October 10, 2011

Modern Warfare

Having recently read Steven Pinker's new The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, it's interesting to check in on the latest from 2011's own war. How does this one match up with the great wars of the past?
NATO Commander Says Resilience of Qaddafi Loyalists Is Surprising 
By ERIC SCHMITT 
WASHINGTON — The commander of NATO’s air campaign in Libya has said that hundreds of organized fighters loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi pose a “resilient and fierce” threat in the two remaining pro-Qaddafi strongholds, and are exploiting the urban settings to complicate the alliance’s mission to protect civilians. 
“It’s really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” says Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, center, of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya.  ...
General Jodice said a mix of African mercenaries and Qaddafi loyalist troops have successfully sustained command-and-control and supply lines in staunch defense of the cities, despite a NATO air campaign that is now in its seventh month and a multipronged ground assault in Surt by anti-Qaddafi fighters. 
“It’s really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” General Jodice said in a telephone interview on Sunday from his command center just north of Bologna, Italy. We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces. At this point, they might not see a way out.” 
General Jodice’s comments, coming on Sunday as former rebel fighters battled their way into the heart of Surt and then were driven back by sniper and mortar fire, tempered the boasts of anti-Qaddafi forces that Surt would soon be theirs and once again underscored the limitations that have confronted NATO throughout the air campaign. 
NATO’s mandate to protect civilians who are threatened or have come under attack is complicated by the alliance’s caution in striking targets — like buildings where snipers are hiding — that could result in the death or injury of civilians. 
... Strike missions have dropped to about two dozen a day from 50 missions daily, and allied warplanes rarely drop their precision-guided bombs these days, allied officials say. Take the three-day period from last Friday through Sunday, for example. 
On Friday, one vehicle staging area was attacked and destroyed in Surt, according to a NATO statement. On Saturday, there were no strikes. And on Sunday, three armed vehicles in Bani Walid were hit. 
The United States is still flying an array of surveillance planes and remotely piloted Predator drones, particularly near Surt. But General Jodice said there was no coordination or intelligence-sharing between NATO and the anti-Qaddafi fighters, though British and French special forces troops, among other advisers on the ground in Libya, have for months helped train the former rebels and provided them with intelligence. 
The advances by the anti-Qaddafi forces on Sunday came after three days of intense fighting that included some of the Libyan conflict’s bloodiest battles to date. The former rebels seized a convention center and a hospital in Surt, both of which General Jodice said had been used as sniper nests and loyalist command posts.

A convention center?
“The situation is extremely dynamic and NATO continues to monitor and act, when required, to protect civilians from attack or threat of attack.”

The Battle of El-Alamein this ain't.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

IMHO, The Lion of the Desert was Anthony Quinn's best picture.

Just two years ago, Ghaddafi visited Rome, accompanied by Makhtur's eighty-year old son. Makhtur's son traveled there to receive an official apology from the Italian government for the hanging of his father.
Now Killery Clinton and Ray Mabus have killed Khaddaf's son and three of his grandchildren.

Save Us from Mabus!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlxGexhpqCU&feature=related

Anonymous said...

The Battle of El-Alamein this ain't.

It sounds like the closest comparison might be to the Battle of Grozny.

Russians had almost ten-fold numerical advantage in personnel, yet they still had to basically level the whole city and accept large number of civilian casualties. And even then it lasted over two months.

So unless NATO steps up its involvement significantly, those "resilient and fierce" Qaddafi loyalists will probably be in a good shape for a long time.

Steve Sailer said...

Both the 1994 and 1999-2000 Battles of Grozny were pretty extraordinary by current standards.

Veracitor said...

Check out the War Nerd's reporting on the Libya conflict over at The Exiled Online.

I'm chuckling at the NATO general repeating the official propaganda slogan about "protecting civilians" as his planes and drones blow up everything that moves in Gaddafi's strongholds.

Whiskey said...

Steve, the lack of WWI/WWII levels of violence after 1945 is probably more a function of the nuclear duopoly than anything else. With the dissolution of that duopoly, what is to prevent, oh say a Pakistani-Indian War, complete with nukes? Or a Turkish/Egyptian vs. Israeli-Cypriot war over gas in the Med, and so on.

The central thesis of Brecher the War Nerd is that collapsing peoples (like the Congo) are unable to project much force and thus merely create a farce with death like the Congo. That has to dance past the Iran-Iraq War, effectively outside the US/Soviet duopoly, and the collapse of both US and Russian influence in large parts of the globe where nukes and/or modern air forces and mechanized forces exist, and they wish to slaughter their neighbors.

Whiskey said...

Even Putin I might add was constrained in Grozny. Stalin would have nuked the place till the rubble bounced into orbit, problem solved! And messages sent! Putin needed (at the time) oil investment money from gullible marks ... er international investors.

The idea that dug-in defenders can outlast attacks indefinitely due to political constraints must necessarily suppose those political constraints are constant in human affairs. Which itself defies all of human history.

Khadaffi's guys face annihilation, so naturally they will fight to the bitter end. No Appomattox for them. But NATO is a pretend force, really. If India and Pakistan get it on, you'll see an El Alamein squared. Neither Monty nor Rommel had nukes.

Anonymous said...

"Modern warfare"?

Warfare, my eye.

This stuff ain't warfare, it's a puny ridiculous sideshow, the real war is going on elsewhere, as well you know.

Some headlines from the front:

U.S. INVASION OF IRAQ FAILS,
MEXICO INVASION OF U.S. SUCCEEDS

ARAB, AFRICAN, CHINESE AND SUBCON INVASIONS OF U.S. "IMPRESSIVELY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE"

ARAB INVASION OF EUROPE "SUCCESSFUL BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS"
ARAB 'GENERAL' CAN'T STOP LAUGHING AS HE CASHES WELFARE CHEQUE: "I STILL DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY DIDN'T FIGHT"

JEWISH BILLIONAIRES SUCCEED AT MAINTAINING POKER FACE "JUST A LITTLE LONGER"

Anonymous said...

How many pages a minute do you read?

Wes - Lord of Trolls said...

Steve, will you be offering up your own review of Pinker's book?

Anonymous said...

Has it occurred to Nato that those African mercenaries don't have a choice now?

V said...

So, what's up with "resilient and fierce"? Did all of the people they interviewed have a meeting before to make sure they stayed on message?

AMac said...

> General Jodice said there was no coordination or intelligence-sharing between NATO and the anti-Qaddafi fighters,

> though British and French special forces troops, among other advisers on the ground in Libya, have for months helped train the former rebels and provided them with intelligence.

[sic]

Anonymous said...

"We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces."

They shouldn't be. The last guys are Gaddaffi's own tribe fighting on their home turf.

@@@

"Steve, the lack of WWI/WWII levels of violence after 1945 is probably more a function of the nuclear duopoly than anything else."

ditto

If American military hegemony retracts through economic collapse - which it will because the US elites have shipped all the industry offshore - then we'll see how wrong Pinker is.

Anonymous said...

The most brutal wars are fought by two sides that evenly matched and with unbending passion/honor/dogmatism.
It could be there has been fewer major wars since WWII since there's been such an imbalance of powers. Nazi Germany could take on France, UK, and USSR, but after WWII, USSR was the ONLY mighty military power in Europe. Look at the results: USSR invades Hungary in 1956 and ends quickly. USSR invades Czechoslovakia in 68 and ends even more quickly. Brutal but quick and merciful. But if Hungary had been a mighty power in its own right, there might have been a long drawn-out war with countless casualties. Same with boxing matches. When champs fight chumps, it ends mercifully in the first or second round. But even matched fighters can go the distance with horrific results.

US vs USSR could have been the most fearsome war ever, even topping WWII, especially since both nations had nukes and both vied for universalist ideologies(with many allies). (Nazi Germany's program had limited appeal worldwide as it regarded most non-Aryans as lesser humans.) But US wasn't ruled by a fanatic like Hitler, and Stalin was more cautious than Hitler. Also, he knew USSR was exhausted after defeating Germany though it gained superpower status. Also, USSR didn't have the nukes until later than the US. Men who came after Stalin shared power and tended to be even more cautious... with the exception of Khrushchev, but then he didn't have dictatorial power, and he was ousted cuz his policies and ways alienated China(though Mao deserved more blame) and heated tensions between East and West. Had the Cuban Missile Crisis mean handled wrongly, it could have set off the mother of all wars. But the lessons of WWII and presence of nukes on both sides made both sides more prudent. Che Guevara, otoh, wanted the crisis to escalate into WWIII, even if it meant the nuking of all of Cuba.

Since the fall of USSR, there's been only one superpower, the US. And US vs Iraq 1 and Us vs Iraq 2 were no contests... though US did have problems with insurgency in Iraq War 2.
Israel also had an easy time defeating its enemies cuz it was by far the superpower in the Middle East. Had Egypt and Syria been comparable powers, the 6 Day War might have been a 6 yr War.
This is why, in the name of world peace, some say it's important that US be the only superpower, and so we should watch the rise of China. China dares not mess with US cuz US is so much stronger. But if China becomes a comparable power, it may take actions in the Pacific or in Africa that might lead to tensions among big powers... which can be dangerous. Big powers can learn to accommodate one another, as UK and France did for much of 19th and early 20th century, but then they might not. UK and France understood eachother cuz they went into the imperialism business around the same time, and they decided on the game theory of 'you take a piece, I take a piece, and we take turns'. But when Germany, a latecomer, entered the scene and demanded spoils, most of which were already taken, there was bound to be problems.
There was a conflict between US imperialism and Spanish imperialism in the Spanish-American War, but that ended mercifully quickly cuz the huge imbalance of power. US was so much stronger and Spain had been in long decline. The Russo-Japanese War, in contrast, was much fiercer because both sides were evenly matched more or less.
Russians prolly would have won if their forces weren't so overstretched(logistics to the Pacific must have been a bitch)and if they had other problems in their empire in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Japan, in contrast, could just focus on one area.

Anonymous said...

Another kind of war that could be long and brutal is when the powerful side is moralistic and/or demoralized while the weaker side is determined, devious, fanatical, and geographically favored. Vietnam War was such a war. US dared not used nukes. US didn't use all its means, as it did in Japan or Germany(though over 8 yrs, it cumulatively dropped more bombs). American public didn't care too much about Vietnam and grew demoralized. Anti-War people were morally outraged by 'American imperialism'. And American presidents and commanders felt it'd be immoral if they used nukes or if they flattened all of North Vietnam to win--something that was materialistically possible.

North Vietnamese, in contrast, were fired up by fanatical nationalism, long tradition of resistance, totalitarian organization and indoctrination, cult of heroic revolutionary death, and etc. Also, the jungles favored guerilla style tactics to demoralize American troops. And the leaders of North Vietnam were devious in how they played the propaganda game with the West, understanding full well that the liberal Western media were among their best friends.
Afghan might be a similar kind of mess.
(One wonders.. would US have gotten so deeply involved in Vietnam had it not been for the communist takeover of Cuba? Americans neglected the Communist insurgency in Cuba and then found Castro in power siding with the USSR, and then there were Russian nukes on Cuban soil targeting the US. After that kind of shock, maybe American presidents thought the idea of another third world nation falling to USSR would send a signal to all of Latin America that time for communist takeover was ripe.)

A tad superstitious said...

I fear for the future now that Pinker has published these figures. Doesn't he know that you are not supposed to talk about a possible "no-hitter" while the game is in process?

Eric said...

We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces. At this point, they might not see a way out.

Well, yeah. Our enlightened and definitely not Islamist allies have been massacring anyone who's dumb enough to surrender. There's a practical reason not to do that - your enemies will fight to the death.

Anonymous said...

We're helping the terrorists take over yet another country, of course violence will be marginal. We'd have to actually oppose the badguys in order to get that to spike up.

Bill said...

Veracitor said...

I'm chuckling at the NATO general repeating the official propaganda slogan about "protecting civilians" as his planes and drones blow up everything that moves in Gaddafi's strongholds.

It's not just the general. The NY Times repeats this ridiculous lie in its own voice in the article (Pravda-like, they are not trying to fool anyone, of course. They are just repeating the party line). It's more shocking than funny, IMO.

Anonymous said...

In the Battle Of El-Alamein the allies had broken the Enigma code and were reading Rommel's dispatches. They also almost completely cut him off from gasoline sources. Monty had a pretty good setup.

NOTA said...

I think theyre surprisingly resilient and fierce partly because western media has already reported a victory back home, and so it's a little embarrassing to have to talk about how there is still constant fighting and NATO bombing going on, a month or more after we all heard that the good guys had won in Libya.

The "kinetic humanitarian intervention" continues. If written laws applied to the president, he would have violated the War Powers Act with this bombing campaign, as well as the federal and DC laws against cnspiracy to commit murder in the assassination of Alwaki and Khan. But of course, in the US, laws are for the little people, certainly not for presidents.

Svigor said...

“It’s really been quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” says Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, center, of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya.

...

At this point, they might not see a way out.


Probably tribal, like everything else in that part of the world. If you're just you, you can switch sides or even give up, and just move on. If you're your tribe, and you lose, people are going to remember.

And it's not like these guys got to where they are, and stayed there, by playing tiddly-winks.

Svigor said...

What suddenly struck me as funny is how many HBDers can declare Semitic tribalism when it comes to Muslims, and then deny it when it comes to Ashkenazis. Then they'll turn around and talk about the intellectual pedigree of the Enlightenment, and play clueless about the intellectual pedigree of the Talmud.

Matt said...

Pinker acknowledges the nuclear deterrent as well as 'Pax Americana' in the book.

The world would have to devolve significantly for nuclear weapons to ever be used. Part of that is that war is not much use when there's no territory to be conquered, and nukes destroy the territory you are planning on conquering. Another is that using a nuclear weapon instantly makes you public enemy no. 1 in the world. A nuclear terrorist attack is more likely than a nuclear war.

Southern Comfort said...

I'm with Whiskey on this. Nuclear deterrance is the driving force behind the absence of large "conventional" conflicts. I recommend the impressive "The Transformation of War" (Martin van Creveld) about this topic.

Mark said...

When I told a classmate about the executions of black migrant workers by Libyan freedom fighters, he replied that he doesn't believe everything the media says. He does, however, believe the media unreservedly when it says the tribal rivals and ex Al Qaeda militants are fighting for Democracy. To his credit, I suppose, he didn't beat around the bush trying to rationalize this ridiculousness.

Henry Canaday said...

Pinker spoke at our Local Lefty Bookstore last night. He is certainly much more intelligent and a bit more candid than most academics who speak on subjects that have risky implications. In response to a psychiatrist’s question, he acknowledged that genes do play a role in the violent behavior of a small percentage of people, psychopaths. He is agnostic on whether Clark’s argument that there was a genetic shift in the English population also explains some of the decline in violence, but at least he discusses it in his book.

Pinker does have a tendency to look for arguments that will please liberal audiences, which I assume are the great majority of his listeners, colleagues and friends. He cites as one cause of the decline in violence the expansion of rights, for women, for different races and for homosexuals. I certainly agree that equal basic rights and, more important, increased voluntary respect for previously despised or deprecated groups can help prevent some violence.

But the explosion of rights laws, or what I would consider the fetishization of rights, in the last 45 years in the United States seems to have coincided with one of the few exceptions to the long-term decline in violence. Since the mid-1960s, we have had either exploding crime rates or exploding incarceration rates, the latter apparently necessary, at least in part, to prevent a continuation of the former. I don’ think Pinker has thought this contradiction through as carefully, or spoken about it as honestly, as he has on other matters.

Veracitor said...

Oooh, you've gotta check this out: Kadaffi's best boys tool around in a James-Bond-ish Landcruiser with a video-aimed, remote-control belt-fed 7.62mm HK21 machine gun that pops up through a hatch in the car roof.

I have got to get me a ride like that.

Veracitor said...

Bill, my chuckle is a bitter one. I agree the lies are reprehensible, but I don't find them shocking in the sense of "surprising," only "revolting."

too many people agree with Whiskey these days said...


Or a Turkish/Egyptian vs. Israeli-Cypriot war over gas in the Med, and so on.


Egypt, and Israel, if I remember right Lebanon also, made 2 party EEZ/Continental Shelf treaties with Cypriot Greek administration, in spite of protests from Turkish gov'mt.
This was against Turkish position in two ways. First Turkey claims islands cannot have same EEZ or Continental Shelf extent as mainlands.
Second the Cypriot Greek gov'mt cannot make dealings in the name of the hole island.
So Turkey and Egypt is not on the same side on the 'gas in Med' issue.

Stalin would have nuked the place till the rubble bounced into orbit, problem solved!
Have he even had his bar mitzvah!

Rainforest Giant said...

Steve,

Are we talking about organized state directed violence or disorganized violence? It makes a difference.

Germans that group famous for the efficiency and zeal of their organized violence were notoriously law abiding and peaceful as a society.

Germans are so conformist and law abiding that during the 1919 rebellion a group of Spartacists was fired on by Friecorp machinegunners. They ran away but stayed on the paths in the park because the signs said 'Stay on the Path'.

Idiots in Charge said...

"We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces."

When Hillary confidently promised that Quadaffi would be quickly overthrown within a few weeks (end of Aug?) after months of demonstrated rebel cowardice and ineptitude, I knew the US and NATO were sending in special forces ground troop to do the key fighting.

After NATO and the US capture nearly the entire country via their air and ground forces, Western powers were hoping rebels could at least put in a ceremonial show in taking the last holdouts.

I think a proper de-newspeak of the above phrase is: "We’re all surprised by the cowardice and ineptitude of the ani-Qaddafi forces even after we've fought and won their war for them."

Anonymous said...

"He cites as one cause of the decline in violence the expansion of rights, for women, for different races and for homosexuals."

Cuba is reasonably safe and there are no rights. It's a police state. Allow rights in Cuba and it'll turn into another post-apartheid South Africa. A hellhole.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the likelihood of major wars in the future. Globalism works differently than imperialism. Also, there is no ideological battle that could pit nation to nation. What I do see is rising social tensions and violence, especially in the West due white liberal suicidalism and growing aggression/numbers of blacks, Muslims, and browns. Tomorrow's 'youth mobs' will likely be much worse in America and EU.

I also see rising social tensions in the Muslim world. Huge population increases, little opportunties, not much brains, etc. Arab Spring is less about call for freedom than scream of despair. I doubt if more freedom can solve problems there as tribal dysfuctionalism will continue to hold sway.

But what would be the possibilities for major wars between big power?

China and Russia over Siberia.

US and China over control of Asian Pacific.

That's about it, but both can easily be avoided.

triffid said...

"But the explosion of rights laws, or what I would consider the fetishization of rights, in the last 45 years in the United States seems to have coincided with one of the few exceptions to the long-term decline in violence. "

It's time for Pinker to get more nuanced about aggression/violence. If you only look at physical aggression that causes death or injury, you fail to see how attempts at controlling other people without any impeding danger or perhaps even inconvenience to yourself is yet another form of violence.

Let's move on, Pinkie.

David Davenport said...

The world would have to devolve significantly for nuclear weapons to ever be used.

But maybe the world is indeed devolving.

... A nuclear terrorist attack is more likely than a nuclear war.

Distinctions without differences.

Anonymous said...

Soviet Day After