Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Authority on the Enemy

House to House by Staff Sergeant David BellaviaLast month Dymphna reviewed House to House, a memoir by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia of his infantry service in Iraq. I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, and can recommend the book to anyone interested in warfare, urban guerilla tactics, or the Counterjihad.

House to House reads like an action novel, only its action is real, so the subplots do not always sort themselves out in a tidy fashion. Not all of the sympathetic characters come through alive, although the bad guys do get their asses most emphatically whupped.

A passage that caught my eye this morning concerned an embedded journalist and his interaction with the soldiers he accompanied into battle. Sgt. Bellavia’s platoon was among the very first to breach the railroad berm north of Fallujah and make contact with the enemy during the Coalition assault on the city in November 2004. The author’s account of the urban combat that followed is brutal and gripping. It will make you proud of our military and what they have managed to accomplish, even as their political leaders cut the legs from under them.

A seasoned freelance Australian reporter named Michael Ware was embedded with Sgt. Bellavia’s platoon. Mr. Ware had previously reported from amongst the insurgent mujahideen, and as a result was viewed with some suspicion by the soldiers of the U.S. Army. However, after a series of firefights in which the journalist demonstrated his sang-froid and his dedication to the job, he earned the respect of the soldiers he accompanied into battle.

At one point during a lull in the fighting. Mr. Ware is drawn into a conversation with Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon, and is induced to discuss what he knows about the enemy insurgents (pp. 180-181):

Ware notices he has his audience’s complete attention. He takes the opportunity to segue into a discourse on the different groups we are fighting in Fallujah. He talks about Hezbollah, and the type of training the Iranian Revolutionary Guard gives to the insurgents. That leads him into a tactical discussion. He compares the insurgents who fought in Samarra to those in Najaf. He speaks of the Iranian influence on Sunni Wahhabis. He goes on to explain how Hezbollah-trained squads sometimes carry nothing but RPGs and move without detection. When they attack, they volley-fire their RPGs, then fan out as they retreat. These are all the things Fitts and I have talked about for months, have heard through the infantry grapevine. But I am impressed to hear the same things from a journalist.

And then there are the insurgents’ ambush tactics. Ware has seen or heard of them all. He explains how they’ll probe an American unit just to get a response. Then the probing element will break contact and withdraw with the hope that the Americans will chase them. If the Americans do give chase, they’ll run smack into a horseshoe-shaped or L-shaped ambush and get blown away.
- - - - - - - - -
In Fallujah, we face an insurgent global all-star team. It includes Chechen snipers, Filipino machine gunners, Pakistani mortar men,, and Saudi suicide bombers. They’re all waiting for us down the street.

Ware is an authority on the enemy. He knows more about them than our own intelligence officers. I hang on every word and try to remember everything he tells us. It is the best, most comprehensive discussion I’ve heard about the enemy since arriving in Iraq.

And it comes from a f***ing reporter.

Sgt. Bellavia’s account reminds us that the information war is the most important part of the current conflict, whether it is fought amid the rubble of Fallujah, in the back alleys of Malmö, or in the federal criminal courts in Texas.

Our traditional structures — the institutions that we have long trusted, be they civil or military — can no longer be relied upon to collect and propagate useful information in a timely fashion. Ordinary citizens are obliged to find new ways of communicating, and form new structures to collect and act on information.

Sgt. Bellavia engaged in his own version of this updated information war when he decided to rely on a stringer for CNN instead of Army Intelligence when gathering actionable data for the men under his command.

It’s a new war out there.


Mr. Woody: you’re still going to get this copy of the book. Dymphna gave me an extension to let me finish it, but the book will get mailed to you eventually. :)

9 comments:

AWOL Civilization said...

The "traditional structures" are worse than useless. They are part of the problem.

It is nice to see this fine example of extra-structural information sharing, and from a CNN reporter, no less.

gun-totin-wacko said...

If Mike Wallace ever hears this story, he'll have the guy banned from the entire world media. He once insisted that it's more important to "get the story" than to help protect American lives.

openplaza said...

Michael Ware is indeed extremely good in what he does. He is one of the only mainstream reporters to have lived in Baghdad near-continuously since before the American-led invasion.

He appears regulary on CNNs This Week at War and Anderson Cooper 360.

In September of 2004 he was in the hands of Zarqawi's men. After a dispute beween al qaeda people and local iraqi insurgents he got away.

he retells his story in PBS's Documentary Frontline, which you can see here: Frontline: "The Insurgency"

An other interview you can find here in which he talks beside other things about the different enemries the coalition faces in iraq: Michael Ware - The Truth About Iraq (I dont know is that is the true title - copied it from the youtube site)

openplaza said...

After we understand these lessons, we must ask ourselfs what we want to achive in Iraq and what is possible to achive.

Maybe this quote of Carls von Clausetz's Book - On War - can help.

In connection with the plan of a campaign we shall hereafter examine more closely into the meaning of disarming a nation, but here we must at once draw a distinction between three things, which as three general objects comprise everything else within them. They are the military power, the country, and the will of the enemy.

The military power must be destroyed, that is, reduced to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the war. This is the sense in which we wish to be understood hereafter, whenever we use the expression "destruction of the enemy's military power."

The country must be conquered, for out of the country a new military force may be formed.

But if even both these things are done, still the war, that is, the hostile feeling and action of hostile agencies, cannot be considered as at an end as long as the will of the enemy is not subdued also; that is, its Government and its allies forced into signing a peace, or the people into submission; for whilst we are in full occupation of the country the war may break out afresh, either in the interior or through assistance given by allies. No doubt this may also take place after a peace, but that shows nothing more than that every war does not carry in itself the elements for a complete decision and final settlement.
(On War- Chapter two)

So far goal 1 and 3 are far from achived. I think it can be said, that goal 1 is almost not achivable, when you think of the tons of ordnance still missing somewhere and the constant weapon and menpower flow from neighbouring countries to iraq.
While the surge produced some success is very unlikly that point 3 can be achived without significant political breakthrough on an iraqi national level and some major defeats on Al Qaedas side.

Vol-in-Law said...

openplaza:
"is very unlikly that point 3 can be achived without significant political breakthrough on an iraqi national level and some major defeats on Al Qaedas side."

Al Qaeda in Iraq can be defeated, but 97-98% of the anti-US insurgency in Iraq is not AQI-related. Achieving goal #3 would require large-scale repression of the Iraqi populace, which is why the overall goal of a stable liberal-democratic US-friendly 'free' Iraq is not achievable.

ZionistYoungster said...

Iraq showcases something other than the Politically Correct (and PC taxpayers, such as President George W. "Islam is a religion of peace" Bush himself) would like to get out from it: the unannounced support of the Muslim majority for the actions of a few. Or, as it is often put on Jihad Watch: Has a way of sifting the Muslims who don't support jihad from those who do been devised yet?

I suspect that even if there were a good way of doing so, it'd be time-consuming and imperil the troops. But above all, it could never surmount the self-made handicap that the US forces have carried with them ever since the Vietnam days: "Winning hearts and minds". You can try to win hearts and minds, or you can take care of the problem of Islamic imperialism, but you cannot do both. Active jihadis are intermixed with their non-military supporters, and combatant Muslims are in the thick of non-combatant Muslims giving them protection (as well as invaluable propaganda points when the infidels inevitably have to strike--think Qana in Lebanon 2006).

I said that even Afghanistan, where democratization and "winning hearts and minds" wasn't the initial pretext, was premature. The war was taken to the enemy field too early. As Fjordman says repeatedly, the home field is under serious enough attack, and should be defended first. And I add, that the defense of the home field is a better position for infidels, in that it's a moral position of survival rather than "winning hearts and minds". When it comes to defending their own states, infidels should remember that they owe the Muslim colonials nothing, and that they are within their perfect rights to hit them the hardest blows: expulsion, en masse, by droves, by shiploads, by the millions. As in Iraq, there is no effective way of distinguishing between the guilty and the innocent; not as in Iraq, the pretense of "winning hearts and minds" is not there to make us give a damn.

I'm not saying the enemy field is beyond action. Far from it, we have it from the experience of Germany under Allied occupation in 1945-60 (including the quelling of the insurgency) that it can work. But it's too early. And, the Coalition forces went there without having recognized what the enemy really is. Osama Bin Laden is an enemy, but not the enemy--Islamic imperialism doesn't need him to function. Al Qaedah is just another head of the hydra. Afghanistan is just another location for it to operate from. But fighting them over there when they are here, on our home fields, is by nature premature.

Switch to survival mode, over here. Realize that it's about whether the USA's and Europe's football stadiums will really be used as football stadiums in the future, or as arenas for the display of public beheadings and amputations. Here, in our states. And just lose, lose, lose that Sixties-Hippie phrase from the Sixties-Hippies days, "Winning hearts and minds"! For once, just for once, be a little more selfish, a little less altruistic, a little more willing to go roughshod over the sacred Other, especially as that Other gives nothing in reciprocation. Say to them, "This is ours, and since you didn't come to become part of ours, but to remake ours in your image, then you'll have to get lost". And then let's facilitate their getting lost with a forceful and unrelenting application of our ambulatory organs to their posteriors. Because our way of life is something worth keeping, even if it's called, "racism" to even think so.

In the Torah, God tells the Israelites, upon coming to the Land of Israel from Egypt, not to occupy the nations of the land, even warning them against that, but to kick them all out. That "bronze-age text containing the thoughts of goat-herders", as the PC crowd call it, has more strategic wisdom than all of the generals and statesmen of our age put together. Unless the enemy's will has entirely been broken as it was in 1945, occupation necessarily leads to a quagmire. But before embarking on that enterprise, it must be remembered: We have bigger fish to fry.

kepiblanc said...

Zionistyoungster, you made my day. Excellent comment.

Us or Them said...

I posted a comment this am and it has not appeared.

This is a topic I am very much interested (in fact my blog is dedicated to he idea of separationsim).

Was there something wrong with my post or did it not go through?

Baron Bodissey said...

Us or Them --

We do not filter comments, and I haven't deleted any today. It must have been a Blogger malfunction (those happen fairly frequently).