Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out

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Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out

America is preparing to go to war again. As photos of victims from the September 11 massacre are plastered on our TV screens, few people can help but react with emotion and anger. But now, more than ever, is the time to think - coldly and unemotionally - and decide what must be done.

If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look to history for some indication of how this war should be fought. History is littered with the cases of how to conduct, and more importantly how not to conduct this type of fight.

Terrorism is simply the first stage in the evolution of guerilla war. Mao Tse Tung, arguably the most successful of modern practitioners of “irregular warfare”, describes in his writings the stages of a successful guerrilla war.

Guerilla war has its genesis in discontent. A body of people see themselves as being repressed, disrespected, and trod upon. The natural reaction is to strike back. However, those who are seen to repress others are typically too powerful to take on directly.

This discontent spawns small groups of people who take action against their enemy. In essence this is what we call terrorism today. These fanatics (their friends call them freedom fighters) come together to create havoc and inflict pain on those who allegedly repress or insult their people. This leads to reprisals and the discontent from those reactions create the fertile fields where masses of recruits can be harvested.

The other stages are not important for this discussion but basically follow the evolution from terrorism to “hit and run” military type raids to, at it’s conclusion, open warfare against the enemy.

But first, there is terrorism. Mao explains in “On Guerrilla War” that there are two basic requirements for the birth of a guerrilla (or terrorist) movement. He says,

“… guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and co-operation.”

And the second requirement is that,

“All guerrilla units must have political and military leadership.”

So, if we truly desire to “win” a guerrilla war, at least before it moves out of the terrorist phase, we must address these two basic prerequisites for a successful enemy campaign. We must deny the terrorists popular support and deny them their leadership.

So how is this accomplished. We actually have a recent historical example that provides some insight. Not only does the example show how such a war can be won, but show also how that war can be utterly lost. That example is, of course, Vietnam.

“Hearts and Minds”

The first objective is to win over the population of the target nation. First and foremost, this means we must respect the people and treat them with the same respect we give to our own people. They are not the enemy. The vast majority are those who simply want to live their lives, raise their children and grow old with some sense of peace and security. It is therefore incumbent on us to insure and reassure, through our actions, that these honest, hardworking people can get on with their lives in peace and brotherhood.

In the very earliest stages of the Vietnam War, we sent small groups of elite soldiers into villages to assist the local authorities in setting up local defense, building schools and providing medical services. The goodwill generated by these efforts turned the population (Mao’s masses) away from the guerillas, and nearly won the war before it started.

So what went wrong? In short, we did. We got impatient. Rather than this indirect action, we decided to place a barrier between the population and the guerrillas. We herded the population into base camps (slums really), erected barbed wire fences around them, and burned their homes. All of this in an attempt to keep them from the Viet Cong. It didn’t work. The people resented being treated like animals and rebelled. Support for the VC became entrenched. We became the hated enemy and not without reason.


The second objective is to eliminate the enemies ability to fight. In conventional war this means destroying their armies, cutting off supplies and destroying their production facilities. In this type of war, the infrastructure needs of the guerrilla band are practically non-existent. As such, there is only one area of vulnerability - the actual leadership and bands themselves. The bands and leaders must be hunted and destroyed.

Once again, Vietnam offers answers to those willing to look. During the height of the war, the CIA and military cooperated in an operation called the “Phoenix Project”. The basic effort was to assassinate the leadership of the VC at the local level, such that local officials could once again operate in some sense of normality. Initially, the “Project” was extremely successful, nearly reversing the ratios of “turned” and “friendly” local officials in a few short years.

Regrettably, the oversight on Phoenix was missing and they started assassinating targets they should not. Also, security on the operation deteriorated to the point where public became aware of these activities. In the end, the political leadership of our country and to a lesser extent, the people, found the practice to be so repugnant that the operation was terminated. These feelings are still with us today, most recently evidenced by the crucifixion of Senator Robert Kerry and the revulsion by many regarding his SEAL mission in Vietnam where he was accused of killing civilians. This was a Phoenix Project operation.

“Fighting to Win”

So what needs to be done?

The first step, and it may already be too late for us this time, is to make a declaration of this nation’s intent in clear and specific terms. Before America became involved in WWII, Roosevelt help craft the Atlantic Charter, which among other things guaranteed the right of self determination and called for the end of “fear and want”. This would be a good start. Add to that a declaration that all support for any terrorist organization or those with terrorist elements would end and you’d really have something for other nations to get behind.

However, we, the United States of America, would have to be good to our word. All of the taverns in Boston that have mayo jars for IRA donations sitting on their bars have to go. All private support for the PLO must go. Support for Israel must end. Our own homegrown terrorists must be hunted down and eliminated. Our house must be clean or we can not expect others to follow us. We must show that we have zero tolerance for hate. If we did this, others would follow.

Second, we need to establish strong economic ties with those who sign onto this “new Atlantic Charter”. Economic stability is the first key to insuring a population that is content. This could start with dept forgiveness or expand to a “Marshal Plan” for the world. This single act of generosity will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Third, if we must take direct action in another person’s nation, we must respect the people who live in the combat zone. Their personal safety and the safety of their families must be guaranteed. These people must know that their rights will be respected - especially their religious beliefs. Our soldiers must respect their customs, respect their women, respect them as humans. They must be assured that there is nothing to fear from our military. They must be assured that we operate with the consent of their legal government and we are not there to take over and prop up some puppet government we control. We must show that justice and truth are more than words. From this all else flows naturally.

Finally, we need to unleash our assassins. There is no nice way to say it. If terrorist organizers and bands can not be brought before the bar of justice, they must be killed. This can only be done with oversight by our political leadership, with guidance from the judiciary, but if we are serious about combating terrorists, it must be done. Bombs and cruise missiles are simply too crude a weapon for this type of warfare. This is dirty war, it is messy war, but, when a nation will not participate in the community of the world, it becomes a necessary war.


So when someone you know, or overhear starts talking about “nukin’ those bastards”, ask them if they want to win? The surest way to lose this war is to treat a body of people who are not the enemy as if they are the enemy. This simply fuels the hate that feeds the terrorist. The enemy must be eliminated and the best way to do that is to deny them followers and, ultimately, deny them life.

D.A. Friedrichs

-- Cherri (jessam6@home.com), October 03, 2001

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