Thursday, August 05, 2004

Allahu Akbar, the Ghost Dance and Magic Bullets - Part II

Today, I was reading a story about "militants" captured in Pakistan. In my earlier post by the same title Allahu Akbar, the Ghost Dance and Magic Bullets, I made a comment about the tactics of the enemy:

Don't their tactics remind you of the native Indians? Hit and run tactics? Attack a small homestead. Scalp the victims. Mutilate their bodies. Kidnap and torture the enemy. All in an attempt to horrify the others. The enemy. To make us think that they are some sort of magical, invincible people?

As I read the article, I noted a statement by the chief police for Gujrat, Pakistan, Raja Munawar Hussain, regarding the firefight and succeeding arrest of the militants:

“They were all very well trained terrorists because of the way they fought the gunbattle and the way they engaged us for 12 hours. This is something no common man could have done,” said Hussain.

Ah...The magic people. The invincible ones. Heroic in the face of overwhelming danger. What happens when the magic wears off?

Hussain, the Gujrat police chief, said the two South Africans and Ghailani denounced America and President Bush as they were arrested, after a fierce 12-hour gunbattle.

And again, the Ghost Dance:

He said Ghailani was shaking with anger as he shouted: “God is great! (Allahu Akbar) This is God’s land and we are his men.”
I stated that these people were much like the Native American Indians. Tribal by affiliation and deeply spiritual. Tied to their land and very familiar with it's terrain. Inter-marriage with other tribes and tribal customs honoring and protecting guests, allow them to move from area to area, largely unmolested for the past three years. They use similar tactics. Small groups of men, lightly armed, using hit and run tactics before disappearing amongst the terrain and the local tribes, who will act friendly towards the pursuing troops, to throw them off. Purposefully providing misguiding information.

Even when the Native Americans had been driven on to reservations, this did not stop them from raiding against other tribes, settlers or military outposts. They would easily slip the bounds of the reservation and the weary eyes of the troops assigned to watch over them.

Military Tactics and the Indian Wars

In the Indian wars of the United States, several tactics were used to interdict and, eventually, overcome the tribes:

  1. pursuit of individual raiding parties: This tactic was not the most successful. It did succeed in picking off warriors a few at a time. In a sense, a war of attrition. But it was a slow grinding away at their resources (men) that was only effective when coupled with the other tactics of the army and cavalry.
  2. Developing contacts and scouts amongst rival tribes: As the military, at that time, did not have satellite photos or high resonance topographical maps, they relied on indigenous people to provide information about the area. As these tribes had fought amongst themselves for millennia, they were aware of their opponents method of fighting, general tactics of striking and form of retreat. They were capable trackers that could tell when a twig had been moved or a blade of grass bent from a moccasin. Quite capable of determining the number of men, amount of supplies and direction of travel by the footprint, size, number, depth and resonance. Aware of the area, they new the least traveled paths of escape and places where small bands of warriors could hide and wait for the troop to pass, before continuing on to their own home grounds.
  3. Developing ecumenical relations with rival tribes: In the wars against the Indians, inter-tribal warfare played a large part in the army's ability to to use one warring tribe against another. Sometimes by just obtaining information and, others, by getting those tribes to attack one another. This usually consisted of making separate treaties with each tribe, leaving them unmolested, and supplying them with goods and food. Historically, there are many references to treaties that were broken between the US government and the tribes. However, it is wise to point out that many treaties, such as with the Crow and Blackfoot that were used against the Sioux, resulted in these tribes retaining a portion of their native lands as their actual reservation and did not result in their total removal as occurred with the Cherokee and other "east coast" and New Mexico tribes. In the end, short term deals with immediate benefits had the best results in obtaining assistance.
  4. Interdiction of food and supplies: Two instances contributed to this interdiction. First, the tribes of Native Americans in the west were largely nomadic and followed the herds of buffalo that roamed the plains. Over hunting of the buffalo, by the western buffalo hunters, resulted in their near extinction and acute diminishing of the Indian's main food source. In addition, the military's continued pursuit of a tribe, from one area to another, did not allow them enough time to settle and re-plenish their food stocks from hunting or gathering ripe produce such as berries and roots that were a staple of their diet.
  5. Disease: This was an accidental tactic. As the western settlers moved into the Native territories, diseases previously unknown to the tribes, such as small pox, cholera and diphtheria, were passed amongst the tribes from their contact with the settlers. Previously unexposed to these diseases and without natural immunity, it quickly resulted in a serious death toll and diminished their fighting forces as well as weakened the general population. It has been speculated that blankets and clothes infested with these diseases were purposefully distributed to these tribes by the military via traders, in an early form of biological warfare. However, it was more likely the trader's ignorance in the causes and spread of disease that resulted in this catastrophe.
  6. Destruction of home bases: As chasing the tribes from one sheltered area to another, making treaties continuously broken by either side, continued with varying degrees of success, the military decided to interdict the warriors at their home bases. Many warriors would ride out on raids and return home to intermingle with their tribe in camps that the local military units believed were either friendly or already pacified. While today, a largely controversial tactic, the military decided to take direct action against these tribes by raiding any and all camps, destroying the tents, running off the horses and livestock and often killing men, women and children in the camp. Many raids were accomplished in the dark hours of night or just before dawn when the warriors in the camp would be sleeping, out hunting or on their own raids. After raiding the camps, survivors were rounded up and moved from that location to holding camps at the fort or a pre-designated "reservation".
  7. Total disarmament: For tribes that were placed on reservations or largely pacified in their own areas, the US government originally allowed them to keep one weapon per family (or tent) for the purposes of hunting small game and personal protection. This was at a time when the government had as yet to figure out how to supply the amount of food required to sustain their detainees and was considered an economical way to insure their care. However, it became apparent that this allowed small groups of men (resistance) to continue to leave the area and fight the military. Continuing their original practice of hit and run to return to the "safety" of a home base, now protected by the US military. After multiple incidents, the military was constrained to totally disarm the tribes and leave them with little, but a dull knife. This caused a number of fights with the tribes on the reservation that were put down with ultimate force.
  8. Re-location and containment: To bring the continued hostile tribes ultimately under the control of the US government, they were rounded up and summarily transported to designated reservations. Eventually, even constrained from hunting expeditions. Those members that were un-willing to submit to life on the reservation, were often evacuated to other, distant reservations. This effectively separated them from their base of followers and areas of comfortability. Tribes that signed peace treaties and lived up to those agreements, were left on their own lands that were designated reservations.
  9. Western indoctrination of the youth: Tribes contained on the reservations were subjected to multiple attacks on their culture. The first of which was the banning of certain religious practices, such as the Ghost Dance, as well as some forms of clothing and personal decoration. In addition, the youth of the tribe were constrained to wear western clothing, cut their hair, speak only English and attend western (often missionary) schools. In a relatively short amount of time, the practices and traditions of their culture (not to mention language) were practically decimated within one generation. The original purpose of this indoctrination was to prepare the tribes for integration within the western, largely white, civilization. It often resulted in adults, grown under these conditions, leaving their reservations completely and moving into urban areas, effectively destroying the Native American culture.
Reviewing these tactics today, many are considered harsh and possibly unnecessary treatment of the natives. In our currently politically correct society, it is considered appropriate to feel sympathy for the tribes and denounce the tactics of the, then, US government. Atrocities committed by the military, such as Wounded Knee, are held up by the current education system as examples of the "white man's" aggression against a largely "peaceful" group of people. Similar stories of the Indian atrocities against settlers are told, but looked at as either highly exaggerated fairytales or acceptable practices of an "oppressed" people whose land and culture were being stripped away by a steadily advancing and opposing civilization.

It is important to note, at the time of the Indian Wars, the settlers were often able to live within the bounds of tribal areas, making relationships with these tribes and living relatively peacefully and unmolested, though a few hostile events had taken place. It was during the time of the great migrations of the "white man" across the land of the tribes, that the Native Indians began to believe that their way of life was being destroyed. At which time, they began active resistance against this migration, often committing some of the first "atrocities" against the settlers, including killing men, women and children, rape, mutilation (in particular scalping), burning and torture of captives (a time honored tradition amongst the tribes).

Eventually, the Native's fears became a self fulfilling prophesy as ever escalating events and retaliation caused the Natives to be no longer looked upon as "noble savages" but simply "savages" that needed to be pacified or destroyed. The native's harsh, and often inconceivable, practices succeeded at first in giving them a mystical persona that caused the settlers to be increasingly afraid and hostile, even unto peaceful tribes. Once the military began to understand their tactics and use them against the natives, their "mystical" behavior became just another tactic of a known enemy. As noted here, and in history, they were overcome and nearly wiped from the face of the earth.

Indian Wars and the Middle East

In a similar fashion, we can look at our current situation in the Middle East. While the weapons and ability to move about whole countries and continents are more advance, many of the reasons and tactics remain the same. The Native Americans believed in a "great spirit" that gave them the land to live off and afforded them the base spirituality to believe that they were guided and protected by this "spirit". They also believed that their way of life was being destroyed by the advancement of civilization. They're tactics were largely those of lightly armed and mobile force who used the knowledge of the land to their advantage in warfare tactics and protection. They were quite capable of hiding for months in protected valleys or prepared mountain refuges that they had been using for centuries during their own wars.

The warfare in Afghanistan and in Iraq bare a striking resemblance to the Indian Wars. First, it must be noted that a large part of the equation is the Arab belief that their culture, religion, and even land, are being overrun by a less "civilized" culture and people. They believe that their land is holy and afforded unto them by "Allah" (great spirit). They believe that their culture cannot survive the contact with western civilization and, more so, that it is under direct attack by western culture. This belief became so monumental that they felt the need to physically attack any symbol of this oppression. This includes embassies, western companies, western people, military and other symbols of western finance.

Sophisticated weapons and travel do not make their tactics nor beliefs more overwhelming than those of the Native Indians. For instance, the natives understood very well that attacking railroad installations and attempting to interdict their building, could have a direct impact on the financial capabilities of companies to continue this process and, potentially, destroy their ability to transport more settlers and troops.

And, in a similar fashion, the current enemy has underestimated the financial capabilities and determination of the western governments. Though they have gained some additional sophistication in understanding that the power of the financial capabilities do not solely rest in the outer branches of these endeavors, but in the power bases of the United States east cost which, unlike their Native American counterparts, they are capable of reaching and attacking.

We continue to use similar tactics against them: pursuit; interdiction of supplies; development of relationships with rival tribes; use of local scouts from rival tribes; destruction of home bases; disarmament of tribes; and indoctrination of their youth.

During the Indian Wars, the press was relatively un-sympathetic to the plight of the natives and rather acted as a propaganda device to scare the citizens of the "civilized" and urban areas, thus, causing large amounts of support for the fight against these people. Atrocities against the natives were widely un-reported, while similar actions from the natives against the settlers and military personnel see, Gen. George Armstrong Custer made routine and sensational press. This allowed the US government to persecute certain types of actions (like full assaults on tribal villages and relocation) without much outcry of their constituency.

We do not have a similar luxury in the current fight. The press is feels largely constrained to be "objective" and show actions of both parties involved. It does bare some similarities to the press of the 19th century in which "sensationalism" was the code of the day. The newspaper that provided the earliest, most sensational and detailed account of the events was the biggest seller. Other similarities may be the reporters tendencies to gain second hand accounts of a situation and re-write the story to fit their newspaper and, ultimately, their audience's needs.

Other differences, such as the enemies own press and propaganda abilities, far outstrip those that were available to the Native Indians. While propaganda is not a new phenomena, it has taken the government sometime to catch on to the fact that they must have a better and more organized ability to refute the enemy's propaganda. This is probably due to the more current belief that "propaganda" is "bad" or lying in some way, instead of placing it at the head of "information and indoctrination". The lack of a sympathetic press and ability to see all types of information via TV and other information sources has put the government behind the eight ball on this subject.

Tactics, such as complete destruction of villages and relocation of whole tribes would be considered too politically volatile to introduce in the current warfare structure, although, sending enemy combatants to some place like Guantanamo Bay may be considered similar to the relocation of the most hostile Native elements far away from their home or families on the reservations. Similarly, political and civilized sensitivity and consciousness would not allow for the total destruction of these cultures. In addition, there is constant attempts to sort the combatants down to their lowest denomination and avoid hostile interaction with non-participatory groups. This makes the identification of "hostile" forces nearly impossible from the overview of the American populace. Where the natives were simply referred to as "Indians" or "savages" and only the military or close settlers understood the differences in tribes and their relations, we are not afforded that luxury and are forced through the media to attempt to sort out the differing relations through a very large and blurry window.

Basically, this has a similar impact on we the viewers and beneficiaries of this war of making the enemy appear "mystical" or unconquerable. Like the settlers who went back to the east coast or those that decided against their migration to the west because of this "mystical" enemy, many in our culture want to pull back and attempt to stay safe within our own borders. This will not suffice as the enemy has already decided that even the existence of the western culture is an abomination and likely to destroy their culture through any contact. Frankly, the American Natives felt that way, too. Therefore, they will continue to attack.

Globalization and Western Strategies

The reality is that globalization has advanced western civilization far beyond the enemy's ability to turn it back. Any current interdiction will simply be a stalling method. One other difference from this enemy compared to the Native American Indian: the natives were slow to recognize that their only defense would be to adopt a political persona of their own and integrate within the existing political structure. It is only through this adoption that the tribes were able to gain some foothold and assert their own desires for land, culture and political sovereignty. The top echelon of the current enemy understands this very well and is attempting to develop it's own political entity within the failing states of the middle east. If they achieve this political persona, they will be, in a real sense, protected from further encroachments by borders, finance, military capabilities and recognition of world nation states.

There are five issues that the western civilization must contend with and why we should find it paramount to insure that this political and sovereign entity do not come to exist:

  1. The extremist religious and cultural views of the enemy will not allow it to seek peace with western civilizations. They will continue to live in an insular world which will believe that western civilization is endangering their very way of life and will continue hostile actions against said western civilizations. This ideology is already apparent in much of their literature which seems to exult and exhort their dream of a larger Islamic state in the image of the once large and viable Ottoman Empire. Also referred to as the "New Caliphate". Recitations of Qu'ran verses (ghost dance)to the general population that demand this sort of action is a current staple of many mosques, madrassas and universities. In essence, they believe that they cannot co-exist with western culture, therefore, western culture must be destroyed or dominated by their own. Ironically, they believe that is the ultimate goal of western civilization.
  2. The large, indoctrinated body of people in that area that hold similar religious and cultural values, from which the enemy can draw it's foot soldiers. It is simply not economical nor sane to try to fight this number of potential enemies through purely military means, although continued military interdiction against established militarized enclaves will be required to keep the enemy combat groups down to a minimal size.
  3. The ability of said political and sovereign entity to obtain and control a large part of the financial base of the western culture. Namely oil reserves that would either cripple other nation states or contribute to their [enemy's] financial capabilities. The more savvy political body of this group may well understand that it cannot exist without interaction within the larger global economy, regardless of how it may feel about the cultural encroachments, but would attempt to place their economic and cultural beliefs on the western civilizations. Shari'a law does not allow for lending or borrowing of money. All interactions would necessitate cash transactions. Since most governments operate on a debt to productivity ratio that issues bonds and collects taxes to pay debts, this would effectively collapse the current capitalist system. That is one example of how they might control the economy.
  4. The ability of said political and sovereign entity to control large populations and inflict Soviet or Fascist style control over thought, education, movement, finance and even life. Based on their religious tenets and current Islamic states with shari'a law, it is not inconceivable to contemplate Soviet style purges and persecution of "non-believers", "impure races" or simply politically expedient executions. In essence, a subjugation of whole peoples.
  5. Use of said financial capabilities to obtain a large military or even nuclear capability with which to threaten or even destroy western civilizations. Again, the more savvy political body of this group may understand that this would result in mutual destruction. However, a mobilized and fanatical base may not be so concerned with such an outcome. Particularly, as they already demonstrate a total lack of self regard in committing suicidal attacks and have a fanatical belief in the greatness of an afterlife. It would require very strict discipline on their part to control their base. In which case, based on the AQ Khan/Pakistan incident, control of such a base is nominal and could result in the dispersal of said technology and materials.

Basically, we have already established what the required tactics for combating this problem would be:

  1. Military Interdiction on large and small scale operations. The enemy must be kept moving and incapable of settling to replenish supplies or re-group for counter attacks
  2. Develop relations with governments hostile to such a take over (see KSA, France in Syria and Iran, etc)
  3. Develop relationships with local tribes (indigenous people) hostile to tribes that may be hosting the enemy.
  4. Develop "scouts" amongst the local tribes (indigenous people) that understand the lay of the land and enemy tactics for close combat in small scale operations
  5. Destruction of home bases from which they operate. Current operations are considered "surgical" in attempt to fight a rather politically correct war and keep civilian casualties to a minimum. Should further attacks on western civilization occur, we may see less sensitivity on this issue. Generally, politically correct wars are less efficient than operating on a "total war" basis. A recent comment from a local warlord in Afghanistan suggests, "when you kill one terrorist, you create ten more to take his place". This is obviously an indication of the tribal affiliations and beliefs that call for retaliation and revenge on behalf of a slain kinsman. The question will largely be whether the "one terrorist" can continually and quickly be interdicted to insure suppression of such risings. If not, we should be prepared for escalated warfare.
  6. Disarmament of the entire population must occur immediately. Any person allowed to retain a weapon must be considered a potential enemy combatant. It is clear in our current struggles that failing to do so has resulted in the resurgence of attacks (just as it did with the native tribes). In Afghanistan, this has become clear and is the reason for the large scale movement to disarm the Warring tribes. A similar feat will have to occur within the environs of Iraq and must be considered a paramount activity in any future operation.
  7. Relocation is improbable, but containment is likely. Tribes or groups of people that are incapable of integrating into a new society or developing civilization will be continually isolated until they do not pose a threat to the developing country or the western world.
  8. indoctrination through information, education, financial and governmental reform is the big "tool" in the fight against the enemy. These cultures must be subjected to rational and developed, science, thought and civil societies in order to combat the current fanatical indoctrination. Development of economic and government institutions that do not rely on the current religio/political base, and offers an alternative to the current depressed lifestyle of the general populace, will be the final blow against the development of the enemies political entity.

We should be aware that these activities are most likely to continue radicalize small parts of the population and create attacks on the west. This is exactly what occurred during the western incursion into the American native lands. It can only be interdicted through steady application of military capabilities and even faster development of economy and liberal governments.

The Others

Historically, the battle to overcome the Native American populace, in main force of the last half of the 19th century, was approximately 36 years. Of course, we did not have the advanced technologies and financial capabilities that exist now. On the other hand, the native population of America was relatively small compared to the population of the middle east. Further, the native Americans did not have the ability to reach out and "touch" us with large bombs, nuclear or chemical abilities within our own urban areas. This very much necessitates a speedy campaign.

In regards to developing or maintaining relations with nation states hostile to the potential take over of their governments from these radical elements, certain actions must be considered with an eye for the long term. The French, Russian and German countries have undertaken their part of the game by interacting with Iran, long considered hostile to the United States. Part of this interaction was the promise and deliverance of nuclear technology ostensibly for generation of electricity for it's populace. This is the method in which they are attempting to "buy" the assistance of this state.

There are a number of problems with this activity. The first must be that this was already attempted with North Korea and must be considered a complete failure as this state has already turned to developing a weapons delivery system and may only be held in check by China which has it's own agenda. Second, Iran must be considered an unstable state. It's population is half radicalized and half revolutionary. Potential development of nuclear weapons in a society that may go revolutionary is a serious hazard to our continued health. Third, Iran already hosts some elements of Al-Qaida within it's borders as "guests". This is either an attempt to maintain some leverage against the outside group from attempting to overthrow their government or maybe an attempt to hold both sides of the fighting parties as they try to determine the outcome of the current actions.

However this is reviewed, it must be considered tatamount to the white traders of the west selling Henry repeating rifles to the natives while the main army was still using Springer breachloading rifles and single action, ball and powder pistols. This has a short term devastating effect on the army (see, Custer) and took some time for the army to develop counter tactics.

Bringing Iran into the fold and changing it through economic development is the preferred method, but they continue to straddle the columns marked "somewhat friendly" and "hostile". If other economic inducements are not available and they continue with their efforts to develop nuclear technology, they will most likely be moved completely into the "hostile" category and will require military interdiction as they may decide to throw in their lot with the "others". Religious ideology not withstanding, they may have some vain hope that they will be one of the main power brokers within the Islamic state. Today, they seem undecided. If we go forward with the plan to supply them with nuclear materials, we are most likely just putting off the inevitable showdown with this country as we see with North Korea. The only difference is that Iran is not in the same downtrodden condition as North Korea and is less likely to crumble under economic pressure.

Other surrounding countries may be susceptible to the "magic bullet". In essence, the development of liberal governments and economies in the region may force them to change. The "magic bullet" is not a guarantee, but may be considered a holding pattern of sorts. These countries surrounding Iraq, may be looked at as similar to the early containment of the native American populations on reservations. Contained, but as yet to be disarmed. They will continue to have the ability to send out small raiding parties against our larger ground forces, but, in the end, can have little military effect. They will, at some point, be required to be disarmed, but this is much further in the future.


At this point, we must decide what our commitment is to the process. Withdrawal from the world is not a viable solution. Waiting and watching the enemy while committing small police acts only gives them time to regroup, re-supply; developing their political base and moving towards their integration into mainstream middle eastern society.

The current administration seems to have already decided their course must be direct interdiction and, in a sense, pacification of the natives. All the while, attempting not to commit to cultural or religious warfare. Frankly, this has all the earmarks of cultural warfare, as much as we try to avoid it.

Today, we will continue to see more "Allahu Akbar", the Ghost Dance. We have yet to know if the "magic bullet" will work.

Sources and other information:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Indian Tribes
Trail of Tears
Indian History; From the Indians
Smithsonian Institute; Indian History
Al-Qaida Manual
Globalization of Islamic Discourse
Declaration of War Against Jews and Christians
Tribes in the Pakistan Border
Tribalism in Afghanistan

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