NATIONAL SECURITY: by Colonel Wal Riley (retd)News Weekly
How to fight global terrorism
, June 9, 2007
Colonel Wal Riley (ret'd) draws parallels between the Islamic precept of jihad, as applied in the contemporary world to terrorism, and Mao Zedong's concept of revolutionary guerrilla war which put the Communist Party into power in China, and was subsequently exported throughout the Third World. To fight terrorism, he says Australia must learn the lessons of guerrilla war.The current and major threat identified in the Defence Update 2005 is, not surprisingly, terrorism, and it quite rightly refers to a whole-of-government approach to dealing with this threat.
For the first time in over 30 years, defence planners have been able to identify a real threat. In the past 30 years, planning has been based on there being no identifiable threat and an expectation of a 10-year warning-time of any future developing threat - this despite increasing instability in our region and elsewhere in the world over the period.
We have certainly received no 10 years' warning or preparatory time. It is true to say that Australian defence planning has to date been based on a reactive, rather than a proactive, stance. The result of our past approach is that our defence forces, and particularly the army, have suffered severe reductions in strength and capability. The outcome is that we have been caught with an under-strength and unbalanced army.Wake-up call
Events in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and the Solomon Islands have provided a wake-up call. Fortunately, our commitments have been small enough for the defence force, to its credit, to be able to struggle through and as usual to succeed, despite the years of neglect.
However, it is evident that the world is becoming more unstable, and Australia must look further into the future so that the roles, structure and organisation of security and defence forces may be appropriate to deal with a developing situation. We must establish just where this war against terrorism is leading us.
The continuing war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the earlier Vietnam War, illustrate what small countries with very limited resources can do against large highly-trained, high-tech conventional forces, and how they can win, particularly, by waging a long-term guerrilla war.
However, what we see now is the beginning of a much more sophisticated plan to unify the Muslim world to fight a long-term, phased, probably global, holy war (jihad
), and they have at hand a ready-made, tested and effective concept on which to base it.
I refer to the concept of revolutionary war as developed by the Chinese communists which proved so effective, initially in China, and subsequently in South-East Asia (e.g., Vietnam) and in Africa, with significant impact on Western nations such as France, the United States and Australia.
Revolutionary war is quite flexible and has no time limits. It therefore exploits a basic weakness in Western nations where the people simply do not accept a prolonged war, and certainly not a war lasting 50 to 100 years or more.
The revolutionary war concept, as developed by the Chinese, comprises three flexible stages, and progresses from stage to stage as, and when, a stage is deemed successful. If it is found that the progress is premature, they simply revert to the earlier stage. The three stages, simply stated, are as follows:Stage One
: This is the covert, infiltration stage. Vulnerable nations are identified - usually those governed by corrupt, inefficient, oppressive governments, where the gap between rich and poor is great and where society contains elements likely to be sympathetic to the jihad
Infiltrators will gain entry into government departments, security and intelligence agencies, armed forces, political parties, community organisations, industrial unions, local authorities, universities - anywhere in which they can gain positions of some authority - to be in a position, when the time comes, to cause disaffection, strikes, subversive activities and generally undermine the system of government.
At the same time, they aim to win the hearts and minds of the people. Selective assassination and acts of terrorism may begin. Training cadres and camps will be established in preparation for advancing to stage two.
In the case of countries deemed to be enemies (i.e., Western nations), the pattern of infiltration will be similar to the above. It will include an influx of genuine immigrants who can later be exploited by follow-up religious leaders and cadres with the aim of fomenting disaffection among migrants, general loss of confidence in governments and general demoralisation of the populace.
This would include acts of terrorism. The time-scale of stage one will depend on the degree of success achieved.Stage Two
: Overt activities and operations are the signature of this stage. Terrorist acts intensify, guerrilla bases and training areas are established (often outside the borders of the country concerned), and hit-and-run operations against police and military and soft targets begin.
Over time these operations intensify, coordination improves and the scale of operations rises with the aim of demoralising the civil power and armed forces.
Winning hearts and minds continues to be important. The guerrilla army will be sheltered by, hidden in, operate from and be indistinguishable from the local population. However, those opposing the jihad
will be dealt with ruthlessly.
Eventually, areas considered of tactical, strategic and political importance will be occupied and held. Forces will be built up, trained and tested against the armed forces of the country at unit and formation level preparatory to upgrading operations to stage three. The time-scale is indeterminate.Stage Three
: This final stage will occur when the jihad
forces are properly organised, trained and equipped and the opposing peoples and forces are suitably demoralised, confused, and sickened and their forces dispersed among numerous hot-spots around the world.
The aim of this stage is to finally defeat the opposing armed forces, bring about the fall of governments and assume control of the country or countries. In the unlikely event of failure, the jihad
will drop back to stage two, or even stage one if necessary.
Given the right conditions, a stage may be leap-frogged, as seen in Iraq. It is quite likely that the Iraqi forces, having been badly beaten in the first Gulf War, realised the futility of fighting a conventional war against the US-led coalition and opted for a fighting withdrawal and a reversion to a guerrilla war (stage two). This may now have been hijacked by the purveyors of jihad
To attempt to spell out the counter-measures necessary to prevent or defeat an enemy employing the concept of revolutionary war is beyond the scope of this article. This will require the development and production of manuals and perhaps a government war-book, detailing policies and action required of both civil and military authorities.
However, there are certain principles that must be observed to have any chance of defeating an enemy fighting a revolutionary type war. These include:
a. The selection of our political, strategic and hence our military aim must be done with great care and be free of consideration of revenge, economic gain and guesswork. Surely an overriding factor must relate to the future well-being of the people of the nation concerned.
b. Backing or supporting an unpopular, corrupt, inefficient, oppressive government is totally counter-productive and plays into the hands of the insurgents. On the other hand, if a government can be persuaded to change its ways, or hand over to a government that will, then victory may be possible in stage one or before.
c. There is no purely military solution. Action is required by the whole of government. Civil and military action must be closely coordinated. Stage one, for example, is the province of the civil power, with possibly some military support (e.g., special forces back-up for police and intelligence agencies). Stages two and three require civil and military coordination with escalating military involvement.
d. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is of over-riding importance and any action taken, both civil or military, must take this into account. For example:
i) We must be aware and respectful of the culture and the people of the nations concerned.
ii) Except in stage three, this war cannot be fought in the conventional manner using massive fire-power and maximum violence. Discretion must be used when operating in areas where innocent civilians are at risk. As far as possible, avoid the use of heavy, area weapons in such circumstances. Killing or maiming civilians is seriously counter-productive.
iii) As far as possible, endeavour to isolate the enemy from the people. Conversely, do not isolate ourselves from the people.
iv) Treat prisoners as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. To do otherwise is counter productive.
e. A closely coordinated civil and military intelligence system is essential.
f. Borders must be controlled.
g. Do not under-estimate the enemy.
h. From a military point of view, it is clear that our forces must be prepared to operate in a wide range of environments and situations, including peace-keeping, aid to civil power, guerrilla and conventional wars.Global and local threat
Previous conflicts, fought in the revolutionary war manner, and involving Western nations, have been confined to individual countries. In the future, the situation will almost certainly involve multiple countries.
The jihadists' strategic aim will include drawing Western nations in and causing them to dissipate their resources and over-commit themselves. The US peacetime army is already close to this situation, as is the Australian army. Assuming that this is part of the aim of the jihad
, the Western nations need to examine this aspect very carefully and determine how to handle it.
How will Australia handle it? We are already committed to Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, the Solomons, Tonga and numerous UN tasks. What happens if PNG falls apart or, worse still, Indonesia? Indonesia, with its large Muslim population, must be a prime target for the jihad
It is highly likely that those responsible for terrorism and threatening jihad
will have considered pursuing revolutionary war as a means of increasing their power globally and eventually wearing down and possibly defeating the Western powers. It is therefore appropriate that the implications of this possibility be seriously considered and counter-measures be identified across the whole of government.
It is time now for a proactive approach to defence and security planning, and it needs to be considered in a global context.
Terrorism is only the beginning of our problems and there is a distinct possibility that the threatened jihad
will follow the pattern of the revolutionary war as developed by Chairman Mao. It is therefore essential that the implications of this likelihood be carefully examined without further delay.