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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. 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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


In a world of war and conflict, why is it that we continue to be so reactive?

Is it because we do not develop decent, workable strategies based on sound, credible intelligence? Is it because we continually want to believe that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” – even when he isn’t? Is it that we lack the ability to interpret events to the extent that we cannot be forward-looking? Is it because we simply want to ignore the lessons of history?

Whereas we cannot predict the future, we can – with some effort – have a very good indication what it may hold in terms of war and conflict.

The wars, conflicts and problems we witness were all prefaced with numerous indications that they were about to happen. From the piracy off the coast of Somalia to the drug wars in Mexico to the criminal insurgencies in other countries – all have provided us with clues that a problem was rapidly approaching.

Yet, we seem to stand by and wait until the problem reaches a situation that it cannot easily be contained – and then we try to take action. Ironically, we then cannot understand why it is so difficult to resolve the issues, win the wars and end the conflicts. A 10-ton truck free-wheeling downhill cannot be stopped by simply jumping into its path. With enough men at hand, we can probably stop it but at an enormous cost in lives lost and collateral fall-out.

By allowing the enemy to gain momentum and maintain the initiative, we lose the ability to put a rapid end to it. Our reactive actions are almost akin to trying to stop that free-wheeling truck. And despite all the warnings, we act surprised when we are unable to stop it.

Some time ago I spoke with a senior commander in an African country. His country had recently discovered a valuable natural resource. He was very excited at how this resource would benefit his country and his people. I, in turn, warned him that his country’s problems were about to start in earnest. I wasn’t being cynical – I was being realistic. After all, hasn’t history shown that when a new resource is found in Africa, problems are sure to follow?

With all of our early-warning systems, intelligence gathering capabilities, diplomatic liaisons, mass media reporting, satellite surveillance and so forth, I find it very hard to believe that we have not yet reached a stage where we can be proactive.

Is it possibly that we simply don’t want to be proactive and instead prefer to rather be reactive and suffer all the disadvantages this laissez-faire approach hands us? Do we rather want to attempt to stop these problems once they are unstoppable – will that make us feel better? Or do we only want to be pre-emptive when carrying out the first phase of a strategy and thereafter wait for the enemy to gain the initiative?

It is said that a wise man in times of peace prepares for war.

To prepare effectively for war, we need to know what to expect and from whom. Still, we seem to wait and react only once we think the enemy has shown his hand. But the enemy too knows about deception and it is a foolish enemy who shows his hand in the opening stages of a conflict. We cannot expect all of our enemies to always be foolish.

If we continue to miss all of the warning signals flashed at us, we will continue to be reactive. The implication is that we will continue to be surprised, unprepared and find ourselves fighting on the back foot – often against untrained, ill-disciplined, out-numbered and technology-poor enemies.

Until such time as we begin to exploit our assets and resources to maximum effect and look for exploitation options whenever and wherever we can, we will remain at a disadvantage both on and off the battlefield.

We may appear to be politically correct but we will lose the battle – and there is no second prize for the loser - and the truck will keep rolling.


userdude said...

Hello Eeben,

Interesting post. When you mention the importance of intelligence in the opening paragraphs, what types of intelligence would improve a state's decision-making capability? Do you mean military and/or other (such as state intelligence)?

'Executive Outcomes' has come in the mail - I am now around page 50 or so, right up to the CCB chapter. I like what I've read so far.


userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Also, I was wondering what your thoughts were on this:

Collaborative Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

Any thoughts?


Burro said...

Western societies are becoming increasingly infantile these days, like a child that closes his eyes strongly trying to deny an unpalatable reality by not seeing it. Our seedy leaders, when not wholly clueless, deliver what they are expected to, soothing words and no action until is too late. This when they are not closing their eyes too.

To take preventive action is an ungrateful task, you have to take the brunt of the negative effects of your actions, and if you are successful these actions often look unnecessary and heavy-footed, while you can present yourself as a saviour only if you let the problems grow big and obvious enough for the public to care. To be ready to take the right path in this environment requires a kind of character that the establishment, more often that not, weeds out.

So in the best scenario the leadership chooses to deny the warning voices. In the worst, the Intelligence work (used in a broad sense) is corrupted into providing their masters (And the public) with the fairytales they want to believe in, affording them the plausible deniability they need. They are not going to appear as callous creeps deciding to choose to ignore warnings for they own benefit, but just ill-informed and misguided. This is a widespread phenomenon in my country, Spain. Those unwilling to cooperate with this carnival are also weeded out by the system.

More importantly, Western countries have accepted (to a lesser or greater degree) a politically correct set of fallacies as the only way to behave in a civilized manner. In a recent discussion between preventive and pre-emptive actions, the most usual response was to be scandalized just for either these options to be considered, both deemed to be not only illegitimate per se, but illegal. (Lets not to get started with the subject of "International legality"). The sheer ridiculousness of considering more legal, legitimate and civilized to let the problems grow out of hand before taking (costlier and much less efective) action was obviated.

Best regards


Tyrell John said...

Why are we reactive?
I think people in general feel no need to plan ahead for eventualities. Even those who are well a where of situations have a nonsensical approach. I think its because people rely mainly on events and the resulting emotions to drive their actions. Many people are also idealists of their own worlds and will consciously avoid anything not unto their liking.
Some examples. Cities built on major fault lines, villages living next to active volcano, wooden house without basement built in tornado country. Bigger SUV's built when oil is becoming scarce.
No matter how intelligent a person maybe, they still are unable to express the ability to make a choice about future events; they can only make decisions on what’s presented.
Everything needs a reason. My next wondering is how then is it possible for a few people to be proactive?
That answer means nothing to everyone and everything to me.

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

I have been away from my resources where I can comment effectively but have enjoyed the comments on all the threads coming through my phone.

Very good point on reactivity - My belief is that it is us projecting our values onto our enemies and assuming they can be slowed down by a policing action after the crime instead of a good pre-emptive strategy. More thought to come here and on all the threads.

The most telling thing that hit me coming home today was finishing Freeman Dyson's "The Scientist as Rebel" and the very last sentence was exactly how you speak of intelligence and knowing your opponent - respect them as a tough hardened warrior fighting for an evil cause. The end floored me and confirms why this blog is one of best places on the net to think clearly and comment in an important forum. I do hope you are keeping all these subjects and comments - they in and of themselves would make a great collective work for publishing. Certainly there is a greater force at work here with two very different points of view flowing into my reading and thought from all sides.

There is more to come as I digest and grind through all the various comments from the last couple of weeks. Surprise - I actual disagree with most of the commentators on the utility of the current US Iraq conflict.



P.S. I think your comment replies are getting posted to our e-mails twice. I don't know if it is my system or on your sides. May be worth a check.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased to hear that you finally received the book, Jared. I hope it was worth the wait.

As regards intelligence, I believe that without a strategic intelligence gathering capability, along with the correct analysis thereof, governments will continue to be caught off guard. It is, in my opinion, the strategic intelligence that looks beyond the borders and more specifically at the areas of influence and areas of interest. Without this input, foreign policy can at best be equated to policy based on guess-work.

But, if we do not analyse this intelligence objectively and force it to fit a picture we want to see, the effort will be wasted and we will not see the danger developing.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very good link you sent us, Jared – many thanks for that.

I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion Richards Heuer came to. A great danger in intelligence gathering is overload and that in itself leads to numerous problems. Part of this problem is due to non-directed tasking of sources and instead acting as a vacuum cleaner to suck up every bit of information available. Unless that mass of information can be processed, it will simply overload the system.

Analysts, being human, come with their own preconceived notions, ideas and suspicions. When this is coupled to a political, business or religious agenda, intelligence will be twisted to fit the picture they want to convey. The dangers of this are obvious.

If hypothesis are developed and they are not played off against one another to see which one is the most obvious, most likely and most dangerous course of action open to the enemy, we will be caught off guard.

I submitted my email address as I would love to see the ACH.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suspect your view on western society becoming infantile (and soft) is spot on Choco. Taking action when it is too late is about as good as taking no action.

I also suspect that that the policy makers and strategists like to manufacture a problem that does not exist, despite all indications to the contrary. This “problem” is then sold to the people by means of clever spin alluding that there is no other option to follow but to commit the armed forces.

The armed forces, on the other hand, are usually unprepared for the problem that never existed in the first place. Their deployment into the unknown exposes their lack of preparation, making them easier targets for the enemy. This is especially pertinent when the armed forces are deployed in a foreign country without the support of the local population. But, it is especially here that the armed forces need to show flexibility and the ability to adapt to the environments they find themselves in.

This cannot be done without political support and suddenly, due to this lack of support, the armed forces need to become on-the-ground politicians and negotiators as well.

But the armed forces should also share some of this blame. As they are supposed to be non-partisan but politically astute, they should have the both the drive and the motivation to disagree when all indications prove their disagreement to be correct. But, they don’t do so – to quote you: “Those unwilling to cooperate with this carnival are also weeded out by the system.” This has more to do with protecting their careers than that of the nation.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good comment, Tyrell.

Whereas I understand your comment “how then is it possible for a few people to be proactive?”, I believe this is where the armed forces, along with the intelligence services, ought to make a major contribution. However, if the contribution is based on personal perceptions of things and not hard intelligence, that contribution will also be of no value. And this is where my concern lays.

The whole aim of strategists is to, using the intelligence they are given, formulate strategies which lead to policies. Bad intelligence leads to poor strategies which lead to bad policies. But, bad intelligence also leads to an incorrect posture to counter a problem.

When this happens, we cannot be proactive, no matter how hard we try because what we do is based on fantasy and not reality.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for pointing out that some of my responses are posted twice, John, but I have been having a problem over here as there have been attempts to disrupt my blog.

Projecting our values onto those who do not share the same values and beliefs is bound to lead to conflict. When we try to enforce it, we simply increase the conflict. It is for this reason that a thorough knowledge of the enemy and his environment should be appreciated and exploited to our advantage. I seem to recall a saying “foreknowledge is forewarning”. Without that, we will always be reactive.

I haven’t read Dyson’s book and will be sure to look for it. Thanks for pointing it out to us.



Joe1172 said...

Hi Eeben,
I think this article of yours goes a bit hand-in-hand with your prior subject "LEAVING THE SHORE BUT MISSING THE BOAT". Again I can only comment of what I see in my birth country and other European countries: Since the 60's the western society went through a process of pacifisation and anti-military leftwing doctrines which infected all following generations. When I went to the military (conscription was common for nearly every male from the age of 18 on) it was already very popular to talk and act against anything militarily and weapons like. Taking the train back home on R&R in the uniform could provoke trouble in public as these so called freedom activists were everywhere. Doctrines of peaceful, non-violent solutions in armed conflicts without the necessaty of military force became strategy since.

Unfortunately the original generation of the 60's are the leaders and representatives of our governments and - that's the main problem - the media.
Ideology replaces common sense and locigal action. Something like a reactive action, as you state in your article, is for me unthinkable in nowerdays Europe and the West. It needs another type of polititians and media to bring that into place.

But as long as all military is evil in their minds and no one is willing to see the facts as they are, it won't change. In case of my own country I fear that only extreme suffering from the current strategy will make anyone change this dirction.

Just my 2 cents

P.S.: Off-topic:
Will the hardcover version of your book will be sold in book stores in SA? Have checked the book stores here at the Cape but couldn't find it yet.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your 2 cents worth is worth a lot to all of us, Joe.

Choco also mentioned the infantile nature of western society and I agree wholeheartedly with those sentiments. The entire process of pacifisation and peace would never have been possible if the armed forces were not there to defend this belief system that has taken hold. Many peace activists don’t realise that they would never have been able to express their feelings had the armed forces not secured their freedom to do so.

Peace needs to be earned but will never be a reality as long as some activists who claim to be working for peace are actually sabotaging it. To achieve it, one needs to prevent those who wish to take it away from doing so. This often requires armed action and intervention.

As you correctly state, a whole generation of politicians still confuse their role with their past activities fighting for so-called “peace” and “freedom”. Perhaps it is time they got a wake-up call? Again, it needs the people to give it to them but most people really couldn’t be bothered – unless they are directly affected by what is happening.

It is not the fault of the military that they find themselves in unpopular wars. They are doing what they were ordered to do by their C-in-C. But, maybe one day the generals will have the courage to disagree with some of their orders. I am not referring to simply refusing to carry out orders – that is treasonous – I am referring to them making a stand based on the reality of the situation. After all, they are supposed to be objective.

I think the hardcover is only available through the publisher. However, I am told that there are still bookstores that refuse to stock the book so I am not sure it is that freely available in soft cover. I know that some bookstores in Pretoria do not carry it.



John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

I regards to Dyson the quote is "We must give respect to our enemies, as courageous and capable soldiers engaged in an evil cause, before we can understand them. The kamikaze diaries give us a basis on which to build both respect and understanding" - and that is how the book ends. Floored me as something very familiar. There is also an interesting middle section on Germany that may be contrasted with "On War." Fascinating that an academic from Princeton can have similar thoughts in this regard to a soldier/businessman such as yourself. At first blush they don't seem to go together. I must think more on this as your common sense ideas and experiences can appear with an "ivory tower" academic means we do have hope that the proper messages get through.

In regards to reactionism - the Iraq war is a definite reaction to our mistakes of the early 90's - but in hindsight I believe it is one of the most brilliant strategic moves in history. The US dropped into the backyard of Al-Queda a military very capable of killing in mass quantities but not as skilled in asymmetric warfare and they took the bait. The best, hardened warriors from the Afghan days look to have been wiped out. What we have not done is cut off at least one leg of the Al-Queda triad, either leadership or financing. What we have done is forced a change to our military and provide a valid business case for PMC to reappear in strength. The PMC is the key to continuing security - harshly Iraq/Afghanistan have provided a boost to that changeover.

Our intelligence services are still lagging fiercely due to lack of human operators - we are paying the price of our stupidity in the 70's. Out technology is awesome but we don't have the operators, analysts or will at the moment to make substantive changes to right that ship. If one reads the Kay reports on WMD in Iraq it is pretty obvious someone is covering their tracks either we blew it historically on WMD in Iraq or we are missing some of the big hitters (a spare nuke, ricin artillery shells etc) and don't want to admit that they are loose in the world. So we react - and do not proactively take down the bad players inhte world. Your analogy of stopping the truck is right on - if our eyes are open we may be watching a steamroller inching our way to crush us.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I must get that book John. It seems as though the author and I would be able to have a good chat.

Whereas you may be correct re US strategy wrt Iraq, I think time will tell if the strategy was successful. I believe that the insurgents, not wanting to commit large numbers to anything, will bide their time as time is on their side. But you are correct: It set the requirement for the future use of PMCs.

I often see US military technology and think “if only we had that....!” But technology, as you know, has numerous limitations. What you have is awesome.

Personally, I think Iraq (based on what I have read and heard) was an intelligence failure. Sadly, it was the poor soldier who paid the price for this while the politicos act as though it is the military that are not doing their job properly. Again, I think the military must share some of the blame but it was not their decision to go to war.

But regardless of how the first phase is executed, we still become reactive thereafter.



matt said...

Interesting. You know, I sometimes wonder how things would be if countries ran things more like a company, and less like a government. Because the thing that kills me the most about government is it's lack of flexibility. I want a system that makes good decisions, when it needs to make good decisions, and have the ability to flex. Governments are far to slow and cumbersome to be effective. Especially when it comes to warfare.

Maybe that is why governments fear defense companies that specialize in winning wars on time and under budget? lol By the way Eeben, that is my favorite quote this year.

Now here is a question that I have pondered. When a government has decided to act, and lets say they had no other choice but to use a PMC, what kind of contract gives a PMC the best chance of success for winning a war?

Or basically, what kind of relationship did EO have to have with Sierra Leone in order to be successful? Did you guys demand the freedom to execute whatever you needed to do, or did the government of SL demand to be involved in the process and constantly threaten the operation?

I was just curious, because lately I have been thinking about what kind of agreement between a government and PMC would lend itself to the greatest chance of success for winning a war. Personally, I would think an agreement that gives a company legal protections, weapons and equipment support if needed, and operational and strategic planning freedom without interference by said government. But of course, still work with that government and use the things and people it has to the utmost advantage.

Although I do not think I would depend upon that government's intelligence too much, and probably do that on my own. I would really be worried about strategy and operations information being leaked out, and would protect it all cost. But definitely like you have said before, being intelligence driven would be a big priority for any kind of success. Know your enemy... know yourself.

The irony is that for the current war, the way rich governments contract with private industry seems far more confusing and inefficient than the way that a small, weak and poor government of Sierra Leone contracted the services of Executive Outcomes. And yet the contract EO received was the task of winning a war, and today's industry is tasked with guard things and people? lol

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think government rigidity is the same the world over, Matt. Once they have made a decision and it has passed through the law makers, it is hard to make an about turn. Whereas I can understand the political process, it does not make for fast decisions – even in times of national emergencies the process can be cumbersome and slow.

We must make a distinction here – which governments don’t like wars to be won on time and under budget? It is not the contracting government but rather the governments who sit on the sidelines and benefit from those wars. They are too concerned that an end to hostilities will impact negatively on their influence over the besieged governments... I have witnessed this time and again in Africa. I won’t even go down the road of the UN...

I think that it is difficult to compare one government with another especially when it comes to war. Perhaps that was what made EO’s situation unique within Africa. The governments that contracted us had been through the mill and realised that there was no time to be overly politically correct to their own disadvantage. Once their wars had spiralled out of control, they had also been left to their own fate. When those wars were won, the foreign spectators couldn’t get there fast enough to make promises and seal deals. By political blackmail, EO’s contracts were terminated so that the blackmailers’ PMCs could get there and rebuild perceived lost influence. The result was the wars started all over again – at massive human and financial cost.

We also need to examine the PMCs; some of them are really just extensions of their governments and not true PMCs. They are “awarded” their contracts because of who they are and not for what they can do. This mess results in a greater mess as the longer the war continues, the more money is made and the greater the influence over the client country.

EO’s position was that we were allowed to become involved in the military strategies and to restructure combat units to actually win the wars. Neither the Angolan government nor the SL government tried to intervene once operations were underway. Of course, they couldn’t support the forces as they often didn’t have the money or equipment. But success lay with the military strategies and the fact that the strategies were intelligence driven. Yes, we had freedom but not that much freedom due to equipment restrictions, financial restrictions, etc.

African governments tend to be reactive because they are often not allowed to be proactive due to investor governments. I know many would disagree with me but that is what I see and hear in discussions with them. Of course, they do not expect others to fight and win their wars for them – they are actually quite capable of doing that themselves – but some foreign training they are forced to accept (with serious strings attached) is serious pathetic. My comment refers to some "big name" companies.

Today’s industry is too close to their governments of origin to actually win wars. Hence, the role of guarding things and people.

Anyway, this is what my view is.



Herbert said...

Mr. Barlow,

Although this is my first comment, I have been reading your blog for a long time. You do good work. I'm just a fellow who spent 20 years as a US Marine infantry officer, 21 years more with CIA and several years with a commercial company. Now I'm retired and do as I please.

May I suggest one reason for our prevailing reactionary status: The demise of the teaching of unvarnished history in many of our schools. Speaking for the United States, for decades history has often been subsumed into other subjects (with agendas) and when used at all it is selectively applied as a tool for social engineering. We are reaping the harvest of those bitter seeds. I've briefed policy makers who rendered only silent blank stares when I drew historical parallels.

My European friends assure me that things are not so bad in Europe. Good, but I sense all is not well in their history classrooms.

Your story of the African leader who had recently learned of the discovery of valuable natural resources in his country, and was massaging his wallet when he should have been reaching for his helmet, inspired me to send in this comment. The man did not even know the history of his own continent. We have an international shortcoming.

Thank you for your insightful blog. I enjoy it.

Best Rgds,

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

Excellent point about history - it will judge the US involvement in Iraq fairly. What we see in the media now will be dust by the time the whole truth comes through.
The intelligence was rather poor in the finish - as to WMD I think the PMC that are, or have been there, will be much more capable of telling us the truth in that regard. I know my sources insinuate that far more is in there than we may ever know.
The technology in use is frightening in it application but it must be remembered that it is geared for the entire planet in its application - your requirements have been fulfilled by the equipment you had at hand.
As to a conversation between yourself and Freeman Dyson - that would be worthy of a pay-per-view event. This is a man who worked to use nuclear bombs for propulsive power on gigantic spacecraft (Orion). By all accounts it was a proven technology - he is a big thinker.
Now for weakness in the West - it is perceived but our strength is our tolerance of other opinions. The US is a constitutional republic so the will of the majority is not always the rule - slavery would have never ended here if we were a democracy. It takes a strong backbone to stick to our ideals. We have become reactionary as we have lost our backbone and become driven by polling data and the reactionary media. Unfortunately it is the soldier who is forced to pay the price for this lacking. The progressive mindset and the radical mindset take advantage of this tolerance - not realizing that the reaction could be brutal if taken too far. We shall see.

More thoughts to come....

Best Regards,


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your comment, Herbert. Given your extensive exposure, I believe that your insights will be of great value to all of us.

History seems to be forgotten by people. Apart from teaching unvarnished history, it often seems to evolve into something other than what it is or was. Where I am, it gets changed completely to suit others. I suspect that this is a phenomenon that is not restricted to where I am.

So many valuable lessons are contained in history and yet so few leaders want to revisit history to learn those lessons. Often this is accompanied by comments such as “it happened so long ago that it has no relevance to our situation”.

My concern is that this international shortcoming will one day cause us to trip and fall – hard. When that happens, we will again have lost the initiative and be totally reactive. A reaction to this may then be over-reaction and with the disadvantages that brings, it will create even more problems.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree John – however, I doubt the media will ever admit to the real situation.

The technology is awesome. I still believe that it should not be viewed as a substitute to strategy. Whereas I accept that its application is geared to multiple arenas, it should remain a battlefield enhancer and force multiplier and not the battlefield and the force.

Another point which you allude to: The enemy views “kindness” and “tolerance” as “weakness”. Look what happens when there is a natural disaster in some areas occupied by the enemy. Immediately, the West wants to donate money and aid – often at the expense of its own people. This leads to more resentment from own people whilst it allows the enemy to manipulate the West.

A strong backbone coupled with determination is required if the West is to flourish. But, it also needs to identify the enemy – in advance – and take the required action.

I look forward to your thoughts.



Raven said...

(Hi E,
I've been try'n to send this but got error reports, If this is the 100'th time you get it I appologise)
Good day Eeben
Am I wrong to say I differ from you that I was under the impression that Iraq and Afghanistan was supposed to be proactive wars? Even if they were reactive to 911?
Yet they must have been the most unpopular wars to date?
Another comment stated that in recent years we have become passive, once again I differ. WWII was in reaction to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Even though all the signs were neon-lit & out there in the public eye! He contravened most of the Versailles-treaty agreements built up a pretty hefty Army, Air Force and Navy. Not in secret but he knew that the memory of WW I was freshly burnt into the public’s memory. Thus the world would rather stuff their heads in a hole & tell themselves that it’ll go away much like an ostrich.
The irony is the fact that they wanted to wish the war away gave Hitler time to prepare for war, and he did in a big way! Kept the world busy for 5 years…
That’s the one side of it, the other is that the west “saved” the world from the “aggressor”. Would England be seen as a “hero” or “bully” if they proactively attacked Germany in say 1935?
In order to go to war these days you must get the whole parliament, senate or congress to agree. No matter how clear and present the danger, they worry more about their asses (in comfy leather seats) than the boys’ (in the veld under fire). Public opinion counts more than the lives lost, especially as those lives use to vote for another party, generally in the West we are governed by people who see “Taking action” against “Possible threats” as sending a commission & then write a letter saying “You have been a very bad State and we are very disappointed”.
In a sense the public loves this, “action” has been taken & all’s well again. Much like we teach our children, “Violence is wrong” few of us will still add “but you are allowed to defend yourself”.
No one I know have tells their kids: “If the overweight bully threatens you, kick him in the nuts before he has time to get his friends & gang up on you…”
The masses want peace at any price but war. Those of us who see things –I’d like to think- like you, wants peace at any price but peace.
Kind regards

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are never wrong to differ from me, Stefan. I don’t think that they were necessarily proactive operations as they were a reaction to 9/11. Furthermore, I doubt that the strategy was based on really good intelligence. Had it been I think the wars would have looked differently. Yes, they are unpopular but this is because of the fact that the mission keeps changing, the military are supposed to act as politicians and the media are using their power to keep it unpopular. Whereas the troops want to close with and kill the enemy, the politicians want a “softly” approach. There are even thoughts of a medal for “courageous restraint”. What happened to aggressive, pre-emptive action? The modern military fights with its hands tied. There are more attacks on soldiers and civilians by the enemy than what there are soldiers attacking the enemy. When this happens, I think it is reactive operations taking place.

But, had the correct intelligence been available at the time, I suspect the strategies would have looked different and not have kept changing mid-pace.

WW2 is a whole different discussion but again, the Allies were not ready for it when it happened. The Germans and the Japanese achieved both strategic and tactical surprise. Despite as you correctly say, all the indications were there, yet the Allies were still caught off guard. Their actions were in reaction to the enemy at that time. It still took several years for the war to end at enormous cost in lives, material and infrastructure damage. Also, had the German military not been interfered with by Hitler and his henchmen (political interference) I think there may have been other problems for the Allies to contend with. But political interference, as well as atrocities against civilians, strengthened their resolve. Sadly, history with all its lessons seems to have been forgotten by those that ought to know better.

I believe that the West is getting “soft”. We want to justify everything with “negotiations” – we give credence to bad guys by calling them “non State actors”. We wait for them to do something and then after calling “foul!” we decide to act. (African insurgencies, pirates, drug wars, etc). The reality is that wars are brutal. They cannot be decided over tea. Taking the decision to go to war cannot be popular but rather that than lose a lot more lives later. If politicians really took the trouble of explaining the threats facing a nation they will get a lot more support for unpopular actions – but they don’t as they are concerned it will impact on their vote-count. For that reason, the ostrich mentality is adopted and hopes are held that the problem will disappear – but it won’t, it will just get worse.

I taught my son – if the threat is real, take immediate action and make sure you end it before it even starts...He has used this to good effect and although he doesn’t look for trouble, he ends it when it comes.



PS: I deleted the other “99” comments, Stefan. Sorry about the hassles.

tyhz1995 said...

Hello again,briefly.I believe to some people reactive is far more palatable than proactive.That is the main reason,which of course goes back to Western atrophy and overall softening.These of course are pilot fish for disaster.Peace only exists when a force is fierce enough to impose it,head on a stick etc.Good Intel allows for a proactive approach and it can be done quietly and sometimes inexpensively.The primary prerequisite is of course security.Silence is golden obviously and people need to keep their yaps shut.Which brings me to the wikileaks ...leak.The "man" in question, Manning.In a sane Army he would not have made the cut,were there not a policy to exclude his fellows would have vigorously suggested egress.Is this cruel?Perhaps but such is war and it must be this way for the men and morale,which when lost can be impossible to regain.If they had been proactive this trannychaser never would have been in a position to cause problems.Perhaps I'm going off course here but I cannot shake the feeling that this man will cause men to die,men that may not have died had he not blabbed.Forgive me.I believe reaction is typically the loser's move when things get ugly,I believe Iraq and Afghanistan were reactive and not decisively so,I believe threats must be identified and dealt with quickly..proactively.Brevity?That's all-Tyler

matt said...

Boy, speaking of taking the gloves off. I have been hanging out on Borderland Reporter, which is an excellent site that tracks the drug war in Mexico. To put it bluntly, it is depressing to read and the people of Mexico are certainly suffering at the hands of these cartels. I despise these thugs.

What is interesting though, is that I am getting a lot of support from the readership for some of my privatized warfare ideas. Specifically, the Letter of Marque stuff is catching on. I am actually describing how it would work and it's cost effectiveness, and the reaction I am getting is positive. Bottom line, these folks are desperate, and I really feel bad for them down there.

I figured any discussion about privatized warfare would be of interest to anyone who likes to hang out here, and here is the link. It is also in english and it is very easy to post comments there.


Robby said...

Thought you would find this interesting

U.S. Military Intervention in Africa, The New Blueprint for Global Domination

Paul C. Wright writes: The United States’ intervention in Africa is driven by America’s desire to secure valuable natural resources and political influence that will ensure the longevity of America’s capitalist system, military industrial complex, and global economic superiority – achieved through the financial and physical control of raw material exports. While America’s prosperity may be waning due to a number of current factors, policy makers are bent on trying to preserve America’s global domination and will pursue policy objectives regardless of the downturn in the economy at large.


simon said...

s others have pointed out, the reason that the US in particular is so reactionary is the indecision of our politicians on just what constitutes a national defense policy. Sure we are making alliances by FID and trade with other countries but the fact is that America and others have been overtaken by the Politically correct mindset.

All armed conflict is barbaric and neanderthal. We pay the price time and again. Pakistan is an issue that grives me to no end. As a historically minded person, I must look back at our inhibition of dealing with Laos and Cambodia, especially cambodia until we needed hail mary passes to avoid total humiliation. We finally decided to 'invade' cambodia and take away safe havens. This should have been done in 65/66 and things like tet may never have occured. If pakistan is our ally in this war then we should be doing joing incursions over an imaginary border that consists of foot trails.

Knowing our weakness in PC culture those sympathetic with the Taliban and Alqaeda, simply delay and obfuscate the issue, dragging us into a futher quagmire. The quagmire is the hope of the insurgents. Its just like the Korengal valley that we battled and died in and then abandoned because of political pressure and 'quagmire'. One up for the taliban.

Alot of people hate GW bush but I loved when he thumbed his nose at the UN and said you are either with us or against us. Unfortunately he did not follow through and 'respected' the soverignty of Pakistan. We should have invaded the swat valley and cleared every nook and cranny that place has.

IMO, we need not fear being called warmongers anymore than being called racists. Facts speak for themselves and this afghanistan issue has drug on because we lacked the fortitude to clear the safe havens. We took our eyes off the ball in 03-04 and allowed the bad guys to regroup just over the border, while they sat in lawn chairs heckling us while we couldnt shoot a bullet over an imaginary line.

If we are to remain safe and victorious we must hunt them and find them regardless of PC'ness. We wouldnt be in any more of a mess than we are in now. Supposedly we learned COIN lessons from vietnam never to be repeated, however, the history repeats itself..Im rambling

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suppose it is all about being politically correct, Tyler. However, in times of war and conflict, political correctness should not take precedence over winning the war or the safety of our own troops. When we disregard the lives of our own troops, we are heading down a slope we will not be able to easily climb again.

Intelligence seems to be a factor that does not get much regard. Again, all operations are intelligence driven – if not, we cannot even begin to predict what will happen – and when. Intelligence and security go hand in hand. By allowing leaks such as the one recently seen on Wikileaks makes one wonder if security is not also just another word we pay lip service to but ignore in totality.

A lack of both intelligence and security if of course a great danger to any force operating. If it is non-existent, we must be prepared for the consequences.

It is when these consequences come into play that we react (are reactive) but by then, we have handed the initiative to the enemy.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

This is indeed a great tragedy Matt. I think we cannot even begin to comprehend the type of pressure the government and its people are under. Yet again, crime continues unabated and this type of criminal insurgency is incredibly difficult to stop due to the massive profits the bad guys rake in.

Your blog postings on privatised warfare are indeed important, as is your Letter or Marque concept. Great to hear that it is catching on as I believe it has a positive role to play in stopping this type of crime. Mexico is a good example of a crime escalating into a criminal insurgency and now becoming transnational in nature and even crossing the boundaries of terrorism.

Many years ago, I got involved in the fight against this crime and we had great success. But we were eventually stopped as I suspect it impacted on the pockets of some politicians beyond the border of the country I was in.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby.

I somehow suspected this all along and my heart bleeds for Africa as many governments have still not realised what is actually happening.

A friend and I met with an American not too long ago. His company was contracted to “assist” an African government with a certain project. When he laid it out on the table, I commented that the end result was both far-fetched but with no benefit to the African country they were to be working in. His response: “We couldn’t care a SH... as long as we make money.” I almost fell of my chair. My friend was speechless.

But ultimately, many of these projects are to ensure control over African governments and their economies and thus turn them into proxy forces, something I find rather disturbing. Every tijme an African government discovers oil or a resource of similar strategic importance, you can bet that their troubles are about to start in a big way.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Not rambling at all, Simon, but rather a valuable contribution.

We seem to be quite capable of fermenting a problem and then sitting back and allowing it to explode into the open – without taking action to stop it until it is almost too late. As a student of history, I am sure you have noticed that this happens time and again.

With our PC culture in full swing, we keep on making excuses for the enemy, excusing bad behaviour, excusing their excesses and abuses and continue to do so even when, had we followed that path, we would have been crucified.

What many don’t seem to consider is that this is not really a fight between races (it may appear so) or between religions (it sometimes also appears so) but rather between “good” and “evil”. Of course, we all have different views on what is good and what is evil but when indiscriminate killings take place, we cannot sit by and consider that to be okay because it is the enemy doing these things – and then make excuses on his behalf.

Whereas I am in no way able to discuss the Vietnam or even ME issue with any real knowledge, I see that we are simply giving the enemy the initiative and the momentum, to our great cost.

Being reactive and being PC are part of the same problem – indecision. Indecision will come back to haunt us all.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your concern Anon, Lurker, Private and others, but I have been rather busy.

It would be nice to respond to comments as soon as they come in but I do have other responsibilities towards clients that always take precedence.

I update the blog whenever I am able to do so but when it appears neglected for a few days, it is because I am otherwise engaged.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Please send me your email address, Mike. I would love to get in touch.



Anonymous said...

Hi Eben

Love the post. I have been saying this since long ago - we have been doing pro-active farm security in SA since 1997 and I cannot understand why all security companies don't follow a pro-active rule.

My thoughts - there's more money in being reactive. Keep up the good work.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suppose being proactive may mean more work – and a possibility that some may have to do things they don’t want to do, Snyde. Of course, I agree with your comment that it will also mean less money – sadly that is something some do not want to contemplate.