Friday, April 27, 2007

# Posted 6:39 AM by Patrick Porter  

INSURGENCIES, BODYCOUNTS AND WINNING FORMULAS: Seth Jones has an interesting piece in the Spring edition of Survival that might be a healthy corrective to current squabbles over failure in Iraq. At least in the popular political arena, the debate has focussed often on troop numbers and the role of hard power in killing insurgents.

But Jones reminds us of the RAND research that correlates insurgent success not simply with bodycounts or force ratios, but with external support. Looking at 91 insurgencies since 1945, suggests
... insurgencies that have gained and maintained state support have won more than half the time. Those with support from non-state actors and diaspora groups (but not state support) won a third of the time, and those with no external support at all won only 17% of the time.

what makes decisive victory possible is the provision or withdrawal of support from a foreign power to the government or rebel side. In Malaya and the Philipines, for example, insurgents received no external military support and ultimately lost.

Support includes training, money, personnel weapons, logistics, moral/political/diplomatic backing, intelligence, and expertise.

Interdicting this source of support has often been spoken of as an important step. It might even be the decisive one.
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

I'm a cheap bastard, so rather than buy the article I'll ask you:
Does the article account for the possibility that insurgencies that are likely to be successful attract state support for that reason, rather than the other way around?
Winning Formula. You can stop there. Then continue to analyze, break down the components, and conclude what you need to win a particular battle or a war.

Next challenge is to implement that formula.
Sheesh--I was saying this four years ago.
Surely the solution with insurgencies that do enjoy state support is to inflict unendurable suffering on that state?
Lawrence Keeley wrote:

___The fact that most guerrillas who lost either lacked or were cut off from logistical support by a larger and more modern economy highlights the only real weakness of primitive warfare and the decisive advantage of the civilized version.

___[The] techniques of civilized war are focused on winning battles, whereas those of tribesmen and guerrillas are devoted to winning everything else, especially war. In many cases primitive warfare requires long periods of time—even generations—to gain its ends, whereas the goal of civilized war is the extremely elusive “knock-out blow.”

War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (1997). Pg. 80. Oxford University Press.
Victory for us can be defined now as survival of the central government in Baghdad, and the chances of that government surviving are not small, as evidenced by the buoyancy of its currency. And with each day that passes, the government's armed forces increase in power... My guess is 17% is about right for the chances of the present government disappearing. We have created a new, more rational power in Iraq. By some yardsticks that is certainly a victory.
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