Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cultural Anthropology and Counter Insurgency...The Vietnam War and The Iraqi/Afghani Wars

Gerald Hickey was a anthropology graduate student from the University of Chicago visiting Vietnam during the war. Hired by the RAND corporation and The U.S. military to study the Vietnamese and help them win the war.

Hickey wrote programs that the military rejected because they didn't like the results. Hickey found in his research that the villagers just wanted physical & economic security from the government, he found that overwhelming force [the military's favorite tactic] was counterproductive in this type of battle. Force creates martyrs, shows the enemy your overly brutal, and all that leads to increased recruitment for insurgent forces.

He stated that "Vietnam is a political war, and should be fought in the political arena." He found people [Montagnards or "highlanders"] who were willing to assist the U.S. in the war [despite their opposition the S. Vietnamese government]. He stated the Vietnamese custom of "accommodation" should be used to negotiate...the military said no they believed it "giving in or surrendering".

In the end the U.S. lost anyway, Hickey was ejected from the RAND Corporation and from the academia due to ethical conflicts. The military has a history of considering cultural anthropology as a "nuts n' huts" ideology and useless in real life battle. Ethnocentrism made a fool of this nation before, and from the looks of things it will again.

In 1984 Capsar Weinberger [Secretary of Defense under Pres. Reagan] created the 6 principles to avoid another Vietnam and those principles are:
(1) The United States should not commit forces to combat overseas unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest or that of our allies.
(2) If we decide it is necessary to put combat troops into a given situation, we should do so wholeheartedly, and with the clear intention of winning. If we are unwilling to commit the forces or resources necessary to achieve our objectives, we should not commit them at all. 
(3) If we do decide to commit forces to combat overseas, we should have clearly defined political and military objectives.
(4) The relationship between our objectives and the forces we have committed—their size, composition and disposition—must be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
(5) Before the U.S. commits forces abroad, there must be some reasonable assurance we will have the support of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress.
(6) The commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be a last resort.

Those plans were resurrected by Colin Powell in 1994 but abandoned by the end of Clinton's presidency.

There is and seeming always have been a severe lack of cultural understanding in the National. Security establishment. It puts us all in danger, but it puts those that fight these wars in the most danger because they are the ones fighting an ideology they don't understand and have no information on. They are being used much like pawns to be sacrificed for some "greater good", they are not the only ones though.

Because so are the insurgents. An insurgent is a person looking to topple a government, some call them revolutionaries. These people are not backed by an existing government, they are renegades fueled by nationalism and an ironclad agenda. In Vietnam it was the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese who worked in paramilitary units (small armed groups/militias) with the agenda of uniting Vietnam under a communist regime. In Afghanistan its the Taliban, an organization consisting of multiple paramilitary units and intelligence cells hell bent on filling the void left by Saddam Hussein when he was dethroned in Iraq. The Taliban already have control over Afghanistan, so getting Iraq would be a huge coup.

The Taliban's genesis goes back to when the, then Soviet Union, invaded Afghanistan in 1979, looking to take over their oil and other national resources.
At the time, the Soviets were America's #1 enemy and so they sent the CIA (unofficially I'm sure) to arm and train small cells of Afghanis (these cells were called The Mujihadeen) to fight the Soviets off. The Soviets where in Afghanistan for 10 years before they surrendered and finally left.

While the U.S. helped Afghanis fight the Soviets. They had problems of their own...in Iran. 1979 was the launch pad for the Islamic Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers had ran the U.S.-backed Iranian king Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Shah) out of Iran. The U.S. Launched an overthrow of a popular Iranian leader named Mossadegh during the 1950s, and replaced him with the Shah. The Ayatollah began openly rebelling against the Shah and his western benefactors (American, Britian, Israel). The Ayatollah and his followers wanted to have Iran's government work under Islamic Law (Sharia Law) and to have Iran ran for the benefit of Iranians without Western influences, influences that they believed to be contrary to Islamic teachings.

After some time the Ayatollah gained enough popularity (despite being in exile in France) that he was able to drive the Shah from his throne into exile. This was the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Islamic Revolution's main purpose was to protect Islam in Iran, but not just there but wherever it may be in the world so because the U.S. never listened to the grumbling of Arab nations over the treatment of Palestinians in Israel (since the 1950s), because the U.S. tried to take out Iran (by helping Saddam attack them) in the mid-1980s, and because Bush Sr. wrecked Saddam and Iraq (early 90s) the cup ranneth over to say the least.

Radicalized by the teachings of Iran's charismatic Ayatollah, cells of Muslims became staunchly anti-American, anti-British, and most definitely anti-Israeli. This lead to the terrorist attacks of modern history and the birth of many terrorist networks most notably The Taliban (formerly the Mujihadeen).

So what does all this have to do with cultural anthropology? Well its simple, Islam has its own culture. A culture that has been shunned for years, you see it today where Muslims are called "cave dwellers", "sand niggers", "camel jockeys" etc by people who have no idea about their culture. Islam is seen as evil by a lot of people (they don't really help their argument of Islam being peaceful with terrorist attacks). But they fail to see that the Muslims just wanted to be left alone. Its crazy that, it all boils down to leaving them to their own devices.

So, just like when the Vietnamese democratically voted for communism, and America decided to involved itself to stop the spread of communism led to the most wasteful and unpopular war in U.S. history. America inadvertently (and sometimes overtly) stepped in to interfere with Islamic culture which is leading to TWO wasteful and unpopular wars...and they are happening simultaneously!

The government not understanding this is why the wars are not over, not understanding this is why Iraq and Afghanistan have become the new Vietnams. Because you have the elites filling everyone's heads up with thoughts of victory and superiority that they haven't noticed that the wars are 8-9 years old and are probably nowhere near over.

You have the elites who tell you that the insurgents have no chance of winning because the U.S. has better technology, more troops, better training etc forget to tell you that the insurgents have more heart, better battle strategy, and a full understanding of the American war machine's might.

Insurgents are regular people, this is what it boils down to,
whether everyone wants to admit it or not they are. Some of them have had family members killed, they believe in their agenda and are willing to die (and become a martyr) for it. You can't scare these people!

The U.S. has done all that it could short of the A-Bomb. They tortured them in places like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or in Poland and other places where they keep their secret prisons. They have targeted drones hunting their leadership down one at a time, and that's not working. They lead the public into believing they have killed or captured a "high ranking" Taliban officer just to find him replaced within hours. They have burned Korans, flushed Korans down the toilet, raped Iraqi women, bombed hospitals, schools, homes etc and wonder why recruitment never ceases (they want revenge dumbasses) or why they can't really get solid intelligence on their leadership (why should they help you when your killing children?). Like I said they are regular folks, this battle can be won but only if the U.S. gives up their brute force agenda its not working because it will not work. In fact its working against them.

Sun Tzu said: "If you know yourself and your enemy, you need not worry over the result of 100 battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory you have you will also suffer a defeat." and believe me when I tell you, they don't really know the enemy.

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