Monday, August 28, 2006


“When I was a young officer, I was taught that if you have air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, you win. Well, in Vietnam we had air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, but we lost. So I realized there is something more to it.”
~ Col. John Boyd, USAF.

There have been reports in the last few days of Turkish F-16's bombing South Kurdistan, while, Iran continues to use artillery against unarmed Kurdish civilians in South Kurdistan. All of this is allegedly an attempt to knock out the PKK. Unfortunately for these two Islamist states, air power and artillery never managed to hold terrain; the only thing that can hold terrain is infantry.

From the Draft Manual on 4GW War:

America's greatest military theorist, Air Force Colonel John Boyd, used to say:

“When I was a young officer, I was taught that if you have air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, you win. Well, in Vietnam we had air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, but we lost. So I realized there is something more to it.”

There's a hell of a lot more to it, as mentioned a later in the same reference:

At the heart of this phenomenon, Fourth Generation war is not a military but a political, social and moral revolution: a crisis of legitimacy of the state. All over the world, citizens of states are transferring their primary allegiance away from the state to other things: to tribes, ethnic groups, religions, gangs, ideologies and so on. Many people who will no longer fight for their state will fight for their new primary loyalty. In America’s two wars with Iraq, the Iraqi state armed forces showed little fight, but Iraqi insurgents whose loyalties are to non‑state elements are now waging a hard‑fought and effective guerilla war.

The fact that the root of Fourth Generation war is a political, social and moral phenomenon, the decline of the state, means that there can be no purely military solution to Fourth Generation threats. Military force is incapable, by itself, of restoring legitimacy to a state. This is especially the case when the military force is foreign; usually, its mere presence will further undermine the legitimacy of the state it is attempting to support. At the same time, Marines will be tasked with fighting Fourth Generation wars. This is not just a problem, it is a dilemma– one of several dilemmas Marines will face in the Fourth Generation.


While the classical three levels of war carry over into the Fourth Generation, they are joined there by three new levels which may be more important. Colonel Boyd identified these three new levels as the physical, the mental and the moral. Further, he argued that the physical level – killing people and breaking things – is the least powerful, the moral level is the most powerful and the mental level lies between the other two. Colonel Boyd argued that this is especially true in guerilla warfare, which is more closely related to Fourth Generation war than is formal warfare between state militaries. The history of guerilla warfare, from the Spanish guerilla war against Napoleon through Israel’s experience in southern Lebanon, supports Colonel Boyd’s observation.

This leads to the central dilemma of Fourth Generation war: what works for you on the physical (and sometimes mental) level often works against you at the moral level. It is therefore very easy in a Fourth Generation conflict to win all the tactical engagements yet lose the war. To the degree you win at the physical level by pouring on firepower that causes casualties and property damage to the local population, every physical victory may move you closer to moral defeat. And the moral level is decisive.

Correct. The moral level is decisive and this is why Turkey, Iran, the US, and the West generally, ignores the atrocities inflicted on the Kurds of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan while trumpeting the atrocities inflicted on Bashurî Kurds--as we see now in the trial of Saddam's Anfal atrocities. The US is also beginning to trumpet the atrocities inflicted on the Rojhelatî Kurds. This sudden concern for Bashurî and Rojhelatî has less to do with actual concern for Kurds per se, and much more to do with the US attempting to justify American policies, thereby creating a perception of success on the "decisive moral level."

We know this because no American administration has ever made a public condemnation of Turkish atrocities against the Kurdish people and attempts to control the massive flow of weapons to Turkey have always ended "not with a bang, but a whimper."

On the other hand, PKK has adapted itself to the political environment over the decades of its existence and continues to enjoy support from its own population. As a result of the Semdinli bombing last November, the suspicions of the use of chemical weapons against Kurds by the fascist Ankara regime in late winter, and the brutality meted out to Kurds during the Amed Serhildan in late March, PKK's popularity continues to soar.

In other words, the brutality of the Ankara regime, and the silence of the world in the face of it, coupled with Kurdish and PKK will to resist, ensures that support for PKK is either maintained or increases. The same can be said for PJAK, especially after the world's silence during the serhildan last August, as well as in continued extraditions of Kurdish political prisoners between the two Islamist states (Turkey and Iran), and the continued executions of Kurdish political prisoners by the Teheran regime.

With the PKK's adoption of 4th generation warfare methods to augment their traditional gerîla structure, the need for infantry--ultra-light infantry in particular--to hold terrain that appears to be under PKK control, becomes even greater. More from the 4GW draft manual:

As a practical matter, the forces of most of our non-state, Fourth Generation adversaries will be all or mostly irregular light infantry. Few Fourth Generation non-state actors can afford anything else, and irregulars do enjoy some important advantages over conventional forces. They can be difficult to target, especially with air power and artillery. They can avoid stronger but more heavily equipped opponents by using concealment and dispersal (often within the civil population). They can fight an endless war of mines and ambushes. Because irregulars operate within the population and are usually drawn from it, they can solicit popular support or, if unsuccessful, compel popular submission.

Light infantry is the best counter to irregulars because it offers three critical capabilities. First, good light infantry (unless badly outnumbered) can usually defeat almost any force of irregulars it is likely to meet. It can do this in a “man to man” fight that avoids the “Goliath” image. If the light infantry does not load itself too heavily with arms and equipment, it can enjoy the same mobility as the irregulars (enhanced, as necessary by helicopters or attached motor vehicles).

Second, when it uses force, light infantry can be far more discriminating than other combat arms and better avoid collateral damage. This is critically important at both the mental and moral levels.

There are a couple of keys to the employment of light infantry against PKK. The first is the terrain of Kurdistan. It is extremely mountainous and is closed off to all but the heartiest during winter, when it becomes especially treacherous due to avalanches. Secondly, PKK knows the terrain intimately and can blend in perfectly with the local population at a moment's notice. In order to reach any kind of success, occupying forces must lighten their equipment loads to the same level as a gerîla, in order to keep up with gerîlas. They must engage in unfamiliar, treacherous terrain and, unless they are prepared to overwinter in the harsh mountain climate like gerîlas, they can only attempt to engage gerîlas during half of the year.

The last fact is that no potential occupation force has the love of the Kurdish people and Kurdistan that is necessary to sustain them for the long term in such harsh conditions. In short, unlike the PKK gerîla, no occupiers have an intangible "strategic center[s] of gravity" to sustain the will to fight. This is why they use F-16s and artillery to murder Kurdish civilians now, putting themselves squarely in the middle of one of the "dilemmas that typify Fourth Generation war:" the use of F-16's and artillery accomplishes nothing but the creation of fear and loathing in the Kurdish population, which is already a defeat for the occupiers.

From May, 2005:

The HPG officials said that the TAF has been unsuccessful in its operations and that the HPG’s new way of actions on the basis of small groups of guerrillas with active and high action capacity led to TAF’s classical operation tactic to be in vain.

HPG officials said that as a result of this new way of action, TAF (Turkish Army Forces) had difficulties in “imposing clashes on the guerrilla under its initiative” and that the TAF military troops have become an open target for the guerrilla teams who have spread well into the territory.

[ . . . ]

HPG officials said that this was “a reflection of the strategic changes made” and that the military strategy changed accordingly”. They underlined that “actions undertaken were no longer to establish free areas” but “to force the other side to a resolution”.

They also added that guerrilla losses, as a result, decreased in comparison with past years, but the TAF’s losses increased due to a change in guerrilla movement.

HPG did not remain idle during the five-year unilateral ceasefire. In addition to the establishment of HPG Special Forces and the adoption of MOUT-style training, HPG has also decentralized its command structure, giving more autonomy to team commanders to encourage individual commander initiative and freedom of operation within the framework set forth by HPG's mission objectives and rules of engagement. Teams are smaller, lighter, faster moving, work independently, and engage targets of opportunity at will.

After the PKK statement this last week, the criteria for the beginning of a bilateral ceasefire leading to a political settlement is out in the open. Failure to act on those criteria will extend the "political, social and moral revolution" of the Kurdish people, thereby extending the "crisis of state legitimacy," of the Islamist regimes in both Ankara and Teheran.



Anonymous said...

Dest xwes Mizgin. Did you hear about the NATO commander appointed by the U.S. to coordinate an elimination of the PKK in coordination with Turkish and Iraqi govs?

Please share your thoughts on this, either here or in a new blog post.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Kurdish rebels warn of "hell" after Turkey blasts - Reuters

"Security analysts say TAK was set up by former PKK guerrillas dissatisfied with the group's tactics. The Firat News Agency said on Tuesday that the PKK condemned the bombings."

so they have condemned the actions of TAK, which is a good thing... of course the stupid Americans and Euros do nothing more than listen to the lies of the TC and their Turkish media. To hell with them all...

Mizgîn said...

Heval Kurd, your wish is my command, efendim ;) See the latest post. By the way, both links there, from Kurd and Anonymous #1, are the same. I put it in the post so that everyone who wanted could reference it.

Yes, Anonymous #2, PKK has condemned these things from the beginning.

Personally, I have a very difficult time getting worked up over a few dead or wounded Europeans or Turks. I've really been trying to induce a feeling of angst about the TAK situation for a couple of days, but it just isn't working. Every time I think about it, I am distracted by the number "100,000." Honestly, every time I think to myself, "I really must try to feel something about this TAK business," well, there it is! That annoying, "100,000." Oh, well, maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Indeed, to hell with them all.