View Full Version : Military History and the Drafting of Doctrine

08-20-2008, 02:00 AM
Military History and the Drafting of Doctrine (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/08/military-history-and-the-draft/)
FM 3-24, Relevant Case Studies or Seductive Analogies?
by Andrew Salamone, Small Wars Journal

Military History and the Drafting of Doctrine (Full PDF Article) (http://smallwarsjournal.com/mag/docs-temp/85-salamone.pdf)

Military professionals value history as a tool for accomplishing objectives ranging from predicting future events and outcomes to developing new strategy and doctrine. Examining individual case studies helps reveal patterns and trends useful in forecasting, while drawing historical analogies between current and prior situations with similar characteristics can reveal "lessons learned," which are often applied to future contingencies. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual (FM 3-24) published in December 2006 is an example of the degree to which history can influence the making of present-day military doctrine. The manual is based on the lessons learned from counterinsurgency experiences as far removed as the 1950’s. While the consideration of history is undeniably important, so is the need for in depth analysis of the selected case studies and historical analogies from which lessons are drawn. Such analysis ensures similarities are more than superficial and that the lessons we are learning are the correct ones. This paper calls into question the validity of the historical analogies used in FM 3-24 and cautions against the continued reliance on historical case studies that are diminishing in relevance.

As pointed out by Frank Hoffman in his summer 2007 article in Parameters, a careful read of FM 3-24 reveals that the manual is firmly grounded in the classical theories of insurgency and counterinsurgency. Key concepts, historical case studies, and even the list of suggested readings emphasize the experiences and lessons learned during the 1950’s and 60’s when politically organized Maoist inspired wars of national liberation dominated the security landscape. Sir Robert Thompson’s defeat of the insurgent movement in Malaya and David Galula’s efforts against insurgency in Algeria are touted as textbook examples for conducting a successful counterinsurgency. Even facets of our own experience in Vietnam are reintroduced and reexamined, in most cases to emphasize what not to do when combating an insurgency.

From a historical perspective, the new manual’s focus is understandable. Relatively recent examples of politically organized Maoist-inspired insurgencies achieving victory, most notably in Vietnam, leads us to believe our current enemies could and will adopt a similar approach in order to defeat us today. The existence of a “template” for a counterinsurgent victory, that being the writings of Thompson and Galula, further reinforces the perceived utility in emphasizing identical concepts in current doctrine. Finally, Mao’s strategy and tactics for conducting an insurgency with centralized and top down leadership structure, emphasis on maintaining the support of the rural population, and three-phased strategy for achieving victory are familiar and well understood concepts deeply engrained in the U.S. Military’s collective experience. Also understood are the tools and methods for combating such strategies and tactics, such as strengthening host nation capabilities through Foreign Internal Defense and winning the “hearts and minds” of the affected population through civic actions and economic development...

Ken White
08-20-2008, 02:40 AM
Malaya was so very different that its use for comparison purposes to any other insurgency is extremely problematic; I question that Algeria was a 'success.'

Marighela's theories are far more appropos and the religious quotient today makes even it of only some use.

My perception is that, fortunately, most of the Troops have figured that out...

(Cross posted from SWJ Blog Comments)

09-01-2008, 04:55 AM
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William F. Owen
09-01-2008, 07:34 AM
Malaya was so very different that its use for comparison purposes to any other insurgency is extremely problematic; I question that Algeria was a 'success.'

Marighela's theories are far more appropos and the religious quotient today makes even it of only some use.

My perception is that, fortunately, most of the Troops have figured that out...

(Cross posted from SWJ Blog Comments)

The UK fought religious/cult/nationalist insurgencies for 200 years, all over the world. The Communist ones took a bit of getting used to, plus it took a while for us to learn from all our mistakes, despite being "experts." Look at Northern Ireland.

The idea that there is any useful common ground between Vietnam and Malaya is not useful, possibly misleading, and may well be irrelevant.

I have, and always have had, a very great concern about some of the insights that now seem to be accepted wisdom about insurgency. Some useful reductionism is long overdue.

Mark O'Neill
09-01-2008, 11:01 AM
There are several problems with the premise behind this paper, I will address them in what I regard as priority order:

1. The 'theory' of Global insurgency is assumed as a fact. It isn't. Furthermore, as we understand better the insurgency related fights that are occurring in the world at the moment it becomes increasingly apparent that key tenets of the 'theory' are in fact questionable. (And this is without even touching on the world of International Relations theory - where all but the most naive neo-liberals would choke on the asumptions about the nature of the international system implicit in 'Global insurgency'). Let's not even start on the requirement for 'replicability' without qualification that lies at the heart of the concept of 'theory'.

2. Regarding the assumption that the minimal (or , perhaps, non-existent) attention in FM3-24 to several historical 'theories' of insurgency somehow diminishes the utility of the doctrine:

a. The 'theories' are just that - they are not mandated 'laws' such as those that apply in physics. (You might be ignorant about gravity or think that it doesn't apply to you, but if you are operating on this planet you cannot avoid it; unfortuately for the argument in the paper, contemporary practice and history demonstrates that you can be totally ignorant of 'foco or foci' COIN theory and still be a successful counterinsurgent.
b. As someone who has taught, mentored ( and discussed ) the doctrine with / to people who have subsequently applied it in the field - it works. This is surely the ultimate test of doctrine. FM3-24 doesn't cover a whole bunch things - but it works nonetheless.

3. The paper wanders into the border of what I am increasingly regarding as the 'loony tunes' reductionist western analysis of 'Islamic' insurgency. Just because an insugent adheres to the Islamic faith does not mean that he (or she) is insurgent because of Islamic issues . (If we follow the same 'logic' in the 1980s we had a big problem with 'Catholic' or 'Papist' insurgencies because of the PIRA, ETA and numerous Latin american insurgencies). Hard analysis of the insurgencies that people conflate into 'Islamist' reveals that the majority are primarily driven by social, ethnic, economic and racial concerns, with questions of 'Islamism' often being, at best, second order issues.

Finally, I am left wondering what the point of the paper really was.

I will conclude by paraphrasing Colin S Gray, 'History is not a perfect predictor of the future, but it is all that we have got...'



Ken White
09-01-2008, 03:56 PM
and arrive at startlingly different conclusions on what was written... :D

1. I didn't see his adoption or espousal of "The 'theory' of Global insurgency is assumed as a significant fact." I did see him use the phrase on four occasions almost as a shorthand method of summing up the current -- important word, that -- Islamist trend. A phrase I'd note he picked up from a Dave Kilcullen article...

2. Seemed to me he was saying the glass was half empty (he's an Intel guy, after all :( ) and was suggesting that it would've been better had other types, locations and variations of insurgency been added to the historical mix. On that, I have to agree with him.

a. I agree with you.

b, I agree that it works.

3. Here we differ; I read it as suggesting that the faith can affect the insurgent, not that he or she was an insurgent due solely to Islamic issues.

I thought his conclusion summed up his intent:
"Well schooled students of military history recognize that the practice of a weaker enemy trying to defeat a stronger adversary through asymmetric means—the very heart of what an insurgency is attempting to do—did not begin with Britain’s experience in Malaya or even the French experience in the Spanish Campaign of 1808. With that in mind, why do we continue to limit our collective focus to a small set of historical examples whose relevance in today’s security environment is increasingly questionable?"

That, to me, simply says that history is indeed all we have -- but we ought not be unduly selective in our use of that history; we should try to be as all encompassing as possible. Put another way, alluding to two big well documented Type A efforts using many techniques that cannot be applied currently as paradigms while ignoring less well documented but perhaps more applicable Types B-E efforts is not advisable. Add to that his suggestion that we need to be more flexible in our approaches if we intend to succeed...

I have to agree with both points.