The blueprint for action needs to tackle the source of 4GW - examples: Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq

In Thomas Barnett's Blueprint For Action, he started with what the US could have done to saviour the quagmire in Iraq. He suggested a "huge, multinational" SysAdmin force is needed to create "peace" after Saddam was toppled.

Dr Barnett demonstrated great strategic vision and insight. He understood 4GW cannot be dealt with by brute force. I would agree with most of his suggestion and reasoning. However, one important aspect of 4GW, and the corresponding strategy against an opponent waging 4GW, needs to be laid out more explicitly (*).

As Sun Zi stated 2500 years ago, and Clausewitz re-iterated more concisely 200 years ago, "War is merely a continuation of politics". In fact, war is an extension of politics, economics and a lot more. Conversely, to win a war is to achieve a political (and military) objective, and the means should not be restricted to military. It should include all other possible leverages, political, economical, diplomatical, etc.

4GW is no exception. Unfortunately, the majority of the pundits and experts in 4GW do not understand this. They do not understand that there is a single fundamental factor in any 4GW -- the "source" of 4GW.

The "source"

Mao's 16 character doctrine on guerilla warfare is probably quite well known, and is regarded as the foundation of guerilla warfare.
However, the 16 character doctrine is only one way to implement 4GW, in fact a subclass of 4GW called "Mobile Warfare" (运动战), where Mao seeks to find a point with temporal local advantage for the weak (see sun bin's horse-racing), through introducing more variable into the war environment to confuse the enemy, and hope that the strong (the enemy) makes mistake. Of course, it is a lot easier for the strong to make mistake, as I explained in an earlier post.

The "source" of 4GW is not the 16 word doctrine. It is about Mao's concept of "People's War"(人民战争). People's War is often confused by many (especially Westerners) with "Human Sea War" (人海战术) where China used fearless foot soldiers in large number to compensate for the inferior weapon technology during the Korean War (As a matter of fact, a rarely mentioned reason for the high Chinese casualty in the early stage of Korean War was its stubborn belief in People's War and refusal to plunder for food and clothes). What helped Mao to defeat Chiang Kaishek was People's War, not Human-sea War, as Chiang's KMT army outnumbered Mao's by a factor of 3-4. Chiang gave up the populace with its corrupted and incompetent governance.
  • The ignorance (or intentionally ignoring) that people supported the communist guerilla is in part a denial of the failure of the regimes they sucessfully toppled. From Chiang Kai-Shek to Batista we see corrupted and brutal dictatorial oppression. The Cold War ideological prejudice prevented western scholars from admitting the fact that these communist guerilla could only have surivived if they have deep 'strategic' support from the populace. It is essential to understand this if one wants to understand 4GW.
Without the "source", i.e. the support of the populace, which provides shelter/camouflage, food and supplies, and unlimited refill of soldiers, there is no 4GW. Therefore, the ability to wage any 4GW requires strong support from certain sub-group of the populace. Prolonged warfare is impossible without the "source".

Al Qaeda, PLO, Iraqi insurgents, all draw support from its base of populace, both in terms of material supply and committed voluntary soldier enrolment. Hezbollah may only have limited populace support in certain sub-population in Lebanon. Israel's brutal mis-step now seems to have given Hezbollah the whole of Lebanon (see survey via ESWN). This is why I said Israel made some fatal mistake in my previous post.
  • If we look at each historic case of 4GW, every single one of them, if successful or sustained, have the common characteristic of having a very strong source
  • Mao's guerilla warfare had its source from the peasant who were exploited by landlord and corrupted government (so are Maoist guerillas in Nepal and other countries);
  • PLO's source is the Palestinians in refugee camps; Hama's source Palestinians in occupied territories, who are officially Israel citizen (now separated by apartheid fences - though we really cannot blame Israel for the fences/walls)
  • bin Laden's source is the pan-Islamic fundamentalist who believe the West (and infidel) has a conspiracy to exploit them, strengthened by the percieved double-standardness in dealing with Palestine, Iraq in 1980-2000, Iran's Pahlevi, Saudi's dictators, etc.
Without such a support base, the weapon and martyrs will dry out over time. 4GW is prolonged warfare, which could last for decades. Without the source the 4GW will die a natural death, running out of fund or new recruits. Therefore, to win against an opponent who waged 4GW, a neccessary condition is to uproot the "source". Dr Barnett's SysAdmin does not solve the "source" problem, and IMHO, is not a sufficient condition to win a 4GW (But I do believe Dr Barnett is aware of this *).

In view of the situation of Lebanon. I would say Israel's recent action is a total fiasco.
  1. It does not achieve its objective, whatever it is. I now come to believe it never has made one (update - Zenpundit 's discussion on Israel strategy is a must read). It just passively and reactively revenge furiously on Hezbollah and the Lebanese people who it believed supported Hezbollah
  2. If the objective is to turn 2/3 of the Lebanese who have been neutral toward Hezbollah into against Hezbollah. We expect (and is now proved) that killing their people indiscriminately is not a good idea
  3. If the objective is to secure northern Israel/Palestine from the rocket (btw, most of the alleged 12,000 rockets have range less than 20km) attacks, clearing 20km north of the border will do the job, and is easy to accomplish (or has it been made more difficult now?)
  4. If the objective is to uproot Hezbollah (and Syria, and Iran), then let's go back to the "source" problem. And ask our friends in Israel and US, are they ready to kill everybody in Lebanon, Syria and Iran? Do they have a proven model that toppling the governments in a controversal war will do the job, eg, based on the Iraqi experience? (FDNF quoted some sailors pontificating about "the more dead Muslims, the better." Even if we take the ethnics of wild beasts, could you reduce the number of "Muslim" faster than they reproduce?)
(Update Aug2: see also StrategyUnit)
A correct strategy for Israel should be to seek peace with the Lebanese people, and to alienate Hezbollah, to deprive it of its source, by crook (force) or by hook (bribe), or both. (Of course it should also seek peace with the Palestinian, even though it is a non-trivial task) Arrogance based on a strong position just does not help Israel's long term peace. Perhaps it needs to learn its lesson from some major defeat, just as its non-negotiating opponents have learned the hard way .

P.S. For my response to Qana see my response to Haditha. In short, it is the sad result, made inevtiable by prolonged war with ill-conceived (or non-existence of) strategy.

Note (*):
I believe the reason Dr Barnett emphasized SysAdmin, while skipping the "source" is largely due to his target audience in the pentagon. He needs to show the pentaon he is providing a solution where his audience is still playing a major role, even though he might know clearly that the most important action is no longer military, but economic and political.

One reason I do not agree with Dr Barnett that the size of SysAdmin force matter is the comparison between Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's look at 2 sets of figures
  • Afghanistan: population 30M, area 647,500 km2, GDP/cap (PPP) $1310
  • Iraq: population 29M, area 437,100 km2, GDP/cap (PPP) $3500
Based on these figures, Iraq is much more manageable than Afghanistan by any measure. Iraq will require a smaller SysAdmin force, and shorter time to move to the "seam". As we have all seen, the reality is just the opposite. Therefore, a lot more things have gone wrong in Iraq. IMO the mistake did not begin in the WMD scandal. It started when the first re-construction contracts were awarded without bidding to Betchel and Halliburton. The Bush administration behaved like a 3-year-old child by claiming Iraq as its own prize, hence pushing the Iraqi populace who detested Saddam Hussein (and might have welcomed the US invasion) to the insurgence. US forgot its original objective of fighting Saddam and was detracted by the temptattion of a small potential economic bonus upon its short term military success. This is very easier to prove, economically (and mathematically), the cost US paid after Saddam was captured is already many times higher than the economic benefits of all these re-contruction contracts and whatever oil-field interests US Oil multinational could get. But that is besides the point.

Again, I believe Dr Barnett does understand the "source" problem, because when he mentioned that US needs to pulling in the Russian and Chinese into the SysAdmin, he emphasized the need of a story to tell the world and Iraqi people, "that it is the wolrd, not selfishly US". US can afford to send 0.5M soldiers to Iraq for SysAdmin if it really wants to (see Chet Richards). But it won't help to divert the "source" of the insurgence.



Anonymous said...

Questionable point I'm about to make, but:

Bush and Blair could have allowed for the indiscriminate killing of Lebanese during ''Israel's right to defend itself,'' but I wonder if now they have an excuse to make peace with Lebanon and to refuse Olmert his desire to keep going? Olmert was once in the Shimon Peres government when an errant artillery shell killed 100 people in the same Qana area about ten years ago.

Media sources, like Debka, say that Israel's mistake came during a transition period in the administratoin of the war.

Was Israel in the process of pulling back when this happened?

Was the US and the UK prepared to come in, sponsored by a French UN force and make peace with Lebanon?

How close is the US to Olmert?

Sun Bin said...

good questions.

Is Israel encouraged by international inaction toward its disproportion reaction in Gaza strip the weeks preceding its invastion into Lebanon? Does Olmert really believe the rule of the game has changed, changed so much that he could outdo the US by this much?
-- if the former, the international community needs to share the blame for encouragement by silence.

(And as Zenpundit discussed) Is there a backstory of Bush egging Olmert in a grand strategy to turn Iran into Iraq? or the contrary that Olmert ignored Bush's objection in this campaign?
-- if for the latter, Bush is inexcusable for being maneuvered by Olmert.

Sun Bin said...

A sound strategy from IDF general Eiland had been rejected.

Eiland: I suggested a package deal which was to be presented by the international community -- by the Middle East quartet, for example. I had good reason to believe that the United States, United Nations and France would support it. We could not merely demand the implementation of UN resolution 1559 and the disarmament of the Hezbollah. In order to get the consent of the Lebanese government, Israel also had to make concessions -- like the release of Lebanese prisoners -- to stop the flights into Lebanese airspace and to agree to a redemarcation of the border between Israel and Lebanon.