Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the Global War on Terror, Know Thy Enemy

Sun Tzu & Gen Sir Richard Dannatt

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you win one and lose the next. If you do not know yourself or your enemy, you will always lose.
In light of the recent report of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's report to Congress, it is appropriate to make note of a comparable report issued this week by the British Army Chief.

I have featured the views of Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, in my pages almost a year ago. (See Brits Want Out of Iraq.) So, his views on Operation Iraqi Liberation are well known. Yesterday, Sir Richard presented a lengthy address to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Much of the impact of his remarks stung the British press because he was extremely critical of the divisions between society and the uniformed services. That is not of concern to me now.

What piqued my interest is how determined he was to use precision in identifying our adversaries. I wanted to post two or three excerpts from his statement as they appeared to confirm my own doubts as pertains to Bush's conflation of 'our enemies'.

I'll try not to editorialize, but I couldn't resist a compulsion to add my own emphasis. Here's what Sir Richard said about who confronts us in our occupation of Iraq:
So, because as an Army we are enemy focussed, some words on our adversaries in southern Iraq. The militants (and I use the word deliberately because not all are insurgents, or terrorists, or criminals; they are a mixture of them all) are well armed - certainly with outside help, and probably from Iran. By motivation, essentially, and with the exception of the Al Qaeda in Iraq element who have endeavoured to exploit the situation for their own ends, our opponents are Iraqi Nationalists, and are most concerned with their own needs - jobs, money, security - and the majority are not bad people. In amongst them, however, are a hard core of well trained, well motivated, ruthless individuals who have the capacity to organise and control a highly effective campaign, or perhaps better described as a matrix of campaigns, of violence and intimidation. They live amongst the people, are difficult to track and human intelligence, HUMINT, is difficult to obtain. They have the capacity to generate forces quickly, they will offer extreme violence against us in large urban areas through the use of complex ambushes and IEDs. They also offer violence against each other in the South, not just an account of any Sunni / Shia divide, but within the Shia community. We, meanwhile, are channelled in these urban areas, which makes the operational environment 3-dimensional, truly complex and challenging.
And here's what he said about the NATO-Taliban theater:
In Afghanistan, we fight a rather different campaign. Again our adversaries are also quite complex and I would prefer to once more use the term militant and to be careful not to demonise the people we fight in Afghanistan. There is a lazy tendency for them all to be lumped under the term "Taliban", but it is not as simple as that. Yes, there is a hard core of Islamist extremists of varied ethnic and national origin, but the great majority of the people we are engaged against are those who are fighting with the Taliban for financial, social and tribal reasons. So we must beware of tarring them all with the same brush, as I am sure that one day we will need to deal with and eventually reconcile the elected Government with the majority of these people. And the character of the people who oppose here is different to that of the people in Iraq. Afghans are a hardy people, who respect force and the warrior ethos. They are generally more impressed by a company of infantry, fighting bravely with bayonets fixed than by high tech ISTAR and offensive support. Their current choice is to fight in the cultivated areas where the visibility and fields of view can be measured in tens of metres, where basic skills, not technical prowess are most important. Indeed, it is a form of operation that our fathers would recognise from the Normandy bocage - indeed on their part it is clever, because we are denied the hi-tech advantages of stand off and range, but our training gives us the edge.
And Sir Richard clearly weighed the campaign in Afghanistan as more critical than the occupation of Iraq:
I strongly believe that the Army we are developing now has to be physically and mentally prepared to be engaged in this struggle against extremism for quite some time. If the Second World War defined its generation, then this will be the conflict that defines this generation. And it is being played out not only in Afghanistan, but also at home - as we know only too well. I think that success in Afghanistan is crucial to the national interest of the UK - it is central to the triangular security relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UK. Afghanistan is a key front in the Away dimension of our domestic security, but we also need to support our allies in Pakistan in dealing with their dimension of it, too. The home and the away coincide here. I was fortunate enough to visit the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan recently, where I saw for myself the huge efforts they are making and the considerable sacrifices they are making.
Sir Richard clearly defines our current adversaries and accurately delineates the central front on the GWOT. His observations stand in stark contrast with Bush's elastic, plastic and bombastic enemies list which has proven to be beyond counterproductive. It has proven to be self-destructive.