April 15, 2008

Counter-insurgency? Or Counter-terror? And how do we define "victory"?

Many thanks to Will at the Insurgency Research Group Blog for pointing Abu Muqawama toward this monograph (.pdf) by Major General Ya’akov Amidror (IDF, retired) on Israeli counter-insurgency efforts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is the second monograph Abu Muqawama has read on Israeli counter-insurgency efforts during the Second Intifada. The first was this one, written by Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon (IDF, retired), who, incredibly, has his own website. (Check it out. Boogie Yaalon has never looked so hug-able.)

Now some would argue that the Israelis -- despite themselves possessing a long tradition of guerrilla warfare in the Mandate Era -- have never truly learned how to wage an effective counterinsurgency campaign. And the common thread that runs through both monographs featured here is the constant confusion of the counter-terror mission and the counter-insurgency mission. For Abu Muqawama, they are two very different things. For senior leaders in the IDF, they appear to be one and the same.

But what Abu Muqawama wants to highlight is the way Amidror defines victory. He might be onto to something here, because what he has in mind as "victory" is something very different than they way most people -- Abu Muqawama included -- would define victory in a counter-insurgency campaign. (He also gets hilariously creative with Mandate-era history, but you can discover that for yourselves.) All Abu Muqawama is saying is that if the counter-insurgent agrees upon a definition of victory that is realistic, they're better off for it. It makes a lot more sense than in 2006 when the Israelis set the bar unrealistically high. Amidror writes:

One can speak of three levels of victory:

Total Victory – Total victory eliminates the terrorist organizations and guerrilla groups and their demands from the political and global map, and no one except those victimized by the terror recalls that it was ever part of reality. Such, for example, occurred in the defeat of Communist guerrillas in Greece after the Second World War. Paying a bloody price, the Greek army, aided by the British, managed to liquidate the terror movement. Once that war was concluded, Greece no longer faced a Communist threat. The result of the fighting against rebels in Oman during the Dhofar rebellion between 1965 and 1975 was similar: the Sultan, whose son today rules that Persian Gulf country, managed with British aid to liquidate the rebels, who received assistance from neighboring countries. If a revolt were to take place in the sultanate, it would not be related to the terror movements, which were totally destroyed more than thirty years ago. The Palestinian terror against the British and the Jews in 1936, as well as the Palestinian terror in Jordan in 1970, were both completely uprooted by force and did not return to threaten the British Mandatory government in Palestine or the Hashemite regime in Jordan.*

Temporary Victory – This was the case in the victory over Palestinian terror in Gaza in the beginning of the 1970s, when Ariel Sharon was commander of the IDF Southern Command. After the dismantling of the terror in Gaza, the IDF reduced the size of the forces that controlled the Gaza Strip to isolated units, and Israelis could circulate there almost without trepidation. The terror did indeed return to Gaza, but it was after fifteen years of quiet, with the new terror essentially different from its predecessor.

Sufficient Victory – This is a victory that does not produce many years of tranquility, but rather achieves only a “repressed quiet,” requiring the investment of continuous effort to preserve it. The terror is not destroyed but is contained at a minimal level, with constant efforts to prevent its eruption. For many years, this was the achievement of the British in Northern Ireland and the Spanish against the Basques. This was also the achievement of Israel in the West Bank in the aftermath of the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield.

Abu Muqawama is sure this is going to set off a debate, so he is excited to hear what you guys (and gals) think about this one. Leave your notes/rants in the comments.

*Okay, this peculiar history lesson about all that Palestinian terror against the poor British and Israelis made Abu Muqawama chuckle. Jerusalem, after all, is littered with plaques proudly celebrating attacks by Jewish insurgents against the British as well. The British labeled such attacks, ahem, "terrorism" at the time. Does the King David Hotel bombing ring a bell? The Irgun? The Stern Gang? Abu Muqawama doesn't mention this because he's trying to stick a thumb in anyone's eye. He actually thinks the Israelis would make better counter-insurgents if they would bother to remember their own insurgent past every once in a while.