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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, March 6, 2010

MISJUDGING THE CENTRE OF GRAVITY

Everyone knows how important it is to attack and destroy the enemy’s centre of gravity whilst preserving our own centre of gravity from enemy attacks. But, despite all the intellectual arguments about the centre of gravity and the numerous approaches to determining this critical factor, strategists and commanders continually seem to get it wrong, especially during counter insurgency (COIN) operations.

Clausewitz in his work “On War” considered the centre of gravity to be "the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends...the point at which all our energies should be directed". If the enemy’s centre of gravity is attacked and destroyed, he will lose his will to fight and thus be emasculated – the perfect time to direct all our energies and resources against him to ensure his total destruction.

This belief held true when massed armies faced one another on the battlefield. The modern battlefield has, however, changed somewhat and whereas the centre of gravity remains very important, it can no longer be viewed as a central point upon which the enemy’s success or failure hinges.

One of the aims of war is to annihilate the enemy (the other is to exhaust the enemy) but it seems that annihilation is not politically correct nowadays. It seems we would rather opt for a ceasefire – so much more politically correct - and besides, it protects the human rights of the enemy – regardless if he cares about our human rights or not or subscribes to the Rules of War, the Geneva Convention or any other rules or laws.

But, allowing the enemy to retain his forces and strength by means of a ceasefire simply gives him the opportunity to rebuild his forces, re-establish his perceived centre of gravity and thus prolong the conflict.

During the initial phase of a revolution, the role of intelligence is critical in identifying and confirming the mobilisation of the masses prior to the commencement of the armed struggle phase. If the revolutionary leadership is not identified and neutralised at this early phase, the struggle will most certainly develop to the insurgency phase. However, early on in this phase, the leadership is the centre of gravity. But once the revolution has progressed to the phase of armed struggle and insurgency, their elimination will, in many instances, simply make them martyrs.

Nevertheless, as the revolution develops, the leadership requires two vital elements to sustain its efforts: manpower and finances. I therefore believe that the COIN scenario does not have a single centre of gravity but rather a trinity consisting of the insurgent leadership, the people and finances. This complicates the identification and destruction of the centre of gravity as countering an insurgency requires a multi-facetted approach and not a “fix bayonets and charge” or a “shock and awe” approach.

The “trinity of gravity” is, additionally, given credence by certain members of the media who will often propagate the aims and desires of insurgent forces in a manner which leans towards sympathetic support.

The decades-long war in Angola serves as an example: The rebel force UNITA was led by the charismatic Dr Jonas Savimbi, a dedicated Maoist but who the media had turned into a “Christian” who was working for a “democratic” Angola. Savimbi was the media’s darling.

To sustain his war for “democracy”, Savimbi and UNITA resorted to the illegal mining and selling of diamonds to obtain funds to keep the war going. This financial powerbase allowed UNITA to purchase their hardware and pay troops in the field. Additional to this, UNITA denied these funds to the government and furthermore attempted to block oil leaving Angola (part of the Govt of Angola’s economic base) thus slowly bleeding the government to death on the battlefield.

The local population were, especially in areas under UNITA influence, the feeder for troops for operations as well as giving UNITA forces safe passage, intelligence, logistical support and succour. Those who did not give this support suffered the consequences.

This posed several strategic questions: What was UNITA’s centre of gravity? Where was it located? How did it operate? What would the result of its destruction be?

In short, there was no single centre of gravity but rather a trinity of gravity. This, in turn, led to a multidimensional strategy aimed at:
1. Attacking and disrupting UNITA units. These actions consisted of guerrilla warfare, mobile warfare and heliborne operations aimed at giving the enemy no respite. Not only did this cause enemy casualties but also significantly lowered morale to the point where rebel troops started deserting. Maximum employment of human and technical sources were used to determine where the enemy was, how he was organised, etc, thus effective plans could be laid to attack and destroy him.
2. Influencing the local population to reduce their belief in and support to UNITA. This was achieved by establishing clinics, providing clean water and giving protection to them. To use Mao Zedong’s view, albeit in reverse, we removed the "water” and the “fish” had nowhere to go. The locals were also treated fairly and their property respected and not damaged. This became very apparent when towns and villages were retaken from UNITA – the locals came begging for assistance, something that was then given to them.
3. The prize was not the elimination of Dr Savimbi but rather the taking and holding of the diamond fields, thus denying the rebels their source of income. (If Savimbi’s field army was destroyed, he would anyway lose his ability to gain support). Without income from diamonds, the rebels were unable to replace captured or destroyed equipment.

When these three strategic objectives had been reached, the rebels were forced to sue for peace. Sadly though, the Angolans were, in turn, forced by the international community to merely opt for an unconditional ceasefire and not the destruction of the rebel forces. This resulted in the rebels being able to rearm, reorganise and go back to war. When this conflict restarted, Dr Savimbi again became the initial single centre of gravity and it was only with his death that the war finally ended but at that time, his influence had waned and he did not have the economical muscle or the support from the local population he once had.

The same situation was prevalent in Sierra Leone – no single centre of gravity but rather a trinity.

Therefore, to quote Clausewitz, the “hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends...the point at which all our energies should be directed” should not, in the COIN situation, be seen as a single point but rather as a trinity.

If strategists misunderstand or misjudge the concept of “centre of gravity”, the conflict will be simply be prolonged and thus give the enemy the time and space he needs to achieve his goals.

51 comments:

James G - Death Valley Magazine said...

If our current leaders actually read books like Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War” along with a few other history books we wouldn’t have be in a situation where we needed to face an insurgency.

I like that you said “annihilation is not politically correct nowadays” – oddly people in our leadership believe they can fight a war without actually killing your entire enemy.

Instead they make decisions based on a CNN poll or if its an election year.

~James G

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know they do read Clausewitz, Jomini and others, James G, but the problem arises when the principles those “old masters” laid are rigidly implemented with little or no flexibility. Also, one needs to know your enemy before any plans can be made as much will depend on how the enemy operates and what can be expected of him.

Television polls can be very damaging insofar as political support goes. War is war, there will be people killed – one needs to ensure that your casualties are kept low and the enemy’s so massive that he loses his will to fight. If that is coupled to positive influence over the locals, the enemy has a long and dangerous road to walk.

By the way, your site continues to get better. Keep up your good work.

Rgds,

Eeben

James G - Death Valley Magazine said...

I was referring to Politicians

Great article by the way

~James G

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Ah, politicians...A species I will never understand, James G. But, it is from their grand strategy that we finally extrapolate the types of military campaigns and operations we need to prepare for. If the grand strategy is muddled and incoherent, the end result is that the military acts muddled and incoherent. That is when we even have difficulty identifying who the enemy is and subsequently we cannot determine the centre of gravity.

But if our strategists and commanders misjudge the centre of gravity – we will suffer the consequences, not necessarily by losing the war or conflict but by losing men and material we cannot afford to lose.

Rgds,

Eeben

danie.crowther said...

Interesting Eeben. I would however think that international support is also a critical element in an insurgency. Unita started losing when South Africa and later the USA withdrew support. The international support for the ANC has been their strongest point. In Africa the most successful revolutions had some form of covert or overt international support base. In the insurgency phase and later that is also important for the supply weapons and logistics.

-Danie Crowther

Robby said...

BOOK REVIEW
Counter-insurgency, then and now
A Question of Command by Mark Moyar

Reviewed by Brian M Downing

In Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, an operation on the fictional island of Anopopei comes to a successful conclusion, but owing to the campaign's intricacies, no one is quite sure why. Headquarters writes a report crediting the commanding general and in time it becomes official history. Many campaigns might be a bit like Anopopei.

Counter-insurgency thinking is once again much discussed, as it was 50 years ago. In the early 1960s, the United States was reeling from Fidel Castro's seizure of power in Cuba and uncertain how to deal with Maoism and its apparent offshoots in Southeast Asia.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LC06Ak01.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very true, Danie, but SA and the USA may have stopped overt support but the covert support continued for a long time thereafter. In 1994, M26 hand grenades were found on UNITA troops after a contact – the lot numbers were from a 1993 production run. Also (and you may recall this) SA’s MI was feeding intelligence to UNITA on EO – and a secret EEI document from MI had some very telling side-notes on it. Also, weapons and ammo were being flown into Zaire for UNITA to collect – from SA.

Of course, international support is very important but when we look at the centre of gravity from a tactical point of view, there is a trinity. If we look beyond the tactical, we will usually find support (overt or covert) for the leadership. Without that support, they would never have reached the stage of revolution.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That book was a great read, Robby. Thanks for posting the link to the review. Some very interesting points in there.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Eeben,

Interesting. So here is a question. What is Al Qaeda's or the Taliban's center of gravity, and how are we misjudging that center of gravity?

Or basically, how would you fight them if you were in charge? Cool topic by the way, and this stuff is always fun. I am sure we will see this in your book too. -matt

Jake said...

Eeben,
Great post. With respect to modern COIN operations those are, in the main, dealing with Islamic fundamentalists whose COG is their unshaken belief that Islam is the only true religion. It has proven difficult, if not impossible, to 'remove' this enemies COG and I doubt in most instances if it will ever be possible in the case of the true hardiners. There is only 2 tracks to victory against such a foe.

1.Kill as many of their leaders and disrupt as much of the command and control as possible so as to render them operationally ineffective. Note: for this to be successful one must realize that minimizing collateral damage particularly the killing of innocent non-combatants is the order of the day for to miss this point only creates more and more young men willing to fill the ranks of the depleted leaders. We have gotten better at this over the years but it is still un-refined and our adversaries are masters of propaganda and exploitation of our mistakes, few though they may be. Additionally one must realize that even a wildly successful campaign of enemy destruction is only temporary and may only last a few weeks, months or perhaps years if the second point below is not accomplished.
2.The strategic imperative in anti-Islamic COIN operations is to engage the moderate Muslim populations of the world in such a way as they feel we (the West) are dealing with them in good faith on a wide range of issues particularly geo-political but also economic and trade as well. This is where the West in particular has failed utterly in the previous decades but in particular since 2003. We still position ourselves in the eyes of our enemies as colonialistic and overbearing. We are always right and they are always wrong. The world is not so black-and-white. Everyone else in the world knows this save those creating and promoting U.S. foreign policy.

There can be no doubt that we can continue to improve on our abilities with respect to #1 above. However, until we figure out #2 our enemies COG remains intact.

Just one man's opinion,

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

As I do not have access to the intelligence that would help to answer that question, Matt, I can only make a guess based on what I read and hear. From that, it appears that there is no single centre of gravity but rather a leadership motivated by religion and the threat of religion against those who don’t support them, supported by locals (safe haven, logistics, intelligence, “troops” etc) and financed by local and foreign supporters. The source of financing appears to be numerous illegal activities as well as foreign power funding.

Fighting such a war requires a multifaceted approach as it involves Operations related to War, Operations other than War and Intelligence Operations – from the start.

Regardless of the motivation of the leadership, one needs to create as many casualties as possible, give them no space for breathing, take the initiative, maintain momentum and conduct follow-up operations to their conclusion.

In the process, one needs to remember that the fish swims through the water. If we can make the water unpalatable to the fish, he will be unable to swim. Limit collateral damage, use the locals so that they feel they are getting an advantage, etc, will make the water unpalatable. We must also remember that the average citizen actually wants to be left alone and does not expect a 12-floor school and an Aston Martin but rather that his dignity is respected and his basic needs are met. (roof over his head, water, electricity and food to be available)

Intelligence is where it all starts. If we miss the boat and work on guesstimates and “maybes” we will certainly not know the enemy. If we do not know him, he becomes difficult to fight. If we don’t know him, we will also not know what he considers to be terrain of strategic or tactical importance. This will prevent a decent military strategy and incomplete grand tactics.

Rgds,

Eeben

David said...

Your article definitely highlights the notion that the USA may have failed to grasp the reality of an enemy having multiple or diffuse center's of gravity.

However this being said I think the problem lies deeper than this. Even if the US 'wins' in Iraq or Afghanistan there will be just another front opening in the Global War on Terror. Increased Muslim fundamentalist terrorist activities in Yemen is a good example of this.

Therefore instead of believing that the center of gravity can be destroyed once and for all. Acceptance of the reality that this process will have be repeated continuously for the US to maintain its position in the world order in necessary.

Further with regards topolitical leaders instead of viewing the these wars as something that will come to an 'end', the US politicians should honest and say that is a protracted campaign that is necessary for the US's position in the world.

Regards

Bellator

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your two tracks to victory highlight the dilemma the military are faced with in a COIN situation, Jake. It becomes fighting on the one hand and pacification on the other, a very difficult mission indeed. But, I feel that this problem can to a large extent be negated if the military strategy has been correctly developed and based on sound intelligence. Only then will we be able to assess the type of operation(s) we need to execute and plan, train and equip accordingly. This will also allow us to determine, with reasonable accuracy, where the enemy’s centre of gravity lies and where it can be negated or destroyed.

When an enemy leadership, regardless of religion, is motivated to the extent we see in the world today, the implementation of operations to influence the locals (we will never influence the locals in a conflict to become totally positive but we can influence them to a point of semi-neutrality), we negate one of the crucial elements of the enemy’s success: the mind of the local.

Your comment “We still position ourselves in the eyes of our enemies as colonialistic and overbearing” holds very true but again, I believe this error of ours lies in the development of the operational plan/grand tactics. If our men do not understand the implications of their actions, they won’t be too worried about how they act. But that too has its origins within the grand strategy of the nation and not necessarily within the theatre strategy.

If our aim is to learn from our mistakes, faster than the enemy learns from his, we can succeed. However, today’s insurgents have a massive media industry behind them and using this asset to broadcast their propaganda; they influence the man-on-the-street to such an extent that they can fight the war way behind the frontline. Again, I personally believe that we have allowed this to happen and this strengthens the enemy’s centre of gravity enormously plus it give him and his cause credibility.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Given the current conflict, I also wonder if the new front in Yemen is not part of a diversionary strategy, David. Traditionally, Yemen has had its problems but they have more-or-less simmered below the surface. The timing of the upsurge is quite telling.

I have always believed that in a COIN conflict, one should not attempt to destroy the leadership’s centre of gravity as it is so difficult to determine. However, if we cut off funding and support from the locals, it will collapse itself. However, if we do not achieve that, we face a war of attrition that can carry on for many years. These protracted campaigns have a habit of bleeding countries dry and exhausting the population to the extent that they lose faith in the armed forces. When we get to that point, we have lost, no matter what technology and resources we have.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Excellent dialogue. Your comments regarding wars of attrition and protracted campaigns, were spot on. We in the west have become accustomed to the televised 30 minute conflict resolution and political driven outcomes. We sit comfortably at the game board playing checkers while our opponent seated across from us plays chess. We ignore the long-game and strategic COG at our own peril. Our military leadership is more concerned with preserving the process and of the diversity of the force than preventing internal acts of terror driven by radical ideologies. Our own bed is fouled but we seek to inspect the bunk of our neighbor? Denial has once again been discovered to be a river in Africa. Meanwhile, rules of engagement become more restrictive. Successful night combat operations are terminated by indigenous demand. The process becomes the mission as terms of reference and buzz words constantly alter. Does it matter if we refer to the challenge as Asymmetric warfare or Irregular Warfare? I think not. New uniforms, troop movers, and kit are fielded while our adversaries move comfortably from one host-country sanctuary to another bleeding us along the way. Decisive victory eludes us while we fecklessly celebrate the illusion we so richly deserve. Rome 400 AD is us as we now betray even ourselves. I am least of all hopeful. I wish it were not so, but Mafeking may this time not be relieved.

Regards, Alan

Robby said...

Here's your "MISJUDGING THE CENTRE OF GRAVITY"...two stories one from BBC the other Asia Times

Ex-rebels accused of extortion in DR Congo mines
By Karen Allen BBC News

Former rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo who now serve in the army are running mafia-style extortion rackets in the mines, campaigners say.

The country has some of the world's richest mines, which provide minerals to the global electronics industry.

Ex-rebels of the CNDP group are said to have gained far greater control of the mines than they did as insurgents.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8561330.stm

--------------------------

China has a Congo copper headache
By Peter Lee

An agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China in 2008 to swap 10 million tonnes of copper ore for US$9 billion worth of mine and civic infrastructure looked like a genuine win-win.

But ever since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded renegotiation of the deal in May 2009, China and the DRC have been on a roller-coaster ride of risk. Today, Beijing anxiously eyes a growing list of major dysfunctional problems - and a $100 million adverse judgment in a Hong Kong court - that could derail the "deal of the century".

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/LC11Cb02.html

Censorbugbear said...

Eben I am concerned about the apparent lack of concern shown by the SA authorities over various events which when seen together - could point to terrorists 'testing the security perimetres' such as discarded bombs at a Durban beach and a grenade at Table View beach - and the fact that they are also ignoring the Jan 2010 warnings by Frans Cronje of the SA Institute for Race Relations that a 'very real threat of an Al Qaeda attack against the WC2010 exists. There also are other worrying developments such as the soaring activities on the facebook sites of black-consciousness and PAC sites in South Africa with radical islamists on those sites from as far afield as Yemen calling for blacks to 'kill all whites' at the WC2010. Taken together with the growing numbers and sizes of protest marchers also attacking the 'wasteful WC2010' and threatening to disrupt them, this does not augur well for the security situation in South Africa. My report

http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/2010/03/thousands-of-black-protestors-disrupt.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is the West’s attitude towards so many things that should scare the West, Alan. Instead, it seems as though the political masters leading the road to doom are rather proud of themselves.

Until the political masters understand that the military needs to be allowed to meet the military strategies, things will go from bad to worse. Meanwhile, those who embark on the path of apparent appeasement will find themselves awarded many unimportant awards that look good on a CV.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby.

As you know, the UN has been chased out of DRC and has been ordered to leave by month’s end. All of this indicates the massive amount of time and money that has been wasted in the DRC by the UN.

But part of this waste has been to unconditionally “integrate” rebels into eh DRC’s army. If ever we needed proof of the UN’s stupidity – here we have it. What this did, was also place part of the rebels’ centre of gravity within the DRC army. Smart move, isn’t it? That way, there could never be an end to the conflict – and the UN could overstay its welcome by decades.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think a great many people are concerned, Adriana. There is an apparent lack of concern by the authorities towards security and crime and instead, a focus on matters of little to no relevance.

For many years, a blind eye has been turned towards radical elements living and plotting in SA – and indeed, towards groups plotting to overthrow their own governments, using SA as a base. Added to this is the xenophobia we have witnessed, the drastic escalation on crime, the massive amount of weapons stolen from the police and armed forces, the uncontrolled entry into SA by foreigners and the hate speech by so-called leaders of the country. This makes for a very potent bomb waiting to explode – or implode.

Right now, our leaders do not seem to appreciate the situation and how this all may impact on their own centre of gravity.

Rgds,

Eeben

Fabio Di Caro said...

Goeiemore Eeben,this post is not a comment on your recent article,like I said in my previous post "are you still in NR 41 seen that I may just come over" , meant Naude St.41 - Rayton , that is all ,I even have an old number 0027127344969 , I can understand your wanting to remain anonymous to people you do not know but believe me we have interesting things to talk about.Keep well Boss,regards - Fabio.

Fabio Di Caro said...

Goodmorning Eeben , intelligence is the name of all kinds of games , do a good deal of homework first , then attack to destroy and annihilate , in the shortest time possible with the least losses possible and there was a company who did something like this in the past and obtained outstanding results.

Things may have changed since cowboys and indians when it was necessary to kill the chief to obtain an automatic ceasefire.

Maybe there are other structures that can be of example.

There is a criminal organization that rules the world that uses a very simple tactical solution and believe me tactical is the correct word,if I can't find the nucleus of command I start wiping out anybody vaguely related to your commanding structure and I continue untill your orders cannot be transmitted having remained alone thus forcing the "centre of gravity" to expose it's head while who is in charge of ops is waiting just for that single moment to behead the command of the enemy once and for all.

Using this strategy,starting from below and coming to the top,the enemy has no time and no way to counter your annihilating technique seeing that at a certain point of the command ladder there are just no more linking steps to dispatch orders.

There are no rules in war or battle,an enemy is an enemy,you must shoot to kill the enemy and annihilate all that is related to it's activities,if you choose another strategy,well you are obviously well paid.

The Lord is My Shepherd,an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth,we restore hope where desperation reigns.

Met Ons Land En Met Ons Nasie
Sal Dit Wel Wees God Regeer.

Ciao - Fabio

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for that info, Private. I will pass that on to the K9 people – a field I do not operate in.

Keep well and rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for clarifying that Fabio. No, I don’t live at No 41, Rayton. Actually, I have never lived there. But, our old horse ranch (Diamond X Ranch) was in the Rayton area. I am not sure where the No 41 came from. We sold the Diamond X several years ago to a developer.

If you do arrive at No 41, they will probably tell you they have never heard of me.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting point-of-view, Fabio. I agree with you – killing the “chief” does not constitute the end of the war, especially in today’s times where the enemy is much more complex.

Following up the ladder to find the CoG may be a timely and costly exercise, hence the vital role of intelligence. But for too long we seem to have viewed intelligence as a place where we send those who cannot cope on the battlefield. This attitude has been to our grave detriment. But, it has also led to us alienating those who we could influence to be positive at best, neutral at worst.

The CoG usually exposes its head – we just need to be vigilant and smart enough to identify it. When we do, every possible step should be taken to neutralise or destroy it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

As you will note, I did not publish your comment, General Flash, as I do not indulge bad language on the blog. Whereas you are free to think of me whatever you want, I shall not lose any sleep over your thoughts.

The concept of centre of gravity is not an “American” concept – please go and reads your military history. Nor is manoeuvre warfare a “new” concept – it has been around ever since man built a chariot and went to war on it.

When you decide to drop your blasphemy and insults, you are free to write again.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your visit and comment, Thorn. As you will no doubt understand, I cannot publish your comment without compromising you and your friends. However, allow me to say that I fully understand your sentiments.

I agree with you that one must keep reading and learn from whomever and wherever one can. After all, no one can ever take away education. I always learn from whoever I can and it is up to me to accept or reject what I don’t feel comfortable with.

Good luck to you and your friends.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Eeben,

Great post - I wonder if maybe the true center of gravity has always been your trinity? It could very well be that the technology of the early 1800's used in warfare necessitated the inadvertent destruction of one of the vital nodes of the trinity thus bringing down the central C&C. Now that we have almost immediate communications the trinity is much more visible - if that makes sense.

I think of it as analogous to fire, three things are required. Take away one and fire is extinguished yet the burning embers (see Savimbi) still cause major damage until they are eliminated or cooled as well. The trick is to not let them re-ignite - empty the sea to swim in let's say.

As to the current conflict against islamic fundamentalism this seems to have been around for centuries and flares up as the territory/minds controlled by islam are infringed upon by the post enlightenment culture of the "west." Finding and destroying one of the nodes of this virulent trinity are much more difficult now due to the spread of globalization - far easier to attack Tripoli in the early 1800's than to squelch funding supplied via oil and drugs.

It will be difficult for certain.

I do very much appreciate your forum and these very fascinating topics for thought.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your comment makes great sense, John.

I do think that the single centre of gravity was very relevant when two armies faced off on the field of battle. Then it was a matter of “kill the general and the army dies”. Today, the enemy is vastly different to then. Added to that is the funding to keep it in the field, supply it with willing recruits and direct it – usually from afar. That does make it more complex but not impossible. It is here where REAL intelligence gathering comes to the fore.

Oil, drugs, human trafficking, piracy, money laundering and so forth all help to sustain the enemy. As long as a “softly-softly” approach is followed and the troops not given the equipment they need to fight the fight, a victory will remain elusive.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

FYI

Private Army Sets Sights on Iceland
Paul Nikolov
A private company offering military support has expressed interest in working with the Icelandic government. Many Icelanders are strongly opposed to the idea.

The company in question is known as ECA Program. They are a private company that works in military training and support for governments around the world, and have most recently worked with India. Their interest in Iceland is apparently strong enough to warrant the use of images from KeflavĂ­k - where the NATO base used to be located until it closed in 2006 - on their website. They have already asked the Icelandic government if they can utilize the base for their private air force, and are willing to pay 200 billion ISK to do so.

However, the Campaign Against Militarism - in Icelandic group originally founded in opposition to the NATO base - is strongly against the idea. They point out that the comany's background is shrouded in mystery, and that they amount to a mercenary group. Furthermore, the company was denied operation permission in Canada.

Iceland, although a NATO country, does not have a military of its own. In fact, the vast majority of Icelanders polled have expressed opposition to supporting military efforts in Iraq,

http://www.eca-program.com/accueil.html

Alan said...

Eeben: I continue to be both impressed and encouraged by the comments and dialogue found on this blog. I would be delighted to see additional trends and analysis comments. Hat tip to Fabio.

Groete, Alan

Soos ons vadere vertrou het,
Leer ook ons vertrou, o Heer.... in Amerika ooks.

matt said...

You know, I keep coming back to a free market warfare, in order to eradicate Al Qaeda. I kind of look at like the buffalo.

The buffalo was hunted into extinction because there was an industry that was free of restriction, all intent on taking what the buffalo had. It was hide, meat, everything, and it was valuable to the Indians and settlers in the old west. So with that said, if you attach a value to the hide of your enemy, and place no restrictions at all on destroying them--and make this the venture of private industry, I think you could completely eradicate an enemy like Al Qaeda or Drug Cartels.

To me, I just don't want defeat these folks in one country and in a couple of battles and call it good. I want a killing mechanism in place that will eradicate this enemy for a life time. As if killing this enemy is an essential part of the lively-hood of a certain part of society that specializes in it. My analogy then is to turn an enemy, into the buffalo, and hunt it into extinction.

Today's enemies are interesting as well, because they really don't need a command element to function. They read about how to do attacks online, they get inspired by other jihadists, and they float in disconnected cells that just attack when the time is right. No one owns the brand of islamic extremism, and anyone can participate. Thousands of centers of gravity, and it is the ideas that empower others to do it themselves. Open source warfare if you may. The question is--are massive armies, deploying to one or two countries, the most effective means of destroying this extremist diaspora located throughout the world? Or do we open the flood gates of free market warfare, and put a price on each identified fool that cares to call themselves an extremist and enemy of the west? Who knows....

Sonny Cox said...

Hi Eeben
May not be the right profile here.....
This weekend (26-28 March 2010) we are hosting an event at the SA National Museum of Military History (next to Jhb Zoo), Saxonwold, Johannesburg. A map can be downloaded from the website www.aimshow.co.za.



The event is a combination of military and shooting, hunting and related expositions and talks. The talks will be held be Col Jan Breytenbach (founding OC of Recces, 32 Battalion and 44 Para Brigade) on following times:

Friday 26 March 2010. Show Hours 10:00 - 18:00 Breytenbach Tals 14:00 - 15:00

Saturday 27 March 2010. Show Hours 09:00 - 18:00 Breytenbach Tals 11:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 - 15:00

Sunday 27 March 2010. Show Hours 09:00 - 16:00 Breytenbach Tals 11:00 - 12:00



There is TV for rugby fans, food and drink. etc. Visitors will have full access to all museum exhibits as well as the 85 temporary sporting related exhibits comprising of rifles, handguns, militaria, 4x4s, books, the War Store, reloading equipment, hunting and military clothing plus much more.



Both Col Breytanbach and Gen Jannie Geldenhuys will sell books there.



Please be so kind as to distribute this info amongst your members with the request that they support this museum funding drive. We collect about R 40,000 per annum for the museum.



Pierre van der Walt

PO Box 1314

Pinegworie

2123

For your information.
Regards
Billy

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. Very interesting piece.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are very welcome, Thorn.

Gaining the initiative and then maintaining the momentum is always a key factor. That along with tempo can force a break through.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alan. I know I have said this before but I too find this all very informative as I learn a lot form the comments made on the blog. I am sure that soon we will find some comments re analysis and trends. But, from my chair, there are several trends that have manifested themselves at the political level and at the military level that it is sometimes quite scary.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for that, Sonny. Sadly, it has taken me time to get these comments posted due to - ADSL problems - once again! All a little bit frustrating.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I get so many mails asking me to participate in some survey or another re EO and PMCs that, should I accept, I will never get to my own work, Johan. So, forgive me but I would rather decline your offer. Thanks for considering me though.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Do you think the UN would ever allow such an action to take place, Matt? I see Africa falling into a deep pit where the UN involves itself. Criminals and gangsters are “non-state actors”, murder and hacking off limbs is “collateral damage” and any action against them violates their “human rights”. Rape has been identified as a “weapon of war”. This spells no good for anyone – least of all those who are subject to this tyranny.

Whereas these gangsters and terrorists are fighting a protracted war – and winning, we sadly are losing the initiative and they are exploiting it. But, this situation will continue as long as we wish to remain asleep.

We are quick to speak of “attrition” in military and law enforcement terms but we don’t –or can’t – practice it. Unfortunately, we have allowed the situation to get out of hand and we have lost the political will and moral courage to take up the fight. Instead, we all believe that “it won’t happen to me...”

We will only win back the freedoms these people are taking, regardless of their motives or ideology, when we finally draw a line in the sand and say “no more”. Until then, we will never regain the initiative.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and friends:

I found the following entitled 'Africa's Forever Wars' on Matt's blog. It is an absolutely facinating read. The follow three paragraphs are a short excerpt:

"There is a very simple reason why some of Africa's bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don't have much of an ideology; they don't have clear goals. They couldn't care less about taking over capitals or major cities -- in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today's rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people's children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent's most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find."

"What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else -- something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you'd like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times' East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars."


"I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators. That's why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo's rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means."

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/22/africas_forever_wars?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link back to Matt, Alan. He has posted some really good stuff on his blog and as I have a particular interest in Africa, I found these stories of great value.

Well, what can I say? The journo made some observations I have been stating for years but was always laughed off. At last someone has had the courage to write about it.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Eeben et. al.,

Great analogy to the American Bison (Buffalo) in 19th century America...

I do wonder though if the modern terrorists are more akin to the coyote - once hunted to near extinction until they found a new ocean to swim in, the American city/suburbs and its attendant feel good population (call it a UN in miniature). Until such time as we will be able to hunt the coyote (terrorist) freely he will continue to lurk around the fringe and pick off the odd un-lucky victim. The presence of modern weaponry in the hands of the terrorist makes them much more lethal than the coyote though to technological society - non technological society sees the brutality of the Congo (though this would be where we would descend to quickly if our systems get massively disrupted).

Can we, as civilized human beings, bring ourselves to eradicate the terrorist element without losing our humanity? Don't know yet - it may be we keep hunting them at the fringe and allow our cultural weapons of mass destruction to work their generational magic and bottle up our losses. This leaves Africa in misery though.

I suggest we work to kick the UN out of NYC and move them to the Congo.

Just some random thoughts for the evening.

Regards,

John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I like your suggestion of sending the UN packing, John. But, PLEASE do not send them to Africa. The toeholds they have here have caused enough misery as it is. The latest episode of the massacre in DRC is a shining example – the UN took a very long time in getting there – despite their helicopters and other kit. They are a disgrace to civilisation as far as I am concerned.

As far as terrorism is concerned, we will continue with an uphill battle as long as we afford them the safe havens we do. We make a lot of noise about fighting terrorism in all its forms and guises but we seldom put our money where our mouths are.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Eeben- I don't think the UN would allow the kind of warfare I am talking about. They couldn't control it, and most of all, they couldn't make money off of it. Private industry is competition. lol But I guess we will wait and watch as the UN sinks itself with such pathetic and painful results throughout the world.
But, I do think that countries could bring back the concept of Letter of Marque, and just throw out the Declaration of Paris as a worthless and outdated treaty. And these same countries could all look to the US for inspiration for such a thing, because we still have the law that gives our congress the power to issue a LoM in Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution.
With that said, a country's LoM would trump whatever the UN has to say or do. That is why I love bringing up the concept in conversation all the time, because the LoM is another way to do business. Hell, that was status quo back for hundreds of years until the Declaration of Paris.
It is also the path that could lead to the extinction of Al Qaeda or Drug Cartels(or non-state actors), because the LoM is the connection between the will of a congress or country, and private industry.
Free market warfare worked during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 in my country, it can work for other up and coming, or extremely weakened countries.
Now going back to John's mention of the Coyote. Absolutely. All enemies of states, will use the weakness of the state to gain wealth or wage their war. And that weakness is the border, and the states respecting of other country's borders. Al Qaeda, drug cartels, and coyotes, could all care less about borders, and they all use that to their advantage.
The commons (international waters, internet, etc.) is really the only place where you could apply true freedom of movement. Kind of. I mean countries will still impose their will in the commons, but at least freedom of movement and action is a little better for the hunt against these enemies of the states. But the borders between countries is where it gets sticky and the LoM is a way around that.
It would highly benefit countries to participate in partnerships to deal with threats, and issue LoMs with this in mind. For a company to operate in Mexcio and the US to combat the cartels, it would be wise for them to have LoMs from both countries. For hunting Al Qaeda, LoMs from all the countries that have the highest presence of AQ, would be the best ones to get LoMs from. The more LoMs a company has, the better flexibility it has to do it's thing out there.
Also, because there is so little written about the concept, a LoM institute would be key. Someplace that could work with countries and give them advice and resources on how best to construct such things. An institute like this, will give the congress of said country, something to work with for the passage of these laws in the form of LoMs. In essence, lawmakers will need to know how to construct LoMs that will give their country the highest possible chance of success, in their endeavor of destroying their enemies. Especially against enemies that float across borders.
Or nations can continue to dispatch entire armies into other countries, and like an elephant, have that army stomp all over people and things to destroy a couple of mice.

greendemon said...

@matt

Your buffalo hunting analogy is fitting to 4th generation warfare (4GW), but I think it fails when applied to 5GW.

5GW terrorists are super-empowered through modern technology and free movement of information. This, combined with their basic attribute of being integrated and hidden in civilian populations, means centralised mechanisms or movements fail at directly curbing this terrorism.

The only reasonable, viable solution: 1) recognize the prime attributes of 5GW terrorism 2) fight 5GW terrorists on their own ground - deny them the advantages of the weakness in centralised systems.

This implies grass-roots, small-scale, independent efforts in both public and private sectors.

Specifically, central authority must take the following steps:
1) provide national (large-scale security) and supervise local security efforts as in ink blot strategy. (Feasible - proven efficacy in SA Border War.)
2) educate individuals, encourage innovation and dynamic, non-centrally dependent thinking. (This is where the GWoT fails, because it is aimed at remaking the world in the image of the US.)
3) provide support in the form of information and funding support for local efforts to achieve self-determination and local security. Partner with and encourage local businesses to provide local solutions. (Once again, clear failure in GWoT, because local independence and resilience does not feature on the central, corporate-driven agenda of the US et al.)
4) Scale down local support once the small-scale community becomes resilient and self-sufficient in economic and security terms. Limit central government interference to basic oversight. (Prediction: obvious failure for same reasons as above. Google KBR, Halliburton, etc.)

To summarise, the weakness being exploited by 5GW terrorists is the individual and collective adherence to centralised context.
Ultimately, decentralisation of authority is inevitable - the question is who are the new wielders of ex-government power, us or the terrorists?

Africa is perfect for such efforts because the environment and culture rips apart or - at least - cripples centralised systems. Great things await those who dare to think outside the box!

John Robb of GlobalGuerrillas has much more to say about this than I ever could. Allow me a plug :)
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com

John said...

Eeben,

So True on the UN - my sarcasm was not framed correctly.

I think they should be gone - the world would be a much better place without their disgusting criminal element. If they had to do business outside of the protective confines of NYC they may be able to rehabilitate. As it is if we want to destroy a major part of the terrorism support triad in its modern form - the UN would be a large portion of the leg to erase.

Another major key to cutting off funding/idealogical support is to free ourselves of energy from regimes that support terror - cut off the funding and ideas.

Energy Victory (Robert Zubrin) has a very interesting take on this one.

Hope all is well (I feel for you with the network issue - I just went through my third network router in a month.)

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good points Matt. We do need to understand that the UN is opposed to any actions that can end conflicts – especially if they are cheaper and more efficient than their “actions”. The UN is however finding itself no longer wanted. At least DRC had the courage to ask them to leave...

Your LoM is indeed an interesting departure point. I read all of the posts you did about the LoM on your blog and often wonder why it is so neglected nowadays. John’s comment re the coyote ties in well with your analogy of the buffalo. Maybe one day someone will take note. Let’s just hope that by then it is not too late.

Maybe you should follow through with the idea of a LoM Institute? That may get people listening.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Agreed, Greendemon. If we do not follow through, we will continue to lose the initiative and the advantage. Without that, we have no momentum.

I look forward to Matt’s comments on this issue.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Ah, the UN, John. We could cover days discussing that lot. Suffice to say, I am in total agreement with you on them.

Cutting off funding and bleeding them dry has always worked, yet, for some reason, we do not seem to want to do this aggressively enough. I have to wonder why.

Robert Zubrin’s take is indeed one that requires deep thought on. Thanks for pointing us in that direction.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Private. I am very much alive, well and kicking. I appreciate your concern but sometimes I simply don’t have the time to update the blog or am unable to do so.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Green Demon Said-

Your buffalo hunting analogy is fitting to 4th generation warfare (4GW), but I think it fails when applied to 5GW.

5GW terrorists are super-empowered through modern technology and free movement of information. This, combined with their basic attribute of being integrated and hidden in civilian populations, means centralised mechanisms or movements fail at directly curbing this terrorism.

The only reasonable, viable solution: 1) recognize the prime attributes of 5GW terrorism 2) fight 5GW terrorists on their own ground - deny them the advantages of the weakness in centralised systems.

*****
Hello and I am a fan of Robb's blog Global Guerillas. He is a fan of Boyd, his ideas are interesting to me, and I am always getting some kind of inspirational thought from that site.

Now on to your post. I think you are mistaken about the idea of what I am talking about here. LoM is geared more towards being a legal mechanism of the state, and puts the choice of warfare method and strategy in the hands of the holder of the LoM. 5th gen warfare looks to be geared more towards a set of tactics that a holder of a LoM could use--if they wanted too.

Hence, if I was to issue a LoM to a company and say 'do what you can to defeat my enemy', I am in essence saying 'figure out the way'. So if that company wants to go old school, or use 5th Gen Warfare tactics, so be it. It's their choice, and that is the power of it.

I also think the weakness of 5th gen warfare as it sits now, is when it is applied to cave dwellers like our current enemy. If 5th gen warfare exists and works, would we not have already killed Osama Bin Laden or destroyed Al Qaeda? Doesn't one generation of warfare by definition have to be able to defeat the prior generation (4th gen warfare) in order to actually be called the new generation of warfare? It's fun to theorize what it is, but that is about it until we actually see a clear example of a 'new king' of warfare.

And going back to LoMs, this is simply a tool of the state to actually give up some of that monopoly on the application of the use of force, and use private industry with all of it's flexibility and innovation potential, and apply it to whatever enemy.

I would also like to point out that LoMs could be issued to counter any cyber warfare threats. So if the state is dealing with enemies that are practitioners of 5th Gen War, then a LoM would authorize a company to not only try to stop this type of enemy, but to take whatever assets they have. They could use the same tactics as the enemy, or whatever. Now imagine a hundred companies issued such LoMs, all applying whatever tactics they think will succeed, or whatever technical or battlefield innovations they could think of, all with the intent of stopping this enemy and taking everything they have. That my friend is buffalo hunting, and the power of the LoM.