How David Beats Goliath

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How David Beats Goliath

Postby niklinna » Thu May 21, 2009 6:02 pm

I couldn't help but think of Erfworld while reading this article.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?printable=true
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Welf von Ehrwald » Sat May 23, 2009 2:15 pm

Inspiring article.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby AngryAngel » Sat May 23, 2009 9:39 pm

Insightful article. Unconvential tactics can have an incredibly powerful effect, on enemy morale as well as the battles themselves.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Bobby Archer » Sun May 24, 2009 12:20 am

Really interesting. And wholly appropriate to Erfworld. Insurgent thinking changes the way you look at a lot of situations.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Darkside007 » Sun May 24, 2009 3:46 pm

It's not "Effort vs. Ability" with effort winning, it's "cunning vs. raw talent" with cunning winning. The first way is just stupid.

Really my only problem with a pretty good article.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Housellama » Tue May 26, 2009 8:29 pm

The article is decent, but it's only one facet of the real thing. As far as strategy goes, Rob and James really, really know their stuff

Here: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/erf0137.html

This is a shining example of strategic thought. Especially Parson's correction of their goal. Holding the courtyard is not a solution. It is a way to mark time. It does nothing to prevent the enemy from trying again and again until they succeed. Parson's suggestion, OTOH, IS a solution. The difference is subtle but HUGE. I have to applaud James and Rob on this because damn, did they hit the nail on the head.

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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Bobby Archer » Wed May 27, 2009 1:24 am

I think the article as a whole is very good, and it would be a mistake to try to boil it down to "Effort vs Talent", although that is a part of the whole. I especially liked the examination of how the insurgent mindset is willing to come up with the "unthinkable" which I thought was very relevant to Erf.

And I certainly do agree that Rob and Jamie have their *boop* together with regard to tactics and strategy.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Kreistor » Wed May 27, 2009 4:42 am

*shakes head*

So many people don't understand how the insurgent strategy works. They think that since their strategy works, the larger force must be stupid or incompetent. Well, first, let's start with that small force. Does it take only cunning to win? Absolutely not.
1. Supplies. Without 'em, you starve.
2. Local support. If the locals don't assist you, they turn you in, and you have to keep movnig. Wihtout time, you can't plan, and all you can do is run until you can run no further.
3. Money. Closely related to supplies, but this comes down to maintaining 2 without stealing from the locals.
4. Access to munitions. This is the big thing that caused the US to succeed in Afganistan where the USSR failed. The US provided weapons to the mujahadeen during the 80's. In the US invasion, no one is doing the same, except in extremely limited form, so casualties are much, much lower.

Now, how does it all work? The insurgents hide, protected by a sympathetic populace. They find a target weaker than themselves and attack it. They then flee from the larger force that tries to hunt them down until it gives up. They then return, re-arm, and attack again.

Is there a solution? Yes. It's nasty. You won't like it. But when faced with a funded enemy with local support, there is only one solution. Destroy the local support. Outright annihilation of everyone, or at least until the locals realize that they either stop helping willingly, or they die and stop helping. It does work, if the larger force has the conviction to go through with it.

Oh, right... one other solution. Go to war with whomever is funding your insurgent enemy. Win and then go after the unfunded insurgency. Yeah, just as attractive, eh? A big war to stop a little war.

Is there any other solution? Well, there was one that worked for the Brits, but I'm not convinced it would work in all cases, especially where there are religious links between the populace and the insurgency. In one colony faced with insurgency in the 60's (I forget the name, sorry), they sent in the SAS. The SAS befriended the locals, providing food, medicine, etc., making life better. They kept all fighting away from the villages. Eventually, the local support was undermined, and the insurgency had no safe place to hide, so it was beaten. But, note, that took a long, long time. It was not a quick fix, and there was no political pressure from London to fix it immediately. Too often, the insurgents are causing massive damage creating a political will in the victimized peoples to suffer losses in a war. So the response is war, because politicos give people what they want. But the insurgency can counter this, too, if they lack morality. There are stories of Viet Cong cutting off the arms of any child inoculated by US forces. Fearing the insurgency can cause the locals to help out of fear, instead of sympathy.

The problem, ultimately, is not one of "talent" or "cunning" or "smartness". It's a problem of morality. An insurgent enemy is often immoral in the execution of their activities, including violations of the Geneva Convention such as hiding among civilians in civilian clothing, endangering civilians, and so on. The larger nation, however, is restricted by mandates of morality, and so are inherently hamstrung in how they can fight. This creates rules that the insurgents can abuse. Technically, the Geneva Convention need only be followed by a signatory when fighting another signatory, so in fighting an insurgency that has not signed the Convention, larger nations are not legally hamstrung: it is political hamstringing, placed there by a moral people that want to believe that morality will defeat immorality, so despite the Geneva Convention's lack of applicability, it is followed anyway.

You can look at it as stupidity if you want, but you're wrong. It's a problem inherent in the system of rules by which we limit the activities of our fighting forces. We cause our soldiers to die by asking them to be moral. When fighting an enemy that is reasonably moral, it works out okay. But against an immoral enemy, we suffer losses. That doesn't make our enemy smart, it makes our enemy immoral.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby malekith » Wed May 27, 2009 7:35 am

again, one side of the coin or one facet of the gem (or which ever cliche you want to put in).
I like the article and as others have said, its just one factor among many.
I love the way it touches on Sports, History, IT, Business, and other toipcs all in one article :D

Also:
http://www.giantitp.com/comics/erf0142.html - panel 4: 'Full court press' xD

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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Darkside007 » Wed May 27, 2009 12:44 pm

Kreistor wrote:*shakes head*

So many people don't understand how the insurgent strategy works. They think that since their strategy works, the larger force must be stupid or incompetent. Well, first, let's start with that small force. Does it take only cunning to win? Absolutely not.


In the examples the article gave, it was mostly tactical thinking that gave the smaller side the advantage. True insurgent warfare is different from the T.E. Lawrence and David vs. Goliath thing.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Maldeus » Wed May 27, 2009 1:31 pm

Kreistor wrote:*shakes head*

So many people don't understand how the insurgent strategy works. They think that since their strategy works, the larger force must be stupid or incompetent. Well, first, let's start with that small force. Does it take only cunning to win? Absolutely not.
1. Supplies. Without 'em, you starve.


Most insurgencies supply themselves with a day job. I don't think there's many full-time terrorists in your average insurgency.

2. Local support. If the locals don't assist you, they turn you in, and you have to keep movnig. Wihtout time, you can't plan, and all you can do is run until you can run no further.
3. Money. Closely related to supplies, but this comes down to maintaining 2 without stealing from the locals.


What do you spend money on if not supplies and munitions?

4. Access to munitions. This is the big thing that caused the US to succeed in Afganistan where the USSR failed. The US provided weapons to the mujahadeen during the 80's. In the US invasion, no one is doing the same, except in extremely limited form, so casualties are much, much lower.

Now, how does it all work? The insurgents hide, protected by a sympathetic populace. They find a target weaker than themselves and attack it. They then flee from the larger force that tries to hunt them down until it gives up. They then return, re-arm, and attack again.

Is there a solution? Yes. It's nasty. You won't like it. But when faced with a funded enemy with local support, there is only one solution. Destroy the local support. Outright annihilation of everyone, or at least until the locals realize that they either stop helping willingly, or they die and stop helping. It does work, if the larger force has the conviction to go through with it.


This doesn't seem logical to me. Won't this generate more local support for the insurgents, more recruits for the insurgents, etc. etc. until you're effectively at war with the entire population of the country? Wouldn't it be easier to just glass every population center without ever deploying any troops? Given the resources of a Goliath, can't you do much more good for the local population than the insurgency can ever dream of? Just walk up to the village headman and ask him what infrastructure he wants built, then build it.

Oh, right... one other solution. Go to war with whomever is funding your insurgent enemy. Win and then go after the unfunded insurgency. Yeah, just as attractive, eh? A big war to stop a little war.


An honest question here: Who's funding the Iraqi/Afghan insurgencies?

Is there any other solution? Well, there was one that worked for the Brits, but I'm not convinced it would work in all cases, especially where there are religious links between the populace and the insurgency. In one colony faced with insurgency in the 60's (I forget the name, sorry), they sent in the SAS. The SAS befriended the locals, providing food, medicine, etc., making life better. They kept all fighting away from the villages. Eventually, the local support was undermined, and the insurgency had no safe place to hide, so it was beaten. But, note, that took a long, long time. It was not a quick fix, and there was no political pressure from London to fix it immediately. Too often, the insurgents are causing massive damage creating a political will in the victimized peoples to suffer losses in a war. So the response is war, because politicos give people what they want. But the insurgency can counter this, too, if they lack morality. There are stories of Viet Cong cutting off the arms of any child inoculated by US forces. Fearing the insurgency can cause the locals to help out of fear, instead of sympathy.


At which point you give the locals guns and let them defend themselves. Will you be arming insurgents for free? Probably. But starving them for cash/munitions isn't going to work if they're not concerned with the moral high ground (they'll steal if they have to, and they're already running a low-cost operation). If they continue following this strategy, the insurgents will eventually find themselves at war with the entire population of the country, a population which will be remarkably well-armed thanks to the intervention of a Goliath.

The problem, ultimately, is not one of "talent" or "cunning" or "smartness". It's a problem of morality. An insurgent enemy is often immoral in the execution of their activities, including violations of the Geneva Convention such as hiding among civilians in civilian clothing, endangering civilians, and so on. The larger nation, however, is restricted by mandates of morality, and so are inherently hamstrung in how they can fight. This creates rules that the insurgents can abuse. Technically, the Geneva Convention need only be followed by a signatory when fighting another signatory, so in fighting an insurgency that has not signed the Convention, larger nations are not legally hamstrung: it is political hamstringing, placed there by a moral people that want to believe that morality will defeat immorality, so despite the Geneva Convention's lack of applicability, it is followed anyway.


When you're Goliath, morality will defeat immorailty, so long as you're not stupid. No one wants to live in fear, and the Goliath is the one capable of arming the inhabitants of a country so that they don't have to. The insurgents already have guns!

You can look at it as stupidity if you want, but you're wrong. It's a problem inherent in the system of rules by which we limit the activities of our fighting forces. We cause our soldiers to die by asking them to be moral. When fighting an enemy that is reasonably moral, it works out okay. But against an immoral enemy, we suffer losses. That doesn't make our enemy smart, it makes our enemy immoral.


We cause our soldiers to die by being morons who don't see the local population as an exploitable resource. Generally speaking the civilian population is seen as something which, if damaged, will bring bad press. Civilians are the resource that insurgents are fighting over. Because we try to fight the insurgents conventionally, we lose. Generally speaking the Goliath devotes all resources to destroying the insurgency, usually by trying to fight them conventionally. If the Goliath instead focused resources on making the civilians like them, the insurgency is given a choice between either sabotaging the Goliath's acts of goodwill (this plays into the Goliath's hands as they can then arm locals so that they can protect themselves from the insurgents, making every single village a hard target because the locals will eventually learn to shoot insurgents on sight) or attempting to continue fighting the good fight, in which case the people are rapidly going to discover that Goliath can do much more good for them than David.
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Housellama » Wed May 27, 2009 6:20 pm

Anti-insurgency techniques are remarkably complex. There are a lot of factors, but one of the biggest is the local population. Without the support/concealment of the local population, a conventional military would demolish an insurgency. If the local population is aiding the insurgency, they are almost impossible to defeat.

When you boil it all down, the way to defeat an insurgency is pressure. You can't defeat them like you would another army, because they aren't one. Surgical air strikes are not going to work. There's nothing to hit. So you create and maintain a steady pressure. First, you start with a carrot and stick technique. Improve life for the locals when the cooperate and make it uncomfortable when they don't. Make sure everyone knows the rules and be fair when applying them. Second is the "ink-blot" technique. Start by securing a small area, either through politics or by dropping special operations forces in there and doing it the old fashioned way. Then, when that area is secure, set up roadblocks and institute population control and tracking. Then, do a slow, thorough house by house search and expand that safe zone. The effect is similar to a drop of ink spreading over a page. It starts small, then expands. Third, institute population controls. This can be as simple as id cards and check points. If you control and track movement, it is much harder for the insurgents to move and therefore to act effectively. This is easily expanded to include shipments of material goods.

The results of all of this is that pressure is created on the insurgent force. Their movement is curtailed, their supply lines are threatened and their sympathy in the local population is eroded. Steadily and ever increasing pressure will eventually flush them out, at which point they can be dealt with. Shock and awe techniques do not work very well in this kind of conflict. In this, it is better to be the tortoise than the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.

This is just a handful of very simplistic explanations of ideas in a field that is a very hot subject right now, but Maldeus has hit the nail squarely on the head. The keys is the local population and maintaining integrity. If the local population can see a very logical and ethical cause and effect (IF we shelter terrorists/insurgents, THEN we will be arrested, ELSE we will be treated with respect and dignity), then it doesn't take much. People want to be safe. Insurgencies don't have a long history of being civilian friendly either. If Goliath maintains that integrity and applies steady pressure through every possible channel, an insurgency will very quickly find itself with no place to hide.

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"The principle of strategy is to know ten thousand things by having one thing." - Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Earth, Go Rin No Sho
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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby malekith » Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:33 am

agreed.
The thing is. Many goliaths don't see that.
Mainly through arrogance and pride than ignorance, but sometimes it's just they don't see.
The majority of the time though the Goliath will think that either they're better and should be able to get rid of these insurgents like ants, or they can't bear to loose money over it - they think that a quick dealing is a cheap one and they dont like being tied down.
examples include Vietnam that i'm surprised no one's mentioned yet and the horrible downturn that the Iraq invasion took after America got it's hand stuck in the cookie jar so to speak.
In Vietnam the Americans apparently 'helped' the south vietnamese and yet they couldn't bear to get drawn into a long proxy war so they tried conventional methods and tried to do it quickly. Yet it crashed and burned and cost them millions per VC soldier they killed. Now if they could bear the cost of a longer pressure campaign then they might have stood a chance and it would have cost a lot less in the long run. But in fairness the local population were very much pro-Communism and not just because the americans were conducting zippo raids and massacres (the communist dictators improved the Russian economy phenominally compared to the Tsars and it wasn't all repression and police state). And another idea to consider is that this kind of warfare was still very new if not completely new when it came to 'nam.

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Re: How David Beats Goliath

Postby Housellama » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:31 pm

malekith wrote:agreed.
The thing is. Many goliaths don't see that.
Mainly through arrogance and pride than ignorance, but sometimes it's just they don't see.
The majority of the time though the Goliath will think that either they're better and should be able to get rid of these insurgents like ants, or they can't bear to loose money over it - they think that a quick dealing is a cheap one and they dont like being tied down.
examples include Vietnam that i'm surprised no one's mentioned yet and the horrible downturn that the Iraq invasion took after America got it's hand stuck in the cookie jar so to speak.
In Vietnam the Americans apparently 'helped' the south vietnamese and yet they couldn't bear to get drawn into a long proxy war so they tried conventional methods and tried to do it quickly. Yet it crashed and burned and cost them millions per VC soldier they killed. Now if they could bear the cost of a longer pressure campaign then they might have stood a chance and it would have cost a lot less in the long run. But in fairness the local population were very much pro-Communism and not just because the americans were conducting zippo raids and massacres (the communist dictators improved the Russian economy phenominally compared to the Tsars and it wasn't all repression and police state). And another idea to consider is that this kind of warfare was still very new if not completely new when it came to 'nam.

M


Just as an FYI, most of my information comes from reading articles and reports from US think tanks/authors/military personnel. The USMC in particular has a very high interest in advancing and refining anti-insurgency tactics. Say what you want about the Marines, but they know their business backwards and forwards. They are all thoroughly professional soldiers from the Commandant all the way down to the newest buck private, and they think long and hard about how to be better at their jobs. The US might have made some bad decisions in the past, but they are learning from their mistakes. Accidents happen in war. That's why an insurgency's best weapon is the court of public opinion. Goliath is almost always seen as the bad guy. However, a smart military does its level best to change that opinion.

America's weakest link in warfare has always been the inherent limitations of the democratic system. Changing commanders in the middle of a war/police action/occupation rarely works out well, and strategy often suffers when a politician is trying to get reelected.

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"All warfare is based on deception" - Sun Tzu, Chapter 1, Line 18, The Art of War

"The principle of strategy is to know ten thousand things by having one thing." - Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Earth, Go Rin No Sho
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