n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Die lesse van die Irakse oorlog en insurgensie : 'n Suid-Afrikaanse perspektief

Volume 47, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


Baie is geskryf en gesê oor die lesse van die oorlog in Irak. Dié stuk is egter die eerste poging om sekere lesse spesifiek vanuit 'n Suid-Afrikaanse perspektief te trek. Suid-Afrika is immers diep betrokke by vredesteun-operasies in Afrika wat by tye ooreenkomste met die situasie in Irak kan vertoon. Die artikel word in twee hoofkomponente verdeel, te wete die lesse van die konvensionele fase in Maart-April 2003, en dié van die daaropvolgende insurgensiefase. Die lesse van die eerste fase sluit in die noodsaak vir realistiese oorlogsdoelwitte, akkurate inligting, die mikrobestuur van die oorlog van ver af, die noodsaak om internasionale steun vir militêre ingryping in die buiteland te verwerf, die omhulling van die media in operasionele eenhede, en die voordele van gesamentlikewapens-eenhede. Wat die insurgensiefase betref, word aandag gegee aan die noodsaak vir 'n radikale kopskuif vergeleke met die veg van 'n konvensionele oorlog, die feit dat die swaartepunt nie die vyandelike magte is nie, maar die lojaliteit van die plaaslike bevolking, die veelfasettige benadering van komplekse oorloggevegte, om voldoende troepe beskikbaar te hê, inligtingsoperasies, en die steun van pantser.

A lot has been written and said about the lessons of the war in Iraq, both the conventional invasion in March, 2003, and the subsequent insurgency phase, which was at the time of writing still not over. This is, however, the first attempt to distil some lessons specifically from a South African perspective. This country's interest in the Iraq War lessons is primarily driven by the fact that it is heavily involved in peace support operations in Africa, a type of operation which may at times have similarities with an insurgency war such as the one in Iraq. The article is divided into two chief components, namely the lessons of the conventional phase of March and April 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom), and those of the subsequent insurgency phase. The lessons of the first phase include the need for realistic war aims (the USA's aims - inter alia, to force a Western-style liberal democracy on a people who had very little notion of it - were far too ambitious); accurate intelligence (the raw intelligence was shamelessly cherry picked and managed by the politicians to get the result which suited their invasion plans, instead of letting the intelligence speak for itself); micromanaging the war from afar (especially Donald Rumsfeld forced the military to invade with far too few troops, which directly led to the helplessness of the Army and Marines to stem Iraq's rapid slide into anarchy); the need for international support (George W. Bush's arrogant negation of his allies and subsequent international isolation and humiliation); the embedding of the media in military units (which worked reasonably well, although not without problems); and the advantages of combined-arms units (in other words, a mixture of tanks, mechanised infantry and artillery down to battalion or even company level). As far as the insurgency phase is concerned, attention is given to the need for a radical mind-shift compared to fighting a conventional war (most soldiers are trained to use maximum force, while an insurgency is more akin to a police action with minimum force); the fact that the point of gravity in the case of a conventional conflict is the enemyâ??s armed forces, while the local population's hearts and minds are the targets in an insurgency conflict (the Americans seem to have realised this only late in the war); the multi-faceted approach of complex war fighting (military force is, in fact, a rather subsidiary part of the war); having sufficient troops available (the Americans have continually tried to fight the war on the cheap); information operations (winning the information war is probably even more important than winning the military clashes); and the supporting role of armour (even though the infantry take the place of honour in an insurgency war, there is always a need for the heavy punch that only tanks and other armoured vehicles can provide). In conclusion, the Prussian and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is quoted as saying that fools learn from their own experience, and that it is better to learn from others'. That is what this article has endeavoured to do.

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