Saturday, November 3, 2007

"The Fable of the Knife"

Dr Sam C. Holliday, director of the Armiger Cromwell Center, following his first essay in these pages, "Effectively Communicating Jihad: a spade is a spade", in a second article is sharing with us today "The Fable of the Knife", which dates back to the days of the Greek Civil War. He does the introduction himself:

We welcome the good news that killings are down in Iraq. However, we must not forget the ‘Fable of the Knife’. Future hirabahists (Islamic extremists who kill the innocent) will surely remember it. There is no need for each generation to relearn its lesson. The origin of this fable is unknown. From 1947 to 1949 it was told in Greece, and since then many variations have been told.

THE FABLE - Do three insurgents with one hunting knife, or a battalion, control the town?

The battalion is well equipped with the latest in vehicles, communication, and weapons. Its soldiers are well-trained professionals. Most of the time they are in their fortified compound. All guns and ammunition in the town have been collected and destroyed, and no enemy units have been reported in the vicinity. Several times a day vehicles from the compound patrol the town with the soldiers smiling and waving to the people; from time to time they stop and talk - as best they can. Officers from the battalion meet regularly with town leaders to discuss how to improve public utilities, facilitate economic development, and improve governance. They also talk - through an interpreter - about the glories of freedom, and the advantages of democracy. Every day the battalion commander reports to his superior that the town is secure and under his control.

The three insurgents have no vehicle, only face-to-face communication, and one hunting knife. Anyone who has spoken out against the insurgents has been found the next morning in front of his home with his throat cut.

Who controls the town, the three insurgents with one hunting knife or the battalion?

LESSON TO BE LEARNED - Local security must be of, by and for the people.

The big dog theory holds that the biggest, badest dog can dominate all other dogs, and also the cats. In accordance with this theory, war-fighting forces should be able to dispatch insurgents to the ash can of history. But the hirabahists are not dogs or cats; they are snakes, insects, bacteria and viruses. So the battalion is unable to neutralize them. The ruthlessness, cruelty and determination of the insurgents give them the upper hand in a battle of wills.

Sam C. Holliday is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, a former director of Stability Studies at the Army War College, and a retired Army Colonel. He earned a Master's in Public Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in International Relations from the University of South Carolina. Currently he is Director of The Armiger Cromwell Center, a small nonprofit Internet clearinghouse for thinking "outside of the box of conventional wisdom." By means of its online essays, the ACC seeks more effective foreign policies to achieve stability through equilibrium.

- Related: The Fable of the Water Buffalo and the Sparrow

Copyright © 2007 Armiger Cromwell Center, 3750 Peachtree Road, NE, Suite 374, Atlanta, GA 30319-1322 Permission is granted to forward this essay to friends or colleagues, on a fair use basis. For reprint permission contact Armiger Cromwell Center.


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