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Thread: James Madison - Greatest COIN leader in History

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default James Madison - Greatest COIN leader in History

    I debated starting this thread under "History" or "Futurists." I could still go either way, as the future of effective COIN lies in understanding the historic impact of James Madison and his work.

    The United States was indeed, born of insurgency. The founding fathers, as insurgents all, then set about their new role as counterinsurgents, to shape a new form of government that was least likely to slip into despotism; while also ensuring that the populace was always well empowered to help keep the government on the straight and narrow as well.

    James Madison is known as the "Father of the Constitution" and also as the "Father of the Bill of Rights." The US Constitution set a frame work for a government effective enough to run a major nation, but not so effective as to slide into despotism. To ensure that even more, Madison fought for the greatest COIN tool of all time, the US Bill of Rights. This document was designed specifically with COIN in mind.

    Madison was also a Federalist with Hamilton, while at the same time a great friend and collaborator with Jefferson. He was able to see what needed to be done, and work with those who could help achieve it.

    So, set your COIN manual aside; put your Kilcullen and Nagl back on the shelf. Reach for some really brilliant work on COIN, the works of James Madison. Once you can grasp why Madison's work is brilliant COIN, then you are ready to shape a context for other, more tactical works.

    So, this thread is to discuss the work of James Madison, and why it marks him as the greatest COIN leader of all time.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Glenn Beck is gonna love you. sorta. Beck Loves Madison but hates FDR....thinks he was some kind of communist,Nazi,dictator worst president we have ever had. While Madison could walk on water.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Beck is an entertaining whack-job.

    I will say this for FDR, I think the Grand Strategy that he had shaped for Amercia coming out of WWII provides a great framework for a Grand Strategy for America today:

    1. The "4 Freedoms"
    Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want

    2. The end of Colonialism

    3. The promotion of Self Determination

    4. The "Four Policemen" to work together to secure peace globally (US, UK, Russia, and China)
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    A single paragraph from Wikipedia.

    Much of the stability that has enabled America to endure is rooted in this body of work. Not by some fortunate accident, but through experience, study, debate, and war certain key concepts emerged to address the flaws of governance that are the causation of Insurgency; and when those fail, to ensure that the populace itself was empowered to prevent those failures of governance from growing too large.

    "James Madison[2] (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817) and is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

    The "Father of the Constitution," he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first president to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafting many basic laws, and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights) and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights".[3] As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.[4][5][6][7]"
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Pursuit of Happiness

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want
    From my understanding of the debates during the Constitutional Congress, the most contested word was happiness. Initially, in the first draft, it was life, liberty, and the pursuit of property. During that time, property equaled wealth. After much deliberation, they changed it to happiness.

    This debate seems to be the perpetual morale struggle that our nation works through in every generation. Hard work and success over greed. Happiness versus glutony. It ebbs and flow over time.

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    Default Sorry Mike

    but the pursuit of happiness only appears in the Declaration of Independence.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    but the pursuit of happiness only appears in the Declaration of Independence.
    Good catch John. That's what I get for thinking too much on a Sunday .

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    John and Mike,

    Actually, you both are right. Most of the rights and grievances identified in the Declaration of Independence can be directly cross-walked over to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    In this one can see how those perceptions that drove insurgency in 1776 were addressed by the new documents of those same men now acting in the role of "Counterinsurgents" as they formed a new government.

    As to those specific rights not enumerated in the Bill of Rights, that is why the "sweep-up" clauses of 9 and 10 were added.

    I believe the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from the Declaration is covered by the 9th Amendment:

    Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Madison: a Conservative who wanted to support the Old Order

    JM was hardly an insurgent looking to mix up the old order. He wrote the Bill of Rights because of the radicals' (in places like PA and NC, two very large "states to be" with powerful Anti-Federalist lobbies) reaction to the conservative bent the Constitution took. The only way that PA and NC agreed to ratify was if changes (the BoR) we made to the extend the revolutionary gains of the Rev to more people. The BoR was a compromise to bring more "radical" elements into the US polity. If you really want to read some good history on this, I suggest Bernard Bailyn, Gordan Wood, Jackson Turner Main, and Cecilia Kenyon. Drew McCoy's work on how Madison's political philosophy changed over the years is excellent. Madison was a man of the established and elite political order.

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    Default Happiness = Property

    You understand, right, that "happiness" was 18th-century code word for "property," most fully in the form as in slaves? John Locke, when he was writing the "constitution" for the creation of South Carolina (from the start a colony designed to be a slave-based plantation complex) defined Life, Liberty, and Property as the keys to republican virtue -- without property, a man could not be "competent," that is "disinterested" and willing to serve the greater good than himself. It is really too bad that we have taken such complex and nuanced ideas and "dumbed them down" into parodies of their original meanings. It is ironic that those (those clowns Limbaugh and Beck and Palin, for example) who call for us to follow the Founders' "original intent" don't understand the original meaning of the philosophy they want us to emulate. Capitalism, for example, was a radical idea that did not shape the Founders' understanding of what they called "political economy." The Founders lived and worked under the ideas of mercantilism and the Physiocrats. To suggest that they would embrace laissez-faire economics is ahistoric.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Certainly the American structure and system have done wonderful things for America, and would provide an ideal framework for managing any hypothetical insurgency in the US. The extent to which it can assist in managing anyone else's insurgency is debatable.

    There's a lot that emerging democracies can learn from the US structure, particularly from the manner in which it anticipates and manages the need to protect minority rights from a potential tyranny of the majority, always a danger in a democratic structure. That does not, of course, mean that the US system is necessarily adaptable to any other culture.

    Political systems evolve, and when we see a political system that works for a country we're generally not looking at something that was created, we're looking at something that emerged over time. Because the evolution is often messy and often involves conflict (as it did in the US and most other working democracies), there's always a temptation to step in and try to short-cut the messy bits by showing them how it should be done. That's a temptation well worth resisting. Americans in particular often see structures and institutions as the defining factors of a working government, but the developing world is littered with governments that look ideal on paper but are poorly adapted to the society they're trying to govern, and in many cases simply don't work. What we think is right doesn't always translate. Compare Oman, a reasonably prosperous, well-managed, emerging nation ruled by a medieval monarchy, to Yemen, a basket case with (on paper) an admirable western-style republic structure.

    Obviously there's no hard-and-fast rule on what works, but it should be obvious by now that what doesn't work is a bunch of well-meaning outsiders trying to come in and install a government.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I agree that Madison's intent may well not have matched up with his ultimate effects, but it is effects that matter.

    Yes his thinking and positions evolved, yes he recognized that the landed would need protection from the unlanded that a pure democracy was not likely to provide. The end result is a form of government, and a codified set of constraints on governmental powers, and preservation of state and individual powers that in its own, clumsy, ineffective way, works to prevent the type of Poor Governance that gives rise to insurgency.

    As lesson for Afghanistan is that just as the Articles of Confederation were adequate to get the US through the war with England, but would have doomed the emerging nation; Afghanistan too should strongly consider what an evolved Constitution would look like for them that is more appropriate for the nation that is emerging there.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Well, his effects were counter-revolutionary, so to say he was a great insurgent thinker is seriously ahistorical. If he was in fact an insurgent like you claim, he then in fact became like most insurgents in history: a failure.

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    Default AFG not 1783 America

    The United States did not (in 1783-1787/89) have the same ethno-linguistic divisions that AFG has today. To expect the different AFG tribes and clans to come together and put aside their self interests to form a larger union is just fantasy, IMHO. We cannot impose our model of historical development on them -- it just will not work. To get AFG to agree to something as limited in unifying power as an Arts of Confed would be a miracle. The clans have no interest in the concept of "divided sovereignty" that made the Arts of Confed and the constitution work for Americans. Don't forget, also, that we had to have a civil war to decide whose version of the Constitution would dominate American political, social, economic, and cultural life. This all goes back to your original point about JM, and exactly why he was not an insurgent; everything he did (Constitution, Bill of Rights, VA/KY Resolutions) was to support and uphold the established political order that kept him and his peeps in control.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default I label him a Great Counterinsurgent; not insurgent.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    Well, his effects were counter-revolutionary, so to say he was a great insurgent thinker is seriously ahistorical. If he was in fact an insurgent like you claim, he then in fact became like most insurgents in history: a failure.
    So, the only failure here are your skills of reading comprehension.

    All governments are counterinsurgents every day. The best COIN is done by governments in times of peace. It is only failed governments and their inextremis efforts to preserve themself that we typically think of as COIN. A limited perspective in my view.

    No, I stand by my claim. Madison is the greatest counterinsurgent, as the main force in developing a family of governance structures uniquely born of insurgency, and therefore designed to prevent the same. ( But, for the record, all of the founding fathers were insurgents first, and they prevailed against the most powerful nation in the world. That's a win in any book)
    Last edited by Bob's World; 06-14-2010 at 02:25 AM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Missed my point here too.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    The United States did not (in 1783-1787/89) have the same ethno-linguistic divisions that AFG has today. To expect the different AFG tribes and clans to come together and put aside their self interests to form a larger union is just fantasy, IMHO. We cannot impose our model of historical development on them -- it just will not work. To get AFG to agree to something as limited in unifying power as an Arts of Confed would be a miracle. The clans have no interest in the concept of "divided sovereignty" that made the Arts of Confed and the constitution work for Americans. Don't forget, also, that we had to have a civil war to decide whose version of the Constitution would dominate American political, social, economic, and cultural life. This all goes back to your original point about JM, and exactly why he was not an insurgent; everything he did (Constitution, Bill of Rights, VA/KY Resolutions) was to support and uphold the established political order that kept him and his peeps in control.
    Not selling either the Art of Confed, or the US Constitution to AFG; merely noting that just as we dumped a bad form as we entered peace, AFG too could take advantage of a period of transition to dump their equally flawed constitution for one more apt to produce durable stability.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    No, I stand by my claim. Madison is the greatest counterinsurgent, as the main force in developing a family of governance structures uniquely born of insurgency, and therefore designed to prevent the same. ( But, for the record, all of the founding fathers were insurgents first, and they prevailed against the most powerful nation in the world. That's a win in any book)
    I agree with this approach. It may be helpful to define some of the threats that the Founding Fathers faced and label them as insurgencies, subversion, or existential threats. Additionally, we can examine how effective each COIN approach was along with the secondary and tertiary effects. Wow, this is starting to sound like a great dissertation topic.

    Plus, we have to keep in mind the level of violence that was acceptable during that time. In 1804, the secretary of state and vice president resolved their differences with a duel. I'd imagine that would be a huge pay per view event these days .

    Internal threats

    1. Tories. After the Revolutionary War, the Americans had to conduct conflict resolution with the British Loyalist. In the South, many of the Loyalists were wealthy landowners who did not want to upset the status quo. Some were reintegrated into the new United States, some lost their estates, and some fled back to England or the British Isles.

    2. Disenfranchised Veterans. After the war, many of the veterans returned home to poverty and frustration. Daniel Shay and Henry Gale's led one of the most famous revolts. These actions combined with others encouraged the need for a stronger central government.

    3. Native Americans. After a series of failed/ignored treaties and agreements, Andrew Jackson enacted the "final solution" for the the Native Americans forcing them west out of the colonies. The Army enforced this move known as the Trail of Tears.

    4. African Americans. This issue took well into the 20th century to resolve.

    External Threats

    1. Working with neighbors. The US had to figure out how to contain the British, French, and Spainards surrounding the US borders. Thomas Jefferson bought out the French with the Louisiana Purchase, Britain reattacked in 1812, and Andrew Jackson attacked and claimed Florida in 1821.

    2. Piracy. Initially, the founders did not see a need for a standing army; however, the need of the navy was strong to protect commerce and borders. One of the initial tasks of the navy was protecting US ships from piracy.

    Mike

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    No, I stand by my claim. Madison is the greatest counterinsurgent, as the main force in developing a family of governance structures uniquely born of insurgency, and therefore designed to prevent the same.
    We Americans do tend to have a rather odd concept of our Constitution as a sort of magical document where Madison and the Founding Fathers somehow glimpsed a template of Good Government in the ether and then brought it back to America for enshrinement in perpetuity. A whole legal ethos in the U.S. - originalism - appears to be based on this concept.

    As John Grenier points out, the Constitution is a document of its time, built out of the political compromises necessary to pull many very different interests and entities together. These compromises failed in the long term - the result was a massive civil war that nearly resulted in the breakup of the country. A long period of civil unrest followed that saw many state-level insurgencies where the losers of the civil war managed to reassert political control at the local level through a campaign of bloody violence abetted by corrupted/infiltrated security forces and sectarian militias. Peace was largely restored because these insurgencies achieved victory at that level.

    So while the Constitution was not exactly a failure, I would hardly call it an unmitigated success.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Everyone knew that Slavery was elephant in the room.

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    We Americans do tend to have a rather odd concept of our Constitution as a sort of magical document where Madison and the Founding Fathers somehow glimpsed a template of Good Government in the ether and then brought it back to America for enshrinement in perpetuity. A whole legal ethos in the U.S. - originalism - appears to be based on this concept.

    As John Grenier points out, the Constitution is a document of its time, built out of the political compromises necessary to pull many very different interests and entities together. These compromises failed in the long term - the result was a massive civil war that nearly resulted in the breakup of the country. A long period of civil unrest followed that saw many state-level insurgencies where the losers of the civil war managed to reassert political control at the local level through a campaign of bloody violence abetted by corrupted/infiltrated security forces and sectarian militias. Peace was largely restored because these insurgencies achieved victory at that level.

    So while the Constitution was not exactly a failure, I would hardly call it an unmitigated success.
    So yes, the US was forged from insurgency, and tempered in civil war. We are the oldest enduring republic. It is the unique blend of compormises and protections that make our documents strong. Other countries and populaces have unique issues that divide and concern them. I would never argue that everyone must be like us; only that what we did worked, and that their is value in understanding WHY it worked and to capture those same components in their documents as well.

    The Afghan constitution was not designed to preserve rights, it was designed to prevent warlords. As such it created a national ponzi scheme of leadership and patronage that robs the government of local legitimacy and robs the locals of their wealth, while literally Billions of dollars are sent to banks in Dubai by Afghan officials. Maybe it was the right constitition for its time, but now it is arguably the root of the current insurgency.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As such it created a national ponzi scheme of leadership and patronage that robs the government of local legitimacy and robs the locals of their wealth, while literally Billions of dollars are sent to banks in Dubai by Afghan officials.
    Got confused there for a minute, thought you were talking about America and not Afghanistan.

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