Raznor's Rants

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Terrorists or Insurgents?
Posted by Raznor

Right wingers seem to hate it when the people Americans are fighting are called "insurgents". They ought to be called "terrorists", then we can kill and torture them without any moral quandary. Now to be sure, such demands are lacking in subtlty, and the regularity of demands that people always say the counter-American/Iraqi security force actions be called pure evil is annoying to say the least.

Still, they have a point, which cannot be denied. There are scum-of-the-earth asshole, bastard terrorists in Iraq who would do the world a big favor by spontaneously combusting. We need only remember watching Zarqawi behead NGO workers on video to be reminded of that. Still, by simply dismissing counter-American acts as terrorism, we run the risk of oversimplifying a very nuanced situation by dehumanizing the enemy.

The thing is, terrorism is a last-resort tactic taken by desperate militants. Think of the Kamikazes in the second world war. My military history may not be exactly up to par, but I believe you didn't see the Kamikaze until after the Battle of Midway, which crippled the Japanese navy, and left their eventual defeat all but inevitable.

My point is that terrorists are not a serious tactical concern. Certainly there is concern for the sake of innocent human lives lost, but terrorists cannot cause serious harm to structural infrastructure in the same way an Army can. An insurgency on the other hand has popular support, and can have serious tactical concern, though not strategic concern. As an example, consider the mortar attacks on an Army barracks recently. This caused a considerable tactical difficulty, as it managed to kill and injure soldiers in the base, but the base was still standing, and fully active, and, I'd assume, was able to resume standard operations immediately after, and perhaps even during, the attack. Or more recent, attacks on polling places during the election today/yesterday killed innocents and caused considerable difficulties in running the election, but overall things went pretty smoothly.

I've mentioned earlier (don't feel like finding the post now), an insurgency cannot militarily defeat a modern Army, especially one with the resources of America. But it can make the area ungovernable to an extent that terrorists cannot, primarily because an insurgency has popular support. By having an elected government in Iraq with more legitimacy than Bremer's counsel, or the America-appointed Allawi interim government, can have a considerable effect on any insurgency's popularity, but realistically, it probably won't be enough. We have seen in the past year and a half since Saddam's government in Iraq collapsed an insurgency that has been gradually growing in ability, organization and boldness of attacks. I wouldn't expect that to change in the foreseeable future.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong, and I hope I am, still any good news about the elections this week should be taken with a grain of salt. We simply cannot know the results of these elections until after, say, 6 months.

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