Friday, June 25, 2010
The Romance of Counterinsurgency « sans everything
For the last half-century, counterinsurgency has been the type of war that liberals are most likely to idealize. In theory, counterinsurgency sounds great: it’s war fought to win “the hearts and minds” of the people, war that involves building alliances with the local population, war done with the best of intentions, war as a giant social welfare program (with guns).
first great liberal embrace of counterinsurgency was the Kennedy administration Green Berets to fight guerrilla wars.
around 2003 some liberals once again took up the idea of counterinsurgency. it’s really development work and human rights, except the people will carry guns.
counterinsurgency is more brutal than conventional warfare which are all about seizing territories with one army fighting another and sometimes civilian casualties as a by product.
Counterinsurgency is to seize control “hearts and minds”. civilians are the chief target. Civilians are the battlefield. counterinsurgency is warfare aligned with nation building.
1977 study, “The Counterinsurgency Era,” the late Douglas Blaufarb, a former CIA agent who oversaw counterinsurgency operations in Laos addresses the problem of “self-reform in crisis.” where outsiders press for political reform
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, the notion that reforms can be carried out in a wartime situation by a beleaguered regime is “the fatal fallacy in the liberal theory of counterinsurgency, with the United States so often obliged to work through repressive local leadership, the reform component dwindled into ineffectual exhortation.”
Kennedy, the need to help poor countries develop politically and economically into modern nation states so that they can be strong enough to resist communism
Yet effective counterinsurgency often involves building up small tribal groups. by strengthening the Meo hill-people of Laos further frayed the social fabric of Laos
Counterinsurgency emphasis on improving social conditions and spreading democracy. Green Berets and the Peace Corps are the same reforming spirit
In Vietnam. As the war ground on harsher tactics appeared, targeting of enemy collaborators for assassination. In the infamous Phoenix Program that began in 1967, a direct outgrowth of counterinsurgency, the American government paid for the murder of thousands of civilians allegedly tied to the Viet Cong. This was precisely the type of program that turned many Americans against the Vietnam War
The US then went on elsewhere, in Guatemala.
Numbed by years of killing, peasants adopted a quietist philosophy that rejected both sides. in 1975, South Vietnam couldn’t rally its own population to resist.
Successful counterinsurgency involves a deep familiarity with the local culture. Gaining political legitimacy is the key to successfully defeating an insurgency. such popular support can take years and there is tension between security for one’s troops and winning popular support….