany, of cutting off Gibraltar if Germany had held to its original War Plan. Thankfully that was not done.

This enemy has no Nation and wishes all Nations overturned. It can get cheap arms anywhere because we do not do a thing about going after trade with our enemies. There are a number of vital supply and transport links that can be targeted with some ease and if any non-conventional weapon is used possibly removed from the global economy on a long-term basis. I suggest that the economic argument is trivial compared to the long-term survival argument. If we do not put an end to terrorism and dreams of Empire we and our children *will live* to regret our effete attitudes towards civilization and how to hold it.

The fighting would have been bad, but manageable in 1917 and given basis for the US to help bring about more Nations aligned with their Peoples. We did not do that.

The US could have done a bit more after WW II beyond mere anti-colonial support and put in some actual help to the region in the way of schools and building a good base for decent jobs. We did not do that, either.

We could have stopped supporting tyrants or actually overthrown those not in the direct control of the USSR. We did not do that.

Now we pay for the inaction of parents and grand-parents who could have helped other Peoples find a route to freedom by expending blood and money to fight a hard, nasty war that had no good end because it was not fought to completion anywhere. That is still left undone in the Balkans and Middle East. And the price of that is held by a butcher that has decided we need to pay with our lives and freedom.

Time to put fancy ideas of economic reality away and start to deal with this other, actual, real sort of reality, where there are non-rational actors in the world.

Because if we do not put an end to them, then they shall do so to us.
Yes, Mr. Luttwak is looking at the WRONG REASON for terrorism and its continuation! Mr. Luttwak wants there to be nice, cozy, rational actors that will appear, magically, in the Middle East once the petrodollars go away. I have some bad news for him and any who believe in that: it didn't happen during the Barbary Pirates days! This meme of taking over the world for the Caliphate has been around for a long time and those supporting it do not believe, like good Christians, that people should decide for themselves to believe in God and bring it about. The radical Islamists want it at gunpoint and submission - the loss of freedom globally so that they may rule.

Apparently Mr. Derbyshire does not believe in that and, instead, believes these will be nice folks who will just leave the West alone once the US runs away. How unfortunate for the folks in London, Madrid, Bali, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, China (yes, western China these days), the Tri-Border Area of South America, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden... sorry, COIN just doesn't work don't mind the Caliphate repression as it will WIN over democracies which have a high toleration for the bloodshed of their neighbors.

Yes the needle is hard over at RAMPANT NEGATIVISM and that brings us to the historical research of Mr. Derbyshire and it is time to bust the poor 'Dumb-Looks-o-Meter', again. We will start with one highly known, successful COIN operation waged by the United States of America!

This was against a ruthless, native enemy that we had not even FOUGHT against in a war and yet we got stuck doing COIN work against them.... an enemy so ruthless that they skinned people alive and stuffed the skins and left them by trails to be found at night... one that thought nothing of torture, mutilation and sending body parts back to villages. A hard fought, hard won campaign to help a Nation overcome its insurgent minority, islamic population. That was the Moro Rebellion of 1901-13 after the Philippine-American War (1899-1901). And by 1915 the Philippines was to be handed over to a reliable, native government!

If one looks at ethnic divisions and uprisings against a ruling government, then the entire set of Western Indian Wars by the US, lasting from the start of the Akira War starting on or about 01 JUN 1823 and lasting to the final treaties, ending them on 05 OCT 1898 is a 75 year COIN operation with perennial flare-ups, battles, wars, terrorism, killing and so on going on throughout the entire endeavor. There was, apparently, a lot of bloodshed going on in that time.

Prior to that the Northwest Indian War (21 JAN 1785 to 03 AUG 1795) would also be an example of COIN and ending such work on an ongoing basis. This was done by, yes, a democracy.

While we may like it less the British Malay Emergency solutions were on the order of 'relocating populations' but it was to prevent something worse from happening and was a long term problem until it was realized that it was unwinnable on the part of the insurgents. From this we get the 'hearts and minds' concept of COIN.

These solutions require: engaging the native population, ensuring that ethnic tensions and conflicts are addressed, and killing off the insurgents or giving them no long-term options for success. While Mao may like the idea of a 'fish swimming through populations of other fishes' and 'draining the swamp' comes from this concept, the one of helping to get local, accountable government structures that remove legitimacy from insurgent forces is key. That took a long time in the US and, to this day, the solution for Native Americans has been sub-optimal although the campaign was and is successful. Malay defensive relocation of ethnically 'at risk' populations allowed the government to quell tensions and give little options for insurgents to have legitimate cause to fight and wore them out. And in the Philippines, it was kill until respect is gained, in one of the most horrific and personal COIN fights the US has ever been engaged in and is still remembered by the Moros who bequeath names like "John", "Theodore" and "Pershing" to children.

Apparently using democratic means to create legitimate government and remove legitimacy from insurgents can and does work, via various means. So there we have historical analysis to demonstrate effective COIN work done by democracies. And so Mr. Derbyshire wins plenty of Free Dumb Looks for his Rampant Negativism on COIN and establishing governmental legitimacy by democracies.

Perhaps he would like a nice Islamic Empire, instead?

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