Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The American Insurgency and the Middle East

In 1775, the British General James Grand had boasted that with 5,000 British regulars he could march from one end of the American Continent to the other. A British contemporary, John Acland, called on Parliament to "recollect the strength, the resources, and above all the spirit of the British nation, which when roused knows no opposition."

People on the other side of the argument, including British Colonel Isaac Barre, felt that the only way to avert "this American storm" was to reach an accomodation just as soon as possible. (McCullough, "1776").

Parliament approved a surge of 2,000 reinforcements, and an Army of 20,000 in America by the following spring. Common sentiment at the time believed there would be no way for the Americans to continue with their insurgency against such a force.

Though it was true that the British had a vastly superior Naval force, a larger number of better trained soldiers, and more financial resources at their backs, the insurgency, as we all know, was a success. The eventual victory, after over several years, was due in parts to local support, foreign support from France and the Netherlands, and intellectual support from Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others, The concept that Americans were fighting at home and as such did not require the logistical support and the issues that go along with it was also in their favor.

Some lessons that may be implied from our experience on the other side of an insurgency are as follows:

  • We need to ensure that local support favors Democracy though effective information operations. The British lost this as "Common Sense," "The Declaration of Independence," "American Crisis," and other works were published without effective counters.
  • Foreign influence must be negated. As we have learned not only in the Revolutionary War with France and the Netherlands, but also in Afghanistan with our clandestine support against the Russians, Vietnam, Iran/Iraq, and the Civil War, support from countries not directly involved can have tremendous effect.
  • Superior fire power, larger fighting force, more money, or other traditional advantages can be detrimental to counter insurgency operations.