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View Diary: War Doesn't Work Anymore (61 comments)

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  •  War seems to work mostly (12+ / 0-)

    when the average person on who lives wherever you are fighting actually wants you there.

    Civil wars tend to have a fair amount of popular support by the winning side.  If the remainder doesn't eventually come around though, you have endless insurgent actions.

    Wars of defense or liberation tend to be successful as long as the outsiders leave once the "liberation" is over and the "invaders" really are seen as the enemy by most of the people.

    A lot of wars that have historically "worked" involved a ruling class that was replaced by another ruling class, without much change in the lives of the vast majority of people.  You send your tribute to the new guy, not the old guy.  In a lot of those wars, nobody much fought except the nobility and professional soldier caste/mercenaries/similar.  The peasants hated any army wandering through their lands (trampling crops, stealing stuff and abusing the locals) but didn't much care to whom they sent their tithes to.

    The modern idea of citizens having allegiance to a nation is quite unusual in history, and is widespread only relatively recently.   It's possible to occupy a hostile nation, but you have to keep boots on the ground (see East Block, Baltic States, Yugoslavia during cold war, Japan in Manchuria & Korea, Nazi-occupied lands in WWII, Iraq and Afghanistan this millenium, North Ireland until the mid 90s, etc.

    In order for force to work well, after defeating the military threat, the nation using force must somehow gain legitimacy in the minds of the people, and incorporate them somehow as citizens.   In the US Civil War, the way General Lee surrendered and instructed his men to quit probably saved us from a permanent state of insurgency (we still have a lot of unresolved stuff from the Civil War, but it moved into the realm of politics, education, propaganda and inter-tribal violence rather than direct attacks on the federal government)

    The other option is to exterminate the dissenters, something usually only possible if you have the aid of a massive population imbalance and disease (see Native Americans vs USA, Portugal, Spain).   Half measures don't work - killing insurgents just recruits more insurgents from their extended family/friends/tribe.  You have to do full on "final solution" type stuff.  

    Most USA counter-insurgent strategies are based on the idea of trying to gain legitimacy for the "friendly" government in the minds of the average citizen.  So far the success rate is precisely zero, with the possible exception of the Sunni Awakening in Iraq which let them go from full on civil war to a shaky coalition government.

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