Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Indigenous Security Forces

A common experience in American military history has been the underperformance of indigenous forces, especially in a guerilla warfare campaign. While there have been examples of this in every war since WWII, the most glaring is the performance of the ARVN in Vietnam. An almost universal sentiment expressed by soldiers who fought in Vietnam was that, outside of elite units, the ARVN was a wholly corrupt, incompetent force. While there are more than a few exceptions to this rule, the sheer weight of the corruption and incompetence was almost always enough to crush any ARVN officer who tried to change things. Officers were promoted because of patronage or their family name, while the average grunt was a poorly trained, poorly paid draftee who was almost always thrust into an unfamiliar part of the country. While there are many reasons for the defeat of the United States military in the Vietnam Conflict, one of the bigger reasons is that it is almost impossible to win a guerilla campaign without a competent indigenous force to provide a link to U.S. troops and the general population. (For the record, I'm waaaay oversimplifying things for the sake of making a point; if you want to discuss guerilla warfare, I'm more than game. Just leave a comment.)

Fortunately, the U.S. military does not face this same issue in Iraq. When a terrorist bomb killed 120 men waiting to enlist in the Iraqi Army, there were protests. Not for the terrorists and extremists, but against the Iraqi government, for failing to protect these men, and in support of their mission. Then there's this story from Major K. If you ever hear a news reporta about the Iraqi Security Forces being weak or incompetent, just remember this, and the sacrifice of those four Iraqi police officers.