24 January 2015
How to fight the Crime Insurgency in South Africa - Part Three - Adopt what is useful; Discard what does not work
By Mike Smith
23rd of January 2015
The futility of WHAM in COIN – Helping those who help your enemies
During the South African Border War (1966-1989) South Africa officially adopted a policy of WHAM (Winning Hearts And Minds). The South African military drew on the work of Lieutenant-General Charles Alan 'Pop' Fraser and US Colonel John McCuen
McCuen served in staff and command positions in the United States Army in Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and Indonesia. While serving on the US Army General Staff in 1966 his book, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War – The Strategy of Counter-Insurgency, was published and it forms the basis of the US Army Field Manual FM 3-24.
Fraser, who died in 1994, had an impressive CV. He studied at the South African Military College, the Middle East Staff College in Haifa (Northern Israel) and the Joint Services Staff College in Latimer House, England. He was a WWII veteran and fought in Italy in 1943. After the war he fought in the Malaysian Emergency one of the few really successful Counter Insurgency wars against Communists in modern history.
During the Algerian War 1954-1962 he was military attaché in Paris and spent time in Algeria where he became an expert in Asymmetrical Warfare.
He became Chief of Joint Operations of the South African Defence Force in 1966. As “General Officer Commanding Joint Combat Forces (G.O.C.J.C.F.)” he had the third highest rank in the South African Defence Force. The rank later fell away.
In this position he befriended Swiss military officers such as General Paul Gygli and Colonel Helmut von Frisching who invited him and a military delegation to Switzerland to study the Swiss army’s recruitment and training system, elements of which he introduced to South Africa. South Africa’s Military Intelligence adopted many of the Swiss methods of “Psychological Warfare” and how to fight subversion.
In an unpublished study entitled “Lessons learnt from past revolutionary wars”, released in the early sixties, Fraser distilled the basic principles of counterinsurgency warfare from the work of French authors such as General Andre Beaufre, Lt. Col. David Galula and Col. Roger Trinquier.
This is important, because all these so-called French “experts” on Counter Insurgency LOST their wars!
It was their losing ideas on WHAM and COIN that influenced Fraser and McCuen and found its way into the SADF.
The idea is that when you are nice to the PB’s (Plaaslike Bevolking; Local Population) they will give you information about the enemy insurgents and stop housing, feeding and supporting them. By building schools and hospitals for them, giving them medical services and even curing their animals and livestock from diseases, you will somehow win them over. The idea is generally to convince the PB’s that the government’s cause is better or more righteous than that of the insurgents.
According to an SADF publication, in the Namibian operational area the number of schools increased from 212 in 1962 to 757 in 1982, while the number of pupils increased from 32 000 to 172 000. National servicemen were deployed in the education, health, agriculture, forestry and nature preservation fields. In addition to medical services, all dentists, veterinarians and psychologists in the operational area were linked to the SADF civic action. Source: Winning Hearts and Minds in the Namibian Border War
How successful was WHAM in Namibia?
It was a total failure. After the SADF withdrew from Namibia and the Namibians had their elections in November 1989, SWAPO won the election with 57% of the vote. In the province of Ovamboland, 92% of the people voted for SWAPO.
Out the porthole goes David Galula’s theory that “Most of the population will be neutral in the conflict...”
It’s utter rubbish.
What did all that WHAM help? Why did it not work in Vietnam with the French and Americans? Why did it not work for the Russians in Afghanistan and why is it not working today for the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Well what do you think would have happened if the Russians (or Americans) ever invaded South Africa…? Do you think they would have been able to win OUR hearts and minds? Definitely not mine. I would have seen them as intruders in my home and wanted them out as soon as possible.
The study above by Eloff de Visser blames a lack of unity between the SADF and the Police COIN unit, “Koevoet” for it. She says on the one side the SADF was practicing WHAM on the other hand Koevoet would wreck Kraals and strap killed insurgents to the bumpers of their Casspirs.
Instead of blaming the policy of WHAM, (because it was formulated from experts and therefore must be true) she blamed Koevoet.
General Geldenhuys also mentions in “At the Front” that the local population was largely illiterate (despite the schools the SADF ran) and therefore the propaganda pamphlets were useless.
One can today almost laugh at the amateurish nature of some of our SADF techniques.
Personal experience proved that the intelligence received from the PB’s were for the most part unreliable and useless anyway. They were a bunch of liars. They were not co-operating with the SADF and in fact feeding them false information for the most part. Some experts say that PLAN, SWAPO’s armed wing, coerced and intimidated the locals and that was the reason.
Well if it worked for them, then why didn’t WE do it?
Be it as it may, it is clear from the election results that the locals in Namibia simply did not want us there. They hated our guts and saw us as the intruders. WHAM failed dismally in Namibia just as it failed everywhere else in the world. It is a policy that doesn’t work and therefore should be abandoned not stubbornly reintroduced. All those efforts were futile. So why did we spend all that time and money trying to win their hearts and minds?
If only we concentrated those resources in actually destroying the insurgents, the outcome would have been a lot different.