SOFREP friend Yankee Papa is back. Yankee Papa was a Marine infantryman in Vietnam and later served in the Rhodesian Security Forces during the bush war. Note the lead picture is of South African Defense Force Recces after a patrol. -Jack
“The water downstream will not be clear if the water upstream is muddy…” – Korean Proverb
Our last two administrations have either gotten us into wars… or almost done so. Lacking a sense of history, they sometimes have seemed like a drunken redneck with a new pistol looking for a road sign.
As I was writing this, I learned that Susan Rice (of the Benghazi infamy) had been appointed National Security Advisor to the President. One begins to “feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis…”
We will wind up in a new war that is at least partly conventional. When and where? Not sure, but it’s out there.
This posting does not address possible fully conventional conflicts with Russia, China, North Korea or Iran. If the politicos don’t muck it up, the commanders of our conventional forces know what to do.
So where is the next war coming from? Maybe the place to start is listening in on bull sessions of military trainers and advisors… discussing their experiences from around the globe.
There was the dictator of one country who had an elite (relatively speaking) force trained up… Supposed to be a reaction force… even jump trained.
The day that they paraded before the dictator he appointed his brother-in-law as their commander. Prior to that day he had never worn a uniform. Probably never even jumped from the window of a bordello… but they pinned jump wings on his uniform anyway.
The one African “President for Life” that the team commander always called “The Generalissimo…” That worthy took it as a compliment. He didn’t know that the team commander was something of a scholar…
Referred to Chiang Kai-Shek. The Americans spent 100 million dollars (one billion today) building airfields in China during WWII… half of that sum went directly into Chiang’s pocket… not a pebble was moved until he got his payment. The African “President for Life” treated all foreign aid that way.
Then there was the African dictator who refused American military vehicles. U.S. bought him British instead. Training unit arrived a few months after the vehicles showed up. Only 20% of the vehicles purchased could be deployed.
Some had vanished into private hands. A senior government official had sold most of the spare parts to the black market (British vehicles common… thus the demand for British trucks). The Colonel commanding the unit sold all of the spare tires the day after the vehicles showed up.
Other trucks in the vehicle park had parts that “went missing…” Four fifths of the gasoline allotted to the Army never made it to the vehicle parks.
The former Army Sergeant who ran his country after a coup. To be in his army you had to be from his tribe. Small insurgency from other tribes. When one of his units were hit, they would just wipe out the village nearest to the skirmish.
The training team commander who had worked hard to impart skills to a new counterinsurgency force in one Latin American country. Shortly before they finished training, they were ordered to a neighboring province.
Large land owner had a work stoppage on his hands. He complained to government who then sent troops. One in twenty of the workers were lined up and shot.The American officer reported the incident to the State Department. State did nothing. After a while it got to where reports were no longer filed because the State Department didn’t want to hear about it. A career at State is not enhanced by embarrassing dictators who are our “gallant allies…”
This is not to say that all of the many countries where we send training teams and advisors are FUBAR. But the ones that are… are the ones most likely to be fertile ground for violence ranging from low level insurrection to full tilt civil war.
If we decide to become involved, it will not help that we have the reputation of aiding the dictatorship that annoyed a large number of the citizens.
If an insurrection more substantial than banditry takes place, we are faced with choices. Do we get involved? If so, how… and how far?
In theory it might seem like a great idea to let “the good guys” take power from “El Repugno…” The problem is that all too often the opposition is either made up of… or led by, Marxists, religious fanatics, drug lords, gangsters or the merely the other tribe who wants their turn at sickening cruelty towards the innocent members of the tribe that has been in power.
If we decide that a regime change is really bad news then what do we do? The ideal solution is to convince the dictator to announce changes (and then follow through) that will cut the ground out from under the rebels/terrorists/guerillas…before it is too later. This has almost no chance of success. He would rather gargle with razor blades. He might make some token promises in order to obtain aid. Odds of him following through are nearly nil.
So maybe we send him weapons, equipment and trainers. If we send the gear to his forces directly, much of it may suffer the fate of the British trucks. If we try to “walk it through”, his government is likely to file a complaint with the State Department saying that we are interfering with their government. If we provide his troops with advanced electronics and such… some will wind up in the hands of the insurgents in pristine condition.
We already have an Embassy… maybe consulates… diplomatic staff. Now we will have trainers and maybe warehouses… maybe even a small base. These are all targets for the opposition. Planes start arriving in the U.S. with flag-draped coffins.
If the violence gets worse we might decide to send advisors… American military personnel who actually accompany the local forces up to the sharp end. In the old days (El Salvador) this could be bad press if there is one photo showing an American with a rifle… But these days nobody cares (danger from Al Qaeda, narco-terrorists…)
Unfortunately, advisors often spend half their time fighting the incompetent/corrupt local high command. If their government is reasonable, then the teams can work wonders… but of course if they were reasonable the problem would be far smaller.
Teams not getting much joy… maybe warehouse or Embassy or base attacked with significant casualties… Maybe their oil fields threatened. Either way, the pressure is on to use conventional forces.
In the early days in Vietnam, the Pentagon was saying that “We will never win until we get regular troops on the ground…” During the darkest days in El Salvador, the same song came out of the Pentagon. Fortunately the political climate would not permit it…
Eventually both (ugly) sides got bled white and were forced to reluctantly make peace.
It’s decision time… Do we cut our losses? Do we decide to get “…a little bit pregnant…” …try limited conventional forces?
In Vietnam we tried that… Marines in March 1965 landed to protect the air base at DaNang. Soon forced to patrol the areas within mortar range of the facility… then farther into the countryside looking for enemy units… Before long we had taken the lead role in the war. Mission creep on steroids.
Conventional troops in an unconventional war are a nightmare. No matter how much chewing gum they hand out to the kids, they are foreign faces… many white… (bad in many former colonies…) except in Latin America of an entirely different religion.
A platoon of grunts takes a few rounds from a village… enters… and searches. Mats ripped up, pots of food spilled… pathetic personal belongings gone through. Arrests made of farmers who have misplaced ID cards (insurgents always have theirs in order…) Great propaganda for the opposition forces. In the cities it is an even bigger nightmare.
Sometimes conventional forces are required… as happened in the less populated areas in Vietnam when we had to deal with NVA regulars. But when that happens, American conventional forces need to be kept as far away from the population as possible.
Army and Marine infantry proved that they could take Okinawa away from the Japanese Army. Against regular forces they can accomplish much. But among the population they unwittingly provide aid and comfort to the enemy.
American troops not always liked even in Western Europe. In third world countries, it has always been worse. For all their courage and decency, many of our troops view people who don’t speak English or are without flushing toilets as barbarians… dinks, gooks, wogs, spics.
One incident with conventional forces can destroy the work of months or years in a matter of seconds. A classic case was in Vietnam.
Marines ran Combined Action units… Marine rifle squad with corpsman living *in* village. Spoke the language… ate the same food… left the women alone. Didn’t build schools or bridges for the villagers… got the stuff for them to do it themselves. Team members often extended their tours.
Team headed up platoon size defense force made up of villagers. After many months young men from the village were deserting VC and coming home.
The “man with the knife” could not enter the village without being immediately outed. A few of the better South Vietnamese generals said, “Why didn’t you tell us that you had troops like these…”
One day trucks carrying American grunts passes through the village. The grunts make cat-calls and obscene gestures towards the women, laugh and point their weapons at the men… and throw cans and bottles at the old people and children. The work of many months has been permanently destroyed.
Any conventional troops need to be based away from the population. Field bases… not a khaki version of Disneyland. Decent but spartan facilities… no pizza parlors. Other than military liaison, no citizens of the country on the base… washing our clothes or burning our guano.
Troops should not be permitted into local towns or cities on pass. Reasonably frequent R&R in nearby friendly countries provided.
Of course little of this is likely to happen. Political pressure will demand far more than a reasonable level of comfort in the bases.
In Muslim countries, the forces would keep the soldiers from passes into town… but otherwise the U.S. would set up our lads as if they were going to be there for years… Massive logistics just for the luxuries. Locals will be hired to clean our laundry by day and mortar us by night.
Doubtless the conventional forces will be used to search the villages… Doubtless we will be loathed.
Depending on the country, the U.S. may promise, as conditions of victory, that we will “nation build” and “achieve democracy…” This of course declares defeat the second the words are uttered.
Nation building only works when all major factions willing (in which case we don’t need to have troops there…) It failed in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and is now failing in Afghanistan. More luck making snowballs out of marbles.
As to Democracy, in most third world countries they lack both the concept and words for “leader of the loyal opposition…” The closest is “Chief Enemy”, or “Corpse” depending on the tense.
Elections don’t make for democracy. High turnouts in Iraq were because each faction was just trying its luck to see if it could gain power that way… If not… back to the bomb factories.
We have a great many training teams around the world. We are present in many hot spots. Some have been smoldering for years like the Philippines… but so long as the problem is mostly confined to Mindanao (mostly Moslem island) and doesn’t grow too large, we will not require conventional forces.
It may well happen someplace else, but the boys in Vegas would probably bet on Nigeria as the next war requiring conventional American forces. If so, it will make Vietnam look like Switzerland.
Iraq and Afghanistan were not about oil (whatever the propaganda), but Gulf War One was… and oil will be why we wind up in Nigeria if it comes to it.
Iran and Venezuela are not exactly pro-U.S. The Saudis have a fragile grip on power. We get 25% of our oil from Africa and it may have to increase. Nigeria sends half their oil to the U.S.
Nigeria is a nation in name only. In the North, Muslims are the majority… in the South, there are other beliefs including Christianity. A civil war was fought in the late ’60s over the non-Moslem South. It was hideous and countless people died of violence and famine.
Nigeria is extremely corrupt… it has a long history of military coups… and often the military is pulling the strings behind the scenes other times. Back in the ’70s, if the police pulled you over for drunk driving (unless you paid a large bribe), you would be shot by the side of the road.
The Nigerian military is fighting Moslem extremists in the North. The tactics of the Nigerian soldiers are barbaric and widespread. Atrocities against civilians common. In public, our State Department acts as if the Nigerian government is our “gallant ally…” in “the war on terror…”
Nigeria is having more and more trouble protecting its oil fields and facilities. They are in danger of being severely damaged, destroyed or captured.
The U.S. has had training teams in Nigeria for some years. We have a drone base there. Contingency studies have been done with a view towards American military intervention. I refer you to this one…
“Where man is unjust to man…there will be a need of valor…”