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Thread: McCuen: a "missing" thread?

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Moderator's Note

    This is a new thread, started 15th June 2010.The work of McCuen has appeared many times before and two regular posters: JMA & jmm99 think he deserves his own thread. A search found some previous posts and some have been copied to here. Apologies if they appear alone here.

    davidbfpo

    Eden,

    Excellent question which I won't be able to answer in detail because of my day job, so here's a stab.

    I submit for an operational design I'll call option 4. I also drafted a commander’s intent for Afghanistan based on what should be done based on my article. Having been to Afghanistan, you can tell me if it is feasible or not.

    1) You must secure your urban centers. I agree with John McCuen that you don't uncover your semi-secure urban base to chase insurgents in the wild. The enemy wants you to do that so he can infiltrate and begin building the political and operational cells in the now-undermanned cities while you chase his bands in the bush, and then look back to find your cities on fire. I think this is what the Taliban is doing now - political organization as a prelude to military organization in Kabul and Kandahar. If your capital(s) aren't secure, then nothing is. Identify the critical symbolic and economically important points and begin to secure them fully.

    2) I sometimes relate the operational design used to secure Ramadi (which I think is transferrable) to a maneuver battle. We "fixed" the enemy by building combat outposts in "hot spots" downtown - fighting an attrition battle (reducing his force) but also limiting his ability to maneuver (hence the "fix"). We then "flanked" him in the permissive areas, focusing on securing them using clear, hold, build, and gaining local auxillaries capable of providing security. Once we built enough force, the auxiliaries were able to exert influence to clear the "hot spots".

    Also like a maneuver battle, you have to look for the unexpected opportunities. In maneuver battles we would designate NAI's to identify enemy decision points and/or opportunities, and position forces to react accordingly. In COIN it is no different, but instead of terrain based NAI's, you are looking for human terrain based NAI's. Just like a maneuver battle, you have to be positioned to exploit the opening when it is identified, which allows you to truly get inside the enemy's rear and really unhinge him.

    3) This brings me to a reserve. I would argue that it is always good to have a reserve, given enough troops to adequately "hold". The key is that you must have some forces able to respond to developing opportunities on short notice. I hate to cop-out, but METT-TC applies to the size and composition of the reserve. However, if not employed the reserve should be employed to tasks such as building local capacity. This could be a combination Airmoble and Cavalry-like striking force.

    4) Finally, you need a victory - something to give people - local and international - hope. Tal Afar and Ramadi were those examples. We have to find someplace and make an example out of it. Note also that the Iraq narrative didn’t turn until violence was arrested in *Baghdad*. As long as daylight prision breaks occur in Kabul the population won’t believe in their government’s ability to protect them.


    Immediate action: Afghanistan:

    Without having been there, something along the following would be my immediate operational plan for Afghanistan given limited forces.

    Purpose: Coalition and Afghan forces defeat insurgent political and military networks in major population centers to deny the Taliban access to the urban population.

    Key Tasks:
    - Implement population control measures to prevent insurgent freedom of movement and deny logistical supply. This includes identity cards, food rationing, biometrics, vehicle licensing, census registration, and possibly rationing of key goods as appropriate.
    - Develop host nation institutions to counter enemy political mobilization.
    - Develop competent national security forces augmented by local auxiliaries to prevent insurgent infiltration into population centers, backed up by on call coalition force QRF backup. Focus on a neighborhood by neighborhood security zone plan.
    - Conduct operations to disrupt rural insurgent forces and organizations to prevent reinforcement of urban organizations.
    - Creation of competent local administration and leadership.

    Endstate:

    Major cities of Afghanistan secured by local forces, capably administered by local leaders, and free of major insurgent activity. Coalition and ANA forces postured to expand into smaller towns and villages, to secure economic infrastructure to expand security. Taliban forces disrupted and unable to influence major population centers.

    Once this phase is complete, fight moves to the rural areas.

    So in summary:

    1) Main Effort: Focus on securing Kabul and Kandahar, and rooting out insurgent political and military cells. Establish population control to deny insurgent freedom of movement. Develop capable military and political organizations to maintain security and free coalition troops (clear, hold, build). Focused IO campaign to show improvement in the key cities.

    2) Supporting Effort: Mobile strike force(s) "fix" the enemy in the rural areas, conducting targeted operations to keep them attritted and unable to mass to mobile formation status. Goal (at this point) is not to secure and win the populace, but to keep the enemy from influencing the city effort, and preventing establishment of "base areas" and sanctuary, keeping the enemy off balance and unable to expand effectively while the cities are secured. This may involve strongpoint/outpost operations to act as "fly bait" for insurgent forces. Units work to develop local and tribal security alliances as a secondary effort. (Kitson style intel driven operations)


    As with all war-winning plans derived in 30 minutes or less – I stand by for the council to tell me why what I proposed is infeasible and what it is missing.

    Niel
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-15-2010 at 08:55 PM. Reason: Add Mod's note
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    CavGuy:

    For the ME and South Asia where cities and capitals are a recent phenomenon, the certainty is far less if it exists at all -- though there is no question that AQ, The Talib, et.al. are smart enough to use that parameter as a psyops tool even if they know better. Rural populations worldwide don't think nearly as highly of cities as urban dwellers do, nor do they care much for or have much respect for urban dwellers. That is particularly true among mountain folks.

    Pakistan is indeed an example of the principle -- it has suffered such bombings in the cities since 1947. It's still there...

    Added note: % of Population urban; Iraq > 70; Afghanistan ~ 24 , Pakistan ~ 34%
    No disagreement it's different, but the principle is the same - your urban centers, where the government is, have to be relatively stable. 100% security is never possible, but you have to avoid what is happening now, which is the growing roots of Taleban cells sprouting in Kabul and Kandahar.

    I highly recommend John McCuen's take on this from his 1963 book, Art of Counterinsurgency War - he talks in depth about "uncovering your base" while chasing enemy into his sanctuaries, thus allowing him to destabilize your base.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I can agree in many circumstances with McCuen.

    Did in fact agree with him when I bought his book at the SF bookstore in 1966 -- until I tried apply that to Viet Nam and realized that a predominately rural nation with no particular concern for its cities doesn't react that way. Not at all. He is correct in this:
    "...he talks in depth about "uncovering your base" while chasing enemy into his sanctuaries, thus allowing him to destabilize your base.
    but that presumes there is such a base in the cities; in Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, there is none. Nor was there one in Viet Nam and only when we finally realized that and worked the rural areas did we start achieving any success in the COIN fight there.

    He also said this in that book:
    ""To protect oneself against the methodical, crushing body blows of the revolutionaries and to be able to strike them in their most vital parts, it is necessary to fight them on their own battlefields-in their own media. It is necessary to parry the revolutionary weapons, adopt them, and then turn them against the revolutionaries."" (Emphasis added / kw).

    I suggest that is more germane to Afghanistan and that what worked in Iraq will have limited -- not none, just limited -- applicability in Afghanistan.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    No disagreement it's different, but the principle is the same - your urban centers, where the government is, have to be relatively stable. 100% security is never possible, but you have to avoid what is happening now, which is the growing roots of Taleban cells sprouting in Kabul and Kandahar.
    They aren't sprouting in either city -- they never left. The Afghan intel and security guys can and will root 'em out (they're doing a pretty good job, BTW) but, unlike us, they aren't going to worry about the minor players, appearances, making a name for themselves or near term fixes; their concern is for long term stability and they'll get it in their own way. They will have to do it, we cannot (and should not even try, it'll merely set us up for failure) and they won't do it on our timetable -- nor should they.

    Kabul and Kandahar have rarely been "relatively stable" over the centuries; the artificial domestic tranquility imposed by Saddam in Iraq or the Shah in Iran have never existed in Afghanistan and the cities have never had the pull they do in less harsh terrain. Add to that that mountain people would rather fight than eat and any attempt to concentrate effort on the cities in Afghanistan -- as was necessary in Iraq -- will create problems...

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Jack McCuen

    All,

    Jack McCuen is a classical COIN thinker who published Art of Counter Revolutionary War in 1966. He's a particpant on a closed forum I am involved in discussing the same topic. He has been an advocate of the Hybrid war concept. I post the below with his concurrence.

    ALL,

    Let me repeat my comments I made in a private discussion because I disagree with Russell Glenn's article, "Thought on 'Hybrid' Conflict" for a number of reasons.

    First, he largely bases his article on the Israeli Lebanon campaign, which is certainly a prime example of a hybrid war and a clear example of the type of hybrid war we might expect in the future if we choose to intervene in such places as the Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Pakistan -- although I'm not advocating or recommending any such operations. It is also the example which General Mattis, Frank Hoffman and their associates have been using as their example of hybrid war, along with, I suspect, Israel's recent campaign into Gaza. As Frank knows, I'm don't think that this is the best hybrid war example because of its limited context. In fact, Russell Glen uses this limited context as his basic argument that hybrid war's limited context makes it unworthy of use as a separate form of war. Rather, as I've said a number of times in earlier messages, I believe that the Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars are much better and wider context examples of hybrid war and refute Russell's basic argument.

    Second, although Russell quotes my definition of hybrid war from my March-April 2008 Military Review Article, "Hybrid Wars," "...a struggle against an armed enemy and ...a wider struggle for control and support of the combat zone's indigenous population, the support of the home fronts of the intervening nations, and the support of the international community," which is a very wide definition, in deed, he then ignores it by saying that the term, "hybrid war," is primarily a tactical, rather a strategic one -- using Lebanon with Hezbollah as his prime example, rather than Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I would have to agree that the Lebanon Campaign with Hezbollah was a rather tactical example; however, the impact of the war and its tactics had very wide strategic implications which were very critical and decisive, involving, not only a new strategy but wide impacts on the home front and international community which played critical roles in the ultimate success or failure of the campaign or war. As I mentioned above and as we have been discussing elsewhere, the conduct of the Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars was very wide and very strategic.

    Third, something Russell does not mention is that we badly need the use of the term, "hybrid war," to develop an adequate strategy for these wars we have been, are and are likely to be fighting. Since I wrote my monograph on "The Art of Hybrid War" in 2007, I have been struggling to get the military to develop an effective strategy for the wars we have fought and are fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and in the future. We need to call this new form of war something and get on with developing a strategy which will win them. The word "hybrid war" works well because this new from of war is a "hybrid" combination of symmetric and asymmetric war. Somehow, terms like "irregular war, "complex war" don't, to my mind at least, lend themselves to developing a highly complex, wide ranging strategy for them. As I say in my monograph, I'm not wedded to the term, "hybrid," but we had been call it something quickly and develop a strategy which will start winning them. Thus, for the moment, I'm going with "hybrid war."

    Fourth, and finally as I have discussed privately with some of you, the concept of hybrid war offers a possible bridge within the military to heal the "cultural divide" which is separating the "traditionalists," who are strongly advocating the concepts of conventional/symmetric war and the "crusaders" who want to rebuild the military mainly around counterinsurgency/asymmetric war. Frankly, this cultural divide, both silently and openly, is severely hindering the military and civilian community in building the military and civilian components of our government in developing future strategy, reorganizing our military and civilian components, as well as equipping and training them for wars of the future. The concept of hybrid war, being a hybrid combination of these two concepts of war -- the symmetric and asymmetric -- offers a bridge on which both the "traditionalists" and the "crusaders" should be able to agree and operate. Sure, major compromises will have to be made and consolidations, but the fact is that we have to establish a military and civilian establishment which can fight and win any war, on any battlefield, anywhere in the world. That will require dominant symmetric/conventional/nuclear capabilities and asymmetric/irregular/counterinsurgency capabilities.

    THAT'S WHY I LIKE THE CONCEPT OF HYBRID WAR.

    WARM REGARDS,

    JACK
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Thanks for posting that also,

    Cav Guy. Read his book a long time ago; agreed with parts and not with others. I do strongly agree with this statement of his you quote:
    "the fact is that we have to establish a military and civilian establishment which can fight and win any war, on any battlefield, anywhere in the world. That will require dominant symmetric/conventional/nuclear capabilities and asymmetric/irregular/counterinsurgency capabilities.
    Anyone who agrees with me is bound to be thinking correctly...

    Or is that I agree with him so I must be thinking correctly...

    Either way, he's right.

    P.S.

    I have no hangup on hybrid war as a term; I just point out that as a practical effort, it's been around for years and thus is not 'new.' McCuen is correct, we have not dealt with it at all well and we need to be able to do that. No radical reforms are necessary, just common sense improvements -- and the civilian policy establishment is a big part of the problem.

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    This is all a mess...

    We have Jack McCuen telling us that Hybrid is new and a combination of Symmetric and Asymmetric war - seriously? Who fights a symmetric war? Two boxers, maybe? And Hoffman spreading the term around with wild abandon.

    I suggest:

    1. It's not new.

    2. The term would be useful if it prompted some of the dinosaurs / oil tankers (insert your own metaphor) to change course and if it galvanises the community - it isn't - it's being seized upon as a means to settle old scores (especially between the services...EBO anyone?), make reputations, but generally it is divisive.

    3. We're trying to walk before we can run...I still haven't seen a decent Irregular Warfare definition...I think that we need to get our house into order before we start developing new terms for old problems.

    I notice that the Israelis are pushing Hybrid real hard. Hezbollah's victory was a red herring - as this forum has stated, the Israelis got caught with their pants down. Ill prepared, not trained, and poorly equipped.

    And the Hamas thing...Israel lost (didn't win) against Hezbollah, so it loses its deterrence... best thing to do is to find someone real quick and give them a good hiding, just so the neighbourhood knows you're still in business.

    I think Hybrid's popularity stems from the fact that it is a useful fig leaf to cover someone's screw-up.

    LP

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    Post Mess though it may be

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLapsedPacifist View Post
    This is all a mess...

    We have Jack McCuen telling us that Hybrid is new and a combination of Symmetric and Asymmetric war - seriously? Who fights a symmetric war? Two boxers, maybe? And Hoffman spreading the term around with wild abandon.

    I suggest:

    1. It's not new.

    2. The term would be useful if it prompted some of the dinosaurs / oil tankers (insert your own metaphor) to change course and if it galvanises the community - it isn't - it's being seized upon as a means to settle old scores (especially between the services...EBO anyone?), make reputations, but generally it is divisive.

    3. We're trying to walk before we can run...I still haven't seen a decent Irregular Warfare definition...I think that we need to get our house into order before we start developing new terms for old problems.

    I notice that the Israelis are pushing Hybrid real hard. Hezbollah's victory was a red herring - as this forum has stated, the Israelis got caught with their pants down. Ill prepared, not trained, and poorly equipped.

    And the Hamas thing...Israel lost (didn't win) against Hezbollah, so it loses its deterrence... best thing to do is to find someone real quick and give them a good hiding, just so the neighbourhood knows you're still in business.

    I think Hybrid's popularity stems from the fact that it is a useful fig leaf to cover someone's screw-up.

    LP
    it is unfortunately our mess because for all intensive purposes it does seem to drive where we go.

    As for Hezbollah, Hamas, or other's should it really be considered indicatory in the least of what a different player involved in the same conflict should expect?

    Do you suppose were it the ally's entering that there wouldn't be a massive difference in how they would fight. Or even if the Lebanese army where to go at it with them, are you sure it wouldn't be something more akin to Iraq or the Phillipine's, Farc, or (fill in the blank) I'm sure you get the point.

    Or how about if we had decided to have a go at Russia during the Georgian incursion last year. What might that have looked like? Anywho long way of saying I for one am still waiting on the definition of "regular" (war, warfare, battle, conflict, negotiation, barter, trade, etc) anything having to do with one party gaining or losing something to or from another.


    As to your concern with irregular warfare
    How's this for definition.

    Any conflict that occurs with the intent of achieving a given endstate, yet which is enacted through actions, teachings, or politics which do not conform to universally accepted norms for warfare.

    No good? Oh well had to try.
    Funny thing is seem's to me that once your able to accurately describe something in such a manner as to be encompassing of all actions to be found within it; it wouldn't be quite so irregular anymore

    In this particular case I don;t see a problem with the definition being used now. Perhaps the more important issue is how it is used and by whom toward what ends?
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    Default McCuen: a "missing" thread?

    Secure the cities first?

    Entry Excerpt:

    Taking inspiration from Dave’s “Back Off” post, I was disturbed to read this Huffington Post commentary highlighted at the always readable Abu Muqawama. The assessment comes from a human rights researcher in Kabul asserting the Taliban effectively control Kandahar outside the gates of our bases. It would be presumptuous to rule on the accuracy of the claim, but the assessment (echoed elsewhere) sparks an interesting set of questions about our potential courses of action in Afghanistan.

    Noted classical counterinsurgency author and Vietnam War veteran Jack McCuen argued in his excellent book The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War that chasing guerrillas around the countryside while leaving the critical provincial and national population centers uncovered played into the hands of the insurgent. McCuen argued allowing the insurgent to establish networks, shadow governments, recruitment cells, and support networks in the cities created a far greater risk than the loss of rural hamlets. Motivated by McCuen’s book and some other reads, I suggested consideration of a city based approach in a Small Wars Council thread about a year ago. COIN savant David Kilcullen suggested the same strategy in a New Yorker interview not long thereafter. Kilcullen articulated the problem far better than I:

    “Meanwhile, the population in major towns and villages is vulnerable because we are off elsewhere chasing the enemy main-force guerrillas, allowing terrorist and insurgent cells based in the populated areas to intimidate people where they live. As an example, eighty per cent of people in the southern half of Afghanistan live in one of two places: Kandahar city, or Lashkar Gah city. If we were to focus on living amongst these people and protecting them, on an intimate basis 24/7, just in those two areas, we would not need markedly more ground troops than we have now (in fact, we could probably do it with current force levels). We could use Afghan National Army and police, with mentors and support from us, as well as Special Forces teams, to secure the other major population centers. That, rather than chasing the enemy, is the key.”
    Although some have disputed his eighty percent figure, the question remains – should the bulk of our forces conducting “clear, hold, build” efforts be spread among outposts in the Korengal Valley and Helmand province, or focused on securing the cities while conducting precision raids on the outside?

    The disruption of security in the capital and major cities is a major information narrative victory for those who oppose the government. After all, if a government cannot secure its own provincial capitals and government officials, can it reasonably be expected to gain the allegiance and confidence of its citizens? We saw a major confidence setback in the infamous daylight Kandahar prison break last year, which shook the confidence of the entire nation. The Taliban have increasingly mounted multiple suicide attacks in the major cities to undermine confidence in the government. When combined with the rampant corruption alleged in Kandahar, is it any wonder the Taliban are gaining ground?

    On the flip side, one can argue that a defensive orientation doesn’t win wars. Such a discussion is beyond this blog post, but I was impressed with the statement from Lieutenant Colonel Chris Cavoli in Chapter 2 of the Accidental Guerrilla that “defensive” COIN operations were the best way of seizing the initiative from the enemy. (p. 96) Would we better off with a “cities first” COIN strategy, or does the rural character of Afghanistan demand our main effort focus in the rural areas? Sound off in the comments or at the Council.

    Image credit and background - U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Newman, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, watches the sunrise after a dismounted patrol mission near Forward Operating Base Baylough, Zabul, Afghanistan, March 19, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini/Released)



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    Default The incumbant's strategic base areas

    I suggest going back a few decades and have a look at John McCuen's The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War (available as a reprint from Hailer Publishing at $29.95). The blurb does not convey the point I want to make.

    In any event, one of McCuen's major points, which runs through the book, is the necessity for the incumbant to secure its strategic base areas, even at the cost of giving up large areas of the country. McCuen saw one of the greatest failings of incumbants as being reaction to the brushfires, without having first secured its own bases - whatever geography they might happen to be in the context. In short, trying to be strong everywhere results in not being strong anywhere.

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    Default Looks like we may get ...

    a South African small wars course. So, professor, will the teaching methodolgy be Sandhurst or West Point ?

    Seriously, I think it's a good idea (esp. since your first author spoke well of John McCuen - a better student of Mao-Giap than were Galula et al).

    Back in the day, I followed SWA/Namibia/Angola (and your Rhodesian thing) on roughly a monthly basis. Generally, I'm stupid on things African - so, it's nice to have you provide the syllabus and sources I can download to my harddrive (already did that for a bunch of Rhodesian stuff).

    Regards (from one of your students in the peanut gallery)

    Mike

    ----------------------
    On reflection, I should say what McCuen taught (in mid-1960s), but your SA author has done that for me (pp.6-7 pdf):

    His strategic principles were the following:

    · Having a clear political aim: In the light of the intense political nature of revolutionary warfare, McCuen places great emphasis on this aspect. Without it, neither the civilian administration of the government nor the military can properly deal with the evolving phases of the rebellion.

    · Annihilation of the enemy and preservation of own forces: Obviously, the enemy forces will have to be destroyed, but not to the point of seriously weakening your own forces. The areas which have not yet be subverted, should be safeguarded and developed in order to prevent such subversion from happening. At the same time – and this proved to be very important to the South Africans – the internal and external political infrastructure of the rebels should be high on the agenda for destruction.

    · Mobilisation of the masses: This principle rests directly on what Mao had said about the matter, that the active participation of the masses should be secured, especially as far as the so-called silent majority is concerned. In addition, the government should offer a vision which is more attractive than the one offered by the rebels. This should accommodate popular aspirations and eleminate genuine grievances.

    · Get outside support: To get the political and moral support of neigbouring states is necessary to counter the external manoeuvres of the revolutionaries.

    · Unity of effort: All means and instruments available should be effectively integrated into one consolidated effort. Government departments should not make ad hoc decisions which are not properly integrated into the central war effort, and this applies not only to military steps, but also those in the political, psychological, economic and organisational realms. This principle, when read together with the writings of Beaufre, was the foundation of the P.W. Botha government’s much maligned Total Strategy.
    So, McCuen was a realist, who realized that the military struggle (violence with some conversions) and the political struggle (conversions with some violence) had to be integrated, co-ordinated and subordinated to the policy which drives both the military and political efforts (as to which they are "merely continuations"). Giap was emphasiing the same points in his teachings before and during the time that McCuen taught them - ironic that they were on opposite sides.

    In any event, neither McCuen nor Giap were "Johnny One Notes".

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    a South African small wars course. So, professor, will the teaching methodolgy be Sandhurst or West Point ?

    Seriously, I think it's a good idea (esp. since your first author spoke well of John McCuen - a better student of Mao-Giap than were Galula et al).

    Back in the day, I followed SWA/Namibia/Angola (and your Rhodesian thing) on roughly a monthly basis. Generally, I'm stupid on things African - so, it's nice to have you provide the syllabus and sources I can download to my harddrive (already did that for a bunch of Rhodesian stuff).

    Regards (from one of your students in the peanut gallery)

    Mike
    None of the above.

    I think it is important for everyone to figure it out for themselves.

    There are certainly lessons to be learned from the South African experiences in SWA/Namibia/Angola.

    The political war in Namibia was never going to be won (I mean how could they have sold apartheid to the majority African people of that country?) so the best South Africa could hope for was to offer independence and hope to end up with moderate state on her northwestern border.

    What the military did was to adopt a COIN strategy which went as far as they humanly could given the political restraints and because the required safe haven the insurgents thought they had in Angola was being dominated by South African/Unita alliance it was probably close to a situation where South Africa could have achieved a military victory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    So, McCuen was a realist, who realized that the military struggle (violence with some conversions) and the political struggle (conversions with some violence) had to be integrated, co-ordinated and subordinated to the policy which drives both the military and political efforts (as to which they are "merely continuations"). Giap was emphasiing the same points in his teachings before and during the time that McCuen taught them - ironic that they were on opposite sides.

    In any event, neither McCuen nor Giap were "Johnny One Notes".
    I can find no areas of disagreement with what McCuen writes. A good man, wonder why the US don't use him more?

    His article Hybrid Wars I found to be excellent and it is worth a read.

    What I like about McCuen is his variation on the “clear, hold and build” approach to the more achievable “clear, control, and counter-organize the population”.

    McCuen three golden rules:

    ●Conducting conventional operations that carefully take into account how destroying or neutralizing the enemy nation’s governmental, political, security, and military structures will play out in the longer term.

    ●Clearing, controlling, and counter-organizing the indigenous population through a values-oriented approach that fosters legitimacy.

    ●Winning and maintaining support for the war on the home front(s) and in the international community. Doing so means maintaining legitimacy and avoiding losses through incompetence.

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    Default McCuen briefly

    McCuen's book, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War, is available at Hailer Publishing as a reprint (good reprint; not expensive).

    Niel Smith (Cavguy) has read it, but of more importance COL McCuen was a particpant in a closed forum involving Niel - as he reported with a PM from McCuen, posted here Jack McCuen.

    I'd be interested in Niel's take on the book and on McCuen's ideas - since he's taught his own neat course on "clear, hold and build" (in Cavguy terms, as he saw it and did it). And, of course, on your take that McCuen is conducive to "clear, control, and counter-organize the population".

    Still active as COL (ret.) in 2008-2009, and USMA grad ('48), McCuen had the tickets. I have no idea as to the real man, or why his ideas were not as prevalent as (say) Galula.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    McCuen's book, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War, is available at Hailer Publishing as a reprint (good reprint; not expensive).

    Niel Smith (Cavguy) has read it, but of more importance COL McCuen was a particpant in a closed forum involving Niel - as he reported with a PM from McCuen, posted here Jack McCuen.

    I'd be interested in Niel's take on the book and on McCuen's ideas - since he's taught his own neat course on "clear, hold and build" (in Cavguy terms, as he saw it and did it). And, of course, on your take that McCuen is conducive to "clear, control, and counter-organize the population".

    Still active as COL (ret.) in 2008-2009, and USMA grad ('48), McCuen had the tickets. I have no idea as to the real man, or why his ideas were not as prevalent as (say) Galula.

    Regards

    Mike
    Maybe McCuen's ideas are worth a thread of their own?

    If there is anyone in contact with him it would be interesting to see if he is prepared to comment of the use of his ideas by South Africa in Namibia and how well or otherwise he thinks it all worked out there.

    I have always believed that the concept of holding ground (in the clear, hold and build context) was naive to say the least. Controlling and dominating were much better concepts because they were possible.

    For information, I spent a lot of time in the '70s reading and rereading Robert Taber's "The War of the Flea" . Made a lot of sense then. Need to reread it again to see if I still feel that way.

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    Default McCuen Thread

    Hello JMA

    If Nagl, Kilcullen, Galula, et al, deserve threads, McCuen deserves a thread and more (IMO) based on his analysis of Mao-Giap alone. Niel (of those posting here) seems most acquainted with McCuen and his work. Cavguy, I expect, is enjoying the novalties (to him) of the Alaskan bush as a squadron XO; but I notice he has posted here recently.

    So, PM will be sent advising him of this discussion and whether he wants to input - great if he would.

    ---------------------
    Re: Robert Taber's "The War of the Flea" - on my bookshelf too; and IMO not in the same class as (say) McCuen. I suppose it had appeal to young leftist radicals of that time.

    Some of his ideas (e.g., essentially supplanting or co-opting the revolutionaries in Latin America by taking positions vs the oligarchs and rightist dictators - a "Third Way" insurgency) had merit, but not exactly as he stated them.

    Cord Meyer et al had similar supplantation or co-optation concepts, but (unfortunately IMO) never got them to first base because of Colonel King et al.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by IVIaedhros View Post
    Summary: Our organization and doctrine plays into the enemy's hands. We can counter this by creating a force patterned after classical eastern forces, while still retaining many of our greatest advantages.
    If you read the replies below you will note that some people fear change and new ideas more than they fear the Taliban. So be careful of using words which can be used as a means of distracting from the real meaning behind your post. This being the use of "eastern". Think of another more generic name to describe your concept.

    ***First of all, let me give a general disclaimer: while in the infantry, I am still only a newly minted 2LT with no prior service, waiting to go to Ranger School. I make no claims to being anything close to an expert. Now that that's out of the way...
    A lot of us here were a 2LT at some point in time. Some just went with the flow while others put their hand up. I see a lot of myself (35 years ago) in your post and am happy to see there are still thinking 2LTs out there. For heavens sake don't let anyone pee on your battery.

    Looking back at me at your stage I would say I needed to learn to sell my ideas better (they call it marketing these days). So learn from the responses both positive and negative and maybe even rewrite your piece to maintain your essential idea but deal with the questions and negatives so as to close those doors.

    Now here is the killer. If you couldn't be bothered to rewrite and refine your idea then you have a problem. Anyone can throw bright ideas into the air and then walk away. If you are serious you will realise this piece of yours is merely version 0.1 of a number of versions to come. So take your piece you posted here and save it somewhere under FireWithFireV0.1. The journey has begun.

    And remember too that 2LTs don't make the massive changes, they merely provide the spark that lights the fire. So this is only your first idea (of many to come) at the beginning of a long career so accept that some LtCol, Maj, Capt may actually run with this idea and just be happy that you were the spark.

    It seems to me that, despite the fact that we routinely come out on top of direct engagements, we're playing into the enemy's game so far as kinetic operations are concerned. Simply put, the experienced insurgent's strategy and tactics put him at an inherent advantage to our classically western forces.
    They are only at an advantage because we rotate troops through at a speed too rapid to allow them to understand METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain and weather, Troops and support available—Time available, Civilians) and thereby don't become ruthlessly efficient in killing the enemy.

    The rotation issue and the use of semi-permanent troops has been discussed before here and it near frightened most of the contributors here to death. PTSD they screamed, burn-out etc etc. 101 reasons why the same failed rotation systems needed to be maintained. You will face the same response from many quarters. Be prepared for that.

    The bottom line is that you either flood the battle field with your own troops at a ratio of 100:1 or you start to think and act smart.

    I suggest that what is needed is to seize the initiative away from the Taliban and to achieve that the restrictions placed on ISAF forces need to be removed to set the military free. At the moment operations seem to be planned more on what they are not allowed to do than what options are available to be used. Its a desperate situation. You have identified it.

    The Afghan's follow the general eastern model that's been around for thousands of years. This assumes you're outnumbered, you strike where it's advantageous, operate mostly at the small level, etc. Their TTP's and "unit" organization are geared towards the small unit fight, especially in regards towards the ambush and the defense. Their "unit" organization and training (almost all command power with TL/SL equivalents, doesn't train rigid battle drills, but most successful TTP's), etc. allow them to adapt the fastest when adaptation is key. In a straight fight, they have an immense advantage in maneuverability due to a lighter load.
    Try Mao 101 : When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.

    (And if you have more time read Mao's Basic Tactics)

    My belief is that soldiers with the best basic training have the best ability to innovate tactically. Warfare does not come naturally you have to work at it constantly to keep your men alive.

    Learn the basics well and apply METT-TC properly and you stand a chance of outsmarting the Taliban.

    Our doctrine creates a large, concentrated force (especially with vehicles) that's easy to spot and hit (though admittedly very difficult to destroy), his heavily dependent on supporting fires and thus severely handicapped in fulfilling the light infantryman's job of closing with destroying the enemy. This creates several problems:

    *We spend a massive amount of money to achieve relatively little effect, thus giving an already reluctant nation further incentive to back out
    *We are more likely to cause civilian casualties
    *It is much harder for us to fully pursue/destroy the enemy and hold the rugged terrain in which he operates.

    The solution I propose is to create an eastern style kinetic force. Note that this is not SF. It is a bridge, of sorts. The ultimate goal would be a brigade size element that is capable of successfully conducting sustained ground combat operations in the squad/fire team level. While they could indeed engage in local training operations or SF/Ranger style raids, their primary task would be to act as hunter/killers in order to successfully clear and hold terrain.
    A large force is easy to avoid.

    Small forces or small teams would need to rely on fire support other wise they risk being taken out piecemeal. Remember if they see you operating in smaller groups they will tend to concentrate to take you out and then melt away into the mountains.

    Point 1: Read McCuen. His applicable 'golden rule' here is:

    Winning and maintaining support for the war on the home front(s) and in the international community. Doing so means maintaining legitimacy and avoiding losses through incompetence. McCuen covered somewhat under this thread.

    Point 2: To avoid unnecessary civilian casualties one has to separate the enemy from the civilians. Easier said than done. Through correctly applying METT-TC a way should be found.

    Point 3: Hold terrain? That's the biggest current error. McCuen has told them (but they don't seem to hear) that instead of "clear, hold and build" it should be “clear, control, and counter-organize the population”. Smart guy this McCuen.

    (Carried over to second post to reduce length)

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    Default Further McCuen

    COL McCuen and COL Gentile faced off in Dec 2009 in a couple of Tom Ricks' pieces:

    A challenge for COINhata Gentile, Thomas E. Ricks Friday, December 4, 2009 (counterpoint by McCuen to Gentile's Parameters article).

    COIN (III): Do not go Gentile into that good night, Thomas E. Ricks Monday, December 7, 2009 (response by Gentile to McCuen's counterpoint).

    These are (relatively) short postings which, however, cover a long period in US involvement in "COIN" and irregular warfare.

    The Center of Military History has an online book (588 pp.), Birtle, U.S. Army counterinsurgency and contingency operations doctrine, 1942–1976 (2006), which covers the waterfront pretty well.

    I found COL McCuen's brief bio (in the 2008 MR article) to have an interesting entry - that he was in Indonesia, where he was chief of the U.S. "military assistance group" (U.S. Defense Liaison Group, Indonesia). Indonesia at all times pertinent has been more important to SE Asia than Vietnam.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default McCuen: a "missing" thread?

    The work of McCuen has appeared many times before and two regular posters: JMA & jmm99 think he deserves one. A search found some previous posts and some have been copied to here.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-15-2010 at 08:52 PM. Reason: Copied to the start!
    davidbfpo

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    Default

    By the way, Jack passed away over the weekend.

    Obituary

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