PDA

View Full Version : Counterinsurgency, Denial, and Iraq



SteveMetz
12-01-2007, 10:37 AM
Yet another half-baked idea ripped from the draft of my book. This one popped up last night while laying in bed waiting for the Lunesta to knock me out.

When conventional war looms, a state can convince itself that it was the victim of unjustified or unprovoked aggression, thus engaging in armed conflict with a clean conscious (whether truly warranted or not). Counterinsurgency is different. By definition, an insurgency cannot form, consolidate, and continue unless the state has fundamental shortcomings.

When the United States provides counterinsurgency support to a friendly regime, Washington must convince its partner that it has serious political, economic, social, and security sector problems that have to be addressed. This is hard enough. But in Iraq, the United States itself was the regime so to be successful at counterinsurgency, it had to admit that it (or, at least, its policies and approaches) were flawed.

During the vital first year of the insurgency, the 2004 American presidential election loomed. This made it almost impossible for the Bush administration to make the sort of admission of guilt that would have allowed it to implement an effective counterinsurgency strategy. And this would have been used as political ammunition against it. So all it could do was downplay the challenge, deny policy failure and, to an extent, lay the blame on the military, at least until after the election.

Gian P Gentile
12-01-2007, 11:56 AM
Steve:

Let me start off with two questions: what is an effective counterinsurgency strategy that would come from the President? And along this line of questioning, please define using historical examples or current operations the difference between counterinsurgency strategy and tactics.

I agree that the Administration rejected the idea of an insurgency in Iraq which suggests as you say that it therefore could not have had an effective counterinsurgency strategy. But does your argument go on to state that therefore since the Administration did not have a coin strategy that army units on the ground were not using Coin tactics and methods?

I was a Brigade Combat Team XO in Tikrit in 03 and we even then and contrary to myth, were using Coin tactics and methods. So too was 1st Cav in 2004 under Chiarelli and Brigade commanders like Pete Mansoor. And in 2006 in west-Baghdad I along with the rest of the battalion commanders in my Brigade were using Coin tactics and methods: We were not as Fred Kagan et al from their command posts at AEI like to say hunkered down on the FOB eating ice cream.

And if the majority of tactical units in Iraq were using Coin tactics and methods prior to the Surge then what is really the difference between then and now with the Surge? The garden variety answer is that prior to the Surge we were not focused on "protecting the people" by establishing Cops and using "Clear, hold, build." But my task in purpose in 2006 was protection of the people, although as a simple tactical method we did not use Cops to the extent that they are being used now.

So, on the ground level besides a few thousand more troops, a few additional Cops, and a new General, what has really changed?

gian

marct
12-01-2007, 12:01 PM
Hi Steve,


Yet another half-baked idea ripped from the draft of my book. This one popped up last night while laying in bed waiting for the Lunesta to knock me out.

I see you use Lunesta like I've been using codein :wry:!


When conventional war looms, a state can convince itself that it was the victim of unjustified or unprovoked aggression, thus engaging in armed conflict with a clean conscious (whether truly warranted or not).

Agreed; at least to the extent that the conflict can be justified using whatever socio-cultural logics for a just war prevail in that society. I wouldn't limit it to the "causes/justifications" you mention.


Counterinsurgency is different. By definition, an insurgency cannot form, consolidate, and continue unless the state has fundamental shortcomings.

While this may be definitional, I think it is a mistake. I would argue that some socio-cultural logics allow and encourage insurgency as a general purpose form of political discourse. This would mean that the source of the insurgency is not the fundamental shortcomings of the state but, rather, the acceptance of insurgency as a valid political "talking point". While you could argue that this is a state failing, I would place the causal impetus more in the socio-cultural realm.

Taking that point a little further, I would sub-divide it into two main versions:

States where military force is monopolized by the state and there is no "right of revolt" such as exists in the Anglo Culture complex; and
States where military force is dispersed through multiple groups and institutions operating in a dynamic tension.To cloud the issue further, I would point to the extensive use of ideological warfare as a form of socio-cultural subversion that creates a perception of state shortcomings. In that case, it would not be internally perceived shortcomings of the state, but externally constructed and marketed shortcomings.

That having been said, I would suspect that a large majority of insurgencies do fall under the form you list - just not all.


When the United States provides counterinsurgency support to a friendly regime, Washington must convince its partner that it has serious political, economic, social, and security sector problems that have to be addressed. This is hard enough. But in Iraq, the United States itself was the regime so to be successful at counterinsurgency, it had to admit that it (or, at least, its policies and approaches) were flawed.

Now that is a really good point. The corollary is that Washington will have to admit the failings in its own governance structures within the US itself, otherwise it will lack any moral authority in the international arena including the "partners" it is trying to influence.


During the vital first year of the insurgency, the 2004 American presidential election loomed. This made it almost impossible for the Bush administration to make the sort of admission of guilt that would have allowed it to implement an effective counterinsurgency strategy. And this would have been used as political ammunition against it. So all it could do was downplay the challenge, deny policy failure and, to an extent, lay the blame on the military, at least until after the election.

I think this is spot on, and it shows off one of the glaring errors with your political system (BTW, I assume that all systems have flaws :D). This error wouldn't be a problem in the early days of broadcast communications, since the raucousness of CONUS political exchanges rarely were available to the general population of the "partner" country.

However, when you change the communications technology to the highly interactive ones prevalent today, you have a completely different situation where the lines between domestic political propaganda (party based) and external political propaganda are pretty much erased. This is a point that Matt (Mountainruner) and I have been talking about for a while now.

SteveMetz
12-01-2007, 12:32 PM
Steve:

Let me start off with two questions: what is an effective counterinsurgency strategy that would come from the President? And along this line of questioning, please define using historical examples or current operations the difference between counterinsurgency strategy and tactics.

I agree that the Administration rejected the idea of an insurgency in Iraq which suggests as you say that it therefore could not have had an effective counterinsurgency strategy. But does your argument go on to state that therefore since the Administration did not have a coin strategy that army units on the ground were not using Coin tactics and methods?

I was a Brigade Combat Team XO in Tikrit in 03 and we even then and contrary to myth, were using Coin tactics and methods. So too was 1st Cav in 2004 under Chiarelli and Brigade commanders like Pete Mansoor. And in 2006 in west-Baghdad I along with the rest of the battalion commanders in my Brigade were using Coin tactics and methods: We were not as Fred Kagan et al from their command posts at AEI like to say hunkered down on the FOB eating ice cream.

And if the majority of tactical units in Iraq were using Coin tactics and methods prior to the Surge then what is really the difference between then and now with the Surge? The garden variety answer is that prior to the Surge we were not focused on "protecting the people" by establishing Cops and using "Clear, hold, build." But my task in purpose in 2006 was protection of the people, although as a simple tactical method we did not use Cops to the extent that they are being used now.

So, on the ground level besides a few thousand more troops, a few additional Cops, and a new General, what has really changed?

gian


In my reading of history, two methods have worked in counterinsurgency. The "mailed fist" that just crushes opposition. Despite Ed Luttwak's trumpeting of this, the United States simply can't do it. The other is, for want of a better term, the British model. It recognizes that there are underlying political and economic causes of an insurgency which must be addresses. The military component of it is simply defensive, holding the line while political and economic reforms take hold.

During the first two years of the Iraq conflict, the administration could not or would not admit that its management of the political transition and economic reconstruction was deeply flawed. It continued to portray the conflict as about killing bad guys rather than altering the conditions that gave rise to bad guys.

So I don't fault the military. In fact, I think the administration used the military as a scapegoat. I think people like Chiarelli understood what needed to be done but--and this is my key point--the military never had it in their power to bring decisive results. We could have had Petraeus, Chiarelli, the "new" Odierno, 3-24, and the advisor corps in place in 2003 and it would not have made a fundamental difference. That could only be done in the political and economic realms. The U.S. simply had no agency who could pick up that ball and run with it. Then we gave birth to an Iraqi government that was unwilling or unable to address the root causes of the conflict.

Lamentably, I remain skeptical of long term success. I think we have, in fact, given the Iraqi government an opportunity. I'm not seeing evidence that they are capitalizing on it. We also have succeeded in postponing disaster until the end of the current administration. Everyone can draw their own conclusions as to how important that was in the overall plan.

SteveMetz
12-01-2007, 12:41 PM
While this may be definitional, I think it is a mistake. I would argue that some socio-cultural logics allow and encourage insurgency as a general purpose form of political discourse. This would mean that the source of the insurgency is not the fundamental shortcomings of the state but, rather, the acceptance of insurgency as a valid political "talking point". While you could argue that this is a state failing, I would place the causal impetus more in the socio-cultural realm.

Taking that point a little further, I would sub-divide it into two main versions:

States where military force is monopolized by the state and there is no "right of revolt" such as exists in the Anglo Culture complex; and
States where military force is dispersed through multiple groups and institutions operating in a dynamic tension.To cloud the issue further, I would point to the extensive use of ideological warfare as a form of socio-cultural subversion that creates a perception of state shortcomings. In that case, it would not be internally perceived shortcomings of the state, but externally constructed and marketed shortcomings.

That having been said, I would suspect that a large majority of insurgencies do fall under the form you list - just not all.



Now that is a really good point. The corollary is that Washington will have to admit the failings in its own governance structures within the US itself, otherwise it will lack any moral authority in the international arena including the "partners" it is trying to influence.



I think this is spot on, and it shows off one of the glaring errors with your political system (BTW, I assume that all systems have flaws :D). This error wouldn't be a problem in the early days of broadcast communications, since the raucousness of CONUS political exchanges rarely were available to the general population of the "partner" country.

However, when you change the communications technology to the highly interactive ones prevalent today, you have a completely different situation where the lines between domestic political propaganda (party based) and external political propaganda are pretty much erased. This is a point that Matt (Mountainruner) and I have been talking about for a while now.

I meant to suggest that the "flaws" which allow the formation of an insurgency can be ones of omission or commission, so I don't think we disagree. Allowing a violent, alternative narrative or ideology the "space" to propagate is a sin of ommission.

In my mind, I sort of compare counterinsurgency to social work. One of the big challenges for a social worker is convincing their clients that there are things about their basic lifestyle and attitude that need changed for things to improve.

Or, here's another metaphor that I floated at a COIN workshop at Brookings a few weeks ago (which included luminaries like T.X. Hammes, Ralph Peters, and Bob Kilibrew): it is the rare alcoholic who can or will admit they have a serious problem and make major life alterations to deal with them. Most simply want to be functional drunks. They don't want to live in the gutter, but they don't want to stop drinking either.

In counterinsurgency support, most of America's partner regime don't want to be sober (after all, the elites have made a pretty good lives from themselves from a corrupt and often repressive system). They just want to be functional drunks.

That's the rub for the United States: our counterinsurgency doctrine and strategy assumes that our partners want to be clean and sober when most simply want to be functional drunks.

I think we're seeing that in Iraq. I believe the Maliki government can tolerate the current situation for a long time. They don't want a full cutoff of American assistance, but they also don't want to undertake the really hard steps required to undercut the cause of the conflict. They are a functional drunk.

marct
12-01-2007, 01:01 PM
Hi Steve,

Unfortunately,I have to leave soon for a 3 hour choir practice so I can't really take the time to put my comments in proper form. That having been said,


I meant to suggest that the "flaws" which allow the formation of an insurgency can be ones of omission or commission, so I don't think we disagree. Allowing a violent, alternative narrative or ideology the "space" to propagate is a sin of ommission.

Since the vast majority of virulent narratives centre around social structures, any narrative that is not the dominant one could be seen as dangerous. If these are viewed as sins of omission, then there is a danger that the state will start attempting to enforce forms of ideological purity, something that would just reinforce the desire of people to rebel against it. Overtly violent narratives do have a way of either dying out or gaining power, but they also, to use your earlier argument against you :wry:, highlight a problem with the state in that it either has not or cannot address the need fulfilled by the narrative.


Or, here's another metaphor that I floated at a COIN workshop at Brookings a few weeks ago (which included luminaries like T.X. Hammes, Ralph Peters, and Bob Kilibrew): it is the rare alcoholic who can or will admit they have a serious problem and make major life alterations to deal with them. Most simply want to be functional drunks. They don't want to live in the gutter, but they don't want to stop drinking either.

I'll let Gian handle the social work metaphor - I know how much he loves it :D!

On the alcoholic metaphor, I think you have some valid points but you may be missing one of the key flaws inherent in it (outside of the reliance on an organicist metaphor to begin with ;)). Put simply, there is an unspoken, yet axiomatic, assumption that a) you have identified the problem correctly, and that b) you know how to correct it. There is a further mechanistic assumption that the roots of the problem are the same in all cultures and societies - an assumption rooted in the naive belief that all humans are equal; they aren't. To return to your alcoholic example/analog for a minute, take a look at the differences between the ALDH 1*1, 1*2 and 2*2 alleles and their distribution throughout the human population.

Anyway, gotta run.

Marc

Gian P Gentile
12-01-2007, 01:12 PM
In my reading of history, two methods have worked in counterinsurgency...The other is, for want of a better term, the British model. It recognizes that there are underlying political and economic causes of an insurgency which must be addresses. The military component of it is simply defensive, holding the line while political and economic reforms take hold...the military never had it in their power to bring decisive results. We could have had Petraeus, Chiarelli, the "new" Odierno, 3-24, and the advisor corps in place in 2003 and it would not have made a fundamental difference. That could only be done in the political and economic realms... Lamentably, I remain skeptical of long term success. I think we have, in fact, given the Iraqi government an opportunity. I'm not seeing evidence that they are capitalizing on it. We also have succeeded in postponing disaster until the end of the current administration. Everyone can draw their own conclusions as to how important that was in the overall plan.

Your response suggests to me that there are conditions that the United States simply can not change with military force even when supported by the best doctrine and competent outfits. It also suggests agreement with Doug Macgregor in another thread that in the greater scheme of things the Surge really hasnít accomplished much. If the fundamental political conditions have not been resolved then the Surge at best has done what you say and only staved off disaster until the end of this Administration.

This is why I have pushed the term Civil War in Iraq as a way to understand conditions there instead of counterinsurgency. Because the country is in Civil War over fundamental political and social issues, the war will not be resolved until certain sides win out through fighting over others. That was really the point i was getting at in my Eating Soup with a Spoon piece. That American Coin doctrine has removed fighting as the reality of war and replaced it with, to use your words, "the British model" which employs scientific processes to link the people to the government, or to use a catchy Kilkullen phrase, "rewire the social environment."

To use a historical analogy such thinking sounds like the decade preceding the American Civil War where compromises were made between the north and south but since the fundamental political and social conditions had not been resolved the war came. Political leaders like Stephen Douglas believed that their cleverness with organizing territories like Kansas and Nebraska under popular sovereignty would allow these territories to develop economically, railroads to be built, etc, and that these processes would be enough to "rewire" the north to the south and stave off war. Obviously, it did not work.

SteveMetz
12-01-2007, 01:53 PM
Your response suggests to me that there are conditions that the United States simply can not change with military force even when supported by the best doctrine and competent outfits. It also suggests agreement with Doug Macgregor in another thread that in the greater scheme of things the Surge really hasn’t accomplished much. If the fundamental political conditions have not been resolved then the Surge at best has done what you say and only staved off disaster until the end of this Administration.

This is why I have pushed the term Civil War in Iraq as a way to understand conditions there instead of counterinsurgency. Because the country is in Civil War over fundamental political and social issues, the war will not be resolved until certain sides win out through fighting over others. That was really the point i was getting at in my Eating Soup with a Spoon piece. That American Coin doctrine has removed fighting as the reality of war and replaced it with, to use your words, "the British model" which employs scientific processes to link the people to the government, or to use a catchy Kilkullen phrase, "rewire the social environment."

To use a historical analogy such thinking sounds like the decade preceding the American Civil War where compromises were made between the north and south but since the fundamental political and social conditions had not been resolved the war came. Political leaders like Stephen Douglas believed that their cleverness with organizing territories like Kansas and Nebraska under popular sovereignty would allow these territories to develop economically, railroads to be built, etc, and that these processes would be enough to "rewire" the north to the south and stave off war. Obviously, it did not work.

I think you've accurately captured what I, in my often inept way, was trying to say. Why I take issue with the "warfighting" approach is that the United States is not willing to push that far enough to actually attain success. In effect, we DID counterinsurgency in Germany and Japan in 1945. Unless you're willing to take it THAT far, I don't think we should start down that road. After all we WON the war in Vietnam. We just lost the conflict.

What I called the "British" model--the "light handed" approach--may have a lower probability of success than the "warfighting" or heavy handed approach, but it is, for the United States, politically feasible.

I was sort of flummoxed by the "is Iraq an insurgency or a civil war?" debate last year. I view insurgency as a strategy. Every time I can think of that it has been used, it was within the context of an asymmetric civil war.

Ken White
12-01-2007, 04:31 PM
Good posts, Steve.

Based on many conversations then and later with a son who was in-country in '04, I have to agree with Gian, most (not all) units were using basic COIN tactics at the time. As his unit saw it, there were three major problems; MNF bureaucracy and lack of understanding of the problem, slow CERP funds (bureaucracy again) and, most of all, the CPA (ditto plus mind boggling political ineptness). Remember those three items.

I also agree with Gian that the surge is only slightly more than cosmetic.

Have to also agree with MarcT that not all insurgencies form, consolidate, and continue because the state has fundamental shortcomings. While State shortcomings of various types can impact each of those phases and your statement is correct more often than not I believe one of the principal errors in COIN operations is to try to produce precepts, 'rules' or guidelines that have the end result of inadvertantly inhibiting flexibility of thinking and thus of action.

For an example of an Insurgency that does not fit that construct, look no further than Malaya (an example I really hate to use because it is atypical -- but then, didn't I just say they all were... :D )

As an aside, I agree with Marc also that our governmental structure is flawed -- and, as he essentially said, so are all the rest... :wry:

Point being that said flaws impact the Armed Forces in general and thus have an effect on strategy, operations and tactics -- as does the social milieu. We are what we are.

So I agree with you that
"...We could have had Petraeus, Chiarelli, the "new" Odierno, 3-24, and the advisor corps in place in 2003 and it would not have made a fundamental difference. That could only be done in the political and economic realms. The U.S. simply had no agency who could pick up that ball and run with it. Then we gave birth to an Iraqi government that was unwilling or unable to address the root causes of the conflict."
Those are critical points with respect to the US. With respect to Iraq, I also agree with your "functional drunk" metaphor -- and suggest that it is highly likely if not certain to apply to any future incursions. That is or should be a strong cautionary...

Gian is totally correct on our adoption of the British model. I really have one problem with that. We are not the British.

Thus, I suggest we are attempting to adopt a model that is flawed insofar as we can or will implement it. The British, generally, are prepared for a long, patient, relatively low cost campaign using all aspects of government -- we are not and never will be.

Thus, I suggest your contention that the "British" model--the "light handed" approach--is, for the United States, politically feasible merits some thought. I don't think it is. We are entirely too impatient and do not have the governmental structure to support that technique and indications lead me to believe that the Congress (then, now, future) will not support it. Not to mention OGA (most of them...) and the three factors I cited at the beginning, variations of which will always be with us. Nor does our earlier two or three years, max, contention... ;)

Rank amateur
12-01-2007, 04:33 PM
Because the country is in Civil War over fundamental political and social issues, the war will not be resolved until certain sides win out through fighting over others.

I'm glad you've joined our group. I was one of the few council members holding that point of view. It's very nice to have support from West Point.


During the vital first year of the insurgency, the 2004 American presidential election loomed. This made it almost impossible for the Bush administration to make the sort of admission of guilt that would have allowed it to implement an effective counterinsurgency strategy. So all it could do was downplay the challenge, deny policy failure and, to an extent, lay the blame on the military, at least until after the election.

As a spin doctor, this was obvious to me at the time. I felt that as more and more people realized the spin didn't match reality in Iraq the administration's support would fall steadily, but wouldn't get below 50% until after the election. In retrospect, I got that one right.

The other thing denial did was allow the administration to go on the political offensive and create a wedge issue. We're for victory. Democrats are for defeat. The strong on defense positioning is always a winner for Republicans. It worked.


But does your argument go on to state that therefore since the Administration did not have a coin strategy that army units on the ground were not using Coin tactics and methods?

Steve doesn't need my help, but many of the tactics that contributed to the awakening - paying off tribal leaders, using "concerned citizens" instead of IP or IA - weren't allowed by the administration in 2004 because those tactics were considered harmful to the Iraqi state. I'd say that the answer to your question is no, but it did mean that soldiers were prevented from using COIN tactics that were later proven to be successful. (Ken's comment that soldiers were frustrated with the CPA would support this point of view.)


I was sort of flummoxed by the "is Iraq an insurgency or a civil war?" debate last year. I view insurgency as a strategy. Every time I can think of that it has been used, it was within the context of an asymmetric civil war.

I think people like me are using the term "insurgent" incorrectly. I think the debate is: should we limit our objective to defeating AQI (which people are incorrectly calling the insurgency) or should we try to keep Iraq a single functional state (which people are incorrectly calling preventing a civil war.)


With respect to Iraq, I also agree with your "functional drunk" metaphor -- and suggest that it is highly likely if not certain to apply to any future incursions. That is or should be a strong cautionary

I agree too. We're enablers. If I were doing Hillary's spin I'd urge her to call Iraq the world's largest welfare recipient and have her promise to reform it. (Which again ties into an issue that has been successful before.)


Have to also agree with MarcT that not all insurgencies form, consolidate, and continue because the state has fundamental shortcomings.

I've always felt that crazy people are only able to attract a large number of followers if they attach themselves to a legitimate grievance. Manson had a handful. When Germany had many legitimate grievances, Hitler took over an entire country.

RA's theorem, presented for critique. When we intervene in a foreign country, without wide spread popular support, it makes it possible for violent anti US extremists to position themselves as freedom fighters, and under those conditions extremist groups can grow their membership and influence.

Ken White
12-01-2007, 06:50 PM
I'm glad you've joined our group. I was one of the few council members holding that point of view. It's very nice to have support from West Point.

Though I didn't really get that impression, I thought most here agreed Iraq was an admixture...


As a spin doctor, this was obvious to me at the time. I felt that as more and more people realized the spin didn't match reality in Iraq the administration's support would fall steadily, but wouldn't get below 50% until after the election. In retrospect, I got that one right.

Sort of intuitive and most folks I've talked to held a similar view -- the point that bears recollection is that other future administrations are equally likely to fall into the same trap based on our history over the last 220 years.


The other thing denial did was allow the administration to go on the political offensive and create a wedge issue. We're for victory. Democrats are for defeat. The strong on defense positioning is always a winner for Republicans. It worked.

True and the proverbial double edged sword with the 'victory' and 'defeat' words; both send a message that most Americans intuitively know is incorrect in describing the potential outcome.


I think people like me are using the term "insurgent" incorrectly. I think the debate is: should we limit our objective to defeating AQI (which people are incorrectly calling the insurgency) or should we try to keep Iraq a single functional state (which people are incorrectly calling preventing a civil war.)

Interesting points. 'Insurgent' has become sort of a catch all term. While sometimes used imprecisely, it's just shorthand for bad guys, whoever they are. What's more interesting are your two options -- I'd submit that there are many more alternatives and IMO, the probability of 'defeating' AQI is low and should not be used as a goal -- though reducing them to irrelevance OTOH is achievable and could be stated. Not least because tying AQI and irrelevance is worse for them than 'defeating' them.

The civil war in one form or another was always a given and it may go dormant until we're gone but Iraq as a single functional state, while achievable, is not the only solution that will be to our benefit (and theirs in the long term), it is simply the best. Other variants are acceptable.


RA's theorem, presented for critique. When we intervene in a foreign country, without wide spread popular support, it makes it possible for violent anti US extremists to position themselves as freedom fighters, and under those conditions extremist groups can grow their membership and influence.

True and given the facts that we are not at all liked by most in the world (and there are many in this country who will oppose such efforts, who and how much being ideology dependent) and that future administrations are just as capable of bobbling the effort as this one did, said freedom fighters will always receive support, tacit or otherwise and much nattering here by the discontented which will affect one party or the other in Congress and thus have a knock on effect to the effort in the foreign nation.

That is why we should avoid such actions unless there is no alternative -- and there usually is one...

Which doesn't mean we don't need to be prepared to do it, we do -- and to do it right. If we can demonstrate that capability now, it will significantly lessen the probability of such commitments in the future. A critical point that many, including our esteemed Congress, seem to continually miss...

Rank amateur
12-01-2007, 07:00 PM
Sort of intuitive and most folks I've talked to held a similar view -- the point that bears recollection is that other future administrations are equally likely to fall into the same trap based on our history over the last 220 years.

I've felt that with each administration spin becomes more important, and reality less. Probably because people like me keep getting better at our craft and the effects of spin can be measured so much faster than they used to be and because people can choose their own reality: CNN, Fox News, network news, radio pundit, blogger etc.

I'm hoping that the lessons of Iraq will increase the importance of reality - at least temporarily - but I'm not willing to bet any money on it.

Ken White
12-01-2007, 07:13 PM
I've felt that with each administration spin becomes more important, and reality less. Probably because people like me keep getting better at our craft and the effects of spin can be measured so much faster than they used to be and because people can choose their own reality: CNN, Fox News, network news, radio pundit, blogger etc.

I'm hoping that the lessons of Iraq will increase the importance of reality - at least temporarily - but I'm not willing to bet any money on it.

Too true -- the spin meisters get better; the media gets worse (if that's possible) and our education system is all too slowly making up for all that lost time from 1960 to 2000. Hopefully, once the Ed system catches up, that'll force the media to improve and decrease if not eliminate the impact of spin meisters -- no insult intended and no harm; by the time that happens, you'll be long retired... ;)

Rank amateur
12-01-2007, 07:36 PM
to improve and decrease if not eliminate the impact of spin meisters -- no insult intended and no harm; by the time that happens, you'll be long retired... ;)

I'm not worried. Spin is like a gun; it can be used for good or evil.


Though I didn't really get that impression, I thought most here agreed Iraq was an admixture...

I meant the idea of that buying time for reconciliation wouldn't work and that a civil war was about the only way to get long-term stability.

wm
12-01-2007, 10:20 PM
When conventional war looms, a state can convince itself that it was the victim of unjustified or unprovoked aggression, thus engaging in armed conflict with a clean conscious (whether truly warranted or not). Counterinsurgency is different. By definition, an insurgency cannot form, consolidate, and continue unless the state has fundamental shortcomings.

I'm not sure where you derive this definition, but I think it expresses something that is contrary to fact. Maybe I just need you cash out what would count as "fundamental shortcomings." An insurgency can form in a perfectly functional state. All that is required is for an "out group" to develop enough guts to try to supplant the current the "in group." Arguably this is what happened in the period of the French Revolution when the Paris Commune was replaced by the Insurrectionist Commune--I know this is a poor example because the whole mess in France at the end of the Eighteenth Century was dysfunctional. Anyway, as a more modern example, the whole purpose behind the COMINTERN was to seduce people into rising into insurrection against any non-Communist regime, regardless of how functional that regime might be--some successes, some failures, some very near things.



I meant to suggest that the "flaws" which allow the formation of an insurgency can be ones of omission or commission, so I don't think we disagree. Allowing a violent, alternative narrative or ideology the "space" to propagate is a sin of ommission.

Not allowing an alternative an opportunity to exist is a sin of commission in a free speech community. Such a policy is just as dysfunctional and leads to an alternative plate of grievances that can yield another cause for an insurrection to form.



I think people like me are using the term "insurgent" incorrectly. I think the debate is: should we limit our objective to defeating AQI (which people are incorrectly calling the insurgency) or should we try to keep Iraq a single functional state (which people are incorrectly calling preventing a civil war.)
I suspect that AQI is more of an agent provacateur in the mold of the COMINTERN I mentioned above. I further suspect that a better role for the US would be to try to keep the agents provacateur out of the fracas as best we can while simultaneously doing what we can to allow the civil war to work itself out as non-violently as possible. I view this, by the way, as an alternative somewhere between Steve Metz' two choices. It is one that I think even Ed Luttwak might sanction. I say this because Luttwak has been known to say: "Just let them duke it out and to the winner goes the spoils" (my gisting, not his words).

SteveMetz
12-02-2007, 12:07 AM
I'm not sure where you derive this definition, but I think it expresses something that is contrary to fact. Maybe I just need you cash out what would count as "fundamental shortcomings." An insurgency can form in a perfectly functional state. All that is required is for an "out group" to develop enough guts to try to supplant the current the "in group."

That's why I said form, consolidate, and continue. There are thousands of attempted insurgencies, even in the United States. Unless the state has fundamental flaws, the insurgency will not be able to attract support or find the space to consolidate.

It's like the human body--we have pathogens floating around all of the time. But when the body is weakened by something, those pathogens are more likely to grow into something serious.

Global Scout
12-02-2007, 05:16 PM
I find it interesting that some of you made an argument that there is very little difference between what the ground pounders were doing in 2004 and what they are doing now in 2007. I think it is different for the following reasons:

1. Strategically there was still denial in the U.S. that there was an insurgency in 2004, which prevented a coordinated interagency strategy, and Mr. Bremmer made one strategic error after another because he and his bosses did not understand the nature of the fight. The biggest error was disbanding the Iraqi Army, and we didn't even properly demobilize them. Arrogance was our strategy then, now we're trying to clean up those mistakes.

2. The operational strategy focused on find, fix, and finish, because the assumption was the insurgents/trouble makers were a relatively small group, and if we killed them all, the troubles would stop. Sort of a mailed fist approach, but executed very weakly and it was doomed to failure from the start. What I recall in 2004 was several cordon and search activities, but very little clear, hold and build. We were taking areas, then giving them back to the enemy.

3. The current approach, where we have sufficient troops, is to clear, hold, and build and then transition the area to a competent (relative) Iraqi Security Force. The clear and hold involves leaving Soldiers in those areas 24/7, not simply doing a cordone and search, then run off after the next target, leaving the area just searched to insurgent control, and oh my the way a bunch of p.o'd Iraqis. There may have been individual units doing some version of clear and hold on their own, but without an interagency approach, the build phase had to be very limited, since it would have been restricted to the tactical/operational level. This was 2004.

4. In 2007 we are implementing clear, hold and build. We are holding areas 24/7, and at much greater risk initially, but eventually resulting in the secured areas being relatively calm. We are hiring local citizens to help secure their own communities (controversal, but relatively new for Iraq). The ISF is much better trained and equipped, and the Iraqi government is, well that is still a point of failure, which results in the question will this really work after all?

As for the question on whether were fighting insurgents or doing some sort of quazi peace enforcement between multiple warring sides can be debated indefinitely, and everyone's argument would have a grain of truth, which is the essence of our challenge in Iraq, we don't even understand the nature of the problem, which means any strategy is at best an educated guess on how to best respond.

Wiki defines insurgency and rebellion (apparently from our texts):


According to United States Department of Defense Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, an insurgency is defined as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.

An insurgency differs from a resistance both in its political overtones and in the nature of the conflict: an insurgency connotes an internal struggle against a standing, established government, whereas a resistance connotates a struggle against invading or occupying foreign forces and their collaborators.


I know in some cases were fighting a resistance and we're the occuppying foreign power. There is no other way to define it, no matter how unplatable this is to our American tastes. There is also an internal resistance against the Iraqi government from various Sunni groups, and perhaps some the Shi'a groups vying for power, so there is an insurgency. There is a war below the government level between Shi'a and Sunni, and always tension between Kurd and Arab, so there is civil conflict. Then there are foregin fighters on all sides, but AQI being the best known the most dangerous, who have the potential of changing the nature of the conflict into something else if we're not careful.

Unfortunately we don't have an occupying power doctrine, because it is politically incorrect, so when we find ourselves in the position of being an occupying power, we have to redefine the nature of conflict to make it platable politically, so we call it an insurgency (partially true), but is a our counterinsurgency doctrine effective, when we're not invited by the HN government?

I think my real question is will a counterinsurgency strategy work for the multiple facet problem we're dealing with? Especially the so called British strategy? Killcullen addressed something along a similiar vein when he discribed the complex problem in Iraq as consisting of an insurgency, terroristism, and civil conflict (loosely paraphrased), and that the strategy for one often the made the other problem worse.

Are we currently winning in Iraq because the level of violence is down? Can anyone define winning first, then we can try to answer that.

SteveMetz
12-02-2007, 05:49 PM
That Joint definition is horrible and will be different when the new Joint doctrine comes out.

I personally don't buy your distinction between insurgency and resistance. I always think of insurgency as a type of strategy that may be used be a revolutionary movement, a resistance movement, a seapartist movement, etc. I spell that out in here:

http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/img/pubs/pub586.jpg (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB586.pdf)

I also don't see civil war, insurgency, and terrorism as discrete phenomena. Every insurgency I know of is associated with a civil war of some type. Terrorism is an operational method or tactic.

wm
12-02-2007, 06:01 PM
That's why I said form, consolidate, and continue. There are thousands of attempted insurgencies, even in the United States. Unless the state has fundamental flaws, the insurgency will not be able to attract support or find the space to consolidate.

It's like the human body--we have pathogens floating around all of the time. But when the body is weakened by something, those pathogens are more likely to grow into something serious.

Steve,

Your analogy with pathogens is exactly on the mark. It is, I submit, a counterexample to your definition for the following reasons. People live on just fine for years with low-level infections, often totally unaware that they are diseased. And then we have carriers--those who bear the pathogens but do not get sick from them.

I think you have some as yet unstated quantitative levels (as in percentage of the population that supports the insurrection to apply to consolidation and number of years of sustained operations by insurgents in order to consider the insurgency as continuing). Elsewhere I've mentioned the use of a "definitional stop" to send an argument in a particular direction. I think you are using such a definitional stop here. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on the justification for applying the definition that causes the stop.

slapout9
12-02-2007, 06:06 PM
Steve Metz, you should post your other one to. I think it was The Future of Insurgency or something like that. I know you said you were on drugs when you wrote it, but thats OK. Your are on to something with the ideas of a Spiritual Insurgency and a Commercial Insurgency. It also appears to be a sister paper to one you posted on another thread (can't Remember) but it was about the future of RMA or something like that.


PS, somebody that has a Grill like you have should make their OWN BBQ sauce...bottled sauce for the meat you cook AHHHH!!

jcustis
12-02-2007, 06:25 PM
As for the question on whether were fighting insurgents or doing some sort of quazi peace enforcement between multiple warring sides can be debated indefinitely, and everyone's argument would have a grain of truth, which is the essence of our challenge in Iraq, we don't even understand the nature of the problem, which means any strategy is at best an educated guess on how to best respond.

Excellent point Global Scout. I've held the exact same view for too long. The problem is too complex, too multi-faceted to be totally grasped by 1 or 100, which make administration and execution of a strategy very hard. Let's just call them bad guys, kill them or make them realize their path is pointless, and negotiate with the non-so bad ones.


I know in some cases were fighting a resistance and we're the occuppying foreign power. There is no other way to define it, no matter how unplatable this is to our American tastes. There is also an internal resistance against the Iraqi government from various Sunni groups, and perhaps some the Shi'a groups vying for power, so there is an insurgency. There is a war below the government level between Shi'a and Sunni, and always tension between Kurd and Arab, so there is civil conflict. Then there are foregin fighters on all sides, but AQI being the best known the most dangerous, who have the potential of changing the nature of the conflict into something else if we're not careful.

This is another excellent point that I have tried to articulate here before, but failed I suppose. We need to stop getting hung up on definitions and terms, because nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan is black and white. There is too much gray area, either outside the FOB walls, after the patrol has left, etc., that we cannot see. Unfortunately, the inclination to package Iraq with a set box of terms hurts us all, especially the administration and it's advisors. We may know generally what is going on...and can analyze COIN metrics to make an assesment of what phase or stage we may have transitioned to, but it appears we get burned often because the situation shifts ever so subtly and we didn't catch it. Or things go kinetic very quickly, like the Samarra Mosque bombing, and we aren't in a position to affect much.

To put some of what I'm trying to say in perspective, how much would the coalition be able to influence the situation on the ground in the following scenarios (because I believe unrestrained Sunni-Shi'a violence would ensue):

-Sistani is assasinated. By which side does not matter, b/c the blame will always fall on the Sunni/AQ.

-Sadr is somehow assasinated and that too points back to the Sunni.

-Another shrine is attacked and destroyed.

Sistani and/or Sadr represent the most dangerous situations methinks, but in all seriousness, what are we capable of doing if either of those two meet a nefarious demise?

Ken White
12-02-2007, 08:25 PM
I find it interesting that some of you made an argument that there is very little difference between what the ground pounders were doing in 2004 and what they are doing now in 2007. I think it is different for the following reasons:

My perception is that what was being done on the ground varied a great deal from unit to unit. That's based on comments from my son, a friend in the Rgr Regt who got around a bit and two other folks who were there at the time.


1. Strategically there was still denial in the U.S. that there was an insurgency in 2004, which prevented a coordinated interagency strategy, and Mr. Bremmer made one strategic error after another because he and his bosses did not understand the nature of the fight. The biggest error was disbanding the Iraqi Army, and we didn't even properly demobilize them. Arrogance was our strategy then, now we're trying to clean up those mistakes.

Agreed on all counts -- and I should've said the three detractors I listed in general order switched places almost on a daily basis with respect to which was most problematical. I did say that those detractors were based on that one Brigade but from here in an air conditioned house in Florida, it looked to me like the CPA easily was the biggest cluster of the bunch...


2. The operational strategy focused on find, fix, and finish, because the assumption was the insurgents/trouble makers were a relatively small group, and if we killed them all, the troubles would stop. Sort of a mailed fist approach, but executed very weakly and it was doomed to failure from the start. What I recall in 2004 was several cordon and search activities, but very little clear, hold and build. We were taking areas, then giving them back to the enemy.

True but again, it seems to have varied from unit to unit. Everyone I've talked to who was there at the time is pretty scathing in their comment on two units who apparently epitomized what you say. That includes one then MAJ who was in one of those units and was not a happy camper.


3. The current approach, where we have sufficient troops, is to clear, hold, and build and then transition the area to a competent (relative) Iraqi Security Force. The clear and hold involves leaving Soldiers in those areas 24/7, not simply doing a cordone and search, then run off after the next target, leaving the area just searched to insurgent control, and oh my the way a bunch of p.o'd Iraqis. There may have been individual units doing some version of clear and hold on their own, but without an interagency approach, the build phase had to be very limited, since it would have been restricted to the tactical/operational level. This was 2004.

All true and, it seems, due mostly to MNFs concept of op and the CPAs inability to do much of anything right. As an aside, one guy involved in the initial ISF trainup attermpts under Eaton is still pretty livid over the flawed and half hearted approach at that time.


...The ISF is much better trained and equipped...
. . .
Unfortunately we don't have an occupying power doctrine, because it is politically incorrect, so when we find ourselves in the position of being an occupying power, we have to redefine the nature of conflict to make it platable politically, so we call it an insurgency (partially true), but is a our counterinsurgency doctrine effective, when we're not invited by the HN government?

Good question. I'd add "or if we're invited but only half heartedly because we bullied or bribed the HN to 'invite' us."


I think my real question is will a counterinsurgency strategy work for the multiple facet problem we're dealing with? Especially the so called British strategy? Killcullen addressed something along a similiar vein when he discribed the complex problem in Iraq as consisting of an insurgency, terroristism, and civil conflict (loosely paraphrased), and that the strategy for one often the made the other problem worse.

I believe a series of techniques that will work can be found for this or any even more complex situation. All that's required is the time and fortitude to do that. The more important, even critical question IMO is will that time be allowed by US domestic political concerns? :confused:


...Are we currently winning in Iraq because the level of violence is down? Can anyone define winning first, then we can try to answer that.

Can't win a COIN effort short of playing G. Khan, all you can do is achieve an acceptable outcome (and that's true of the over-touted and misused Malaya example). The level of violence is, I think, not a good indicator of the probability of that. Said acceptable outcome will vary in the eye of the beholder. I've long said there'll be decreasing (not an absence of) violence and a Troop drawdown five years after the start -- that means next summer; then a move by US units to the boonies and a few years of steadily declining and sporadic violence leading to a rule of (rough, ME type) law by the 2013-2018 time frame and a fully functional nation (in accordance with world, not western norms) by 2028-2033. Still looks possible even with all our screwups. :D

Oh -- and the oil keeps flowing to China and India... ;)

Ron Humphrey
12-02-2007, 09:25 PM
I suspect that AQI is more of an agent provacateur in the mold of the COMINTERN I mentioned above. I further suspect that a better role for the US would be to try to keep the agents provacateur out of the fracas as best we can while simultaneously doing what we can to allow the civil war to work itself out as non-violently as possible. I view this, by the way, as an alternative somewhere between Steve Metz' two choices. It is one that I think even Ed Luttwak might sanction. I say this because Luttwak has been known to say: "Just let them duke it out and to the winner goes the spoils" (my gisting, not his words).

I couldn't agree more about the long -term. The duking it out is happening and always will but we are the one outside influencer which may have the possibility of reducing the amount of collateral damage once it's all said and done.

This might be one reason for greater involvement of partner states being an important piece. The overall perceptions will always expand and contract to include/exclude anything which takes place in direct correlation with the perspective of the audience. Does this however really ever change the basic fact that in the end to the winner go the spoils.

Is the question really about how to win it so much as who should win it, and in relation to that; who should/does decide the winner

Global Scout
12-02-2007, 09:28 PM
I also don't see civil war, insurgency, and terrorism as discrete phenomena. Every insurgency I know of is associated with a civil war of some type. Terrorism is an operational method or tactic.

Steve, it will sound like I'm tripping over mouse turds debating this, but I think it is critically important to understand who the enemy (or elements hostile to our overall objectives) are exactly before we can develop a strategy that results in the desired outcomes, which by the way seem to be getting more realistic each passing day.

The terrorism piece is hard, and I agree that the vast majority of insurgent groups have used terrorism as a tactic to varying degrees to help achieve their political aims. The Shinnng Path being one non-Islamist example among many. However, the initial leadership of AQI was foreign (may still be), and their primary tactic was and remains horrendous acts of terror, that is not nested with insurgents and resistance fighters. 4th, 5th, or 13th Generation Warfare, I don't know, but this appears to be something new, and I'm not convinced that a British style COIN strategy will have much of an impact on it (probably need a much more robust N. Ireland approach) for AQI, while we do need a British COIN strategy for the former regime loyalists. Two different strategies, and that doesn't even address the Civil conflict between the Sunnis and Shi'a. That requires a deal between the two warring factions, more along the lines of traditional peace enforcement. You have your terms of reference and you go in an enforce them. You can't very well mobilize the Sunni's to mobilize to support the government, when the government is perceived to be leading the Shi'a death squads. So instead, we support the Sunni's from the bottom up, by forming militia groups.

Each of these strategies tend to counteract the other, so if Ken has a plan to bring this all to bay, I would definitely like to hear it. At the same type our political will hour glass is running out of sand.

I also think the definition between a resistance force and an insurgency is a useful definition. A resistance force is still an insurgency, but it is easier for them to maintain the moral high ground and mobilize the population to support them, such as the French Resistance fighting the Germans. A pure insurgency, such as in Greece in the early 50's, is more likely to fail, because their rallying call is normally limited to a few malcontents. A resistance defines the type of insurgency, and that nuance is important.


Ken, if the oil keeps flowing to the global economy, then we won :), or perhaps better stated, at least we didn't mess that up too.

SteveMetz
12-02-2007, 09:48 PM
Steve, it will sound like I'm tripping over mouse turds debating this, but I think it is critically important to understand who the enemy (or elements hostile to our overall objectives) are exactly before we can develop a strategy that results in the desired outcomes, which by the way seem to be getting more realistic each passing day.

The terrorism piece is hard, and I agree that the vast majority of insurgent groups have used terrorism as a tactic to varying degrees to help achieve their political aims. The Shinnng Path being one non-Islamist example among many. However, the initial leadership of AQI was foreign (may still be), and their primary tactic was and remains horrendous acts of terror, that is not nested with insurgents and resistance fighters. 4th, 5th, or 13th Generation Warfare, I don't know, but this appears to be something new, and I'm not convinced that a British style COIN strategy will have much of an impact on it (probably need a much more robust N. Ireland approach) for AQI, while we do need a British COIN strategy for the former regime loyalists. Two different strategies, and that doesn't even address the Civil conflict between the Sunnis and Shi'a. That requires a deal between the two warring factions, more along the lines of traditional peace enforcement. You have your terms of reference and you go in an enforce them. You can't very well mobilize the Sunni's to mobilize to support the government, when the government is perceived to be leading the Shi'a death squads. So instead, we support the Sunni's from the bottom up, by forming militia groups.

Each of these strategies tend to counteract the other, so if Ken has a plan to bring this all to bay, I would definitely like to hear it. At the same type our political will hour glass is running out of sand.

I also think the definition between a resistance force and an insurgency is a useful definition. A resistance force is still an insurgency, but it is easier for them to maintain the moral high ground and mobilize the population to support them, such as the French Resistance fighting the Germans. A pure insurgency, such as in Greece in the early 50's, is more likely to fail, because their rallying call is normally limited to a few malcontents. A resistance defines the type of insurgency, and that nuance is important.


Ken, if the oil keeps flowing to the global economy, then we won :), or perhaps better stated, at least we didn't mess that up too.


Most insurgencies throughout history have been a polyglot of groups, some with reasonable political demands, others so extreme that they simply have to be eradicated.

The problem in Iraq is that the administration elected for a long time to just paint all of the insurgents as terrorists. This just made things worse.

Sure its true that the perceived legitimacy of a group using insurgency matters. What I was suggesting is that you end up with an artificial typology if you draw rigid boxes, one terrorists, one resistance movement, one insurgency, and try and stick groups into it. To give a couple of examples, Mao's movement and Ho Chi Minh's were, simultaneously, resistance movements, ideological insurgencies, and civil wars which used terrorism.

Plus, there's another problem--even though a large number of Iraqi insurgents were motivated by "resistance" factors (they either just wanted us out or wanted to avenge a family or tribe member who we had "dishonored), it's hard to sell that to the American public. The administration has had to overemphasize the role of foreign jihadists. (It also downplayed the roll of what I called "commercial" insurgents. See this (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB344.pdf). I distinguished commercial, spiritual, and resistant insurgents. Iraq showed that all three can be intermixed. A number of people like Bard O'Neil have used that.)

Ken White
12-02-2007, 11:03 PM
...
... So instead, we support the Sunni's from the bottom up, by forming militia groups.

And, I betcha, support for some Shia groups is provided by elements of 'we' as well.


Each of these strategies tend to counteract the other, so if Ken has a plan to bring this all to bay, I would definitely like to hear it. At the same type our political will hour glass is running out of sand.

You're obviously correct in all that and, given my firm belief most of that did not have to happen, I asked the question re: when do I start... :D

Reality intrudes; starting today, huh? Sigh.

For AQI -- your prescription, Belfast x2 -- seems to me we're doing that with a mix of ISF, regular units and SOF. The FRLs -- your prescription again, placatory COIN. Seems to me we're also doing that right now. For the Sunni-Shia divide; repeat after me. "Our Father who art..."

I joke. For that divide, we go Byzantine and bribe heavily while striving to convince the farthest out elements on each side that we do have and will use a hammer if necessary (our daily improving intel and zapping a leader or two sporadically aids in this, we need to keep doing that and also scuff up an Irani occasionally to keep them a little honest). It appears from here we may be doing that as well, can't tell for sure. That particular problem is literally older than we are and while we exacerbated it, it will never disappear completely; and anyone who thinks it will is, I believe, deluded. It can only be contained and in the ME, bribery and death most always keep somewhat of a lid on things while appeals to reason (in the western sense) rarely do...

Gaurantees? None. Probability? ~ 60-75%. Close enough for Guvmint work. Never yet seen a 100% solution in warfare...

Edited to add: Check the LINK (http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=1861019&Language=en)


I also think the definition between a resistance force and an insurgency is a useful definition. A resistance force is still an insurgency, but it is easier for them to maintain the moral high ground and mobilize the population to support them, such as the French Resistance fighting the Germans. A pure insurgency, such as in Greece in the early 50's, is more likely to fail, because their rallying call is normally limited to a few malcontents. A resistance defines the type of insurgency, and that nuance is important.

Yes there is a difference and it is important. The interesting thing is that the Sunni-Shia divide element in Iraq allows either side to claim they are a resistance movement and their opponent to claim "Nay, not so -- they are insurgents" and thus both suffer from the advantages and disadvantages you cite. Still, if one does the math...


Ken, if the oil keeps flowing to the global economy, then we won :), or perhaps better stated, at least we didn't mess that up too.

Yet. ;)

Prob'ly will keep flowing, too many derive an advantage if it does so. There'll be the random nut case who'll try to disrupt it but I doubt they'll be successful.

We have messed up a bunch, all really IMO understandable (though not necessarily excusable) and most contributed to by too many players with competing agendas here in the US and our overweening bureaucracy which severely hinders flexibility. Democracies are like that, goes with the territory, I'm afraid. Neat thing is we cobble stuff together better'n most.

wm
12-02-2007, 11:55 PM
Is the question really about how to win it so much as who should win it, and in relation to that; who should/does decide the winner

Who should win is one thing that we may comment on, but, as outsiders, we really do not get to have a vote. The populace of the country gets to make that call. As I said before, perhaps not too clearly, we might play a role in trying to make sure that whatever choice they make is not coerced; this however, is only morally permissible, not morally required. Morally, we may not direct what choice they decide to make; they need to use their own free will. Nation states are not children; paternalism has no place here.

What we choose to do for pragmatic reasons may very well be different from what we ought to do for moral reasons. The thing about making today's pragmatic right choice is that it often ends up being the wrong choice in the long term--this is the moral of the Prisoner's Dilemma, which was touched on in discussions on this thread (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4405).

SteveMetz
12-03-2007, 12:14 AM
Who should win is one thing that we may comment on, but, as outsiders, we really do not get to have a vote. The populace of the country gets to make that call. As I said before, perhaps not too clearly, we might play a role in trying to make sure that whatever choice they make is not coerced; this however, is only morally permissible, not morally required. Morally, we may not direct what choice they decide to make; they need to use their own free will. Nation states are not children; paternalism has no place here.

What we choose to do for pragmatic reasons may very well be different from what we ought to do for moral reasons. The thing about making today's pragmatic right choice is that it often ends up being the wrong choice in the long term--this is the moral of the Prisoner's Dilemma, which was touched on in discussions on this thread (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4405).

And, of course, my contention is that we need to get over the idea that we have to "win." We need to seek the quickest and most sustainable end to the conflict even if that does not constitute a clear "win." We need to think of counterinsurgency as more like peacekeeping than like warfighting.

The huge problem with that, I realize, is convincing Congress and the families who sacrifice their sons and daughters that an outcome that is something less than a clear, unambiguous win (which is, after all, the American way) is in everyone's interest.

wm
12-03-2007, 12:46 AM
And, of course, my contention is that we need to get over the idea that we have to "win." We need to seek the quickest and most sustainable end to the conflict even if that does not constitute a clear "win." We need to think of counterinsurgency as more like peacekeeping than like warfighting.

The huge problem with that, I realize, is convincing Congress and the families who sacrifice their sons and daughters that an outcome that is something less than a clear, unambiguous win (which is, after all, the American way) is in everyone's interest.

It isn't a question of our winning. It is a question of, in the current cases, the Afghan and Iraqi people winning. To use a soccer, lacrosse, or hockey metaphor--they score the game winning goal, we may get an assist. (Or perhaps we are just the spectators who get to go home satisfied after watching a well played contest. Insert the "God I hope so" emoticon here.)

Ken White
12-03-2007, 01:06 AM
HERE (http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=1861019&Language=en)

I added it to my excessive verbiage above but it got lost in the tangle of words... :o

Rank amateur
12-03-2007, 01:56 AM
Most insurgencies throughout history have been a polyglot of groups, some with reasonable political demands, others so extreme that they simply have to be eradicated.

The problem in Iraq is that the administration elected for a long time to just paint all of the insurgents as terrorists. This just made things worse.

Sure its true that the perceived legitimacy of a group using insurgency matters. What I was suggesting is that you end up with an artificial typology if you draw rigid boxes, one terrorists, one resistance movement, one insurgency, and try and stick groups into it. To give a couple of examples, Mao's movement and Ho Chi Minh's were, simultaneously, resistance movements, ideological insurgencies, and civil wars which used terrorism.

Plus, there's another problem--even though a large number of Iraqi insurgents were motivated by "resistance" factors (they either just wanted us out or wanted to avenge a family or tribe member who we had "dishonored), it's hard to sell that to the American public. The administration has had to overemphasize the role of foreign jihadists. (It also downplayed the roll of what I called "commercial" insurgents. See this (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB344.pdf). I distinguished commercial, spiritual, and resistant insurgents. Iraq showed that all three can be intermixed. A number of people like Bard O'Neil have used that.)

Are you suggesting that we're either all in or all out, that we need to control the entire population and suppress all violence or leave, that we can't chose middle ground: keep the foreigners out while allowing domestic "politics by other means?"


We need to seek the quickest and most sustainable end to the conflict even if that does not constitute a clear "win."

I think that's a civil war. Would you agree or disagree?

marct
12-03-2007, 01:57 PM
Hi Wayne,


Who should win is one thing that we may comment on, but, as outsiders, we really do not get to have a vote. The populace of the country gets to make that call. As I said before, perhaps not too clearly, we might play a role in trying to make sure that whatever choice they make is not coerced; this however, is only morally permissible, not morally required. Morally, we may not direct what choice they decide to make; they need to use their own free will. Nation states are not children; paternalism has no place here.

Let me respond to this in the words of that great, latter day Jewish prophet, Tom Lehrer:

What do we do? We send the Marines!
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Till somebody we like can be elected.
(full text here (http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/t/tomlehrer3903/sendthemarines185498.html))


What we choose to do for pragmatic reasons may very well be different from what we ought to do for moral reasons. The thing about making today's pragmatic right choice is that it often ends up being the wrong choice in the long term--this is the moral of the Prisoner's Dilemma, which was touched on in discussions on this thread (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4405).

Totally agree, although I do have to wonder what the pragmatic reasons for the Invasion of Iraq were (no, I really don't want to open that issue up again ;)). More importantly, what are the current, pragmatic, issues and what is the moral (in your term, ethical in mine) action that should be taken.


Are you suggesting that we're either all in or all out, that we need to control the entire population and suppress all violence or leave, that we can't chose middle ground: keep the foreigners out while allowing domestic "politics by other means?"

RA makes what find to be an intriguing point, especially in the "keep the foreigners out" part. Does that include coalition troops? I think it is more profitable, from a pragmatic viewpoint, to ask a somewhat different series of questions such as

What is the moral (ethical) justification for staying in Iraq?
How is this justification operationalzed?
What are the long term policy implications of this justification?
What are the long term institutional implications of this justification?This really does get beyond the somewhat neo-Thomistic wrangling over terms such as "insurgency" and "civil war" :wry:.

SteveMetz
12-03-2007, 04:28 PM
It isn't a question of our winning. It is a question of, in the current cases, the Afghan and Iraqi people winning. To use a soccer, lacrosse, or hockey metaphor--they score the game winning goal, we may get an assist. (Or perhaps we are just the spectators who get to go home satisfied after watching a well played contest. Insert the "God I hope so" emoticon here.)

My feeling is that by conceptualizing armed conflict as a sport, Americans squeeze themselves into strategically untenable boxes. I'm not contesting whether it is us or an ally that technically "gets the win," but whether pursuing a win in general is a good idea.

My reading of recent conflicts is that it is the conflict itself that generates problems and threats (terrorism, crime, humanitarian disasters, economic problems). By holding out for a "win," we help sustain conflicts. Hence I favor a peacekeeping rather than a warfighting model.

SteveMetz
12-03-2007, 04:29 PM
Are you suggesting that we're either all in or all out, that we need to control the entire population and suppress all violence or leave, that we can't chose middle ground: keep the foreigners out while allowing domestic "politics by other means?"



I think that's a civil war. Would you agree or disagree?

Naw, didn't mean to suggest what you said in the beginning. I think that almost every armed conflict in the contemporary security environment is a civil war.

wm
12-03-2007, 06:52 PM
I think it is more profitable, from a pragmatic viewpoint, to ask a somewhat different series of questions such as

*What is the moral (ethical) justification for staying in Iraq?
Same reason you "curb your dog" on a walk or pick up after it with a bag when it dumps on the neighbor's front yard.

*How is this justification operationalized? By cleaning up the mess you and your dog have made.

*What are the long term policy implications of this justification?Remember that your pets have impacts on others too. If you aren't prepared to clean up after those pets, then don't own them and find some other ways to exercise your need to control other, "less fortunate" critters.

*What are the long term institutional implications of this justification? Maybe we will find out that our institutional framework ought to be much less Occidental consumerist-centric, that "testosterone-induced" urges to flex the leadsership's will are the wrong ones to follow, and that a policy framework that treats the rest of the world as our dumping ground is not such a great idea.



This really does get beyond the somewhat neo-Thomistic wrangling over terms such as "insurgency" and "civil war" :wry:. Thanks for that summation, Marc. I really didn't want to start on the "that depends on what you mean by 'is' " diatribe again. "Casuistry is so pre-19th Century, " he said in his best Valley-girl nasal whine. :D

wm
12-03-2007, 06:55 PM
My feeling is that by conceptualizing armed conflict as a sport, Americans squeeze themselves into strategically untenable boxes. I'm not contesting whether it is us or an ally that technically "gets the win," but whether pursuing a win in general is a good idea.

I agree. I had a long internal debate about using a sports metaphor for exactly the reasons you note.

I lost out to the evil voices in my head, but at least got to water it down by indicating we might just be spectators in the big game (and hadn't bet against the spread, by the way) :D

marct
12-03-2007, 09:10 PM
Thanks for that summation, Marc. I really didn't want to start on the "that depends on what you mean by 'is' " diatribe again. "Casuistry is so pre-19th Century, " he said in his best Valley-girl nasal whine. :D

Always glad to "help" :D. Actually, I love the analogy but, tell me, who walks whom?????? :cool: On second thought, let's forget that one....