June 02, 2008
The White Man’s Burden

From the Washington Post:

An Army board headed by Gen. David H. Petraeus has selected several combat-tested counterinsurgency experts for promotion to the rank of brigadier general, sifting through more than 1,000 colonels to identify a handful of innovative leaders who will shape the future Army, according to current and former senior Army officers…

“Counterinsurgency” is one of those slippery military terms, like collateral damage and friendly fire, that conceal more than they reveal. At first glance, you’d think anybody in his right mind would want to counter a bunch of pesky insurgents.

Not me, though. When I was 14 my dream was to be an insurgent myself, moving like a ghost by night as I launched murderous attacks from ambush on the godless Commies who had overrun my beloved homeland.

But Petraeus and his “handful of innovative leaders who will shape the future army” have seen the future and decided that it calls for bigger and better counterinsurgencies, and they are just the bright lads to do it.

When our generals speak of combating insurgents who wage asymmetrical warfare, they reveal the real mission. We will never attack if we judge there is any chance of real resistance, in the ordinary military sense. We will never, that is, go to war with Russia or China or even North Korea. We will instead go after the littlest, weakest kids: Libya, Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Iraq.

And if we are stupid enough to stay around after we have “won,” as we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, then we must find ourselves, as all occupying powers do, faced with an “insurgency” which we must “counter.” (The insurgents, by definition, live in the occupied country. If they come from the outside, like us, they are more properly called “invaders.”)

So Petraeus and all his new little one-stars do not expect to be in the business of defense or even of warfare, asymmetrical or otherwise. They expect to be in the business of colonial occupation, which can neither be won nor lost. It can only be continued or, at the entire discretion of the occupying power, ended.

Undaunted though, we will struggle onward with our Middle East mission until we “win” this occupation. And we will keep on “winning” as we did in Vietnam, press briefing after press briefing, until at last we lose. Whatever that means. When a man holds his breath for two minutes and then starts breathing again, has he "lost?"

Nevertheless our brief return to reality will not be followed by remorse and repentance and determination never to pull such a damn fool stunt again. Instead we will spend twenty years or so blaming the disaster on everybody but ourselves and then off we will charge once more like a dog after a car.

What’s that fool dog going to do with that car when he catches it, you say? Well may you ask. The plan is to make it hold free elections.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at June 02, 2008 07:53 PM
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The first thing we need to do is as you point out, is expose the twisted Orwellian terminology of which our "Defense" Department is so fond. An insurgent is someone who rebels against the constituted authority. The United States and its puppet regime in Baghdad are not a constituted authority, they are a foreign occupation force. Therefore the appropriate term for the Iraqis fighting our forces is "resistance fighter" or "freedom fighter".

A free and democratic nation's Army would have no officer who is expert in temporarily suppressing resistance in an occupied country. The proper term for such an expert might be War Criminal.

Posted by: Charles on June 2, 2008 10:08 PM

Today it was announced that a company that was a startup just a few years ago, Indian company Tata motors, purchased Range Rover and Jaguar, formerly proud companies with British ownership.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080602/BUSINESS01/80602044/1003/news

The point being that such "occupations" always end up being economically unwise and detrimental to the occupier, whether in the long run or the short run. But then there are political favors to be made, damned though the consequences may be.

Posted by: Buck on June 2, 2008 10:58 PM

Uhm, I'll point out that Range Rover and Jaguar were owned by Ford Motor company (i.e., a U.S. company), not by any British ownership, mostly because modern automobiles have become so complex that small specialty makes can no longer exist divorced of a larger industrial infrastructure that comes with being owned by a larger make. But the general point remains. Maintaining troops far overseas in an attempt to maintain control of a colony via armed force is incredibly expensive and eventually the country's finances crack under the pressure. The British should have known this, since this is why they lost the War of American Secession -- not because George Washington defeated them (even the Battle of Yorktown was only a minor defeat, destroying less than 5% of the British forces in North America), but, rather, because the war utterly bankrupted the British Crown until they finally had to sue for peace when they could no longer afford to recruit new soldiers to replace those being lost on the battlefield because the Crown owed more in interest payments to the bankers who'd loaned money to the Crown than the Crown was receiving in tax revenue.

Those who fail to study history...

- Badtux the History Penguin

Posted by: Badtux on June 3, 2008 12:19 PM

British companies until recently. (Did the Crown consider raising the taxes they'd lowered on, say, dividends?)

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on June 5, 2008 7:26 PM
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