Friday, November 11, 2011

Murray Rothbard on Guerrilla War

Do you want to know why the US has such a tough time in Iraq (and remains hunkered down in the Green Zone) and why they are having such a difficult time in Afghanistan? It's because guerrillas war are tough, very tough.

One of the amazing things about Murray Rothbard was his knowledge on so many topics. Below is is snippet from a 1984 movie review by Rothbard of the movie, "Red Dawn." It gives a sense for the broad range of Rothbard knowledge. He is critiquing a damn movie and details how the movie fails to portray guerrilla war correctly. Read the clip, it explains why guerrilla war is tough. After reading this, it's not difficult to argue that Rothbard's review, of what he calls a teen-age saga, suggests that his understanding of guerrilla war goes far beyond that of our most recent commander and chiefs, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
One of the best parts of the picture is the graphic portrayal of how the Red response to the Wolverines runs the gamut of the U.S. counter-revoluntionary responses to the Vietnamese.That is, at first the Russian commander decides to hole up in the cities and military bases, into the "safe zones," whereupon the Wolverines boldly demonstrate that in guerrilla war there are no safe zones, and that the "front is everywhere." At that point, another crackerjack Russian commander takes over,
and replicates t h e "search and destroy" counter-guerrilla response of the Green Berets. This is more punishing, but still does not succeed.

One big problem with the picture is that there is no sense that successful guerrilla war feeds on itself; in real life the ranks of the guerrillas would start to swell, and this would defeat the search-and-destroy concept. In Red Dawn, on the other hand, there are only the same half-dozen teenagers, and the inevitable attrition makes the struggle seem hopeless when it need not be.
Rothbard pretty much nails it, though Ron Paul has pointed out in recent debates that killing guerillas results in creating 10 more guerrillas, since when a guerilla is killed,his father, his brother, his cousins may join the fight in revenge.


  1. I have the big 2-volume set of the Libertarian Forum. One of my favorite past-times is going through them and reading all the Mr. Firstnighter pieces. If Murray had not been an economist he would've made a fabulous film critic!

    I must add, it was here that I first encountered the FACT that Rothbard can be completely wrong-headed at times. He actually thought that the Mel Brooks' film History of the World: Part I was no good! This is one egregious error on Rothbard's part. After reading that atrocious statement it made me rethink everything else I had read by him!

  2. You are four years too late characterizing the US as hunkered down in the green zone. God knows the war was a disaster and Iraq was served up on a silver platter to Iran, but the fact is the surge was successful. After years of actually hunkering in the green zone, they finally wiped the floor with the insurgents, and the survivors moved on to Afghanistan. In the end it was a rout.

  3. Guerrilla wars aren't that complicated. People don't like to be colonized. Especially not by someone who views them as subhuman, "gooks" etc.

  4. Anonymous--the surge was successful because the Sunnis were paid off and decided that was better than fighting. They're still on the payroll.

  5. @anon 8:55, Seriously? Are you claiming that there is peace in Iraq? So the US soldiers are not under threat of being attacked in Iraq anymore? If not, then what are you talking about?

    You know as I write this I'm thinking you might have wrote that in jest.

  6. In a 2002 War Game (that cost the US $250,000,000.00), retired Marine, Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, was commander of the Red Team which represented an "unnamed Persian Gulf military" with a Navy modeled after Iran's.

    From a NY Times article...

    In that war game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships — an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels — when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats.

    "The sheer numbers involved overloaded their ability, both mentally and electronically, to handle the attack," said Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper.... "The whole thing was over in 5, maybe 10 minutes."

    But I found this funny (emphasis mine)...

    When the Red Team sank much of the Blue navy despite the Blue navy's firing of guns and missiles, it illustrated a cheap way to beat a very expensive fleet. After the Blue force was sunk, the game was ordered to begin again, with the Blue Team eventually declared the victor.

  7. Robert,

    It seems that you looked further into a suggestion of mine regarding A-stan (i.e guerilla warfare) vs. centralized command. I am glad that you did, because most average people have no knowledge of military tactics and procedure. I was even more happy to see that Rothbard was of the same opinion.

    This post definitely strikes a chord with me....

  8. @anon8:55 I suspect if it was 1968 you would telling us the same thing about Vietnam. Unfortunately, we may see the true situation in Iraq if Iran is attacked.

    “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue” Mao

  9. Anon 10:10 -
    So Right!!!
    When I was a young 'un back in the Tonkin Gulf, the thing that kept me up nights was the COMAR PT boats the NV Navy ran around in.
    Low freeboard, wood, no radar signature (in other words - STEALTH).
    They were cheap, fast, invisible, and carried two Russian rockets with major Russian warheads. The rockets were "dumb" so couldn't be jammed. We (on a 1/2 billion $$$ high tech cruiser) were DEAD MEAT if they had decided to fire.
    Musta been politics that kept us alive...

  10. Anon@1010pm-

    That's a scary and wholly plausible scenario. I fear the attack on Iran will be less conventional. God help us all...

  11. On the BBC's Secret Pakistan - part 2 program one of the groups there was still 30 fighters, the same from a few years ago. It sounds sensible for them to keep to smaller groups I guess, like in Red Dawn.

  12. Joel: seriously? History of the World has a few funny moments, sometimes repeats from earlier Mel Brooks films; when I was 15 I liked the Spanish Inquisition song-and-dance number, but now it just makes me go "oy!"...the best part of the film is Pamela Stevenson in a tight dress :)