Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sibley's Brigade in the Red River Campaign, Part One: Overview of the Campaign

In the final months of the American Civil War, Federal troops launched an ambitious campaign to take control of the Red River, capture the Confederate Army's Trans-Mississippi Department's headquarters at Shreveport, Louisiana, and occupy East Texas. 50,000 men launched the Red River Campaign with expectations of an easy victory, but after early successes, the reality would be just the opposite. The Confederate military proved that it still had plenty of fight left in it and routed Lincoln's men. The stunning success of the Confederates in this campaign could not turn the tide of the war, but the Southern Cause survived for several more months because of this victory. It further ensured that Texas would be the only state in the Confederacy without a large Federal force operating within her borders by the end of the war.

Throughout the campaign, the Texas Sibley Brigade (aka the Bagby Brigade) distinguished itself by fighting in both conventional battles and successfully engaging in modern partisan warfare against the Union naval task force (the Red River Squadron) that took part in the Campaign. Their success made them, arguably, the most effective Confederate force in the campaign, but their story has been largely forgotten. They are unsung Texas heroes who have inspired a series of articles to bring their deeds to light and ensure that they will be remembered in the future. However, before their story can be told, the circumstances surrounding the brigade things need to be understood. More specifically, an overview of the Red River Campaign, the Red River Squadron, and a history of the Sibley Brigade will be discussed. These subjects are far too large to be combined into a single article, so each will be discussed separately, starting with an overview of the Red River Campaign.

The Red River Campaign was waged by Federal units taken from all sectors of the Trans-Mississippi Front. The Red River squadron took the bulk of the Union Navy's muscle on the Mississippi, while the land contingent was made up mainly of General Nathaniel Banks' 15,000 man strong Army of the Gulf. An additional 10,000 troops were siphoned from General Sherman's army in Vicksburg, 15,000 troops under General Fredrick Steele were taken from Little Rock, and a brigade each of Marines and colored troops were combined to form 45,000 armed effectives. Supporting this army was the newly formed Red River Squadron, made up of over 50 ships. The crews of these ships, combined with the ground forces, added up to nearly 50,000 soldiers, sailors, and Marines.

The Campaign was the plan of General-in-Chief Henry Halleck and was led by General Banks, who selected General William Franklin to replace him as commander of the Army of the Gulf. Admiral David Porter commanded the Red River Squadron. Halleck's strategy called for two Federal troop bodies. The first would include 30,000 troops, plus Porter's fleet, and would advance straight up the Red River towards Shreveport, while 15,000 men under Steele would move South from Arkansas and meet up with the first group at Shreveport. Steele would then provide an occupying force while the rest of the Union task force would move into East Texas.

Fort De Russy

On March 14th, 1864, the troops granted to Banks from Sherman, under command of General A.J. Smith, fought the first major battle of the campaign with a surprise attack on Fort De Russy. The battle was much lighter than either side had anticipated, with only two Confederate fatalities, and less than fifty Union dead. Still, over 300 rebels were taken prisoner, and the only heavy artillery the Confederates had in the region were captured. This was the only obstruction preventing Union access to the Red River and the loss of the fort's garrison meant that no other rebel force existed that was large enough to attempt to stand and fight. River obstacles had been placed to block Porter's ships, but these were removed in a day once the fort had been neutralized.

Commanding the Confederate troops in the region was General Kirby Smith, who was in charge of the Trans-Mississippi Department. He was the direct superior of Richard Taylor, the son of former president Zachary Taylor, who actually led the rebel defense. Both Smith and General Magruder, of the East Texas Department, sent troops to reinforce Taylor, however, Texas troops were slow to arrive. Smith offered only 4,000 troops to meet Taylor at Shreveport, far from where they were actually needed. With only 7,000 men actually at his disposal, Taylor was forced to abandon Alexandria and retreat towards Shreveport. Despite orders to allow Federal forces to advance deep into Louisiana before counter-attacking, Taylor resolved to stand and fight as soon as he could gather a more sizable force.

Smith captured Alexandria on the 17th, and was met by Banks on the 24th. However, Banks was traveling separately from the main body of troops who didn't arrive for another day. From the 21st on, minor cavalry skirmishes were the only resistance offered by the rebels. Taylor continued to retreat towards Shreveport until he met up with the lead elements of the Texas reinforcements on April 6th. From his camp on Pleasant Hill he redirected most Texas units North to Mansfield, however, elements of several Texas brigades, including the bulk of the Sibley Brigade, heavily engaged Union cavalry on April 7th at Crump's Corner near Pleasant Hill. While the skirmish was inconclusive, it signaled two things. It told the Federals that the Confederate resistance was stiffening and that heavier fighting was sure to follow, while also marking the beginning of the Sibley Brigade's involvement in the campaign. General Franklin did not believe that the Confederates would stand and fight, and when Taylor abandoned Pleasant Hill on the 6th, Banks was likewise convinced.

The Battle of Pleasant Hill was not the total victory that Mansfield had been, but it still resulted in Banks abandoning the field after heavy fighting, and ended any hope for success in the Red River Campaign.

With Texas reinforcements now under Taylor's command, he had a total force of less than 10,000 men. Cavalry skirmishes continued until the 8th, when Taylor made a stand with 8,800 of his men at Mansfield, only 25 miles from the Texas border. Back and forth skirmishing was replaced that afternoon with a major Confederate charge that broke the Union line and overran their wagon train, along with 20 artillery pieces. By the end of the day, some 3,000 Federal soldiers were dead, wounded, captured, or missing, while only around 1,000 Confederate casualties were suffered. It was a stunning military success by an outnumbered but daring rebel force. Taylor quickly moved to press his victory and struck Banks the next day at Pleasant Hill. Here the Federals held, but retreated the next day, leaving their dead on the field. Each side suffered some 1,600 casualties. Banks abandoned the campaign at this point and retreated to the Mississippi River.

Meanwhile, General Steele's 7,000 men had been advancing south and had fought several skirmishes, but due to critical supply shortages and after losing nearly 2,000 men in the Battles of Poison Spring and Marks' Mills, he quit the campaign and retreated to Little Rock. However, he still played a critical role in the campaign when General Smith ordered half of Taylor's troops to move north to face Steele's men. This decision may have helped crush Steele's task force, but it had weakened Taylor's main force when it had Banks on the run. As a result, Banks was able to escape, and fight off Confederate efforts to destroy his rearguard.

Both union battle groups would fight successful rearguard actions on land, but the haste of Banks' retreat without proper communication to Admiral Porter, resulted in many ships being isolated on the Red River which became vulnerable to enemy action. This will be the subject of later articles.

In all, General Taylor drove Union forces out of the Red River area, thanks largely to reinforcements from Texas. It would be the last great Southern victory of the war, but because of Kirby Smith's decision to split Taylor's forces after Pleasant Hill, the victory could not be completed. Some wonder if the destruction of Banks' army and the destruction or capture of Porter's fleet as a result, might have changed the course of the war. This is almost certainly not the case, but it could have added as much as a year of life to the Confederacy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Logic of Attrition Warfare in the Sri Lankan Civil War

The Sri Lankan public's unwillingness to back a large scale engagement on account of the heavier losses any such battle is expected to result in greatly hampers their military's capacity to defeat the LTTE. A major offensive needs to begin as quickly as possible and the citizens of Sri Lanka need to reconsider their situation. This offensive would, naturally, include the mine clearing tactics that was talked about in the previous article.

It is almost certain that fewer Sri Lankan soldiers will die in the long run if the LTTE is destroyed sooner rather than later. The public needs to come to terms with the fact that casualties are going to increase when this offensive finally occurs, but it is a blessing in disguise. It is generally true that more soldiers die in larger battles in the short term but over time, constant low intensity fighting surpasses the cost of a major battle. To see if this is true, lets consider the losses suffered on each side in this intentional stalemate.

Since, lets say, August of 2007, a few thousand LTTE fighters, most of them conscripts, and many of them drafted after our stated start date, have died in operations in and around the Wanni. No LTTE provoked major battle has ever resulted in so many dead. For the Sri Lankan military, casualty reports that are older than January 1st are difficult to come by, but based various reports of different engagements during this time period, at least 500 Sri Lankan soldiers, police, and Home Guard have been killed. The true death toll is probably much higher, and thousands have been wounded since last August. This would rank among the most costly battles of the war for the Sri Lankan military if it had been paid for up front. The kill ratio for these past many months may be mathematically favorable to Sri Lanka, but the benefits won are no longer worth the time, resources, or lives. They were at one point, but that time has past.

Many people haven't really understood that there is a price to pay in a meat grinder strategy. Military propaganda articles often report their claimed total LTTE deaths over a long period of time while, whenever military deaths are mentioned, only the most recent casualties are talked about, with the exception of the resent report on 2008 casualties. While propaganda can't be soley blamed for the mindset of the Sri Lankan people, many are guilty of looking at these two complementary facts through two different contexts. This gives a false impression that the military is not sacrificing in this campaign, when in reality Sri Lanka continues to pay a heavy price for what is now unclear benefit.

The logic that a favorable kill ratio number is equal to a favorable trade in lives is also questionable. The claim that the body count system is depleting the Wanni's population at anywhere close to a rate that can be of use to this campaign is almost certainly false, and that will be addressed shortly. For now it is enough just to know that it is in question. Given this, what logic is there in trading the lives of soldiers, at any ratio, for the lives of conscripts who were only drafted as a result of the attrition strategy being used to kill them? It is a mathematical fact that the shorter a war is, the fewer people can be drafted into it, so the longer the SLA fights a war of attrition, the more children and other draftees they will have to kill and die trying to kill. In another reality where the SLA took the initiative, many LTTE draftees that are already dead now might have never been drafted in the first place.

This strategy's continued use is no longer beneficial to the overall campaign by itself. It had many beneficial results in the past, but is no longer worth using, unless it is used in conjunction with a major offensive. It has hurt enemy morale, while boosting that of the Sri Lankan military. It has made the LTTE defensive lines chaotic and porous, while the deaths of volunteers and veterans among the LTTE are always positive bonuses. However, the logic of bleeding the Wanni's military age population by killing draftees doesn't seem to work unless the Sri lankan military abandons its hope to capture the Wanni by the end of 2008. In this line of thinking, no one seems to consider the Wanni's birth rate since, say, 1980. It is quite probable that the birth rate is greater than 10 births a day, which is the average number of LTTE soldiers killed each day. Assuming that this is not the case, whatever birth rate has been the case since the war began will be enough to keep the LTTE well stocked with conscripts for years. This is a race against the clock and the longer the SLA spends bleeding off draftees that can and are being easily replaced, the more likely it is that political, economic, or international factors will rescue the LTTE and keep this war going for many years to come.

This attrition is unlikely to be achieving its goal of depleting the LTTE's supply of war materials. If anything, the LTTE is slowly increasing their stocks over time. Shortly after the last big blockade runner had been sunk, they were dealing with material shortfalls that were seen in artillery rationing on their part, but that is long over and artillery duels are pretty common now. Using many smaller craft, the LTTE seems to be enjoying a constant influx of supplies from Tamil Nadu and since the SLA is not inclined to push a major offensive, the LTTE has been able to stockpile munitions, giving them an advantage they should never have had.

The reality of the price being paid by both sides, the high probability of improving LTTE supply stocks, the fact that the objectives that have been met by this attrition strategy were met a long time ago, and the uncertainty about the strategy's success in depleting the Wanni's manpower pool to any significant degree, leads to the conclusion that this strategy is no longer providing benefit to Sri Lanka and should be replaced or coupled with a more aggressive strategy to bring about real tangible progress in concluding this war.

A crtical benefit of a major offensive that attrition does not offer is that it will result in larger battles that will quickly change the strategic situation in the areas where they are fought. In a matter of a few short days, a major engagement can achieve more than months of raids and counter raids. An offensive, if executed with a level of competency expected from the greatly improved Sri Lankan military, will be able to strike the LTTE hard enough to significantly shorten the war.

The Wanni is not a single, massive, formation of bunkers and trenches and a problem faced by soldiers today is that even if they do capture a bunker line, by the time they are allowed to advance again, new fortifications have been built behind what was previously the Tiger's fall back line. New mine fields are also often planted. This crawling advance ensures that the LTTE will always be well dug in and will have prepared defensive positions to retreat to. A major offensive can break both the LTTE's primary and secondary Forward Defensive Lines, or FDLs, and force them to do one of three things, while eliminating the problem of prepared enemy positions. All three of these options would be major successes for Sri Lanka by themselves, but the potential results are even more valuable.

The Tigers can abandon the area, leaving only saboteurs, which while they are problematic, are better than hundreds of dug in Tigers with artillery. They can also decide to counter attack, which would be a gift from God for the SLA, allowing them to use their superior numbers and firepower to butcher the LTTE. The casualties suffered by the LTTE in such a counter attack would cripple their capacity to resist the SLA in the sector in contest, allowing for a rapid advance. Finally, the Tigers may choose to try and contain the breakthrough by standing and defending a suddenly difficult to define front line, from unprepared defenses, without artillery support, or at least with a reduced artillery capacity. Getting the LTTE to stand and fight from a disadvantage, whether they are defending against an SLA attack, or counter attacking, would allow the military to greatly reduce the Tiger population in the area of operations.

There is a general fear among the citizens of Sri Lanka that the LTTE will win a crucial victory if a major battle is fought. This is unlikely to occur, since the factors that allowed the LTTE to win battles in the past have greatly changed. An army that is afraid to fight is ultimately self-defeating and this war will not end without multiple major battles. The sooner these are fought, the sooner the war can be won. The superior numbers, technology, production capacity, and leadership of the Sri Lankan military means that the Tigers will not be able to win battles the way they did in the past. If the Sri Lankan military is truly committed to a battle, then they cannot be defeated. Fears of a repeat of the debacles of Elephant Pass and Mullativu are based on a misunderstanding of the LTTE's strength and fuel a fear of larger battles in the minds of Sri Lankan citizens. While they are a fierce enemy that can cause grievous injury to the military, it was the cutting of supply lines to the Elephant Pass Base and the Mullaitivu relief force that were the killing blows for these battles, not brute force. General Fonseka should concentrate his conservative strategic nature on securing supply lines once a major push is made, not in killing time in the meat grinder of trench warfare. The LTTE's desire to cut these lines, be they by land, or by sea as a result of an amphibious landing, could actually give Sri Lanka the major battle they need. Concentration of force and commitment by the SLA and SLN can turn this weak point into an opportunity to strike a major blow against the LTTE. With Fonseka's conservative style guiding the offensive, the LTTE would be hard pressed to cut off advancing troops for any significant period of time and so long as Sri Lanka maintains superior numbers and firepower, the Tigers will have no way to stop the SLA from marching anywhere in the Wanni.

This offensive must begin soon though because Sri Lanka's economy cannot sustain the war effort forever, while public opinion can easily turn against the government if clear progress is not made. Sri lanka's dependence on international support, or at least neutrality also limits the time they have to end this war. Concerns about the hardships suffered by civilians in this war may cause nations that supply the Sri Lankan military to end their support, which may very well ensure the LTTE's survival for years to come.

Breaking through Minefields in the Sri Lankan Civil War

The Sri Lankan Civil War has been raging for decades with tens of thousands of people killed on each side. Ethnic Tamil separatists have been fighting for a racially exclusive country in the North and East of the island. Developments since 2004 have seen the Liberation Ligers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE lose almost all of their territory in the East of the island, while minor losses have been suffered on the Western coast as well. Splits within the rebel organization and a modernized Sri Lankan military has pushed the LTTE to the brink of destruction and what could be the final stage of the war is on the horizon. The remaining LTTE forces have been surrounded in the Northern part of Sri Lanka, called the Wanni. This region includes the rebellion's capital city of Kilinochchi and is defended on several fronts by long lines of trenches, bunkers, and minefields. Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, has sworn to take control of the Wanni by the end of 2008, and fierce trench warfare has resulted in tremendous losses on both sides.

The total collapse of most of the LTTE controlled territory in the past few years has allowed Sri Lanka the opportunity to end this long war once and for all.

However, Sri Lankan Military advances have stalled on all fronts in the Wanni. While minor advances continue on the Mannar, Weli Oya, Vavuniya, and Jaffna fronts, these advances are measured in yards. Initially, general Fonseka did not want to capture territory. His objective was to kill as many LTTE fighters as possible to degrade their military force ahead of a major offensive in the months between rainy seasons. With over a month of good weather already lost since the Northern Offensive began, there has been a disappointing lack of progress into LTTE territory. This can be attributed to four key factors:

  • The No-man's Land between Sri Lankan and LTTE trenches have been heavily mined, as have areas within LTTE defenses.
  • Public Opinion holds back a major offensive because many people fear the heavier upfront casualties that such an offensive would entail.
  • General Fonseka is acting too conservatively for various military reasons.
  • Economic considerations limit Sri Lanka's capacity to wage war.

In this first of another two part series, the question of clearing the minefields that are largely responsible for the stalled Sri Lankan advance will be addressed

The large number of anti-personnel mines and a fewer number of anti-tank mines are a serious threat that impedes Sri Lankan advances. Several solutions exist to combat the minefields, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Defining and implementing a strategy to break through these minefields and any future minefields with relative speed and effectiveness should be one of the highest priorities of the military, if not the highest. Four main possible solutions, each with with unique benefits and drawbacks, will be discussed here.

The Sri Lankan military has used this low-tech method of eliminating mines for decades.

The first option is the oldest solution to land mines in existence. Often referred to as the "Poke and Pray" method, this is the simple act of having an individual walk into an area thought to be mined and start poking the ground with a knife or stick. When they hit something metallic or hollow, they carefully dig it up and dispose of it, all the while praying that the mine doesn't explode in their face. This method is very slow and would take too long to be a viable option for clearing a path into the Wanni. The use of hand held metal detectors is a derivative of this method.

A flail system was the first effective method of quickly clearing a safe path through a minefield.

A second option is to used a modified bulldozer equipped with swinging chain flails in place of the standard blade to "rake" the minefield. This method is much faster than the previous solution and workers are protected from the dangers of anti-personnel mines. It does suffer from two big setbacks though.

Terrain can greatly limit where a bulldozer can go. The thick jungles of the Wanni and any rocky terrain can limit the bulldozer's effectiveness and even prevent access all together. This allows the LTTE to know well in advance where this system can punch a hole for a military advance, and they have had a long time to prepare strong defenses in these bottlenecks. An ideal solution would allow the military to break through the minefield at a greater number of locations, preventing the LTTE from catching soldiers in a vulnerable bottleneck. The whole of the Jaffna Front is testament to this problem.

The other issue is the bulldozer's vulnerability to enemy fire. These slow lumbering targets are easy to hit with RPGs, mortars, rockets, and even artillery. While escorts can and must be assigned to each bulldozer, by the nature of their task, they must be exposed to enemy fire more than any other unit. This gives bulldozer units a high casualty probability and these prospects make this an undesirable solution, though they will probably be used anyway, where possible, due to necessity.

A third option that has been considered in the past but has proven to not be very reliable is the bombardment solution. The general idea is to saturate a minefield with artillery, mortar, rocket, and even cluster bomb air strikes to blast a hole through the mines. Despite it being the safest, since no one has to actually enter the minefield or brave hostile fire, four issues make this solution a dead end.

First, the imperfect nature of carpet bombing means that there is no way to be sure that a path is clear. Next, unexploded munitions add risk to soldiers on the march, replacing many of the mines that would have been destroyed. The last purely military problem is that the hours or days of bombardment would be a pretty obvious giveaway that the SLA plans to move through this particular chunk of real estate. This gives the LTTE plenty of time to prepare for Sri Lankan advances. On an economic note, the price for the munitions needed for such an attempt would be beyond Sri Lanka's economic capacity, assuming they plan to fight the rest of the war after breaking through. Given that their ability to pay for the Northern offensive is already in doubt, this kind of spending is a get out of jail free card for the Tigers.

Using a chain of explosives to clear a path through a minefield has proven to be very effective in recent conflicts, including the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Another solution that has possibly the greatest potential for success is the use of explosive chains fired into a minefield to blast a hole path for soldiers to exploit. This method is used by most well to do military organizations, such as the Chinese and the NATO states. Gaps varying in size from enough for a single file line of infantry to wide gaps for tank columns can be made depending on the power of the explosives and can clear a path hundreds of yards long. These explosives use shock waves to detonate the mines as if they had been stepped on, and as a result of using shock waves that pass through the air and ground, the trees and stones that might limit a bulldozer are no longer sufficient protection for the mines. By firing a chain of explosives from a certain distance, the mine clearing units are more protected from enemy fire than a bulldozer would be, while the unit is never at risk from the mines they are seeking to clear. The effectiveness and superior safety of this design make this the preferable solution on a purely military level. The only serious drawback is the cost, not only in building the contraptions but in munitions that bulldozers don't spend. Looking at cost in this way, though, is not the right way to go about assessing value. These costs must be compared, not just to the cost of modifying a bulldozer, but also to the price of replacing destroyed bulldozers and the cost in lives that more dangerous methods entail, as well as the cost in tactical military capabilities, since a bulldozer is limited in where it can advance, giving the LTTE clear indications of SLA routes of advance.

The basic conclusion is that bulldozers should be used in cleared areas where mines remain, and in areas where explosive chain units are not available, but that these explosive chains should be used as extensively as possible on the front lines.

Now an odd reaction seen from many Sri Lankans when it comes to military hardware is "who can we buy these from" and this is another example of this. It then opens up the debate on how Sri Lanka can afford to buy such units and this has become the killing stroke for many ideas for military reforms. This is a bizarre reaction. This is a dangerous mindset that should be discouraged. The LTTE are masters of innovation and the Sri Lankan military should seek to emulate them in this regard. Explosive chains are just packages of explosive material, chained together, thus the name. The rest of this engineering marvel is building an industrial grade blowgun with "bomb on a rope" tied to the end. If the blowgun method proves to be too problematic, the SLA could always just remove the warhead from a mid-range rocket from one of the MBRLs and use it. They might even use the MBRL itself and not even have to build a separate unit for mine clearing. Regardless, this is not science only attainable by world superpowers.

This is just one example of Sri Lanka's bad habit of seeking to buy what they can make, but that's a story for another time.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Darfur Conflict, Part Two: The Plan for Military Action in Darfur

Few people seem to realize what would be required for any peacekeeping operation in Darfur to be successful. Clearly the small peacekeeping missions of the African Union and the United Nations have never seen success in Africa. From Somalia, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Darfur, to Rwanda, small efforts yield even smaller results. If the genocide is to truly be stopped, and if the war is truly to be ended, then a military force will be needed on the scale of World War Two's Russian Front.

A large military force entering the region to stop all warring parties from fighting their enemies will result in all of these armed groups seeing the peacekeeping force as an invading army sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. This large number of hostile combatants will require a huge military force to overcome, while the campaign, especially if Western nations are involved, will probably result in foreign terrorist groups entering the country, further increasing the number of hostile fighters arrayed against it. To really understand what this entails, two factors must be understood: the size of the conflict zone and the different groups that will be enemies of the Darfur Peacekeeping Force, or DPKF.

As you can see, the conflict has spread to three separate nations. (Courtesy of the BBC)

Darfur is a region that borders, or is arguably a part of, four different countries, of which at least three have seen significant violence. Assuming Libya has kept and can continue to keep the peace on the small border it has with Darfur, the nations of Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic all contain part of a very large and continually expanding combat zone. Since any massive military operation by foreign powers within their borders would be seen by all three nations as acts of war, if the DPKF were to be created and deployed, they would be campaigning in the entire area of all three countries. This is because they would have to not only neutralize a plethora of militant and terrorist groups, but would also have to bring the governments and military forces of all three nations to heel. This assumes that no belligerent forces base themselves from within additional nations like Uganda or Ethiopia, which is a very real possibility. Under this assumption, the minimum size of the area the DPKF would be keeping the peace in would be roughly half the size of the entire United States.

To give an idea of the force needed to take control of such a large area, the Iraq War proves to be an easy example. Iraq is roughly the size of California. 160,000 American military personnel, roughly 400,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, 70,000 Sons of Iraq, and somewhere in the range of 10,000 troops from various other nations have been required, not to totally defeat the insurgency, but to reduce it to the point where progress can be made in the country. Taking into account the temporary nature of the American escalation and the growing strength of the Sons of Iraq movement, between 600,000 and 650,000 men under arms have been required just to allow the opportunity for progress. To boot, much of this success relies on the good will of currently dormant militias that have combined numbers in the tens of thousands.

Notice the difference in size between Iraq and the combined nations of Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic

The minimum area that must be controlled by the DPKF is over 10 times Iraq's size. Assuming that the combined military force of all three nations and all militant groups, plus foreign terrorist groups that will surely arrive to counter Western influence, will prove to be only as dangerous as the militant groups currently active in Iraq, and assuming that the current situation in Iraq is the desired first phase of the future for Darfur, 6-6.5 million troops will be required for the DPKF, along with a Naval force in the Red Sea that will consist of at lead two American Carrier Groups. A force of this size will by no means totally secure the region, but it is the required size for achieving relative control over most of the territory. Anything less than this will make it impossible to adequately protect all major population centers and resources, will leave a porous and unprotected border, and will allow belligerents the luxury of safe havens where there are no available troops to patrol.

A military force of this size is an impossible undertaking. It would require a total commitment by every major world power, the whole of NATO, and the African Union to have anywhere close to that number of soldiers just on paper. Without a doubt, America, and any other committed nation that does not currently have a military draft, will require one. The logistical demands for such a force would be so great that it would be beyond the capabilities of any alliance. Even if reality were to temporarily step aside and allow such a force to be assembled and supplied, the costs of keeping so large a force in the field would mean that all nations involved would face bankruptcy in a matter of months.

Since this minimum size for the guarantee of a minimum level of success is beyond the capabilities of the whole of humanity, and certainly beyond the willpower of the American public, any peacekeeping mission must accept that they cannot stop the violence or end the genocide. The best that can be hoped for is that a much smaller DPKF can create a safe haven for refugees. It would be like Srebrenica during the Balkans Conflict, but it would be much larger. Such a fortified safe haven would be totally dependent on a permanent military force. Should the contributing nations ever require their soldiers for the benefit of their own nations the mass of refugees would be totally vulnerable to attack from those who forced them to seek shelter in the first place. When this happened in the Balkans, 8,000 people were killed the moment peace keepers withdrew. On the scale that would probably exist in Darfur, tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands could die. Not only would the refugees be totally and permanently dependent on the DPKF for their survival, but they would be forced into a small area of land by strategic need for a totally secure perimeter. This prevents the population from establishing agriculture or industry, ensuring their perpetual dependency on foreign food aid, medical aid, and basic tools for living, as well as all other nonrenewable resources, such as fuel for cooking fires and potable water.

Since the fact remains that a military intervention will be seen as an act of war by whatever nation has been invaded, either a deal must be brokered, which is unlikely, or a military campaign will have to be waged to destroy that nations capacity to endanger safe zones. This could destabilize that government and may result in the total collapse of centralized government, since nations like Chad are barely holding on the a central government as it is. If central governments collapse, the result would likely be a mirror image of Somalia, where feudal warlords and Islamic clerics, turned politicians, fight for resources and territory, while the people starve and are caught in the cross-fire.

Ignoring this all too likely result of even a moderate sized intervention. this total and unending dependency on the DPKF for protection, and foreign aid for all other aspects of living make this solution as bad or worse than doing nothing at all. It forces refugees to rely on the outside world for every aspect of their existence and forces them into unproductive lives. By not getting involved, the world powers may be ignoring a genocide, but they do give the victims of this conflict the gift of self dependency. Where an intervention would be impossible on a large scale, and would create a parasitic society on a smaller scale, nonintervention would force those being brutalized to develop solutions for themselves. Instead of relying on a perpetual military presence from other world powers, they will be forced to learn to defend themselves.

Instead of living on a reservation where minimal to no food can be grown, and where negligible quantities of other goods can be produced, they will be free to defend however much land they have the capacity to hold, where food can be grown. As bad a feeling as it may give many people, a more lasting solution may be found by embracing this conflict. Populations under threat from militias or oppressive governments should be given military aid, and basic instructions on how to use the weapons they have. Just as they must be taught to fish instead of being fed by others forever, they must learn to protect themselves, not rely on the protection of foreign military forces. Once those facing genocide are able to defend their land and assets, and kill those who have sought their annihilation, the violence will lessen.

The Darfur Conflict, Part One: Humanitarian Aid and the Army Corps of Engineers

On campuses across America, student activists are calling for American intervention in Darfur. The genocide occurring there has become one of the latest political fads. “Save Darfur” shirts and information booths are a common sight, but finding someone who actually understands the depths of the conflict there is a harder task. Even finding someone who knows exactly what they mean when they call for action by the American government is difficult. Some want economic trade embargoes to be put on Sudan, while others want all nations involved to be part of a collective embargo. Some want America to send an unprecedented aid package in humanitarian aid, and still many more just want America to do “something.” What that something is, is anyone’s guess.

Some even want a NATO military force to be sent to Darfur to try and end the violence. What this really means, whether they realize it or not, is that they want an American military intervention, since the military might of all other NATO member nations combined would not have the manpower to even begin to take on this task with only a proportional American force along side them. An American military intervention or a mass aid package are both idealistic solutions and are nonviable options in the real world. In this first of a two part Article on Darfur, a non-military solution will be shown as impossible to achieve and harmful to even attempt.

Sending millions of tons of flour, rice, and other food supplies into famine struck regions of Africa has been a favored method of dealing with the problems gripping the continent for decades, while the amount of money spent on aid to third world countries has been a quick way to boost a donating nation’s status with the world. A simple look at the countries that receive this aid seems to indicate that this system does not work. At best it is a tremendous effort for short-term benefit and no long-term solution. At worst, it exacerbates the problems that any aid package hopes to solve.

This is just a large-scale version of the old saying, “if you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Sending massive food shipments to parts of Africa that are facing famine, generally, is never enough to even prevent all starvation deaths, but even worse is the dependency it causes. As a result of food, literally, falling from the sky, many farmers stop trying to cultivate the land. What’s the use if the crops often fail and America and Europe will feed the population better than farming ever could? So now the food aid can’t ever really end the famines, gives an incentive to farmers to stop working, which prolongs and worsens the famines, and the result is that this food aid promotes over population in areas that, clearly, cannot support the number of people currently residing there.

Aid must be coupled with the building of infrastructure so that the population can feed itself. Agricultural infrastructure is vitally important to the survival of any region’s population. Irrigation, larger canals, the capacity to produce fertilizer and the safest possible pesticides locally, and agriculture tools and equipment are all needed, as are crops that can produce best in whatever region is being modernized. Desertification is also a threat that needs to be countered in many regions with hearty plant growth that is permanent, and not part of a food crop that is dug up and replanted every year. Innovative methods of increasing food production and food diversity are needed to not only feed a greater portion of the population, but also help build up people's immune systems. Crop cycles should be established that replenish the nutrients in the soil will help prevent future crop failures, while canals and livestock watering ponds can have hearty fish species introduced. Livestock should be bred to improve the survivability and the nutritional value of animals. All of this means that when a region is facing famine, they need the Army Corps of Engineers just as badly, or more so, than they need protein powder dropped from a cargo plane.

Unfortunately for Darfur, the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t be on the job long before certain groups of people started shooting at them. For any infrastructure building projects to occur, a certain level of security must be won first. Since food aid won’t solve the problem and will probably be stolen by anyone with a gun to be sold for more weapons, and since Darfur is a war zone that is far too active for the massive building projects that would be required to give this region any hope of future prosperity to occur, only two options seem to remain. America and the outside world can do nothing and let the natives fight each other, as they have for decades, until one side finally wins and the genocide is taken to its bloody conclusion, or a massive foreign military force can be sent into Africa to engage and destroy all of the many combatants, or at least force them to accept a cease-fire. This is an impossible undertaking that America could never hope to achieve, even if Iraq had never been invaded. This military option will be the subject of the second article.