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Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kissinger on Guerrilla Warfare

I dare not mention the word Kissinger around some of my cohorts, it is immediately answered with swift calls for war crimes tribunals and an even quicker trip to the gallows. Be that as it may, I find the man fascinating and prefer to look at his life and work without passing so much judgement. A brilliant and complicated man.

I recently read his 1994 book Diplomacy and it is an honest and cogent walk through and analysis of various crisis and diplomatic imbroglios that shaped his tenure as a diplomat under both Nixon and Ford. His pithy analysis of the Vietnam conflict should be required reading for every history student.

One of the sections that he wrote on Guerrilla War was brilliant and I thought that I would share it with you as it has some tangency with the problems that beset us today:
In a conventional war, a success rate of 75 percent would guarantee victory. In a guerrilla war, protecting the population only 75 percent of the time ensures defeat. One hundred percent security in 75 percent of the country is far better than 75 percent security in 100 percent of the country. If the defending forces cannot bring about nearly perfect security for the population - at least in the area that they consider essential - the guerrilla is bound to win sooner or later.
The basic equation of guerrilla war is as simple as it is difficult to execute: the guerrilla army wins as long as it keeps from losing; the conventional army is bound to lose unless it wins decisively. Stalemate almost never occurs. Any country engaging itself in guerrilla war must be prepared for a long struggle. The guerrilla army can continue hit and run tactics for a long time even with greatly diminished forces. A clear cut victory is very rare: successful guerrilla wars typically peter out over a long period of time. The most notable examples of victory over guerrilla forces took place in Malaya and Greece, where the defending forces succeeded because the guerrillas were cut off from outside supply sources (in Malaya by geography, In Greece due to Tito's break with Moscow).
Neither the French nor the American army, which followed in its footsteps a decade later, ever solved the riddle of guerrilla war. Both fought the only kind of war they understood and for which they had been trained and equipped-classical conventional warfare based on clearly demarcated front lines. Both armies, relying on superior firepower, strove for a war of attrition. Both saw that strategy turned against them by an enemy who, fighting in his own country, could exhaust them with his patience and generate domestic pressures to end the conflict. Casualties kept mounting while criteria to define progress remained elusive.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Red Coats never solved the problem of defeating a Guerrilla War. The old Mao bromide of "drying up the sea they swim in was based on that he knew even guerillas can swim!! In addition they spawn in the corruption and non responsive actions of their "own' ruling regime. "Declations historically followed the magnitude of followed a Lexington and Concord, Fort Sumter, Invasion of Belgium by the Germans in 1914, Pearl Harbor, and the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. One could easily argue that and the Middle East have has experienced 80 years of Western invasion, violence, and hegemony. Let us not forget the "axis of conflict" is between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The main $source of the ISIS limited scope of weaponry is funded by our Saudi allies to contain Iran.

warren b.

Jon Harwood said...

Middle Eastern duplicity has a lot to do with the whole clusterf**k. Rich Saudis fund much of what is terrorizing the West as they don't like the Shiite mess. Gulf countries will not have anything to do with the refugees created by their actions. No one in the Middle East wants to get off their particular hobby horse to deal with the instability as they are all corrupt and essentially have never cared about the suffering outside their borders or the suffering of their own lower classes. A few exceptions to the nastiness exist such as Israel and Jordan-places that look like paradises compared to their neighbors. When dealing with a tub of pihrana like this it is rational to think in Kissenger's realpolitik way but hopefully we will think better than Kissinger as Kissinger totally missed the boat on our mishap in Iraq. When one gets to the worst parasites like Daesh there is a rational case for a carpet bombing party despite my reservations about the effectiveness of it. Getting a lot of countries working on this from multiple angles makes sense as does putting clothes pins on our noses and involving the Russians. If the Gulf ding dongs won't help we ought to figure out how to distance ourselves from them, something we should have done seventy-five years ago.