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William F. Owen
04-02-2009, 02:47 PM
Saw this (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=69095&postcount=1) on the SWJ Blog Feed

It's excellent work, and certainly supports all my existing prejudices/views that addressing COIN in the 21st century is best served by a sound military understanding of COIN in the 20th century. Moreover this is true not just for COIN, but war in general.

Bob's World
04-02-2009, 06:38 PM
Saw this (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=69095&postcount=1) on the SWJ Blog Feed

It's excellent work, and certainly supports all my existing prejudices/views that addressing COIN in the 21st century is best served by a sound military understanding of COIN in the 20th century. Moreover this is true not just for COIN, but war in general.

This is premised on the widely held, and wholly flawed, belief that one resolves an insurgency by defeating the insurgent de jour...

Best I can tell this is the final point the author was working to share:

"As the broadest common fundamental for winning, our object should be to so arrange our movement and placement of force that, on the one hand, if we win an engagement we will not only defeat our enemy, but we will confound him as to his future action, his line of retreat and his supplies; on the other hand, if we lose an engagement, we will have a safe line of withdrawal and a valid probability of recuperating our strength.

The statement offered immediately above is neither Clausewitzian nor Jominian. It applies to military contests irrespective of the amount of force symmetry and is valid for all contenders."


Just one more guy who can't see the insurgency for the insurgent, IMHO.

I will continue to hold to my position that:

1. Throughout history such an approach as never achieved more than a temporary suppression of the violence, often coming back stronger than ever; and

2. That the one thing that has truly changed in the past 20 years is the speed and availability of information, that has largely rendered ineffective the tactics used to achieve such temporary suppressions of the problem in the past, and that now, more than ever, the counterinsurgency must be focused on understanding and addressing the underlying root causes of the conflict.

3. So, absolutely deal with the insurgent, but never forget that he is a member of the very populace who's support you are working to regain, and that at best his defeat will be a supporting effort to your larger counterinsurgency campaign.

Ken White
04-02-2009, 08:09 PM
to use a cliche, ships passing in the night?

I don't see anything he said that refutes anything you've said -- or vice versa.

Take this excerpt:"...if we win an engagement we will not only defeat our enemy, but we will confound him as to his future action, his line of retreat and his supplies; on the other hand, if we lose an engagement, we will have a safe line of withdrawal and a valid probability of recuperating our strength."Apply today's technology and mores to it and you get that if you win the population over from supporting the insurgent, you have confounded his future action, removed at least some of his lines of retreat and supplies...

If we lose the 'engagement' in Afghanistan we may or may not have a safe line of withdrawal...

He says:"The statement offered immediately above is neither Clausewitzian nor Jominian. It applies to military contests irrespective of the amount of force symmetry and is valid for all contenders"I see that as being generally true and I don't see the two of you as being in conflict. :confused:

Bob's World
04-03-2009, 02:17 AM
To be honest Ken, what he said was probably to subtle for me to grasp. I understand that if I am setting out to defeat some other force, regardless of our degree of symetry, that his advice is very sound.

If, however, there is some hidden double meaning beyond the physical that hints to the requriement to make addressing the root causes of popular dissatisfaction your main effort in COIN, it escaped me.

Ken White
04-03-2009, 03:22 AM
However, I did read the article with -- as I do most things including Regs :D -- a broad based as opposed to a literal approach. One thing I discovered in my brief flirtation with doctrine and training material writing and writers is that virtually all writing should NOT be taken literally -- it is, after all, written by humans and thus is subject to much error. Mind boggling error...


Thus my interpretation and potential application of the first quote in my posting above. Take this from his final paragraph:As a unifying statement of strategic variables, it tells us that physical geography is always important and that knowledge of the enemy lines of movement and sanctuary is an overarching concern.Seems totally applicable to your population based strategy to me. Physical geography is important. That's why Afghanistan is vastly different than Iraq as far as problems and possible solutions.

Enemy -- bad guy -- lines of movement are important. You cannot counter their moves with the population if you do not know what and where they are. His sanctuary -- be it a nearby nation or the local populace -- is obviously important. Thus it seems to me he's not addressing a total strategy, just some principles and those principles can be applied to your processes. Not literally but interpretively...

William F. Owen
04-03-2009, 07:44 AM
3. So, absolutely deal with the insurgent, but never forget that he is a member of the very populace who's support you are working to regain, and that at best his defeat will be a supporting effort to your larger counterinsurgency campaign.

Bob, how is this NOT a lesson from the 20th Century? What is more not all insurgencies have the same type of underlying cause, and not all causes of insurgency are either legitimate or solvable in practical form. Insurgencies are not always dependant on the support of the population (Sierra Leone). An insurgency may just be part of wider military action.

...and addressing the cause of the insurgency is an entirely political problem. It falls well outside the realms military instrument. I see nothing to suggest that the mechanics of successfully defeating an insurgency remain largely unchanged.

Bob's World
04-04-2009, 03:08 AM
Bob, how is this NOT a lesson from the 20th Century? What is more not all insurgencies have the same type of underlying cause, and not all causes of insurgency are either legitimate or solvable in practical form. Insurgencies are not always dependant on the support of the population (Sierra Leone). An insurgency may just be part of wider military action.

...and addressing the cause of the insurgency is an entirely political problem. It falls well outside the realms military instrument. I see nothing to suggest that the mechanics of successfully defeating an insurgency remain largely unchanged.

but, as we are both fairly consistent on our respective positions, and as it is an essential issue for the SWJ community, it is worth attempting to be as clear as possible.

As I have stated before, I really don't think that anything going on today changes in any way the fundamental nature of insurgency and counterinsurgency. But I also believe that what you see as the "realm of the military instrument" can no longer achieve the temporal success it used to do in suppressing an insurgency by bringing a military defeat to the insurgent himself. With modern information this is like trying to blow out those gag birthday cake candles that refuse to be fully extinguished regardless of how hard and frequently you blow on them.

Of course popular support sufficient to fuel an insurgency in no ways requires a majority of the populace. Thailands problems come from a segment of a Muslim populace that makes up less than 5% of the nation's total. So perhaps 1-2 percent of the populace actively or passively supporting the movement. But they are in a small homogenous ethnic/religious area; have a distinct unifying factor (in this case, religion, could be race or tribal or a varity of similar factors). Thailand will not make this problem go away by simply crushing these few people. In fact that may expand the conflict in ways that greatly increases the threat to Thailand and the region. While they do not have to simply give the insurgents what they want, but listening to their concerns and making reasonable accomodations (government cannot appease its own populace in providing equitable support and addressing legitimate grievances). This is how we in America defeated the growing insurgency within the African American populace by enacting and enforcing the Civil Rights act.

Military should always be a supporting arm to any COIN, and Civil leadership should never surrender its role of planning and leading the larger, overall operation. When we invade another country and then face the violent blowback to that invasion as we work to stand up a new government the type of insurgency we face is a ressistance movement, and the underlying cause is our very presence. Worth remembering when seeking to "discover" what the root cause is.

More challenging is understanding the many diverse causes of the many insurgents that come from their respective countries as foreign fighters under AQ's flag to join efforts to attempt to break the support of the perceived source of legitmacy to their failed governments at home. Again, here we do not need to fix those many diverse and distinct failures, we "simply" must remove ourselves from the real or perceived role as the source of legitimacy. When we conflate this as simple "terrorism" or as a "Global Insurgency" it clouds our ability to really understand what is going on and how to effectively address the problem.

William F. Owen
04-04-2009, 07:21 AM
As I have stated before, I really don't think that anything going on today changes in any way the fundamental nature of insurgency and counterinsurgency. But I also believe that what you see as the "realm of the military instrument" can no longer achieve the temporal success it used to do in suppressing an insurgency by bringing a military defeat to the insurgent himself. With modern information this is like trying to blow out those gag birthday cake candles that refuse to be fully extinguished regardless of how hard and frequently you blow on them.

a.) But isn't that context specific - and always has been. It worked in Sierra Leone.
b.) How does the "information" support the insurgency in A'Stan? Seriously how do images and text, actually alter the mechanics of an insurgency?

Thailands problems come from a segment of a Muslim populace that makes up less than 5% of the nation's total. So perhaps 1-2 percent of the populace actively or passively supporting the movement.
When I was in Bangkok, the head of the Army was a Muslim. If the RTA can be trained to do COIN (which they are not!) then things may change. The insurgents in the South are world class amateurs, and very, very few in number.

I do not agree that it may expand the conflict in ways that greatly increases the threat to Thailand and the region. The biggest problem with this conflict is that one day it may mean, no Muslims living in the south.... and anyone who says that can never happen doesn't know the Thais!

Military should always be a supporting arm to any COIN, and Civil leadership should never surrender its role of planning and leading the larger, overall operation.
Concur
When we invade another country and then face the violent blowback to that invasion as we work to stand up a new government the type of insurgency we face is a ressistance movement, and the underlying cause is our very presence. Worth remembering when seeking to "discover" what the root cause is.
Concur, and something you always knew and knew before you conducted the invasions. S

More challenging is understanding the many diverse causes of the many insurgents that come from their respective countries as foreign fighters under AQ's flag to join efforts to attempt to break the support of the perceived source of legitmacy to their failed governments at home.
I submit that you do understand them, and this is not a new phenomena. Their are foreign volunteers in Iraq for the same reason that there were foreign fighters in Israel in 1948, and many, many other wars through-out history.
When we conflate this as simple "terrorism" or as a "Global Insurgency" it clouds our ability to really understand what is going on and how to effectively address the problem.
I absolutely agree that using those names and descriptions is crippling stupid and always has been. Effectively addressing the problem might begin by getting folks to accept that.

Culpeper
04-04-2009, 05:18 PM
However, I did read the article with -- as I do most things including Regs :D -- a broad based as opposed to a literal approach. One thing I discovered in my brief flirtation with doctrine and training material writing and writers is that virtually all writing should NOT be taken literally -- it is, after all, written by humans and thus is subject to much error. Mind boggling error...



At the risk of quoting you out of context the first thing that came to mind was the title, "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice" [emphasis added].

Ken White
04-04-2009, 08:21 PM
was way too wordy -- over written. ;)

William F. Owen
04-05-2009, 06:44 AM
To my mind this (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=69378&postcount=1) is on the same issue.

Particularly, The point about terrorist use of the internet thatís consistently glossed over is that itís just as "physical" a resource as training camps in Waziristan, cave complexes in Tora Bora, or safe houses in London.

Again, nothing here is insightful, and it's all pretty obvious, but nothing beats just saying it.