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December 28, 2006

On 'Lessons Learned' From The Ethiopian Army

... or how to win a war! (hint: it's not the chicken s**t way we've been fighting the war in Iraq)

Froggy at BlackFive explains:

When you decide to go to war, make sure you go ball's deep. In my segment on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday, I focused on the frustrations that I hear from milblogs to MSM reports to reports from my own sources that the ROEs (edit: Rules of engagement) have devolved to the point of absurdity and our forces are more fearful of UCMJ (edit: Uniform Code of Military Justice) violations than they are of enemy insurgents. This devolution of the ROEs in Iraq originated from an institutional CYA (edit: cover your ass) instinct by the DOD and senior commanders resulting from sensationalist media coverage of such events as Abu Ghraib, CIA "secret prisons", and various manufactured Gitmo abuse claims.

The Ethiopian Army has imposed no such constraints on itself and is doing to islamist forces in Somalia in days what the UN, and the US weren't able to achieve in years. Reports from the front indicate that the Islamic Courts who had been administering sharia law in Mogadishu have surrendered and fled the city in advance of the Ethiopian assault. Obviously, the Ethiopian Army's combat power, training, and capabilities are a mere fraction of ours and yet they are decisively defeating a fanatical and entrenched enemy in an urban environment. Why?

Off the top of my head, I would say that Ethiopia is not afflicted with a pernicious and defeatist media machine that is capable of manipulating public opinion, and even if it was, it doesn't look like the Ethiopian president would give a damn in any case. The word that comes to mind is resolve.

As described by Captain Ed, the lightning-fast collapse shows the result of a full military response to Islamist provocations:
... they quit so fast, they literally left their last holdout completely undefended. By late last night, the former leaders of the UIC had to ask them to return to their posts just so the new internationally-recognized government could take over without any power vacuum. They were too late; their Shebab (youth) armies had already stripped off their makeshit uniforms and blended back into the civilian population.

The UIC collapsed, prosaically enough, when clan leaders demanded the return of the trucks they lent to the Islamists for military operations. Clan leaders took note of spontaneous demonstrations erupting all over the capital against the Islamists and in support of the new government. The loss of the equipment meant that their forces could offer no real resistance to a determined military effort to crush them -- and they threw in the towel.

This loss crushes the reputation of the Islamists as dedicated to fighting to the death. They will if they see an advantage in it, and that advantage has been gained by Western reluctance to fight an all-out war against them. Ethiopia, after having been threatened by both a traditional attack from Somalia and a guerilla/terrorist war, responded with overwhelming force, and they crumbled. Somewhere there is a lesson for the West.

Is Washington listening?

Think in terms like: All-out war against them, going to war balls deep, screw the current rules of engagement, and to hell with the damned media. That's the way to win a war - as done by the Ethiopian Army.

On a final note about the importance of "to hell with the damned media," Hugh Hewitt points to two qualities that are in surplus among the journalists, pundits, and left-wing bloggers who are commenting on this war now (think Iraq as well).

So where is the good reporting on the Ethiopian war in Somalia? Amazingly, today it comes from the New York Times, whose man in Nairobi, Jeffrey Gettleman, manages (with the help of Mogadishu-based stringers Mohammed Ibrahim and Yuusuf Maxamuud) to get right in a few sentences what Matthew Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman, the AP, the Washington Post, Reuters, News24, David Shinn, and Süddeutsche Zeitung all manage to miss:
The [Somali] Islamists came to power earlier this year as a grassroots movement that drove out Mogadishu's warlords and restored a semblance of order to a city that was once one of the most violent on the planet. But the goodwill they earned is being sapped away by their decision to attack the transitional government and declare a holy war against Christian-led Ethiopia. That provoked a crushing counterattack by the Ethiopians, who have the strongest military in East Africa and have sided with the transitional government because Ethiopia views the Islamists as a threat to its own security.

That is the core story in Somalia, and its war, today. If Gettleman is the only one getting it right, it's not because Gettleman is a genius or possessed of unique insight. Rather, it is because Gettleman is neither lazy nor dishonest. Sadly, those two qualities are in surplus among the journalists, pundits, and left-wing bloggers who are commenting on this war now. It's unfortunate, and foolish: but then, it's long past time for us to give up expecting them to view the world through the lens of American -- or even self -- interest.

I like the words, "a crushing counterattack." They go along well with terms such as All-out war against them, going to war balls deep, screw the current rules of engagement, and to hell with the damned media.

So I ask again, is Washington listening?

Posted by Richard at December 28, 2006 7:47 AM

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