View Poll Results: Evaluate Kilcullen's work on counterinsurgency

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  • Brilliant, useful

    26 45.61%
  • Interesting, perhaps useful

    26 45.61%
  • Of little utility, not practical

    1 1.75%
  • Delusional

    4 7.02%
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Thread: The David Kilcullen Collection (merged thread)

  1. #241
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Kilcullen: short article

    His speech at IISS has appeared and slightly adapted in the latest The Spectator: http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magaz...-the-war.thtml

    Only two pages and an easy read. Still reading his book and will return one day.

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    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-17-2009 at 01:00 PM.

  2. #242
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    Default David Kilcullen at the Pritzker Military Library

    Last night, David Kilcullen spoke at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, IL. Mr Kilcullen gave an overview of his book, "The Accidental Guerilla" as well as provided some examples in his career as evidence to support the theories and recommendations presented in the book. A video of his speech and the following Q&A from the audience can be found at the following link:

    http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.o...-kilcullen.jsp

  3. #243
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Ah, the book tour

    I am sure two other SWJ members attended (Major Marginal & MattC86), if you are resident in Chicago time to connect?

    Thanks for the link too!

    davidbfpo

  4. #244
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Another video clip

    A slightly different video clip when David Kilcullen spoke to Google, with stories not on the Chicago link or used in his talk at IISS, London e.g. IO: http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawam...orsgoogle.html

    Half devoted to Q&A.
    Found on the CNAS website and listened too tonight.

    davidbfpo

  5. #245
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Chapter 2 on "full spectrum COIN" in Afghanistan is worth the price of the book alone, in my view.
    (Note: I loath the term "MUST READ". When someone says this my first thought is...no in fact I don't have to read this, in fact I'm now going to go out of my way to not read it.)

    That being said The Accidental Guerrilla really is a MUST READ, at least for those of us amateurs with an interest in GWOT. His look at the Pashtuns in Afghanistan was a Light Bulb moment for me...(The light Bulb went on).

  6. #246
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    Default According to Kilcullen (in the linked Rose interview)

    ...80% of COIN ops are won. Does anybody know what is his source?

    THX in advance.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

  7. #247
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default 80% comes from?

    I have heard this 80% figure cited before, on a quick scan cannot find a reference in Kilcullen's book nor on Google. My recollection is that it came from a RAND study.

    davidbfpo

  8. #248
    Council Member Klugzilla's Avatar
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    Default

    I will check as well, but it depends on how you define insurgency and what you want to consider as the threshold for an "ongoing" insurgency. I do remember several studies that had roughly the same criteria and reaching the same numbers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Klugzilla View Post
    I will check as well, but it depends on how you define insurgency and what you want to consider as the threshold for an "ongoing" insurgency. I do remember several studies that had roughly the same criteria and reaching the same numbers.
    I look forward to it.

  10. #250
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    Default Buyer Beware

    I have heard this 80% figure cited before, on a quick scan cannot find a reference in Kilcullen's book nor on Google. My recollection is that it came from a RAND study.
    These quotes can be alarmingly misreading without understanding the full context of the study that determined this. Some possible variations of the study may be:

    - counterinsurgents supported substantially by a foreign power, or all counterinsurgencies regardless of context?

    - what time frame did the study address (frequently these studies addressed cold war insurgencies)

    - the hard question, what does won mean? Did the enemy capitualate? Did they quit fighting? Did the fighting reside for a few years only to flair up again?

    - of the 80% defeated and the 20% of the insurgents who won, what were their characterisitics? Were they politically based (communism), identity based (religion, race, etc.), etc.?

    Just for the heck of it:

    -how many times have insurgents lost in Afghanistan?

    -assuming that there really is such a thing as population centric and enemy centric strategies, did anyone win using a population centric strategy?

    Perhaps the 80% figure is true, but I generally find these findings to be too generic to be of any use in the real world. They are to often used to justify unwise policy. It is probably true that a 200lb guy will kick the crap out of a 120lb guy 80% of the time if they engage in hand to hand combat, but if you're the 200lb guy getting your butt kicked by a 120lb guy, that bit of trivia isn't overly useful.

  11. #251
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

    It's all how you count settlements. From data used by RAND in this monograph, which I used for my graduate thesis:

    RAND considered 89 post-1945 insurgencies. I removed the 16 ongoing insurgencies in the dataset and came up with:

    # Pct Avg Length
    All N 73 12.25
    Govt Win 28 38% 14.64
    Political Settlement 19 26% 9.89
    Govt Loss 26 36% 11.38

    Be aware the standard deviation of the length is very, very high, 10.46.

    So wins and losses in this dataset are about even, with political settlements making up the rest.

    "Insurgent Win" is all about how you define the middle group - settlements. Lyall and Wilson count settlements as insurgent victories (using a different dataset, 1800-2005), while RAND counts them separately. (Full Disclosure: I have co-authored a response essay to Lyall and Wilson's very flawed study and submitted it to International Organizations)

    It should be noted once you actually try and code "win" and "loss" with insurgencies, you dive into a subjective morass. For example, RAND cites El Salvador as a "settlement", while some COIN literature calls it a win. The areas of grey are what kill you, because some settlements favor the govt more and some favor the insurgent, but neither are clear victories. A lot of Solomonesque baby splitting in the coding. Hence, the writer can make the data say what he wants based on the use of the "middling" outcomes. Also when you introduce the 19th century, governments tend to win more. My hypothesis for that is that in the pre-global media age, they could be more genocidal and ruthless than today with less impact. (ex. Native Americans, Boer war, etc.) Another observation is that no democratic regime in the dataset has lost an insurgency. (note - regime experiencing the insurgency, not the host nation, see this thread)

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  12. #252
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    It's all how you count settlements.
    It is also all about how you count insurgency.

    If you do COIN well, you nip an insurgency in the bud very early, before it reaches the stage of full scale civil war. None of these small proto-insurgencies (say, Uruguay vs the Tupamaros, Egypt vs Islamic Jihad, even Germany vs the Red Army Faction or Canada vs the FLQ) are counted in the "win" category in the RAND data, however.

    Of course, you can choose not to "count" insurgencies until they reach a threshold of casualties--Lyall and Wilson use "a minimum 1,000 battle death inclusion rule, with at least 100 casualties suffered on each side." However, this is rather like not including boxing matches that feature a first round KO. (It is also never clear to me why insurgency should be measured by an absolute threshold, rather proportional to population or some other indicator of relative intensity and threat).

    Second, there seem to be lots of cases missing from the RAND study. Omani suppression of the Dhofari insurgency? The consolidation of the Islamic Republic in Iran against various internal challengers, 1979-80? Syrian suppression of the Hama uprising (20,000 casualties in 1982, so not a minor case)? Iraqi suppression of the southern and Kurdish uprisings in 1991? The civil war (and collapse) of PDR Yemen? Those are just the ME examples.

    Large n studies are very useful. They do (as you note) tend to have a lot of devils hiding in the details of how they are coded, however.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  13. #253
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    It is also all about how you count insurgency.
    Exactly
    If you do COIN well, you nip an insurgency in the bud very early, before it reaches the stage of full scale civil war. None of these small proto-insurgencies (say, Uruguay vs the Tupamaros, Egypt vs Islamic Jihad, even Germany vs the Red Army Faction or Canada vs the FLQ) are counted in the "win" category in the RAND data, however.
    ...and this is where some want to take the whole COIN thinking, by some sort of preventative medicine. Insurgency means the use of "military means". Thinks have got pretty bad if someone can generate military levels of force. IIRC, I don't think the Red Army Faction in Germany ever had more than 20 or so firearms. Conversely some gangs in LA can field 2,000 plus armed men, or so I am told - but this is not an insurgency.
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  14. #254
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    It is also all about how you count insurgency.

    If you do COIN well, you nip an insurgency in the bud very early, before it reaches the stage of full scale civil war. None of these small proto-insurgencies (say, Uruguay vs the Tupamaros, Egypt vs Islamic Jihad, even Germany vs the Red Army Faction or Canada vs the FLQ) are counted in the "win" category in the RAND data, however.

    Of course, you can choose not to "count" insurgencies until they reach a threshold of casualties--Lyall and Wilson use "a minimum 1,000 battle death inclusion rule, with at least 100 casualties suffered on each side." However, this is rather like not including boxing matches that feature a first round KO. (It is also never clear to me why insurgency should be measured by an absolute threshold, rather proportional to population or some other indicator of relative intensity and threat).

    Second, there seem to be lots of cases missing from the RAND study. Omani suppression of the Dhofari insurgency? The consolidation of the Islamic Republic in Iran against various internal challengers, 1979-80? Syrian suppression of the Hama uprising (20,000 casualties in 1982, so not a minor case)? Iraqi suppression of the southern and Kurdish uprisings in 1991? The civil war (and collapse) of PDR Yemen? Those are just the ME examples.

    Large n studies are very useful. They do (as you note) tend to have a lot of devils hiding in the details of how they are coded, however.
    As a grad student working full time, I had neither the time nor resources to create my own dataset. RAND's was the least bad. Lyall and Wilson have yet to release their dataset, which only increases my ire and skepticism about their results. I even wrote IO about why they were published in a peer reviewed journal without a dataset released for replication, but apparently IO doesn't require it. Repeated emails to both LTC Wilson and Lyall resulted in refusal to release the data. My K-State professor even wrote Lyall asking for the data. Therefore, I am skeptical of the dataset. When combined with the spuriousness of the whole argument, it's just a bad and misleading paper. There isn't a Correlates of War equivilant for insurgency.

    One also has to deal with definitional issues about Civil War vs. Insurgency vs. Terrorist Groups, each of which is like a Venn diagram but have different characteristics.

    If I had dedicated time to persue a PhD perhaps I could create a useful dataset.

    Another problem is accurate data on the insurgents. For example, if you are coding insurgency "size", do you include fighters, auxilliaries, and sympathizers? How do you get an accurate count of insurgents? They don't usually have a G1. Inclusion and exclusion of these groups changes the data and results.

    RAND also has a terrorist data set that includes 640 groups. However, that data has even more issues since it includes groups as small as 10 individuals, which makes it useless for an insurgency study. You are right that the threshold of what constitutes an insurgency in the IR academia sense is in flux.

    It's not an easy subject to do large-N work on.

    Niel
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  15. #255
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Terror vs. Insurgency vs. Civil War

    This is from my thesis - best I could do for a definition.

    Distinguishing Insurgency as a Subset of Civil War

    The characteristics of civil wars and insurgencies overlap, but insurgency is a unique subset of conflict encompassing a wide range of political, military, social, and economic factors that distinguish it from civil wars and terrorism. The term “insurgency” is defined by the United States Military as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict. This definition is perhaps overly simplistic given the diverse objectives of insurgent groups, which may include secession, independence, or regime change. The recently published US Government definition is much more comprehensive. It states, “Insurgency is a protracted political-military campaign conducted by an organized movement seeking to subvert or displace the government and completely or partially control the resources and/or population of a country through the use of force and alternative political organizations.” Therefore, insurgency is political in nature, waged against a constituted government with an objective of regime change or secession. Insurgences often occur against the influence of a foreign occupying power or for regional/local autonomy.

    From a military perspective, insurgency is distinctly guerilla in character, involving small bands of partisans operating within the population against the existing regime. It places a high value on political mobilization, drawing its fighters, supplies, intelligence, and refuge from the population of the involved state. Many insurgencies receive support from outside sources, whether nation-states or non-state organizations. Owing to conventional military weakness and lack of heavy equipment, insurgencies seek to attack a regime’s weakness and avoid open conflict with organized military forces. Victory is often achieved through “wearing the enemy down” rather than through military conquest, or through coup-like action. Particularly popular insurgencies manage to field organized military forces in the later stages, escalating the conflict to full civil war.

    Insurgency is distinct from civil war in several ways. US Army Field Manual 100-20 provides the definition of civil war accepted by the United States military. Five criteria exist for a conflict meet the standard of civil war – control of territory, functioning government, foreign recognition, regular armed forces, and capability to engage in major military operations. The standard academic definition focuses less on land control than on battle deaths, with a standard definition of 1000 battle deaths between the warring parties. Both definitions emphasize conflict internal to a state conducted largely with organized military forces. Insurgents normally organize in irregular groups without clear chains of command, a key criteria for status as a civil war. Insurgents usually do not completely control the terrain they operate in, and thus operate in a fluid against the established government. Therefore, insurgencies are distinct from civil wars, and require a different approach from the regime. Most insurgencies share significant commonalities with civil war, and therefore distinguishing between civil war and insurgency is an imperfect science.

    Defining terrorism versus insurgencies is also important because many insurgencies are confused with terrorist groups, and vice versa. Terrorism as a descriptive term should be separated from the groups employing the tactic as it confuses the nature of the dispute. The term “terrorist group” is applied broadly to characterize organizations involved in civil wars, insurgencies, and standard political violence between factions not rising to the level of insurgency or civil war. Terrorism author and expert Bruce Hoffman defines terrorism as, “… the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence the pursuit of political change.” Thus terrorism is primarily a tactic employed for political ends, and can be used in almost any dispute context.

    In the post-9/11 era, this generates the unintended consequence of branding many insurgenies and civil war parties as terrorists, which may prejudice the willingness of regimes to seek political settlements in intrastate wars. No regime or regime ally wishes to be perceived as “soft on terror”. Given that terrorism is political in nature, the “war on terror” may actually increase its duration by raising domestic and foreign costs to settlement of the political grievance. Terrorist groups in many cases may be insurgencies, or simply political organizations seeking recognition of their cause. Regardless of the objective, it is clear that while not all terrorist groups are insurgencies, most insurgencies use terrorism as a tactic against either the population or the government to achieve their political goals.
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  16. #256
    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default Max Abrahms

    I know that this isn't where you are getting your stats, but Max Abrahms has as similar analysis in his dissertation, which should be available from I think UCLA later this year. He believes that terrorist campaigns (e.g. those which focus their attacks against civilians) generally fail, where as insurgencies, succeed a lot more often. I don't remember the exact percent, but it was approaching 50% I believe.
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  17. #257
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Insurgency? Who cares?

    Point being, why are we all trying to define what "Insurgency" is? Is it to somehow validate the current ideas about COIN?

    The whole problem is the propagation of the belief that there is this separate and distinct thing called "insurgency."

    It's not useful and it obscures more than it clarifies. COIN is "countering an insurgency." So what? Calling Irregular Warfare "COIN" paints you into a corner where all problems are COIN problems, and thus you readily risk misreading the type of conflict you are fighting in.

    To my mind, one of the most telling things (as I have said before) is this is "Small Wars" which is very old language. We might try speaking the old language more and gaining more clarity from it.

    And Niel... I fully accept that you are locked into a organisation with it's own language, and in order to make headway you have to speak that language. Good job and good luck. I merely suffer no such constraint.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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  18. #258
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    Default semantic (and theoretical) quibbling

    Neither the traditional meaning of "insurgency" (which emphasizes the non-legal-belligerent status of the insurgents, and their threat to legal authority) nor the various US Army/DoD definitions imply that the armed force being used needs to take the form of guerilla warfare. The root of the word (from French and Latin) is simply to "rise up" against something.

    While this may appear to be a case of how many definitional angels can dance on the head of a pin, I think it is important. Insurgent groups have a panoply of operational approaches to choose from: acts of terrorism, guerilla warfare, massive public protests, rapid urban insurrections (usually in conjunction with subversion or political neutralization of key military garrisons). Because of opportunities, resource constraints, and other factors they may emphasize some techniques at some times, and others at others. It is rather like deciding whether you'll seize an objective through heliborne insertion, a rapid armoured thrust, or a long battles of attrition.

    Indeed, we see movements often shifting techniques. The best example of this were the debates within the Sandinistas between the GPP (Guerra Prolongada Popular), Proletarian and Tercerista factions, emphasizing rural guerilla warfare, urban insurrection, and a mix of approaches respectively. However, they can also be found with the Bolsheviks, the various Iranian revolutionary groups pitted against the Shah, the PLO shift from semi-regular armed struggle to intifada-like civil and violent protests. Moreover, virtually all urban guerilla (terrorist) movements see this as a first step towards later full-scale guerilla (and later semi-regular) warfare.

    Usually widespread guerilla warfare characterizes the eventual overthrow of a regime. Not always, however, as the Russian Revolutions (both), the overthrow of Shah, British withdrawal from India (and several other decolonizations) and even the end of apartheid in South Africa (if one codes the transition as a de facto regime surrender, which it was) illustrate.

    Given this, I think it is potentially problematic in many cases to carve off insurgency-as-solely-guerilla-warfare as distinct analytical category, just as it would be to carve off "wars in which people used helicopters"—especially when the folks on the other side don't think in those terms.

    While a lot of this overlaps with what Wilf says, I do think there are important differences between guerilla wars fought by insurgents (who need to derive the majority of their resources from the local population, and in which the objective is regime change) and other irregular warfare, since the domestic political and socio-economic arenas are important in different kinds of ways.

    To anticipate Wilf's probable objection: yes, I know it is all about degrading the enemy's military capabilities and breaking their will. On the other hand, croquet, hockey, rugby, and the annual Gloucestershire Cheese Wheel rolling competition are all about scoring more objectives than your opponents do—and I'm not sure how far that commonality gets us if we're trying to win one of them

    CavGuy, I do understand what you're saying about having to make do with the datasets out there, and sympathize. I too am a little taken aback that Lyall and Wilson won't let others look at their dataset.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  19. #259
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    To anticipate Wilf's probable objection: yes, I know it is all about degrading the enemy's military capabilities and breaking their will. On the other hand, croquet, hockey, rugby, and the annual Gloucestershire Cheese Wheel rolling competition are all about scoring more objectives than your opponents do—and I'm not sure how far that commonality gets us if we're trying to win one of them
    No objection here. My point is that you can only use military force to solve military problems. You cannot use it to solve social or political problems. Any army faced with an regular or irregular opponent, should focus on making the enemy incapable of gaining it's objective by violent means.

    So in terms of croquet, hockey, rugby, and cheese rolling, you win by killing the other team, so they don't take part in the match. The playing the game is then left to your croquet, hockey, and rugby players, to go and win un-opposed, much to the delight of the crowd (the population).
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    So in terms of croquet, hockey, rugby, and cheese rolling, you win by killing the other team, so they don't take part in the match. The playing the game is then left to your croquet, hockey, and rugby players, to go and win un-opposed, much to the delight of the crowd (the population).
    Try killing members of Montreal Canadiens before a home crowd here, and we'll see if you get out of the Bell Centre alive
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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