Comparing Iraq to Malaya

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Haditha blow to new doctrine

This is an interesting article that talks about the blow Haditha has served to the current attempt at counter-insurgency. It talks about the counter-insurgency thinking that is currently being developed and also discusses a book published in 2002 entitled

    Eat Soup with a Knife

which comes from a quote by Laurence of Arabia:

To make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.

While the article implies that the US learned nothing from Vietnam and has no counter-insurgency plan the fact is the US certainly has a lot of experience with counter-insurgency in Central America and South America. There are now large bodies of thought, knowlege and doctrine concerning counter-insurgency. Its not clear to me why these resources were not used once it became evident that our nation-building efforts would be confronted by large scale violent opposition.

An interesting note in the article says that while the book lauds the efforts of the British in post-war Malaya they too had a masacre of unarmed civilians. By historical accident they also numbered 24.

A good book on the subject is the old but still extremely relevent Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency by Roger Trinquier. The asymetrical fight between nation-builders and terrorists was just as much a problem in 1961 as it is in 2006.

While battles may be won on our table tops, this kind of war requires winning the allegiance of the population and to do that you have to be careful, sensitive and systematic. Its the non-battle events like the Haditha incident that are victories for the insurgents. You could game it out in a campaign but you would need a way of having unexpected events pop up. It might seem forced in a way and that might make it hard to feel like the players have any real control – but then that would make it a realistic simulation!

The important thing about this news story, I think, is that the things that happened in the Pacific Theater of WWII still provide valuable lessons.

Speak Your Mind