Actio et reactio

One of the selling propositions of expeditionary warfare is that expeditionary capabilities of armed forces protect weaker countries against aggressors.* The scenario usually goes like this:

Small country is being under attack or threatened -> some super-deployable notional force arrives on the scene -> ??? -> Success!

This isn't merely about intra-continental administrative marches as what I wrote a couple days ago: It's about massive budgets for airlift capacity, aerial tankers, amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers or even only about squeezing some army vehicle into some medium-sized cargo aircraft.

Strangely, interventions are rarely similar to their advertisements (quelle surprise!).

Three kinds of case studies about the interventionist cause have become quite apparent during the last generation:

(1) Strategic offensive cases after months of undisturbed force build-up:
Iraq 1991, Iraq 2003

(2) Strategic defensive cases in which intervention forces aren't used at all or arrive very late:
Ruanda/Burundi 1994, TF Hawk 1999, South Ossetia/Georgia 2006, Ukraine/Crimea 2014

(3) Cases in which interventions began small and swelled up in size over time
Kosovo Air War 1999, Iraq occupation 2003-2007, Afghanistan 2001-OMG, Libya 2011

The very few flash-like interventions were meanwhile largely the business of the French and happened in Africa. The initial overthrow of the Taleban in 2011 with indigenous allies and few dozen Western soldiers on the ground supported by very long-range air power was another partial example.

The Ruanda/Burundi (or Hutu vs. Tutsi) genocide event of 1994 was an especially disturbing case, all interventionist bashing aside for once. Intelligence officers warned early about the potential for mass violence, but their warnings drowned in the noise of diplomatic cables and intelligence assessments. There were only weeks time to prevent the worst with an invasion, and the whole nightmare was completed within roughly a hundred days. The lag in understanding what's happening plus the lag of building political will to stop it and finally the landlocked location which required overflight rights and other details added to a very troublesome mixture.
The most irritating Rwandan Genocide is in my opinion the biggest challenge to the anti-interventionist cause. 
An intervention in Rwanda wouldn't have required most of what interventionists demand for the armed forces, though. Interventionists argue for more budget, more aircraft, more ships, more brigades, bombings and invasions - they don't focus on building up politicians' cojones to intervene quickly and decisively where there's no ally, no oil, and no figurehead of evil.


*: And of course there's never a cost/benefit analysis attached. It's never with interventionist talking points.

P.S.: I admit; I ran out of good titles.


  1. I think the events in Rawanda, Srebrenica and Dafur are clear examples of situations where we all should feel morally obligated to intervene at any* cost.

    In particular, the demonstrate that there are indeed situations where they UN should intervene with much violence (if needed, typically it is) to prevent the goal of an aggressor. This need arises from the combination of the enormous damage the aggressor seek to inflict, and the short time within which that goal can be accomplished.

    Of course, the total prevention of genocide events is much desired over only partial prevention, ie when prevention actions are launched only after a genocide plan has been put into action by the aggressor. Having established the need to minimize the completion of a genocide event, we consider how to do "preventive intervention". The simplest example would be that the intervening party uses force to completely halt the suspect aggressors from carrying out any action. This type of "preventive intervention" has the downside that the intervening party could well be the first actor to use violence, and thus de facto become the aggressor. It should be contrasted to interventions that seek to resolve the underlying conflict fairly before it has progressed to the point that genocide is considered.

    *this is a "any cost" taken to be within reasonable limits, obviously total annihilation of one side is not a reasonable cost, even if the sides happens to be the aggressor.

    1. One problem is uncertainty.

      There were only weeks for a timely intervention in Rwanda, but it took months if not years to deconstruct the warmonger lies that led to the Kosovo Air War and the Iraq invasion 2003.
      Any readiness to intervene 'at all costs' against genocide will only signal to warmongers which keyword they need to use in their lies.
      And history proved that 'ethnic cleansing' is not only different to distinguish from genocide in real time, but appals the public similarly. So whatever readiness to intervene against genocide exists may spill over to ethnic cleansing cases if effective videos or propaganda claims take effect.

      It's a slipping slope and not an easy case.

      My draft for a comprehensive security policy was worded accordingly (chapter 13): http://tinyurl.com/nb9aow

  2. Genocide is generally not a strategic concern, unless coupled with extraterritorial aggression (e.g. Nazi Germany).

    It's just a preoccupation of liberal imperialists who are obsessed with human life.

    Guess what, everyone dies. The premature termination of life in some dusty land no one has ever heard of does not merit the maintenance of massive expeditionary military forces, nor is it cause to intervene in other states.

    The Rwandan genocide, at most, was a strategic concern to the states immediately bordering Rwanda. Perhaps ethnic groups farther afield in Africa related to the Tutsis had cause for concern as well, but I'm not too informed on the ethnic boundaries in Africa (neither are other Westerners--another reason not to intervene).

    The Darfur issue is even less important than Rwanda, as the violence in the Sudan is almost completely contained. Who cares? There's oil in Sudan, but not that much (and it can be bought with money anyway).

    As far as Srebenica goes, I again say who cares? The vain and turbulent Balkan peoples have been feuding and fighting since the beginning of time, and there's no reason to suspect they'll ever stop.

    Maybe Rettaw is an admirer of Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and other clueless liberal busybodies prattling on about the totally bogus "responsibility to protect". Count me out of this ridiculous doctrine!

    Seriously, if everyone in the entire country of Rwanda died tomorrow, would it matter at all?

  3. IMHO you're not addressing concept like « coloured revolutions » as often as you should. It's not a thread derailment, I shall explain further.

    Special forces can be viewed from a purely military perspective, as a speciaLISED force to be used in conjunction with the rest of the armed forces ; the paratrooper of WW2 is such a force. I think your article is about those forces in that context.

    But I react to the words « expeditionary », « Rwanda » and « Cost/benefit ». These are words well suited to describe what has been the bulk of colonial warfare : waged by companies (such as the West Indies Company, but for instance German colonies used the same structures, from which its colonial forces evolved later on), with an emphasis on profitability. In this structure, the « special force » is the trained element, provided by force multipliers such as discipline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfqgsA2McdA ), artillery, machine guns, logistics, headquarters etc.

    There is a « jack of all trade » aspect to this force, which is being depicted as an equivalent to the speciaLISED forces mentionned above. As an illustration, the french « Régiments Etrangers Parachutistes » are such a force, tailor-made for the african theater and while certainly more useful in peer conflicts than regular troops, not made for that scenario.

    Most of the bloody mess that is colonial warfare is being done by locals, either out of greed (or more fittingly economic despair), endoctrination or local politics. But the structures provided by the colonial power is the real multiplier, ensuring success (and preventing unnecessary costs). The role of the « Radio des Mille Collines » in the Rwandan genocide was pivotal , a very local-flavor equivalent of what « Radio Free Europe » was to do to bring Communist Europe down.

    Coloured revolutions are just the same but adapted to their own local environments. Those Maidan snipers could have been « special forces » (I think italian snipers confessed to similar practices in Libya), or given a matrice structure of the modern armed forces, could have been detached from the regular military (short-time « special force »). In this scenario, the neo-nazi Maidan thugs were the colonial Askari, and some desperate unemployed the cannon fodder.

    1. My look at Rwanda et cetera is from the "shall we go to war or not" perspective. There's little else than cost/benefit and ethics that plays a role. The dirty practices in such wars are relevant on a lower level and not particularly interesting to me (in most cases I'd vote for no participation, so the details of a participation don't matter to me).

    2. It's a pandora's box. Find one reason to go to war and someone with enough resolve can fabricate it to steer into any war he wants.
      It's my opinion that we should have bolstered the UN forces already in Ruanda, but Germany keeps away from the African conflicts. The African Union with logistics from NATO/EU would be the right organization for such tasks.