View Full Version : Daniel Pipes on COIN

10-29-2008, 12:49 AM
As the movers have packed my tv, I find myself surfing the net a little more, and came across a SEP 08 article from Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes. "Must Counterinsurgency Wars Fail?" http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5893 Not sure if the article has popped on the site yet or not.

Pipes is a Middle East scholar, and Islamist critic (accurate description?). He is not a military man, but he argues that COIN can be won, citing US turnaround in Iraq, British experience in Ireland, and Malaya to name a few. He disputes the argument that COIN will always be lengthy and unwinable. Basis for his argument comes from his reading of an Israeli IDF Officer COIN paper that he links in the article. I have not read it yet, but plan to this week.

Victory over insurgencies is possible, Amidror argues, but it does not come easily. Unlike the emphasis on size of forces and arsenals in traditional wars, he postulates four conditions of a mostly political nature required to defeat insurgencies. Two of them concern the state, where the national leadership must:

o Understand and accept the political and public relations challenge involved in battling insurgents.
o Appreciate the vital role of intelligence, invest in it, and require the military to use it effectively.

Another two conditions concern counterterrorist operations, which must:

o Isolate terrorists from the non-terrorist civilian population.
o Control and isolate the territories where terrorists live and fight.

Different perspective of the defense debate from a social scientist. Interesting read.

William F. Owen
10-29-2008, 07:30 AM
Basis for his argument comes from his reading of an Israeli IDF Officer COIN paper that he links in the article. I have not read it yet, but plan to this week.

I know the paper concerned. While I say there is much some armies can learn from close study of the old IDF (- and hopefully the soon to be IDF), their COIN is not the COIN that others could or should do. If New Mexico was a sovereign nation and faced Mexican Insurgency, then OK.

A point often missed, is that 90% of IDF "COIN" - not a word they use - is standard 1930-50's British Army Doctrine. Extremely brutal, and focussed on reprisals. What worked in 1937, and 46-47, may not work in 2007.

10-30-2008, 05:26 PM
"Victory over insurgencies is possible"

NO, A truce with insurgences is possible. The 'victories' listed are more appropratly called truces, where the insurgents find that there is more to be gained working with the people they are opposing rather than continuing to fight.
Northern Ireland is a good example of a negotiated truce and disarmament. It came about after the British had relized that winning a millatary 'victory' was inpossible.
The solution came after the British gave up on the idea of a 'victory' over he IRA and sat down to figure an alternative way to end the fighting, other than winning a 'victory'.

In COIN you can win tactical victory in a series of encounters, or in protection of residents, but you can't get an overall military 'victory' in the conflict. To end the conflict like this you have to talk to the other side, then work with the other side, and build a trust and collaborative working relationship with your enemy.
To do that, you first have to change your own brain, and the first word you have to remove is 'victory'.

10-30-2008, 06:36 PM
JamesM - Not quite as simple as that. Malaya was an insurgency which explicitly sought Malayan independence from the UK under Communist Party leadership. The British successfully defeated this insurgency, partly by granting Malaya independence under non-Communist leadership.

Ken White
10-30-2008, 07:07 PM
there is no 'victory' unless you're going to use the G.Khan /J. Caesar model of annihilation; all you can do nowadays is achieve an acceptable outcome.

As are the Brits doing in Northern Ireland and as they did in Malaya. They did not defeat the insurgency there, they achieved a reasonably acceptable outcome only through considerable repression and some very tough tactics but there were CTs still in business long after Malaya became independent; the Malaysians and the MNLA finally signed a Treaty in 1989, 29 years after the Malaysians declared the 'Emergency' over and 32 years after the British effectively departed. The last fairly large organized fighting remnants of the MNLA only surrendered about a year after the British had moved on...

10-30-2008, 07:19 PM
Note that Caesar really didn't do all that much annihilating - the conquest of Gaul was far less genocidal than typically is assumed. Most of the time Caesar was all about negotiating tribal alliances, and often a near-majority of his armies were made up of either Gallic allies, mercenaries, or locally-raised Gallic troops trained in the Roman model.

The only Gallic tribes which you could characterize as being "annihilated" were maybe the Helvetii confederation, which Caesar destroyed as a political entity, and the Veneti, who were enslaved en masse.

Ken White
10-30-2008, 07:57 PM
Probably true in broad measure but I submit it was the thought that counted. :D

I'm sure Genghis also spared a batch here and there, he also expanded his forces with some locals occasionally.

Subatai probably did not spare many if any, old soldiers are notoriously testy... ;)

Old Eagle
10-30-2008, 08:32 PM
I've posted this before, so we probably ought to establish a brevity code.

Henceforth, OE32 means The external force can never "win" a counterinsurgency unless its plan is to more or less permanently control the geography by assimilation (read U.S. Indian Wars) or administer it as a colony (French Algeria/Vietnam). Only the indigenous government can "win".

The corollary to OE32 is that therefore the external force (WOG) must develop HN capability and capacity to prevail against the insurgents. This must be done not just by force, but also by other political and economic measures.

John T. Fishel
10-30-2008, 09:06 PM
Agree that HN govt can win COIN and that outside power can only support HN (or insurgents). Malaya is a good example of creating a HN govt to turn over power to.

Other cases of "wins" are Bolivia over Che Guevara, El Salvador over FMLN (if you doubt that the govt won look at the terms of the peace agreement compared to what was offered in 1984 - same), Guatemala (3 times). The GT case is particularly instructive because only the third time were the root causes of the insurgencies even addressed. But the second generation of insurgents was both ethncally and geogrphically different from the first generation while the third was different from both its predecessors.



Ken White
10-30-2008, 09:57 PM
However, I'm sort of inclined to say Che and Bolivia were a flash in the pan and little more, so there wasn't much 'win' there. I also am inclined to think Malaya is not a good example of much of anything (but that's just me...).

El Salvador was not a win but an acceptable outcome for the Government because, as you said, the Chapultepec Peace Accords of 1991 ended the fighting. An agreement to stop fighting wouldn't be required between the parties had one side 'won.'

Guatamala, I'll give you and being a nice guy, I won't even cite the imbalances and costs... ;)

Admittedly we're into semantics and angels on the heads of pins here. My real point is, simply, that 'win,' 'victory,' 'lose,' and 'defeat' are bad and rather imprecise words to apply to by far the majority of COIN situations and those words are politically dangerous as they can lead the uneducated (or ill inclined) astray...

Thus, I tend to try to discourage their sometimes careless use. Possibly to a fault. :o Having said that, I agree with OE32, particularly in view of these:
"...Only the indigenous government can "win".(Note his quotes)

"...prevail against the insurgents. This must be done not just by force, but also by other political and economic measures."(emphasis added /kw)

John T. Fishel
10-31-2008, 12:11 AM
I define win and victory as the HN govt in power without a challenge from the insurgent movement when the fighting ends. I define "fighting ends" as when whatever is left over is simply a police problem.

That said:
1. While Che never really posed a threat to the survival of the Bolivian govt, had they made the kind of mistakes others have made the story might have been different - certainly a much longer and harder fight. But when it was over and Che a prisoner and executed, there was no remaining insurgency.
2. Malaya was a case where the issue was legitimacy. the colonial govt gained it by granting independence to the Malays (which divided the potential and actual opponents). When independence was granted in 1957 it took 3 years to defeat the Chinese insurgents but when it was over, it was over.
3. El Salvador is a case of multiple myths. The reality is that in 1984 President Duarte offered the FMLN peace if they would lay down their arms and enter the political process. In 1992 the FMLN agreed to those terms. If you read the peace accords, the govt gave up nothing it was not already doing while the FMLN gave up everything they said they had begun the insurgency for. In essence, the govt merely agreed to accept the realityof its victory and not claim it - but I wasn't a party to the agreement and as a scholar and former XO of the Combined ESAF Assessment Team I can call it as I saw it. And I saw a pretty total victory for the Govt of El Sal, the ESAF, and, in support, the American advisory effort.



Ken White
10-31-2008, 02:08 AM
You can obviously use any terminology you wish and no one, certainly not me, can say you're wrong. My issue is with promiscuous use of the words I cited (particularly by PAOs, Generals and Politicians in public pronouncements) and I'm still convinced their misuse sends bad messages. We may disagree on what constitutes misuse and that seems perfectly acceptable to me -- be a pretty dull world if we all agreed on every little nuance.

Had a couple of good former fellow snake eater friends who weren't in Bolivia at the time but were... :wry:

Malaya was many things, IMO one thing it was not and is not is a good example of a COIN campaign for the US; the British WERE the government, we are unlikely to ever be (hopefully). I'd also note that the last big batch of CTs was scuffed up in 1958; the additional two years of the Emergency were mostly for Malaysia to complete disbanding the settlements. However, there were a few MNLA holdouts that hung around the Thai border until the mid 80s, thus the late date for signing of the final 'peace accords.'

You were there, you call El Salvador a "pretty total victory..." I wasn't there so I can't dispute that -- but then, I am not disputing it or saying you're wrong, in fact. Not at all.

However, to me it was brought to an acceptable outcome because the end was an agreement that ended the fighting and thus it was not a victory in the classic military sense with the opponent unable to continue due to total or near annihilation or surrendering unconditionally. We should be able to differ on that score and I'm sure there are others who agree with you, with me and still others who have totally different opinions than either of us -- that's all fine with me. :D

10-31-2008, 02:19 AM
To summarize, it sounds an awful lot like "winning" in COIN is a lot like "winning" an argument with my wife - even if I'm completely right allowances must be made. :D

Ken White
10-31-2008, 02:24 AM
You lucky dog! Hang on to her, she's one in a million.

Mine is a philosopher:
"If a man walks alone in the forest, is he still wrong."Note period in lieu of question mark; to her that's a truth, not a query... :rolleyes:

10-31-2008, 02:44 AM
...the "allowances must be made" part. A true and complete victory in marital "debate" would put me in a similar position as a guy called King Pyrrhus, so some measure of "political" accommodation is inevitably required for a conflict-ending compromise. Otherwise the battle is likely to reignite for years or even decades, usually at terribly inconvenient times, like Christmas with the in-laws. :D

10-31-2008, 06:53 AM
Oddly enough, I use the marital "victory" as an analogy often when dealing with the concept of successful COIN.

I often campaign to get my way by assisting my wife in "winning". I do so by addressing the root causes of the marital discord (which are seldom the stated causes for the conflict) while reinforcing the I/O theme that what I want is best for the both of us and taking a long view on accomplishing my goals.

I cannot remember having lost an argument with my spouse, and usually benefit from having compromised in the process of "winning".

I theorize that successful COIN practitioners (not just the ones who "talk the talk") are more often than not successful at dealing with members of the opposite sex and raising children as well.

William F. Owen
10-31-2008, 10:07 AM
If the Insurgent ceases to use "military means" - violence to gain what he wants - and still has not gained it, the insurgent has failed. If the Government has got an outcome acceptable to it, and not to the insurgent, then the insurgent has also failed.

Yet again it strikes me that COIN has to be very careful of using the language of combat operations, as COIN is really security operations.

John T. Fishel
10-31-2008, 11:29 AM
Ken, I think we really agree on this whole subject much more than we disagree. I like your characterization of Malaya but I would note that even here, there are some commonalities to be exploited.

Oddly enough, I was in Bolivia during Che's little romp in the woods. I was doing my doctoral dissertation research (civilian grad student - 2LT in delayed entry on to AD for grad school status) when I arrived in Bolivia fresh off the boat from Puno Peru - the old steamer Inca. On that day, Che ambushed his first Bolivian Army patrol but nobosy knew it was Che at the time (perhaps the intel community did but nobody outside).

Interesting point on all this is that most wars end with some sort of peace agreement - and the terms are important. Perhaps the most critical concession that the Salvadoran govt made in the negotiations was to NOT claim victory - and that was not explicit but rather tacit. So, the point made by many on this thread that COIN is a complex phenomenon strikes home again. The words we use are everything.:wry:



Ken White
10-31-2008, 03:08 PM
I cannot remember having lost an argument with my spouse, and usually benefit from having compromised in the process of "winning".reasonably accurate statement that might possibly be even more accurate if the order of outcomes were reversed.

In life as in COIN frequently the real 'winner' is not apparent and the quiet smile of the winner of the 'compromise' tells much... ;)

Ken White
10-31-2008, 03:11 PM
Ken, I think we really agree on this whole subject much more than we disagree.I believe you're correct.
...So, the point made by many on this thread that COIN is a complex phenomenon strikes home again. The words we use are everything.:wry:That's a certainty...:eek: