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Thread: COIN PhD

  1. #1
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    Default COIN PhD

    Hi there,

    Greetings all,long time journal reader and new council member, just looking for suggestions/ input for a COIN PhD. Having completed a Masters last year I'm looking to move forward with a PhD.
    At the minute Im looking at COIN from the doctrine level e.g. FM 3-24 and looking to examine the relationship between doctrine and the prosecution of doctrine at the base level. My previous thesis on COIN examined concurrent COIN and CT operation in Malaya and Iraq. During the course of that project I was lucky enough to receive help from Operators. Working title at this point is "Doctrine and the realities of Combat". Im not based in the US and it is tricky to get contacts. All suggestions and help would be appreciated.

    Regards,
    Viper.

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Armchair researcher adds

    I'd have a look through the RFI thread, your theme has appeared before and on a quick search this thread might be worth reading:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=6348

    Your title:
    Working title at this point is "Doctrine and the realities of Combat".
    Is rather broad and if it COIN Doctrine and the realities of combat some I expect would argue here and maybe your supervisor(s) that COIN may include combat and many other elements.

    Having access to contemporary operators clearly was needed for Iraq and if your topic remains wide there is ample published material, some of which appears here.

    If using operators or public records outside the USA is a determinant, perhaps time to drop the implied US aspects.

    Finally I wish you well. I'm sure others will chime in.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-23-2012 at 07:26 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    I had forgotten about that... been busy with other projects. I take your point on the combat aspect. I suppose my question should be more along the lines of a knowledge gap between the sharp end and the doctrine level. I would like to include contemporary British points of view this time out as my last piece was US centric.
    Although I focused on McChrystal and Task Force Black in defeating AQI and the SAS role in this (link back to Malaya). This was combined with a case study of 2nd Battalion 4th Marines in Ramadi around 2008/9 the idea was to contrast a COIN and CT operations, and what was in my view was a need to be concurrent between the need for DA operations, while not forgetting the need to engage with the population.
    Thanks for replying I would hope to continue the discussion.

    V.

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    I recently completed a MA dissertation under the title "From Bush to Obama: A Critical Analysis of American and ISAF Counter-Insurgency Strategy in Afghanistan and its Consequences, 2001-2011". As the title suggests, I looked at how COIN doctrines were supposed to have shifted regarding Afghanistan. After establishment how FM-324 was supposed to have changed the way the US conducted COIN, I then looked at how it played out on the ground. Not sure if I'd be any help, but feel free to message me.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Default

    Remember that the whole objective of a Ph.D. is to make a theoretical advance in your field. So the initial question is what field are you considering? Organizational behavior? History? Political science? Once you establish that, you have to discern the state of the art of theory and then move on to a specific topic, asking yourself how your research will advance current thinking.

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    Default COIN PhD

    I recently completed two masters degrees with thesis papers related to stability operations doctrine and application. Some of the findings may be of use, and I may have some insights on collecting the field data. Feel free to message me if this looks like it'll be of help.

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    Default Hurry up and Forget

    Given President Obama's new defense strategy and the shift to Air and Sea power to South East Asia, is COIN a dead duck. Is it going to be a case of Hurry up and Forget the last decade of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan? Would it be a safer bet to focus on CT and DA based operations? Just a thought given whats been on the blogs and in the media over the last couple of days.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Hurry up and Forget?

    Hell no.

    Whatever pundits, media, politicians and military establishments say today or soon fighting small wars - which often involves COIN - are a historical constant.

    You could almost do a Ph.D. on COIN disappearing from view and returning. Historical continuities and new aspects from 'x' to 'y'.

    Did COIN change after 9/11?

    Keep well away from contemporary debates.

    Identify a clear date line, e.g. end of French rule in Algeria; align with your area of research and access (to published and verbal accounts).
    davidbfpo

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    Thats a great angle, maybe I could start with Malaya-Indochina/Algeria-Vietnam-(Yemen and Oman?).... and work up to the present. That would narrow it down to a History PhD. The fighting man has always been my interest and his point of view, so the tricky part would be integrating eyeball narratives into the project.
    I agree with you on the current COIN debate, its not going to be the end of COIN, but I would bet that especially in the US the Admirals and 4 Star Generals can't wait to return to spending serious money on jets, subs and flattops.The Army and Marines are going to have a tough few years ahead in budgetary terms. Ill have to re-evaluate my own position. Keep the ideas coming. May have to move to PM on this one.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Colonel Joe Felter, who commanded the ISAF COIN Advisory Team a year or so back, describes his PhD as being on COIN. You may want to contact him to gain his advice.
    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 Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    As someone in the final throes of a 'COIN/IW' PhD I commend Steve Metz's advice to you.

    If you have a prospective school/ supervisor in mind you should have a lengthy conversation with them - there is no point in having a research topic that cannot or will not be taken on..

    With respect to the 'COIN' is dead nonsense - it is exactly that, nonsense. I will bet London to a brick that the world will still see men and women who rebel against their state next year, next decade and well into the next millenium. It has always been the case. And if, as invariably happens, that state fights back in some way, there will be counterinsurgency.

    If anything, the 'demonstration effect' of what Iraq and Afghanistan has done to / for the US, NATO and other allies will only serve to signpost the possiblities of insurgency to those who are aggrieved but relatively weak.

    Those who claim 'COIN is dead, period' fail in one of the fundamentals of critical thought - realisation of context and perspective. Others who make claims for the adherence to or 'supremacy' of a particular COIN paradigm or future suffer a similar failure of critical thought.

    Do not confuse the highly transient passions of the Western punditocracy or the eternal enthusiams and preferences of Western militaries (and their supporting industries and political stakeholders) for 'good old fashion westphalian warfare' for meaning that we have either seen the last of COIN in general, or that we (the west) will not fight such wars again. Of course, if you do believe that, I also have a nice bridge down on the Harbour (or an Opera House..) in my home town that I can sell you...

    A concluding note, if you are interested in the doctrine angle for you research, have a look at the PhD Alex Alderson submitted at Cranfield (UK) :Alderson, Alexander. "The Validity of British Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine after the War in Iraq, 2003-2009." Unpublished PhD thesis, Cranfield, 2009.

    regards,

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 01-24-2012 at 11:50 PM. Reason: Typo

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    Cheers Mark,

    Im in discussion with my MA supervisor at the minute and looking for a supervisor for the PhD. I have taken Steve Metz's point and Im looking at it objectively.I do not believe that COIN is dead, I am a believer in it as I am in CT. I learned along time ago never to follow the pack and to do my own thing. So despite the pundits I will be driving on with COIN. As for the bridge you can keep it, alternatively I know a couple of guys who are good with C4
    I would like to talk further with you about your PhD, move to PM?

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    Default Uw

    "Washington’s national security goal is to prevent the reemergence of a safe haven for al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. Today, no such safe haven is possible, thanks to U.S. special operations raids, a network of informants, and U.S. surveillance capabilities. A force of around 20,000 U.S. soldiers can prevent a safe haven indefinitely, as long as the Afghan army controls the cities and highways (which makes the cohesion of the Afghan army a key part of the U.S. and NATO drawdown)."

    Found this in an article on Bing West's webpage. Is this realistic?? I have an interest in this as regards the PhD. I have long thought that the ODA and NSW teams along with the CIA SAD teams originally deployed in 2001 could have done something similar. Particularly given there UW brief. Could it be done? What are the caveats regarding this? e.g. Drones, CAS and other forms of support.

    Viper.

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    Working title. Comments, adjustments, etc.
    Counterinsurgency after Afghanistan: The Past and Future of Special Forces in COIN.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by viperventoux View Post
    Working title. Comments, adjustments, etc.
    Counterinsurgency after Afghanistan: The Past and Future of Special Forces in COIN.
    Like it - well the working title.

    Easy to bring in Soviet SF in Afghanistan too. I am sure there are ample examples in the public domain for SF in COIN, ranging from Malaya onwards. The Malayan experience appears to have influenced the Rhodesians; which could provide illustrations from smaller COIN campaigns.
    davidbfpo

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    I will need to select a few case studies. The Soviet angle is good as I can compare strategies in the same country against much if not the same enemies. Im wonder about Malaya, it is a bit messy as regards debate. How about Oman? Any suggestions?

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    For what its worth, I know several highly regarded scholars with "COIN PhDs" and while all contribute in their own way to the body of work and advice on this topic, my assessment is that they tend to know more than they understand, and that their advice is also are overly relied upon due to their academic credentials, which in turn contributes to exacerbating that first condition. Obviously there are exceptions, and this varies in degree among them.

    I guess my cautionary bit of advice is, that in the pursuit of knowledge, never lose sight of the fact that knowledge is only the gateway to understanding. It is good to be smart, but it is far better to be wise. I suspect the first stage of wisdom is realizing that one isn't all that smart to begin with.

    I've also had the pleasure to meet a few people who are very wise on this complex topic. Only a couple of those had PhDs. (or stars, for that matter). So seek wisdom and seek out those who you believe to possess it as well. As to knowledge, as Professor Holmes told one of my classmates in 1st year contracts class, "you will find that books hold the knowledge you seek very well." I took that to mean you can always look the facts up, but that the real key was to learn how to think about the topic we were studying. Good luck
    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 davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What to choose for case studies?

    Quote Originally Posted by viperventoux View Post
    I will need to select a few case studies. The Soviet angle is good as I can compare strategies in the same country against much if not the same enemies. Im wonder about Malaya, it is a bit messy as regards debate. How about Oman? Any suggestions?
    Viperventoux,

    I agree about Malaya, but the recent SWJ article might help you decide:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...arts-and-minds

    If comparing two separate campaigns is a requirement, how about the Phillipines which from my very limited knowledge has several, separate periods? The other one would be Algeria, contrasting the French and Algerian approaches - you may need to read French though.

    Less well known would be the Portuguese in Mozambique fighting FRELIMO and the follow-on period with RENAMO being the enemy. The Rhodesian and then South African cross-border role is well documented, if obscure. The key learner being South Africa.

    Oman is increasingly well documented, although most books can be rather laudatory regarding the British role and I've yet to see an Omani account. The cross-border aspect could be a theme across the campaigns.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-08-2012 at 04:45 PM.
    davidbfpo

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