The title of this article relates to an earlier and similarly titled article, Driving the Sea to the Fishes!, that I wrote over at our companion blogsite BolehTalk last year. That article discussed the consequences of the American exceptionally harsh military actions against Iraqis, whether they were insurgents or not.
This posting is an accompanying piece to an earlier blog piece titled Fallujah Revisited.
I have already penned the following discussion about 2 months ago at Macam-Macam in Fabian's article on The Fall of Saigon: 30 years on. BTW, Fabian blogs most knowledgeably on Indonesian affairs at Macam-Macam.
I have worked with US service personnel before, and while some personal chums are excellent blokes and very capable professionals, with many others decent lads and lassies, they collectively and in general aren't suitable for the sort of anti-insurgency roles required in Vietnam and Iraq. They lost in Vietnam and they will lose again in Iraq.
The US military are excellent for conventional warfare where they showed verve, speed and sometimes courageous brute force with the effective support of their firepower, technology, numbers, incredible resource capacity and gargantuan logistic capability. These characteristics including the bravery of US soldiers and marines were magnificently demonstrated in the invasion of Europe and the Pacific Islands during WWII.
But when it comes to occupying an invaded country, as in Vietnam and Iraq, the American weakness for anti-insurgency warfare stand out like the proverbial ........ Their weaknesses are:
(1) Impatience – Counter-insurgency warfare requires lots of patience, and sensitive handling of the local populace. Brash and insensitive American troops, unexposed to the outside world, have been and are the least qualified people for this role.
The Malaysian counterinsurgency efforts, bringing about the only successful counterinsurgency war in the world, employed a para-military force, police with army training, in search operations similar to the case of Fallujah, to ensure proper handling of the local populace.
The basis behind this? (a) Never allow the army or marines, who are basically trained killing machines, to operate within a civilian environment; (b) use the police, who knows civil laws and how to handle civilians.
Allowing the military to operate in cities like Fallujah would be akin to unleashing pit bull terriers into a hutch full of rabbits and hamsters. The outcome was obvious and inevitable. Before someone starts to argue, just remember that the US military offensive in Fallaujah was a counterinsurgency operations, not conventional warfare as was the case in the invasion.
(2) Obsession for measurable objectives/achievements - remember the Vietnam’s 'body counts' and other similar bullshit statistics. These are counterproductive towards realistic planning and preparation, and divert urgent resources from real tasks to enable the "situating" and fabrication of such statistics.
(3) Racism - yes, in many cases - not all Americans are from the more enlightened regions of their country - which is extremely counterproductive to winning 'hearts & minds' of the local populace.
(4) Noticeable lack of ability to fit in with the natives - others must fit in with their culture and line of thinking - ditto consequences of No (3).
(5) Overwhelming belief in high tech and gadgetry to solve their battle campaigns. In Iraq it shows in their deficient ground strength which has also been a factor of domestic politics, very much influenced by their 55,000 dead from the horrors of Vietnam - and to a very small extent, Somalia.
To be fair, this issue had to do more with political consideration, meaning US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, than the military planners. Rumsfeld had touted the 'shock & awe' doctrine coupled with blitzkrieg tactics by light highly mobile forces. Obviously his doctrine had been designed to avoid the Vietnam quagmire but has now become unravelled. The doctrine is hopeless and totally unsuitable for occupation duties. Instead, it's the Americans who are now shocked and awed by the hit & run tactics of the Sunni insurgents - just imagine how it would fare for the US military if all ethnic groups in Iraq, and not only Sunnis, become insurgents?
Prior to the Iraqi invasion, a couple of top US generals had laid down the required force level of 450,000 troops in their invasion and occupation plans. Indeed, US think-tanks like the Rand Corporation have agreed with the figure of 450,000 to 500,000 troops. Instead, the US troop strength in Iraq is around 170,000.
(6) Condescending arrogance towards 3rd world enemies, which they found to their shock in Vietnam, but unfortunately has since been forgotten in the occupation of Iraq - see point No (5). Afghanistan is also showing a Taliban comeback in the form of insurgency, but the US can at least be thankful other NATO nations are there to address the US deficiencies in this type of warfare.
(7) Using reservists who may not be as well trained tactically and mentally. Morale would be the first to go once the going gets tough. Lack of professionalism also results in atrocities which are again counterproductive to 'hearts & minds' campaign, so essential to guerilla warfare.
(8) A naïve belief in and unmitigated dependence upon unreliable locals who pretend to be pro-Americans or pro-democracy, but who actually have self-interests, and hope to gain power through the Americans. Most have turned out to be dictatorial scoundrels.
(9) A reluctance to meet genuine local leadership half-way. This has been apparent in Iraq where the Sunnis and former Baathists were shunned or ostracised. This has in part been a factor of point No (8). The Americans ought to have realised that many Iraqis joined the Baathist Party to survive - they weren't necessarily committed Baathists or Saddam loyalists.
(10) As a nation and a people, the USA is equally impatient and demanding of visible achievements. Once again, when the going gets tough, the support for the military adventure wanes, with the poor bloody soldiers incorrectly blamed, maybe spat upon on return, when all they did were to be sent there by the Administration. Again, soldiers are aware of this fast changing mood, and become very sceptical, losing morale when they sense things aren't going right for them.
When a nation loses its will to fight, as the American people had in the Vietnam War, it has effectively lost the war. The national will is one of five factors necessary for a nation to wage war effectively.
Morale is the 2nd most important principle of war. Once your troops lose that, you virtually lose the war. More than 5500 US soldiers have deserted - see my blog titled Desert Storm becomes Deserting Storm.
As mentioned above, last year I blogged on the issue of US' inability to win the 'hearts & minds' of the local Iraqis in Driving the Sea to the Fishes!
Yes, ‘Driving the sea to the fish’ is an apt description of what have occurred in Iraq. The US military, through their insensitive, harsh and brutal behaviour - eg, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, has driven the sea (people of Iraq) to the fishes (the insurgents).
Thus, I believe the US will lose the war in Iraq, as they did in Vietnam.