True Believers, the effects of morality on unconventional warfare.
The lessons learned in how the Soviets fought in Afghanistan is a pretty good example of how to not fight in Afghanistan. You don’t win the hearts and minds of cavemen by bombing the crap out of them.
The population knows exactly where the “bad guys” stand, and doesn’t know what a corrupt public official may decide from one day to the next. So the bad guys win the moral argument. It may be Seventh Century Islam, but it is at least consistent seventh century islam. Score one for the bad guys.
Second, the Soviet occupation disintegrated into large forces huddled on bases and rolling around outside the wire in armored vehicles. So far ISAF has fallen into the same rut, even though no one is currently arming the bad guys with anti-air missiles. Score two for the bad guys.
I’m not saying that the efforts in Afghanistan have been utterly wasted, only that America should not expect a lasting and vibrant Democratic Afghanistan to last after ISAF pulls out. In the long history of Afghanistan the concept of “Democracy” isn’t anything but a brief footnote in a long series of tribal conflicts. Even prior to the Soviet invasion they went ahead and elected a Communist government…
Finally, Islam is not very compatible with Democracy in any form. Islam requires rule through strength and terror for a heterogeneous population, or strong tribal loyalties to a homogeneous population. The Arab Spring has not given rise to human rights, it has given rise to human rights abuses. An Islamic Nation mirrors its rulers for better or worse, if the rulers are forward looking and liberal, so is the country. If the rulers believe that Seventh Century Islam is the height of civilization then expect that law to be brutally enforced even by seventh century standards.
As an American I expect that others will expect me to espouse the belief that my native land is the best because of Freedom and the Bill of Rights and other parts of our history. As a human being I expect a Saudi or Kuwaiti to feel the exact same way about their native land. Getting in a pissing match with someone from the old world about which way is better is nothing more than stupidity. For better or worse they have centuries of history backing up the reasons their culture is the way it is, why Democracy isn’t going to work for the Islamic world (at least not for this generation, maybe in the next two or three) and can rightfully talk about how short sighted Americans are since we have less than three hundred years of our own history to look back on.
But with all the logic, the clear arguments about the benefits of rule of law and a secular democracy, the Bad Guys firmly believe that what they have is worth fighting for. They believe in the end goal of yet another tyrannical Islamic state. Really believe. They are “True Believers”, and there is only one way to stop a true believer. Kill him. Those “True Believers” are the reason that the civilians in Afghanistan often trust the bad guys more than the Afghan government, because they truly believe their own twisted faith, that is why they can strap bombs to themselves or indoctrinated young boys and keep a technologically superior force in a defensive posture. True Belief is the one commodity that scores points for the Bad Guys.
If America is to have “an Army of Davids” that is good. If America is to have “A Nation of Riflemen” that is good. But without a “Nation of True Believers” there is no chance at all for either Davids or Riflemen to stand against the forces of the endarkening and challenge them back.
In every successful insurgency it is not about “winning” battles so much as staying in the fight until the side with more boys and toys gets tired and goes home. Our Revolutionary War wasn’t a military victory through strategic genius, it was simply being able to stay in the game until Britain decided the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. Algiers, Vietnam, Afghanistan, none of these forces could beat the French or the US, but they could stay in the fight because they were True Believers.
We hold these truths to be self evident. Those words were written by a True Believer. No “re-education camp” could have changed his mind. Nothing but a bullet or noose could stop those treasonous thoughts against an unjust monarch.
The great military philosophers all agree that there is a moral component to conflict. De Jomini, Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Lao Tzu, even Mao all agree that you must be morally right to win the fight. They go on to explain that you must also be tactically and strategically right as well. But if you lack a true moral component to why you are fighting then you run into legitimacy issues, and the bad guys start racking up points for their side.
Anyone who can sell the idea of Liberty to a non-believer and create a True Believer will do more for the cause of freedom than any marksmanship instructor or small group leader. In our world where “relativism” makes Tyranny no better or worse than Liberty it is an extreme position to say that there IS a right and wrong, and that there IS a good and an evil, and that it is GOOD to fight against EVIL. It isn’t a thousand or a million trained riflemen that make Tyrants fear the night. It is the thought that there are True Believers who oppose, who will not “be reasonable” who will not “talk it out” who will not “compromise” who will not waiver in their faith and course. Faith gives rise to action, it must, or it is not faith.
For decades now the forces of the endarkenment have had free reign to indoctrinate our youth into a twisted belief system and create their own True Believers who will act as their useful idiots. You see them in the Occupy movement, you see them on College Campuses, you see them in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. You see them blind to the forces of reason and logic, clinging solely to feelings and a vision for a utopian society where everyone is equally enslaved under the jackboots of oppression. They truly believe that they have a right to other peoples productivity and property, they truly believe that the world owes them something, they truly believe that they have a right to take it. Meanwhile in Greece, Athens is burning. When reality confronts their beliefs they reject reality and try to destroy it.
Winning can come from creating our own True Believers. Or eliminating the opposing True Believers. There may be a third option in there, but I am not smart enough to see it right now.