Saturday, November 12, 2005

Lessons Of The Brit War With The IRA

A Brit intelligence officer who served in Northern Ireland suggests the US army in Iraq should adopt a softer approach and needs better intel & more troops. This advice is not credible since, in spite of its courage and skill, the Brit army in Northern Ireland was sold out by Brit pols so the IRA won.

Saying the IRA won may seem a little extreme, so judge for yourself. The leaders of the IRA, one of whom I believe to be a murderer are now Members of Parliament. The IRA gangs run the Catholic community in NI and murder with impunity. All IRA killers have been pardoned. The Brit government is criminally investigating soldiers who served in Northern Ireland. It has disbanded the police force that opposed the IRA and replaced it with a politically correct group that doesn't have the word "Royal" in its title. And they've disbanded the Brit army's Northern Ireland regiment. Oh, and the majority population of the province has been pushed to support extreme politicians.

Bearing this in mind that we lost, here's what the guy said (my ellipsis).

Don't use heavy force

The term “collateral damage” doesn’t explain the emotional damage and animosity that the death of innocent civilians can create. The classic example is the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident, when 13 demonstrators were killed by British soldiers. Garfield said the incident has haunted the British Army and British government for 35 years.

According to an ex-member of the IRA, Bloody Sunday was an IRA set-up. The expert ignores the fact that terrorists always blame their killing of innocents on the enemy - look at the Palestinian propaganda every time they kill an Israeli kid, and their justifications for 9/11. Get used to it.

Finally, the Brits used this "softly softly" approach with the Shias in Southern Iraq and let the Iranians in.

Provide massive intelligence support

A counterinsurgency campaign requires heavy intelligence support. In the British Army today, he said, an armored brigade has six or eight intelligence professionals to support each 5,000-man unit. The numbers are similar for U.S. Army brigades. In Northern Ireland, the British had 400 to 500 intelligence professionals to support a brigade-sized force (about 10,000 men).

Those intelligence analysts cannot be on short-term rotations, he said: Most intelligence professionals deployed to Northern Ireland were there for two years on individual, not unit, rotations, so they could build continuity. Many of the intelligence professionals in more sensitive and difficult areas served even longer.

This is fine, although again, judged by results, it didn't help a lot.

Deploy more US soldiers

In Northern Ireland, British Army numbers rose as high as 22,000, relative to an Irish population of 1.5 million, a Catholic population of 500,000, a hard-core republican population of 100,000 and 500 terrorists.

This is the opposite of the successful Malayan experience, and it's worth investigating why. Eliminating 500 terrorists was perfectly within the capability of a small number of Brit troops. However they weren't allowed to do this, and tried weight of presence instead. But, prevented from acting aggressively, they never took the initiative and so the IRA continued to murder away.

Taking the initiative would have involved shutting the border with the Irish Republic, which provided safe haven and logistics, tracking and targeting the 500 in exactly the same way the New York police did when they turned that city round. No deaths squads, just aggressive policing.

So, lessons the US can learn from the Brit war with the IRA are:

1. Don't do what the Brits did, or you'll end up with Saddam in the Senate and the USMC indicted.

2. Go on doing what you're good at, which is vigorous warfare.

3. And continue to avoid killing civilians, keep building your intel network, and building the Iraqi army. Not that you need reminding.

4. Trust the competence and bravery of the Brit army but don't trust their leadership.