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Warning Orders: Strategic Reasons for Publicizing Military Offensives

Can anyone hear me?

Courtesy DorkeyMum/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 28 October 2016.

Does publicly announcing an impending military offensive expose assaulting troops to dangers that could be avoided if plans to invade were kept quiet? During all three presidential debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump has asserted that the Obama administration was “stupid” for publicly discussing the impeding joint U.S/Iraqi offensive against ISIL in Mosul, claiming that Hillary Clinton was “telling the enemy everything [she] want[s] to do” and asking “why not a sneak attack?” A week ago, he tweeted:

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Ceasefires Don’t Work: We Have the Numbers to Prove It

Ceasefire by Juana Alicia

Courtesy Steve Rotman/Flickr

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 31 October 2016.

On Sept. 10, 2016, the U.S.-brokered a ceasefire with Russia and Syria in the besieged city of Aleppo. Although low-intensity fighting never really stopped, the ceasefire didn’t begin to fall apart until a week later, when U.S. aircraft mistakenly killed about 80 Syrian troops.

The killings heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, who had agreed to the ceasefire with the aim of negotiating a combined effort against Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked fighters. By Sept. 21, the ceasefire collapsed — and the following day, the Syrian government announced a new military offensive to retake Aleppo.

The offensive featured some of the most intensive ground combat and bombing of the entire war, costing hundreds of lives within the span of just a few days. The humanitarian cost on the ground was described by U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien as “a level of savagery that no human should have to endure.”

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The International Dimension of the Fight for Aleppo in Syria

Al-Assad

Courtesy thierry ehrmann/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) on 21 October 2016.

The offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s military, supported by Russian troops, on Aleppo—Syria’s largest city—might be successful. This large-scale operation was facilitated by the improved relations between Russia and Turkey and because the United States has only limited military options at its disposal. If Aleppo falls, Assad will have control over territory inhabited by more than 60% of Syrians. The brutality of the Russian attacks in Aleppo may, however, carry a political price in the form of new EU sanctions. The clearly harsher rhetoric of Germany, France and the U.S. toward Russia also shows that these countries will not compromise on Ukraine in return for Russian concessions in Syria.

The Importance of Aleppo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has retaken significant territory from the Syrian opposition and the Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS) since October 2015, mainly because of Russian military involvement. His forces have taken the city of Tadmur (Palmyra), Latakia province and parts of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo (which had 2 million inhabitants), along with its outskirts. Now, Assad’s army is besieging the eastern part of Aleppo under rebel control. The rebels number 8,000 strong and are composed of a dozen, mainly Islamist, groups. On 22 September, the Syrian army launched an offensive to retake the whole of Aleppo. The Russian and Syrian bombardment has caused a severe humanitarian crisis: 275,000 civilians, including 100,000 children, have been deprived of nearly all essential needs.

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War Dynamics and the “NO” Vote in the Colombian Referendum

No

Courtesy Grant Hutchinson/Flickr

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 20 October 2016.

After six years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement to end one of the oldest and bloodiest wars in the country’s history. Although not required to do so by law, President Santos sought to legitimize the agreement by asking Colombians to either ratify or reject the agreement in a referendum. On October 2nd, the “NO” vote (rejecting the peace agreement with the FARC) won with 50.22% of the vote, taking the world—and most Colombians—by surprise.

The leaders of the NO campaign, the international media (see here and here), and a few scholars, have privileged an interpretation of the NO vote as a cry for justice. In recent days, representatives of the NO vote made harsher penalties to the FARC one of their central demands to support a modified agreement.

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The Extraordinary Life of David Galula

Morocco

Courtesy Pictoscribe/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Small Wars Journal in September 2016.

Thanks to a sequence of fortunate accidents around 2005-2006, the world discovered the intellectual legacy of David Galula (1919-1967). Since then, two books and one monograph restituted the story of his life or vast segments of it. Although some went into a fascinating level of detail, none of these, in my view, are an easy read for a non-military audience. A minimal awareness in terms of war studies is needed to really capture what they had to say. Besides, the French-speaking readership is still far from hearing about Galula. These are the two reasons why I decided to tell the story of Galula’s life – in French.

Writing a book about David Galula amounts to recounting the story of a paradox (many of them actually). On the one hand, there is a consensus on him being the founding father of counterinsurgency, a groundbreaking theory in modern military affairs. Galula was a self-made man in various aspects; born into a relatively modest environment, he rose to positions where no one expected him to, in virtue of his faith and social background. He traveled the world and exerted the full scope of his talents in a diversified career ranging from diplomat, author and secret agent to infantry officer. Many influential people liked him and very few voiced any opposition or hostility at his respect. Yet, Galula’s legacy went silent after his premature death in 1967. During forty years, neglect and bad luck buried Galula’s unorthodox and stimulating contributions to the art of war. Neither book royalties nor a military pension were enough to keep his widow from having to look for a job to make a living and raise their only child. Galula is still mostly unheard of in his home country, France.

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