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Non-State War: The War Against The Plains Indians

Non-State War: The War Against The Plains Indians

 

 

CSC 1995

 

SUBJECT AREA - History

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

 

Title: Non-State War: The War Against the Plains Indians.

 

 

Author: Major William W. Bennett. Special Forces, United States Army.

 

 

Thesis: Examination of the condct of the United States government's war

against the Plains Indians will shed light on the current problems faced by

modern warriors dealing with non-state war.

 

 

Background: An early example of non-state warfare faced by the United States

was the war conducted against the indigenous people of the American frontier.

This paper will examine what led to the political-military successes against one

group of those people, the Plains Indians, between 1866 end 1891. I have

provided an historic example of the weaknesses in the ability of the state to defeat

the non-state unless the state wishes to completely destroy the culture of the

non-state. The only succsses the state has had in defeating non-state enemies,

short of cultural eradication, has been when the state separates the non-state

enemy from its popular support. The only way that the state can accomplish this,

is through understanding the socio-cultural relationship between the non-state

enemy end its popular support. Such understanding will permit identification of

seams or weaknesses in that linkage, and permit exploitation politically,

socially, culturally, psychologically, economically, militarily end temporally.

When the state can package all these facets of national power end focus them on

the seams between the non-state enemy and its popular support, the state will be

successful. If the state fails to develop this synergy, it will fail.

 

 

Recommendation: Examine the non-state enemy, determine if there is a seam

his popular support end exploit it to do otherwise will result in failure or the

eradication of the non-state's culture.

 

NON-STATE WAR: THE WAR AGAINST THE PLAINS INDIANS

 

 

The military record of the modern nation-state in state versus state

 

warfare is excellent; nations fight other nations with great success.

 

Unfortunately, the record against nonstate actors is less impressive.1 Recent

 

examples abound. Compare the results of the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq

 

and against the clans in Somalia, the British successs in the Falklands and the

 

campaign in Northern Ireland, or the successful Israeli campaigns against the

 

Arab States and the its inability to quell the Intifada.

 

In each of these cases, the end result was the same. Despite being

 

militarily superior, a national military failed to defeat the non-state enemy.

 

Unable to force decisive battle, each national military eventually negotiated a

 

face-saving settlement, then abandoned the field to the non-state enemy.

 

An early example of non-state warfare faced by the United States was the

 

war conducted against the indigenous people of the American frontier. This paper

 

will examine what led to the political-military success against one group of

 

those people, the Plains Indians, between 1866 end 1891. Examination of the

 

conduct of this war may shed some light on the current problems faced by modern

 

warriors dealing with non-state war.

 

BACKGROUND

The conduct of the Civil War had prepared the United States Army to

 

employ a strategy of annihilation in its wars against the Indians because of

 

political, economic and social reasons. Post Civil War national policy eventually

 

imposed this approach on the American Indian. Until the Civil War, the

 

conscious purpose of the United States government in its relations with the Indian

 

nations was not to eliminate them but to move them out of territory desirable to

 

the white man end into lends where the white man was not yet ready to venture,

 

or where he would "never" settle.

 

An Office of Commissioner of Indian Affairs existed in the War

 

Department, end a policy was taking shape for the office to administer. In 1825

 

Secretary of War Calhoun had recommended that the "Great American Desert"

 

area be set aside as a permanent Indian Country, and the eastern Indians be

 

moved there to find a permanent home. In 1830 Congress authorized the

 

President to exchange land beyond the Mississippi for lands held by the Indian

 

tribes in the east. President Andrew Jackson began a vigorous program of

 

negotiating removal treaties with the eastern nations, most of which were too

 

enfeebled and too hemmed in by overpowering numbers of whites to resist. The

 

Cherokees caused some trouble, end the resistance of the Seminoles, which

 

brought on the Seminole War of 1836-42, was a major exception to the general

 

acquiescence. But the Army escorted most of the eastern tribes westward during

 

the 1830s, with immense suffering and appalling loss of life.2

 

To underwrite the idea of the permanency of the Indian Country, the

 

Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 forbade the intrusion of unauthorized white men

 

into Indian Country, while providing government agencies and schools to assist

 

the Indians. By 1840 the government had reasonably determined the boundary of

 

the Indian Country, and for the time being the strategic problem of the Army

 

regarding the Indian nations became that of guarding a border which amounted

 

almost to an international frontier.3

 

Through the 1840s most Americans believed that the bulk of the Great

 

Plains which made up the Indian Country was unsuitable to agriculture end,

 

therefore, to white settlement. During the 1850s, the western expansion began

 

to erode the policy of the permanent Indian Country. After the Mexican War and

 

the Oregon settlement, the Indian Country no longer marked the effective western

 

boundary of the United States, but separated two parts of the United States, the

 

East from the Far West of California and Oregon. No such arrangement was likely

 

to remain permanent. The California gold rush immensely increased white

 

emigration over the trails westward through Indian Country, so much so that the

 

buffalo herds began to avoid the trails, consequently altering the environment and

 

Indian economy of the country.

 

In 1849 the government transferred the Office of Indian Affairs to the

 

westerner dominated Department of the interior. White men along the border of

 

the Indian country and travelers passing through it ware learning that much of it

 

was not as unsuitable as white settlers had believed, especially the well-watered

 

grasslands in the eastern part of it. Conseuently, the United States drew up

 

treaties with the Indian nations during the 1850s to define the boundaries

 

between the various nations. These treaties nibbled away at the Indian Country.

 

For example, the treaty with the Sioux in Minnesota restricted them to a

 

reservation 150 miles long but only 10 miles wide along the Minnesota River.

 

Despite these treaties the Indians remained sufficiently undisturbed in Indian

 

Country with only a few serious armed clashes between Indians end white

 

soldiers marring the decade of the fifties.4

 

From 1851 to 1853 the government negotiated the Fort Laramie and Fort

 

Atkinson treaties with all the the major tribal groups of the plains. The

 

objective was no longer to separate whites and Indians by an artifical barrier.

 

Now the government not only intended to clear the Indians away from white travel

 

routes and keep them off white settlements, but to restrict them to specific areas

 

called "territories." Policy makers were beginning to look to a time when the

 

reservation would serve not only to control the Indians but to "civilize" them as

 

well.5

 

In 1861 the majority of white soldiers left their posts on the Indian

 

border to travel eastward and fight in the Civil War. Local volunteers from the

 

western states and the territories replaced the Regular Army in garrisoning the

 

border forts. In the eyes of the Indians, the volunteers seemed more vulnerable

 

then the professionals, and they were more likely to bear malice toward the

 

Indians. These developments occurred just as limitations over their territory

 

angered the Sioux in Minnesota, and as the consequences of white emigration

 

across their ranges to the gold fields in the central Rockies began to impact on the

 

Cheyenne and Kiowa, between the Arkansas end South Platte rivers.

 

In August,1862, the anger of the Sioux culminated in a mascre of

 

whites around their reservation along the Minnesota River. Minnesota

 

volunteers were able to repulse Sioux attacks on Fort Ridgely and New Ulm and

 

then to suppress the uprising. Here the weight of white population was already

 

great enough to be decisive as it had earlier been east of the Mississippi. In the

 

new territory of Colorado in the Rocky Mountains, misunderstandings and armed

 

clashes between the Indians and the settlers provoked the raising of regiments of

 

Colorado volunteeers who not only pacified the Indians but massacred many of

 

them in the process.6

 

By the time the Regular Army returned to the Indian frontier in 1865-

 

66, the policy of the permanent Indian territory was obsolete. The Homestead

 

Act of 1862 opened the prospect of cheap farmsteads throughout the national

 

domain. The idea of the Great American Desert had changed from a negative to a

 

positive one. By 1865, the Union Pacific and Kansas Pacific Railroads were

 

working their way westward from Omaha and Kansas City into the Indian

 

Country, carrying homesteaders and revolutionizing the Army's old problems of

 

mobility and logistics in the West.

 

Federal policy could no longer be one of removal of the Indians to some

 

distant place. There was no place left to relocate them. The remaining options

 

were extremely difficult. White men who knew the Indians and were sympathetic

 

toward them such as William Bent and Kit Carson, began to believe that if

 

Indians were to live close to white men, they must abandon their own way of life

 

and take up way of life of the white man. Otherwise, there could be no lasting

 

peace between the white men and Indians, for their cultures and their economies

 

were incompatible; and if the white men continued invading the Indian Country

 

without the Indians' adopting white ways, the white man would eventually

 

exterminate the Indian.7

 

While the government developed long-range policies, the immediate

 

military problem after the Civil War was the protection of the white man's trails

 

through the Indian Country. The increasing numbers of white men traversing the

 

trails, the new railroads along the trails, and the resulting increase in

 

restlessness of the Indians who began to discern the coming calamity to their

 

independence and their way of life, served to exacerbate the problem.

 

During the war, John M. Bozeman had opened a trail to take miners from

 

the Oregon Trail on the North Platte River through the Powder River country and

 

up the Yellowstone to newly discovered gold fields around Virginia City, Montana

 

Territory. The trail led through the domain of the most powerful of all Plains

 

Indian nations, the Teton Sioux or Teton Dakotas.

 

The Chippewas had pushed the Sioux out of the forest country of Minnesota

 

in the early days of the white man's westward expansion, when the Chippewas had

 

acquired firearms, but the Sioux had not. The Sioux had adopted superbly to the

 

plains and had become excellent horsemen and mounted warriors. The Sioux made

 

the Bozeman Trail extremely perilous, and during the Civil War the Army was

 

not able to do much to protect it. In 1866 the Regular Army initiated a major

 

effort to safeguard the trail, strengthening Fort Reno at the crossing of the main

 

branch of the Powder River and building Fort Phil Kearnay and Fort C.F. Smith

 

farther up the trail. Red Cloud ably led the Sioux who ware fierce and determined

 

to keep white travelers off their range. The Army only consisted of

 

approximately 57,000 officers and men and could only make a token effort to

 

police the conquered South, and defend the Indian border and keep the trails

 

through Indian Country open. About 7O0 men of the 18th infantry guarded the

 

Bozeman Trail. Red Cloud's Sioux put the soldiers effectively under siege, and on

 

December 21, 1866, the Indians wiped out all eighty men of a detachment under

 

Captain William Fetterman who ventured out of Fort Phil Kearny to protect a

 

woodcutting party.8

 

The commanding general of the Military Division of the Missouri,

 

encompassing the Indian Country, was Lieutenant General Sherman. Sherman

 

reacted to the Fetterman fight with a characteristic proposal for a long-range

 

policy to deal with the Sioux: "We must act with vindictive earnestness against

 

the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children."9 Sherman

 

spoke in anger and embarrassmnet over Fettermans's defeat, but his subsequent

 

policies made it clear that he was not simply speaking in the heat of the moment.

 

Instead of following Sherman's prescription, Congress responded to the

 

Fetterman fight by creating the 1867 Peace Commision to negotiate for the

 

restoration of order. The purpose of the commission was to deal with the Sioux

 

and other restless northern tribes, and with the Cheyennne and other southern

 

tribes still fighting in Colorado. But the means of restoring peace proposed by

 

Congress, nevertheless, implied the elimination of the Indian nations as

 

sovereign politles and military powers. A Congressional Committee recommended

 

dealing with Indians as individuals rather than as nations and eliminating the

 

Indian Country by concentrating the Indians on much more restricted

reservations. The Peace Commisssioners spent the summers of 1867 and 1868

 

on the Plains attempting to persuade the Indians to retreat into reservations

 

whose boundaries would open a large central area of the old Indian Country to

 

white settlers and their railroads.10

 

Enough Indian leaders had some inkling of the whites potential power that

 

the Peace Commissioners enjoyed considerable succss, at least in securing

 

agreement to treaties. Red Cloud of the Sioux signed a treaty on November 6,

 

1868, only after the Army had abandoned the Bozeman Trail and the United States

 

had agreed that the Powder River country should remain unceded Indian country,

 

closed to whites, not a mere reservation.11

 

The Army remained as undermanned as before the Civil War in proportion

 

to the vastness of the Indian territory it had to police. In 1869, another

 

reduction followed, resulting in a total force in the neighborhood of 25,000

 

which remained constant until the Spanish-American War.

 

The new policy of abolishing the Indian Country and forcing the tribes into

 

limited reservations did ease the military problems of strategy. Before the Civil

 

War, the Army largely had to confine itself to passive patrolling of the Indian

 

boundary. The disproportion between its small numbers and the extent of

 

territory to be patrolled imposed special hardship. In contrast, the new policy

 

implied that the Army would focus on the offensive, to force the Indians into their

 

reservations, and to punish them if they did not go promptly or if they wandered

 

astray. On the offensive, the Army could choose its targets, and by concentrating

 

its limited strength increase its effectiveness.

 

The weaker tribes immediately felt the effects of their acceptance of the

 

reservations and treaty limitations. They could not venture across the

 

emigration routes westward. General Grant, still the Commanding General of the

 

Army, said in 1868 that the Army would protect the routes "even if the

 

extermination of every Indian tribe was necessary to secure such a result."12

 

In the fall of 1868, the commander of the Department of the Platte, Major

 

General Philip Sheridan, prepared to force into the reservations the Indians of

 

four principal southern nations: the Southern Cheyenne, the Arapeho, the Kiowa,

 

and the Comanche. The strategy Sheridan chose was an innovative one for an

 

Indian campaign, reflecting his and Sherman's experience in carrying war to the

 

enemy's resources and people'. He would wage a winter campaign, thus striking

 

when the Indian's grass-fed ponies were weak from lack of sustenance and the

 

Indians' mobility was at a low ebb. He would strike against the fixed camps in

 

which the Indians huddled against the rigors of winter. The camps would then

 

either submit to him, or if their occupants fled, he would destroy the provisions

 

they had accumulated for the winter and starve them into helplessness. To

 

execute this strategy, Sheridan planned for three columns to converge upon the

 

Indian camps scattered through the northern Texas panhandle and the extreme

 

western part of Indian Territory (presently Oklahoma). The plan succeeded with

 

brutal efficiency. It included Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer's

 

destruction of the camp of the friendly Cheyenne chieftain Black Kettle on the

 

Washita River on November 29. This action pleased Sheridan's immediate

 

superior, General Sherman. Just before the campaign opened, he told his

 

brother, "The more we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed the next

 

war, for the more I see of these Indians the more convinced I am that they all

 

have to be killed or maintained as a species of paupers. Their attempts at

 

civilization are simply ridiculous."13 After the campaign, Sherman told his

 

officers he was

 

 

... well satisfied with Custer's attack.... I want you all to go ahead, kill

and punish the hostile, rescue the captive white women and children, capture and

destroy the ponies, lances, carbines &c &c of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and

Kiowas; mark out the spots where they must stay,and then systematize the

whole (friendly and hostile) into camps with a view to economical support until

we can try to get them to be self-supporting like the Cherokees and Choctaws.14

 

The reservation system dissolved tribal sovereignty and military power

 

and reduced the source of the Plains Indians' economy, the buffalo herds, from

 

which the Indians took food, clothing, and shelter. The advance of the railroads

 

into the Plains greatly increased the opportunity for indiscriminate hunting of

 

buffalo as a sport. In 1871 a tannery discovered a way to turn buffalo hides into

 

good leather, redoubling the white man's slaughter of the buffalo to obtain hides.

 

The consequent threat to their livelihood mobilized the southern Plains Indians to

 

attack white buffalo hunters outside their reservations. The Army responded

 

with another campaign, the Red River War of 1874-75, aimed at the

 

destruction of the Indians' military power and ability to live their indepedent

 

way of life.

 

Sheridan, now a lieutenant general commanding the Division of the

 

Missouri, again ordered a cold-weather campaign. Again he sent converging

 

columns against the Indians in the north Texas panhandle, this time from the

 

south as well as north, east, and west. Again the Army destroyed the Indians'

 

winter camps to deprive them of sustenance and shelter. This time the Army

 

followed its attacks by shipping Indian leaders to exile in Florida. The Red River

 

War, combined with the extermination of the buffalo, fulfilled its purpose,

 

destroying the independence of the southern Plains tribes.15

 

The independence of the northern tribes, even of the redoubtable Sioux,

 

was shortly to suffer the same demise. In 1864 President Lincoln signed a bill

 

chartering a second transcontinental railroad, the Northern Pacific. The railroad

 

began building in 1870, and by 1872 it was approaching Montana Territory. A

 

preliminary survey indicated that the most feasible route through the territory

was the course of the Yellowstone River, within the unceded domain of the Sioux.

 

Commissioners sent to negotiate with the Sioux early in 1873 found them

 

unwilling to grant a right of way. Nevertheless, a column of more than 1,500

 

soldiers under Colonel D. S. Stanley escorted surveyors far up the Yellowstone

 

during the summer. The Panic of 1873 kept the railroad temporarily at

 

Bismarck, Dakota Territory. But the next year Lieutenant Colonel Custer, who

 

had been with Stanley, led ten companies of the 7th Cavalry and two companies of

 

infantry into the Black Hills to find a suitable site for a fort to protect the

 

railroad.

 

The Custer expedition also included geologists to investigate rumors that

 

there was gold in the Black Hills, and Custer sent back somewhat

 

overenthusiastic reports that there was. These reports naturally touched off a

 

gold rush, which sent hundreds of prospectors into the Black Hills by the

 

following summer. All of this was dangerous business, because the Black Hills

 

were not only part of the unceded Sioux territory; they were also sacred to the

 

Indians. 16

 

In September, 1875, federal commissioners made another effort to

 

persuade the Sioux to open their country to white men, and this time to sell the

 

Black Hills as well. The commissioners accomplished nothing and were lucky to

 

escape a threat against their lives. Their angry report encouraged the

 

Commissioner of Indian Affairs in November to order all Indians to return to

 

their reservations and report to their agencies by January 31. The order should

 

hardly have been applicable to the Sioux, for those Sioux bands that were not on

 

reservations were in their own uncoded country. Furthermore, the months from

 

November to January were the wrong time for Plains Indians to travel.

 

Nevertheless, the government assumed those Indians not on reservations by

 

January 31, 1876 were at war with the United States, and General Sheridan

 

planned a punitive expedition, three columns, from east, south, and west, to

 

converge on the Souix and drive them into reservations.17

 

The southern column, under Brigadier General George Crook, met a

 

repulse when its advance guard attacked a camp of Northern Cheyennes on March

 

17 and suffered defeat. This action also had the effect of pushing the previously

 

quiet Northern Cheyennes into an alliance of convenience with the Sioux. The

 

other Army columns did not move until the return of warm weather, and then

 

they found even more trouble. With the heart of their homeland under attack, the

 

Sioux and Northern Cheyennes rallied perhaps 5,000 warriors with a leadership

 

capable of conducting operations with tactical skill and inspiring their warriors

 

to fight with a determination and resolution uncommon in Plains Indians who

 

often viewed war as a kind of game and missed opportunities because they lacked

 

the white man's ruthless persistence. Under Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux,

 

Gall and Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapas, Hump of the Miniconjous, and Two Moons

 

of the Northern Cheyennes, among others, the Indians turned back another

 

advance by Crook's southern column at the Rosebud River on June 17. On June

 

25, Custer recklessly led the 7th Cavalry into the Indians' camps ahead of the

 

remainder of the eastern and western columns under Major General Alfred Terry

 

and Colonel John Gibbon. Custer died with much of his regiment in the battle of

 

the Little Big Horn.

 

However, the Indians lacked the white man's sense of closing in for the

 

kill. They might have overpowered Terry's and Gibbon's troops when those

 

soldiers reached the Little Big Horn battlefield the day after Custer's defeat, but

 

the Sioux and Cheyenne had demonstrated their prowess in battle and hoped that

 

doing so would be enough to discourage the whites as Red Cloud had done before.

 

The Indians themselves had suffered heavy losses, and rather then fight Terry and

 

Gibbon, they withdrew into the Big Horn Mountains to celebrate their successes.

 

The white soldiers accomplished little during the rest of the summer, though

 

Terry and Crook resumed the campaign.

 

For the Army, the Custer disaster only reconfirmed the necessity of

 

eliminating the military power of the Sioux. Sheridan accordingly ordered

 

another winter campaign, to repeat the now familiar pattern of forcing either

 

submission or debilitating, starvation-inducing movement on the Indians. Crook

 

and Colonel Nelson A. Miles harried the Sioux and Cheyennes through the cold

 

months, winning some battles, losing a few, but always driving the Indians

 

toward exhaustion. In February, Sitting Bull and a few of his followers fled into

 

Canada. By spring, Crazy Horse alone held a reasonably formidable band

 

together, but it numbered only some 800 men, women, and children, and Crook

 

persuaded Crazy Horse to surrender. Crook tried to win honorable and generous

 

treatment for the Oglala chieftain, but in the course of a disagreement during

 

negotiations one of Crook's soldiers bayoneted the chief. Meanwhile, more docile

 

Sioux leaders had signed away the previously unceded Powder River country and

 

the Black Hills, and under this appearance of legality, the Army forced the Sioux

 

into reservations. The Sioux could no longer offer effective resistance; Crook's

 

and Miles's winter campaign had broken the military power of the Plains Indians

 

forever.18

 

The final Sioux uprising of 1890 was no real uprising but a last,

 

desperate bid for freedom to roam the Plains and search for the old ways. The 7th

 

Cavalry ended it with a massacre of Indians at Wounded Knee Creek. By the turn

 

of the century , the whole culture of the American Indian seemed almost

 

extinguished in the wake of the Army's annihilation of the Indian nation's

 

military power.

 

ANALYSIS

 

National interests and goals would inevitably lead the United States to a

 

military confrontation with the Sioux Indians. In the 1840's the enlargement of

 

the national domain and the penetration through the Great Plains of the first

 

pioneers using the trails to get to the Oregon territory and California, the

 

miners surging forth following every rumor of gold, and the railroad and

 

telegraph linking east and west led to the fragmentation of the Plains Indian's

 

domain. Following this fragmentation came the gradual expansion and occupation

 

of Indian lands by settlers, ranchers and merchants who wished to own the land,

 

at first, next to the trails but ultimately, expanding to engulf all the land. In this

 

background the United States government attempted a series of actions to deal

 

with Indian and citizen relations.

 

Policy makers dealt with a myriad of conflicting requirements.

 

Politically, the idea of Manifest Destiny permeated the population's view of what

 

it was to be an American. The Civil War left the nation hardened, seeking release

 

and normalcy. The politically powerful "Western Lobby," while not representing

 

large numbers of voters, did command great quantities of capital and saw the

 

expansion and exploitation of the west as good business. To accomplish this

 

exploitation and expansion, the "western lobby" sought to connect the east and

 

west coasts. To counter this "expansion at all cost" attitude, small groups

 

sensitive to the treatment of the Indians developed and molded the political

 

landscape through the press. The resultant policy, however, was expansionist,

 

exploitative, and only somewhat ameliorated by sensibilities.

 

Economically, the government sought to link California and the Oregon

 

territory to the East. To do this, the government needed to develop reliable lines

 

of communication across the country. At first the government took a passive

 

view and merely provided limited protection to the already existing trails.

 

During the 186Os, the government initiated the development of a series of

 

transcontinental railroads which quite literally opened up the plains to the

 

people of the United States. In addition, the gold discoveries added impetus to the

 

surge to the west. The Indians ware merely seen as obstacles and threats to these

 

national economic goals.

 

Diplomatically, the government needed to establish some kind of

 

relationship with the Indians. The results constantly changed to fit the political

 

situation and resulted in a series of concepts leading to the unforeseen destruction

 

of the Indian culture.

 

The first of these ideas was the Permanent Indian Frontier which was to

 

be a barrier between the fertile east and the "Great American Desert of the west.

 

The military's key role was to man a series of monitoring forts along the

 

frontier's boundary. The Permanent Indian Frontier failed as the

 

aforementioned penetration grew in intensity. It became obvious to the

 

government that the collapse of the Permanent Indian Frontier would require an

 

alternative solution. Next, in the 1850s, the government sought to gain rights of

 

way, exclude Indians from trails and keep them away from settlements with the

 

goal of restricting them to their own territories. Finally, the Peace

 

Commissioners of the 1860s sought to thoroughly restrict Indians to

 

reservations, with the notable exception of the militarily susssful Sioux.

 

The failure of these treaties resulted from the government's lack of

 

understanding of the political nature of the Indians. The government sought to

 

establish single chiefs over an artificial "Indian nation". The government

 

emissaries' views were that they were dealing with the sovereigns of other

 

nations. The chiefs who signed the treaties could not, in the loose political

 

democracy of the Plains Indians, speak for or bind all their people to the treaty

 

promises. The Indians' chiefs had no such sovereignty over their people and this

led to violations and continual breakouts from the reservation. Added to this

 

problem was the legal position, as espoused by Chief Justice John Marshall, that

 

the Indian tribes were "domestic dependent nations,"19 which implied

 

subservience, and did not admit that the equality of two sovereign nations existed

 

between the Indian tribes and the government. Given this legal position, the

 

emissaries and commisioners probably could not legally make the treaties that

 

they ware enticing the Indians to sign.

 

These provided a policy disconnect which would permeate all

 

government-Indian relations from this point forward. The problem for the

 

government became one of dealing with a non-sovereign group (a non-state)

 

which did not fully control the members of its group. Even if the government

 

signed with the group leaders, individual members were not bound to the

 

agreement. Negotiators never made any attempt to have individual members sign

 

treaties, so no legal (in the Indian mind) compunction for compliance existed.

 

The government failed to understand the cultural basis of the government with

 

which they were dealing. A situation not dissimilar to the current U.N. - U.S. -

 

Somali clan relationship.

 

Socially, there was no interest to support the Indian way of life. The

 

nomadic lifestyle and large land requirements prevented the Americans and the

 

Indians from ever coming to common ground. This resulted in a social policy

 

oriented on turning Indians into whites and shrinking the Indians lands into

 

reservations until such time that the Indians could join white society. No

 

society, as militant and independent as the plains Indians, could tolerate such a

 

total cultural dismemberment, and the result was war.

 

Militarily, the primary mission of the United States Army was to protect

 

American citizens and property. Whether this was by patrolling the Permanent

 

Indian Frontier, securing the transcontinental trail system through a series of

forts, or ultimately chasing the Indians across the plains to herd them into

 

reservations, this remained the mission. As the advancing migration and

 

population pressure built up the small army found that it had too few resources

 

to guard the areas adequately, and when the Indians had sucess in raiding, the

 

diplomats developed a system of reservations to contain the problem and gave the

 

army the mission of keeping the Indians on their reservations.

 

In modern terms the Plains Indians' strategic center of gravity was the

 

tribal culture. The Indians based their culture on a loose association of family

 

groups under a chief guided by a small group of respected elders. Government

 

such as it was, remained highly democratic. Any individual could participate or

 

not participate in the decisions of the chief or elders. Economically, the tribes

 

were dependent on the buffalo. The buffalo required large ranges, and the

 

Indians, dependent upon these staples of their lifestyle, became nomadic out of

 

necessity. The nomadic lifestyle produced a type of warfare based on dominating

 

the range to eliminate or reduce the competition for buffalo. Such a lifestyle

 

resulted in low Indian population densities. The key tools required for such an

 

existence were firearms and horses. Firearms provided the tribes with the

 

ability to conduct successful warfare against other tribes and kill buffalo. The

 

tribes had no capability to produce firearms and were dependent on trade with

 

whites, directly or indirectly, for the firearms. Horses gave the Indians the

 

ability to follow and successfully hunt the buffalo. As such horses became the

 

central source of wealth for members of the tribe, as well as the primary target

 

of other tribes.

 

Based on these facts, the critical vulnerabilities to the Indians' center of

 

gravity were: a psychology of freedom (both nomadic lifestyle and near anarchic

 

democratic governance), a society of family based tribes, a dependency on the

 

horse to follow and hunt buffalo, and an ability to dominate his range through

 

tribal warfare using firearms and horse mobility.

 

In the Clausewitizian sense, the government sucessfully engaged all the

 

vulnerabilities of the Plains Indians in a war of annihilation. The diplomatic

 

campaign slowly assailed the nomadic lifestyle by first preventing the Indians

 

from entering specified areas, i.e., the trails and settlements. Ultimately,

 

through the creation of Indian territories and reservations, the government

 

destroyed their psychology of freedom. The diplomatic campaign accomplished

 

this by cajoling and bribing the chiefs, and generally exploiting the Indian's near

 

anarchic democratic government. These chiefs would sign away the range

 

necessary to sustain the tribes for the majority of the Indians. The remainder of

 

the Indians exercising their individual veto to such agreements were few in

 

number, thus reducing the size of the problem for the military.

 

Economically, the governmental policy of permitting exploitation of the

 

buffalo severely reduced, in a brutal method, the ability of the Indians to

 

economically sustain themselves. The Indians no longer had a reason to be

 

nomadic. At the same time the Indians had no other means of support in their

 

cultural memory. Many chiefs were extremely willing to give up their former

 

freedom for any form of economic survival, and thus were amenable to

 

acquiescing to the diplomatic effort.

 

Militarily, the government was never able to stem the flow of firearms to

 

the tribes, as small arms were readily available through innumerable trade

 

routes. The U.S. Army did develop an extremely effective operational method for

 

defeating the chief operational asset the Indians possessed: the horse. Throughout

 

the Plains Indian Wars, the military had their most success when operating in

 

the winter when the Indians horses were weakened by lack of forage and the

 

weather. The military's chief failures were in conjunction with campaigns

during the warm months when the horses regained their strength and Indians

 

regained the initiative through mobility. Eventually the military was able to run

 

the recalcitrant members of the tribes to ground during the cold season and

 

capture or scatter them.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR NON-STATE WARFARE

 

The Plains Indian Wars provides an excellent example of applying the

 

theory of state war to a non-state war. The United States had just experienced a

 

brutal Civil War which was finally concluded as a war of annihilation. The

 

theory of annihilation war permeated the military leadership. Pure, antiseptic

 

military operations in the early stages of this war had produced no result.

 

Escalation followed and culminated in the national strategy of pinning the

 

southern army in the east and piercing the Confederacy to totally destroy the

 

vital economic and cultural underpinnings of that society. The repercussions of

 

war strongly influenced the political leadership, including the President,

 

Congress, and the Courts as they struggled through the agony of the post-war

 

Reconstruction. Given this and the people's euphoria over the end of the war,

 

expansion to the west was inevitable, sweeping aside all obstacles in an effort

 

release the pent up energy of the United States held back by the war. The

 

resulting cultural annihilation was the only response the nation could give to a

 

non-state enemy.

 

If the United States is to avoid a recurrence of such events, we must

 

analyze our ability to respond to non-state war. Thus far, politicians have not

 

demonstrated the will to commit our military to such conflicts once American

 

casualties occur. This has limited our response considerably, and luckily has not

 

had any great impact on our vital interests.

 

Having only two options available, a war of annihilation, as conducted

 

against the American Indian, or a withdrawl when casualties occur, reduces our

ability to influence and control areas of the world vital to our interests. I propose

 

that neither of these options would be sucessful nor in the national interest.

 

There are many levels of response between low level involvement and

 

annihilation.

 

The Plains Indian War provides an insight to how to defeat non-state

 

enemies. By definition non-state enemies rely directly on the people and people's

 

culture for their strength. The non-state fighter depends on the population for

 

intelligence, manpower, sustenance and sanctuary. If the state can separate the

 

non-state insurgent from his base of popular support, the non-state enemy

 

becomes nothing more than a fleeing common criminal band, blind, weakened and

 

without a hiding place. The unsupported non-state enemy, if he does not

 

immediately disintegrate as an organized enemy, presents a lucrative target for

 

decisive battle which he can no longer avoid, and for which the state is

 

preeminently prepared. In either case the non-state enemy is defeated.

 

The United States government in its war with the Indians accomplished

 

this separation of the non-state fighter from his popular support by eradicating

 

the cultural and economic base on which he stood. The technique was effective,

 

but the moral cost to the United States still remains. Lasting from 1866 to

 

1891, the war was also a considerable economic and military drain on the

 

government.

 

The question remains, however, what can a state do to defeat a non-state

 

enemy, short of annihilating its society? A continuum of responses exists to

 

which the Plains Indian War provides but one end. This end of the spectrum can

 

be justified only if the non-state enemy threatens survival or extremely vital

 

interests of the state. The other end of the spectrum is total inaction against the

 

non-state enemy, i.e., Bosnia. If the state has a national interest in the area, this

 

is tantamount to defeat. Just a short way along the continuum from such inaction

lies the short term commitment of forces (a kind of bluff) followed by a hasty

 

withdrawl at the first sign of failure or casualties (a called bluff), i.e., Somalia.

 

Unfortunately, this result has a demoralizing effect on the state and its forces,

 

and a morally strengthening effect on the non-state forces increasing the

 

difficulty of dealing with them if there is a recurrence of the conflict. Once again

 

the result is defeat for the national interests of the state. The longer term

 

commitment of larger forces does not guarantee success, i.e. Vietnam and Algeria,

 

and results in even further demoralization of the state, and success for the non-

 

state.

 

The failure of this gradual escalation of responses is usually the result of

 

the statet's inability to separate the population from the non-state enemy. With

 

the exception of annihilating of the non-state's culture, the state has always

 

failed to defeat the non-state enemy unless the state employs time, and cultural

 

and social understanding to the defeat of the non-state enemy, i.e., Malaya.

 

During the early phases of the Plains Indian War, the government sought,

 

in a rudimentary way, to fragment the Indian tribes by initially offering them a

 

large territory and finally smaller reservations. Some of the Indians agreed.

 

This weakened the recalcitrant tribes, separated them from a portion of their

 

popular supports and provided limited support to the Army in the form of scouts.

 

Ultimately, the lack of cultural awareness and mismanagement resulted in many

 

of the reservation Indians escaping and joining the non-reservation Indians. This

 

guaranteed that turmoil would continue until the government destroyed the

 

cultural background of the Indians.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

Before committing itself to military operations against a non-state, the

 

state must decide what level of national interest is involved. This will give an

 

indication as to the cost in time, resources, casualties and effect on its moral

position that the state is willing to accept, and the level of losses the state is

 

willing to endure. If the state does not carefully measure the costs versus its

 

national interests with regard to a non-state enemy, the state will be unable to

 

determine an appropriate end state. This lack of clear end state will result in

 

commitment to a quagmire. The nation viewed the Indian Wars as more vital than

 

many of our half-hearted commitments against non-state enemies today.

 

The state should determine that its interests call for a commitment of

 

forces with their associated costs. The state must determine if it can separate the

 

non-state enemy from its popular (socio-cultural) support. Historically, no

 

effort, no matter how great, has defeated a popularly supported non-state enemy,

 

short of annihilating its socio-cultural base, i.e., American Indians. When the

 

state can separate the non-state enemy from his popular support, the non-state

 

enemy becomes exposed to overwhelming, conventional attack and destruction.

 

This separation must become the central focus of warfare against a non-state

 

enemy.

To achieve the separation of non-state enemy from his popular support,

 

the state must understand the cultural and social fabric of the people and seek the

 

fractures and seams that exist between the non-state enemy and the people. By

 

exploiting these seams, the state can separate the people from the non-state

 

enemy. If the state can provide what the non-state enemy promises, the non-

 

state enemy will lose popular support. If the non-state enemy controls by

 

terror, security of the population becomes paramount and the state can separate

 

the population from the non-state enemy.

 

In cases in which the state cannot separate the non-state enemy from its

 

popular support, as in the Indian Wars, the state should not become actively

 

involved and attempt to destroy the non-state enemy with direct force unless it is

 

willing to destroy the population's culture. Short of eliminating the cultural

basis for popular support, the effort will fail. Instead, the state may wish to

 

isolate the entire area controlled by the non-state enemy and its popular

 

support, allow the conflict to go its course while preventing its spread. The state

 

may become a moral target for its perceived complacency. The final choice is to

 

do nothing, again opening the state up to moral criticism.

 

Finally, time is a major consideration in conflicts with non-state

 

enemies. Popular support of the insurgent often wanes over time, usually 10 -

 

20 years. This coincides with the passege of the generation in power of non-state

 

enemy. Quite often the fire goes out of the conflict over this period of time. The

 

state may wish to wait until the people are tired of the conflict before investing

 

the resources to an intervention with a non-state enemy. In Latin America,

 

insurgencies have withered in this way, for example, the Sendero Luminoso in

 

Peru or the FMLN in El Salvador. Some conflicts, however, are not based on

 

generations but on deeper cultural conflicts, i.e., Bosnia. In this case the actual

 

conflict may wane, but the seeds of a future conflict remain to be sprouted when

 

the non-state enemy and his popular support perceive the next major injustice.

 

I have provided an historic example of the weaknesses in the ability of the

 

state to defeat the non-state unless the state wishes to completely destroy the

 

culture of the non-state. The only successes the state has had in defeating non-

 

state enemies, short of cultural eradication, has been when the state separates

 

the non-state enemy from its popular support. The only way that the state can

 

accomplish this, is through understanding the socio-cultural relationship

 

between the non-state enemy and its popular support. Such understanding will

 

permit identification of seams or weaknees in that linkage, and permit

 

exploitation politically, socially, culturally, psychologically, economically,

 

militarily and temporally. When the state can package all these facets of

 

national power and focus them on the seams between the non-state enemy and its

popular support, the state will be successful. If the state fails to develop this

 

synergy, it will fail.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Athearn,Robert G. William Tecumseh Sherman and the Settlement of the West.

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.

 

Barnett, John R. "Nonstate War." Marine Corps Gazette. Quantico: Marine Corps

Association, 1994.

 

Josephy, Alvin M. Jr., 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American

Indins. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

 

___________. Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. New York: Random House, 1987.

 

Kennedy, Paul. Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random

House, 1993.

 

Lind, William S., et al. "The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation."

Marine Corps Gazette. October 1989.

 

Marshall, S.L.A. Crimsoned Prairie: The Indian Wars on the Great Plains. New

York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972.

 

Prucha Francis Paul. American Indian Policy in the Formative Years: The Indian

Trade and Intercourse Acts 1790-1834. Cambridge: Harvard

University Press, 1962.

 

Utley, Robert M. and Wilcomb E. Washburn. Indian Wars. Boston: Houghton

Mifflin 1987.

 

________. Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian 1866-

1891. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973.

 

________ Frontiersman in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian.

1848-1865. New York: Macmilan,1967.

 

Van Craveld, Martin. The Transformation of War. New York: Free Press,

1991.

 

Von Clausewitz, Carl. On War, Trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret

Princeton: University Press, 1976.

 

NOTES

 

 

1John R. Barnett. "Nonstate War,"Marine Corps Gazette (Quantico:

Marine Corps Association, 1994).

 

2Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North

American Indians (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) 327-334.

 

3Francis Paul Prucha, American Indian Policy in the Formative Years:

The Indian Trade and Intercourse Acts 1790- 1834 (Cambridge: Harvard

University Press. 1962), 53-57.

 

4Robert M. Utley, Frontiersman in Blue: The United States Army and the

Indian. 1848-1865 (New York: Macmilan, 1967), 60, 69-70.and 262.

 

5Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, 167- 170.

 

6Utley, 264-269.

 

7Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, Indian Wars (Boston:

Houghton Mifflin 1987), 167.

 

8S.L.A. Marshall, Crimsoned Prairie: The Indian Wars on the Great

Plains (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1972), 59-74.

 

9Robert O. Athearn. William Tecumseh Sherman and the Settlement of the

West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1956), 99.

 

10Utley and Washburn, 213-214.

 

11Ibid., 215.

 

12Athearn, 228.

 

13Ibid., 223.

 

14Ibid., 223.

 

15Utley. 219-233.

 

16Josephy. 397.

 

17Utley. 246-263.

 

18Marshall, 176-190.

 

19Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, 169.

 



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