View Full Version : Counterinsurgency: "A Realistic Appreciation"

05-18-2006, 04:57 PM
The Small Wars Journal / Small Wars Council has been given permission to republish several articles from the archives of the Marine Corps Gazette (http://www.mca-marines.org/Gazette/gaz.html) (1916 2006).

We have been researching COIN related articles from the Vietnam War era and there is an outstanding selection to choose from. The linked article is the fourth posted here and on the SWJ Library page (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/reference.htm).

We enjoin you to post Vietnam-related (or other) topics that you would like posted and we will see what we can come up with through a data-base search...

Counterinsurgency: "A Realistic Appreciation" (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/aspry.pdf) by Captain Robert Aspry, USMC. Marine Corps Gazette, April 1963.

Ever since the explosion of the first atom bomb over Hiroshima, paradoxes have been the order of the military day. The advent of counter-insurgency is no exception. At a time when man-made vehicles are reaching for the moon and when the state of the weapons art is so advanced as to defy the understanding of most laymen, suddenly we revert to small wars in remote areas-suddenly the individual soldier comes back into his own.

Enter Paradox Two. The old context of small war in the remote area has undergone drastic change. What used to be good for the United Fruit Company in Nicaragua has given way to issues that threaten to engulf mankind. Such is the thrust of Communism the rise of nationalism, and with it the pride of small and sometimes new countries, that today's small war becomes a production rather more sophisticated than firing a king-sized missile 4,000 miles on target.

The problems introduced by counter-insurgency are made abundantly clear both by the individual remarks of the Forum experts, and by the logical case with which these remarks glide from one area of the subject to another. To Gen Krulak's assertion that counter-insurgency is a complicated war, we have Adm Libby quietly adding that counter-insurgency is but another type of war, one that should not stampede us into precipitate reorganization of the military establishment. With Mr. Galula's and Dr. Tanham's assertions that counter-insurgency must be fought as a war-by-committee, we have Gen Griffith's belief that the conventional military establishment is not the best organization to wage war-by-committee. With Gen Krulak's mention of the annoyance of enemy sanctuary in a foreign country, we have Mr. Baldwin's advice that the government should consider authorizing our forces to participate in attacks on foreign sanctuaries.

If by clarifying certain issues of counter-insurgency our experts have mingled in each other's areas, they are merely underlining Paradox Three of counter-insurgency-its clear-cut confusion. Insurgency and counterinsurgency are as difficult to grasp as Gen Griffith's metaphorical drop of mercury. Their fragments will probably intrude on every facet of American life; yet their wholeness does not lend itself to immediate comprehension; one purpose of my few pages is to try to file a pragmatic path to the cumulative arrow of the experts' thoughts...

05-18-2006, 08:06 PM
Another excerpt from Counterinsurgency: "A Realistic Appreciation"...

... The mental has always been more difficult, to cope with than the physical-this, after all, is why humans are more difficult than animals. Perhaps unfortunately a mental war does not lend itself to the emotional symbols of a Berlin wall or a boy throwing a bottle of gasoline against a Soviet tank in a Budapest street. I doubt that counter-insurgency is ever going to produce such striking symbols of man's resolution and determination, and I think that this may be the first of two very real problems that plague our understanding.

The second problem, in my opinion, is the word "counter" with its defensive overtones. Mr. Galula pointed out the psychological problem of a legitimate government facing an insurgency...

05-25-2006, 01:38 PM
The second problem, in my opinion, is the word "counter" with its defensive overtones.

This quote made me think about initiative. If we look at Iraq before we went in there was no active insurgency. After we attack there is an insurgency. By saying that counter-insurgency ops is naturally reactive and defensive in nature isn't that denying the fact that the insurgency itself is reactionary? Or does that imply that we lost the initiative somewhere in between the initial attack and the transition to stability operations?