Malaysia: Victim of America’s “Irregular Warfare” Ops?

2010 US Unconventional Warfare Manual (.pdf)

November 21, 2012 (Nile Bowie) – The issue of civil society groups receiving
foreign funding has been a major point of discussion in Malaysia during recent
times, causing controversy and drawing criticism from activists to members of
Parliament alike. Some activists tend to view Putrajaya’s investigation into
rights advocacy groups like SUARAM (a noted recipient of foreign funding) as a
desperate attempt to stifle dissent and attack civil society. Former PM Mahathir
Mohamad’s has repeatedly warned of a foreign-funded destabilization campaign
aimed at regime change in Malaysia – a claim that has been generally dismissed
by Bersih goers and the like. With the nation’s 13th General Election looming,
some see talk of “foreign plots” as tired rhetoric, while others fail to grasp
the deeper machinations of foreign influence and do little more than finger
pointing at political opponents. In this instance, the pages of a leaked US military
document provide valuable insight into the nature of “foreign plots” potentially
aimed against Malaysia.


TC 18-01 SPECIAL FORCES UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE” is listed on the US Army’s official website and can only be
accessed by authorized officials within the American government (a leaked copy has been made available and can be viewed by clicking
). [1] The document is significant
because it provides a step-by-step definition of Washington’s “irregular
warfare” and unconventional warfare tactics. The manual illustrates the sheer
impunity with which the United States conducts its foreign policy, aimed at
illegally interfering into the political affairs of foreign nations with an aim
to destabilize and reorder them to further American economic interests; Dr.
Christof Lehmann describes the manual as:


“…a step by step guide of how to create,
manipulate, co-opt and make use of a countries population, persons of special
interest inside the country as well as expatriates, organizations inside as
well as outside the country, towards a subversion. Beginning with manipulating
dissent into demonstrations, the polarization of a population, riots and armed
insurgencies that require action by security forces, and psychological warfare
by means of media, step by step, in logical sequence, towards a full scale war,
based on humanitarian principles and the pretext of bringing democracy and

The targets of the above
mentioned irregular warfare operations are those states that have been
unwilling to align themselves with American diplomatic and economic interests
or semi-compliant states that are strategically located and abundant in natural
resources. The manual describes meticulously
orchestrated covert operations that are conducted in phases; beginning with
psychologically influencing the target population through
foreign-funded dissident news media organizations. Subsequently, targeted nations are infiltrated to
provide training and equipment to dissident groups, until a political transition
is forcibly imposed by force if necessary. The manual is classified
“Restricted” with a “Destruction Notice“, and for obvious reasons – its pages
lay bare the illegal and brutal nature of US foreign policy by means of
supporting insurgent groups that would otherwise be called “terrorist
organizations” (emphasis added):


“DISTRIBUTION RESTRICTION: Distribution authorized to U.S. Government agencies and their
contractors only
to protect technical or operational information from
automatic dissemination under the International Exchange Program or by other
means. This determination was made on 1 August 2010. Other requests for this
document must be referred to Commander, United States Army John F. Kennedy
Special Warfare Center and School, ATTN: AOJK-DTD-SF, 2175 Reilly Road, Stop A,
Fort Bragg, NC 28310-5000.


DESTRUCTION NOTICE: Destroy by any method that will prevent
disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document


This publication has been reviewed by the product developers in coordination
with the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
foreign disclosure authority. This product is releasable to students from
foreign countries on a case-by-case basis only.


The Commander, United States Special
Operations Command (USSOCOM), defines
[Unconventional Warfare] UW as activities conducted to enable a resistance
movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government
occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and
guerrilla force in a denied area. The intent of U.S. [Unconventional Warfare]
UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and
psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to
accomplish U.S. strategic objectives. For
the foreseeable future, U.S. forces will predominantly engage in irregular
warfare (IW) operations.


The ongoing conflict in
Syria and the unrest that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 are examples
of the model proposed by this document being successfully utilized. In both
countries, American organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy
and others both financially and rhetorically supported political opposition and
activist groups. When protests in those countries gained momentum, reports of
violence surfaced, often in the form of sniper fire, targeting both security
personnel and civilians. In Libya, rebel groups were armed by Western nations
despite confirmed reports of jihadist and extremist groups being the central
component of the armed resistance. As a result, these armed militants did
indeed topple the Libyan government, and have since been involved in racially motivated mass killings and the recent murder of US Ambassador Chris Stevens
and four other American personnel in Benghazi. [3] The
same tactics have been used in Syria, where jihadist groups have received weapons from US
such as Saudi Arabia and
Qatar, and have reportedly used terrorist tactics such asbomb making
and extrajudicial assassinations. [4] [5] The “Phases
of Unconventional Warfare” are described in the manual and exactly match the US
protocol undertaken in both Libya and Syria:


I: Preparation

Resistance and external sponsors
conduct psychological preparation to unify population against established
government or occupying power and prepare population to accept U.S. support. 


II: Initial Contact

USG [United States Government] agencies
coordinate with allied government-in-exile or resistance leadership for desired
U.S. support. 


III: Infiltration 

SF [Special Forces] team infiltrates
operational area, establishes communications with its base, and contacts
resistance organization. 


IV: Organization

SF [Special Forces] team organizes,
trains, and equips resistance cadre. Emphasis is on developing infrastructure. 


V: Buildup

SF [Special Forces] team assist cadre
with expansion into an effective resistance organization. Limited combat
operations may be conducted, but emphasis remains on development. 


VI: Employment

UW [Unconventional Warfare] forces
conduct combat operations until linkup with conventional forces or end


VII: Transition

UW [Unconventional Warfare] forces
revert to national control, shifting to regular forces or demobilizing.


Malaysia is not Syria or Libya; the social and political systems of
these countries and their resistance movements are highly dissimilar and only
so much can be taken from comparisons of this nature. Even so, it is
essentially confirmed that the agitation Malaysia has experienced is not
intended to promote a genuine democratic framework; its purpose is the gradual
installation of a national government that is friendly to American interests by
coaxing social unrest and shaping popular sentiment. Just as described in Phase
1, “external sponsors conduct
psychological preparation to unify population against established government,”

it can be gathered that this first step has already been attempted. Bersih coalition leader Ambiga Sreenevasan has long admitted
that her organization receives financial assistance from “external sponsors,” namely, the US-based National Democratic
Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI), operated by financier George


The National Endowment for
Democracy (NED) also annually provides $100,000 (RM 317,260) to political news
website Malaysiakini, widely considered
to be the nation’s most pro-opposition news outlet. Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini CEO, is a grantee of George
Soros’ Open Society Foundations and launched the news organization with a
$100,000 grant from the Soros-funded Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).
NED also provides $90,000 (RM 285,516) to SUARAM. [6] Knowingly,
or unknowingly, these organizations have received financial support from the US
Embassy due to the controversial political discourse they espouse. Of course, the
expression of dissent should never be denied, and although the Najib Razak
administration has begun to move away from Mahathir’s administrative model by
relaxing controls on expression, many still feel more can be done.


If the United States is
pursuing the kind of policy described in the Unconventional Warfare manual, one
can understand how foreign-funded rights advocacy groups may be perceived as
threatening to Malaysian authorities, regardless of the politics and values
they preach. Ostensibly, Malaysian authorities are concerned about the violence
and insurrectionary behavior that have accompanied foreign-funded political
movements in other countries once momentum built around them. Malaysia would
not likely fall victim to an insurgency campaign anywhere near the scale seen
in Syria. However, it would be unwise to dismiss the possibility of seeing the
kind of violence that took shape in Thailand during the political unrest of
2010 if foreign elements continue to pursue “irregular warfare.” The possibility of political instability coming
to fruition during the general election period may factor into explaining why
the current government has not yet declared them.

The International Republican Institute
(IRI) is chaired by US Senator John McCain, an ardent supporter of American and Israeli
militarism, and annually receives
$802,122 (RM 2,544,670) from the NED for its Malaysian projects.McCain’s IRI played a crucial role in casting doubt
on the validity of Russia’s 2011 presidential elections by funding several
US-backed NGOs, particularly GOLOS, an independent electoral commission seeking
to “expose voting irregularities.” The conduct of the organization has
generated widespread criticism from Russian lawmakers and observer groups.
Georgy Fyodorov, chief executive of Russian Observer Association Civil Control


“They have a clear destabilizing tactic; they are
carefully conditioning the public to hear some ‘breaking’ news of election
fraud. The media will have a field day taping the ensuing clashes between
pro-Kremlin and nationalist youth being dispersed by special police. This kind
of footage would dilute any remaining trust in Russian elections.”


To dilute any remaining trust – that is the principle objective when one attempts
to “conduct psychological preparation to
unify population against established government.”
Elections are seen as an
opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of a political candidate or party,
primarily by accusing the electoral system of being unfree or somehow outside
of international norms. In the Malaysian context, ruling authorities have acknowledged
that more could be done to reduce voting irregularities and have begun to work
toward such ends. To accuse Malaysia’s electoral system of being illegitimate
is a cinematic exaggeration, a myth pushed by foul Western endowments and foundations.
Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization, it is irrefutably
valuable and channeling it comes with individual responsibilities. When foreign
governments attempt to harness other people’s dissent for their own objectives,
it is the greatest attack on dissent itself.




[2] The Blueprint for the War Libya? NSNBC, February 21, 2012

[3] AU: Libya rebels killing black workers, CBS News, August 29, 2011

[4] Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria, The New York Times, October 14, 2012

[5] Outgunned Syria rebels make shift to bombs, Reuters, April 30, 2012

[6] Pro-Israel groups rooting for the Opposition, The Mole, September 27, 2012

[7] Russian
Press – Behind the Headlines, November 18
, Ria
Novosti, November 18, 2012


Nile Bowie is a Kuala
Lumpur-based American writer and photographer for the Centre for Research on
Globalization in Montreal, Canada. He explores issues of terrorism, economics
and geopolitics.