Tribes S Iraq

The Tribes Together:

I think this article is an interesting case study. It shows the effect of an authoritarian government on a once-independent tribal structure, and how the fall of that government negatively impacted the tribes. On the other hand, the main tribe discussed here was only too glad to take the risks associated with freedom -- the sheikh ordered no resistance to Coalition forces, and not one shot has been fired by his men.

Though they are still relearning the skills lost during Saddam's regime, the Obide tribes are coming together with the Guerarie, Jabor, and Gueranie tribes to bring renewed prosperity to the south of Iraq. The Iraqi Army, now able to conduct independent operations in many areas, is beginning to have troops they can spare for aiding civil reconstruction missions. Speaking of which, the Iraqi TRADOC has opened, which includes a version of DLI.

The development of an Iraqi TRADOC is an interesting development in and of itself, and it shows that the development of the Iraqi army is full-scale: not just building combat forces to hold the line so the Coalition doesn't have to, but building a fully-independent military capable of developing doctrine and lessons-learned, and coming to its own conclusions about what to do in the future. Rather than simply tying them to US training and doctrine, we've taught them how to build their own.

Another interesting story: the completion of the border outposts in the West of Iraq.

What interests me here is the opportunity to do a little military science. Take a look at the picture of the fort. You can tell from the way a fort is constructed what kind of forces they're expecting to oppose. The high walls and turrets give them the ability to repel attempts to overrun the forts, and provide overlapping fields of fire on any attempt to take any of the walls.

This is a fort set up to repel an infantry attack. It lacks defenses against artillery (such as thick, sloping walls) and heavy cavalry (such as ditches). Given the 20-40 man size of the garrison, they're well prepared to hold off small-scale raids by smugglers or terrorist units, but not heavier opposition.

That's perfectly sensible given the situation on the ground there, and just what you'd expect. I mention it only as an item of interest for readers who are learning about military science, not for experienced hands. There's a great deal to be learned from even a quick snapshot, if you know what you should be looking for.

Christian Muslim

A Christian Muslim American:

Sovay tells me -- and sends a link to back it up -- that our self-described "Muslim American" was a recent convert to Christianity, although he had stopped attending church and turned up at an Islamic center not long before the shooting.

He told the Christian group he'd joined that he'd 'seen too much anger in Islam,' which prompted his conversion. Assuming that statement is accurate, we can read that his community of faith in earlier days was not of the more moderate Islamic type. We all know, having seen it played out in Afghanistan and elsewhere, that the angrier sort of imam declares that apostasy is punishable by death and damnation.

If I were a journalist, and could manage an interview, I'd ask him about this. Was this the act of a man who had been raised to believe that apostates went to Hell -- who then left the faith due to concerns about its anger -- and then began to fear for his soul? What if the old imams were right? Would that prompt him to stop attending those Christian meetings -- to return to Islamic centers -- and then, raised to believe in the angry Islamic way, to try to redeem his soul with blood?

The story also says he had trouble holding a job, and was confusing to those who knew him. It's likely that the main thing behind the shooting was his own instability, rather than Islamic teachings.

On the other hand, we've also seen this model before -- in Palestinian suicide bombers, particularly the female ones. Many times they have (as he had) advanced education and good prospects. They often carry out their attacks mainly because of points of honor -- because they have been raised to believe that only in this way can they remove some stain on their soul.

It would be worth asking if that is the case here. We ought to find out -- if we can -- why he felt he should kill in Islam's name, by declaring himself a Muslim just before he opened fire.

Stories from CENTCOM

CENTCOM Still Cares:

More news stories CENTCOM would like you to see:

Iraqi Army captures four terrorists.

MultiNational Division, Baghdad captures four more.

The latter four were dressed up as Iraqi policemen. Good catch by MND-B.



Jake Ross, one of Matt Furey's disciples, has a similar business built on the idea of teaching you hand-to-hand combat. I've mentioned that I like the Furey exercise program, which works and works well. Somehow I've gotten on Jake Ross' mailing lists, and I have to say, I have my doubts about his program.

He sent an email out yesterday, one of many he's sent, but a particularly bothersome one:

War is very simple, but the simple things in war are very difficult.
To quote a famous 18th century soldier.

And what is a street fight but a war, one guy at a time? So, it's
important that we focus on what makes the biggest difference in street

Let's think about hunting. The whole point of shooting the prey is to
kill it cleanly. The smaller the weapon, the lesser the energy, the
more difficult the kill. While this may add a certain panache to the
hunt, it's not the intelligent, high percentage way to hunt. So, we see
hunters using weapons powerful enough to kill the prey, with a decent
shot, without taking the chance of a wounding, but not a non-killing,

So, when you're discussing street defense, the question is always
there, in the back of your mind, like the scent of an old cellar. "What
happens if I give him my best shot and he doesn't fall?"

What, indeed.

So, you need to learn to strike with real power. Enough power to
really damage the person you hit.

Let's talk more about this later,

Jake Ross
I'll start by answering the question he proposes: What happens if you hit a guy as hard as you can, and he doesn't fall? Answer -- hit him again.

The body has several natural defense mechanisms to pain and blows. There are endorphins, adrenaline, reduction of blood in certain areas likely to be affected, and so forth. These mechanisms have developed over millions of years, to make your body able to take a pretty stiff blow without stopping you from doing what you need to do.

However, they do have operational limits. Sometimes, a particularly powerful blow can overcome them -- which is what Mr. Ross is selling. He wants to teach you to hit harder. Good on him, if he can.

But you can also overpower these defenses by hitting more than once. If your best isn't good enough, your best twice or three times could be.

You can test this yourself. Take a hairbrush with a hard back. Hit yourself on the leg with it, hard as you can. Now do it again, same spot. Now a third time.

As you can see, your body's ability to shrug off the pain diminishes quickly. You can take the first blow, and it's a shock. By blow number three, you're not resisting the pain any more -- you get it all. The same principle applies to defensive blows.

(An aside: The Chinese say that life force -- qi -- flows through the body in channels, which flow can be disrupted by strikes along those channels, or at particular points on the channel. Leaving aside the question of whether or not qi really exists or functions as claimed, qi theory also agrees with the multiple-blow thesis. By the third blow, my teacher told me, all the defense is gone, and the body is receiving full damage from the strike. Since it's possible to verify the basic idea empirically (e.g. with the hairbrush), I pass along the information.)

The same idea is at work with firearms. Some people -- like me -- prefer a heavy caliber that hits harder, a .44 Special or .45 Colt. Other people, though, achieve roughly the same result with a light caliber that allows them to deliver multiple shots on target. The body may be able to (temporarily) overcome the shock of a .38 Special wound, but it is not likely to overcome the shock of four of them.

The point here is this: if your enemy doesn't fall to your best shot, that doesn't mean you can't beat him. You can. Hit him again, just as hard, in the same spot if you're able.

This brings me to what I really wanted to write about today.

In every fight between men, there are really three contests going on at the same time: a contest of bodies, a contest of minds, and a contest of spirits. Of the three, the spiritual contest is the one that matters most. The mental contest is second. The physical contest, though not unimportant, is really the least of the three.

The Jake Ross method seems to be focused on the physical. He scorns the importance of the mental contest -- see how his letter is satisfied with citing "a famous 18th century soldier." The source of that quote, readers of Grim's Hall know well, was Clausewitz, whose On War remains one of the most important texts of military science ever written.

If you're serious about teaching people how to fight, you have to teach them how to think about fighting. You have to take that aspect of it seriously. The paraphrase of Clausewitz refers to his doctrine of friction, which is one of the most important ideas ever recognized by military science.

The spiritual aspects are even more important. Mr. Ross is selling by suggesting that you should be afraid -- 'what if he doesn't fall'? That's the wrong attitude to take to a fight. The right attitude is, "Whatever it takes, he's going down."

Mr. Ross wants to teach you to hit harder. Well and good, but it's not the real answer. The real answer is to learn to keep hitting. It's the area of the spirit in which contests are won, whether fights between men in the street, or wars between nations.

Consider the conflict in Iraq, if you doubt it: there is no way that the enemy can defeat the United States physically or mentally, yet it could still win if it exhausts the spirit of the nation to see through to victory. It has always been the case, from the beginning, that the only place where we could be defeated was in our own national will.

By the same token, the United States can clear the field of its foes every time they raise their heads. Yet the real arena of victory has always been the hearts of the populace.

Another of Clausewitz's theories was the culminating point of victory, that point at which a fighting force is excused by the populace for whatever it does, because the populace identifies with it. In Iraq, in spite of the continuing difficulties, we are approaching that point. The population wearies of the militias, of the kidnappings, of the constant danger hanging over their heads. Sunni and Shi'ite alike weary of these things. The Iraqi Security Forces have just promised to handle security nationwide by the end of the year. The people are increasingly placing their faith in those forces, and turning against the militias. When we cross the tipping point on this one, we will at last have stability in Iraq.

The opposite is happening in Lebanon. Israel began with attacks on civilian transportation infrastructure, from naval blockades to attacks on the airport. This, combined with the deaths of Lebanese innocents caused by Hezbollah's dishonorable tactics of hiding among civilians, has led to a resurgence of support for Hezbollah. For the moment, at least, Lebanon identifies with Hezbollah. Israel may be able to achieve strategic goals in the area, as for example reducing the number of rocket launchers and perhaps creating a buffer zone. It will not be able to win an existential fight with Hezbollah at this time, however: for now, Hezbollah is safely across the point at which many of the people of Lebanon will protect and shelter them, and even aid them out of a sense of identity.

(Another aside: this idea of a buffer zone is a doubtful strategum, it seems to me; if the UN sends a force to secure such a zone, as it says it may, why wouldn't Hezbollah simply carry on attacking from that zone? Does anyone think the UN will really be able, to say nothing of being willing, to stop them? If Israel needs to respond, it won't be attacking merely the sovereign territory of Lebanon -- it will be attacking territory guarded by the armed forces of several nations, each of whom will then be interested in reprisals. Hezbollah will be given a safer haven than it has now.)

It is the realm of the spirit that really matters. This echoes through the writings of the greatest martial artists and military scientists alike. Napoleon said that "Morale is to the physical as three is to one." The Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote that "seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful." How to do this? Either you have out-thought him, so that there is no point to his trying to fight you from the inferior position into which you have put him; or you have convinced him that he cannot win, and thus defeated his spirit without having to fight his body.

Then there is Clausewitz again. In his writings on what he called the 'trinity,' he said that there were three elements that governed success in war: National will, political strategy, and the sum of the ways that the various skirmishes and other conflicts worked out on the ground according to the wager of battle. The first was the most important, he wrote.

And what is that trinity, but a restatement of the same idea? National will is the realm of the spirit; politics and strategies the realm of the mind; and the conflict itself is the physical realm. The first and most important is the will -- it is the spirit. If we find ourselves flagging, that is what we must turn ourselves to reinforcing.

So, if you are approached by a man you think you may have to strike in self defense, do not fear that you can't knock him down even if you hit your hardest. Resolve, rather, that you will.



The Economist has a good overview of what the Just War tradition has to say on the subject, and how it applies to Israel today. They finish:

In the end, some philosophers think, debate about the ethics of war will have to reintegrate two ancient questions— about the right to go to war, and the methods that may be used— which have become artificially separated in modern times. To put it more simply, nobody will be impressed with a line that goes: “We didn't start this war, so our cause is just—but now that it's begun, we'll fight as dirty as we like.” Augustine saw the questions of jus ad bellum and jus in bello as intertwined—and so, probably, should modern man.
The Just War reading of proportionality, which began with Augustine, does have a jus in bello aspect which is not mentioned in the article. It is based on the idea of nationalism, which was once an ideal for whom men held great hopes. Like some advocates of democracy promotion today, advocates of nationalism believed that it could bring an end to war -- or at least lessen it notably.

The idea was that every group of people had a unique take on life, and needed its own space so that it could have laws that accorded with that take. Scots needed to be Scots, not ruled by English laws; the same for the Irish. The same for the Slavs. The same, some argued, for the Jews.

When such nations came to exist, they were seen as having a real sovereignity: this is, indeed, why we today view the nation-state as the righteous seat of sovereignty. These nations were viewed as arising from natural law, and a hedge against the horrors of war. Should such a state fall and come to be dominated by others, advocates of nationalism believed, war could be the only result: a righteous war for independence.

Insofar as Israel today can demonstrate that it is facing the destruction of its state, it can therefore justify almost any conduct as "proportionate." It's not just a question of whether you get to go to war; it's a question of what you can do in war. If you're fighting to preserve a nation, you can do most anything -- because the international system views the survival of your nation-state as almost the highest good of the system, the best way of ensuring peace.

What we're seeing in Israel today is just what we've seen ever since these ideas were instituted. Nationalism proves to be a better engine for war than for peace. If every group with a definable ethnic or cultural identity deserves its own nation, what if two of them claim the same piece of land (as in Northern Ireland, where Protestant majorities exist with Irish Catholic minorities who consider the others not Irish but "New English")?

What if there's a disagreement about whether a given group is properly independent, or should properly be subject to a central authority? Consider the case of Taiwan -- definitely ethnic Han Chinese, but wishing to be independent of the People's Republic, which in turn claims to be the rightful government of all Chinese eveywhere.

What if existing borders of states encase several ethnic groups, some of whom later decide they'd prefer their own nation? For example, consider the case of Indonesia, which won its independence from the Dutch and established its borders based on their colonial borders. Now comes the East Timorese, wanting to separate from this new nation -- and now the Papuans.

The system recognizes, in theory, all of these claims -- and justifies almost anything in the name of establishing a free, or protecting the independence of an existing, nation-state for each such group.

This is partially why we find the terrorists getting treated with kid gloves by so-called "international law" types: they are viewed, usually, as valid liberation movements or resistance to colonial oppression. As such, whatever they do is justified.

If you've been wondering what the root of this cancer is, now you know. It's the shattered bones of the last great attempt to find peace on earth.