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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. I am a contributor 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.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

THE DEVELOPMENT OF MILITARY STRATEGY

Another bit of blatant advertising – an abridged extract from my in-process book Techniques of War (a working title).

If we arrive, as our forefathers did, at the scene of battle inadequately equipped, incorrectly trained and mentally unprepared, then this failure will be a criminal one because there has been ample warning — Michael Elliot-Bateman

In the modern, conflict-ridden world, Elliot-Bateman’s comment remains as relevant as ever. After all, part of battle orders are to ensure that the correct men (unit), arrive at the correct time and place, adequately prepared and equipped to do battle with the opposing forces – and win. But these orders are derived from the battle appreciation. This appreciation is a thorough assessment of all the factors that can impact on the plan and include factors such as the enemy, terrain, climate, weapons, deployments and so forth. The appreciation, in turn, leads to the formulation of the commander’s tactical plan. This plan encompasses the deployment of forces under his command and is taken right down to section and sub-section level.

Getting to the tactical plan requires careful thought and an in-depth appreciation of the situation – all based on good, sound and credible intelligence. But the tactical plan is rooted in the military strategy, a process that is on-going and constantly adjusted.

The development of the military strategy is descendent from the grand strategy of the state. It is the grand strategy that defines how the state would like to position itself in the world and how it will want to be perceived. Additionally, the grand strategy comprises the government’s action and/or reaction to real or perceived threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths.

From the grand strategy is born the National Security Strategy (NSS) – considered by many strategists to be part of the grand strategy and by others as a strategy developed with the aim of supporting the grand strategy with all of the security components at the state’s disposal. It is the NSS that ultimately defines “who” and “what” the enemy is.

If viewed as a separate strategy instead of a continuum of the grand strategy, the NSS entails the art and science of assessing, developing, applying, coordinating and monitoring all instruments of national power to achieve objectives that will enhance and ensure the national security of the nation. Additionally, it gives rise to the creation of an ability to deter an enemy threat and when necessary, to project force (usually military force) in order to secure the state’s national security interests and goals. The projection of force can be overt, clandestine or covert in nature.

The NSS (or alternatively the grand strategy) provides the guidelines for the development of the military strategy. This strategy consists of the planning, preparation, implementation, execution and coordination of the military forces at the disposal of the state to pursue its desired strategic goals. The formulated strategic goals may be offensive, defensive or containment in nature and will involve the military, intelligence, law-enforcement, diplomatic and economic resources at the disposal of the state.

The aim of the military strategy is, ultimately, to gain supremacy over the opposing forces/state(s) and reduce or destroy their will to fight. It is therefore the application of military resources aimed at achieving grand or national strategic objectives. As a strategy, it culminates in a violent act and should, in the main, be tested against the principles of strategy. These principles are often viewed as similar to the principles of war.

Constant changes in the operational environment will shape the military strategy and, therefore, such changes need to be constantly monitored and the military strategy adapted to these changes. These changes may, additionally, impact on any broad, pre-set tactical plans.

In Africa, many governments have neglected the formulation of, and adherence to, a grand strategy. In such a scenario, the development of the military strategy needs to be carefully coordinated with the government’s general policy. These policies, in turn, tend to be very party political in nature and it is, therefore, necessary to confirm the strategy at the highest level, pointing out all realistic advantages and disadvantages – as well as the potential political impact, both nationally and internationally. It needs to be pointed out that the political impact of a military strategy in Africa will differ from that of a Western nation.

Given the complexities regarding ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, beliefs and so forth, African military strategies tend to be very theatre-bound and usually re-active in nature inst4ead of pre-emptive. Many of these complexities are part of the historic legacy of drawing country borders during times of colonisation and splitting tribes into different countries.

Considering the battle for resources that is currently being waged in Africa, another part of the problem lies with the physical location of the natural resources, especially where a particular resource straddles international borders or is located within the domain of a specific grouping of people or tribe.

Adding fuel to this volatile mix is the funding of a specific group of armed guerrillas/rebels or terrorists who use the natural resources to fund their actions. It is especially in this area of interest that the military strategy should focus – deprive the opposing forces from their source of funding but in such a manner that the NSS or grand strategy remains intact.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

THE FARCE OF “PEACEKEEPING”

I continue to be amazed at the amount of time, energy and money expended on the theory and practice of “peacekeeping” in conflict zones on the African continent. Conferences are held to debate the value and role of peacekeeping operations. Academic papers are penned extolling the virtues and successes of peacekeeping operations - truth be told there aren’t any to boast about. Committees are formed to monitor the players in the peacekeeping process. New NGOs spring up to play their new-found role in this on-going, lucrative farce.

Whereas keeping the peace is a very noble idea, does it really work in practise? Do those innocent people who are caught up in the conflict gain anything from the peacekeeping operations? Does fleeing their homes in terror in the middle of the night and becoming refugees something they must supposedly look forward to? Does having their hands and ears hacked off, their wives and daughters raped, their families murdered and so on give them hope? Does watching their crops and meagre possessions being destroyed while the peacekeeping forces look on helplessly, continually switch sides or turn away something they should be happy about? I doubt it.

It appears that the true winners are those who partake in these so-called peacekeeping operations and judging by their results, they really couldn’t care less about “peace” and the civilians they are supposedly there to protect. Poorly-trained and inadequately-led peacekeeping troops lead to more instability. Continued instability and conflict equates to continued income for the peacekeepers and those followers of peacekeeping missions that exploit the conflict situation.

Africa is a dangerous place and it is kept that way by wars, coups, crime and violence – often purposely – and often by very powerful behind-the-scenes players. Some of the players are foreign governments and others are multi-national corporations. But conflicts fuel the arms trade and make resources cheaper to buy. Other avenues for business are also opened up. But, the roles of these behind-the-scenes players are seldom if ever investigated. Instead, their political influence and profit margins continue to grow – as does their influence.

I have made my thoughts known on the utter and dismal failures of the UN’s so-called “peacekeeping” missions in Africa and the misery these missions have brought – and still bring - with them. Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia are but some of the missions that have simply prolonged the state of conflict. True, at times a stalemate is achieved – but what then? However, more often than not, the rebels or terrorists (as that is what they usually are) continue to maintain the initiative.

But a question no one has ever answered is “how can you keep peace when there is no peace?”

Surely, that is a pretty simple question to answer?

When an internationally recognised government comes under the attack of so-called rebels, guerrillas or a dissatisfied political opponent and the antagonists resort to murder, terrorism, destruction, crime and chaos, what purpose do those who rush to “keep the peace” really serve? Would their noble mission not be better served if they hunted down those who committed the atrocities and brought them to book? If the peacekeeping forces are too useless to do their jobs, then perhaps the UN and those who claim to wish for peace should rather contract PMCs that have a desire – and a track record - to end the conflicts. Besides, elections, democracy and peace remain a pipe-dream as long as there is instability.

All conflicts involve players with their own aims and objectives. If an under-siege government asks for foreign forces to assist it in ending the conflict, isn’t that exactly what should be done? If foreign forces are despatched to help a government achieve some stability, isn’t the logical step to first end the conflict and then to maintain the peace?

Shouldn’t the peacekeeping forces only arrive once there has been a cessation of hostilities and a declaration of peace? Trying to do this about-face is somewhat senseless as one cannot enter a conflict zone and simply claim to be “keeping peace” thinking that it will suddenly end the conflict.

Peacekeeping missions seem to be driven by achieving a “ceasefire”, a method for rebels to simply gain time, re-arm and continue with the conflict. There is nothing noble or humanitarian about this apart from allowing the civilians caught up in the conflict a few days or months respite – and often in total misery.

If the UN is so concerned at keeping peace, why doesn’t it dispatch its “peacekeeping forces” to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the countless other conflicts and bring with them the peace they boast about? I never saw them rush off to Georgia to “keep peace” during the brief conflict that took place there. Or are these conflicts too dangerous for them?

Unless drastic action is taken to end conflicts, they will simply continue - and “peacekeeping” will continue to remain the profitable farce it is.