Get over it!

I’m pretty picky when I subscribe to Facebook pages – last thing I really need is a constant stream of trivia through my Live Feed. I prefer to use Facebook as a situational awareness tool and so my limited number of subscribed pages includes Steven Pressfield, my favourite bach and the Small Wars Journal (note: you need to be a Facebook member to see these pages). Last night, there was a post headed Afghan Corruption Concerns US Policy Planners linking to this Voice of America ‘news’ item about which I thought Please!!! Get over it!! Some places they do things different to how we would like – is the war on terror or to inflict the moral high ground on another nation’s culture and mores?.
The responses were pretty scary (names have been removed to protect the stupid):
  • On the contrary – the international community’s insistence that government leaders adhere to some basic level of anti-corruption standards is because terrorism is less likely to be a course of action undertaken. It’s not that “they” do differently than “we” would like; corruption is not a part of any culture’s mores, it’s pretty well established in every culture that stealing from one’s people never turns out well. What? Have you ever been anywhere in the world? Across the non-Western world, ‘wheel greasing’ in some shape mor formed is not just tolerated by accepted.
  • I’m also pretty convinced that the “moral high ground” offers as much tactical advantage as the physical terrain’s high ground. Yeah, perhaps, but not if you bring your own high ground from home…
  • Remember, when some Afghan cop steals $ 2.00, he’s taken someone’s wages for a day. And the Karzai family steal millions. You’re wrong, Simon, we’re not trying to ‘inflict’ our culture on them, as you so incorrectly phrased it, we’re trying to keep them from stealing every dollar the West sends them. Then stop sending money and do something useful instead – the same thing would happen in the US, UK and Europe if all of a sudden somebody began handing out great dollops of cash.
OK, so it’s only three responses (but that’s a lot for the SWJ Facebook page) but they are fairly consistent with the self-righteous tone of the original article on VOA. There’s also an interesting article on a similar theme on Coming Anarchy, questioning why corrupt officials from Equatorial Guinea are allowed to live in palatial estates – in Malibu. Apparently US law forbids the granting of visas to ‘corrupt’ officials. My question is: Whose corruption laws/values do you apply? Outside of the First World, such practices are pretty accepted – to any extent that argues that they are at least as successful and sustainable than the squeaky-clean-green moral high ground philosophy.

Do these people just not ‘get it’?  You cannot go to someone else’s country, say we’re going to make everything better but you’re going to have to do things our way from now on? Isn’t that what we are (apparently) fighting the Taliban to prevent. Haven’t we gone to war over this very principle? In fact, it would not be unfair to say that a goodly lot of the wars we have engaged in have been in opposition to someone throwing their weught around and trying to enforce ‘their’ ways on someone else…?

The simple sad fact is that most of the world, including a sizable chunk of western societies, thrive on ‘wheel-greasing’. When I was in the UK in October, the Attorney-General was being pressured to press corruption charges against BAe for ‘greasing the wheels’ in order to secure international contracts. As BAe pointed out in its defence, ‘…this is how the world spins: if we don’t do it someone else from France, Israel, Eastern Europe etc etc etc, will wing-in in our place; if we don’t do it, then we will be forced to shut down a number of UK plants due to lack of work – and, if you smack us with a £1billion fine, we will just be forced to shut down more…‘ When you think about it, if the UK was really into this moral high ground thing, it wouldn’t be letting BAe sell weapons across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Would they…?

COIN doctrine tells us a successful campaign needs to address the core issues behind the insurgency, ultimately giving the insurgents some or all of what they want but under controlled conditions.

Meanwhile, back at the Real World Ranch, The Strategist has developed his alternate generations of war model:

1GW: the mercenaries
Early 16th century to late 18th century.
Powerful monarchies, supported by increasingly efficient state bureaucracies, field “hybrid” armies of elite professional troops, mercenary contingents and transnational military specialists (such as siege engineers and artillerymen). In the 18th century, hybrid armies evolve into more homogeneous forces of cavalry, artillery, and infantry regiments of the line, recruited from the aristocracy and the rural poor within a state’s territory. These forces owe allegiance to the sovereign, not society.

2GW: the conscripts
1790s to 1970s.

Nation-states fight each other with large armies of conscripted citizen soldiers. The nation becomes synonymous with the army – “the people-in-arms”, as Clausewitz described it. Universal conscription is a rite of passage for generations of young Europeans, who are animated to serve by patriotism, national and racial identity, and warrior myths.  The apogee of the nation-in-arms occurs in the two world wars of the 20th century, when nations mobilize all their resources – human and material – for total war.

3GW: the volunteers
1980s to early 21st century.

Armies become all volunteer and professional forces of career soldiers who are relatively well-educated and highly trained. These forces recruit people from ethic minorities, immigrant groups, decaying industrial cities and hardscrabble rural regions. These people enlist because they see the army as a route to advancement and acceptance in society, not out of patriotism. Meanwhile, the scions of the wealthy elite and the prosperous middle class shun military service.

4GW: the champions

Emerging in the early 21st century.

Armies become caste-based – an increasingly distinct and detached element within society. They comprise highly skilled “champions”, specialists in esoteric skills such as counterinsurgency, special operations, and cyber-war, who owe primary allegiance to their castes and combat leaders. The distinction between armies and civilian agencies blurs. The state outsources military responsibilities to private military companies. These also safeguard the interests of powerful corporations and wealthy elites.

Peter, in a week, has probably applied more real intellectual effort to the GW construct than did the originator! I really like it although I would offer that his 4GW is actually 5GW with 1GW being the Braveheart style, every tribesman for himself, hope-it-all-works-out-on-the-day form of warfare that kept the trade alive for millenia before it all got organised.

In terms of applying the generational model across history and societies, it DOES work if you apply to individual societies/cultures instead of taking a global macro approach e.g. while the Romans make have been at 3GW, many of their adversaries may only have be 1 GW. The model works even better if you remove the time frame from under each heading.

The Judge Dredd approach to COIN

So it’s out. The super-uber COIN strategy for Afghanistan. If you blinked, you may have missed it. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much – kinda like finding you’ve fallen asleep in the car (as a passenger!) and missed Hamilton…we’re going to fortify the urban areas where the insurgents AREN’T, and only engage selectively in the rural areas where the insurgants ARE. I have visions of Afghanistan becoming a real word escapee from 2000AD: a few isolated Mega-Cities surrounded by the feral hordes of the Cursed Earth. Sylvester Stallone has already filmed in both locations: with some clever editing of Rambo 3 and Judge Dredd, we could have the movie out for Christmas…

John Dredd or Judge Rambo?

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