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 Political Problems of Guerrilla Warfare – Mao Tse-tung

Synopsis:

On Guerrilla Warfare presents the ideological underpinnings of Mao Tse-tung’s theory of insurgency warfare. In true Clausewitzian style he devotes a chapter to the dynamic political dilemmas engendered by revolutionary guerrilla warfare.

Excerpts:

“Military action is a method used to attain a political goal. While military affairs and political affairs are not identical, it is impossible to isolate one from the other.

“A revolutionary army must have discipline that is established on a limited democratic basis.

“Officers should live under the same conditions as their men, for that is the only way in which they can gain from their men the admiration and confidence so vital in war. It is incorrect to hold to a theory of equality in all things, but there must be equality of existence in accepting the hardships and dangers of war.

“It is only undisciplined troops who make the people their enemies and who, like the fish out of its native element, cannot live.

“We further our mission of destroying the enemy by propagandizing his troops, by treating his captured soldiers with consideration, and by caring for those of his wounded who fall into our hands. If we fail in these respects, we strengthen the solidarity of our enemy.

*All excerpts have been taken from On Guerrilla Warfare, Mao Tse-tung, University of Illinois Press.

The Prerequisites for a Successful Insurgency – David Galula

Synopsis:

David Galula has long been considered the godfather of counterinsurgency warfare theory, and in his landmark book Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice he highlights the requisite components for success in both insurgency as well as counterinsurgency operations. The second chapter of the book examines the prerequisites critical for a robust insurgency to take hold within a state.

Excerpts:

“It follows that any country where the power is invested in an oligarchy, whether indigenous or foreign, is potential ground for a revolutionary war.

“The problem becomes particularly dangerous when the society does not integrate those who, by the level of their education or by their achievements, have proved to belong to the true elite. For it is among this rejected elite that the insurgents can find the indispensable leaders.

“The insurgent is not restricted to the choice of a single cause. Unless he has found an over-all cause, like anticolonialism, which is sufficient in itself because it combines all the political, social, economic, racial, religious, and cultural causes described above, he has much to gain by selecting an assortment of causes especially tailored for the various groups in the society that he is seeking to attract.

The police. The eye and the arm of the government in all matters pertaining to internal order, the police are obviously a key factor in the early stages of an insurgency; they are the first counterinsurgent organization that has to be infiltrated and neutralized. Their efficiency depends on their numerical strength, the competency of their members, their loyalty toward the government, and, last but not least, on the backing they get from the other branches of the government – particularly the judicial system.

“The border areas are a permanent source of weakness for the counterinsurgent whatever his administrative structures, and this advantage is usually exploited by the insurgent, especially in the initial violent stages of the insurgency. By moving from one side of the border to the other, the insurgent is often able to escape pressure or, at least, to complicate operations for his opponent.

*All excerpts have been taken from Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, David Galula, Praeger Security International.

Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare – CIA

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Synopsis:

The three recognized echelons of psychological operations are white, gray, and black. What is presented in the Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare is a covert black PSYOP monograph created by the United States Central Intelligence Agency for its semi-clandestine operations in Nicaragua in the 1970s against the Marxist-Leninist Sandinistas. The unorthodox complexion of the manual has engendered a somewhat controversial reputation.

Excerpts:

“The desired result is a guerrilla who can persuasively justify his actions when he comes into contact with any member of the People of Nicaragua, and especially with himself and his fellow guerrillas in dealing with the vicissitudes of guerrilla warfare.

“Armed propaganda includes every act carried out, and the good impression that this armed force causes will result in positive attitudes in the population toward that force; and it does not include forced indoctrination. Armed propaganda improves the behavior of the population toward them, and it is not achieved by force.

“When the cadres are placed or recruited in organizations such as labor unions, youth groups, agrarian organizations, or professional associations, they will begin to manipulate the objectives of the groups.

“Group discussions raise the spirit and increase the unity of thought in small guerrilla groups and exercise social pressure on the weakest members to better carry out their mission in training and future combat actions.

“As far as possible, it is recommended that all speeches be based on a syllogism, which the orator should adjust in his exposition. For example: ‘Those governing get rich and are thieves; the Sandinistas have enriched themselves governing; then, the Sandinistas are thieves.

*All excerpts have been taken from Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, Congressional Research Service.

Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa – Al J. Venter

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Synopsis:

In his book Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, wartime journalist Al J. Venter recounts the Portuguese counterinsurgency campaign conducted in their colonial possessions of Africa from 1961 to 1974. The Portuguese encountered well funded, and amply equipped nationalist insurgencies sponsored by both the Soviet Union as well as China. At the time Portugal was the second poorest state in Europe, but was resolute in maintaining its hold over Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau.

Distinct from Mozambique the Portuguese counterinsurgency operations employed in Angola, and Guinea-Bissau were militarily successful, but fiscally calamitous for the Portuguese state, and acted as a prime mover for the Carnation Revolution which brought about Portugal’s ultimate withdrawal from Africa.

Excerpts:

“…when the dust eventually settled and moderate minds were able to look at all these issues dispassionately, one of the first conclusions reached was that as in the Rhodesian and South African wars – slowly gathering their own momentum once the Portuguese had returned to Europe – the bulk of the people of all those countries tended to side with their own.

“Africans were increasingly brought into the administration of the territories and the changes that occurred at this point brought a new meaning to the concept of Africanisation. By the early 1970s this not only implied merely a growing percentage of locally recruited or black individuals incorporated in the regular forces fighting the nationalists, – in the same sense as the French jeunissement in Indochina – it now meant a process of creating and fostering combat units of Africans operating more or less irregularly and autonomously, and with high levels of operational efficiency.

“There should have been a succession of national elections in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, but by the time that Lisbon had delegated authority to the newly-emerged countries, all three had embraced hardline Marxist principles.

“The philosophy of using turncoats to fight for what was essentially a European-oriented cause – a concept, incidentally, that was later applied by the South Africans in their own Border Wars units like with Koevoet, the police counter-terrorist unit and 32 Battalion, and with considerable effect – was that every man taken prisoner was given an option. He either worked with them, the colonel explained, or ‘swish’, he drew his hand across his throat in the traditional cutthroat manner.

“Portugal’s assets were embarrassingly sparse when compared to what her adversaries were getting from the Soviet Union and China. In a sense, this was an African version of Vietnam, only Portugal was no America.

*All excerpts have been taken from Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, Helion & Company Limited.

The Rhodesian War: A Military History – Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin

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Synopsis:

Rhodesia was founded by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) in 1890 under the direction of South African mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, and his colonial partner Leander Starr Jameson. Known as Southern Rhodesia the colony was granted self-governing status by the British government in 1923 under the administration of the white European colonial minority, and soon burgeoned as an economic powerhouse in southern Africa.

By the 1950s the standard of living for the white Rhodesians was vastly superior to most of the British living in the United Kingdom, and was even higher than many parts of the United States. It was not unusual for a white family living in the suburbs of the capital of Salisbury to own a single family home with a swimming pool, a car, all the contrivances of modern life, as well as employing more than one black African domestic worker. However, the white minority government only sought to assimilate the black African communities living within the state at a snail’s pace, and maintained a sort of parochial paternalistic racism over the black Africans, which was deeply resented. These ethnic tensions, and the communist Cold War strategy of fostering Marxist-Leninist wars of national liberation would snowball into what became known as the Rhodesian Bush War. The outcome of the war was the extinction of the white settler state of Rhodesia, and the birth of Zimbabwe under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist and Pan-African ideologue Robert Mugabe.

In their book on the Rhodesian Bush War, Moorcraft and McLaughlin offer a political as well as military history of the war conveying thorough analysis of the tactics and strategies employed by the warring factions.

Excerpts:

“Rhodesia’s first concern, according to Prime Minister Ian Smith’s followers, was to prevent the spread of godless communism. But the war led to the triumph of a self-professed communist, Robert Mugabe. The most right-wing British prime minister in modern history, Margaret Thatcher, had inadvertently created the conditions for the first democratic electoral victory of a Marxist leader in Africa.

“The greatest paradox involved South Africa. Rhodesia broke away from Britain to avoid black rule and then, with the onset of the guerrilla war, became completely dependent upon an apartheid regime which subsequently became even more determined than London to establish a black premier in Salisbury, soon to be renamed Harare. Above all, Pretoria dreaded the possibility of a victorious Marxist army marching through the streets of Salisbury and Bulawayo, a precedent which it feared could be replicated in the Transvaal.

“The Zimbabwean nationalists called the whites ‘settlers’, but the ‘European’ population thought of themselves as Rhodesians, a nation in themselves, or a white African tribe at least.

“Many whites believed they were sincerely battling against communism to preserve a civilized Christian order; it was not merely to protect a three-servants-two-cars-one-swimming-pool way of life. But although the whites did fight long and hard, Rhodesia was not a militaristic society, despite the ubiquitous weaponry and uniforms. By 1979, as black rule became imminent, the whites looked back on the tragedies of the war. The mood was one of sorrow and resignation rather than anger; and they displayed a bruised pride in having survived for so long against such steep odds.

“…towards the end of the war, the Rhodesian military had begun to act as a state within a state. It was only the personal contacts between Smith and his service chiefs which kept the fiction of political supervision intact. With 95 per cent of the country under martial law, military dominance was inevitable.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Rhodesian War: A Military History, Stackpole Books.

Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency – Roger Trinquier

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Synopsis:

Serving as an infantry officer in myriad airborne units within the French Army, Roger Trinquier conducted counterinsurgency operations throughout the French conflicts in Indochina as well as Algeria. His experience in those conflicts guided his writing of Modern Warfare, which is a book conveying his lessons learned as well as his own theory of counterinsurgency. His methodology for counterinsurgency warfare involves a force architecture dependent on a prodigious organizational institutional apparatus usually outside the means of most states without a war economy in place.

Excerpts:

“…in modern warfare we are not up against just a few armed bands spread across a given territory, but rather against an armed clandestine organization whose essential role is to impose its will upon the population. Victory will be obtained only through the complete destruction of that organization. This is the master concept that must guide us in our study of modern warfare.

“We know that the sine qua non of victory in modern warfare is the unconditional support of a population.

“The war in Indochina and the one in Algeria have demonstrated the basic weapon that permits our enemies to fight effectively with few resources and even to defeat a traditional army. This weapon is terrorism.

“The best way to be well informed consists in introducing our own agents into the organization of the enemy and in corrupting his agents. This is a delicate task that only a few proven agents will be able to accomplish.

“The goal of the guerrilla, during what can be a long period of time, is not so much to obtain local successes as it is to create a climate of insecurity, to compel the forces of order to retire into their most easily defensible areas.

*All excerpts have been taken from Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency, Praeger Security International.