Gary "War Nerd" Brecher published a new article on the conflict in Georgia titled Please Don’t Help the Georgians. The message is similar to my article Did Georgia Went For A Quick Military Defeat to Spare The Country and Its Economy?: Fighting a Guerilla War doesn’t necessarily is a good idea.

His articles covering the conflict:

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There are a lot of questions unanswered about the war in Georgia/South Ossetia e.g. to what extend did the US influence Saak’ashvili decision to provoke Russia or did Russia provoke Georgia and so on. But one thing is note worthy in my opinion. Why did the Georgians put up such a bad resistance? Sure the Russians have more tanks, more man, more planes, more everything. But at least since the Soviet-Afghan war or Vietnam we know that even a small army can beat a superpower or at least try to get more favourable peace terms. Another good example even involving the Russians could of course be the . Finish Winter War of 1939. Ok, the neighbouring Chechnya is a bad example. First they kicked the Russians around and gained de facto independence but that was such a stain on Russian ego that as soon as the drunk Yeltsin was gone the new star on the Russian sky Putin went back in with a refreshed army and now all that is left of the independence is a small scale Guerilla war. And to be fair: The Russian army in the 90s was pretty lame. No money, no motivation and in disarray of new found separatism. The Russian army of this decade is much more serious.

Destroyed Georgian Tank in Tskhinvalli

A symbol of Georgia’s defeat: A Burned out Georgian
tank in Tskhinvali
Source: Wikimedia

But what we know what happened in Georgia was that the Georgians tried to offer a ceasefire as soon as the Russian tanks were rolling towards South Ossetia. They pulled back after some fighting in Tskhinvali and abandoned their positions and cities falling back towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The Russians didn’t go for Tbilisi and were satisfied with controlling the two strategically important cities of Gori and Poti (btw. does every city in Georgia ends with an i?). Gori sits on the roads and railway lines connecting east and west Georgia and Georgia with South Ossetia. Poti is a major harbour which was the base of the (small) Georgian Navy.

So it seems that the Georgians panicked when they saw all those Russian tanks coming for them and Saakashvili feared that they wanted to get him (We’ve all seen the video of him going for "cover" under a pile of bodyguards). Was he trying to protect himself and ordered his army to abandon the country and concentrate on protecting the capital?

And was this a good military decision? In a conventional way the Georgians never had a chance of defending themselves against the might of the Russian army. Even with those Israeli "tank killer" weapons allegedly used by the Georgians. But as history shows that a mighty army can be defeated by a smaller and badly (or at least less good) equipped troop.

In an open field battle the Russians could easily defeat the Georgians because they had the air superiority (the Georgians didn’t even have fighter jets!) and more tanks and troops. So defending against the Russians in an open terrain would be a dumb idea. But going into a city or mountainous terrain could nullify the Russian advantage in numbers. In such a situation the Israeli anti-tank weapons could be used to a great effect. And you could see that the Russians feared such a situation. They only entered Gori when the cease-fire was signed and they knew all Georgian troops had run away.

Roki Tunnel

Major mistake: the strategically vital
Roki Tunnel was not destroyed.
Source: Wikimedia

A dramatic failure for the Georgians was not to destroy the Roki Tunnel. The Roki Tunnel is the major connection between Russia and South Ossetia and thus is strategically important. If it had been destroyed the Russians were delayed in their actions. You have to know that the biggest problem of warfare is logistics. For every soldier in the field you have to supply ammunition, food, clothing, medicine, petrol for the vehicles and so on etc. Even with looting a modern army can’t supply themselves from the conquered territory anymore. And of course you have to evacuate wounded personal and so on. This needs a lot of planing and supply roads. So even if the Russians could fly in their troops with planes and use small mountain passes they probably had problems in supplying such a big force without a major road. The Georgians tried to attack the Tunnel and their were reports of it being damaged but obviously they failed to destroy it. The Russians even reported problems here which could have been exploited by the Georgians: Some Russian commanders claimed they had no air cover after leaving the tunnel and that broken down vehicles sometimes blocked the road.

Hezbollah Women with Rockets

A way to defend Georgia:
Hezbollahrising the War?
Source: ImageShack

I guess the best defence would have been a Guerilla style war. And I wonder why the Georgians never thought of that. At least they got some training in Anti-Guerilla warfare from the US days before the war. So they could have thought of doing something similar against the Russians. I mean it must have been clear that they can’t beat of the Russians in a traditional way. The 2006 Lebanon War is yet another example of a bad equipped group defeating a big and mighty army. Why did the Georgians ignored those examples?

Grozny in Ruins, 2006

Guerilla war, maybe not a good idea?
Grozny still in Ruins.
Source: Wikimedia

But on the other hand. Such a military way might enable the Georgians to defeat the Russians or at least getting some more favourable cease-fire terms. But it would be at a great cost. The Russians for example levelled the capital of Chechny Grozny to the ground in the Second Chechen War to avoid fighting in closed quarters. And the Roki Tunnel is of vital importance to the Georgian economy, too. Despite the conflict with Russia it is a major export partner for the Georgian economy. So at the end the Georgians lost the war. But they’ll be able to recover from it. Major parts of Grozny are still destroyed, the Chechen economy is poor and the population is a sitting duck between Moslem rebels and Russian soldiers. Afghanistan never recovered from their war against the Soviets, too. There is still war in the country. And the Hezbollah won against Israel but they don’t have to run the country.

Update: What a coincidence Danger Rooms runs a story with the title "Should Georgia Become a Black Sea Hezbollah?".

I actually wanted to write a column about the conflict. But I don’t have the time. So I’ll list some interesting links instead.

Update 4: I created a category about the conflict (I already used tags) to make it easier to follow the articles about it.

I’m missing some links. So I’ll update this article as soon as I find them. I had one interesting article about the failing of the Russian air force because the Georgian air defence network isn’t organised and was blinded early in the conflict and it uses Russian made weapons. But the Georgians still did well in air defences.

Update 1:
*1) Wired’s Danger Room has a statement from Reuters about those accusations.

A new War Nerd article about the War in Georgia. Including some interesting videos.

Emu - Like Zulus...

An Emu stands machine guns "like Zulus"
Source: wikicommons

If you hear about Australia’s military defeats you probably think of their participation in disasters like the Battle of Gallipoli, Vietnam War or the Iraq War. But Australia faced an even bigger military disaster in 1932. Australian troops well armed with machine guns fought an unarmed enemy and lost.

You probably never heard of such an action and think I’m making this stuff up. But no, it is the truth!

Australia’s largest bird the Emu (No not crying teenagers. These are called Emos) was the enemy. The Emu population in Murchison district of Western Australia had grown in the 1930s and Emus looking for food and water had caused destruction to local farms. Farmers started to fear for their crops and called in the Australian army.

A group of Australian soldiers equipped with machine guns went into action against about 20,000 soft-feathered, flightless birds. Probably everybody suspected this to be a quick action (a "turkey shooting"). But shooting blindly into a group of birds which can run up to 50 km/h (30 mph) did not brought the expected results. The birds simply ran away even after being hit by a machine gun round.

Major Meredith – the Australian commander in the "Emu war" – was astonished and noted "if we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds, it would face any army in the world. They could face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus…".

After a few days the Defence Minister ordered a withdrawal. And thus the "Emu War" ended in a military defeat for Australia.

A convoy of French soldiers was ambushed 50 km east of Kabul. The battle lasted for 24 hours and left 10 French soldiers dead and 21 wounded. The ISAF HQ in Kabul was attacked by rockets but they missed. An attack on a NATO base – called Camp Salerno – in Khost by six suicide bombers was repelled. On Monday nine Afghans died when a suicide bomber attacked t he gate of the same base.

These are all signs of the increase in Taliban activities in Afghanistan. The number of dangerous areas increases and even Kabul is now surrounded by unfriendly territories. The main highway connecting Kandahar and Kabul was a major project of the US after the Taliban were pushed back in 2001. But now heavy attacks on the road increase and it is impossible to drive along without protection. The Afghan Army has to occupy former Soviet positions along the road to protect the road.

The NATO troops are getting more and more tense. Firing as soon as they fear an attack. Which is another big success for the Taliban. The NATO troops are more and more alienating themselves. Every new dangerous area on the map is another success for the Taliban. Because it means that they conquered the "hearts and minds" of the local people or the local governor/warlord. The NATO troops seem to be weak they drive by by day but by night the Talibs rule the streets. While the NATO comes by day and gives presents and tries sweet talk the Talibs come by night and chop of the hands of every suspected traitor. These are your options as a peasant.

Here is a BBC video about the situation on the Kabul-Kandahar-Highway. (It can’t be embedded).

Btw. the last major Soviet operation in Afghanistan was an operation to free the highway to Khost.

Here is a precise timeline of the war in Georgia. It contains pretty interesting information, e.g. a list of ambassadors meeting with Georgian representatives in the days before outbreak of the war.


Update: Cryptome has a list of military equipment purchased and used by Georgia.


Update 2: I made a more detailed list of links and facts about the War in Georgia/South Ossetia.