Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Dissertation: Dhofar Rebellion Part 8

Owing to a variety of distractions, I've made less progress on my dissertation in the last couple of weeks than I may have liked. Even so, I've chipped away at it a bit at a time. For example, I used the first of three thirty-year-old articles on the wars in Oman from Scientia Militaria, the South African Journal of Military Studies, to establish the (alleged) size of a Special Air Service squadron. I also found a couple of passages from Brigadier Ian Gardiner's indispensable book, In the Service of the Sultan, to establish the size of the counterinsurgent force in Dhofar. These are for a section I'm writing on commensurate force strength for my section on controlling the physical terrain.

I mentioned in the last post that I've been going to Starbucks and writing in a dissertation journal. Last week, I transcribed about six pages of handwritten notes on intelligence, small arms, organic language capabilities, field conditions, and troop morale. One of my near-term steps is to go through that section in my worksheet file (labeled "Scratchpad Transcriptions"), edit it, apply sources to it, and then drop it back into my main file. That will have the knock-on effect of identifying some of the remaining gaps that I need to write out.

It's been a while since I posted any selections from my quote bank. One of the strengths of the work that CN Odin and I did for our presentation and Small Wars Journal article was that we looked at counterinsurgent and insurgent/guerrilla sources - and at sources from a diverse variety of conflicts and locales. By my estimation, if you're discussing a concept upon which Mao, Zawahiri, Petraeus, and Galula all agree, then it's probably a pretty solid concept. So, here are some of the quotes from the "enemy" - that is to say, from the guerrilla or insurgent side - that I intend to include. First, there are quotes from Ayman al Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda:
"[T]he strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy - after the help and granting of success by God - is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries. So, we must maintain this support as best we can, and we should strive to increase it[.]"


"We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the [Taliban] and the people of Kandahar alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and, when the invasion came, the amirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile. Even the [Taliban] themselves had a stronger affiliation to their tribes and their villages than their affiliation to the Islamic amirate or the Taliban movement or the responsible party in charge of each one of them in his place. Each of them retreated to his village and his tribe, where his affiliation was stronger."


"However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this."
- Ayman al Zawahiri, letter to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, 2005
From there, I've found some pertinent quotes from Mao and Guevara, dealing largely with the combination of human terrain and logistical support:
"Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation."
- Mao Tse-tung, "On Guerrilla Warfare", 1937

* * *

"Conduct toward the civil population ought to be regulated by a large respect for all the rules and traditions of the people of the zone, in order to demonstrate effectively, with deeds, the moral superiority of the guerrilla fighter over the oppressing soldier."
- Ernesto "Che" Guevara, "Guerrilla Warfare", 1961

* * *

"The guerrilla soldier must never forget the fact that it is the enemy that must serve as his source of supply of ammunition and arms."
- Ernesto "Che" Guevara, "Guerrilla Warfare", 1961

In all honesty, reading Guevara is more of an annoyance than an asset - as I recently said on Facebook, "Mao is to Guevara as Dante Alighieri is to Dan Brown", which is to say, absolute rubbish. I have absolutely no idea how such a feckless guerrilla as Guevara has gotten any attention whatsoever from scholars of irregular warfare, let alone all of the attention he gets from the public at large - for example, the bizarrely Che-themed kebab shop that Gus and I saw in Edinburgh back in November. The guy was a hack who rode Fidel Castro's coat tails, was basically invited to leave Cuba after the revolution was over, and then gooned up potentially successful revolutions in Africa and South America before being apprehended and killed by Bolivian troops. For his part, Mao is a prime example of an adequate military leader whom, upon gaining power through a successful guerrilla campaign, subsequently demonstrated his complete inability to govern or administer (as evidenced by the "Cultural Revolution" and the "Great Leap Forward", both of which were savage, unmitigated disasters). The only thing I can say is to cite Sun Tzu's adage to "know thy enemy"; in that context, it makes sense to study them.

More to come.

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