About Me

My photo
I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Friday, December 5, 2008

DO CEASEFIRES PROLONG WARS IN AFRICA?

War is an ugly, brutal and bloody business – as any soldier can testify. Despite the ugliness and destruction a war causes – along with the collateral damage - it does have a desirable outcome: it ultimately leads to the resolution of an armed conflict and thus, in due course, brings about peace.

But, war is simply a continuation of politics, albeit politics that have gone very wrong. However, when the situation deteriorates to the extent that a nation enters into a war, beit cross-border or localised, it ought to have one final aim: the complete and total destruction of the enemy. This defeat can be brought about either through total exhaustion of the opposing forces or their total destruction on the battlefield. To achieve this, the political leaders and the government need determination and courage to see the conflict through to its final conclusion.

By prematurely interrupting a war with a ceasefire (and the usual follow-on of UN peacekeepers) only gives the opposing force an opportunity to recover its losses, re-arm, re-strategise and then simply continue the war again. (Examples of such occurrences are Angola, Sierra Leone, DRC and such). Furthermore, an internationally imposed ceasefire does not allow the antagonised government to negotiate from a position of strength – a position that is vital to secure a lasting peace. It merely puts a lid on the pot and allows it to continue simmering, usually with tragic results.

The ceasefire also gives credibility to the opposing forces as they are formally recognised and given a sympathy they do not always deserve. Therefore, a ceasefire invariably prolongs the conflict instead of ending it. Peace, on the other hand, can only take root once a war has run its course and been finalised by one of the warring parties. (Hence the comment I made back in 1994 - there can be no peacekeeping if there is no peace).

For that simple reason, the foremost principle of war is “the selection and maintenance of the aim”. The primary aim of war is to achieve a decisive victory over the opposing force - militarily, economically and politically. The opposing force cannot be allowed to believe that they may just win the conflict and therefore its will to fight must be destroyed as well. But when the aim is poorly formulated or selected to be politically correct, disaster is inevitable. Without achieving the aim, the government is unable to negotiate a sustained peace. But, when politicians meddle with the plans of battle and dictate military strategy and tactics, the commanders are usually unable to achieve the aim.

For a government’s military machine to achieve the aim requires – apart from a well-trained, disciplined and well-led force - lightning-strikes on enemy rear-areas and logistical supply lines, destruction of enemy training bases, decisive battlefield confrontations on ground of its choosing, maximum use of the air weapon, skilful propaganda, good intelligence and more. For all of the criticisms levelled at governments engaged in armed conflict, the truth is that they do want to end it as soon as possible, for a host of reasons, but often don’t have skills or the resources. But, war is good for some corporations and organisations, especially some of those involved in resource exploitation and “humanitarian” work. In Africa, wars are often started due to international meddling and corporate greed.

When a ceasefire is imposed by outside parties such as the UN, EU, AU and so forth, it prevents the government that is protecting its territorial and political integrity from achieving its aim. A ceasefire, additionally, merely protects the opposing side from the consequences of its action of starting the conflict. It furthermore gives breathing space to the opposing force and thereby legitimises its actions. Taken a step further, it gives major corporations access to areas where profit maximisation can take place – as instability allows them to buy products/resources cheaply and sell those products/resources at grossly inflated profit margins with minimum input costs.

Africa is littered with examples where ceasefires have simply prolonged the conflicts and added to the misery of those caught up in the conflict. Along with the ceasefire usually comes a large, ineffective, money-eating UN peacekeeping force. Their book of success in especially Africa is very, very slim indeed.

The arrival of so-called peacekeepers simply compounds the problem as the local population develop a false sense of security – and instead of fleeing the combat zone, they actually remain there, believing the peacekeepers will protect them… a big mistake as witnessed in Rwanda, Bosnia, DRC and elsewhere. Furthermore, the ability of the UN’s peacekeepers to switch support from one side to another in order to refrain from having to take any decisive action leads to the local population’s distrust and dislike towards them. The frequent stoning of UN convoys by the locals in the DRC is illustrative of this statement.

A too early ceasefire not only creates uncertainty and it invariably leads to a rapid escalation in crime – usually violent in nature. With no effective policing in place, this leads to the brutalisation of the local population who are mainly innocent bystanders. But the ceasefire is also a source for fresh fighters. In Africa, this has resulted in the forced recruitment of children as young as 8-years old to take sides with the warring parties. The trauma of these child-soldiers is not something that will disappear within a year or two.

Trailing behind the peacekeepers are some (not all) NGOs whose sole aim is to perpetuate themselves by using the media to give their organisations credibility and visibility and thus attract donations and other forms of funding. (Despite the claims, I have yet to meet a member of an NGO who worked for no salary). The camps these NGOs establish for the refugees fleeing the area are very often strategically placed to ensure maximum media access and coverage to ensure that the world is kept abreast of their good work. But more than often these camps are a breeding ground for resentment and hatred – and thus become a ready source for more fighters, to say nothing of anger, disease and squalor.

Many NGOs have also been known to provide support to the warring factions on both sides, thus again simply prolonging the conflict. Their reason for serving both sides is often the claim that they cannot be singled out by one side as favouring another. Thus, all are welcome at their table. Whereas their support to the displaced persons is indeed noble to the uninitiated, their too-early insertion into a conflict zone serves no positive role and indeed becomes another cog in the logistical supply line of the warring parties.

But the truth is that some NGOs benefit from war and benefit even more from ceasefires. In fact, they call for ceasefires in order to fill their financial coffers – as does the UN and its peacekeepers. Without ceasefires, the UN’s peacekeepers would have no cause for existence. In fact, they won’t make money. The longer the ceasefire continues, the more money the peacekeepers make. Small wonder they want ceasefires to continue for years. The media “strategists” are of course keen to propagate the ceasefire and thus aid and abet the opposing force, sometimes unwittingly and so, invariably, the media reporting becomes subjective - even more so when the media becomes the mouthpiece of the rebel forces.

Ceasefires are good for business. If there were no ceasefires, there would be no need for the massive but ineffectual UN peacekeeping efforts and the billions of dollars required to sustain them. Nor would there be a requirement for some of the NGOs that trail in their wake. Likewise, several corporations would be denied access to “cheap” resources.

Whereas ceasefires may be good for business, they are bad for governments engaged in wars as the government is denied the opportunity to achieve the fundamental aim of war. Instead, the problem simply continues to simmer and boil below the surface until it eventually erupts into war again.

34 comments:

E Richard said...

Sounds like you have a thing going about this disinformation campaign. When you are in someone's sights, such as the likes of these "people" you must actually be doing something right.
We are definitely subject to an onslaught of information that looks very good in print, all the right content to make it look legitimate, but totally unverified. As consumers of information we a stuck, I want to keep informed over a broad spectrum, without spending hours researching content.
Everyone has an agenda, and getting paid for such is reason to skip over details that do not forward one's agenda. Follow the money.
If you have an extra 90 minutes or so check out the 2006 movie Idiocracy, very funny and a look at what we in the US could very well become.

Stupid said...

I find your comments very disturbing. I just wonder how these NGO’s or peace keeping forces continue to exist with a clear conscience. Is the money in it really that good? Is it really worth it, knowing that they will come in direct contact with the horrors associated with an African conflict? It just doesn’t make sense.

Now I understand why you are getting in so much trouble with the media. I hope you never lose your frankness. It is really, really sad that there are not more people that speak so directly. The internet has been amazing because it allows a person to say things in their own words and other people that are like minded will find it. It was not possible before.

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben. From a media consumer standpoint I have been under the impression that cease fires were a good option, they get nothing but good press. Coming from your perspective it makes good sense that they just don't. History does have a way of repeating itself. The only real consistency is the participation of the assistance players, as the conflicts switch countries. I wonder if anyone could actually second guess the "Peace Makers" with any substance without being labeled a war monger. This is where we take a moment, and bow down to the blessed peacemakers, and the NGOs that spread good will and assistance to all who are deemed worthy. You can't call out the UN like this Eeben, you too will be labeled.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I see the actions and activities that are allowed to occur during a ceasefire disturbing, Stupid. It is not so much the ceasefire itself but the manner in which it is exploited and left uncontrolled – especially by some who have other agendas. People do strange things for money…

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have been labelled many things, ER – a war monger being one of the more gentle labels.

A ceasefire that is correctly policed, assisted by dedicated NGOs, will probably achieve good results and lead to a rebuilding of attitudes. Currently this is sadly not the case. If the UN Peacekeeping efforts are not given a definite timeline to achieve success, it serves no purpose other than prolonging the conflict.

I base this opinion of what I see happening in Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben

jterrie said...

Dear Eeben,

the conservative strategist Edward Luttwak published and article called "Give War a Chance" in Foreign Affairs July/August 1999 where he argued much along the same lines.

In the case of peacekeeping, and the DRC in particular which I covered as an analyst the problem often lies in the lack of understanding of the utility of force.

UN military forces fail to use the often considerable firepower they have in order to shape the security environment and thereby providing the space allowing the other things needed to happen. Its often the case that if they aren't going to do this then they are better not being here instead of creating a false sense of security and many of the conditions you describe

JT

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you very much, JT, for the pointer to Edward Luttwak’s essay “Give War a Chance”. Although it took me some time to find it, I was fascinated by his conclusions. Actually, while reading it I was rather excited that someone else had, long before I, come to the same conclusions. Given his insight into the situation, I am rather surprised that it has been left unattended for so long.

You are absolutely correct in your assessment that the UN does not understand the principle of utility of force and there cannot shape a security environment. This, more than anything else, is lies at the root cause of their inability to achieve anything. Of course, there are the “normal” African factors that come into play such as tribalism, ethnic antagonism, the quest for power and so on – something the UN doesn’t seem to appreciate at all. In planning any military campaign, there are a host of factors that need to be thoroughly appreciated and pulled through to their final conclusion and accordingly, a course of action formulated on each factor. I suspect that they are following General Haig’s World War One philosophy of “Men, I need more men”. This leads to poor command and control, the inability to maintain discipline, incompatibility of tactics, poor discipline and such like. This in turn creates an atmosphere of distrust, dislike and disrespect towards them.

My argument remains: If they are doing nothing constructive – why are they there? Perhaps it is time to hold them accountable for their actions.

Rgds,

Eeben

bulletbunny said...

Thank God for the Wisdoms of War of Eeben Barlow. Finally the so-called bad guys come out as the better ones, while the so-called good guys are exposed as the really bad ones. These agenda-driven, money-hungry lot who invade Africa under the guise of doing good, should be driven off the Continent back to their cozy 1st World boltholes where they can sprout forth as self-styled experts on wars they never understood and peace and comfort they could never bring.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Bulletbunny. I am hopeful that African governments will soon cotton on to how they are being manipulated and how the wars in Africa are mainly because of an abundance of resources and not because there is a shortage of them.

What we witness is hypocrisy: Take Zimbabwe, which as yet has not discovered any oil of other such strategic resource the world really needs. Until then, there will be threats of action but no real action apart from sanctions which in effect harm the very people who are buckling under the tyranny there.

Where there are resources, several Western governments/multi-nationals are covertly involved in backing all sides in the conflict. Let us not forget that some are even training and arming the rebels indirectly…

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

ER, It is a pity that we have allowed our opinions to be shaped by some unethical journalists – who are fortunately in the minority. Again you are correct – as consumers of information, we ought to demand that we get OBJECTIVE information so that we can make our own decisions.

I will check out the movie – thanks.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maurice said...

I'm afraid it is diamonds in Zimbabwe Eeben. According to feedback from sources in Zimbabwe, a recent discovery of a huge diamond resource caused Mugabe to dig his heels in. You watch, 'someone' outside Zimbabwe is making a huge profit out of this and just as in Sierra Leone, profits from this source will be used to fuel further misery in the 'breadbasket' of Africa, which will affect the rest of Africa.
When are 'real' people going to get it? It is to the benefit of First World Countries that the whole of Africa is turned into a Banana continent - it just makes it easier to get your hands on the resources. The Chinese have been very clever about it - finding a way into Africa while the West was finding new ways of stabbing each other and Africa in the back.
In the meantime the likes of us (the ones with the skills and ability to fix this mess) must sit and watch how countries in Africa with immense potential are turned into hell holes.
The previous white governments and the strength of South Africa, Namibia and Rhodesia were in the way in the mighty fight for resources. Now that these countries are weakening and chaos is the order of the day - the resources can be sapped.
I certainly hope we are going to see some 'common sense' and leadership coming from Africans in Africa. Leaders that will take the country and continent into account and not their own pockets or interest. Looking at the historical 'leadership' all over Africa, that's not going to happen soon.
The game stays the same in Africa. First World countries create chaos - they 'pick up' the 'brains' of African countries - the so called 'brain drain' - leaving these countries with no skills that can compete with the rest of the world. The resources are sapped and the countries and its people are left to die a slow death. This is one of the saddest cases in the history of mankind and it is all done in a very political correct way.
Unfortunately, this is not only happening in Africa - any unstable country with resources is a sitting duck for greedy paws.

You're spot on with : "I am hopeful that African governments will soon cotton on to how they are being manipulated and how the wars in Africa are mainly because of an abundance of resources and not because there is a shortage of them."

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben.
Maybe a definition adjustment as to the meaning of the word war, with more emphasis on negotiation, ceasefires and restraint will fit more comfortable for the modern media.
I have always understood war to be a miserable state of affairs for men who have to kill each other to obtain objectives to better position their side, so they can defeat their enemies. Any and all resources and options are on the table to accomplish this.
Limited war, conflict, police action, pretty much the same for the fighters.
I understand that politics and policy are what lead to the outbreak of war, but I see war as a result not a continuation of them.
Once the threshold has been crossed and armed struggle (another nice word for war) begins, one would assume that all is fare, we are at war, seek out the enemy and kill them.
The Americas have been induced into trying to decide who the bad guys really are in Central and South America. Depending on who you are listening to, is who the real enemy is. And it is very interesting that the split is usually Conservative and Liberal, with the Liberals siding with the Rebels.
Follow the money.

E Richard said...

http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/tabid/548/xmmid/1580/xmview/2/xmid/2138/Default.aspx00

Hey Eeben,
Could you read this and get back to me on what you make of our next Vice President Joe Biden?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are correct that Zim has diamonds, Maurice, but they are not considered to be a strategic resource, although through good advertising a mere stone has been given a great value. At a stage, many of the Zim diamonds that were being “exported” actually came from the DRC where the Zim army was quietly mining away.

The Chinese were upfront about what they wanted. They came, they paid and they mined. Their agenda was out in the open. There are major corporations that are benefitting from Zim’s diamonds. The bottom line is that while Zim is imploding, profits are exploding.

In Africa, the politics drive the economies – in the West it is the economies that drive the politics. This creates a unique situation where power equals wealth – and with the many outside promises of wealth, it becomes the road to power. As you know, in Africa, power is a very important commodity.

The “old” Southern African governments you mention, despite all their perceived faults, were an anchor for stability and the world never witnessed the persecution, rise in diseases, corruption, abuse of power and such as is seen today. You must also remember that part of the West’s strategy has been to whisper in the ears of the African leaders that they ought not to trust their armed forces - but to buy the West's over-priced military equipment.

The subsequent purges of senior officers and experienced manpower has now rendered Africa helpless to any outside interference. This has allowed the West to purchase cheap resources but in the main, this strategy has benefitted the East.

Those African governments that are trying to rectify the situation are being held political hostage to several Western governments. A pity as this is still a great continent that is not allowed to realise its full potential.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Adjusting the definition of “war” might be a good idea ER but will it make a difference? I view war/conflict/ armed insurrection and the like as a continuation of politics – the result of which is an end to hostilities.
War has only one aim – victory – at all costs. But, in most modern wars, it has to do with money and power.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link ER. I read it and confess that I found it interesting indeed. But, sitting in Africa, I am hardly qualified to make a judgement on US politics.

On the other hand, I think I am at times a little qualified to comment on US policy…

What I found somewhat disturbing, from a US point-of-view, was the writer’s comment “Thus we have the "Biden Doctrine" - gut the military, appease aggressors, and then pray anxiously for lightning to preserve world peace!” A bit scary I think as a well-balanced, well-equipped and well-led military serves as a warning to any potential aggressor.

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

One big Problem about NGOs is the fact that they are operating mostly in so called failed states, where they establish structures which should be only provided by the state.

This way they damage the already little legitimacy of the state with the result of citizen who do not accept the government, because it is not able to provide these structures in the first place. I am talking here of basal elements like medicine, education or other infrastructure.

It is really amazing (in a negative way) how much damage is done by most of the NGOs. The Question here is: Is it worth it or should they be detered from working?!

regards
David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very valid point you make David. It is usually the UN that opens the doors to the NGOs – and let’s face it – a lot of them are not there because they have a deep desire to improve things. Whereas some of the work they do is unquestionably valuable, they do erode the government’s structures, as you pointed out, in the process damage the legitimacy/ability of the state. Again, the underlying reason WHY they are there goes back to the ceasefire and the numerous benefits outside parties derived from it.

If a conflict situation has deteriorated to the point where a REAL peacekeeping force is required – and that force had a time limit on how long it would take to stabilise the situation, then NGOs will have a role to play in re-establishing a semblance of order. But, the longer the ceasefire drags on, the more funding they receive.

And yes, they do a large amount of damage in the long run as the civilian population becomes reliant on the NGO and not the government. But, the fact that they assist both sides in the conflict, allows the locals to perceive the aggressors as “legitimate” – if they weren’t, why would an NGO assist them?

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

One can see this from another additional point of view. NGOs are never able to act as neutrals in such environments. If they don't help both sides of the conflict they become targets of the hostile party or they find themselves even in the line of fire. Either way they have to look after themselves because the UN and/or the States they act in are not able/willing to protect them.

This way they have to hire local militias or Mercenaries to protect them, thus further damaging the states monopoly of force. I think only a few NGOs rely on the help of reputable PMCs for protection.

Long story short: I have to agree that ceasefires are not always the best solution. It only allows more possible Problems to surface.

Regards

PS:
I too have to get my hand on this article "Give War a Chance". I think David Shearer cites it in his paper "Private Armies and military Intervention".

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very valid points, David. As you intimate, hiring protection in itself does more harm in the long run.

I read the article you refer to – it is very, very good and explores the situation in a lot of depth.

Rgds,

Eeben

Grumbleguts said...

Just a side comment from me. FINALLY there is a blog that I can read with GREAT interest, and the comments are written by people that share the same interests as I do, and are not written by left wing pratts that want to put water cannon on ships to stop piracy. in short, people that piss into the wind!! It's good to see that there are other people out there that have seen through most of the garbage that the liberal media spew out.
Eeben, why have you taken so long to get your blog up and running?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for the great compliment, Grumbleguts – it is much appreciated. I really enjoy the comments people give to the postings as I too learn a lot from them and get an insight into matters that I might not otherwise have had.

Why did I take so long? Well, first of all, I had to learn how to use the computer. I managed this with great difficulty when writing my book. Secondly, it was my wife’s encouragement – telling me to stop complaining about things and do something positive about it. How “positive” the blog is, is debateable. But, it has given me my very own soapbox.

However, I would like to see the blog becoming of interest to people of all thought persuasions.

Rgds,

Eeben

He of difficult days said...

Would you reinstate EO if given a chance to?

Aethyr said...

I want to join Grumbleguts here by saying that I also appreciate your postings very much. Just like in your book I enjoy the Frankness and direct criticism.

In my opinion there are not enough people who say what they really think.

I don't know if you do something "positive", but I definitely know that you are giving valuable insights and fresh point of view.

Just my two cents worth...

And by the way - and please don't get me wrong - It's hard to imagine that you had to learn how to use the computer. On the other hand it shows you never had a boring nine-to-five job.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks David. Your comment is highly appreciated.

About the computer…I used to be worried just switching it on but I have progressed a bit since then.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very tempting thought, He of difficult days. If given the chance to restart EO again, I would certainly do things a LOT differently. But, it is always a tempting thought…

Rgds,

Eeben

Tango said...

Hi Eeben
Earlier comment-
A very tempting thought.....I can see the smile on Jame's face holding the pipe in his left hand !

I enjoy reading the comments and topics on your Blog.
Too little knowledge to comment on most of the topics,but at least modern technology has now also become a part of my daily routine.
This makes it possible to do things differently !

Fuzzy Lojic said...

If EO has to be restarted. I'll definitely volunteer my IT specialist skills that way you can worry about the more important things and I'll worry about the computers :D

On a serious note, I think its a pity that there are so few companies that eminate the legacy of EO. I think the world could do with a few more. It certainly seems to be falling apart at the seams...

PS my 2 cents worth.. Love the blog :)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I do miss my late brother very much, Tango! Yes, he always had a chuckle at what I was up to – he would light his pipe, take a deep puff and say “Well, a man must do what a man must do…” Not that he always agreed with me, though.

You are very welcome to comment on anything you wish. All comments are valuable regardless of what the commentator may think or believe.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the kind offer Fuzzy Lojic. It, along with the compliment, is much appreciated.

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

I finally had the time to look up the Paper of David Shearer concerning the effectiveness of ceasefires.

Shearer cites in particular Stephen John Stedman and Roy Licklider:

Between 1900 and 1980, 85% of civil Conflicts "were resolved by one side winning", 15% were ended by negotiation (anti colonial wars are not included in this one).

Shearer: Roy Licklider broadly supports these conclusions. Of the 91 conflicts he classifies as 'civil' in 1945-93, 57 were settled; of these, 76% ended with a military victory by one side. Only 14 conflicts (24%) were concluded by negotiation, but in half these cases fighting recommencedlater.

On can find these remarks in: David Shearer, Private Armies and Military Intervention, Adelphi Paper 316, Oxford 1998, P. 33f.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for that feedback, David.

It does make one wonder, doesn't it?

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Eeben,
I completely agree with your central premise that ceasefires do, more often than not, result in longer more protracted conflicts.
I recently blogged along a similar theme that PMCs should be used to help tip the balance in selected conflicts. I would welcome anyone's feedback agreed/disagreed. http://combatoperator.com/blog/2008/12/14/private-military-companies-and-the-tug-o-war/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I shall navigate my way to your location, Jake, and take a look at your article. I do however agree with your title as it has been proven that if a PMC is given a task to accomplish, it is also given the timeline along which to do it.

Rgds,

Eeben