Tuesday, September 13, 2011


( I am reproducing below an article written by me on June 25,2006)



By B.Raman

We saw in Vietnam a clash of wills between a low-tech Vietcong and hi-tech Americans.

Low-tech ultimately prevailed over hi-tech.

Hi-tech taught the Americans how to kill----more and more.

One lost count of the body-counts projected by the US Army officers in South Vietnam and by Mr.Robert McNamara, the then US Defence Secretary, in Washington DC as indicators that the US was winning the war.

If body-counts alone could win a war, the Americans should have won in Vietnam. They did not.

There is something more to battles than body-counts-----morale,motivation, determination, ability to improvise and faith in oneself. The Vietcong had them in plenty.

In addition, the Vietcong had something more, which ultimately made the difference-----the ability to recover and fight again and again undeterred by all the losses suffered by them at the hands of the American troops, artillery and air force.

The Vietcong were like ants. They kept coming more and more. The more the Americans killed, the more they came. They kept coming out of dozens of ant holes located in foreign territory----in North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China.

You cannot destroy ants unless you locate and destroy the ant holes. The American air strikes could not destroy all the ant holes in foreign territory.

They did not even try to destroy those in China lest they provoke Beijing. Their air strikes against those in North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were ineffective due to the complicity of the local authorities with the Vietcong.

Ultimately, the hi-tech Americans were overwhelmed by the low-tech ants. They called it quits.

We are seeing in Afghanistan a clash of wills between a low-tech Taliban and the hi-tech forces of the US-led coalition.

The hi-tech of the US-led forces is enabling them to kill more and more.

Body-counts reminiscent of the Vietnam days are back in vogue.

20 Taliban killed, 40 killed, 65 killed, 149 killed......

It goes on and on.

Every time you watch the TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper, you see or hear only body-counts.

To whom did those bodies belong?

To the Taliban as claimed by the US-led forces? Or

To innocent civilians as alleged by the Taliban?

Definitely both.

The more the civilians you kill, the more the alienation.

The more the civilians you kill, the more the anger against you.

It is a vicious circle.

The Taliban are like ants. They keep coming more and more. The more the Americans kill, the more they come. They keep coming out of ant holes located in the Wairistan and Balochistan areas of Pakistan.

Instead of focussing on the ant holes from which the ants are entering Afghanistan, the Americans are focussing on the places in Afghanistan which are being invaded by the ants----killing many innocent civilians and driving others to join the ants.

This is like damaging or destroying your house because it is invaded by ants instead of locating the ant holes and destroying them first.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is right.

The US-led forces have to change their methods. They have to attack the sources of terrorism.

They have to destroy the ant holes instead of keeping themselves confined to chasing the ants after they enter Afghanistan.

The American-led forces cannot be successful, despite all their resources and fire power, in destroying the ant holes unless they have the genuine co-operation of the military-dominated Government in Pakistan.

Expectations of such genuine co-operation have proved themselves to be illusory.

The Americans have only one option. Facilitate the coming into power of a genuinely democratic Government, which might co-operate sincerely.

It is better to have a sincere ally, even if it be only half effective, than to have an insincere ally, who feeds the ants while pretending to destroy them.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

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ambi said...

Morality plays very important role in the end, whatever the field. Currently I am reading ‘simply fly’ by capt. Gopinath, founder, ceo of Air deccan and an ex Indian army captain who fought on eastern front in 1971 Bangladesh war. He made a very important observation which he later applied in the business field also. In his own words

‘....The Indian army’s strategy was based on the riparian geography of East Pakistan. The idea was to cut off supplies by demolishing bridges that spanned a number of rivers. The campaign ensured isolation of Pakistani divisions. The Pakistanis initially fought fierce battles but were soon on the run. One important reason for their defeat was their moral degradation. The Pakistani soldiers were degenerate and misbehaved with the local people, so they did not receive any local support. Our army received ample help from the local people Mukti Bahini cadres and our own officers disguised as members of the Mukti Bahini. History is replete with instances where occupying armies which had become morally degraded eventually lost the will to fight and suffered defeat at the hands of those who occupied a higher moral plane. The contrast was obvious. While on the western front the Pakistani Army was highly motivated, and fought bravely and well, on the eastern front it was a dispirited force’ ...

My opinion is that It was equally a big success of Indian intelligence along with Indian army. Indian air force pilots new exactly which building (and some time) even in which rooms, Pakistani army is having its secret meetings, and they were specifically targeted, thus reducing civilian casualties from our side. If Indians ld not have been careful in this angle, they might have lost active local backing that they enjoyed sooner or later.

As Capt. Gopi writes ‘we moved out of what is now Bangladesh. My unit was moved to Sikkim. People cheered us all along the road from Dinjapur to rangpur to Sikkim. They were celebrating on the streets, and raised a victory cry, ’Indira Gandhi Zindabad,’ ├Źndian Army Zindabad’, ‘Manekshaw Zindabad’. Even in the smallest of hamlets, people had woken to a sense of freedom and of being citizens of newly independent Bangladesh. Peasants, common people, college girls and children welcomed us with garlands and flowers; they gave us sweets as a token of friendship.’

Karna Sinha said...

Brilliant analysis.

Destroy the antholes and the snakepits, wherever they may be.

The message applies with equal force to the Indian government.

Destroy the antholes and snakepits,
wherever they may be: In Pakistan, in Bangladesh, inside the Indian
homeland. Go after them relentlessly, ruthlessly, with all the force at your disposal.

Is the present Indian government capable of following such a strategy? If not, time for change.

No Mist said...

i love your attitude. when many others would have said that it is pointless to fight the ants, you suggest total victory. i have lost count of commentators who say that it is impossible to fight a motivated enemy (even if they are terrorists) and one should give up and try some appeasement (of course they put it in euphemistic terms).

You have the guts to call for total victory. May God give more people like you to India.

Nirmal said...

You don't mention what motivates the "ants." To continue the analogy, it is territory. Ants like most other organisms, will defend their territory against an invader. The motivation with the Vietcong was nationalism. Nationalism can be temporarily suppressed but never dies.