Small Wars Journal

Palestinian Camp Wars: Memoirs of a Fatah Military Commander in Lebanon

Wed, 09/14/2011 - 9:20am

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Foreword by Lieutenant General Richard F. Natonski, USMC (Ret); Former Commander, United States Marine Corps Forces Command

During the Cold War, the United States took time to translate, analyze, and discuss unclassified Soviet military literature, memoirs, and manuals.  There was a real attempt to understand a formidable adversary.  In the 21st century our nation faces a daily threat from asymmetric warfare. The need to address terrorism and insurgency in order to erode these threats to the United States and our combat forces fighting our wars is critical.  In this the year of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it is vital that we once again translate, analyze and discuss works from the areas in which our troops are deployed.  As a UN Observer in the Middle East in the late 1980s, I learned and experienced the complexities of this region. This essay highlights the importance of translating Arabic works of military significance, while exposing readers to the memoirs of a senior PLO commander directing Fatah forces in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.  It is an education in the sophistication of non-state actors to conduct military operations, as well as an introduction to the tangled web of alliances (Shiite, Maronite Christian, Druze, and Sunni) along with regional influences of Israel and Syria that occurred during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).  Commander Aboul-Enein has devoted himself to educating America’s men and women in uniform using direct Arabic sources.  Through his years of lectures, essays, and reviews he has brought to life the memoirs of a host of Arab generals, counter-terrorism experts from the region, and yes, even terrorist operatives themselves.  I applaud Small Wars for providing Commander Aboul-Enein a forum from which to contribute his unique insights into Arab thought about asymmetric warfare.  I also look forward to the discussion and exchange of ideas this exposé will generate.

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About the Author(s)

CDR Aboul-Enein teaches part-time at the National Intelligence University and National Defense University.  He is the author of “Militant Islamist Ideology,” and “Iraq in Turmoil,” both published by Naval Institute Press. His first book goes paperback this September and was named among the top 150 most influential titles on terrorism and counter-terrorism by the journal, Perspectives on Terrorism.