Sunday, October 17, 2010

From the Vault

I was thinking about Gary Brecher ("The War Nerd") after reading this Newsweek piece  about how rebel groups use the Toyota Hilux as a military vehicle. The whole column is basically cribbed from old War Nerd articles from a few years back, but I couldn't find them when I searched.

Anyway, the search caused me to read through some of his old classic columns, and came across this awesome (and clearsighted) piece about how you can win an insurgency. None of the options are pretty, but wars never are. In the end, you're better off being honest about the crappy options available than pretending there are better ones that just haven't been tried enough (more diplomacy! Increase poverty relief!)

I particularly loved this paragraph about the possibility of creating a civil war by playing factions off against each other:
Not even those old-school Brits could do it now, in Iraq. Because whereas the 1920-vintage IRA had a fairly disciplined leadership to play games with, we've got -- who? -- to talk to in Iraq. You'd be better off trying to divide and conquer the roaches in your kitchen. Nobody runs the insurgency, and nobody really runs the Shia militias either, not at national level. Sadr? He's their poster boy as long as he mouths off the way the hardliners want, but he'll go the way of Sistani if he tries to curb the boys' enthusiasm. They don't need help. They're having the time of their lives. It's not so much fun for the other focus groups, like women and men over 25 but for Iraqi boys from 15-25, these are the Wonder Years.
If ever there was a master of combining gallows humour with brilliant military insight, Gary Brecher is it.

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