Conversely, if you leave a country you have been occupying, they will stop shooting at you. The excellent Small Wars Journal succinctly explains what the antiwar movement has always assumed and what our leaders refuse to accept. If you occupy a country, you will be seen as an occupier, the locals will band together to drive you out (or fleece you), and they will endeavor to kill you. Further, your presence changes things and makes it worse, not better for you. And it matters not what you think your motives are.
Heisenberg and Mao Zedong: The Occupier Effect
What could a German theoretical physicist and a communist revolutionary possibly have in common? On the surface, nothing whatsoever. Dig a little deeper though, and they shed light on an unavoidable reality of modern conflict. As the United States emerges from the two longest wars in its history and attempts to absorb the lessons learned, perhaps the biggest lesson is the one Werner Heisenberg and Chairman Mao combine to teach us. For years, during both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders struggled to find methods to decrease the level of enemy activity. This they always seemed to do without considering how their mere presence in the battlespace drove insurgent activity. Before we embark on our next foreign adventure, Americans need to remember one simple fact: as long as we accept the moral responsibility for ungoverned spaces, insurgent forces will attack us. Acceptance of this simple truth should drive our nation’s cost-benefit analysis in light of perceived national interest.
This is particularly relevant now if, as John Robb suggests, ISIS may now attack Saudi Arabia, no doubt provoking the US to come blundering in, alienating the population, causing more than a few of them to join ISIS.
It is impossible to properly evaluate the security status in a given theater of operations without considering the presence of the outsiders. As Americans, we are loath to ever view ourselves as occupiers. Our opinion does not count in these matters, though.
Exactly. The important thing is what the locals think of us.
The insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan operated in similar fashion to Mao’s tenants. Once the initial shock of invasion dissipated, there developed a phenomena which can be aptly named “The Occupier Effect”. Despite claims of strategic goals regarding stability operations, nation-building, and free elections, coalition forces remained in place largely due to the lack of security. No matter what coalition forces did, the insurgents continued to launch attacks. No one seemed to realize the insurgents were fighting because coalition forces were still in their countries.