Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Insurgencies Rarely Win – And Iraq Won’t Be Any Different (Maybe)

This is from the recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different. Now that it finally has a winning strategy, the Bush administration is in a race against time to beat the insurgency before the public’s patience finally wears out.

They're a little left, so I was pleasantly surprised.

The cold, hard truth about the Bush administration’s strategy of “surging” additional U.S. forces into Iraq is that it could work. Insurgencies are rarely as strong or successful as the public has come to believe.

Not sure I want make the case by comparing ourselves to the Reds, but....

Similar misunderstandings persist over the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, the other supposed example of guerrilla invincibility. But it was not the mujahidin’s strength that forced the Soviets to leave; it was the Soviet Union’s own economic and political weakness at home. In fact, the regime the Soviets established in Afghanistan was so formidable that it managed to survive for three years after the Red Army left.

Read the whole article here.


Peter said...

Interesting post, and article - thanks for highlighting it. I think that Petraeus and the surge are too late for Iraq, which has developed into a complex stew of civil war and several insurgencies, but perhaps there's hope for Afghanistan.

Robert Kaplan's 'Imperial Grunts' is interesting on this - worth reading if you haven't already. Kaplan's key idea is that the US army has to go Green Beret - light and lethal, rather than cling onto 'big army' - if it wants to successfully combat insurgencies.


BostonMaggie said...

Peter - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Of course, you realize I hope you are wrong about our timing.
I haven't read "Imperial Grunts" but I do hope to. It's on the list.

BillT said...

The "lesson" from Vietnam that guerrillas cannot be defeated by conventional forces is as much a myth as the Apples of Atalanta. Tet '68 pretty much finished the VC as an organized fighting force; when I finished my tour (in '70), the local VC "battalion" had trouble mounting any operation larger than company size.

What the pundits conveniently ignore is that twenty North Vietnamese Army divisions spearheaded by armored columns rolled into Saigon in 1975 -- in violation of the Paris Accords (*what* a surprise!) -- three years after we pulled out.

The real lesson of Vietnam is that you don't cajole your enemy to the peace table, you grab him by the scruff of the neck and pound his head against a rock until his brains dribble out his ears...