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‘Disturbingly Effective’
IRA Versus Taliban: The Deadliest Warrior, Episode #9

None of this episode falls into my field of expertise. I must say that it was fun. I truly think that the Mujahadeen fighter should be cast in the remake of Scarface. This twerpish goon does make the point that conditions of the IRA insurgency did not provide as many engagements in which to gain real battle experience as did the Afghan struggle against the Soviets. But what does he do? The FBI guy does everything. The guy that actually fought—as a boy I suppose [in the 1970s]—in Afghanistan, does not lift a finger in that battle lab or firing range and does nothing more than kiss a pistol. At least the IRA spokesman, Scotty, wields the slingshot and flamethrower. As with the Mafia versus Yakusa, the viewer is left wondering if the experts are for real or not. The former FBI ponytail guy does seem like a level-headed person in possession of sure lethal knowledge. I could imagine the two “Taliban” experts working as technical and color commentator together on some utterly tasteless Vice documentary on Islamist attacks in America.

Now, the fact that the IRA historian brought in an “expert” to set up the nail bomb, and the fact that this person had his face blocked out, made me wonder if we might have a real criminal on the set. I recall once, coaching a young, recently immigrated Irishman who invited me to his apartment in 1986, which he had hung with posters of masked IRA heroes, who he could name according to their reputation, without seeing their faces. I have no idea how much of this was ethnic pride and how much reflected actual terrorist celebrity, but I recall feeling a chill, which told me that he believed that these men had drawn enemy, British blood.

It was interesting to hear that the “IRA could get their hands on the AK-47” but that they preferred the Armalite for its accuracy, which says to me, that the IRA was usually the aggressor and liked sniping. In my mind all of these modern matchups come down to the standard long gun. What kind of shoulder-fired weapon is deployed by this warrior type, and the AK-series is always in the running based on caliber and serviceability. I recently read [okay, it was seven years ago] a Military History Book Club selection book titled Hell’s Highway, in which a former British military man served as bodyguard for journalists and other deluded types. His weapon of choice was an AK. He actually kept it on his lap and fired it through his own door from his position in the passenger seat, carving up the assholes in the cars overtaking vehicles in which he rode as security. I do like the reliability test with mud on the breach and water down the barrel. More than in any episode, I think that the two shooters that tested the long guns were classy guys, behaved with reasonable criticism, curiosity, honesty and humor.

The bayonet test?

Alex, who carries the entire weight of his team, is a class dude and does begin according to doctrine, strapping the AK bayonet on for an upward rip. This is an old knife fighting method in which the blade is held edge up and when one stabs above the hip the blade is ripped upward to the rib to disembowel. Louis L’Amour, who saw real waterfront knife fights in San Francisco and Japan, stated that this was how experts fought with a knife, edge up. Alex attempts this on the heavy back but stabs too high and ends up ripping to the side. On the gel torso he stabs too high, cannot rip up because of the ribs and stabs again. The rule with rip stabs is you stab either low or high and then rip in the other direction. When stabbing with the edge upward the blade should sink in above the hip and pelvis and then rip up. When stabbing with a downward edge, the blade should sink in below the ribs and rip down. In the gel torso tests he just stabs, stabs, stabs, which is what usually happens with edge weapons users once a stab is achieved. Alex is off balance when thrusting—obviously untrained for this, as his back foot lifts—and should be in more of a crouch and stepping in the direction he rips when going to the side with the rip cut.

I recall, from over 30 year ago, seeing a film clip of an Irish funeral, where a rival assassin [I cannot recall if this was an IRA man or the protestant opposition] showed up with a pistol to kill some mourners and the mourning men advanced on him, unarmed in a crouch, baiting him to expend his ammunition in their direction so that they could rush him. I do not recall how this scenario ended and it may have been edited out of the version I saw. But what this showed undeniably was the physical courage of the Irish, whether Catholic or Protestant.

At the time of this episode’s production it seemed silly to match Irish against Islamists. But, this fight looks like it might only be a decade away.

As a final note of protest, who caste that quadroon as the Pashtun point man? Don’t you know that the Taliban are Caucasians?

British Versus IRA Links

A Well of Heroes

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WellRead EdNovember 29, 2016 10:38 PM UTC

The IRA, at the top of its game, was only slightly more proficient than the Michigan Militia and in fact, when it came to marksmanship and small unit tactics, may have been inferior. Their preference for the AR over the AK has a simpler explanation; availability. AR's could be had from sources in both the US and Canadian militaries, or simply by smuggling examples bought in the USA. Because shooting is a noisy endeavor, practice was near non-existent. Most engagements were short-range ambushes that were quick and vicious if not particularly effective. Where they really excelled was IED's and terrorism, raising the car bomb to an art form. Like most organizations of that ilk, the various factions spent more time fighting each other than making any real progress in their 'struggle.'

The Taliban, by contrast, had a significant number of veterans from the Russian invasion that had probably been trained by US advisors or their proxies. Combine that with their long history of clan wars and proclivity for brutality towards their enemies, and the nod has to go to the Taliban. Again, IED's were their forte', since their small unit tactics were sorely lacking and the fabled marksmanship skills of their forefathers had diminished, with rate of fire replacing true skill. Today, if one encounters a Taliban (or Daesh, or Boko Haram...) with any skill at shooting, chances are they are imports; former Iraqi, Chechen, or Iranian military.

Ultimately, this match up was basically two groups of thugs going at it, on a par with a comparison of the Aryan Brotherhood vs the Crips.
Jeremy BenthamNovember 29, 2016 2:43 PM UTC

This episode highlights another of the sometimes annoying apples versus oranges weapon comparisons this series was prone to. Like this comparison of bayonet fighting methods between two insurgent groups. As there was no bayonet fighting to speak of during the Irish "Troubles" (1968-1998) this seems superfluous and irrelevant. There was little no occasion for it, even though the British Army has used the mounted bayonet in combat during nearly every conflict it has fought in. This includes the Falkland Islands War, the Iraq Invasion and the current Global War on Terror (GWOT). Nevertheless I doubt that the IRA spent much time teaching its operators how to bayonet fight with British soldiers. In fact bayonet fighting is not mentioned at all in the "Handbook for Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army" (Paladin Press). The use of improvised explosive devices on the other hand is given much emphasis. The WWII Soviet "Partisan's Companion" (Paladin Press) by comparison devotes an entire chapter (Chapter III) to bayonet fighting and hand to hand combat against Axis soldiers. Would the Taliban have employed the mounted AK-47 bayonet? The evidence available to us indicates the Taliban preferred traditional edged weapons like the Khyber Knife as well as the dismounted bayonet for close combat. So really there is no basis for comparison of the edge weapon fighting capabilities of the two different guerilla organizations. Organizations that much preferred to engage in hit and run sneak attacks rather than pitched battles to seize and hold terrain. Battles that might conceivably include bayonet charges. Instead we are given a contrived test that purports to illustrate who would be likely to beat who in a bayonet fight that would probably never happen reality. Having said all that, I still found the "Deadliest Warrior" series to be immensely entertaining in spite of the many logical fallacies in its comparison and testing methods. It's just a show and better than most overall.
responds:November 29, 2016 8:25 PM UTC

Thanks so much for all of you additions to this series, Jeremy.

I was afraid you had been hired by Trump when we didn't hear from you for two entire days.