Quick Facts: Iran is Waging Textbook 4th Generation Warfare Against Israel


At this moment Iran is waging a clinic on 21st Century 4th Generation Warfare against Israel.

Consider the facts:

Stay Alert, Stay Informed, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!



Paradoxes of the “Gray Zone”



Gray, it seems, is the new black. The concept of “gray zone” conflict has generated significant attention and controversy recently, within both the U.S. government and the broader strategic studies community. Some analysts have identified gray zone conflict as a new phenomenon that will increasingly characterize, and challenge, the international system in the years to come. Others have argued that the concept is overhyped, ahistorical, and perhaps even meaningless. “The ‘gray wars’ concept lacks even the most basic strategic sense,” writes Adam Elkus. “Beneath the hype is something rather ooh-la-lame rather than ooh-la-la.

So what is gray zone conflict, to begin with? Gray zone conflict is best understood as activity that is coercive and aggressive in nature, but that is deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict and open interstate war. Gray zone approaches are mostly the province of revisionist powers—those actors that seek to modify some aspect of the existing international environment—and the goal is to reap gains, whether territorial or otherwise, that are normally associated with victory in war. Yet gray zone approaches are meant to achieve those gains without escalating to overt warfare, without crossing established red-lines, and thus without exposing the practitioner to the penalties and risks that such escalation might bring.

Gray zone challenges are thus inherently ambiguous in nature. They feature unconventional tactics, from cyberattacks, to propaganda and political warfare, to economic coercion and sabotage, to sponsorship of armed proxy fighters, to creeping military expansionism. Those tactics, in turn, are frequently shrouded in misinformation and deception, and are often conducted in ways that are meant to make proper attribution of the responsible party difficult to nail down. Gray zone challenges, in other words, are ambiguous and usually incremental aggression. They represent that coercion that is, to varying degrees, disguised; they eat away at the status quo one nibble at a time.

Viewed in these terms, it becomes clear that gray zone conflict is real enough, and that gray zone approaches are indeed prevalent in today’s security environment. Since 2014, Russia has destabilized and dismembered Ukraine through the use of armed proxies, “volunteer” forces, and unacknowledged aggression. In Asia, China is using gray zone tactics as part of a campaign of creeping expansionism in the South China Sea. In the Middle East, Iran is using, as it has for many years, subversion and proxy warfare in an effort to destabilize adversaries and shift the balance of power in the region. These are leading examples of the gray zone phenomenon today.

Contrary to what skeptics argue, then, the gray zone is not an illusion. But if the concept does pack a punch, it is also elusive and even paradoxical. Edward Luttwak has written about the paradoxical logic of strategy—the fact that it seems to embody multiple, and seemingly contradictory, truths at once. In dealing with the gray zone, this basic proposition applies in spades. The gray zone concept may seem relatively straightforward at first glance. But upon closer inspection, it is fraught with complexities, contradictions, and ironies. These characteristics do not make the concept worthless or meaningless. They do, however, make it quite slippery.

Accordingly, this essay surfaces eight paradoxes, complexities, and nuances at the heart of the gray zone idea—and at the heart of efforts to respond to gray zone challenges. The goal is not to provide a comprehensive discussion of the gray zone concept and its defining characteristics, for that task has been undertaken in greater depth elsewhere. The goal, rather, is to throw some of the gray zone’s central paradoxes into sharper relief, and thereby to shed greater light on a concept that is at once deeply controversial and deeply important to debates about the future of warfare and U.S. policy.

Read the Remainder at Foreign Policy Research Institute

Preparing for the Next BIG War

 As a footnote to this this list I would add the ability for our Military and Intelligence Agencies to Operate within the same parameters as the Russian, Chinese and Iranian Military operates; in a “hybrid” 4th Generational Capacity, where war is waged against your adversary in every facet of their society; Financial, Social, Political, Religious etc. Weakening a nation from the inside CONSISTENTLY is something both Russia and China have been doing for a while now (Read Death by a Thousand Cuts) therefore, the United States should be tripling it’s efforts against our adversaries in this regard. -SF


“For almost twenty years we had all of the time and almost none of the money; today we have all of the money and no time.”

Those words were spoken by Army Chief of Staff George Marshall in 1940 as he was facing the imminent entry of the United States into World War II. He was lamenting the fact that when large conflicts suddenly arrive, all the money in the world cannot magically fix military shortfalls overnight. It is not hard to imagine a future Army chief of staff uttering those same words on the eve of a truly big war.

Between 1945 and 1989, the looming threat of global war between the United States and the Soviet Union informed every aspect of U.S. military preparations, from doctrine to organization to weaponry. But since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has not been sized, organized, and globally postured to fight a large-scale and bloody war.

Today, virtually no one serving below the rank of colonel or enlisted senior chief has ever served in a military facing a powerful peer competitor, nor have they faced a realistic prospect of fighting a global war to protect the nation’s most vital interests and perhaps even its survival. Yes, the United States has been at war for the past decade and a half. But even at their peak, U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan included no more than 171,000 troops and100,000 troops respectively. Compare that with the more than 537,000 troops deployed at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968 — which was considered a small and limited conflict at the time.

The likelihood that the United States will have to fight a really big war — one that requires many hundreds of thousands of troops, with high levels of destructiveness and casualties — remains low, but the consequences would be enormous. And in a world threatened increasingly by disorder, violent extremism, and more aggressive large states, those low odds may be increasing.

What could trigger a big war? A massive, direct attack on the United States certainly would, but other lesser crises could also escalate unpredictably. Imagine, for example, a Russian invasion of another eastern European state; a territorial miscalculation between the United States, China, or a treaty ally in the South China Sea; an explosive Sunni–Shia conflict spilling beyond the Middle East; a regional conflict in South Asia or on the Korean peninsula; or a large deadly terrorist attack in the United States. An initial U.S. military response to any of these scenarios could escalate into a greater, and potentially even global, conflict. The requirements of such a war would greatly exceed current contingency plans for Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the Korean peninsula.

The potentially devastating consequences of the next big war demands that the U.S. military (and the nation as a whole) prepare as much for this scenario as for the range of lesser challenges demanding attention today. Today’s wars, likely contingencies, and simply running the Defense Department all require time, energy, and resources. Choices and tradeoffs must be made. Nevertheless, the Pentagon must identify the gaps that would put the United States at the biggest risk in a large, prolonged conflict against a highly capable adversary, and mitigate those risks to the greatest extent possible.

We believe that there are at least five big gaps that the United States must try to fill — and a sixth that cannot be fixed even though it may be the area of greatest U.S. vulnerability.

1. Precision Munitions and Advanced Weaponry. A large-scale conflict could consume vast quantities of U.S. and allied precision munitions in the opening weeks. Many of these weapons have been bought in limited quantities and would require immediate replenishment. Munitions production lines should be stocked with critical sub-assemblies and parts, and precious scarce materials warehoused to rapidly churn out more of these essential tools of war. Precision munitions will be consumed quickly even in medium size conflicts; upgrading this capability would yield high payoffs across most potential scenarios. Moreover, the Department of Defense and industry must be able to rapidly accelerate and combat test advanced weapons that are still in development (such as rail guns and laser weapons), so they can get into the hands of fighting troops quickly.

2. Platforms. Fighter planes, drones, bombers, even submarines and surface warships could see heavy losses in the first days and weeks of a big war. Other hardware may prove obsolete or vulnerable to enemy action and require immediate replacement or abandonment. Most of these complex platforms require months or years to produce. Warm production lines with readily available manufacturing materials must be available to accelerate production quickly. There may be some lessons to be learned from the rapid production of MRAPs at the height of the IED threat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, the services should inventory their boneyards to identify what systems could be rapidly reconfigured for combat use with some advanced preparation.

3. Troops. Defending the United States against potential homeland threats while deploying hundreds of thousands of troops overseas would require a significantly larger U.S. military, even after the National Guard and Reserves are mobilized. A new and massive effort to build, train, lead, and equip new forces may be necessary to generate sufficient combat power quickly and to sustain it over multiple months and even years of combat. All of the services need plans to expand rapidly if required, though this is particularly urgent for the Army and Marines. Since conscription might well be required, U.S. political leaders should ensure that the Selective Service System remains strong (and, as we have written, includes women), and think through what manpower requirements would require instating a draft.

4. Planning and Adaptability. Planning for a big war requires carefully examining vulnerabilities, making sober estimates of casualties and attrition, and realistically appraising how many men and women will be needed. Broad questions need to be asked about how the force might fight, where, and against what adversary; what new equipment and capabilities might be needed; and what current assumptions or constraints (such as relying on a volunteer force) might need to be discarded. Once a big war starts, the services will need to rapidly adapt to unanticipated battlefield conditions. They may need to invent new units and capabilities, either as physical formations or virtual capabilities — think space attack brigades, civilian chem-bio advisory teams, or micro-drone defense units.

5. Technology. Additive printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies all have important military applications — and every combatant will be racing to exploit them first in battle. The U.S. military must therefore maintain its technological superiority, and also find ways to rapidly find wartime applications for non-military technologies. However, the United States is likely to be far more vulnerable to cyber attack than almost any imaginable adversary, since its military, government, and business functions rely so heavily on the cyber realm. The U.S. government may need to mobilize key parts of the nation’s cyber workforce in an online version of the Civil Air Patrol to counter large-scale cyber attacks and defend U.S. public and private networks against hostile disruptions and direct attacks.

6. Stamina. This is a major strategic gap that may not be able to be filled before a big war starts, because it is psychological in nature. The military and the nation must both be mentally and emotionally prepared for large numbers of dead and wounded troops — and possibly civilians, too. Big wars tend to be bloodily indiscriminate toward both. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of killed and wounded may be incurred in hours and days rather than months and years; generals may no longer be able to carry slim packets of index cardswith their names and stories as has become common practice in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bloody mindedness” among fighting generals and admirals may once again become a necessary war-winning attribute — in stark contrast to recent limited wars. The willingness of the nation to endure a big war is a potentially large vulnerability, especially if the war does not involve a direct attack on the United States. Making the nation and military psychologically more resilient in the face of potential heavy casualties is a challenge that both civilian and military leaders should begin thinking about now.

U.S. political and military leaders face many constraints in addressing these gaps, including limited time, resources, and attention. Nevertheless, one of the most important things they (and their staffs) can do is to foster truly creative thinking in each of these six areas. That can be a very difficult challenge, since a big war would have a much different character and different requirements than the wars and challenges of today. That’s why, for example, we included the novel Ghost Fleet on our professional reading list for the incoming Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. It imagines a big war with China, and shows both the challenges and creative solutions that emerged as the United States filled its considerable pre-war gaps. (No plot spoilers here, but one example is Mentor Crew, which assigns retired military officers throughout the fleet to advise the many brand new crews that had to be formed.)

The United States cannot afford to enter an increasingly dangerous future without a sober look at the most demanding, even existential, military contingencies. The return of aggressive great powers, the diminishment of some allied military capabilities, and the rise of transnational threats all suggest a world in which a large, dangerous, and deadly war could arise unexpectedly. Creative thinking and problem solving must remain a very important part of how the Department of Defense and the services prepare now. As the U.S. military continues to reshape itself for an uncertain future, imagining the unimaginable next big war must become an essential part of its planning for a dangerous future.

About the Author:  

Lt. General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as Nonresident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council. Their column appears in War on the Rocks every other Tuesday.

Read the Original Article at War on the Rocks

“This is not your Grandfathers Al-Qaeda”

isis op

FBI Director James Comey made this statement in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Wednesday in talking about ISIS. And although, not the main topic of discussion, one could since from the tone of all involved that ISIS continues to be a MAJOR concern to our Government, both in their campaigns in Iraq and Syria and their relentless cyber-campaigns to recruit new soldiers and spread their propaganda of hate all over the globe.

When one steps back and looks at the textbook definition of Fourth Generation Warfare, it is obvious ISIS is currently meeting almost all the criteria:

  • Are complex and long-term
  • Terrorism as a (tactic)
  • A non-national or transnational base – highly decentralized
  • A direct attack on the enemy’s culture, including genocidal acts against civilians.
  • Highly sophisticated psychological warfare, especially through media manipulation and lawfare
  • All available pressures are used – political, economic, social and military
  • Occurs in low intensity conflict involving actors from all networks
  • Non-combatants are tactical dilemmas
  • Lack of hierarchy
  • Small in size, spread out network of communication and financial support
  • Use of insurgency and guerilla tactics

So first, let’s examine ISIS’ battlefield tactics, as witnessed by Iraq Military Commanders and embedded journalist:

1. The use of Shock or Suicide Troops.

Much like the Japanese Bonzai charges of WW2, these troops break through defensive lines and postures, killing as many enemy as they can before blowing themselves up. The goal is to cause massive chaos, harassing or destroying enemy communications so reinforcements or other support personnel don’t have a chance. After this a secondary offensive can come in and clean up with little resistance. This tactic was used at Ramadi with great success. First came a wave of more than 12 to 13 suicide bombings that hammered the military’s positions in the city, then the fighters moved in during a sandstorm. Iraqi troops crumbled and fled as a larger IS force marched in. Not surprisingly, ISIS primarily uses foreign fighters for suicide troops, keeping the more experienced, better trained troops alive to fight another day.

2. Switching between Conventional and Guerilla Tactics

Using Guerilla Warfare and Terrorism to wear down the enemy and then a mass attack with armored humvees and other vehicles and sometimes artillery to consolidate gains. This transitional nature of fighting often confuses the enemy, who are not accustom to this type of fighting.

3. Command Structure Has Flexibility

The commanders are given a wide berth to adapt as they see fit. They are often times given a broad Operational Strategy and then allowed to find their own ways to meet he objectives. This flies in the face of most Middle Eastern Military Command Structure like Syria or Iraq, where the rigid and often corrupt hierarchy punish action taken without direct orders. This can be seen in ISIS’ ability to conduct multiple battles simultaneously, a tactic that Iraqi Military commanders cannot do.

4. ISIS’ Fighters are Disciplined

With desertion being punishable by death, ISIS fighters would much rather die in jihad than run from it and die a coward. This is not the case with the Iraqi army, as was saw in the embarrassing defeat at Ramadi, where Iraqi troops were deserting at such a high rate, missions were called off due to a lack of manpower. On the flip side, while most ISIS fighters are there out of religious conviction, Iraqi soldiers are there for a job and a paycheck, but the conditions and pay of most Iraqi soldiers is terrible, (mostly due to corruption; According to the Washington Post, last year in one investigation, it was found that the Iraqi Army had been paying salaries to 50,000 soldiers that did not exist.) Want to guess where that money came from? Yep, Uncle Sam.

5. ISIS is Technologically Inventive

What do you do when you cannot afford a $5 million dollar Drone? You build one out of a RC Airplane and a  wireless web-cam of course. The drone helps to both survey the battlefield and film wide-angle shots for their high-dollar, big budget propaganda films distributed by their media arm, Al Hayat. ISIS’ ability to adapt and be inventive on the battlefield sets them apart from past terrorist groups.

6. They have Mastered Maneuver Warfare

Through the use of Technicals (Pickups with mounted weapons) ISIS maintains the initiative by avoiding prepared defensive positions. In doing this, they do not create any defensive hard points (staying fluid and mobile) and as long as they do not face a foe that can put up repeated counter-offensive actions, having a pickup truck beats having a tank any day of the week. Trucks are also easier to maintain, drink way less gas and are much more expendable than a tank. As far as Weapon platforms go, they are also extremely versatile They can be fitted with Heavy machine guns, Anti-Tank, Anti-Aircraft and artillery cannons, depending on the mission profile.

Switching to the Fifth Dimension (Cyber-Side) of Warfare, ISIS has seen great success there also, both in recruiting new members and in spreading their propaganda around the globe.

The following factors contribute:

1.  Well Financed Media Arm, Al Hayat

Take one look at an ISIS Propaganda video and you can tell it has money behind it. They are all very high quality, typically in 1080HD, with very slick logos and graphics. Their films are often subtitled in English, a sure sign they were  produced for western audiences.  Although it is unclear who is actually behind Al Hayat, according to MEMRI, it was begun by a former German rapper called “Deso Dogg” who now goes by the islamic name Abu Talha Al Almani. ISIS waste no time in marketing several videos each month purely for propaganda, one in particular, interviews several new ISIS recruits, each recounting why they joined ISIS and their hopes to die a martyr. Of course, the most infamous are the beheading videos and so called “atrocity porn”, which ISIS starting distributing heavily during the Iraq and Syria campaigns. Surprisingly, though these videos are repugnant, they often go viral, helping to spread ISIS’s message of murder, religious intolerance and hate across the globe.

2.  Masters of Social Media

According to the Brookings Institution study, ISIS Twitter Census, without a doubt, one of the most exhaustive and in-depth studies done on the subject to date, 20,000 Twitter accounts were looked at thought to be associated in some way with ISIS over a period of roughly a month. Accordingly, the report found that ISIS used various bots and apps to artificially boost its online presence. They also use popular dashboards like Hootsuite to schedule tweets to go out at certain times globally, in every time zone of the world. It is estimated that some of the bots and apps could produce as many as a million tweets per day at a rate of a thousand tweets a minute. But despite these huge numbers, the study did find that AGGRESSIVE Suspension of accounts associated with ISIS effectively negates and limits the audience. The strategy going forward then must be more aggressive suspension and control of accounts even remotely associated  with the group.

3. Maintains a Steady Presence with Online News Magazine

With Social Media being more and more heavily regulated by U.S. Law Enforcement and International Pressures, ISIS has taken a page from their predecessor, Al-Qaeda and started their own Online News Magazine, Dabiq. Like Al-Qaeda’s Inspire, Dabiq features in-depth reports that discusses strategy and “successes” of recent missions. The magazine is primarily published in English and both the articles and HD videos can be downloaded for free.


I will be doing an upcoming piece on the ways the U.S. is fighting ISIS’ propaganda and recruitment campaign across the globe and more importantly, here at home, so be on the lookout. Until then,

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!


A CO’s Synopsis on Guerilla Warfare

Being a history buff, in particular, military history, I am one of those guys that fills notebooks and flash drives with random notes that I find interesting and/or useful from books, lectures, magazine articles, etc. The following are some random notes I have taken on the subject.

The source(s) for the majority of my notes come from two of Max Boot’s Excellent treatises on Guerilla Warfare, which I suggest all CO’s read: Invisible Armies and The Savage Wars of Peace. There are also a few other works I have cited from, but they are all notated with title, author and page number.

I am a firm believer in studying History as a way to understand the present and to avoid making the same mistakes of the past. As you study this, I want you to consider two things:

  1.  Note the recurring mistakes of HUBRIS and ARROGANCE that super-powers make in dealing with Insurgencies.
  2. Consider the CO’s possible future role as a Guerilla Fighter and how they could exploit these weaknesses/mistakes.


The Nature of Guerilla Warfare (GW)

If done correctly, GW can exact a very heavy toll on a super power, not just in losses of men or material, but also in “Political Face” and popular support from the general population. In America’s first encounter with Guerilla Warfare, the Philippine-American War of 1898-1902, Filipino Insurrectos led by Francisco Macabulos said their primary objective was “Not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them CONSTANT LOSSES.” This “Win by Attrition” attitude was to be the standard “Guerilla Warfare M.O” for much of the rest of the 20th century. The Insurgencies waged in Vietnam and Iraq proved this, showing that as more American Soldier’s caskets came back, the less the US Population as a whole favored continuing the war.

It is of extreme importance for the Guerilla forces to have some type of outside support by a foreign power or entity. An example would be how France supported the Colonial Forces in the Revolutionary War with Gunpowder. By some estimations, 90% of the American forces gunpowder were French provided. The Guerilla or Partisan force needs too, if possible, operate in close conjunction with the Regular Army, if one exist.


The “FOCO” theory states that a small band of Guerillas can spark an uprising by a few, bold attacks. The core principle lies in small “cadres” of fast-moving, para-miliary groups that can provide a FOCUS (spanish for” FOCO”) for the popular discontent of a regime. Later on, these ideals were transferred to the Urban Guerilla Movement of the late 60’s. UGM is a method of armed insurrection using Domestic Terrorism. Michael Collins and the early IRA are considered founders of modern UGM thought and practice.

The “Battle of the Narrative” or winning the majority of public opinion through exploiting the use of various media is one of the key battles that needs to be won if an insurgency is to be successful.

Michael Collins, a founding member of the IRA stated the following precepts of GW:

  • The Guerilla’s first and primary weapon is REFUSAL.
  • The Guerilla is an Invisible Army. His uniform is that of the common man on the street. He can come out of a crowd, strike the enemy, then vanish back into it.
  • Always strike the enemy ON YOUR OWN TERMS.
  • The IRA must pattern their tactics after the Boers of South Africa; Their tactics of ferocity combined with the use of always staying mobile and the use of hit and run tactics.

Effective Counter-Insurgency tactics always seeks to LIMIT TRAVEL and/or the FREE MOVEMENT of the general populace. Consider the current tactics of the DHS and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) with posting Customs “Internal Checkpoints” up to 125 miles from the border!?

Anarchist were by far, the most successful Domestic Terrorist of the 19th and 20th Centuries. They killed 5 Heads of State (including President McKinley) and in 1920, using the very first “car bomb”, utilizing a horse-drawn carriage and a wagon full of TNT, they bombed Wall Street, killing 38 people and wounding hundreds more. It was the deadliest Terror attack on US Soil until the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. An excellent book on the academic history and use of Car Bombs is “Budas Wagon”.

The Nazi’s disregarded historical examples of Britain and Rome. They insisted on narrowly defining Nationalism as to exclude all “conquered people”. In doing so, Hitler alienated the conquered people and made enemies; unlike Ancient Rome and England, who allowed any person to become a citizen. In order for any Imperial power to not create an atmosphere for an insurgency, the Powers that be have to pacify the citizenry and not anger them. Hitler also made the mistake of not deploying enough troops in the rear areas to “Police” them effectively. The proper ratio of 1 soldier to 357 civilians in peace and 1 to 40 in more contested areas is standard, at the height of Nazi rule in Russia, Hitler only had 2 soldiers every 3 miles!

De-Colonization swept the world Post World War II due to the two largest colonial powers, Britain and France, being virtually bankrupt and under-manned from the War. This created an environment for insurgency (helped along by the Soviet Union) to ply their trade. in 1947 Britain abandoned Palestine after 3 years of counter-insurgency against Jewish-Zionist “Terrorist” led by a group called the Irgun. This insurgent campaign waged by the Irgun was one of the most successful in history. As in all insurgencies, often the actions of the Aggressor Nation give the insurgents the fuel needed to wage an effective campaign. The best example of this being the “Exodus 1947” ship that carried 4,515 jewish refugees, including many families, trying to reach their new homeland being rammed, boarded and assaulted by British Royal Marines. Two immigrants and a crewman were killed during the assault and 30 immigrants were wounded. The British then turned the ship back to Germany, virtually sealing the fate of all aboard to Hitler’s “Final Solution”.



The Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) was undoubtedly one of the most successful counter-insurgencies of the 20th Century. There is much to be learned from how the British handled this very delicate situation.

  • Malaya had fielded a Guerilla Army to fight the Japanese (supported by Britain) after the War. These Guerillas turned on Britain to free themselves from Colonial Rule.
  • The Majority of Insurgency was “home-grown” Chinese (The normal population did not support them).
  • Malaya was a huge exporter of natural rubber, a huge industry for Britain.
  • The “Briggs Plan” coordinates Police/Military to DEPORT insurgents to China.
  • The plan focused on the Re-Settlement and Re-Concentration of Chinese Squatters, providing them with land, utilities, clean water, schools and clinics.
  • The Population was treated FAIRLY, not discriminated against like the French did in Algeria.
  • The British focused a large amount of attention on breaking popular support for the uprising.
  • More emphasis placed on the Political versus Kinetic Warfare. Social and Economic issues got just as much attention as military issues.
  • Leaflets were dropped regularly to remote villages, gaining the support of the rural population
  • The Malayans failed to gain any outside support (in contrast to the Vietminh who had Chinese and Soviet support).
  • The strategy that worked was based on CLOSE Civil-Military Cooperation and use of “Clear and Hold” versus “Search and Destroy” tactics. The Brits had learned from Ireland in the 20’s that heavy-handed, scorched earth policies only FEED an insurgency.



The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1953 was an example of a super power unable to cope with the simplicity of Guerilla Warfare. The inability to HOLD villages from insurgent influence forced the French to try to lure the Vietminh into a Conventional type battle where French Firepower could be used. The French fire base of Dien Bien Phu was placed in a desolate valley which was unreachable by foot, only by air..or so the French thought. The Vietminh managed to move artillery into position via a “human chain” and surround the base with 206 field guns and mortars, including 105 howitzers and 37mm AA Guns. The loss by the French at Dien Bien Phu was the last straw for a war weary nation. It was the worst defeat suffered by a modern Western empire in a “Colonial War”.

The French violated virtually every precept of Counter-Insurgency dogma, drawing striking similarities to what the US would repeat 12 years later in Vietnam:

  1. They chose conventional “big-unit” action that alienated the general populace
  2. They failed to cut the insurgency off from outside support (China and Soviet Union).
  3. If the French had made more Political concessions early on, namely to end Colonial Rule within a specified time period, the Insurgency would possibly not have grown so large.


Vietnam War (1956-1975)

The “Quiet American” Edward Lansdale, was the man the Pentagon and the White House needed to have listened too; learning his lessons in the Philippines, he knew the subject of Counter-Insurgency better than anyone. JFK (Kennedy) wanted to enhance American capacity to fight and/or Counter a Guerilla War. The Joint Chiefs however, remained convinced (from experience in WW2 and Korea) that the conflict was to be Conventional and just gave JFK lip service.

The Mis-understanding of Guerilla Warfare comes from a bad definition.

  • While GW on a tactical level utilizes many of the same skills as Light Infantry, the strategy of war among the people is entirely different from a clash of two uniformed forces.
  • “Low-Intensity” Conflict necessitates an emphasis on policing and control of the population.
  • The application of large, indiscriminate firepower can be counter-productive as most of the time it results in a large amount of civilian deaths. This drives the population into the arms of the insurgency. RESTRAINT is the “name of the game” in Guerilla Warfare tactics.
  • Sir Robert Thompson created the most promising “Counter-Insurgency” initiative called the “Strategic Hamlets Program”; modeled after the Malayan Population Resettlement Program and Israels Village Security (Kibbutzim: A collective agricultural settlement owned communally).

When LBJ (Lyndon Johnson) took office (1963) there were 184K troops. By 1969 the number of troops grew to 540K. Domestically, the war was unpopular; mainly the draft. By relying on conscripts the Johnson administration ignored lessons of the Romans, Chinese, British and French Empires: Conflicts far from home is better left to a Professional, Volunteer Army. The US dropped more bombs in Vietnam than during WW2, but these bombs seldom had any success, mostly because the VC had NO INFRASTRUCTURE to bomb. A typical VC Guerilla could survive on a bowl of rice and some cold rat meat, so destroying “supply trains” had little to no effect.

Some promising Counter-Insurgency Ops included:

  • CAP (Combined Action Program) which sent a squad of Marines to live in Vietnamese villages to protect them in cooperation with Popular Forces Militia.
  • CIDG (Civilan Irregular Defense Groups) which sent CIA and SF personnel to mobilize ethnic minorities, the Montagnards (This program attempted to replicate what the French had done in the 50’s).
  • LRRP’s (Long Range Recon Patrols) which sent small, mobile SF hunter/killer teams to hunt the VC. These teams stayed in the field for 30-45 days at a time.
  • Phoenix Program (CIA) Assassination Program that targeted key VC officers and integral NVA Personnel. High ranking NVA officers to local VC tax collectors were targeted.

The White House and Pentagon were impatient with CI programs, they were not decisive or quick enough to produce tangible results. CI became known as the “Other War”.


Israel & Palestine

The most notorious terrorist attack up until 9/11 was the Massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972 by the PLO based group, Black September (created by Yasser Arafat). The terrorist kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes, including a West German Policeman. This tragic event led to the formation of several Counter-Terrorist Military Organizations such as the West German GSG-9 and the French GIGN. It also aided in the formation of specialized “counter-terror” units in already existing units such as the British SAS. This unique SAS specialization counter-terror training leads to the inspiration for Colonel Charlie Beckwith to form the US Army’s elite Delta Force.

A special unit of the shadowy Israeli Mossad is formed shortly after the Munich massacre to partake on aptly named Operation ‘Wrath of God” which seeks to assassinate (very publicly if possible) all members of Black September who had anything to do with the planning, financing or execution of the massacre. Mossad’s history in this type of assassination dates back to 1956, when a book bomb was successfully mailed to an Egyptian Intel Officer.

The Palestinian cause never had much legitimacy due to the “Pirates” and “Hired Killers” that worked for them such as “Carlos the Jackal” and Abu Nidal.

Israel had to be careful in dealing with Palestinian uprisings; a Liberal Democracy CANNOT be seen as “Heavy Handed” (ala China, 1989 in Tiananmen Square which sent Tanks against unarmed civilian protesters). Arafat made sure to always play the role of the “poor under-dog”; and the media was always happy to help, showing rock throwing protesters pitted against heavily armed IDF soldiers and tanks.

Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister of Israel) in reaction to the 2nd Infitada did two things that were historically significant:

  • He ordered a wall built that separated the Palestinian settlements from the West Bank
  • A Vast Army Offensive began

The IDF did 3 things correct in defeating the PLO terrorist:

  1. They sealed off the West Bank . This goes back to the old adage of “Controlling Movement”. Any successful CI (Counter-Insurgency) must adequately control the movement of the insurgent to stop them from being re-supplied.
  2. IDF’s ability to gather accurate intel: Electronic and Human.
  3. IDF Staying Power. The most tragic mistake of any CI is not staying put and consolidating gains. The IDF remained in the West Bank in force and unlike Gaza, exerted influence and policed it very well. Historically, they took cues from the British in Northern Ireland: maintaining influence in a region and keeping the terrorist from re-exerting influence and re-building infrastructure.

In the end, Arafat’s brutal tactics of terrorism did the Palestinians no good. Liberal democracies like Israel are always more prone to appeals to conscience than brutal attacks on innocent civilians. This was the primary reason that Marxist Revolutionary Terrorist of the 70’s and 80’s (like the Baader-Meinhoff Gang and the Red Brigade) failed. To be successful, Occupation Authorities and/or military targets need to be targeted, not innocent civilians.

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979)

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll is an excellent resource to understand how this period in history effected the United States tragically for 3 decades to come.

The reasoning behind this invasion was to reinforce a “shaky” ally. The Soviets expected a quick “in and out” similar to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Soviet leaders had no ideal the War would last 9 years and kill over 26K Soviet soldiers (a very conservative estimate, Since WW2, the Soviets had always skewed their casualty numbers. Some figures put the number around 50K).

The Soviets failed to learn from history (That seems to be a recurring theme, huh?) Not taking into account how the British Empire in 1839 and 1878 were defeated by a band of rag-tag Afghan Guerillas. The British Empire at that time, in the early to mid 19th century, had one of the most powerful Armies and Navies on the planet, bar none.

Unlike the British, the Soviets faced a Guerilla force that could hop over the border to Pakistan at will and enjoy the benefit of Secure Bases, in which they could re-enforce, re-supply and conduct training. Ahmad Shah Massoud was the premiere mujajideen (muj) leader. Unlike his former peers, Massoud was NOT a leftist or marxist. He was more interested in Afghan Nationalism and heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which preached Islamic extremism and jihad. Massoud was not as extreme like the other muj leaders, he had a reputation for fairness and encouraged prisoners to be treated well. Massoud established “Liberated Zones” where schools, clinics, mosques, courts and military training bases were built. He divided his groups into “full” and “part-time” fighters. The militia was organized into companies of 120 men, while the part-time “home- guard” stayed behind to defend villages.

Massoud constantly attacked and harassed the Salang Highway, a main supply route running from Kabul all the way to the Soviet border. Massoud managed to control the Panjshir valley, despite repeated Soviet attempts to take it. The Soviets conducted conventional assaults not suited for the terrain. They dropped “Butterfly Mines” designed to MAIM and not Kill, the theory being that a wounded soldier is much worse of a burden to a small, mobile fighting force who does not have proper medics. Again the heavy-handed tactics of the Soviets came back to bite them, driving on average, 5,000 Afghans into the resistance annually.

The Soviets also repeated the mistake of trying to fight a counter-insurgency with a conscript (draftee) army. Although the Soviets were not as prone to the backlash of negative public opinion since they controlled the media, it still hurt them overall in winning popular support of their own countryman.

Soviet military conduct was horrible. Often prisoners were abused and tortured at officer’s command. In a Counter-Insurgency it has repeatedly been shown that the “Aggressor” nation MUST treat the civilian populace with respect in order to be successful. According to the UN, human rights violations and war crimes during the 1980’s sky rocketed, the Soviets committing an estimated 100,000 illegal murders, and these were just the offenses that were reported or observed.

The Soviets could not keep their Army supplied, even though they were right next door to their own country! This goes to show that the guerillas tactics of constantly attacking and harassing supply trains was effective. 70% of the Military were hospitalized due to malaria, typhus, dysentary and hepatitis from bad water. Large numbers of the Soviet soldiers abused alcohol and drugs (mostly opium and hashish) supplied by the local farmers, who were collaborating with the muj.

American backed assistance to the Muj began with basic food and medical supplies but soon lead to large shipments of arms and munitions. The CIA bought large amounts of eastern-bloc weapons to hide US involvement of any kind. Saudi Arabia matched US monetary contributions to the muj dollar for dollar. The actual “distribution” of such funds however was handled by the extremely corrupt Pakastani Government,namely their internal intelligence unit, the ISI.

The ISI provided training and arms to 7 major guerilla muj factions, whose HQ’s all were in Peshawar. The border area soon became known for the “Center for Jihad”. Washington continued turning over vast amounts of arms and money to President Zia, who was a hardline Islamist. Zia in turn, funneled most of the weapons and money to extremist groups, such as the “Party of Islam” led by Gulbuddin Heckmatyar. Other muj factions hated Heckmatyar, due to him wasting resources by using them to attack other muj factions, causing tribal in-fighting. Despite these obvious negative traits, Heckmatyar was favored by the ISI, CIA and Saudi Intelligence. Heckmatyar at this time, also had very close ties to Osama Bin laden, a wealthy Saudi Businessman who contributed millions to the cause.

The failure of the US not supporting the more moderate Massoud and instead supporting an islamic extremist like Heckmatyar would eventually come back in the form of what the CIA termed “blowback”. Soon American aid increased to 630 Million annually, all of it matched with Saudi oil money.

The introduction of the American supplied Stinger missile system to the afghan resistance was a literal game changer. After losing several gunships, the Soviets were forced  to fly the dreaded Soviet MI-24 “Hind” gunships at higher altitudes (above 12,500 ft) where they were virtually ineffective for their deadly ground attacks, where entire villages of men, women, children and livestock  were wiped off the face of the earth.

Defeated and Demoralized by a rag-tag group of mountain guerillas, the famed and feared “Soviet Juggernaut” unceremoniously left Afghanistan with its tail between its legs in February, 1989.

A Word about Culture and Destiny

(Taken from A Patriot’s History of the Modern World by Schweikart, pp. 60-61)

Sir John Fisher radical new battleship, the Dreadnought (1906) which steam turbines and all “big gun” armament, seemed to confirm his unofficial title as the “genius incarnate of technical change”. Contrary to the notion that because of it’s revolutionary design, the Dreanought “leveled the playing field” for aspiring naval powers such as Germany (which embarked on it’s own version of the ship and widened the Kiel canal to permit passage of larger vessels), Fisher’s advances showed how once again True POWER came from CULTURE. Britain’s naval culture had produced Fisher after all, not vice versa. As in any technology-and battleships were no different-the most significant changes come from incremental, relentless improvements possible only in a cultural milieu in which engineering and technology are fostered.

The same principle kept the Chinese from turning Gunpowder into a culture of volley-fire muskets, and prevented the Iranians from applying the Stirrup to a mounted shock combat horseback charges. Lacking a strong, innovative naval culture, none of the second-tier aspirants could really hope to compete at sea with England or America.

Going further on this ideal, we can say that in most ways, Geography determines the Destiny of a Nation. To qualify this statement, let us look at the current crisis with Russia and Ukraine. Let us look BACK to History in order to gleem some perspective on the future of the United States, Europe and Asia.

Stay Armed, Stay Ready and Stay Dangerous

Authors Note:  I am in the process of starting a new blog specifically dedicated to the CO’s study of history entitled, The History Locker. As soon as it is up and running, I will post the link on HCS, so stay tuned!!