Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sucker Punched

          7 Dec 1941                                                                                            11 Sep 2001
Wednesday, on Facebook, friend and fellow Air Force veteran Ron asked me this -
Chris, you are a historical Uberexpert. How many successful countries in history have acted so ineffectively against a 9-11 style attack as we have?
While I don't claim to be an "Uberexpert," like Tyrion Lannister, I drink and I know things. Paid attention back when history, as opposed to Leftist propaganda, was taught in the schools, I did. Years later and multiple history books under my belt later, I can put two and two together and often arrive at an answer of four. Not always, but usually.

Before I attempt to answer Ron's very good question, I'd like to offer up a little background.

War has changed radically in the last 100 years or so. Once upon a time you could identify your enemy with a certain clarity. If the uniform being worn by the other fellow was a different color, odds are he was the enemy. (And in the "old days" the enemy was invariably a male.) Now this wasn't always the case, French troops in the Iberian Peninsula from 1808 to 1812 could never tell if the peasants they saw during the day, minding their own business (or trying to), would be the guerrillas that would cut their throats later in the night.

Once civilians became involved, normally in response to an invader, all bets were off. Reprisals were taken to convince the population to "go along to get along" which almost never worked. Brutality and bloodshed followed and over the decades escalated.

The Germans with their Schrecklichkeit* in Belgium in 1914 to their Einsatzgruppen** in Russia in 1941. The French and the mujaheddin in Algeria, the Russians and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan (and now the United States), the Viet Cong in Vietnam (and sadly a number of American and Korean units), and many other instances of a civilian population taking up arms and being suppressed, often brutally, by uniformed units of an enemy power.

World War II saw, in my reckoning, the first large scale, deliberate targeting of civilians as an objective or war. (No doubt many a Southerner would bring up Shermans' March to the Sea at some point, I might tend to agree with them. It's the scale of the thing which makes a difference, no doubt to a dead civilian in Atlanta, or a dead civilian in Dresden, the "scale" has no bearing whatsoever.)

World War II saw the last instance (for now) of nearly literally the entire world at war. Casualties were in the millions, military and civilian, cities across vast swathes of the globe were laid in ruins, their inhabitants dead or made homeless. The first time some external force "sucker punched" the United States, in this case Imperial Japan, two nations were ground down, their armies butchered, their civilians slaughtered until only one stood in defiance of the Allied powers. The very nation which had thrown that first punch. That nation faced this...

Trinity
The first man-made nuclear explosion,
16 July 1945.
The Japanese refused to surrender, so the United States employed two nuclear weapons to end the war. The first at Hiroshima, the second at Nagasaki. The war ended. While in truth the world was in shock over the events from 1939 to 1945, the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki left many even on the winning side in shock. That sort of devastation from a single bomb was unprecedented.

Albert Einstein is said to have stated -
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
The implication being, of course, that another world war would undoubtedly lead to the employment of nuclear weapons which would cause the death and destruction of World War II to pale in comparison.**** There may not be enough humans left after such a conflagration to have a fourth world war!

So, the United States was sucker punched in 1941, then again in 2001. The second time was by a group of non-state actors, they probably did have assistance from one or more nations, I think we all know which ones without stating the obvious.

Who do we go after? Their was no nation to go after, Afghanistan and Iraq were simply there. Yes, the Taliban are bad, yes, Saddam Hussein was bad, did they bear any direct responsibility for the 9/11 attacks? Probably not, terrorist training camps in Afghanistan predate the 9/11 attacks, as to Iraq? I simply can't say. Though using an incident such as attacks on civilians as a pretext to solve a totally different problem have long been a tool in international Machtpolitik, for better or worse.

Now back to Ron's question -
Chris, you are a historical Uberexpert. How many successful countries in history have acted so ineffectively against a 9-11 style attack as we have?
I cannot think of another instance in history of any country suffering a 9/11 attack, to wit, an attack by non-state religious fanatics launching a deliberate attack meant to kill thousands of civilians. Yes, Israel experiences these kind of attacks, on a much smaller scale, nearly every day. Israel's response is to target those responsible, as much as possible, and try to interdict future attacks by attacking the terrorists in their home territories.

The enemy in Israel is often plain to see, they dress differently, they speak a different language, their culture is different, and they are right next door. Hard to miss.

With 9/11 who should we have attacked? Their was no nation state to point at and demand that the culprits be surrendered to American justice.

I would make the argument that no country in history, successful or otherwise, has ever suffered a 9/11 style attack like we saw in this country 18 years ago. That attack in its suddenness and its scale was unprecedented.

The only effective approach to such an attack involves covert warriors acting behind the scenes, acting with sudden shocking brutality to kill those behind the attack and those who supported the attack. Due to the classic politician's need to show the populace, "look, we're doing something," we got the wars we are still fighting today.

Could we have done what the KGB allegedly did in Lebanon back in the '80s?
Background:
On September 30, 1985, a group of gunmen seized four Soviet diplomats and embassy workers (Arkady Katkov, Valery Myrikov, Oleg Spirin, and Nikolai Svirsky) in Beirut. During the kidnapping right outside the embassy, Katkov was wounded in the leg.
Alleged KGB Action:
[T]he KGB kidnapped a man they knew to be a close relative of a prominent Hezbollah leader. They then castrated him and sent the severed organs to the Hezbollah official, before dispatching the unfortunate kinsman with a bullet in the brain.
In addition to presenting him with this grisly proof of their seriousness, the KGB operatives also advised the Hezbollah leader that they knew the identities of other close relatives of his, and that he could expect more such packages if the three Soviet diplomats were not freed immediately. (Source)
Apocryphal or not, that's one way to deal with non-state actors. Do we have the military and covert skill to do such a thing? Do we have the men and women who can and would take such action? Of course we do, on both counts.

Do we have the political leadership with the cojones to do such a thing, without announcing it to the world? No, we do not.

Would the American people understand and tolerate such actions taken in their name? I know many who would, but I also fear that most wouldn't understand and that whatever happened our media would lie about it.

A tough question Ron, there are no simple answers.



* Schrecklichkeit, terror or frightfulness, using deliberate atrocities to try and frighten the populace into submission.
** Einsatzgruppen, Special Action Groups, groups of uniformed thugs behind the lines whose job was to murder intellectuals, Jews, and other "undesirables."
*** The Chinese involvement with their would-be Japanese conquerors was rather longer, at least from 1937, some argue earlier than that. China alone lost millions, mostly civilians.
**** It is worth noting that the Soviet military did not consider the use of nuclear weapons in quite the same vein we did. They viewed them as simply a more devastating type of artillery or air launched weapon.

44 comments:

  1. Well done Sarge. We were so effective in AF for the first six weeks or so-FUBAR for the past 17 years. If it could be kept secret I would like to hire our Israeli friends to employ the KGB methods to those that would, and have, done us harm. In payment I would give Israel all our LCS's and a great deal of money. Plus the F-22 and A-10.

    As an aside, have you watched Mr. Sunshine (Netflix)? I got hooked on it, both for the acting and the historical context. As always, V/R

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    1. Wasn’t that the point of “extraordinary rendition”? Handing baddies over to our less-gentle friends for “special processing”?

      And people had the nerve to complain about that. Hrmph.

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    2. Ron - I need to check that series out.

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    3. a bear - Yeah, you do what works.

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  2. I know this is low intensity warfare, but I think it adds, or supports your point.:
    The Provisional IRA.... All the main operators in most towns and villages were known to the ‘B Specials’, why, because they lived there too. The B’s were rather good at their given tasks; actually they became rather too good and in the interests of the good of the wider community (Roman Catholics) they were eventually disbanded, largely because they were, in the main, of Protestant persuasion. Did we have the people with the skills and tactical doctrine to effectively deal with the terrorists? Oh yes. But in the days when the politicians dance with the opponents as well as the oppressed, matters are way beyond simply asking ‘whose side are you on exactly’. Being very effective can be twisted into being ‘state oppression’. In such warfare the knack is to win by appearing to lose, which is a big ask to make of a foot soldier, trained to close on the enemy and destroy it. The time has come when members of the public look at the soldier and the police officer stood on the street corner, do a double take, look again from one to the other - and wonders which is which.

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    1. The proper way to fight terrorism is low intensity warfare. I think you're spot on with this HD.

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  3. I need to do more thinking on the subject of where we draw the line that divides civilian from military.

    Your mention of the Iberian Peninsula was well timed as I'm reading C. S. Forester's "Rifleman Dodd."

    Another excellent post that makes me think. Well done.

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    1. The line between civilian and military is very blurred these days. The guy who builds the rifle is a civilian, the guy who fires the rifle is a soldier. One could argue that the guy making the rifle is more vital to the war effort than the guy shooting the rifle.

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    2. We were watching a NatGeo show and the crew visited Peenemunde.
      Part of the program discussed the Hydra Raid.
      The TV show made mention that the raid was meant to kill the German scientists who were developing the V-2 missiles, and that the complex that housed the scientists and their families was a target.
      "The first Crossbow target hit was Peenemunde. The primary objective of the Operation “Hydra” raid was to kill as many personnel involved in the V-weapons programs as possible, so the housing area was the main aim point. Two lesser objectives were to destroy as much of the V-weapons related work and documentation as possible, and to render Peenemunde useless as a research facility. On the evening of 17/18 August 1943, with the backdrop of a full moon, Bomber Command launched 596 aircraft - 324 Lancasters, 218 Halifaxes, 54 Stirlings -- which dropped nearly 1,800 tons of bombs on Peenemunde; 85 per cent of this tonnage was high-explosive."
      https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/ops/peenemunde.htm

      The British agreed that, "... the guy making the rifle is more vital to the war effort than the guy shooting the rifle."




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    3. John in Philly, it might help your perspective to know that in the UK, the civil police always have primacy in matters of internal terrorism. We can, and do, from time to time request what is known as MACP - Military Aid to the Civil Power whereby police can request it through Government channels. We have no National Guard. In my career I worked alongside the military on many occasions both on exercises and on live ops. It’s not done often and usually in cases where civil police require assets that they do not have for the required task. Eg I performed a drugs interdiction op in support of Customs, whereby my team were provided transport by Roysl Marines Special Boat Service. They come fully kitted up as per a military op., but I was in overall command and my men on the RiBs were also running the arrests etc. Yes, it got a little blurred, but the buck stopped with the police. An exception would be the Iranian Embassy Seige, London, May 1980. For the final assault the op was formally handed over to the SAS Commander, in writing. When all but one terrorists were killed and the survivor cuffed, the paper was handed back! Hope that’s of interest to you?

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    4. Ps. We were all armed with SIG pistols and H&K MP5’s - the difference twixt the SBS MZp5’s and ours were two fold 1. Theirs were the K(Kurtz) andd 2. Theirs had full auto as an option. Ours weren’t!

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    5. HD the 1st - Didn't know any of that, very interesting.

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    6. HD the 2nd - Kurtz for "short," but you knew that.

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  4. That's why I like our mix of ways. We can be better, but do we have to be worse? An example, after the cahjones, a living example? Spreads the propaganda effect further,

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    1. You're right, we don't have to be worse, but we do need to be realistic. There is no time for niceties when it's no holds barred for the enemy, we need to keep that in mind.

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  5. Hey Old AFSarge;

    The problem is that we no longer have the stones to do what is necessary. In WWII especially in Japan, there was no quarters given by either side, the action by the Japanese put them squarely in the "Not honorable but sneaky dastardly suns of bitches" category. We used napalm, flame throwers and other really nasty things to use on the Japanese fortifications and their soldiers. we also used unrestricted submarine warfare, if the ship had a meatball flag, it got a torpedo. We were willing to pay the price. We used the atom bombs to show the Japanese that they were beaten and would be destroyed if they kept fighting. I supported the use of the Atomic bombs expecially after the resistance at saipan, iwo Jima and Okinawa. I saw pictures where the Jaoanese army was showing civilians in Japan to use bamboo spears against the American invaders. We would have had to eradicate them as a people to defeat them and if it wasn't for the Atomic bombs, we would have paid that butcher bill because we had to. Now we have large swath of population that hates the country that they are in and would actively work against our interest. We also have a hostile media that would fan the flames of discontent if we did anything that would actually hurt them. I like the ideas that the Americans used against the Moro tribesman in the Philippines when we were fighting them. We need to take a page out of their playbook. Or the next time we get attacked, we perform "Operation Glass", we nuke a muslim majority city and turn it into glass, as a reminder not to "screw with us". But the present leadership and country don't have the stones to use disproportionate force on the enemy.

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    1. I see your point MrG, but I don't think the "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" approach would work. Killing innocents for the sins of the few is abhorrent to me and to many others in this country. But if a team of highly trained operatives were to go in and slaughter the leadership directing the attacks? I could live with that.

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    2. Those 2 little bombs saved a lot of Japanese and American lives. We still haven't used up all the Purple Hearts that were struck for Operation Olympic and Operation Downfall. It was understood to be a major loss of life. I agree with you Mr. Garabaldi, the butcher's bill would have cost the Japanese almost the entirety of their people.

      We got out of the business of winning wars when we joined the un. Ergo, these morasses we find ourselves in. (and we find leading us into these things)

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    3. War has changed. To be quite honest, only the little ones are winnable, but at a bitter cost.

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  6. E.G. "18 years after 9/11, Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's deputy emir at the time of the attack who succeeded Osama bin Laden in 2011, is alive, well, and commanding the terror group's network. In this video, he defends 9/11 against criticism." Bill Roggio

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    1. A good place to start for the covert "taking care of business" team.

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  7. A most excellent post and all true but as you say, there are no simple answers.

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  8. ...Remembering back to another time when the Russian freighters would meet the US Navel "quarantine" line...the night before, half of SAC's B52s were dispersed at airfields, and the other half were in the air. For the first time Air Force fighter interceptors over American soil were carrying air to air missiles with live, armed nuclear warheads...

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    1. Cuban missile crisis. I remember the nuclear drills, I remember the adults being scared, but ready to do whatever it took. Back when the WWII vets were still in their 40s. A different America.

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  9. Note that as cute as Beirut tall-tales are, Russians had their share of troubles in AFG, and later Chechenya.
    Key to their relative success in later case was, 1. resilience of own population to terror attacks (bury the dead and carry on) 2.ruthless "head exchange rate" tactics - I think quarter million of Chechens is conservative estimate of artillery and airstrikes based scorched earth warfare. I dont think either would work much in USA, even in older days... Dubrovka-style resolution of hostage crisis would have been eviscerated by press and opposition, while indiscriminate targetting of civilians just is not tolerable anymore.
    For Russian's take on COIN, look at this footage of Syria carpet bombing:
    https://youtu.be/6nsT6aWGq8Q?t=153
    iron quarter-tonnes, by a dozen... B-17 and B-29 WW2 crews would recognize the playbook instantly

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    1. The Beirut thing was very small scale, nothing like Afghanistan and Chechnya. The Russians never seem to flinch at a bloodbath. Totally unpalatable here in the US.

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  10. As long as there is Islam in an non Muslim country there will be Jihad. It cannot be otherwise.

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  11. Stewart is on it.

    Its not "war" ...


    It's islam. That political death cult has been alowed to attack western civilization for 1400 years. The Crusades weren in response to jihad.

    Their instruction manual spells out the goals and tactics. They are supposed to convert all infidels, or subjugate us and force us to pay jizya tax, or kill us.

    No tolerance of religons. Every Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, agnostic and atheist must submit or be killed.

    So, until we as a nation define islam as NOT a religion, it will enjoy the protection of the first amendment and we will keep getting attacked for existing as non-moslems..

    And yes we need to employ Pershing's tactics.

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  12. The thing with the whole 'Low Intensity Warfare' thing is that it's hard work and actually requires a lot of thought and brainpower from those operating on the ground i.e. the Grunts. In the UK they used to call such people 'The Strategic Corporal', that is someone who was at the top of their game at their professional level but who could recognise that their actions at a relatively low level could have an enormous effect at the strategic/political level. That's a big ask, particularly in an age where literally everyone has access to a professional quality camera and the ability to broadcast throughout the world instantly.

    Success in Low Intensity Warfare is a long term project. In the west we are tied to 2-4-5 year electoral cycles and a 24/7 rolling news cycle that requires something new on a daily basis. Generally our society has the attention span of a goldfish whilst Putin, the Chinese and the Iranians think long term. It's in their DNA. The old Soviet Union recruited the Cambridge spies in the 1920's knowing that most of them would reach positions of influence 20-30 years hence and it was Chairman Mao when asked what he thought of the French Revolution replied 'too early to tell yet'. The other thing is that groups like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Putin are probably no more than organised crime groups, much as the paramilitaries in Ireland were (and are still). As I have said I think warfare is moving away from a clash of armed forces towards an ill defined grey zone where it will be difficult to find out who is a state or a non state actor and where responses may have to be tempered accordingly.
    Retired

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    1. Spot on Sir!

      While the politicos come and go, the professionals in intelligence and the military are around long term. Too bad our intelligence agencies have soiled their escutcheon and on the military side there are too many careerists (politicians in uniform) at the upper levels.

      In low intensity warfare we need results, not headlines.

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    2. Anon, yes. And the tactical commanders and their operators need to be allowed the flexibility to act dynamically as the situation unfolds. Despite the IT and instant body-can imagery etc, the top of the food chain can not interfere on a minute by minute basis, as if they’re playing a computer game. Strategy is set, tactics agreed, go. This requires trust in the operators and the balls to back tactical variables based on the judgement seen at the sharp end at the time. You want the boss to back you, not to keep tugging your chain from the control centre.

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    3. Hogday , if only that would happen. During my latter years in the Met we were bedevilled by micro management. This was dressed up as the very higher ups having a 'grip' on a situation. As someone who was no doubt familiar with the well practiced 'Gold-Silver-Bronze' command chain would it surprise you to know that one of the 'grown ups' instituted 'Platinum and Diamond' levels above it? This inevitably lead to an 'arcing' of the chain of command with Bronze commanders being given contradictory instructions from the Diamond/Platinum groups. The final straw came just before I retired. I was a public order officer and at a briefing we were told that on operations we would be accompanied by someone who was not advanced public order trained but would instead report outside the events chain of command direct to the Commissioners office. This went down well, particularly when one of the other officers said 'the Red Army called them political officers'. Would you like to do your job with someone who had never done public order who was second guessing your decisions? No wonder everyone became risk averse especially when you knew you were unlikely to be backed up by the higher ups. A lack of political support was a given.
      Retired
      PS Gold- Silver- Bronze
      Gold - in overall strategic command. Should not get involved in the nuts and bolts but sits back and takes an overview. In UK Policing usually a Superintendent (US Captain equivalent) or above.
      Silver - Tactical commander - chooses the tactical options to achieve the strategic aims set by gold. Depending on the size of the operation the rank is usually Supt to Inspector (Captain - Lieutenant US equivalent)
      Bronze - functional commander. Actually on the ground and carries out the tactical options set by Bronze. Rank varies depending on function.
      Pay attention. There will be a short test later!

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    4. HD - Yes, yes, support not control. The folks at the sharp end need to react in real time, not what the head shed is seeing on camera. Reminds me of Vietnam, brigadiers in helos trying to control a firefight from 10,000'. Too bloody stupid by half.

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    5. Retired - Truly love your insights. Commissars in the field, what could possibly go wrong?

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    6. There was what was known colloquially as a 'robust exchange of views' over that I later learned. I don't think anything came of that idea but it shows what the thinking was at the time. You can't do your job if someone is looking over your shoulder the whole time.
      G-S-B is a very good command system. It's been used by UK emergency services for over 30 years now and lends itself well to planned and spontaneous incidents. It's used by local/health authorities and the private sector have on occasion used it (potential large scale disruption to utilities or food supplies etc).
      Retired

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    7. What good plan can't be ruined by throwing more managers at it?

      All kidding aside, that's a good system.

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  13. Chris, during my 500 mile drive over the past few days enjoying parts of NC, I thought of your post. Is there any county with a well-armed citizenry that has an overly oppressive government?

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    1. Let me think...

      Nope.

      Enjoy the beauty of NC, I'll see it someday. (Hopefully sooner rather than later!)

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  14. Sarge, I have some video footage of a MACP op as hinted at. Still a bit sensitive, but maybe one day...one day😉

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    1. I shall await the release with patience and forbearance.

      But I repeat myself.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)