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The War Nerd / April 27, 2011
By Gary Brecher


Before I confess how wrong I was about a big issue, I’ll give myself a little pat on the head for being right about a much smaller deal, the Afghan jailbreak I talked about two days ago. I said it was an inside job all the way and that the reported number of escapees, 440, would go up. Right on both counts, according to a BBC followup story.

The Afghan Justice Minister (now there’s a fun title) has now admitted that the escapers had help from prison staff, and that at least 488 Taliban got out. The Taliban says 541 of their men got out, and 106 of those were high-ranking officers. In this case, I’d be more inclined to take the Taliban’s numbers as real. It’s clear that everyone they wanted to break out made it out, and Saraposa Prison is supposed to hold 1200 men, so there’s nothing stretched-sounding about that 541 figure.

Not that it took a major brainwave to figure out that you can’t dig a 360-meter tunnel right under the prison and let the whole inmate population out without some inside help. That was pretty obvious.

When it comes to bigger, slower, more important issues, my record isn’t as good, and the mistake I want to discuss today is probably the most serioius I’ve made. At least I can do an Army-style “lessons learned” exercise on it. Just like they did after Little Big Horn: “Dear Gen. Custer: Please complete the enclosed ‘lessons learned’ form so that future commanders can have the benefit of your recent experience.”

Yesterday I finally wrote something that’s been bothering me for about ten years: The fact that Al Qaeda can’t be as big and bad as it’s made out to be, because its whole design violates every rule of guerrilla organization. It’s like a counterintelligence officer’s dream, the Al Qaeda plan to bring guerrillas from all over the world, introduce them to each other, and exchange funds, materiel and ideas.

It was pure cowardice that kept me from saying that sooner. A good lesson for me in not listening to the majority. The majority, the media, whatever you want to call it—maybe “the background noise” is the best way to describe it—kept saying that Al Qaeda was the biggest baddest thing in history and even though I grumbled and held back a little, I bought into that idea way more than I should, knowing the way I did that everything about their set-up pointed to a flash in the pan—which is what they’ve turned out to be.

Back in 2005, when the Al Qaeda hoax was hitting its peak, I wrote a column called “Nerf War and Real War: Al Qaeda vs. IRA.” If you want a good quick lesson in why dummies like me have such a hard time understanding guerrilla warfare, even when they’ve got all the info they need right in front of them, just read that article. I re-read it yesterday, after a reader pointed out that I’d praised Al Qaeda for going all out and was being inconsisent in yesterday’s blog for saying they blew their assets.

That reader was absolutely right. All I can say is that what I wrote yesterday still seems true to me. It’s something that’s been percolating in my head for a long time, and I’ve checked and rechecked it.

What I wrote back in 2005, praising Al Qaeda for going all out and sneering at the IRA for pulling its punches, was stupid. Totally wrong. Typical loudmouthed crap by a hick who hadn’t thought hard enough about guerrilla strategy.

The only thing I can say in defense of that 2005 article is that I had the facts right; I just read them wrong. By “the facts” I mean the basic difference between the IRA’s strategy and Al Qaeda’s: The IRA never used all its strength, played very cautiously, did just enough mayhem to remind Britain they were still around, hadn’t been broken. They even refused to do vengeance attacks on the UDA/UFF/UVF/LVF “Loyalist” hit squads that would kill Catholic civvies to try to force the IRA into a tit-for-tat Catholic vs. Protestant gang war.

Al Qaeda played all out, spent all its assets in a few years. In my dumb-ass 2005 article, I called the Al Qaeda method “real war” and the IRA’s slow-perc campaign “nerf war.” That was ignorance talking, boyish war-loving ignorance. I wanted more action, that was all. I saw what an easy target the London transport system made for a few amateur Al Qaeda recruits and just thought that since the IRA had several long-term sleeper teams in place in London, they could have wreaked a million times more havoc. Which was true, they could’ve. But could’ve and should’ve are different things, and a guerrilla group that goes all-out, does everything it can, is doomed.

The first job of a guerrilla force is to continue to exist. In fact, that’s almost everything. You could do it like those Fight Club rules:

“The first rule of guerrilla strategy is: Continue to exist.

The second rule of guerrilla strategy is: Continue to exist.

The third rule of guerrilla strategy is: Do a small, noisy attack on a symbolic target, avoiding civilian casualties, every few weeks to remind your home folks you still exist.”

That’s how every modern guerrilla army except Al Qaeda has played, and that’s why every one of those groups has lasted longer than Al Qaeda did. Think about it: Even the Basques, the most absurd boutique guerrilla army around, have managed to last a long time. All over the world are guerrilla groups that could pose for family pictures like “Three Generations Together! That’s Uncle Jed with the AK and Grandpa Stevie holding the flag.”

They last by NOT spending their forces. This is where being an old Civil War nerd got in my way. In the US Civil War, which was my training war, the North finally won when Grant realized that if the Federal armies applied all their strength against the enemy on all fronts at once, the weight of industrial power and bigger population would have to prevail. That’s how the Soviets defeated the Germans on the Eastern Front, and the US defeated Japan.

It’s not how guerrilla war works at all, for an obvious reason that I should’ve realized: Guerrilla armies always represent the weaker, the smaller, the defeated side. Not necessarily smaller in population but in money, cohesion, power-projection. They win, not by battlefield victory, but by something like metal fatigue. They sag on their opponents like a fat heavyweight, they wear him out, they absorb his punches.

And that’s why guerrilla war isn’t as romantic as Rambo fans like to think. Rambo, you’ll notice, has no family. Guerrillas do have families and when they commit to irregular warfare, they’re signing away their family’s chance to live a decent life and die in their beds. That’s why it’s not something you do casually like a Red Dawn teen fantasy.

The guerrilla has to opt out of protecting territory. Or the people who live in it. More bluntly, the guerrilla has to watch them die, sometimes pretty horribly, because counterinsurgency warfare runs on terror, and plain killing doesn’t do it, so the CI teams start killing guerrillas’ families in the sickest ways they can come up with.

That was tried with the IRA many times. I’ve been reading up on it, and the counterinsurgency methods the SAS taught to the Loyalist hit teams were as sick as anything from the Middle East. Check out the “Shankill Butchers,” a hit team from the LVF that used power tools, hatchets and improv dentistry to kill Catholic civvies as nasty as they could.

The IRA had this “Nerf” strategy of not striking back at stuff like this, and not killing civilians, which seemed weak to me. But it worked way, way better than I could have imagined. First of all, by not reacting to LVF hit teams, the IRA kept the focus on the Brits, who they considered the real enemy. The Loyalist hit teams, I realize now, were a classic SAS attempt to turn the whole Ulster fight into a tribal war, so the British could come off as the impartial referees trying to keep the savages from tearing each other apart. If the IRA had settled for taking all these Loyalists down into nice soundproofed basements and giving them some hands-on experience of their favorite games, it would’ve been satisfying short-term but would have fed right into the enemy propaganda model.

Now that I understand what they were doing, I’m blown away by the discipline. That’s the key to every good guerrilla group, that sort of discipline that’s almost creepy, not human. I mean, imagine your cousin just got hacked to death in some gaudy way by these Shankill Butcher guys and you know exactly who did it. Which they did; the IRA always had great intelligence on the streets of Belfast, they knew exactly who was doing these killings. But the order comes down that you can’t take revenge, because it’d look like religious gang warfare and take the focus off the Brits. I couldn’t do it. Those guys did, and I feel ashamed for using a word like “nerf” to make fun of military discipline like theirs.

When you look back at the IRA strategy over the 30-odd years they did urban guerrilla warfare, there’s a clear pattern: They always wanted to shift the violence away from Northern Ireland and to the financial center of London. It was fucking brilliant, and I was too dumb to get it. That’s why they ignored all the Loyalist killings, which would be harder than ignoring a pit bull gnawing your leg, and put all their resources into setting up deep-cover sabotage teams in London.

Grand Hotel, Brighton: “Uh, Miz Thatcher, your hotel is sagging.”

By the early 1990s they had men and women working at the airports, the construction industry, and even in British security. And they used their operatives carefully, never spending their lives until they could get maximum effect. In 1984 one of their men rented a room at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where the Conservative Party was scheduled to have its yearly meeting. He put the bomb under the flooring, paid his bill and left. A month later the long-delay timer went off while Thatcher and all her allies were sound asleep in their rooms. They missed Thatcher—they didn’t call her the Iron Lady for nothing—but she had the novel experience of seeing a few floors fall into her room at 3 am. And the IRA statement afterwards was a model of guerrilla patience: “Today you were lucky, but you will have to be lucky always. We only have to be lucky once.” That’s the way you play it, for the long haul.

The Brighton bomb was designed to kill, because Thatcher was a legitimate target by their reckoning. (In fact, so many Brits hated her that this was about the only time the IRA was popular in England, with people giving them the old “Try, try again!” cheer.) But most IRA bombings, especially the huge truck bombs that won the war for them, weren’t designed to kill. The IRA had a whole system in place with recognized code words that they’d use when they phoned British TV stations, radio stations, and cops to warn them to evacuate the area. They had to do that because both sides realized that when the IRA killed ordinary civilians, they lost. The British tv stations would replay the footage of wounded and killed civilians over and over and over for years, and eventually the IRA worked out a whole new “nerf” (nerf in a very effective way) method of making war without killing people. They’d park a truck near a financial target like the London stock exchange with a multi-hour timer, then call everybody they could. That was to make sure the Army and Intel Services didn’t decide to sit on the warning in the hope of getting a high civilian death toll, which would have been a big defeat for the IRA.

So, I have to admit though it goes against my instincts, “nerf” is the way to go with urban guerrilla warfare. Damn, it’s a weird world.

There were two big, big bombs in the 1990s that settled it: First a huge blast at the London Stock Exchange in 1992 that took the financial district out of play completely, paralyzed the British financial industry. And the only casualty was an idiot photographer who went in after the warning came out hoping to get a great shot. The British media was so frustrated by not having bloody corpses to show that they settled for architecture: the bomb shattered some stupid church from the middle ages and they made that the big tragedy, because face it, nobody cries when the stock exchange gets blown up.

That 1992 bombing didn’t seem to get the message across so they repeated it in 1993, with the Bishospgate Bomb. Same pattern: redundant warnings, everybody evacuated except a few cops.

Result: one KIA (a cop) and one billion pounds damage. A billion and a half dollars in one kaboom.

After showing what they could do, the IRA declared a ceasefire. That’s patience, that’s working the long war.

In 1994, they took the idea of non-lethal warfare a notch up by doing one of the most revolutionary things any guerrilla army has ever done: IRA mortar teams dropped shells on the runways at Heathrow Airport,

Burnt-Out Mortar Wagon at Heathrow

totally stopping air traffic…but the shells weren’t even designed to explode. Intentional duds.

IRA Mortar Practice: Nerf Warfare, But It Works.

That’s amazing; I’ve never heard of anything like that. It shows how far they’d come by that stage, away from the simple Al Qaeda maximum-blood crap I bought into in that earlier article. In contemporary urban guerrilla warfare, at least in Western Europe, killing civvies is counterproductive. What you want to do, what the IRA had mastered by the 1990s, was messing with the incredibly fragile and expensive networks that keep a huge city going. Interrupt them and you cost the enemy billions of dollars, and they don’t even have any gory corpses to shake in your faces. Fucking brilliant, and I was too dumb to see it!

After showing what they could do, the IRA declared a ceasefire. That’s patience, that’s working the long war.

The British misread that as a sign of weakness, so they gloated and refused to negotiate. Mistake. The IRA still had all its teams in London intact, unpenetrated, and showed what they could do in 1996 by blowing up the center of London again.
This time they not only took out a major business district but rocked Canary Wharf, the biggest building in Europe and the HQ of the tabloids that were foaming at the mouth about these terrorist bastards. A little sense of humor doesn’t hurt, as long as you’re disciplined about it. To show they had range, they blew out the center of Manchester too. Same MO, multiple warnings way in advance.

By this time the real bosses in London were getting tired of paying for a war to hold onto Northern Ireland, which isn’t worth anything anyway, just to indulge the Northern Irish Protestant wackos that the upper-class Brits always despised anyway. The SAS was doing its best to bring the violence back to Belfast, where the Brits liked it, but even though the LVF was killing overtime, the IRA showed real “fire-discipline,” as the Germans would call it, and wouldn’t play the tit-for-tat game.

They knew what they had to do: keep causing billions of pounds damage where it counted, in London.

The real crunch came when Lloyd’s of London went under. Guess why. Yup, it was the hundreds of billions of dollars they’d paid out for every highrise and pane of glass that had to be replaced after those London bombs went off.

When Lloyds goes under thanks to a few hundred Irish Catholics, the lowest of the low in the UK pecking order, something’s gotta change. If this was a game show and Northern Ireland was the prize, “What would you pay?” would get an answer in the “Uh…two cents?” range. But the Brits were paying incredible amounts to keep the nasty little place a Protestant game preserve. The 1992 bomb alone caused 800 million pounds worth of damage to central London.
That’s about a billion and a half dollars. For what? Proving you’ve got a stiff upper lip?

Still, they might not have settled with Sinn Fein. The Brits go a little crazy when Ireland comes up, always have, seem to lose their heads. They might have hung on for another generation except for Clinton. And this is why they still love Clinton over in Ireland, way more than people—well, white people anyway—do over here. Clinton wanted a foregin-policy badge, and he saw what the Brits couldn’t: that the leadership of Sinn Fein/IRA were calm, intelligent people who could be talked to. So he got on the phone with them, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (who’s supposedly the real brains of the operation) and Tony Blair. Blair had an Irish mother, didn’t hate Micks on sight the way most of them did, so he was willing to make a deal to stop the British economy from bleeding out for the sake of a few Baptist loonies in Belfast. When big money meets smooth Arkansas patter and a Prime Minister who missed out on the old tribal hatreds, it’s pretty easy to settle.

And they did. The Good Friday Accords that Clinton brokered in 1998 set free every IRA prisoner, dissolved the old apartheid police (RUC) and set up a new one that went out recruiting in the same slums the IRA drew its people from (PSIS), and put Adams and McGuinness in power in a local Northern Ireland Assembly to replace the old No Papists one. Sinn Fein is now the biggest political party in the place and the Brits have basically conceded all the territory west of the Bann River to them. It’s the Loyalists who seem all confused and drifting now, trying to decide if they want to go the guerrilla-war route on their own or face the fact they’re losing out year by year to the people whose necks they used to enjoy standing on. Martin McGuinness, ex-IRA officer and Sinn Fein “terrorist,” is the Deputy Prime Minister.. They say he and the Loyalist ranter Ian Paisley were the best of pals when they worked together, telling gory old jokes about who buried who’s second cousin in some bog back in the good old days. Meanwhile, Adams is pushing the party into the South as well, and the old boy pols down there are terrified of Sinn Fein taking over.

It’s hard for an American to get your head around any of this, but the point, and it’s very “counter-intuitive” as they say, is that Al Qaeda did everything wrong, spending all their assets and going for maximum kill, and the IRA, the poster-boy for long, slow, crock-pot guerrilla warfare, did it exactly right. In fact, it’s sort of scary how Adams and/or McGuinness seem to have thought three or four moves ahead every step of the way. You realize they declared their final ceasefire just a couple of years before 9/11, when the US jumped into the anti-terrorist thing fulltime? That’s timing, incredible finesse and timing.

And they did it against the Brits, too, the SAS, best counterinsurgency specialists in the world, too. What can I say? I was absolutely wrong. Nerf wins—low-casualty, high-cost performance-art style guerrilla bombings. And Al Qaeda style maximum-splatter is for hotheaded idiots who forget that the real job of a guerrilla force is to stay in existence, lean on the enemy, wear him out and bankrupt him.

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Add your own

  • 1. Barney  |  April 27th, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Brilliant piece.
    Only one tiny detail is wrong: There are not so many Baptists in Northern Ireland; most Protestants there are Presbyterians.

  • 2. Thomas  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Bollocks. What did the IRA achieve for all their bombs and killings? The right for nationalist parties to take their seats in the Northern Irish Assembly? The right for catholics to join the police, to enjoy the same rights as everyone else? Do you really think these rights wouldn’t have been forthcoming anyway, in Britain, for god’s sake, where anti-racism, anti-religious hatred, anti-ageism, anti-every-bloody-discrimination-possible legislation has been introduced over the last two decades?

    The only losers in Northern Ireland were the lunatics, on both sides, whose hatred manifested itself in violence. You think the IRA won because they forced Britain to negotiate. Wrong. Britain won because they negotiated. Northern Ireland won. Ireland won. The terrorists active in Northern Ireland today aren’t loyalists, they’re pigshit-thick republican dissidents, and they’re angry because NI is still British and their former commanders sit happily alongside unionist colleagues and work together for the good of the people of Northern Ireland.

  • 3. Karel  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    If there are no corpses to sway public opinion the CI’s make their own (snipers in Syria), hell you can even make your own guerrillas _and_ corpses (9-11)

  • 4. hahaohwow  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:16 pm


  • 5. Eugene O'Mishima  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    No, no, no, no, no.

    The Provos lost, 100%. Conditional capitulation is better than unconditional surrender, but it’s still defeat.

    In a phrase: “Sunningdale for slow learners”.

  • 6. Ivan  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Perhaps you’ve missed – we’ve all missed – the whole point again. Al Qaeda don’t need to win the guerilla war. They’ll win the long demographic war anyway, and Africa and Eurasia will sooner or later be divided between one huge Umma and India and China.

  • 7. Nachtmahr  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You said something similar to all this when you compared Hamas with Hezbollah a few years back.

  • 8. Peter  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    The question is, did Dolan write that article all those years ago as part of Brecher’s character (there were a few cracks about Dolan’s IRA demigods early on in the War Nerd days, if I recall), planning to have him develop, or did Dolan actually go bloodcrazy enough in 05 to wish for a more splatter-happy IRA? I’d give it about even odds: he’s a good enough writer to play it that way but I thought he didn’t believe in character development!

  • 9. sean  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Very nice.

  • 10. PS  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    War Nerd,

    It depends on what the goal is. Both the “nerf war” and the “maximum damage” strategies work depending on what the objective is. The IRA, though an effective terrorist group, eventually went mainstream and entered democratic, majoritarian politics.

    Al Qaeda on the other hand does not have a political wing, nor does it want to enter the mainstream order. It’s mission is basically anti-neo-colonial. Kicking out western, and western aligned regimes from the historical sunni islamic territory. As everyone knows, bankrupting the US while luring the US into protracted middle east conflicts was the plan. So how did they do?

    Well, 9/11 caused the U.S. to institute this massive, expensive security infrastructure, including creating this super department called the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, 9/11 was followed by two costly and insane wars that are still going on and have no hope of being resolved. Right now the US refuses to cut any defense spending, other than social services. Cutting defense spending is not part of the conversation.

    Both tactics are useful depending on the goal. Al Qaeda aint running for office anytime soon.

  • 11. yossarian  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    And the police service is called the PSNI, not the PSIS.

    Great article though.

    “…stay in existence, lean on the enemy, wear him out and bankrupt him.”

    Wasn’t that Bin Laden’s stated objective? I can’t remember if you’ve done an article about that. He’s doing a pretty good job anyway, what’s American defense spending look like this year?

  • 12. c  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Pieces been stretching the point recently but that was fun.

    The Manchester bombing is still hilariously popular in the city. The IRA blew up one of the ugliest shopping centres ever and the replacement is much nicer.

    I wish you and others wouldn’t mythologize the SAS/FRU though. It’s not at all clear that they knew what they were doing.

  • 13. vortexgods  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    William S. Lind: Fallujah and the Moral Level of War (,,Lind_102104,00.html )

  • 14. Michal  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Yeah, as I said earlier, this is pretty much what various militant islamist terrorists are trying to do with the US nowadays.

    I feel like killing civilians is double edged sword sometimes. Sure enough, preventing civilian casualties did help the IRA persevere, however if we look at the US, then it’s precisely dead civvies who keep the US effort going. The spectre of dead citizens is what makes the US spend hundreds of billions dollars on various security measures, bringing it closer to the edge of bankruptcy. Should the islamist terrorists cease to target civilian populace, the confrontation would probably wind down significantly, which might not be in their best interest if their goal is really to bankrupt the enemy. While it’s true that intense conflict does rarely bode well for the weaker party to it, these people seem to be pretty much /wishing/ to perish in armed struggle.

    It seems to me that targeting civvies is also a lot more appealing to the popular base of these people. I’m not sure if the prospect of destroying financial infrastructure would ever bring in as much money or recruits as the prospect of killing infidels. Nobody’s going to get worked up over market losses, but beheading enemies of God? That gives you something specific, gory and tribal to think about.

    Legal disclaimer: This poster does not advocate perpetration of acts of terror and/or war crimes.

  • 15. Michal  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    PS: Link to prisonplanet forum? Come on, Gary.

  • 16. John Figler  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Yup, sure… but Al-Q never wanted a nice quite Irish home in Belfast. They wanted to rock hard. No political agenda worth the name, no state to be, no tribe to save. Just plain blown it for the lulz fuck-if-I-care nihilistic jihadism.

    What’s fun in your argument is that the Basques had so long endured despite contravening all those brilliant Irish tips (and ETA is something of a little wannabe brother of the IRA by their own admission), lots of botched hits (20YOs playing with bombs they had not read the instruction booklet, big bombs going off before the civilians had had time to evacuate, “undercovers” listening to Basque music on their safe, ehem, flats out in Spain), lots of unnecessary blood, even some ultimatum type kidnappings on whose they had to kill the poor bastard just out of fear of being taken as pussies, losing the propaganda war even among their “tribe”, etc…

    But, anyway… Then the IRA went for the limelight or what?

  • 17. Thomzas  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Fuck this is great.

    I’m a Brit and half of this passed me by as a youngster.

    Spoilt for War Nerd at the moment. More! More!

  • 18. WN guy  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Barney, Presbyterian is the Church of Scotland–a mollified martial version of Protestantism. Protestantism is inherently schismatic, so you get thousands of splinter sects…. just different colors of the same kind of shit. Do you think there’s a real difference between a Baptist and a Methodist when territory or revenge are at stake? C’mon–that’s just Gary tinkling the ivories.

  • 19. allen  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I think you don’t appreciate the difference between the two groups enough. The IRA had a fairly achievable political goal rooted in a historic struggle with a lot of popular support. Nerf war will do, nerf war is smart here.

    Al Quaeda have an absurd and unobtainable vision, which, despite some people’s rhetoric, few in the Muslim world would support. Their followers are more like nihilistic school shooters rather than serious guerrillas. They just want to believe they are part of something meaningful, or that people will remember their names after the big kaboom.

    If Al Quaeda *did* have a plan (and it seems bin Laden and may have) it was to trigger as massive a response as possible and hope the Middle East got destabilized enough that their ideas might have had more of a chance.

    So if there was a point to 9-11, it was this: provoke an invasion of the Middle East. What Al Quaeda was in search of was the conditions that would allow it to become a credible guerrilla movement. It was not at that time a guerrilla movement.

    Iraq was a big freebie in this regard, and it seems Al Quaeda almost actually reached where it wanted to be in at least that nation. Except they pushed too hard and weirded the local Sunnis out with their weirdo foriegn approach to Islam and their heavyhandedness. Before to long the local tribes stopped laying out I.E.Ds and started putting in their orders with the U.S. gov’t for ammunition, shovels, and some lime …

    and that was it.

    Now AL Quaeda really is done.

  • 20. joe-bob  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    …much like Washington’s job with the continental army… not so much to win as to stay in existence. I suppose until the French pitched in they were a glorified guerrila army in terms of the strategy they could use.

    Also, in another sense, the job of Roman and Byzantine armies. You get your two big armies lined up, then say “hey, let’s talk about this” and draw out negotiations for a few days. Superior sanitation always wins when you’re using the “big battalions”, so in a sense it’s still a matter of who keeps a cleaner set of hands… so to speak.

    About good American ww2 memoirs…

    Death Traps – Belton Cooper

    Also Donald Burgett’s books
    -The Road to Arnhem
    -Seven Roads to Hell
    -Beyond the Rhine

  • 21. Carter  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I think you’re still being a little bit juvenile here. It’s still a matter of who’s kewler. Al Qaeda and the IRA are only vaguely similar and shouldn’t really be compared.

    The IRA was about winning rights and independence for a specific group of people in a specific place. There was an easily enumerated list of demands that they had. They wanted a diplomatic solution, and you’re right, they were patient and smart and they won.

    Al Qaeda is totally different. Their chief goals (a restoration of the Caliphate and the abolition of the state of Israel) are patently ridiculous. And they know that. They hate the west (for both smart and dumb reasons) and their main goal is to inflict damage.

    9-11 was a massive success. Just look at the state of the country. They drew us into 2 (or more, depending on how you count) wars that have only served to demonstrate exactly what the weak points of the American military are, and how easy we are to thwart as an occupying power. They’ve goaded us into a racist set of foreign and domestic policies that will only serve to turn moderates in the Islamic world into radicals, another goal of theirs.

    The IRA wasn’t striking against the entire global system of British power, they were advocating a specific cause. Al Qaeda’s chief practical aim was to destabilize the New World Order and bring the Great Satan down a peg or two, and in that, they’ve been enormously successful.

  • 22. kingtoots  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Just a sec, wasn’t the stated aim of the IRA to have a unified catholic ireland? How did that work out for them? I forget?

  • 23. CreosoteChris  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks WN

    I’m a Brit, and I grew up during “the troubles” I was about 2 miles away in each case when both the Bishopsgate and Manchester bombs went off (when you hear ’em you are in NO DOUBT what that was……)

    …..and I feel kinda embarrased that it took an American to enlighten me with an article that actually explains all that stuff coherently, making perfect sense.


  • 24. frank black  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    So far the best post in the series.
    Top job old chap

  • 25. BlottoBonVismarck  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:28 pm


    If you haven’t already read it, run — don’t walk — to your nearest Amazon outlet and buy ‘Bandit Country’ by Toby Harnden – UK Torygraph, ER, Telegraph. (*1)

    Toby Harnden gives you that ‘fly on the wall’ feeling of IRA squads hunting Brits — because nothing says F___ You! like a .50 cal Barrett Light Fifty at a hundred yards. Bullet proof vest? “You don’ need no stinking vest! ” because a .50 cal bullet will go through it like a knife through butter. Blowing up the Brits in Warrenpoint in a classic roadside bomb trap – score 18 dead Brits, for zero casualties on the ‘RA side, after which the Brits travelled only by air over large chunks of Northern Ireland.

    Finally, the City of London bombs – score, variously, hundreds of millions — or even a billion in one screaming tabloid headline exaggeration — of pounds worth of damage to the heart of the British Establishment’s money-stealing operation. Sort of like blowing up your local mafioso’s numbers racket counting room. Guaranteed to get his attention and not in a good way.

    What was interesting about his ‘fly-on-the-wall’ accounts of the City of London bombings was the missing Scotland Yard detective who was supposed to give the go ahead to arrest the bombers and stop the bombing, who were being surveilled all the time by the British – no slouches at undercover operations, as demonstrated in every Len Deighton / John le Carre spy novel since forever. Who mysteriously went missing for 48 hours, allowing the bombing to proceed.

    Unkind types thought that a) he must have been buggering some poor youth and too busy to save London, which could not later be revealed without bringing the authorities into disrepute, or b) that elements in MI5 / 6 — depending on who was winning the real war – the war between MI5 and MI6 for control of the budget for the UK’s Northern Ireland war. — Elements of MI5/6 _wanted_ the bombing to go ahead. Ditto on disrepute. No change there, then! (*2)

    As in so much of modern politics / skulduggery the right answer is probably ‘both.’ But we have no knowledge of said detective’s ‘wide stance.’

    If you are extremely cynical you might think that elements of MI5/6 have been run by intelligence elements of a foreign power for years. (*) Who would be quite happy to see the City of London destroyed in order to help the dominance of another world financial trading centre. And we don’t mean Moscow. (*) Which would explain many of the apparently self-defeating oddities of British history. The Wilson resignation. The Airey Neave explosion, when an ex-SAS WW2 Colditz would-be-escaper and Margaret Thatcher right wing nutcase was mysteriously blown up in the House of Commons car park. The 7/7 London bombings — More Operation Gladio — the US strategy of tension of bombing the crap out of Europeans to blame the European left and advance the barking-mad right wing. The same old same old. –

    ‘Bandit Country’ by Toby Harnden – Amazon –

    Reading any book by Toby Harnden is probably a safe bet. ‘Bandit Country’ was extraordinary for its evenhandedness.

    His Telegraph articles are a great disappointment in that respect, but to be expected given the audience.

    (*) ‘UK Torygraph’ – the UK Telegraph newspaper is very right wing and imagined to be read by extreme right wing ‘Colonel Blimp’ types — Tories — hence ‘Torygraph.’ – See Private Eye (magazine) slang. –

    Private Eye In-Jokes – ‘Ugandan Discussions,’ etc. –

    (*2) You too may become unreasonably cynical if you read UK Lobster and/or UK Spartacus Schoolnet.

    UK Lobster – ‘How MI5 infiltrated a one man publishing operation,’ under ‘Excellent read’ and more. Note especially Peter Dale Scott on _US_/USSR drug gangs. Who knew?! ER, Peter Dale Scott, since forever! Also ‘Conspiracies versus ‘conspiracy theories.’ Ho, Hum. Sociopathy. Murder. Criminality. Perversion – Government was ever thus! –

    Spartacus Schoolnet – ‘Bent’ USans (Redundant?) –

  • 26. abc123  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    The insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting the products of western capitalism (soldiers, material, etc) while leaving the means of production intact.

    IRA was fighting the means of production and leaving the products untouched.

    Given how boring life is in the west there is a near endless supplies of potential soldiers looking for adventure. Given the fact that USA is the worlds biggest economy it will be hard for them to run out of money. Just look at Libya, firing 119 Tomahawk cruise missiles like they were fire crackers. Total cost was $68425000. Of course this seems like a lot to the average idiot, but you have to think in relative terms, it’s only 23 cent per american, you could have fired that many tomahawks everyday until eternity without making a dent to the US economy.

    You people who always talk about how cost efficient insurgency is don’t understand how cost efficient it could have been had it been targeted at the means of production.

    To smuggle an insurgent into USA the same way Mexicans do can’t be that expensive or hard and even with basic weapons like knives (always available to everyone) one could do a lot of damage to an unprepared civilian population. It would only be a matter of time before USA would would agree to their conditions. The conditions is of course to not interfering with Muslim countries (don’t listen to the idiots claiming USA would have to convert to Islam to be left alone).

    Like WN says, the guys wouldn’t even have to kill someone, just go around sabotaging valuable things until it would cost more than is acceptable. Just imagine sending some illiterate kid across the border and have him go around scratching 100 cars per day with a screw driver or blow up one of those brand new high tech solar power plants that’s out in the desert.

  • 27. vortexgods  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Incidentally, Lind is an ideological enemy, so it’s actually a bad thing that he understand guerrilla war so well.

  • 28. egslim  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Excellent analysis. This is why I read your articles.

  • 29. Joe Soap  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I’m from Dublin, Ireland. I don’t like the IRA, and I don’t like the connotation that they represent Ireland in any shape or form. I think that they have caused terrible, terrible pain for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people indirectly. They are fighting a war that I believe to have been over long ago.

    But everything you wrote is spot on.

  • 30. JT Fournier  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    The al Qaeda strategy “worked” all too well, even though it caused deaths to many of their own.

    Osama’s cronies baited the West into multi-trillion dollar quagmires, the “bleed-until-bankruptcy plan,” whereby “Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars [or at least several thousand dollars].” Osama couldn’t cause quagmires with explosions in empty buildings, and Osama’s cronies lacked the training and discipline for an IRA strategy, anyway. Jihadists care little about collateral damage on any side.

    The IRA and al Qaeda had different goals. The IRA wanted the Brits out. Osama wanted Islam in and the West destroyed.

  • 31. AngryO'Brien  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Excellent article. You’ve converted some of my revulsion for the IRA into respect.

  • 32. Trevor  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Ya can’t go wrong with bombing the stock exchange… Just sayin’… Not trying to give anyone who’s been screwed over by Wall Street any ideas but y’know…

  • 33. Calda  |  April 27th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    The quality of the strategy is to be measured against the objectives. What would a “nerf” strategy have accomplished for al Qaeda? Could they have realistically expected to achieve more than they actually did? The US fell head first into their trap, costing it hundreds of billions and much of its soft power. Al Qaeda never had a chance to drive the “crusaders” out of Israel, but the damage they made the US inflict on itself is impressive.

    Nobody knows what will come out of it in the end, but in any case the jury is still out.

  • 34. DR  |  April 27th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    War Nerd,

    Loved the piece. Brilliant. And the fact that you’re fessing up to an earlier error of youth means you’ve still got some growin’ up to do, best years ahead of you yet!

    Am buying your book. Write a new one and I’ll get that one too!

    Best regards,

    Your devout reader.

  • 35. Damien  |  April 27th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Good article. The IRA’s warfare tactics were good, hit them where it hurts:the wallet. Don’t kill random people. While that may instill ‘terror’ due to the random nature it doesn’t really get you anywhere, and makes it harder for people who may be sympathetic to your cause to support you. As soon as the IRA stopped killing innocents Sinn Fein cleaned up, picking up the rightly-disgusted-at-violence SDLP vote. I remember in the tail end the bombs became strangely non-threatening especially with warnings. Glass would be broken and town would be open a few days later.

    Politically they should have accepted Sunningdale but you have to remember the unionists threw their toys out of the pram with the general strike.

    Not denying they’re weren’t brutal in the 70’s (Jean McConville, the madness of the Kingsmill massacre which could have tipped the place into civil war proper) but those who say the IRA lost, it was never really about a united Ireland. It was about fair treatment: housing, votes etc. But they could have had it about 10 years earlier.

    Also you should all visit Belfast, the place has really brightened up. Wars suck kids. Don’t do them.

  • 36. Damien  |  April 27th, 2011 at 2:37 pm


    “Ya can’t go wrong with bombing the stock exchange… Just sayin’… Not trying to give anyone who’s been screwed over by Wall Street any ideas but y’know…”

    Been sooooo done before, Mario Budda,inventor of the car bomb. What you want to do is take out its data center. No one dies. And in an hilarious twist of fate, where does the NYSE keep its European data center?

  • 37. DrK  |  April 27th, 2011 at 2:41 pm


    The Department of Homeland Security was actually a cost saving measure. You see, many of the services that got pulled into its umbrella were all nicely unionized under their previous departments, and kind of expensive as a result. Moving all those workers to a new department however, pulled them out of their old collective agreements, effectively de-unionizing them, and freeing up a substantial pile of cash (and setting some precedent) for the oligarchs.

  • 38. BlottoBonVismarck  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    There is another explanation why the UK Establishment experienced a near-(financial)-deathbed conversion to democracy, the rule of law and negotiation. From their usual murder, war, inhuman torture
    and genocide. — See Mau-Mau – War Nerd for details. –

    The Japanese did it. No, really! Previously –


    It was Paul Theroux who said that the only time an Englishman has any respect for an Irishman is when the Irishman has a gun or a bomb in his hand. — Sadly true, but usefully so in the 1990s — Why is there a settlement in Northern Ireland? — Because Japanese bankers failed to show the requisite British sporting attitude to the ‘RA bombing the heck out of The City of London, namely the British stiff upper lip.

    Because nothing says ‘F___ You and the Horse You Rode In On’ quite like three thousand pounds of semtex, fertiliser and diesel IED, and a billion pounds of property damage in the UK’s single remaining money making, ER, stealing, centre – The City of London.

    Japanese bankers of the late twentieth century appear to have completely lost their father’s ‘WW2-British-prisoners-samurai-decapitating-and-inhuman torture’ spunk. That, or they didn’t see why they should be cannon-fodder for Her Majesty’s Empire-lite to sacrifice in the continuing domestic spat with their former colonial doormat. In fact, rather sanely, the Japanse threatened to decamp for the Continent — and mortifyingly for the British, to Britain’s eternal enemy Germany — taking their banks and business with them. 

    The British got religion so fast that their effortless superiority almost slipped and a settlement was arranged post-haste. So much for Margaret Thatcher’s ‘no negotiating with terrorists.’ No change there, then.

    It was Tony Benn who said that “There is no difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.” And it was an Algerian who said “Give us your bombers and you can have our bombs in women’s handbags,” (Battle of Algiers, below). Tony Benn encounters Neo-Con Nutcase ‘Bonkers’ Bolton, with regrettable results for ‘Bonkers.’

    Tony Benn schools Neo-Con Nutcase ‘Bonkers’ Bolton @ 3.57 –

    Battle of Algiers – trailer –

    The settlement was largely due to the efforts of one US Senator, George Mitchell, who showed amazing patience at listening to the interminable moans of both sides, which should — in a just world — qualify him as a living saint. — So don’t hold your breath. He didn’t just listen for hours. He listened to their moaning about eight hundred years of injustice — attack and retaliation endlessly repeated, — for days, then weeks, months and years. Any thousand ordinary mortals would have told both sides to “F___ off already” after thirty minutes.

    Seriously, GM _is_ a living saint. That, or he’s deaf as a post.

    SO. Japanese bankers or the bankrupting of the Lloyds’s ‘Names’ – aka the UK Establishment with any money?

    Dialectical thinking. In modern politics / skulduggery with two — or many — irreconcilable theories the right answer is often ‘both’ / ‘all’. Some will be the truth, some disinformation and more will be some artful combinations of both. Most of them for one group or another’s benefit. No change there, then!

    See Peter Dale Scott, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Johan Galtung, Tony Benn, George Galloway and other truth tellers for help with deciphering the lies.

    More Tony Benn – Why did the barking-mad UK(/US?) far-right try _so_ hard to rubbish him for over fifty years? ER, Because he had their number absolutely _and_ he spoke the truth. He speaks it still. –

    Tony Benn with Michael Moore – Sicko –

    ‘Big Ideas That Changed the World: Democracy’ – Tony Benn –

    Good Tony Benn web site – ‘Bennites’ –


    Where then is sane? Europe – A progressive land of milk and honey, where the crazy right wing is ‘Norwegian conservative guy’ @ 1.20. From Michael Moore’s Sicko. –

  • 39. Mac  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    AQ had another agenda. The whole idea behind 9/11 was to drag the US into protracted wars in muslim nations. They succeeded quite well with that. Call that a tactical sucess.

    Also, the Madrid bombing was eerily well timed just before the Spanish elections and probably was a deciding event leading to Spain withdrawing from Iraq. That seems like another tactical success.

    Long term they hope that the US will bankrupt itself and that they can then take down the “apostate rulers” of muslim nations and create their beloved caliphate. Call that a strategic longshot which looks beyond doubtful.

  • 40. Doug  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Hitting the stock exchanges wouldn’t hurt Wall Street at all. Probably make a few people very rich. The best firms make money off volatility and volume, and stay market neutral. You’d probably see something like the May 5 Flash Crash occurs, only on a longer scale if a data center was hit.

    May 5 was the most profitable single day ever for High Frequency Trading (HFT) firms. May 6 was the second most profitable. 3Q 2008 during the meltdown was the most profitable quarter.

    You n00bs probably think Wall Street == Investment Banks. That’s where the plebs work. Real money is made in hedge funds and prop shops. The highest paid investment manager ever runs a ultra secretive firm called Renaissance Technologies that specializes in HFT. You probably think of Wall Street fat cat and think of some amatuer like Lloyd Blankfein. Simons, even though he’s officially retired, made 100x more than Blankfein last year.

    Anyway, if someone causes chaos, which causes volatility and volume, most Wall Street honchos are going to make out like bandits. And where will they be making this money from?

    Why from your standard pension and mutual funds invested in by John Q. Middleclass. These funds will see forced liquidations caused by margin calls and regulatory risk limits. Firms like RenTech, Jump Trading and GETCO (with the wealthiest and most powerful billionaires you’ve never heard of) will be running algorithms designed to skim up all the profit from panicked selling.

  • 41. Zhu Bajie  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I don’t think the wars of N. Ireland are finished. A chapter is finished, but when I talk with ordinary people from the Republic, they are not satisfied. Most aren’t eager to fight, but some people are or will be in the future.

  • 42. Fissile  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    If the IRA was careful about “collateral damages” it’s because they learned from their mistakes.

    Who remembers the Hyde Park bombings of 1982? The IRA let loose with a couple of bombs targeting British military personnel — actually they were military band members out on parade, the limeys love their parades. Well, that bombing caused a major PR crisis for the IRA, and not because they managed to off 11 British military tourist attractions. No, the UK populace became enraged because along with the dudes wearing those goofy spike helmets, the IRA bombers managed to kill SEVEN HORSES! That’s the fucked up thing about the British, you can rape their daughters, slit gran’s throat, but if you so much as say “boo” to their dogs or horses, they go off in a berserker rage. One of the injured horses was rushed to intensive care and survived. The limeys then bestowed it with “Horse of the Year” award. I kid you not. For years after, that particular horse was trotted around the UK to drum up anti IRA sentiments. It wasn’t civies that the IRA was trying to avoid snuffing, IT WAS BRITISH CATS AND DOGS.

    The above story also reminds me of something I saw on TV during the Serb attacks on Bosnia during the most recent Balkan slaughter-fest. Anyway, this little Bosnian Muslim girl got shot by a Serb sniper. Her only hope for survival was to be flown out of whatever Bosnian hell-hole this had taken place in ASAP to a Western European hospital. British “peacekeepers” were flying planes in and out of the area every day, but refused to take the girl to a hospital because, “it was a violation of the rules”. The very same British who refused to help a 5 year old girl with a sucking chest wound mounted a large scale military operation to rescue the animals at the Sarajevo Zoo! Sick, sick fuckers, these British are.

  • 43. SN  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    John, er Gary, in addition to Bandit Country you need to read Ed Maloney’s Secret History of the IRA. It makes too much of ole Brownie Gerry Adams but provides a very different picture of the IRA. Also check out John Mooney’s book Black Operations: The secret war against the REAL IRA. Also, Raymond Murrya’s *The SAS in Ireland is worth looking at. When you are done you will want to write another piece confessing what a gobshite you are for suggesting PIRA won the long war of the Troubles. The cell structure you celebrated a few articles ago is very susceptible to penetration by the internal security force necessary to monitor the overall structure. PIRA’s cell structure eveywhere outside of South Armagh was riddled with touts. The head of internal counter intel for PIRA, Freddie Scappatichi, was an MI-5 agent. If you can get an agent at the top of the pyramid of cells you have the whole organization. The South Armagh brigade of PIRA never went for a cell stucture and consequently had low levels of Brit penetration. They were also the unit responsible for the “home counties” bombing campaign you celebrate. After Loughal, Gibraltar and the elimination of county Tyrone’s whole organization, the PIRA outside of South Armagh was a paralyzed organization. More broadly, the PIRA got less than Sunnydale. Sunnydale was at least proportional rep and more deomcratic. The GFA and its De Hondt system of ascriptive sectarian identification has only intensified sectarian tribal politics.
    PIRA sold out for a seat at the table of the carnival of reaction that Connolly predicted. The six counties is a sectarian neoliberal backwater (and the 26 counties are doing austerity on steriods). Any chance of a 32 county workers republic (what Connolly, Mellow, Costello, Sands etc. died for) is now gone thanks to Gerry, Martin and Mitchell. BTW, smart money has Martin or Mitchell as touts themselves, playing narcissistic Gerry to the negotiation and normalization table since the mid 80s.


  • 44. Justin  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    We can all agree 9/11 was an absolute masterpiece of terrorism, both in terms of financial damage and damage to the American psyche. But, does it really look like we’re leaving the middle east any time soon? One of Bin Laden’s more clear goals was to get troops out of Saudi Arabia. If anything that’s even more far off. Iraq and Afghanistan have been painful to the average American, but our elites and political class haven’t suffered.
    Can’t remember who made it, but i saw a documentary on HBO about Al Q a few months back. The director made a 5 minute monologue about how the group had absolutely no long term vision or goal. I have to wonder if a less dramatic strategy of slowly building the political power of islamists in the middle east would have worked better. Like the man said, would have lasted longer anyway.

  • 45. alib  |  April 27th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Mark, the main thrust of this is accurate but you wrong in detail.

    The Troubles as you’ll find recounted on CAIN is mostly story of reckless bombings and dumb arsed tit for tat sectarian attacks in which PIRA showed no more restraint than the goons on the other side.

    PIRA’s funding out of Boston enjoyed a bit of romantic old country butchery but had limits to its appetite for atrocity.

    That given it took PIRA decades to understand London was totally unmoved by mutilated corpses in Belfast, could soak up plenty of dead soldiers and even the odd dismembered Royal but was extraordinarily sensitive when it came to The City.

    AQ was actually rather quicker to understand that Wall St was a golden target in the war of the flea. The mass casualty thing is an incidental matter of delicacy.

    South Armagh farmers I think are slower learners compared with Arab technocrats. Terrifying entire nations by setting their arse on fire in business class is a refinement that is beyond them.

  • 46. Zhu Bajie  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    RE: Al-Qaeda attacking US infrastructure: they hardly need to, the way short-sighted oligarchs have let things deteriorate. Distracting them with more unwinnable wars has the same effect. Every Tomahawk is how many collapsed bridges? Not to mention that Americans are likely to turn on each other more and more, “going postal.”

  • 47. Klaus  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Readers are giving Al-Qaeda too much credit for pulling USA into quagmires. The US right wing was going to get the nation into stupid wars anyway, cf. the prophetic Onion article pre-9-11:,464/

    Al-Qaeda facilitated US pro-war neocon goals, but as many have pointed out beyond tediousness Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 – and that’s key to understanding why the US is being sapped of its strength. It was going to embark on hubristic policies anyway. One could also make several similar points about social and economic policy, so it’s in the times…

  • 48. Plamen  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Nobody in their right mind would even believe for a second Ali Queda as presented by the US and EU corporate owned media exists in the form presented. I guess you are too American, i.e. a gullible moron. Sorry Garry. I guess only the gullible Americans believe there is always an enemies out to “get them”. In the 50s-60s-70s-80s it was the commies, now the Muslims. Good for the military industrial complex, no?

    The minute the 9-11 happened, I boldly said Osama will NEVER be caught and I offered qa million dollars to be proven wrong.
    There is plenty of evidence All the so called Ali Queda attacks 91–7-7 Mumbai attacks were NOT done by the people USA claims; come on now, do I have to waste time listing them?

    Are you trying to lower my opinion of you?

  • 49. freeman  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Lessons from Sun Tzu and John Boyd.
    Sun Tzu: guerrillas need to focus on attacking only when they can win:
    ie: don’t attack a strong force with a weak one. Attack a weak force with a strong one.
    Boyd: guerrillas also need to focus on winning the element of Moral Warfare.
    Targeting civilians is not the way to do that.
    Get the stronger opponent to target civilians and the guerrilla becomes the
    good guy. Once that happens, he can move through a friendly population, and
    he becomes almost impossible to defeat without completely destroying everyone and everything….NOT the way to operate these days…information gets spread around
    far too quickly.

  • 50. BlottoBonVismarck  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Noam Chomsky on why some countries, and some groups, ‘get it’ and others have a much harder time. “The Irish Sea is a Chasm (of understanding). It all depends who has been living under the whip for eight hundred years and who has been holding it.” – Noam Chomsky – ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ – 911 – @ 51.00 –


    All Google Video ‘informational videos’ — like that one — are going away in two days – April 29th 2011. Can’t have the peasants seeing through the US Reality Distortion Field at the click of a button – far too easy. (*)

    Some few may be transferred, but you can probably count on the good ones — the informative ones — not making it. Like those about Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn John Pilger and ‘Panama Deception.’ and Allan Francovich. Supposedly they can be downloaded with a button on the statistics page, according to the Washington Post. Perhaps on their page. But not on ours. Though there is an Archive collective working to save some, supposedly. We shall see. In two days.

    Meanwhile, get them while you can. Because after April 30th it’ll probably be “Sieg Heil Heimat Security Service! ” No change there, then! –


    The Panama Deception –

    Allan Francovich – Google Video –

    John Pilger –

    (*) More peasants — Aka US mushrooms — The Anarcho-syndicalist Peasant – Monty Python –

  • 51. BlottoBonVismarck  |  April 27th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Link Correction –

    Noam Chomsky on why some countries, and some groups, ‘get it’ and others have a much harder time. “The Irish Sea is a Chasm (of understanding). It all depends who has been living under the whip for eight hundred years and who has been holding it.” – Noam Chomsky – ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ – 911 – @ 51.00 –

  • 52. Doug (not that Doug)  |  April 27th, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I think the key insight here – and I frankly couldn’t be bothered to read all the comments above, so I don’t know, maybe someone has said this – but the key point is that tactics in guerrilla war depend on the situation. It’s all about what’s going on, what your aims are, who your enemy is. Like any other war, guerrilla war is going to by fought for some reason beyond simply killing a lot of people – what Clausewitz said about war, that it’s the extension of politics by other means, is just as true in the case of guerrilla war. Everything you do has to be oriented towards that end; everything you do has to be done for its effect, has to be done because it brings you closer to that end… You can’t just send a bunch of wackos to blow up a massive building. You have to have a REASON for doing it, and their lack of, I guess, strategic oversight and discipline and reason is why Al Qaeda is ultimately a failure and groups like the IRA (or, for that matter, most of the small, national Islamic terror groups that focus on things like suicide bombing) are successful. It’s all Clausewitz, baby.

  • 53. F  |  April 27th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    what if Al Qaeda did not want to win?
    What if, this whole Jihad is nothing, but the act of Saudi guy with midlife crisis?
    After all, creating and leading a private holy war sounds quite interesting.

  • 54. fin  |  April 27th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Author is a moron.

  • 55. Massena  |  April 27th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I thought there would be at least one mention of NORAID. A big reason why the boyos sought the ceasefire was because American money was drying up.

  • 56. ovaut  |  April 27th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Has the WN ever written about Grozny in the ’90s?

  • 57. Joe R  |  April 27th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I still believe that Al Qaeda’s objective is to get into power in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and then use this to get power in the other Arab countries.

    Their tactical objective in the 9/11 bombs was to get the USA to retaliate and kill lots of Muslims so Al Qaeda could portray the liberal and moderates in the arab countries as US stooges and get Al Qaeda accepted as the legitimate opposition to the arab leaders.

    Immediately after 9/11 there was a widespread sympathy for the USA and it looked like Al Qaeda had shot themselves in the foot until GWB invaded Iraq.

    The recent arab spring uprisings have (IMHO) been a major setback for Al Qaeda. The liberal modernisers are now firmly back as the legitimate opposition to the corrupt dictators.

    The US could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here of course by interfering in elections to get corrupt pro-US politicians into power handing Al Qaeda back the ‘true patriot’ crown.

  • 58. Sublime Oblivion  |  April 27th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    That’s how the Soviets defeated the Germans on the Eastern Front, and the US defeated Japan.

    Wrong. Trying to press attacks on every part of the front, without concentrating forces, was one of the big causes of the Soviet debacles in 1941. It was only when they learned to stick to concentrated offensives with more modest, pre-defined objectives that the effectiveness of Soviet military operations began to soar.

  • 59. super390  |  April 27th, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    On one hand, I could say that the IRA’s goal was not to destroy England, but to force it out so that Ireland’s relationship with Britain would be the same as its relationship with France or Germany, whereas AQ wants to overthrow the entire state system.

    On the other hand, I keep wondering, if AQ really wanted to take down Western civilization, why didn’t one of the three 9/11 airliners that passed near the Indian Point nuclear reactor do a nose dive right into the cooling tower? Just to see how big a mess it could make to the entire Northeast, thus causing a global market crash, thus putting the West into a hole from which it would never have recovered.

    Someone in the AQ loop didn’t want the United States finished off quickly, or maybe even at all.

    And really, the vacuum that AQ succeeded in creating by bankrupting us in Iraq has only been filled by Iran – perhaps with Chinese reinforcement in the future. For Wahhabis, Shias are worse than Christians, and I can’t even imagine what they think of the People’s Republic of Godless Greed.

  • 60. super390  |  April 27th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    And let’s give a hand to a terrorist organization so patient that they bridged the gap between the defeat of the Confederacy and its decadent feudalist principles, and the inevitable revival of those principles as Yankee capitalism in turn became decadent: the Ku Klux Klan!

    For 90 years, the bastards plugged away, targeting not just blacks, but Catholics, union organizers, anyone the “right” people could pay them to terrorize. Thus acting as the death squads have in Latin America, enforcing an Invisible Empire built on unwritten laws.

    And just when it seemed in 1964 that they had lost everything, the KKK endorsed Barry Goldwater for president, the nominee of the party that had been the Klan’s eternal enemy. Time for Southern whites to switch to the party of Lincoln, whose capitalist owners now wanted to bust Northern unions and drive down wages.

    No Klan needed now, for the new Jim Crow laws are defended far more mediagenically by Fox – I mean the Jim Crow laws that really matter, the ones that guarantee just enough minorities are scared away from the voting booth, not the stupid water fountain and back o’ bus crap that we’re taught about in school to deflect the issue from raw power.

    But the Klan did its job; it intimidated good and romanticized evil and kept the seed of the latter viable while the rest of America seemed headed unstoppably forward. Its devotees Strom Thurmond and George Wallace defined the future Reagan/Tea Party agenda way back in ’68. What more can an extremist brigade hope to do but pass the baton on to a successful political wave?

  • 61. Stephen  |  April 27th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    War Nerd/John Dolan – you are slipping.

    The USA did not defeat the Japanese. The Japanese would have gone on fighting the USA and dying in ever increasing numbers except for the Soviet Union’s invasion of Manchuria. The Japanese understood that what Uncle Joe captured, Uncle Joe kept! They knew that if the Soviets made it on to one of the home islands, it would become part of the Soviet Union. So as soon as the Soviets appeared a few miles off the coast of Hokkaido, the Japanese surrenderd.

    Any fool knows that when a Irish nationalist uses the phrases Brit, he is not just talking about the British Army or the British government he is talking about all the non-Irish who have ever “settled” in Ireland, and that includes the Northern Ireland protestants.

  • 62. Dejo  |  April 27th, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Is Al-Qaeda a guerilla force, though? They do nothing which a guerilla force does. The only similarities they have with the IRA is that they, at one time or another, both blew up crowded market places. Think about it. Al-Qaeda’s main base of operations is in Afghanistan/Pakistan, even though Al-Qaeda is full of Arabs and Afghanistan/Pakistan is full of Pashtuns. They stick largely to civilian targets, even going so far as to blow up civilians in areas they’re attempting to win over. They have wealthy backers and don’t have to worry about being supplied. They’re utterly decentralized and are probably nothing more than a symbolic figurehead, albeit them providing training and material assistance to some terrorists. They wage war all over the planet.

    No, what we’re seeing is something else. A transformation of the mujahideen model. Which, in itself, is a modern continuation of the crusade/jihad model where you have many diverse groups/individuals (of common religious stock) emigrating to a particular area in order to wage a war of extermination against a particular group. The closest thing the west has had of this type is what happened during the Spanish Civil War. Maybe.

    In short, comparing Al-Qaeda with the IRA is fruitless since they’re not even the same type of military contingents.

  • 63. Sammy  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    it means…
    William Wallace was a terrorist too?
    hey after all.. all he want was a country of their own!

  • 64. Stephen  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    @Carter “Their (al Qaeda’s) chief goals (a restoration of the Caliphate and the abolition of the state of Israel) are patently ridiculous.

    Like all Westerners (except the IRA), your thinking is too short a term.

    The first might be, the second is most definitely not. I really doubt whether Israel will celebrate its centenary unless it has moved/been moved to Detroit.

    If the Arab Spring is successful, which still looks possible even with the US/Saudi/Israel conspiracy against it, Israel will be lucky to last another ten years.

  • 65. banflaw  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    To buy this argument, you have to believe Bush would’ve gone into Afghanistan and Iraq, where America spent trillions for nothing, even without 9/11.

    Afghanistan and Iraq were the ruin of the American empire and of the ‘hyperpower’ pre-eminence briefly established after the end of the cold war.

  • 66. SweetLeftFoot  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    For the record Gary, the LVF had nothing to do with the Shankhill Butchers. That was the UVF. The LVF split – under King Rat Billy Wright – from the UVF in the late 90s and the two organisations fought a bloody feud.

    It might seem like a type, but it is the kind of thing that makes a reader who knows a lot about the issue annoyed.

  • 67. Technomad  |  April 27th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Have any of you read Watching the Door, by Kevin Myers? He was living and reporting from Belfast for the first decade of the Troubles, and met a lot of people on all three sides (British, Unionist, and IRA). His take was that both terrorist sides were nihilistic thugs who’d have been right at home with Alex and his droogies in A Clockwork Orange and that the British were unceasingly prone to shooting themselves in the foot.

  • 68. Sean  |  April 27th, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    #29 Joe Soap

    You may not like the IRA but they’re the reason you’re writing from Dublin, Ireland rather than Dublin, United Kingdom.

  • 69. Tomasz Wegrzanowski  |  April 27th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    So IRA is brilliant for bringing fight out of Northern Ireland to London.

    And Al Qaeda is stupid for bringing fight out of Middle East to US.

    They seem to be doing exactly the same thing, not?

  • 70. Eugene O'Mishima  |  April 28th, 2011 at 12:52 am

    @67: Kevin Myers is a West Brit cunt, if he’s even Irish enough to be called “West Brit”, which I somehow doubt. You might as well get your “facts” about the war in Ireland from the Daily Mail or the Daily Express — they are all regurgitating the same old MoD press releases.

  • 71. Epsilon  |  April 28th, 2011 at 12:53 am

    The comments in this thread are funny.

    Just because life in the US is overall shittier since 9/11 doesn’t mean that AQ won. “No Change” Obama proved that it was going to happen anyways.

  • 72. James  |  April 28th, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Lloyds was brought down by asbestos claims more than anything else. They got caught with decades of policies with no exclusions that all got claimed at once.

  • 73. darthfader  |  April 28th, 2011 at 1:45 am


  • 74. BahamaPapa  |  April 28th, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Good article. I confess I never really understood the Northern Ireland conflict. I never got why people in a relatively rich place with democracy and rule of law and all that shit were carrying on like that. Couldn’t they get jobs at like Starbucks or something? I still don’t get what it was about. You (Gary) claim that the IRA “won”, but what did they win? What was their objective? If their objective was to unite Ireland under the banner of Republicanism, they clearly failed. NI is still British and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. If their objective was to get Catholics treated nicer and get them jobs in the police, couldn’t they have accomplished that pretty easily through political, non-violent means? You know the press would have been all over some Irish Catholic Martin Luther King (sounds funny, doesn’t it?)staging sit-ins and the like. Would have made the Brits look nasty and ruined their civilised democratic-cred. Britain could have been a Pariah state like Apartheid South Africa, being all mean to it’s nice peace-loving oppressed people.

    I’m with #30. I think it could be said that Al-Qaeda, for all intents and purposes, “won”. Even if they don’t count for much nowadays, they managed to convince the world that they were strong and scary, scary, scary. They managed to drag an empire into two costly quagmires (following on their success in bringing down the Soviets), and they managed to make jihad cool and trendy with all the young kids from Casablanca to Jakarta. Ok, empire #2 hasn’t collapsed yet, but it’s well on its way. Not bad for a small band of bored, pampered Saudi rich kids.

  • 75. Don Francisco  |  April 28th, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Great post, great analysis. The IRA didn’t get everything they wanted – Ireland is not united. Then again if you were Southern Irish, would you fight hard to get the North back and then have the same problems but with the loyalist paramilitaries?

    One major figure you missed out – excuse the pun – is British Prime Minister John Major, Tory and predecessor to Blair. He was the first British PM to take the issue of NI seriously since the troubles began and laid much of the groundwork for Blair, but as with Blair, not a man who had an axe to grins with the Irish.

  • 76. Mael  |  April 28th, 2011 at 4:40 am

    … performance-art style guerrilla bombings …

    I just love your writing style… Thanks. That made my day.

  • 77. Stephen  |  April 28th, 2011 at 5:22 am

    @BahamaPapa – “If their objective was to get Catholics treated nicer and get them jobs in the police, couldn’t they have accomplished that pretty easily through political, non-violent means? You know the press would have been all over some Irish Catholic Martin Luther King (sounds funny, doesn’t it?)staging sit-ins and the like.”

    No they couldn’t have and no the press wouldn’t have. Go back and read up on the history of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland before the current “troubles”. Don’t forget that us Brits had just pulled out of a genocidal war against Africans in Kenya and we regarded “Micks” as untermenschen and we were certainly no going to give up another colony such as Northern Ireland so close to homewithout a fight. BTW, who says the “war” in Northern Ireland is over, the IRA have at last worked out that demographics win any insurgency and they just have to wait and breed as time is on their side! The funny thing is the EU makes it all irrelevant.

  • 78. Sword of Aslan  |  April 28th, 2011 at 5:47 am

    @Eugene O’Mishima
    Sunningdale for slow learners is an achievement.

    The slow learners weren’t the IRA.

    Sunningdale was taken off the table by the Ulster Workers Council which was controlled by Glenn Barr who was a senior figure in the UDA at the time.

    The UWC and UDA together had the power to enforce a general strike and they called a general strike because they did not want ‘power sharing’ to be implemented within the Northern Ireland Assembly that existed at the time.

    The British didn’t crush the strikes quickly enough and the Unionist controlled assembly vetoed miltary action against the strikers.

    The Northern Ireland Assembly was wound up and direct rule implemented.

    The slow learners referred to are ordinary Irish Protestants given that we have ended up where we could have been 30 years ago.

  • 79. Sword of Aslan  |  April 28th, 2011 at 5:54 am

    @Bahama Papa
    There was a civil rights movement in Northern Ireland it was suppressed quite ruthlessly. The American Press was all over it but the people who ran England and the people who ran Northern Ireland were one and the same.

  • 80. Sword of Aslan  |  April 28th, 2011 at 5:57 am

    @Stephen ‘the Brits’ means the British army and the British army excusively. Irish Protestants are not British and never will be despite there cargo cultish parades where they play Irish music and wave the Butcher’s Apron.

  • 81. Esn  |  April 28th, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Nice article, but I want to point out a grammar mistake:

    “who buried who’s”

    “who’s” should be “whose”

  • 82. Chris Connolly  |  April 28th, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I just want to say that its amazing to read anything by anyone who will admit that they were wrong. It appears that through elimination of the ego Mr. Dolan has achieved the true Zen of War.

    I don’t think he *was* wrong though, he just looked at IRA strategy from two very different points of view. Both are amazing and insightful.

  • 83. altekeks  |  April 28th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    In Algeria, they had this idea to win the war: disguise government workers as islamists, get them high on drugs, and let them produce images as gory as possible.
    It worked.
    Algerians stopped supporting the Islamists after the massacres, and the govt won the war… They had to kill this false flag group, though, so they wouldn’t talk.

  • 84. Spoticus  |  April 28th, 2011 at 10:32 am

    The war ended because both sides were fighting so long that what they were fighting about became irrelevant. It was killing and dieing over what state of the EU it says on your passport? It fizzled out because it wasn’t worth the inconvenience. The leadership became respectable politicians and the footsoldiers concentrated on the non-prescription medication business everyone’s a winner.

    The Nihilists on both sides aren’t happy and we sill have the occasional murder to remind everyone of the good old days.

  • 85. anon  |  April 28th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    John Robb was discussing something very similar to what you Brecher found about half a decade ago. That a few relatively small low casualty attacks on infrastructure can really fuck a city up economically.

  • 86. Damien  |  April 28th, 2011 at 10:43 am

    @Don Francisco

    You’re right about Major, he doesn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserves for NI.

    And poor Gerry Fitt. No respect.

  • 87. Jack Boot  |  April 28th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    The fundamental difference between the IRA & AQ lies in their goals.

    The IRA (along with the VC/NVA and even North Korea) has limited objectives – a united, independent homeland.
    Such demands can be – and eventually are – accommodated.

    Militant Islam (as did Bolshevism & Nazism) wants the whole ball o’wax – world rule. No accommodation with such madness is possible; in the end, all other players are forced into a Grand Alliance against the shit-disturbers.

    Of course there are distinctions: The Nazis were crazy, but mercifully lacked nukes. The Sovs had nukes, but were sane enough (in a sociopathic sort of way) to be deterred by MAD. Let’s hear it for atheism!
    The Islamists are crazy, and will soon be nuclear-armed…

  • 88. warriorhun  |  April 28th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Dear War Nerd,

    The reason why “Al-Qaeda” does not make sense as guerillas and terrorists, and that they seem to have no strategy, or any discernible short term or long term goals, is a perception issue. Because you perceive them as an islamist extremist terror group, when in reality, they are not.
    “Al-Qaeda” are a pseudo-terrorist gang of the israeli Mistaravim, with Media propaganda backing and siteintelgroup’s video fakeries. Think of them as such, and the goals and strategies are there, clear for all to see who is brave enough to say: we were duped and fucked over.
    The “Al-Qaeda” “all in” success first during 9/11, and “Al-Qaeda” seemingly petering out in importance on the long run is what I call the second wave of “Al-Qaeda”, the copy-cat phase.
    Let us stay at 9/11 for a moment. I do not know what really happened, but on Flight 11 a victim called Daniel Lewin was a Sayeret Matkal Mistaravim, and in the beginning of 2002 the Sayeret Duvdevan Mistaravim personnel got decorated for their significant effect on the War on Terror. It was the Sayeret Matkal Mistaravim who, a week after 9/11, came to the US to train and advise the US Counter-Insurgency units, so they have contacts and oversee the US CI efforts. They can plan false-flag “Al-Qaeda” operations very effectively because of this.
    9/11 was a big success for the pseudo-gang to gain credibility in the Arab world. They counted on the angry Arab youth to copy-cat, and also that if “Al-Qaeda” recruiters come, they are welcomed. “Al-Qaeda” recruiters are Mossad, you all heard the Palestin Authorities captured the “Al-Qaeda” recrutiers trying to recruit Palestinians to commit terror attacks on Palestin Territories: the “Al-Qaeda” recruiters confessed they are Mossad.
    So this weak second wave are Arabs, recruited or simply copy-catting. They are there for the Americans, set up by the recruiters to be hunted down in the anti-terrorist operations.
    Of course, there is no rich Saudi civils financing amateur terrorists: even if it was true, it would be no match to a real state-terror apparatus with unlimited resources, so it is just a Hollywood story.
    9/11 goal was: Israel is surrounded by enemy Arabs, and the israeli manpower is limited. Now they have the US to fight in their steed and kill Arabs, and the Arab hatred is turned against the US, away from Israel.
    And if you pay attention, you will notice: there were no “Al-Qaeda” attacks or threats ever against Israel, which is kind of odd from islamist extremists…On the other hand, when Saudi “Al-Qaeda” said they will not bomb the holy pilgrims in Mecca during the Haj, that was when I laughed the hardest on their cheekiness…

  • 89. Waco  |  April 28th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    You are all wrong. The Brits or the IRA aren’t the winners! I’m the winner, for I sat here in beige suburbia, away from fertilizer bombs, propane tanks mortars, and the crack’ of Armalites, and I got to read this excellent piece. Fantastic article sir! And kudos on having the academic balls to correct your previous mistakes.

  • 90. Шамиль Басаев  |  April 28th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Вы Западной собаки все же глупо, как живот кнопку крысы. Я, Шамиль, говорил. Сопротивление бесполезно. Go, Seminoles!

  • 91. Erik  |  April 29th, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Excellent blogging.

    It’s easy to be clever in hindsight, especially if you don’t run a blog, but bin Laden was always an Immanuel Goldstein. The US administration practically admitted as much, when they declared 9/11 solved inside 24 goddamn hours. No nonsense about no comments or we’re looking into it, nope. In a matter of hours and with big fanfare, the case is solved and closed and vengeance is sworn.

    I also remember the first video installation from bin L.; he doesn’t actually say outright that his outfit is behind 9/11, he just rants unspecifically about sinful America and how everything is will of Allah, keeping his options open, in case no-one else is willing to claim credit for that masterpiece. He seemed rather confused, as far as I could tell.

  • 92. blackbox  |  April 29th, 2011 at 4:50 am

    They all infiltrate each other, in the end. Check out Japanese Red Army for mortar attacks on airports – did Tokyo airport not come under attack too in the 90’s ?

  • 93. Svealander  |  April 29th, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Thatcher and especially Major were also talking to the IRA long before Blair arrived.

  • 94. Arthur  |  April 29th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    It isn’t true that the IRA bent over backwards not to kill civilians. A British friend of mine in the 1980s worked at a bar in Surrey that was bombed by the IRA. There were definitely civilian injuries. You really don’t want to kill civilians? Don’t bomb an average local pub.

  • 95. Destro  |  April 29th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I think what is not discussed is that long term multi-generational guerilla groups may see the tribalist hatred ease up as economies change and situations change. Ireland in the EU and the UK in the EU meant there really was no border there anymore in practice so winning local change like positions in the govt is now acceptable. Also, what kept the tribes apart (religion) in the case of Ireland (though it’s also ethnic) weakened as religious identity weakened. I wonder if anyone made the connection between the Catholic abuse scandals in Ireland weakening that as a dividing issue with the Northern Protestants (who also had scandals of their own)?

    So maybe the IRA 2nd or 3rd generation guys, removed by 30 years over the issues that caused their organization to come about no longer had the same goals as the original group did?

    So time does change the equation of what victory means for a guerilla insurgency.

    This is clear with the Tamil Tigers who pretty much were the gold standard of guerilla insurgents on the planet. Pioneers and innovators (suicide bombers) who actually created their own defacto state. But they lost it all because they had the same leaders over time and thus they did not change as the times and conditions changed.

    Any thoughts on this, War Nerds?

  • 96. Ichi  |  April 30th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I agree Al Queda blew their whole wad too soon. It became apparent to me after the shoe bomber, the eunuch bomber and that Times Square idiot screwed the pooch. They were adequately trained but too freaking stupid to follow directions correctly. Al Queda still took credit anyway. It doesn’t matter, OBL showed them what was possible so there will be plenty of carnage in the future from spin off organizations who will learn from their predecessors mistake

  • 97. FatIrishman  |  April 30th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    It seems to me that smart guerrilla groups (the ones that are effective) need to tailor their attack methods based on who they are fighting. “Nerf” war would almost certainly be ineffective when your objective is to kick the Imperialists out of an entire region thousands of miles away from their home turf, and your recruit pool is made up of crushingly poor, young angry Jihadi dirt farmers and unemployed. Where as it will work when you are white Europeans fighting white Europeans just next door.

    Another aspect of the IRA story that you seem to have missed is funding. A major source (possibly their only real solid source) of funding for the IRA came from the US. Tugging on the heartstrings of all those “Irish-Americans” to give a few dollars to help the poor Irish and then buying guns with it. Lots of dead white English speakers on the news would probably have dried that up.

    Finally the whole situation was a bit more complex than you have written. There was reprisal killings and plenty of old fashioned tribalism going on for a long time. Id love to learn more about that aspect. Complicated as it likely was.

  • 98. luther blissett  |  April 30th, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    “It isn’t true that the IRA bent over backwards not to kill civilians.”

    Yeah, the idea that the Provos’ warnings were sufficiently specific to allow evacuations on the occasions when they were actually given is just bullshit. And they weren’t averse to kneecapping Catholics in their own neighborhoods who weren’t prepared to do their dirty work.

  • 99. You must be Joking  |  May 2nd, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Horses for courses.

    Al-Qaeda have done a brilliant job of getting the U.S. to induce the instability Al-Qaeda need & want in the areas they are interested in.

    pretty effective if you ask me.

  • 100. martin woodhead  |  May 2nd, 2011 at 10:51 am

    the ira did not win the Brits have not left Ulster yet unlikely to do so anytime soon
    3000 dead and countless injured in a failed campaign. The long war strategy didn’t work just exhaustion and the futily of it all brought people to the table

  • 101. Keith  |  May 2nd, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Can’t help but agree with your change of mind, especially in light of the MSM fear-mongering bullshit about bin Laden retaliations.

    The best guerrilla forces are probably disciplined and strategic, rather than hotheaded reactionaries who rush a retaliatory attack and fuck it up.

  • 102. Rich  |  May 2nd, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Just a slight correction: The financial centre that was blown up in ’92 was the *Baltic Exchange* a fairly obscure market for shipping and cargo.

    The Stock Exchange was some distance away and unscathed (in any case, it’s an electronic market – you’d have to destroy the data centre (in another location) and the backup data centre to put it out of action. A bit like trying to blow up Google).

    Also, Lloyds of London hit problems through financial mismanagement, not IRA bombs. The government indemnified the insurance industry from those.

    The real cost of the IRA campaign that helped convince the UK to negotiate was the 30,000+ troops and cops that were employed to try and keep a lid on it.

  • 103. Russell  |  May 3rd, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Gary, your article is so uninformed it’s untrue. To say the IRA refused to retaliate and did not target civies is just plain wrong and I fear you are looking at this through rose tinted glasses as if they were somehow restrained. The Brits were by no-means angels but the IRA were a very very nasty organisation that killed 100s of civilians and had elements akin to the mafia which they would use on their own as well as the opposition.

  • 104. Russell  |  May 3rd, 2011 at 4:14 am

    You mention the Shankill Butchers in an attempt to show how the IRA did not retaliate. But fail to mention that the IRA blew up a fish shop on Shankhill road killing civilians. Just such such poor research and grasp of the situation I would probably just not comment on it again.

  • 105. Doug  |  May 3rd, 2011 at 6:04 am

    IRA are one of the most skilled fighting forces ever

  • 106. darthfader  |  May 4th, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “A major source (possibly their only real solid source) of funding for the IRA came from the US.”

    What a stupid urban legend. Not true at all.

  • 107. MolvanianHeavyHorse  |  May 5th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    FatIrishman – I agree with your general points, but I’ll second darthfader a bit. The US funding for the PIRA was much exaggerated at the time and since its been mythologized because its convenient for both the Guardian UK left, a segment of the Tory right and pretty much everyone in the South. The fact of the matter is that after the chaos of the early to mid 70s the Irish diaspora was a useful source of funds for the “non-violent” side of the Republican movement but a very unreliable conduit for weapons and “clean” cash. This was especially true after Reagan and Maggie formed a strong alliance. The real outside source that allowed the PIRA to continue was the Libyan shipments and clandestine purchases on the global market. The boys in the Irish bar (of which to my eternal shame I was one) could collect some cash, but (a) there were boys in the Irish pubs in Sydney, Liverpool, Glasgow and certain counties in the South NOT just South Boston, (b) the cash collected was unsecure and thus really had to be used for the stated purpose, which was usually “supporting the prisoners families” or (later on) “supporting Sinn Fein’s election campaign”, (c) the boys in the Irish pubs were a massive security risk and no sane serious PIRA arms person would get within a mile of us (INA/Noraid’s Sinn Fein contact for a long time was Dennis Donaldson, who ended up admitting he was compromised by MI6 shortly before his premature death). Of course, the PIRA had to support the prisoner’s wives and SF’s political activities anyway, so the cash raised ended up freeing up other funds for weapons and logistics, so it was still of great value, but the war continued because of the Warsaw Pact shipments and when the semtex ran low they turned to fertilizer bombs since few if any explosives were coming through from the diaspora. I would agree that the need to appease the diaspora donor base (again, this included the UK and Australia, not just the US) acted as a major moderating factor, but I think it was secondary to the need to keep political figures like Ted Kennedy and Ken Livingstone from turning their qualified condemnation of the PIRA coupled with regular denunciation of Unionist paramilitaries and UK excesses into outright full throated excommunication of the provos. In general, another good article by WN but I do think it sugarcoats the PIRA a bit — killing “members of the security forces” like part-time RUC men frequently was a thin veneer for sectarian retaliations, in the North (as opposed to the mainland) the operations could be very callous about civilian casulaties and some of the actions within the Nationalist community were brutal. I’d recommend Ed Moloney’s rather controversial recent books, which have some interesting allegations about the internal dissension in Republican ranks and the interaction with the security forces.

  • 108. PSNI not PSIS  |  May 5th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Terrorism lost.

    Northern Ireland won.

    The only actual terrorists in Northern Ireland now are a handful of vicious but semi-retarded Republican ‘disidents’, who are angry that the old PIRA political leaders have gone legit and entered power sharing.

  • 109. nemesis2012  |  May 6th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    i would like to point out a couple of things regarding the IRA, first the tic for tat killing was done in the 70’s by the IRA. and it took about 12 years to change from the short “we are almost there, just a couple of more bombs” idea to the long game approach. The IRA were happy to target loyalists when they could (andy carr was turned who in turn gave up gary mcmichael (UDA east belfast and UFF commander and others) and they also killed the likes of lenny murphy (once he was given up by his own group) plus the shankill road chip shop bomb which was due to target johnny adair who was sue to have a meeting.

    but if you want to see the change in the IRA you first need to go back to the 1975 ceasefire and the break there, then things like the la mon hotel bombing which did them no favours as well as the birmingham, bloody friday bombings (these were mass slaughter which started to give a bad image to the IRA in west belfast etc which is what started to change them from large bombings against the living to trying to break the state by public demolition projects.

    lastly, where the Force Research Unit put in people like Brian Nelson in to the game there is no evidence that the shankil butchers (or just murphy) got any help from the British state or the RUC.

    after you have read dillans shankill butchers then read the “long war” by the same guy, it will cover a lot more about where the British got involved with the UDA/UFF and UVF.

    oh, sorry that my writing is a mess

  • 110. Danny Boy  |  May 6th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I came to this late, but I think you might have underestimated the financial impact of al qaeda and the OBL stragegy. Sure his one-shot win on 9/11 wasn’t a big financial hit in and of itself. However, as Seymour Hersh reported after interviewing Bin Laden in 1998, OBL knew with uncanny accuracy that the USA would overreact horribly and stick both fists in the tarbaby. He knew exactly what he was doing and who he was antagonizing. He put all his chips on the Bush gang responding like fools and Al Queda raked it in on that bet. Here we are a decade later, trapped in two unwinnable wars and ruined as a world power. The long game indeed.

    Also gotta boast about this: “Danny Boy” is a nickname an IRA acquaintance gave me. I only knew him through a student exchange program, never had any dealings with the IRA (from what he said they sounded like a bunch of posturing gangbangers to me), but I’m still proud of it.

  • 111. PSNI not PSIS  |  May 6th, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Go and fuck off danny you plastic cunt.

  • 112. Edward Carson  |  May 7th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I wonder what sort of boot-licking, barely-literate pussy would spend his working life writing critical comments on a blog? Is he hoping to suck up to the great, the wise, the all-knowing God Brecher? Or is he just killing wasting everyone’s time until mommy calls him down for dinner?

  • 113. Wallop  |  May 11th, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Great piece, only one thing missing. Funds were not only lost in the war but also since the Labour government came to power in the mid 90s they poured billions into Northern Ireland in the form of investment. Based on the logic that a wealthy, content man won’t wage war. Belfast is now one of the most vibrant, modern and wealthy cities in the UK, so the British paid twice and Sinn Fein get the credit twice. All in all very well planned and executed.

  • 114. Carpenter  |  May 12th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    allen in post 19 (and several others) doesn’t get it. Osama bin Laden said over and over again that the U.S. must be drawn into long wars in the Middle East where it loses blood and money over many years. Exactly that is happening now. Absolutely brilliant. And the U.S. is shunned more and more, because of its amphetamine-sustained pilots and APC crews bombing weddings and killing people in the streets. Osama bin Laden has won. This won’t last another decade.

    Also remember that Osama bin Laden said many times that the American people was not his enemy. In a BBC interview he said that there is a state within the state in the U.S., which is mostly Jewish and all about Israel, using the U.S. to attack Israel’s enemies. He said that’s what he wanted to target. Thanks to these wars, more people than ever are waking up to the groups behind the president, whether “neoconservatives” or Rahm Emanuel or whatever.

  • 115. CensusLouie  |  May 13th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Kind of funny how British imperialism tactics apply to American politics today: the rich elite picking out the most marginalized “tribe” (blue collar hicks) and setting them against the other non-rich.

  • 116. Mick  |  May 17th, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Some good points here – particularly the strategy of SAS in the north vis-a-vis loyalists and the discipline of the IRA. It’s very true that republicanism is an ideology as much as it is an army and it is not about revenge – or self indulgance. It is about furthering the struggle and an internalized discipline lies at the core of this. However, the notion that Al Qaeda is ailing or that its “whole design violates every rule of guerrilla organization” is completely wrong. (Look forward to your next ‘apology’ article on this in a few years) It seems clear when you look at any movement over a sustained period of time that it ebbs and flows. Guerrilla warfare is about figuring out what works and do it, then melt away (for whatever period of time) and then do something else. The war of the flea is about resiliency and adaptability – and if you look at Al Qaeda on the ground in Afghanistan, Iran or Pakistan they have done just that. (By the way, don’t conflate Al Qaeda with the Afghan Taliban – two different projects there). The critical thing here Al Qaeda shares with the momvent, it’s as much an ideology as it is an army…

  • 117. Simon  |  May 29th, 2011 at 1:47 am

    I don’t think the Shankill Butchers needed any training from the SAS. But your analysis re the Baltic Exchange bombing is correct, PM John Major did capitulate to the IRA after that.

    The IRA are very clever. In the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Protestants let McGuinness (SF/IRA)have the Education Department, thinking he could do no harm. But he scrapped the 11+ exam, which was the means by which intelligent working class Protestant kids could get a good education – potentially a brilliant intellectual decapitation strategy against the Loyalists. Working class Catholics get their education in church schools, so are unaffected.

  • 118. op banner vet  |  May 31st, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    The ira had a strategy called “The bullet and the ballott box” this was a common motif in the republican murals in Belfast in the late 80’s and early 90’s.The pira members worked on a 3 tier level,the top tier would carry out the bombings and movement of assets,ie;weapons/ammunition/explosive material.The top tier of the pira asu’s(active service units)were incredibly small in number and were stretched to breaking point,due to 98% of them being known to the security forces.This made movement for them ,extremely difficult.They also adopted the stance of an ied campaign,rather than the 1970’s and early 80’s “cowboy drive by’s”,due to too many of their number coming off worse,when they took on the security forces face to face.The ied campaign was seen as the safer option to retain their experienced players.The amount of proficient bomb makers was also minimal,and a large percentage of their ied’s were strung together in a very cack handed way,one example being firing packs that were not coherantly connected to the main explosive.To suggest however,that they were waging a “nerf war” is naive to say the least,and i would suggest that you research your findings more thoroughly.With regard to the unviable mortars at heathrow,this wasnt an intentional move on piras behalf,it was an embarrasment to them as it highlighted the inexperience of their capability to manufacture viable arms.

  • 119. rakig  |  June 30th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    While AQ’s method is costing the US a lot and has everyone scared the US will bankrupt themselves, they’re missing a key point which I think you were trying to get at.

    The IRA managed to cause a massive financial toll on the economy of Britain, effecting the pocket book of both the rich and the poor, without demonizing themselves and thus becoming the de-facto target/solution. The British people could either aggressively approach the issue, or diplomatically, and at that point the publicly desired solution was to avoid further financial tolls, so the cheaper diplomatic method was preferable. The IRA managed to use the financial loss without the shock and kickback of killing innocents to accomplish their goals and lived to move beyond the fighting.

    AQ has managed to cost the US a staggering amount of money, but at the expense of making themselves the target of that expense. That massive amount of money is being spent on eliminating them and reducing their ability to act.

    The problem is if AQ fails to collapse the US economy due to debt, they’re left with nothing. They’ve destroyed their methods and abilities to further attack the US, as well as the fact they need to continue to exist to accomplish their goals. They’re playing the short game assuming a financial collapse of the west will ensure their freedom to spread and control the east, except the west is capable of destroying itself economically (financial crash anyone) and still devote itself to destroying them.

  • 120. Bob  |  July 7th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    The IRA lost the intelligence war. The brits knew when and where they were going to act, lied in wait and killed them. They then slapped D-notices on the reports of the killed IRA so there were no martyrs (Israels big mistake is not to hide what they’re up to).

    The IRA had few skilled operators left, couldn’t move without being intercepted and were then offered the peace talks.

  • 121. Thomas Womack  |  July 7th, 2011 at 8:43 am

    It’s a great article, but I really don’t think you’ve got the causality right for Lloyds of London.

    Lloyds of London fell because they had been writing all-other-risks insurance for most companies that used asbestos, during the entire period between the advent of asbestos as a wonder material and the discovery that it was bad for people, and had a structure such that liability never got dissipated.

    Losing a building from time to time is the kind of risk that insurance is made for; having to pay for the treatment of a hundred thousand unexpected cancers is what bankrupts insurance companies.

  • 122. Bryan  |  July 7th, 2011 at 9:03 am

  • 123. Jon  |  July 7th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    You mean you shouldn’t line up all your men and march them in straight lines towards an enemy that keeps hiding in the bushes taking pot shots and retreating all the time? We should know this by now!

  • 124. bg12  |  July 7th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    The least trustworthy are those who stick to their original opinion simply to save face (i.e. virtually every politician). The fact that you reevaluated your own notions and wrote a piece, admitting previous wrongs, brings your a whole lot of credibility in my eyes. I really enjoyed this piece, and your humility. Thanks

  • 125. K.  |  July 7th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I’m sorry, but: the IRA has survived but failed, at least when it comes to independence for Northern Ireland. Al Qaeda has died but succeeded in destroying what was left of western democratic ideals: we now routinely incarcerate people without justice, use torture, and assassinate our political opponents. Formerly free countries are becoming police states, with unreasonable searches and surveillance.
    Al Qaeda won because we let them win, and because the “hawks” have apparently only been waiting for an excuse to flush Thomas Jefferson down the toilet.

  • 126. ingamar johannsen  |  July 8th, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Not that anyone would know from press reports and government briefings, Al Qaeda never was that much. They pulled off 911 when no one was looking and that’s about the sum total of activity on the main stage. Flew a couple of hijacked planes into the WTC, only to watch the collapse in an oh-shit moment that bought more than bargained with celebrations short lived.

    But Al Qaeda needed to be bigger than a half dozen guys trained in American flight simulators and another handful of mouth breathers with box cutters taking their one big shot for the cause, whatever that was. The U.S. attacked Iraq where Al Qaeda wasn’t. Go figure. Even Afganistan wasn’t that big of deal until the Taliban popped tall on Al Qaeda’s “guest” status as though the rules of diplomatic immunity applied.

    Then there was the manifestation of Al Qaeda in Iraq and all of a sudden Al Qaeda is this broad over reaching global entity that hates Freedumb as Freedumb Inc pours a trillion big ones in security’s provision of Iraqs oil field contracts and pipe line maintenance. After all, salt water injection as practiced by the Chinese is a filthy business and ‘Sodom’ the Bushism Hussein had been caught striking China deals having been backed in a financial corner by the U.S. over war costs with Iran after the Shaw was booted for being a puppet of the U.S.

    That’s the problem with these third world dictators; not staying bought at the first sign of abuse. So what if those slant drilling Kuwaitis were dumping cheap barrels of Iraqi crude on the market thus keeping the price depressed. Now if Sodom had signed the pipeline deal like he was supposed to, then he could have delivered more Iraqi crude to market and made more money at the lower price but no. he didn’t do that which in the oil bidness leads directly to regime change given a nominal Texas President beholden to his benefactors just like his daddy was.

    Not that the general public would have noticed at the pump among battle cries for revenge having been sneak attacked by Al Qaeda. Remember them?

    Such is the clarity of vision looking back but it certainly wasn’t at the time even among skeptics. So kicking Al Qaeda (and the Taliban for that matter) took eight years longer that needed but therein found opportunity for allot of money to change hands and we can chalk it all up to a naive administration duped by Hussein into believing he really had weapons of mass destruction instead of media manipulation based on a bald faced lie that further blurred the lines of Americas self terrorizing war on terror in the name of homeland security. Big money changing hands there too as the U.S. applies the vice grips of social controls thus limiting freedumb in exchange for an illusion of security as bankrolled by a captive population hopefully held into perpetuity in a ‘code green’ state of fear. Al Qaeda is out there and their coming, theological thrill killers of biblical proportions crazed by hate of Freedumb, they will dine on the flesh of your children unless you capitulate, sacrifice, shut up and pay. Freedumb isn’t free dumb ass!

    So now the question becomes whether or not the War Nerd was wrong in his estimation and that depends on how we score this match. Certainly the IRA versus the U.K. cannot be compared to Al Qaeda versus the U.S. let alone the PLO and Israel etc. Furthermore Al Qaeda’s reach has been ascribed in relation to rebel Chechen elements vis-a-vis Russia and so on ad infinitum. How much of this is true continues as difficult to discern. If taken at face value, Al Qaeda has suffered a setback from which they will re-coalesce and recover from their fragmentation as soon as the U.S. moves on; Al Qaeda having greater long term reach in the regions than the U.S. does and can simply wait it out as indigenous fundamentalist Islamics. Russia faces similar if not the same problems. How then does the IRA compare? Simply having been more judicious with resource application so as not to be stamped out in fits of revenge? Has this happen to Al Qaeda? Certainly the death of Bin Laden in a Pakistan sanctuary doesn’t equate to that.

    On the other hand, is not Al Qaeda more important as a propaganda tool and thereby propped up as more than it is or ever was? When could the IRA ever claim to be that useful? Chief antagonist and primary distraction given territorial disputes in commercial applications of global hegemony? The IRA? No. Just no. AL Qaeda isn’t some entity with a closely defined cause, its mere name exudes near open ended justification for damn near anything and found manifest as some stamp of trademarked approval for the generic goods of terrorism both real and promulgated. Meanwhile the War Nerd doubts his assessment that Al Qaeda is the real deal while the IRA play footsie in comparison, then recants as being misled with born again belief the IRA in fact has been the more judicious of the two. Be that as it may, the opportunities presented by Al Qaeda have not been squandered. Far from it, and therein more a matter of who gets the credit.

  • 127. Demut  |  July 8th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Another step closer to a less unbiased view on reality. An additional claim you might want to question is Osama bin Laden’s death. The majority of the evidence suggests that he already died in late 2001 rather than 2011. Have fun researching this.

  • 128. Bill  |  July 9th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    AQ is not fighting a Guerrilla War as it is conventionally understood. Guerrilla warfare is a tactic that generally involves and alternative government and relies on popular support. AQ doesnt really qualify on either front. AQ has sympathy for humbling a nation (the US) whose policies anger a large portion of the Islamic population. But that us quite separate from support. The IRA has a clear nationalistic goal, AQ has a near impossible goal of creating an Islamic state that most muslims dont want. In some ways AQ and its supporters are as at war or more at war with muslim nations as the United States.

    Additionally, if you had the understanding of AQ you articulated in the early part of the article you were not reading valid sources. There were plenty of people talking about how AQ was going to transition from the centralized financing and control to more inspirational leadership with decentralized cells as early as 2003. Try “Leaderless Jihad” by Marc Sageman to name one.

  • 129. Ian  |  July 11th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. The objective of Al-Qaeda was not to bring the US to the negotiating table, but to provoke the US to declare what could be termed a war on the Muslim faith and so polarize further the two disparate cultures and fracture any existing peace structures, whether formal or not.
    And Al-Qaeda has achieved these goals with a degree of success that must have been far beyond Osama’s wildest wet-dream.

  • 130. Tom  |  July 13th, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Hi WN,

    Just was hoping for a clarification.

    in your article you refer to the Al-Quaida Hoax, and I was wondering what you mean with the H-word?

    BTW- I am completely open to the hoax hypothesis. I think it’s a fact that Al-Quaida is a somewhat diffuse, numerically small group that is more useful to western ideologues and security services than it is to any supposed islamist movement.

  • 131. Dave du V  |  July 14th, 2011 at 10:56 am

    What an idiotic and offensive piece.
    I am sure that the ordinary citizens of Ulster, from both sides of the sectarian divide, who suffered decades of violence, brutality and murder at the hands of IRA thugs will be intrigued to learn that all of these horrors were actually perpetrated exclusively by loyalists, while republicans focussed solely on bloodless economic warfare on the mainland. And of course the IRA only “won” in the narrow sense that realpolitik intervened and the terrorists McGuiness and Adams (no need for quotes round that word btw) entered the mainstream, although this had much more to do with the people of NI turning their backs on the gangsters and wanting to live ordinary and secure lives.

  • 132. Charlie Prime  |  July 15th, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Apparently you are unaware that Al Qaeda was designed and is run by the Anglo American intelligence agencies.

    Seriously, study some history on how giant corporations such as the British East India Company, Archer Daniels Midland, Chevron/BP, et al. use insurgency to maintain political control natural resources.

  • 133. hubris  |  July 15th, 2011 at 6:57 am

    “Apparently you are unaware that Al Qaeda was designed and is run by the Anglo American intelligence agencies.”

    Yep – also read “The Dirty War” by Martin Dillon – It’s all about such things as infiltration and false flag events in Northern & Southern Ireland

  • 134. Chris  |  July 15th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    One thing I’d like to add — which doesn’t detract from your point at all — is that Al qaeda exploited the traditional Western response to “nerf” warfare on 9/11. The flight crews and passengers were still following the old protocol of assuming that the hijackers wanted only to go to Havana and read a manifesto. The terrorists understood the concept yet rejected it.

  • 135. Todd Marshall  |  July 15th, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Pretty amazing how clueless the commenters are. AQ is known to be a CIA creation perpetuated by the MSM. And knowledge of this only shows up after about 2 months of comments, and so far, only two commenters get it. Just amazing!

  • 136. who+dares+wings  |  July 15th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    “The UK realized, when the Troubles started (1969) that if they held on long enough the coming European Union (then the Common Market) would obviate the position of the IRA, effectively buring Ireland in the superstate of the EU”

    True about the effect, but that was not The UK’s strategy.

    Most of the time most of the MPs and cabinet ministers and PMs in Westminster tried to get rid of NI. They couldn’t because the majority of NI-ers wanted no part of the ROI.

    “The Troubles” was just that — not a geopolitical event/movement — just trouble, on a large scale. But more depressing than dangerous. Throughout the troubles, Belfast or Derry were safer than Detroit or much of New York.

    If it wasn’t for foreigners (Americans, Australians, Czechs, Arabs, Soviets) supplying weapons it would have been a police action completely.”

    The War Nerd seems to ignore or be unaware of the fact that throughout the troubles the largest regiment in the British Army was Irish.

    The IRA were absolutely beaten, except for the fact that most of their killers and bombers are out of jail, were they belong, and are instead sucking on Her Majesty’s tit.

  • 137. Jake in Jerusalem  |  July 16th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    The article is dead wrong, and many of the commenters apparently are poorly informed, as well. I have long said that there is no such thing as al Qaeda. It is really an idea – that the whole world is Islam and that Islam must rule everything. AQ has no HQ, no offices, no structure – its just an idea. Therefore, so long as intolerant Islam exists, the ideas and ideals of Osama bin Laden will continue to exist as well, no matter how deep is his grave. What happened in recent decades is simply that some Islamic Fundamentalists have become rich enough and powerful enough that they think that now is the right time to declare Islam’s supremacy over everyone else. If they can’t do it now, they will patiently keep to that idea, even if it takes thousands of years to make their dreams come true. There is no comparison to the IRA. That so many people STILL have no idea of who/what they are fighting and what threatens their very existence is truly frightening.

  • 138. Peter Gerdes  |  July 17th, 2011 at 2:32 am

    You don’t take into consideration the different motives and goals of the organizations.

    Al Qaeda’s strategy was trivially the best strategy to accomplish their desired goal: humiliate the US while gaining glory for themselves amoung those sympathetic to islamic extremism. Al Qaeda is the serial killer/university gunman of terrorist organizations. They don’t even bother making their demands and goals coherent or plausible because they aren’t the point, the sense of power and purpose the struggle gives them are the point. Bin Laden didn’t release those tapes to communicate or achieve a political end it was all about saying “Na Na you can’t catch me.”

    Al Qaeda is the muslim equivalent of a street gang: a way for people who feel like outsiders in the globalized western world to feel strong and manly. They also are comprised manly of people without strong family ties who would rather dream about dying gloriously than about making a better life here for themselves and they seem to be accomplishing that quite well.

  • 139. Ulsterman  |  July 17th, 2011 at 4:40 am

    What a disgustingly ignorant piece of journalism. I hope people reading these comments will go away and do their own research and realise the filth that you’ve written is badly researched and is typical of the misguided nonsense that lives in so many Americans heads. NORAID anyone?!?

    Casually linking the SAS with the Shankill Butchers is just offensive. I’m not denying possible collusion between Loyalists and the British government, but the Shankill Butchers were in a league of their own. And there were tit-for-tat killings throughout the Troubles, from both sides; don’t think for a second that the PIRA were some angelic organisation with strict moral values.

    Quote, “especially the huge truck bombs that won the war for them”. Won the war? Can we have a citation please for this rather bold statement?

    Shame on Bruce Schneier for linking it from his blog.

  • 140. Nick  |  July 20th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    The IRA blew up my families business, I can still remember hearing the explosion from my classroom across the town.

    Just to chime in – the IRA didn’t really win the war if you count winning as attaining their goal of an united Ireland. How exactly would they do this anyway? Would me and all the other Prods be rounded up and shipped over to England? Oh god dare I dream of an escape from this desolate rainy shithole?

    No, seriously, I don’t know how they would accomplish this, we would have to have another civil war. Relive the Battle of the Boyne (1690), and you know, every stupid fucker in this place wants to do that…

    Btw, there was an ‘intermission’ after the Good Friday Agreement, but in the past 2 years we’ve started to slip backwards. The IRA are becoming more active, police officers have been murdered, Martin McGuiness himself was afraid of being bumped off by the ‘Ra as we call them (IRA).

    It’s obviously got more to do with the economic downturn than anything else. It’s no coincidence that during the years things settled down we were in a boom. I can see things getting a lot worse in years to come. Understand, those Prod ‘Wackos’ as you rightly call them haven’t lost their vitriol and ignorance. There was some coming together of the communities, but not enough, the proles still work and go to school separately 90% of the time. If anyone wanted to make lasting change, they would have had to knock down the shitty housing estates (tribal areas) and house the working class prods and taigs in rows of new houses, taigs on odd numbers and prods on even? They would have needed a hell of a lot of money for that. And new schools, or forcing the old schools to divide their kids equally along religious lines. This would have meant Pastor Fundie Fuckhead would lose his power and position. They wouldn’t have been happy.

    But who the fuck wants to pay for all that? And cops to patrol the newly mixed streets and stop anyone from putting up flags or painting sectarian murals. Answer? Nobody. The middle classes don’t live in sink estates, thus they couldn’t give the first fuck if you’re a taig or a prod, as long as you cut your lawn and leave them to their wine and golf in peace. It’s only the poor that take up the tribal ways, because they’ve got fuck all else and noone gives a crap about them.

    You know what the Loyalists have become now? An embarrassing sub mafioso, Tony Soprano with none of the style and 100 less IQ points. Selling fireworks and bootleg cigs and booze to teenagers. Bad drugs, beer guts and empty posturing. Their young run around shitfaced on buckfast wine, threatening to ‘do yer windys in!’ (windows). Pretending they’re ‘connected’ and can ‘git yew fuckin kneecapped if ye keep fuckin slabberin’. Little Orange Billy’s finding it tough in this sparse service economy. He’ll settle for alcoholism and beating his girlfriend for the moment. But give him time, jobs aren’t coming, the dole is getting slashed, prices are going up. His tiny ego need to prove to everyone that he’s some sort of a man.

    And all the while, lonely and frustrated middle class guys like me will be skulking around the sidelines. Trying to devise ways to not kill ourselves, staring at the internet, at images of worlds abroad we will never be part of. Friends we will never have, conversations about books and politics and thought and the world. Nights in social situations were noone is pushing themselves to drink until they puke so they can have room to drink some more…

    Oh, I give up. For the love of fuck, just nuke us, prove your humanitarian credentials oh merciful world. We have no resources, no unique industries or skills, no culture aside from alcoholism. Man was not meant to live here, sure it’s possible, but you can never get beyond a slight dissipation in nihilistic violence and endless fucking rain.

  • 141. Belfast Bob  |  July 22nd, 2011 at 6:06 am

    I followed the link from Schneier and was amazed to read this piece of total garbage. I grew up in Ulster at the height of the troubles and live in Belfast. Anybody who thinks this idiotic essay gives insight into anything here needs their head examining.

  • 142. Thomas Clarke  |  April 10th, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Tiocfaidh ár lá!

    Our day will come!

    Ireland will be united via peaceful means.

    Most people want it on the island.

    It is a matter of when not if.

    Get behind a united Ireland via peaceful means.


  • 143. Destro  |  June 22nd, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    The point of the article’s observation is that the IRA was able to live long enough to bring the much larger UK govt to a negotiation. They were smart enough to survive long term and smart enough to accept a negotiated settlement.

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  • 145. freedom fighter  |  October 31st, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    tiocfaidh ar la its not over yet

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  • 147. Ian Frazier  |  August 31st, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Really enjoyed the article.Some reckon Northern Ireland will be reunited with the south in the next 25 years especially with Sinn Féinns increasing popularity.

  • 148. John  |  April 10th, 2015 at 12:59 am

    Yeah… I’m sure you’ve been reading up on the ‘Troubles’, but you might want to read a wider range of material. There are a LOT of inaccuracies in this which probably come more from pro-IRA propaganda than researched history.

    The IRA fought a smart war against the Brits, but this paints an inaccurately black-and-white picture of a morally upstanding IRA refusing to kill civilians and generally avoiding body-bags, compared to the blood-thirsty targeting of civilians by killers supported by the British military.

    There is no black-and-white from that conflict. Being generous, you probably just read some deeply unbalanced material and have no real idea of what you are talking about. A less generous interpretation is that you are deliberately peddling a misleading and inaccurate version of history.

  • 149. Rus  |  April 13th, 2015 at 6:39 am

    What? the IRA didn’t do revenge attacks? or kill civilians? If you are starting from that base everything you say is invalid.

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