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Archive for April 11th, 2006

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006


Curzon at Coming Anarchy has drawn attention to the increasingly vicious civil war in Nepal that pits the reactionary regime of an absolute monarch, King Gyanendra against the Maoist rebels who seek the King’s overthrow in order to establish a Communist dictatorship. Democratic and parliamentary parties have recently allied themselves with the rebels who make up the armed wing of Nepal’s Communist party in order to pressure the King into restoring democratic rule. The Maoist rebellion, however, long predates King Gyanendra’s “autogolpe” and was actually launched in 1996 by the Communist Party against Nepal’s previous democratic regime.

The Royal Government, something of an international pariah for the restoration of absolute monarchy, has made little headway against the rebels and has been much criticized -accurately- for suppression of political freedoms, human rights abuses and civilian casualties. The fighting spirit of the army is uneven and they lack the resources, external support and political competence to wage an effective counterinsurgency war. Curzon also excerpted from The Atlantic, reporting from Robert Kaplan, in an earlier post:

“This was all bad news for the Royal Nepalese Army, I thought, though Colonel Cross was careful not to make explicit political statements, given his circumstances: the Maoists are in the hills nearby, and government forces are down the street. The fact is that the Maoists come from the same sturdy hill tribes that Cross recruited for decades, while many of the RNA’s forces are softer plainsmen and can’t employ artillery, because even a handful of civilian casualties would ignite protests from the international community. Moreover, the Maoists are fortified by “the mystic dimension of service and the sanctity of an oath,” whereas RNA recruits—aside from some specialized units—join for a salary and a career.”

Brutal, hesitant and uncertain is a bad combination for any army. State forces in Nepal suffer a string of disadvantages and deficits whether you look at them from the perspective of Clausewitz or John Boyd. While losing the conflict to the rebels in the political and moral spheres they are not efficient or effective in the purely military operational or logistical aspects either.

The Maoist rebels have, overall, been far more astute combatants but they represent a fusion of old and new.

Despite a horrific human rights record of their own that includes atrocities, torture, use of children as soldiers and condemnation from international human rights organizations, major American news outlets continue to recycle Nepalese Communist Party propaganda about its leader Prachanda as a one-time “kind-hearted boy”, concerned for ” the poor of the village”. Rebels have skillfully enlisted parliamentary parties as allies to press political and media campaigns against the autocratic government which has drawn favorable attention in the Western media.

Ideologically disciplined, with throwback “human-wave” tactics, and hoary ” final offensive” rhetoric, the rebels have also recently tapped into ” the bazaar of violence” to begin evolving tactically, making use now of IED’s and swarming. The rebels are shifting from the classic three-stage Marxist insurgency of Mao and Giap toward becoming more like a modern 4GW or Global Guerilla movement.

Whether Communist Party discipline can hold the rebels together or if counterinsurgency efforts and natural battlefield evolution causes decentralization and reemergence of Maoist forces as a scale-free network structure, will effect the outcome for Nepal. In the latter case, you would have a scenario much like Iraq with military groups fracturing into competing blocs and ongoing, low intensity warfare and state failure lasting, probably, for decades.

In the former situation, if the Maoists succeed in overthrowing the King and establishing a state, then the historical track record of other Maoist movements like the Shining Path, Khmer Rouge and in China itself bodes poorly for the 27 million people of Nepal.

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006


Iran is very much in the news after Seymour Hersh’s assertion of preparations for a major American military strike, perhaps a full scale war, to destroy Iran’s overt “civilian” and clandestine nuclear weapons programs. A number of experts on military affairs second the general trend toward military conflict with Teheran, which for his part, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems determined to provoke.

The conflict with Iran is a basic one the United States and the West will face again and again. Signatories to the NPT are allowed to import nuclear technology and expertise for “peaceful” uses under IAEA safeguards. Because technology and knowledge are fungible – and atomic bombs are 1945 technology and miniaturized warheads suitable for ballistic missiles are late 1950’s to early 1960’s technology – states can simply set up parallel programs and tear up the treaty when their clandestine programs are sufficiently advanced, having secured the means under false pretenses.

Iraq, Iran and North Korea were all caught red-handed but only one of the three was eventually disarmed. This situation is going to happen again regardless of the outcome with Teheran because approximately ten to twenty years ago a number of states – China, Pakistan, Russia, Germany and France elected to turn a blind eye to proliferation of nuclear weapons or in the case of Pakistan, actively encourage proliferation. This was a matter of policy or at best, corruption of policy.

There’s only a number of steps that can be taken by the United States:

Unilaterally demonstrate that Iraq was no anomaly and militarily devastate unfriendly states that try to acquire nukes – i.e. impose high potential costs on regimes having clandestine programs.

Build a Core-wide consensus to rewrite the NPT as a treaty with teeth backed by a stringent, updated, version of COCOM.

Bilaterally and multilaterally negotiate with rogue states piecemeal to buy them off for disarming completely( Libya Model).

Revise military nuclear warfighting doctrine and embark upon a weapons-building program that renders nuclear missiles too dangerous to use against the United States, perhaps with an entirely new class of nuclear or high energy weapons.

The Bush administration and the EU have been pursuing options II. and III. with Iran but Iran has indicated that its leadership believes that possession of nuclear weapons are worth any price.

Option I. is a bad option for reasons laid out by John Robb, Thomas P.M. Barnett, James Fallows and numerous others but in the short term it may be the only option the Iranians decide to leave us.


Iran boasts of enrichment prowess, categorically defies UNSC.


Interesting and vigorous debate in the comment section. To clarify my position:

A grand bargain with Iran that ends the nuke program is the best outcome but that is, in my view, highly unlikely that the current regime in Teheran would accept any terms. Secondly, the regime as constituted today isn’t to be trusted with nuclear weapons so, barring a diplomatic breakthrough, we are headed for a serious conflict. Third – and I’m surprised my critics are studiously ignoring the main point of my post – this scenario will be repeated with other states unless the dynamics of nuclear proliferation are changed. The technology is simply too available for misuse under the current IAEA regime.

PS -See new additions or changes in the links below.

Iranian Bomb Links:

American Future New !


Austin Bay

Coming Anarchy


The Glittering Eye

Kobayashi Maru

Winds of Change

Armchair Generalist

Kevin Drum

Ralph Peters

Whirledview New !

Arms and Influence New !

John Robb New !

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