December 14th, 2004


The unbeatable guerilla

I had a very interesting discussion about guerrilla warfare with my husband this morning. We don't normally talk about politics because we have very similar views, and I just don't talk politics in general. Too many people who want to argue instead of discuss.

But I've been thinking about Teresa Nielsen Hayden's post about the impact of knowledge on behavior and her point that the reaction most people had was about being frightened and not actual knowledge for the last couple of days. I think she's pretty well right on the mark, and this morning out of the blue my husband brought up something he'd heard in the news about Rumsfeld confirming that troops were scavenging armor because they "go to war with the army they have and not the one they want." He said he's been impressed with Rumsfeld in general, and with his handling of Afghanistan in specific. After getting over my surprise that this was news at all, I went on a tirade about Afghanistan and the way that conflict was abandoned in favor of playing war in Iraq.

We talked a bit about how the conflict in Afghanistan was lead by special forces folks, and the on in Iraq is a standing army. Both are having problems with "insurgents," also known as guerrilla warfare. I still maintain that there's just no way a standing army can beat guerilla warfare, especially when it's ideologically motivated. You'd really have to kill all the opposition to a man, including all of their families. Hopefully, that will never happen. It's just to horrifying a concept. The only way to affect real change in a culture where dying in battle is a sure way into heaven is to have a mass uprising. Even then, they'll still have problems - witness the armed uprising in Mexico in 1997 and Central America as a whole.

I guess I'm just in shock that our country is dumb enough that we think we can win a war as a standing army against a guerrilla force. Didn't we learn anything from our own independence war? At some point, you have to get on with it and accept that these folks are going to continue down their path of "martyrdom." Get on with it already, let the Iraqis be in charge of their own goverment and assist them with the remaining terrorists. An army isn't going to flush or disperse them.

Out of curiosity, does anyone have any examples where this is wrong?