Oil, and the Evolution of Islamism in the Middle East – Michael A. Palmer

Synopsis:

Michael A. Palmer chronicles the rise of twentieth century Islamism – i.e. the militant politicized form of Islam – in his book the The Last Crusade, and finds its origins in the myriad failures of Arab nationalism. According to Palmer, local nationalism was inspired by European geopolitics in the region, and Islamism by the waning of such nationalism following episodes of Arab weakness vis-à-vis the West – particularly concerning Israel.

Excerpts:

“The Americans gained their first penetration into the Middle East oil market in 1928, although at the cost of abandoning its Open Door principle. On July 31, 1928, British, Dutch, French, and American oil companies signed the famous ‘Red Line Agreement,’ establishing a cartel controlling oil exploration and production in the region.

“From 1920 to 1939 oil production had increased dramatically, by 900 percent, largely because of American involvement. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain had joined Persia as major producers. In 1920 the United States produced about 95 percent of the world’s oil; by 1939 that number had fallen to about 86 percent.

“Nixon shaped a policy that would avoid committing American forces, most especially ground troops. His Nixon Doctrine turned responsibility for regional defense to local states. In Indochina this policy became known as ‘Vietnamization’; in the Persian Gulf it took the form of the ‘Twin Pillars,’ or a reliance on Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“After 1975 no one viewed Lebanon as a template for sectarian coexistence. The Lebanese experiences also marked the shift in the nature of terrorists acts – from those employed by a ‘national liberation front’ organization, such as the PLO, to those employed by Islamic fundamentalists.

“Arafat had supported Hussein and the invasion of Kuwait, and with the Iraqis’ collapse the Palestinians were persona non grata in many of the gulf states, especially Kuwait. The first Intifada, which had begun in 1987, came to an abrupt end in 1991.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Last Crusade: Americanism and the Islamic Reformation, Potomac Books, Inc.

Keeping a World Intact – George F. Kennan

Synopsis:

George Kennan’s book Russia and the West chronicles early Soviet international politics under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin as well as Joseph Stalin. Russian diplomacy vis-à-vis the West is the emphasis, and Kennan offers keen analysis concerning Soviet intentionality. In his final chapter “Keeping a World Intact” Kennan endeavors to harmonize points of friction with geopolitical realism to construct a workable American/Soviet diplomatic model for the Cold War.

Excerpts:

“Stalin was a dangerous man to the end; and almost to the end, he remained unchallenged in his authority. But the men around him served him, throughout those final years, in a sullen, guarded silence, expecting nothing and waiting only for the hand of Time to take him.

“By this opposition to the very institutions of the West, the Russian Communists offered to the will of the Western peoples a species of defiance for which they have had no patent other than their own unlimited intellectual arrogance.

“Russian governments have always been difficult governments to do business with. This is nothing new in kind – if anything is new about it – it is only a matter of degree.

“People who have only enemies don’t know what complications are; for that, you have to have friends; and these, the Soviet government, thank God, now has.

“The first to go, in my opinion, should be self-idealization and the search for absolutes in world affairs: for absolute security, absolute amity, absolute harmony. We are a strong nation, wielding great power. We cannot help wielding this power. It comes to us by virtue of our sheer size and strength, whether we wish it or not.

*All excerpts have been taken from Russia and the West: Under Lenin and Stalin, Mentor Book.

Leonard Wood and the American Occupation of Cuba – Lester D. Langley

Synopsis:

The grand design behind the American occupation of Cuba was to remake Cuban society into a cultural mirror image of the United States. White Progressive middle-class America was the model which arch Progressive Leonard Wood adopted for his system of governance. Ultimately, most of Wood’s reforms had a waning existence following his departure as centuries old Cuban culture reasserted itself. In his book on America’s early twentieth century armed interventions in the Caribbean, Lester Langley chronicles the political/military dynamics of the American occupation of Cuba.

Excerpts:

“When the vice-president of the provisional government, Domingo Mendez Capote, arrived in Washington in May 1898 to ascertain American policy, he learned that Cuban and Spanish conservatives were already pressing the Americans to remain after the Spanish surrender.

“The American military in Cuba was, by 1901, a skeletal force, its numbers drastically reduced since Wood became military governor in December 1899. Following the war, the Americans had paid off the Cuban rebels (at roughly seventy-five dollars per man) and created a Rural Guard, presumably apolitical, that undertook the task of policing the countryside and maintaining order in the towns.

“Preparation of Cuba for independence meant, of course, an educational system worthy of a young republic… The model curriculum, written by an officer on the governor’s staff, was patterned on the ‘Ohio Plan’ and emphasized preparation for citizenship and the acquisition of skills or the learning of a trade. Hispanic tradition was intentionally denigrated.

“Wood was convinced that filth explained Cuba’s epidemics of yellow fever, though an eccentric Cuban scientist (of Scottish ancestry), Dr. Carlos Findlay, argued correctly that the culprit was the mosquito. Wood’s vigorous sanitary campaign nonetheless probably helped to control another Cuban scourge, typhoid.

“When McKinley or Root or Wood spoke of Cuba, their comments were laced with references to its ‘special importance’ or ‘strategic position’ in the American geopolitical scheme. Cuba was vital and vulnerable – vulnerable to European machinations.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Banana Wars: United States Intervention in the Caribbean, 1898-1934, SR Books.

Nations in Arms – Daniel Moran

Synopsis:

Daniel Moran traverses the geostrategic landscape of the twentieth century Cold War era by keenly analyzing the Soviet policy of enabling wars of national liberation across the globe. Moran examines all of the major conflicts on every continent, and pieces together the root causes, political spectrum, as well as the tactical methodologies employed. Considering the scope of the narrative involved the book successfully blends brevity with wisdom.

Excerpts:

“Like ‘People’s Republic’, ‘National Liberation’ is a revolutionary slogan, designed to conceal sordid truths. It served to hurl back into the face of the oppressor the idea of the nation, which Europe invented, and the ideal of liberty, which the West cherishes above all others in politics, while deflecting attention from the methods and interests of the liberators themselves.

“Free societies have proved to be among the least common outcome of wars of national liberation; while such conflicts remain among the most worrisome in the eyes of professional soldiers called upon to fight them.

“The first theorist to note the historical preponderance of limited war, Carl von Clausewitz, did so at a time when most experts were convinced that the all-in conflagration of the Napoleonic era represented the perfection of earlier forms of fighting, from which there was no going back. Clausewitz, on the other hand, thought that wars fought to achieve the total defeat of an enemy would always be rare, for reasons arising from war’s character as a political instrument, and from the ‘friction’ that attended its use. War for limited objectives – a province, a concession, an apology, prestige – was the norm, and any strategic posture that failed to take this into account was likely to be discredited in the long run.

“The persistent complaint that Western armies since 1945 have fought for poorly defined goals is misleading if it is taken to mean that military and political objectives should automatically cohere, or that conditions in which they do not are always fraught with disaster. It is rather the case that war and politics, having briefly learned to speak something like the same language in the course of an all-encompassing global conflict, thereafter ceased to do so once the political stakes had shrunk to more normal proportions.

“Wars of national liberation are frequently represented as episodes of spontaneous combustion produced by pervasive misery and injustice: war as the product of revolution. Yet the opposite dynamic is equally apparent: revolution as a product of war, waged by a committed vanguard whose outlook does not command widespread support at the start, and who may obtain only grudging acquiescence even at the end… The line between political action and banditry, as Mao might have said, is one that mere persistence cannot erase.

*All excerpts have been taken from Wars of National Liberation, HarperCollins Publishers LLC.

Flashpoint: Taiwan – Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro

Synopsis:

The relationship between China and the United States in the 1980s as well as early 1990s spawned an internationalist strategic idealism in America toward China. However, in 1996 the United States was mugged by reality when the Taiwan Strait Crisis happened. The crisis acted as a prime mover for a return to realism in American foreign policy concerning its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – which has been further hastened in the last decade by the actions of Xi Jinping. This trend was still nascent in 1997 when the book The Coming Conflict with China was published, which dug into contemporary as well as historical points of friction between America and the CCP.

Excerpts:

“In his memoirs Kissinger reports that Secretary of State William Rogers objected to the Taiwan sentences on the grounds that they were an inaccurate description of the objective world. Not all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe that Taiwan is a part of China, Rogers maintained.

“While the other Chinese provinces, including disputed regions traditionally controlled by China, have been within the Chinese realm for thousands of years, Taiwan did not become a part of the national territory until the seventeenth century. Until then the island had been considered a wild place of impenetrable mountains and a malarial coastline inhabited by unfriendly aborigines with whom the Chinese had little or no contact. Indeed, the first outsiders to settle in Taiwan were not Mainland Chinese but Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch traders and explorers who first established forts there in the 1620s, the entire island becoming a Dutch possession around the middle of the century.

“The greatest danger in this sense stems from the evolution of Taiwan itself. At the time that China embarked on its March 1996 exercise in intimidation, a few pundits identified the real issue as not so much Taiwanese independence but Taiwanese democracy. Genuine popular sovereignty on Taiwan threatened to undermine the authority of the dictatorship in Beijing.

“Once Taiwan has been reabsorbed into the Mainland, the major cause of Sino-American friction will have been removed. The solution of China’s Taiwan problem in this sense would be the solution of America’s China problem. But if China were to embark on a military offensive against Taiwan, the United States would have little choice except to intervene and to put American forces at risk. Like it or not, Americans are already engaged in the battle, committed to a peaceful solution – that is, a solution agreed to by the people of Taiwan.

“Without an American commitment to intervene in a Taiwan-China conflict, there would be very little standing in the way of Chinese domination of all of East Asia, and this fact is well understood from Australia to Tokyo. The form of an American intervention could vary depending on Taiwan’s specific need and the ferocity of China’s assault. But whatever form the American involvement took, any war on the Taiwan Strait would be the beginning of a new stage of conflict between China and the United States, a move from strategic posturing across the Pacific to a war that will profit absolutely nobody.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Coming Conflict with China, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Rhodesia: Tactical Success, Operational, Strategic, and Political Failure – Peter A. Kiss

Synopsis:

The Rhodesian Bush War was a multi-phase civil war which lasted nearly two decades, and climaxed with the birth of the modern state of Zimbabwe. The complexion of the warfare was a nationalist insurgency, which the Rhodesian military was initially prepared for. However, major operational as well as tactical successes for Rhodesia in the 1960s bred strategic complacency among the political elite, and the military high command. By the mid 1970s the nationalist guerrilla forces opposing Rhodesia had a large footprint within the state, and the Rhodesian military had effectively lost control over the eastern border region. In 1980 the Rhodesian political and military elite finally capitulated, and the Marxist–Leninist Robert Mugabe became the elected sovereign of Zimbabwe.

Excerpts:

“Neither was Rhodesia strong enough to suppress the insurgency within the country and force the frontline states to curtail their support to the nationalist movements; it had no choice but to accept a protracted war. The government was constantly seeking reconciliation and a political solution (on its own terms), but neither the frontline states nor the nationalist movements were in a hurry; they felt that the ‘spirit of the age’ was on their side. Their calculation was correct: they managed to reduce Rhodesia’s initial advantages, survived the overwhelming tactical superiority of its security forces, prevented the international recognition of the majority-rule government that came about as a result of an internal settlement, and in 1980 won a complete victory.

“The commander, Combined Operations was first among equals – he had no command authority over either the commanders of the service branches or the chief of intelligence. Thus, instead of wielding a single military instrument consisting of highly specialized but closely integrated and mutually supporting services, the minister of Combined Operations (who had limited military experience) had to oversee and herd in one direction four separate organizations that competed with, and inevitably often hindered, one another.

“There were some effective and convincing radio programs and films, but communication directed toward the Africans was generally unsuccessful. The government effort to win over the undecided Africans by offering an alternative future was only half-hearted. This was a serious failure because the alternative future did exist.

“The Rhodesian authorities were not unprepared for the nationalist insurgency. Rhodesian forces had participated in the British Empire’s counterinsurgency operations… During the Malaya Emergency Rhodesian volunteers had formed one squadron of the Special Air Service (SAS), and between 1956 and 1958 an infantry battalion had also served in Malaya. In Kenya, Rhodesian officers had studied the causes of the Mau Mau rebellion, the tactics of the rebels and the security forces, and the measures applied in suppressing the insurgency.

“The forces available were simply too small to cover the huge border regions. Preventing the infiltration of small units is similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. In Rhodesia the force available to search was too small, the haystack was too big, and the needles were too small and too many.

*All excerpts have been taken from Winning Wars Amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict, University of Nebraska Press.

The Vietnam Syndrome – Richard Nixon

Synopsis:

The Real War presents Richard Nixon’s strategic philosophy for the Cold War. His chapter ‘The Vietnam Syndrome’ keenly describes the cerebral influence the Vietnam War had on America, and its allies. The chapter also offers Nixon’s perspective on how the Vietnam War was directed before he became president, as well as presenting his own objectives for the war while he was president.

Excerpts:

“If South Vietnam had only had to contend with invasion and infiltration from the North across the forty-mile-long DMZ, it could have done so without the assistance of American forces… But Hanoi was able to use sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia as staging grounds for its assault on South Vietnam. In addition to making hit-and-run tactics possible, these lengthened the border the South had to defend from 40 to 640 miles, not counting indentations.

“Diem’s fall was followed by political instability and chaos in South Vietnam, and the event had repercussions all over Asia as well. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan told me a few months later, ‘Diem’s murder meant three things to many Asian leaders: that it is dangerous to be a friend of the United States; that it pays to be neutral; and that sometimes it helps to be an enemy.

“We tried to wage a conventional war against an enemy who was fighting an unconventional war. We tried to mold the South Vietnamese Army into a large-scale conventional force while the principal threat was still from guerrilla forces, which called for the sort of smaller-unit, local-force response that had proved so successful in Malaya. American military policy-makers tended to downplay the subtler political and psychological aspects of guerrilla war, trying instead to win by throwing massive quantities of men and arms at the objective. And then, the impact even of this was diluted by increasing American pressure gradually rather than suddenly, thus giving the enemy time to adapt.

“At the heart of the Nixon Doctrine is the premise that countries threatened by communist aggression must take the primary responsibility for their own defense. This does not mean that U.S. forces have no military role; what it does mean is that threatened countries have to be willing to bear the primary burden of supplying the manpower.

“After their decisive defeat on the ground by South Vietnamese forces in the spring offensive and the destruction of their war-making capabilities by the December bombing, the North Vietnamese knew that militarily they were up against almost impossible odds. As the South Vietnamese economy continued to prosper far more than that of the North, Hanoi’s communist ideology had less and less appeal. Thieu’s Land to the Tiller program, for example, had reduced tenancy from 60 to 7 percent by 1973, a truly revolutionary development that undercut the communists’ argument that the government allied itself with the rich and oppressed the people. Also, the North Vietnamese knew that both the Soviets and the Chinese had a stake in their new relationship with us and might not be willing to endanger that relationship by providing military supplies in excess of those allowed by the Paris peace agreement of January 1973.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Real War, Warner Books Inc.

Counterintelligence – Allen Dulles

Synopsis:

Allen Dulles served as the first director of the CIA, and in that role he spawned many of the heterodox espionage conventions of the Cold War era. In his book The Craft of Intelligence Dulles dedicates a chapter to the business of counterintelligence, and offers many keen insights into the nascent operational strategies of the agency.

Excerpts:

“…counterespionage on our side is directly concerned with uncovering secret aggression, subversion and sabotage. Although such information is not, like positive intelligence, of primary use to the government in the formation of policy, it often alerts our government to the nature of the thrusts of its opponents and the area in which political action on our part may be required.

“The classical aims of counterespionage are ‘to locate, identify and neutralize’ the opposition. ‘Neutralizing can take many forms. Within the United States an apprehended spy can be prosecuted under the law; so can a foreign intelligence officer who is caught red-handed if he does not have diplomatic immunity. If he has immunity, he is generally expelled. But there are other ways of neutralizing the hostile agent, and one of the best is exposure or the threat of exposure. A spy is not of much further use once his name, face and story are in the papers.

“Although the purpose of counterespionage is defensive, its methods are essentially offensive. Its ideal goal is to discover hostile intelligence plans in their earliest stages rather than after they have begun to do their damage. To do this, it tries to penetrate the inner circle of hostile services at the highest possible level where the plans are made and the agents selected and trained, and, if the job can be managed, to bring over to its side ‘insiders’ from the other camp.

“While much of the daily work of counterintelligence is laborious and humdrum, its complex and subtle operations are very much like a gigantic chess game that uses the whole world for its board.

“In the end, however, his ability to get a foot in the door depends on the apparent quality of the information he is offering. Every intelligence service has the problem of distinguishing, when such unsolicited offers come along, between a bona fide volunteer and a penetration agent who has been sent in by the other side. This is no easy matter. If counterespionage succeeds in ‘planting’ its penetration agent with the opposing service, it is hoped that the agent, once he is hired by the opposition, will be given increasingly sensitive assignments. All of them are reported duly by the agent to the intelligence service running the ‘penetration.’

*All excerpts have been taken from The Craft of Intelligence, Rowman & Littlefield.

The Strategic Services Command Proposal – Keith Nightingale

Synopsis:

The proposal for a Strategic Services Command (STRATSERCOM) was the brainchild of E.C. Meyer in the 1980s following the Desert One debacle in Iran. The proposal sought to create an independent Special Operations Forces (SOF) full four-star unified command with a re-development of the Tier system. At the time the proposal was informally rejected, but later many of the recommendations would be adopted as law by the United States Congress in the 1990s – thereby granting exceptional autonomy to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Excerpts:

“The budget for special operations grew dramatically. In 1981, the Army special operations budget was $32 million. By 1983 it had risen to $440 million and by 1988, the total SOF budget was approximately $2.5 billion (though it represented only 1 percent of the total Department of Defense budget).

“The original concept was that each of the two Ranger battalions would rotate as a Tier One unit under the Army Component Commander as it assumed the six-week alert posture for Commanding General JSOC. The remaining battalion would be retained in Tier Two status.

“What General Meyer proposed was a unique concept with dramatic implications for DOD organizations. The rejection of the proposition by those required to change was completely consistent with DOD’s history, particularly its reaction towards special operations issues… STRATSERCOM was a child of his own vision of the world, a world that would require a form of support that the DOD was not capable of providing without a STRATSERCOM type of headquarters. He translated his vision into a deceptively simple graph that became the heart of the STRATSERCOM rationale.

“…objections that were raised were very general in nature. The consistent thread was concern that the force would be employed in a CINCs theater without prior coordination and would not work through the existing CINC structure. All agreed that the problems of low intensity combat in general and counter-terrorism specifically had to be addressed. USEUCOM endorsed the concept provided that deployed forces would report to him when in theater. No other CINC formally responded.

“Service staffs had expressed great concern over the force assignment issue. The Service Chiefs viewed the ‘assignment’ of forces to STRATSERCOM as a dangerous precedent, the Navy in particular. Service staffs informally recommended non-concurrence based on the possibility that future CINCs could demand the same command arrangements with concomitant loss of service control of component forces.

*All excerpts have been taken from Phoenix Rising: From the Ashes of Desert One to the Rebirth of U.S. Special Operations, Casemate Publishers.

Strategies of Deterrence and of Action: The Strategy Intellectuals – Russell F. Weigley

Synopsis:

The immediate post World War Two strategic landscape in the United States was dominated by the development of nuclear weapons, and their application. In his book on American strategic thought Russell Weigley includes a chapter on the ascendancy of the civilian national security establishment amid the primacy of the early nuclear age. As the Cold War progressed these civilian ‘strategy intellectuals’ would become influential on American strategic doctrine.

Excerpts:

“Choosing among weapons systems, however, necessarily required judgments among various possible strategies. Making choices among future weapons systems and strategies would necessarily also involve choices among forms of military organization. And choices involving strategy and organization would carry the analysis far into the realms of policy. The expanded form of operations analysis which began with the effort to analyze the uses of future as well as existing weapons came to be called ‘systems analysis.’

“As Kissinger saw it, the strategy of deterrence when expressed as the doctrine of massive retaliation was the strategy that really forswore the diplomatic and strategic initiative. It amounted to a renunciation of the use of force except to counter the most unambiguous forms of aggression, because the weapons to be employed were too horrendous to be fired in any less circumstances.

“The search for a new strategic doctrine must not be confused with the search for a better weapons technology and with technical answers to technical questions. To seek refuge in technology from hard problems of strategy and policy was already another dangerous American tendency, fostered by the pragmatic qualities of the American character and by the complexity of nuclear-age technology.

“More than Ridgway, Taylor renewed the argument that without adequate capacities for limited war, America not only would face defensive disadvantages but would be unable to seize initiatives, unable to secure positive advantages that must be won in the battle for a better world. Massive retaliation, General Taylor reiterated, ‘could offer our leaders only two choices, the initiation of general nuclear war or compromise and retreat.’ A strategy of flexible response, in contrast, ‘would recognize that it is just as necessary to deter or win quickly a limited war as to deter general war.

“Therefore Morgenstern recommended a new application of sea power: to use sea power to ensure an invulnerable capacity for nuclear retaliation against the enemy’s homeland. He recommended the acceleration and enlargement of the Polaris program, so that nuclear submarines in constant movement could serve to launch the American missile force…The endurance capacity of nuclear engines would minimize the dependence of both submarines and seaplanes on fixed bases; except for occasional refueling, their supplies could be replenished from ships themselves moving in random patterns.

*All excerpts have been taken from The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy, Russell Weigley, Indiana University Press.