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Hearts and Minds: Iraq v Malaysia
Posted by: mcq on Friday, April 21, 2006

When Andrew Krepinevich laid out his "oil spot" strategy for Iraq, he held up as a model the British effort in Malaysia. Said Krepinevich:
The oil-spot strategy, in contrast, focuses on establishing security for the population precisely for the sake of winning hearts and minds. In the 1950s, the British used it successfully in Malaya, as did the Filipinos against the Huk insurgents. Given the centers of gravity and the limits of U.S. forces in Iraq, an oil-spot approach — in which operations would be oriented around securing the population and then gradually but inexorably expanded to increase control over contested areas — could work.
What has grown up about the Malaysian experience is a belief that the British were successful in the winning of the "hearts and minds" of the Malaysian people. But were they? An article in The New Republic by Caroline Elkins disputes that myth.
Tham Yong remembers the events that took place in Batang Kali in early December 1948 with disturbing clarity. It was the early days of the communist insurgency in Malaya, and British soldiers had arrived in her village. They singled out scores of Chinese civilians, accusing them of supplying the communists with food. The women were loaded onto trucks and taken away, though not before they witnessed British troops leading off two dozen men and shooting them in the back. Two days later, when Tham returned to look for her fiancé, she found mutilated bodies with heads hacked off and genitals smashed. The surrounding village had been reduced to ashes.
A British Mi Lai or standard sperating procedure? According to Elkins, more SOP than Mi Lai.
More characteristic of the British campaign were military tactics like the "pseudo-gang" model, which British forces used to take aim at some 9,000 members of the Malayan Races' Liberation Army (mrla), whose hit-and-run tactics and knowledge of local terrain frustrated colonial troops. Employing local Chinese sympathizers in the ranks of pretend terrorist gangs, British forces tracked down mrla forces in the jungles and rooted most of them out by 1958. This campaign was riddled with abuses. The corpses of guerrillas were routinely put on display. Decapitation was also practiced: A photograph of a Marine commando holding two insurgents' heads caused an outcry in the spring of 1952. Privately, the British government noted that "there is no doubt that under international law a similar case in wartime would be a war crime."

Britain's campaign against the Min Yuen, or the Chinese civilian supporters of the mrla, was similarly brutal. To sever the supply lines between the Min Yuen and the mrla, the British, as they did in nearly all of their counterinsurgency efforts, created a police state. They passed a host of measures—some 149 pages of regulations in all—that included search and seizure, curfews, strict food controls, and the right to detain without trial. This last emergency power was used liberally, with nearly 34,000 people detained in a labyrinth of camps.

It was, though, Britain's creation of barbed-wire villages that took the heaviest toll. Nearly the entire Chinese population of 400,000 to 500,000 were forced from their homes and were resettled into some 400 heavily guarded barbed-wire villages. They were deprived of all civil rights, and they endured great physical and emotional abuse. One journalist described how the British police routinely resorted to brutality: "To many of these sergeants, every Chinese was a bandit or a potential bandit, and there was only one treatment for them; they were to be 'bashed around.'" Villagers like Tham, who survived the Batang Kali massacre, endured years of abuse and hardship before submitting to colonial control. As in other parts of Britain's empire, it was the stick, not the carrot, that eventually broke civilian support for the insurgency.
When I read Elkin's piece, two words leaped into my mind: "strategic hamlets".
In 1962, the Strategic Hamlet programme was introduced. For sometime the governments of South Vietnam and the United States had been concerned about the influence of the NLF on the peasants. In an attempt to prevent this they moved the peasants into new villages in areas under the control of the South Vietnamese army. A stockade was built around the village and these were then patrolled by armed guards.

This strategy failed dismally and some observers claimed that it actually increased the number of peasants joining the NLF. As one pointed out: "Peasants resented working without pay to dig moats, implant bamboo stakes, and erect fences against an enemy that did not threaten them but directed its sights against government officials."
Exactly the same strategy used by the British in Malaysia with terrible results. This is the same basic strategy Krepinevich is pushing with his oil-spot strategy with one wrinkle, he'd put the barbed wire around existing villages.

But if you think about it, foreign troops in a city or village controlling access and movement are not really in a position to win hearts and minds. As I've said many times, the only entity with the ability to do that is a legitimate native government and it's duly raised security force. It is that force which must win the hearts and minds, not any other.

In fact, it appears, the British were lucky in Malaysia. Essentially the same template was applied in Vietnam and didn't work at all. Krepinevich's variation on those themes has no chance of success either.

The path we are following there now, in my opinion, has the best chance of success. We are not there to win the hearts and minds, we are not there to win the insurgency, we are there to train the legitimate Iraqi government to do both of those things (and buy the time necessary to make the training effective). Thankfully the insurgency is its own worst enemy and has failed miserably in winning Iraqi hearts and minds. In fact, it seems bound and determined to alienate the majority of the population.

The strategy we're involved in now is the right strategy for Iraq and what we need to do now is stay the course.
 
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The Strategic hamlets program WAS modeled on the British in Malaysia. It was ineffective in Vietnam because the VC were NOT an identifiable ethnic group, whereas in Malaysia they were. MOST of the terrorists/guerillas in Malaysia were Chinese. By separating the base of support from the operating forces the British deprived the guerillas of the support they needed to operate. In Vietnam we would have had to move a MAJORITY of the populace into a protected hamlet to keep the VC from being able to interfere with or receive support from the people of Vietnam.

"Tache d’huile" is the strategy necessary to defeat an insurgency... the question is who provides the "oil" for the "spots." The US was unable, alternatively unwilling, to provide the forces and had to hold the line whilst the Iraqi forces came on-line.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
It was ineffective in Vietnam because the VC were NOT an identifiable ethnic group, whereas in Malaysia they were. MOST of the terrorists/guerillas in Malaysia were Chinese. By separating the base of support from the operating forces the British deprived the guerillas of the support they needed to operate. In Vietnam we would have had to move a MAJORITY of the populace into a protected hamlet to keep the VC from being able to interfere with or receive support from the people of Vietnam.
And in Iraq, all we’d have to do is what, Joe ... isolate the sunnis?

Yeah, that’d work.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
"But if you think about it, foreign troops in a city or village controlling access and movement are not really in a position to win hearts and minds. As I’ve said many times, the only entity with the ability to do that is a legitimate native government and it’s duly raised security force. It is that force which must win the hearts and minds, not any other."

Read the book, The Village, by Bing West. It was about a USMC program in vietnam where a Marine squad would live in a village and patrol along with local militia.

Very successful.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
McQ Strategic Hamlets/Concentration Camps are NOT Tache d’Huile tactics... I made no suggestion that we institute a Strategic Hamlets program. I was commenting on Malaysia and Vietnam, mostly. CAP, which Harun, mentions IS a part of a Tache d’Huile" strategy, and was modertely succesful in Vietnam.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Read the book, The Village, by Bing West. It was about a USMC program in vietnam where a Marine squad would live in a village and patrol along with local militia.

Very successful.
It’s the same point I’ve been making about McMasters and the 3rd ACR.

But they didn’t use the "strategic hamlet" approach or occupy the village and "spread out" from there.

They embed with the local forces and keep them focused and build goodwill with the local populace. More like the advisor’s role in VN. They help train the Iraqi forces and they become the "good guys".

We should be facilitators, not occupiers and I think that is the thing the experience of both McMasters and West point too.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I made no suggestion that we institute a Strategic Hamlets program.
And I’m pointing out that the oil spot strategy is simply a variation of the Strategic Hamlet program.

I said nothing one way or the other about "Tache d’Huile tactics" ...

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Take it with a grain of salt- it is a few centuries detached from this and a bit more ’theoretical’ or generalist, but I love to quote Machiavelli on War. He has this one chapter ’On Fortresses’ (I originally posted it here, with original links: http://pmclassic.blogspot.com/2006/03/machiavelli-on-fortresses.html).

To me here is the key paragraph, make of it what you will in reference to the hamlets or villages or general ’modern’ counter-insurgency strategy.

"But let us come to the Republics which build fortresses, not within their own country, but inside the towns they acquire. And if the example given of France and Genoa are not enough to demonstrate the fallacy of this, those of Florence and Pisa will be enough for me; for the Florentines build fortresses in order to hold that City, and did not understand that to hold a City which was always hostile to Florentine rule, had lived in freedom, and had resorted to rebellion as a refuge for liberty, it was necessary in wanting to observe the old Roman method, either to make her an associate or to destroy her: for the virtu of fortresses is seen in the coming of King Charles, to whom they all surrendered, either through the treachery of those who guarded it, or from fear of a greater evil: for if there had not been one, the Florentines never would have based their holding Pisa on it, and the King [of France] could never in that manner have deprived the Florentines of that City: and the means by which they had maintained it up to that time would perhaps have been sufficient to preserve it, and without doubt would have stood the test better than the fortress."
 
Written By: Sunguh
URL: http://pmclassic.blogspot.com
And I’m pointing out that the oil spot strategy is simply a variation of the Strategic Hamlet program.


No it isn’t... Tache d’Huile... "Oil Spot" from the French program instituted in the pacification of Indo-China post 1880, simply means placing outposts EVERYWHERE...the pacification spreads out as the outpost spread out, a la an oil spot on water.
What Krepinevich proposes is based on the French program, using the same name, translated, that’s all. But NO, Oil Spot does NOT mandate, require, nor is it predicated upon concentration camps (BTW, the phrase concentration camp is a COIN term, emerging in the 1890’s in Cuba as the Spanish forces "Concentrated" the rural population in defensible camps to prevent their support of Cuban insurgents).

What the British did in Malaysia is NOT based on the French program of the 19th Century but harkens back to their actions in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) when the British placed Boer civilians in "concentration camps", i.e., the populace was CONCENTRATED to combat the Boer guerrillas. In fact Strategic Hamlets and it’s British counter-part can be seen of as the opposite of Oil Spot/Tache d’Huile. Under concentration one brings the populace under your control by moving them to YOU, whereas Oil Spot can be properly thought of as you moving out to the POPULACE in the form of small detachments.

The Marine CAP program and a number of CIA/CORDS programs had similar operational methods. I don’t think CAP or CORDS or the PRU’s the SEALS supported would have "won" Vietnam, BTW. Oil Spot works when there is no large, organized opposition forces to snap up the small detachments. In Vietnam the NVA and VC Main Force units would have destroyed the smaller US/Vietnamese detachments.

Hearts and Minds, 3rd ACR, or Oil Spot work where the occupier, for wont of a better term, can spread out into small groups, because the opposition can not operate in large units, a la Iraq.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Great post and analysis!! Thanks!
 
Written By: Marlin
URL: http://
Yes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
Good CindyB, I’m glad you finally can. The war by almost ANY metric is winding down in Iraq, IED attacks, VBIEDS, US casualties, IRAQI casualties, for the last 6 months have been FALLING. You might not have noticed that in the NYT and the LAT because of their focus on "Civil War", but fewer people are dying in Iraq...and the Insurgency is dying out as Sunni’s begin to realize that Zarqawi is only likely to get a bunch of Sunni’s killed in any resulting civil war and that the National Government is increasingly capable, meaning that they can join up or get left behind. So welcome aboard CindyB good to have you with us.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
No it isn’t... Tache d’Huile... "Oil Spot" from the French program instituted in the pacification of Indo-China post 1880, simply means placing outposts EVERYWHERE...the pacification spreads out as the outpost spread out, a la an oil spot on water.
It doesn’t matter Joe .. it still requires US the to take and hold land. And it calls for US to defeat the insurgency.

And as I’ve been saying forever that isn’t our job.

Sheesh.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Sorry if it annoys you McQ... it was more of a Historical Debate on my part...plus yes, YOU were incorrect in your understanding of the Oil Spot.
And as I’ve been saying forever that isn’t our job.
True and yet not true... Yes the Iraqi’s ultimately have to run their own country, but much of the initial heavy lifting was done by the US and the US has to provide the training and much of the equipment for the Iraqi forces, otherwise Iraq is just likely to end up with the same brutal, corrupt and incompetent sort of army it has traditionally had. So in the long-run the US has only an indirect contribution to make, but in the short-run we had a vital direct contribution. And the insurgency was prevented from spreading by US actions and a civil war prevented, so the US secured Iraq.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
plus yes, YOU were incorrect in your understanding of the Oil Spot.
Uh, no I’m not, Joe.

Unless you’re going to "spread" in the desert with no urban areas of any type, eventually you’re faced with contolling an urban area or 50.

What then?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
It’s an analogy.... and if the people are spread out in 50 or 100 or 2 places that’s where you go. The idea is to place small detachments EVERYWHERE, it’s the military equivalent of "Community Policing."
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
The idea is to place small detachments EVERYWHERE, it’s the military equivalent of "Community Policing."
Which is precisely what the Iraqis can do and we can’t.

Thus, Krepinevich’s oil spot strategy, as he presented it, won’t work.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
McQ I didn’t read Krepinevich’s article... I did like The Army and Vietnam. So he advocated that the US adopt the strategy as opposed to the COALITION forces, Iraqi and foreign forces? I think it’s true that the US and foreign forces really don’t have the manpower to succeed.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe: the point is the strategy is based in the twin premises that the US should be involved in winning hearts and minds of the people and defeating the insurgency (whether w/ coaliton partners and Iraqis or not).

Not. Our. Job.

That’s what I’ve been trying to get across.

If the Iraqis want to employ such a strategy, fine, then they should. It stands a much better chance of succeeding with them executing it alone.

Our inclusion, in a combat role, in any such strategy risks them being seen as a puppet force - an illegitimate force - and thus losing (or at least not winning) hearts and minds. That could have the effect of keeping at least a low level insurgency alive for years and years.

They must win the hearts and minds of their people - alone. They must defeat the insurgency - alone.

Our job is to make them mission capable to do both of those things. Nothing more.

In my estimation that is the only way Iraq survives.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
McQ I respectfully disagree, YES the bulk of the end-game fighting will be and must be borne by the Iraqi’s but a lot of the important combat has already been undertaken by the US forces, already. And the in the end I think it important that the US be there too. There’s a difference between the US in Vietnam, where we came to teach the "Little People" how to make war and conducting combat operations in conjunction with our Iraqi partners. And the truth is the Iraqi’s are going to be dependent on the US for logistical and staff support throughout this period and well into the post-war period. It does seem that much of the back of the insurgency has already been broken, that has been due to the efforts of Iraqi’s and US forces...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
YES the bulk of the end-game fighting will be and must be borne by the Iraqi’s but a lot of the important combat has already been undertaken by the US forces, already.
Yes it has, but not under the guise of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people nor have we been focused on "defeating the insurgency".

I’m sure we would be happy if that happend, but neiter are critical to our mission.

Our stated mission is to provide the space and time both the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces need to stand up, become effective and wage (and win) the war against the insurgency.

They are the ones who have to win the hearts and minds of the people and, in the end, it is they who will (must) defeat the insurgency. To pretend either of those things are our mission is to confuse the mission.

We are the middle game. The Iraqis, alone, are the end game.
And the truth is the Iraqi’s are going to be dependent on the US for logistical and staff support throughout this period and well into the post-war period.
Possibly ... but that has nothing directly to do with the battle for the hearts and minds of the poeple.
It does seem that much of the back of the insurgency has already been broken, that has been due to the efforts of Iraqi’s and US forces...
Or its own folly ... which it is isn’t exactly clear (probably both). I mean if I were ever going to write a book on how not to conduct an insurgency, I’m pretty sure this insurgency would be the case study.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
The war by almost ANY metric is winding down in Iraq, IED attacks, VBIEDS, US casualties, IRAQI casualties, for the last 6 months have been FALLING.
Sorry, but when those numbers were climbing, the pro-war side was arguing that attacks and casualties were not the metrics for success. We can’t turn around now and say that they are the metrics for success.

It’s a political fight now, and that’s definitely progress. But those declining numbers can turn around instantly if the political problems are not resolved. Security issues only provide the environment in which the real problems can be worked out, and the real problems have long been sectarian tensions.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Sorry, but when those numbers were climbing, the pro-war side was arguing that attacks and casualties were not the metrics for success. We can’t turn around now and say that they are the metrics for success.
I agree. As I pointed out they are trends, and heartening trends at that, but they could be explained in many different ways besides "we’re winning".

For instance, I heard a COL interviewed today who said that in his area insurgents typically surged and then that subsided for a while and then they surged again. So some of the numbers may be on the bottom end of the surge and the rise this month could be a renewed surge.

How quickly they are able to surge again is probably more indicative of their strength than the simple number of attacks they make.

That being said, the COL, on his second tour, said that between his first and second there has been a heck of a lot of obvious progress in Iraq, and it was a much better place than the one he’d left after the first tour.

That’s good news.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I am happy that the 3rd ACR is doing so well. That’s just swell. Is the rest of the army doing as well?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
McQ, Joe, thanks for a great discussion. Counter-insurgency absolutely SUCKS and knowing that smart people are actually getting some traction with new and modified ideas helps me to keep from getting too depressed about it.

yours/
peter
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
A very interesting story made yet another scandal for
the White House:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/01/AR2006050100854_pf.html
At the end of a basic training ceremony, Iraqi Army
recruits in Anbar province tore off their uniforms and
refused to serve. According to the Wash. Post:

The protest was triggered by an announcement that the
new soldiers, all residents of Anbar province —
widely considered the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni Arab
insurgent movement — would be required to serve
outside their home towns and outside the province as
well.

To me, having posted Mr. Metz’s 2003 article on the
Iraq insurgency, I am encouraged that someone finally,
in effect, said: Rumsfeld goes or we go!

To understand this view, one must first recall the
imperial McNamara solution to the Vietnam War: a large
central army. I was in Danang Airport waiting for my
plane to Saigon when I met and ARVN soldier on
emergency leave to go back home to his Mekong Delta
village. He was stationed in a unit near Danang and
the local Viet Cong Committee of his village tried to
talk him into deserting, using the well known
nice—>mean "binh van" tactics scripted way back by
Lenin. First he was sent requests to return to protect
his family; then he was sent a death warrant if he did
not desert; then he was sent a threat to his family;
finally, he received a package with a small child’s
hand in it. Thinking it was his young son’s, he asked
leave to return home. There was no other way to
confirm that. I have no idea what happened. But the
story came to mind when I read the above story about
the Anbar training camp. In fact, we succeeded in
Vietnam only after the Tet Offensive, when we
concentrated our assets and efforts into training
local forces— RFs and PFs— to resist the VC from the
villages. That spelled the end of the Viet Cong and
the war became against Hanoi’s regular troops sent
south.

Let us remember that Rumsfeld ordered our "liberator"
troops to not interfere with looting, violence and
murder after Saddam fell on grounds that "freedom is
messy." Thus, the insurgency began as a crime spree.
As a result, we could not disarm people; they needed
their AK-47s to protect their homes. It was only when
our troops came under constant attack that all Iraqis
were deemed suspect of trying to kill our troops until
proven innocents.

The more we preempted, barging into homes in the
middle of the night, the more we turned the Iraqis
into outraged resistors. Soon they went from avenging
insults to their Iraqi dignity to avenging dead
relatives. Apparently none of Gen. Sanchez’s
commanders read Lora Blumenfeld’s book REVENGE, as
seen by Mediterranean peoples. We kept, as Metz wrote,
assuming that we were dealing with Jihadists from
abroad. And so, as in Vietnam, when we realized that
we couldn’t stay, we concentrated on building up an
Iraqi army to replace ours.

To make a long story short, we turned an unleashing of
criminals into a foreign Jihadist insurrection from
abroad (for Rumsfeld ideology substituting for
intelligence). And so we focused on creating a Shi’ite
Army to protect against Sunni insurgents and then a
Sunni Army to protect against Shi’ia Death Squads (not
to speak of the Kurd Peshmerga we fully armed). When
we tried to put it all together into a national army
that we control, we only repeated the ARVN catastrophe
of mass desertions.

But now the lowest soldiers have made it clear that
this is a LOCAL war, to protect their neighborhoods
and villages. Perhaps now Mr. Bush will go the next
step and fire Rumsfeld and replace our military
trainers with able Arab speaking advisers who can
train local police forces to protect their own
families.

At the same time, withdrawing our troops on a fixed
schedule and asking the UN to replace us with police
advisers will refocus this war into the many local
wars that it really is. The Central Government can be
helped by us with reconstruction funds that are
performance standards based (their corruption could
never be as bad as that of our contractors).

In the end we may not get credit for Iraq’s police
suppression of a bandit insurgency fought and won at
the local level, the UN police advises will, but them
we also will be remote from any final failure if it
occurs. Yet I really think that our ability to
persuade Iraq at the central and local levels will
only manifest once we remove our ham-bone military and
empower Iraqis one local sector at a time.

Daniel E. Teodoru



 
Written By: deteodoru
URL: http://

 
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