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Thread: We need less Chemo and Surgery and more "Voom."

  1. #21
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Indirect approach could be anything from a development project providing water or electricity, to efforts to train and employ host nation security forces directly against the insurgent elements of their populace.

    To me, the latter seems more like a nuanced variation of the direct approach. A nuance that is probably lost on the populaces engaged by such enabled and empowered host nation CT forces.

    To me, indirect approaches did not go through the populace to engage the threat, instead they were approaches that recognized that both the government and the threat were competing elements of the same populace, and that the insurgent would not exist if there were no market for what they offered. So, any efforts designed to allow the current regime to preserver without having to listen to and address the concerns of its own populace and thereby reduce that market for illegal change seemed to me to be misguided. Efforts to suppress rather than resolve. Direct or indirect approaches largely being moot.

    More important would be to ask:

    What is winning? History books tell us winning is when we keep the government we are supporting in power and make the current challenger go away. Countries such as Algeria and the Philippines have become so good at this form of COIN that they have "defeated" insurgencies over and over and over again...

    To me, this is not "winning." This is merely suppressing the symptoms of popular discontent long enough to continue to secure ones national interests in some place through the government one is comfortable working with. So long as we are honest with ourselves about that fact, then such approaches may well make sense. But when we delude ourselves that such approaches have the interests of the affected populaces at heart and that they have defeated the conditions of insurgency among those people, rather than simply forcing the people to stand down and defeating some specific insurgent groups, we create dangerous precedent. That precedent is then captured as doctrine and becomes a gift that keeps on giving.

    One big problem is that we focus on the direct effects of both our direct and indirect approaches. These direct effects become the basis for our metrics to measure our success. How many wells did one drill; how many villages did one clear; how many HVTs did one capture or kill; etc. Do it, count it, assess it, report it. We believe that the sum of such tactical first order effects must naturally ultimately add up to strategic victory. As the research provided by Mike suggests, there is little evidence of this being true.

    If we were assessing a campaign like that waged in WWII such thinking applies. Destroy more capacity than the enemy can produce, capture his territory, etc and ultimately he is defeated. This Clauswitzian logic applies to Clauswitzian conflict.

    But it does not apply to the populace-based conflicts we contend with today and that we conflate clumsily under the illogical construct of "Irregular warfare." We lump things by how they manifest rather than by how they form. By their appearance rather than by their nature. We confuse Clauswitzian conflicts that happen to include populace-based organizations with internal populace-based conflicts that Clausewitz simply does not apply to much at all. If the primary conflict is internal to that trinity of People-Government-Army rather than between competing separate systems of that trinity, it is totally different dynamic altogether. It is much more civil emergency than war, regardless of how violent in nature or similar in appearance. One must focus on primary purpose for action of the challenger, and the nature of the relationship between the challenger and the challenged. This provides distinctions that matter. What tactics applied or what ideology ascribed to in of themselves offer little in the way of insight as to what type of conflict this is and how to resolve it.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-25-2012 at 05:30 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "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)

  2. #22
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default Whoa, rein it in a bit...

    The discussion was of AQ, how did it move to insurgency and populaces? AQ is not an insurgency and has no populace, seems to be wandering a bit off the topic.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  3. #23
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    Default Dayuhan:

    The OP deals with Chemo, Surgery and Voom - which means that almost anything is fair game for discussion.

    Bob: I decline, as a retired gentleman, to be drawn into a discussion of "joint and several liability" (a rather primitive legal construct; better replaced by comparative fault and comparative causation).

    But, seriously, strategic interaction (e.g., direct and indirect strategies; sequential and cumulative strategies) applies across the board to any armed conflict.

    More later.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default From Nation Building to World Building,

    done in one easy step by rearranging the deck chairs.

    Bob: thank you for bringing up the DoD (JCS) 7500 Campaign Plan; as well as your perception of what the term "indirect approach" means - presumably a view prevalent in your community. However, there is another way to look at "direct" and "indirect" approaches.

    That way (see below) is not the grandiose, "indirect" approach set out in Robert Gates' Jan 2009 statement (quoted in the three balls graphic) and in the graphic itself:

    Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the disacontented, from whom the terrorist recruits. It will take patient accumulations of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies.
    The main thrust here is simply "nation (state) building". But, it gets "better" (or "worse").

    Following the now primary green lines (just as in the investment commercial), we come to:

    Global Environment
    Shape
    Inhospitable to Violent Extremism
    Stabilize
    It seems the DoD has reached a program of "world building" (Global Synchronization), which will then (following the big, big green line and arrowhead), isolate the threat - the ENEMY (confined to its red circle and presumably rendered powerless).

    Now, turning to a much more modest view of "direct" and "indirect" approaches, generally defining them as follows:

    Direct - a plan which adversely affects the enemy's capacity to conduct armed conflict.

    Indirect - a plan which adversely affects the enemy's will to conduct armed conflict.

    The plan may be offensive, defensive, offensive-defensive or defensive-offensive; and may be executed in a sequential or a cumulative manner. "Direct" and "tangible"; "indirect" and "abstract" seem synonyms to me. BTW: the question of "win, draw, lose" is also handled modestly - with admission that days of reckoning may be postponed.

    Even this modest set of "definitions" leaves many questions open for discussion and improvement.

    To be continued.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default Some Answers; Many Questions

    This seems a useful resource - because of its added thoughts and its multiple questions. 2011 Kotula & Richardson (thesis), Defeating David - Looking Beyond a Matched Strategy.

    Its abstract deals with the generalization that, when strategies are matched, the stronger power wins more often than not; but:

    Abstract : This thesis builds upon existing contemporary theories that attempt to explain the outcomes of asymmetric conflict. Specifically, this thesis uses Ivan Arreguin-Toft's Strategic Interaction Theory as a baseline to identify theoretical gaps that can not only help further explain asymmetric conflict outcomes, but also provide insight into developing the proper strategy for strong actors.

    Arreguin-Toft contends that when the strong actor employs the correct strategy then it will win over 75 percent of conflicts against a materially weaker adversary. This leads to a fundamental question: if the strong actor uses the correct strategy against a weaker opponent, then why do strong actors still lose nearly 25 percent of the time?

    In an effort to identify other key variables that help explain non-conventional war outcomes, this thesis evaluates case studies where the strong actor both won and lost an asymmetric conflict after choosing the correct strategy.

    This study finds two other factors that are important to achieving victory in an asymmetric conflict.

    First, the strong [intervening] actor must have a viable indigenous political authority to work by, with and through. This concept has little to do with political legitimacy. Instead, it focuses on the capacity of the host nation, with strong [intervening] actor assistance, to synchronize its military and political effort to defeat the insurgency.

    Second, the strong [intervening] actor must not only use restraint in applying direct military power, but it must also use the correct force: a cadre that is trained in conducting irregular warfare.

    As such, this thesis' conclusions are aligned with the belief that it is the host nation's war to win or lose-adhering to this principle provides the strong actor with the best chance of defeating David before losing its political will.
    The question comes to the forefront as to what is a "viable indigenous political authority"; as well as whether the intervening strong actor has the "correct force" available.

    The authors' analysis summarizes what we have already seen in prior studies:

    As previously discussed, no one theory by itself answers the question(s) concerning why strong actors lose to weak actors in asymmetric conflict. However, to date, Ivan Arreguin-Toft’s Strategic Interaction (STRATINT) theory is the most complete. In his 2005 book, "How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict", Arreguin-Toft successfully demonstrated that if the strong actor employs the correct strategy then it will win over 75 percent of the time against a materially weaker adversary. Whereas, if the strong actor chooses the wrong strategy, then its weaker opponent will win over 60 percent of the conflict engagements.
    Matched & Unmatched Strategies.jpg

    Arreguin-Toft breaks down the STRATINT possibilities into four scenarios with each actor controlling what strategy it employs. In simple terms, the strong actor can either employ a direct or indirect offensive strategy, and the weak actor can choose either a direct or indirect defensive strategy. He further defines direct versus indirect for each actor based on the following typology. In a direct-direct engagement, strong actors use a conventional attack and the weak actor uses a conventional defense. In an indirect-indirect engagement, the strong actor uses a strategy of barbarism and the weak actor employs a guerrilla warfare strategy.


    This strategic interaction chart is somewhat similar to a strategic interaction chart based on sequential and cumulative strategies in tangible and abstract areas.



    The roles of attacker and defender easily flip. E.g., the 2001 Taliban was engaged in a direct-direct engagement in which it was attacking (with some success) the Northern Alliance. Intervention by limited US and UK SOFs - and not so limited US airpower - flipped the attacker-defender roles. When the Taliban later came back, it took on another attacker role - the weak actor employing a guerrilla warfare strategy (as well as a localized political strategy).

    The authors then raise some direct questions re: gaps in using the "matching strategies" theory:

    On the surface, Arreguin-Toft’s theory is also intuitively logical: the key to victory is choosing the right strategy. However, even as sound as his argument is, several gaps exist in his theory concerning indirect conflicts that merit additional research and consideration.

    First, Arreguin-Toft contends that in conflicts where the strong actor chooses the correct strategy, then it will end quickly. While this assumption often holds true in a direct v. direct engagement, it fails to address the inherent protracted nature of indirect conflict.

    Second, Arreguin-Toft’s labeling of “Barbarism” and “Guerrilla Warfare” as respective strategies for strong and weak powers in an indirect v. indirect conflict is problematic. These terms over simplify the strategies used by each actor and focuses on the ability (or inability) of the strong actor to defeat its enemy militarily with little regard for the other (social, economic, political) aspects of irregular warfare.

    Third, Arreguin-Toft devotes little attention to analyzing the resources employed by the strong actor, and whether or not the strong actor is trained or has experience fighting an irregular war. Clearly, the strong actor is materially superior; however, are there other competing interests that preclude the strong actor from bringing the full weight of its strength to the conflict? More importantly, just because a strong actor chooses the correct strategy as defined by Arreguin-Toft, does not mean its military is adept at implementing the associated tactics.

    Finally, Arreguin-Toft fails to distinguish the specific nature of a given conflict particularly when defining the indirect approach used by both actors. For example, what is the nature of the insurgency and its associated grievances? Is it a nationalist movement? Is it motivated by religion? Is there a minority in power? Moreover, there are clearly more tactics available to strong actors than just barbarism. Did the strong actor primarily attempt to kill/capture the insurgents? Did the strong actor attempt to isolate the population from the insurgents with re-location programs? What type of force did the strong actor use? Ignoring these additional considerations fundamentally reduces the STRATINT theory to the military aspect of asymmetric conflict. In short, considering the exact nature of given conflict, as well as clearly defining the political environment, are not only critical to determining the appropriate counter-strategy, but also in determining conflict outcome.
    The authors claim no magic bullet - in fact, here is what they see as missing:

    The value in summarizing and evaluating the major theories on asymmetric conflict outcomes is that it helps to identify any areas not adequately addressed by the existing literature. Several areas that require additional consideration are missing.

    First, in all four theories outlined above, not one considers in detail the exact nature of the weak actor and the type of insurgency it is fighting. This analysis needs to go beyond the type of military strategy (indirect) and tactics (guerrilla warfare/terrorism) used, and instead needs to focus specifically on the nature of insurgency and its grievances with the existing governance structure. How can a strong actor develop a proper counter-strategy if it does not understand the nature of its opponent, and not only what it has to work against, but also what it has to work with? While all four theories appear to address it, not one accounts for popular support of the weak actor as the deciding factor in the conflict outcome. When in fact the ability (or inability) of the strong actor to isolate the weak actor from the population and deliver the essential services such as security, healthcare, education, and infrastructure may be the most important factor in determining the conflict outcome.

    Second, what type of force did the strong actor use? Was it a force trained in irregular warfare with experience in conducting counterinsurgency? Did the strong actor use indigenous forces to supplement its effort? This question specifically addresses if the strong actor used the right tool (force) for the job.

    Finally, were there any domestic or international constraints levied on the strong actor? Were there domestic economic issues, or another conflict, that precluded the strong actor from using its full capacity? Was there international pressure (or norms) that precluded the strong actor from implementing its military and political agenda? In sum, the only way for the strong actor to develop the appropriate strategy is to not only fully understand the nature of its enemy, but to also understand the operating environment—both at home and abroad. Failure to account for these factors will likely mean a decreased winning percentage for strong actors engaged in an irregular war against a significantly weaker adversary.
    All being said, a strong power (considering intervention) has a lot of questions to answer before taking the leap.

    Regards

    Mike

  6. #26
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    The OP deals with Chemo, Surgery and Voom - which means that almost anything is fair game for discussion.
    Actually the OP referred specifically to terrorism, and was built around references to a speech that dealt specifically with AQ. How we got from there to insurgency, populaces, nation-building, and world-building is an interesting question. Conversation creep, perhaps.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  7. #27
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The discussion was of AQ, how did it move to insurgency and populaces? AQ is not an insurgency and has no populace, seems to be wandering a bit off the topic.
    AQ indeed is not an insurgent.

    AQ indeed has no populace.

    The hard fact is that without the insurgent populaces of others AQ would just be a bunch of radical crackpots of no consequence.

    But the other hard fact is that many populace groups in many countries across the greater Middle East have high conditions of insurgency and are either suppressed currently from acting out, or are actively acting out. This is the energy source that gives AQ significance.

    AQ conducts what in US Doctrine is called Unconventional Warfare. They leverage the insurgent populaces of others to advance their own agenda for their own purposes. Just as the Soviets did throughout the Cold War. Just as the US did throughout the Cold War.

    This is a reality of the new information age. Not only is it harder for governments to keep insurgent populaces suppressed, or to suppress insurgent populaces once they go active; but equally it empowers non-state actors such as AQ to conduct a distributed, networked approach to UW.

    It is a bold new world. Age old dynamics, but leveraged as never before through the tools of modern technology. Now more than ever people matter. Now more than ever governments must actually seriously take into account how their actions will affect people. This is not limited to the people living within some system of governance alone, but also people everywhere who are affected by that governance.

    US governance affects people all over the world. AQ is leveraging that fact to recruit members of insurgent populaces to join their ranks as foreign fighters and as terrorist operatives. AQ is also leveraging that fact to gain influence among such insurgent populaces and the insurgent groups that emerge from such populaces as part of their UW campaign.

    The great irony for the US is that in many cases it is AQ that is in the role of "de Oppresso Liber" while it is the US dedicated to sustaining in power the regimes these populaces rise against. Many don't want a radical Islamist solution for governance. Many don't want complete change of their governance. Most only want a few, small but significant changes to bring governance into synch with the evolving will and expectations of the people it affects.

    Those who feel the US is losing control and should double down on seeking to sustain outdated relationships are calling for an approach that is far more likely to make terrorism worse, not better. Neither should the US simply turn our backs or call for government leaders to stand down. Better we act as mediator to bring the parties to the table to work these things out without the avoidable chaos that is Syria today, or Libya last year.

    We need a new approach to foreign policy that allows us to build and wield influence without relying so heavily on regime change, nation building or overly broad programs of targeted killing.

    We can do this, and it will be far cheaper and far less offensive to those it affects, and much more insynch with US principles than approaches of the past decade.

    But if one can't see that suppressed insurgent populaces and a US policy perceived as keeping the status quo in place as a major aspect of the energy source powering this, then one is not likely to get past programs designed to simply "defeat, disrupt, or deny" the symptoms of the problem.
    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)

  8. #28
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    (...)energy source(...)leverage(...)new information age(...)empowers non-state actors(...)distributed, networked approach(...)bold new world(...)operatives(...)sustain(...)
    Error - error - error. Buzzword overload pre-empts actually reading the text.
    Press any key to reboot.

  9. #29
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    People are more informed so governments must listen and govern.

    It takes increasing amount of effort (money, force, etc) to keep restless people suppressed.
    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)

  10. #30
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Bold claim, which takes a whole lot of historical analysis and knowledge to support properly.


    I have doubts.

    Taken from a blog which I happen to know well:

    An excerpt from the letters of Pliny ( a correspondence between magistrate Pliny the Younger and the Roman emperor Trajan):

    To the emperor Trajan

    While I was making a progress in a different part of the province, a most destructive fire broke out at Nicomedia, which not only consumed several private houses, but also two public buildings; the town-house and the temple of Isis, though they stood on contrary sides of the street. The occasion of its spreading thus wide, was partly owing to the violence of the wind, and partly to the indolence of the people, who, it appears, stood fixed and idle spectators of this terrible calamity. The truth is, the city was not furnished with either engines, buckets, or any single instrument proper to extinguish fires: which I have now, however, given directions to be provided. You will consider, Sir, whether it may not be advisable to form a company of firemen, consisting only of one hundred and fifty members. I will take care none but firemen shall be admitted into it; and that the privileges granted them shall not be extended to any other purpose. As this corporate body will be restricted to so small a number of members, it will be easy to keep them under proper regulation.

    Trajan to Pliny

    You are of opinion it would be proper to establish a company of firemen in Nicomedia, agreeably to what has been practiced in several other cities. But it is to be remembered, that societies of this sort have greatly disturbed the peace of the province in general, and of those cities in particular. Whatever name we give them, and for whatever purpose they may be instituted, they will not fail to form themselves soon into political clubs. It will, therefore, be safer, to provide such equipment as is of service in extinguishing fires, enjoining the owners of houses to assist in preventing the mischief from spreading; and if it should be necessary, to call in the aid of the populace.

    Many authors in newspapers, blogs and journals have linked the Arab revolts to social media services in the internet. The Egyptian government seems to agree so far as to cut the internet completely in Egypt yesterday. I'm a bit sceptical and see such services as mere and substitutable tools, but it reminded me of the above quoted ancient letter.

    Maybe all forms of organisation - even online friends networks and the like - have an inherent potential for political purposes. Maybe modern dictatorships really need to suppress even such forms of organisations / "societies". This might put them at an even greater systemic disadvantage in comparison to open societies than otherwise.
    Maybe you underestimate the role of human nature and overemphasize the attention-grabbers of the day a bit.



    You're from the U.S..
    There was a certain movement from 2008 on, with quite agitated people. Did an unusually high level of "being informed" play a noticeable role in this movement or maybe more mundane, lesser things?

  11. #31
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    But the other hard fact is that many populace groups in many countries across the greater Middle East have high conditions of insurgency and are either suppressed currently from acting out, or are actively acting out. This is the energy source that gives AQ significance.
    Is that really "the energy source that gives AQ significance"? I'm not at all convinced that it is. A statement like that requires supporting arguments, it can't simply be proclaimed as revealed truth.

    I just read this on another thread, it seemed worth re-quoting here:

    Al-Shabaab presents its mission in cosmic terms, invoking a civilisational conflict between the forces of Islam and non-Islam. This is coupled with attempts to develop an ‘ummah consciousness’ in potential recruits, encouraging them to identify with Muslim causes worldwide. Typically, the suffering of Muslims around the world is juxtaposed with the ease of life in the West. The central tenet of this messaging is that faith necessitates action, and Muslims need to recalibrate their priorities by placing the liberation of Muslim lands ahead of esoteric matters of faith.
    I think the same might well be said of AQ. It might be said as well that AQ established this template.

    I see no evidence to suggest that AQ draws its primary impetus from populaces angry at their own governments. AQ and its predecessor organizations have drawn their primary support base from Muslim resentment toward infidel occupation of Muslim lands, first the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and subsequently the American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. AQ has tried very hard to muster sentiment against Muslim rulers of Muslim countries, but they've generally failed pretty miserably. The only narrative that's ever really worked for them is "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful", which is why they rapidly fade into irrelevance when there's no infidel to expel. Paradoxically that situation makes them more dangerous, as they're likely to try to provoke an incursion that will restore their relevance, but ultimately I think the best way to starve AQ is to stop occupying Muslim countries and deprive them of that core narrative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    US governance affects people all over the world. AQ is leveraging that fact to recruit members of insurgent populaces to join their ranks as foreign fighters and as terrorist operatives. AQ is also leveraging that fact to gain influence among such insurgent populaces and the insurgent groups that emerge from such populaces as part of their UW campaign.
    Again, I don't think these people are driven by the "insurgent populace" model at all. They aren't trying to strike a blow against their own government. They see themselves not joining an insurgency (in which they fight their government) but a war pitting the devout against the infidel worldwide, a war in which they travel to the battlefields of the day. The assumption that the core dynamic driving AQ is between governments and their own populaces is very questionable and requires supporting evidence to be accepted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Better we act as mediator to bring the parties to the table to work these things out without the avoidable chaos that is Syria today, or Libya last year.
    That sounds to me like an absolutely disastrous prospect. I don't think we have any credibility at all as mediator among other governments or between governments and their populaces. No mediator can be effective unless all parties to the dispute accept the mediator and desire mediation, and that's not likely to happen with us in the picture. Better to mind our own business than to try to impose ourselves in a role we cannot play and where we are not welcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    We need a new approach to foreign policy that allows us to build and wield influence without relying so heavily on regime change, nation building or overly broad programs of targeted killing.
    Agreed, but I don't see us doing that by messing in the internal affairs of other countries, even if we convince ourselves that we're messing on behalf of "the people".

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    But if one can't see that suppressed insurgent populaces and a US policy perceived as keeping the status quo in place as a major aspect of the energy source powering this, then one is not likely to get past programs designed to simply "defeat, disrupt, or deny" the symptoms of the problem.
    Seems to me that the US policies that have most fed this are polices aimed at altering the status quo, not at sustaining it... supporting the mujahedin against the Soviets in Afghanistan, regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Not that I think we should be sustaining the status quo, but in most of the Muslim world the status quo doesn't rely on our sustenance anyway. Trying to change the status quo in ways that we think the populace will like is just going to work us deeper into the scheisse.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Fuchs,

    Perhaps you read my words and ascribe meanings I do not attempt to convey as you shape them to fit your own bias?

    My work is all about human nature. I believe that good tactics in COIN, or dealing with populace-based problems requires a deep understanding of the particular people one is working with. Good tactics demands we appreciate how people are different. But good strategy for dealing with such problems demands we appreciate how people are the same. Over time and and space and across cultures there are strong threads of human nature that bind us all. It is when we fail to recognize these threads, or when we arrogantly think they do not apply to us or our particular situation, that we tend to get into trouble.

    Did Caesar struggle with insurgencies? Of course, it is human nature to resist against a system of governance one does not accept. Several other factors contribute to why societies resist or revolt against governance. So Caesar built roads and fleets to move his legions from one problematic spot to the next efficiently so as to retain control of the empire. This is what successful empires do, they build the minimum force necessary to sustain the status quo, and develop infrastructure that facilitates that effort.

    But soon it was not just the emperor's legions and his goods moving on those roads and vessels. All manner of commerce, migration and information moved with greater speed as well. This breakthrough in "information technology" designed to ease the control of empire soon drove the cost of sustaining empire to exceed the benefits. When people cannot be controlled in isolation, they will tend to act out en mass.

    The same happened to the Holy Roman empire upon the advent of the printing press. When Rome could no longer control information and knowledge, they soon could no longer control those many diverse people who increasingly came to question the legitimacy of that system of rule.

    Great Britain's empire began before the age of steam powered industry and transportation and electronic communications. But as their empire was a major facilitator of developing and expanding those technologies in efforts to maximize the income from their far flung possessions, it was those very technologies that soon came to tax the ability of a government in London to exercise control over diverse populaces around the world. As some of the first to rebel noted in America "An island cannot role a continent"! Nor can an island rule the world - not when the populaces of that world are not isolated into virtual islands of ignorance of how their situation compares to that of the situations of others.

    The Soviets offered glasnost to the suppressed populaces of the Soviet Union in the hopes that this "openness" and increased transparency of governance would reduce criticisms of governance. Instead it provided a catalyst of information empowerment to many diverse populaces across the empire, and within a decade the empire collapsed. Oh, it could have sustained itself for decades no doubt, through generations of bloody, suppressive state violence and control over the people, but Gorbachev did what few in his position have done before or since: He let the people go, and in so doing sealed the fate of the Soviet empire.

    What is going on today in the Middle East is little different. A region of frozen conflicts, autocratic regimes, and powerful external influences. The people there are informed now in ways they have never been before, and with no threat of Soviet dominion to serve as rationale for accepting a much more benign brand of Western manipulation they are drawing courage from each other and acting out to force their own governments to listen and evolve, and to remove what they deem as inappropriate external influence.

    As you say, this is human nature. But the speed, scope and scale of events is new. The cost of influence has dropped radically, so that now a small group of networked individuals can conduct UW more effectively than major states such as Russia or the US could in their prime. Equally the cost of control is going up. Governments overly reliant on control to sustain an artificial stability create very brittle systems, and those systems are shattering. Governments that have more flexible systems are also under pressure to evolve, but are better able to flex and bend and continue on.

    Governments must evolve in how they govern at home and in how they pursue their polices and interests abroad.

    The US is an interesting case. We have tremendous flexibility at home, but in our approaches overseas we cling to rigid systems designed for containing great threats or for bringing some colonial possession back into a "stable enough" status that ensures the costs do not exceed the benefits.

    When we learn how to facilitate and accept for others the same freedoms we demand for ourselves, we will break free from the challenges of this period of post -Cold War transition and enter a new age of American influence. But if we cling to the past and the comfort of a status quo designed by and for us, it will break us, just as it has so many before us.

    After all, it is human nature.
    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 Fuchs's Avatar
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    I'm not convinced that costs or ease changed a lot, for much influence works best with much charisma, and that's still working the old-fashioned way.

    Look up how many millions of poorly informed, technology-devoid Indians were harnessed by Gandhi for the struggle for independence.

    Obama is known for savvy campaign organisation, but it was a simple, old-fashioned convention speech which catapulted him into the race in the first place.

    Walesa started the downfall of the Warsaw Pact as a labour leader with a simple worker's strike at a Polish shipyard when the time was ripe.
    ____________

    To me, new technologies and all the other changes that supposedly shook supposedly stable regimes so much are merely old wine in new bottles.

    I'm coming from a history-swallowing background here, with much more history knowledge about thousands of years and five continents than one actually needs in life. Thus I see rarely anything really new.


    Look, a singer can probably push a regime over the brink with a popular song and music video that's on almost all smartphones in the country and copied like a virus.
    Just as well, a hundred years ago the singer would probably have composed a simple song everyone can sing - and almost everyone would sing, teaching others this way.*
    The smartphone is a mere superficiality.
    ______________

    One more:
    An old boss of mine once explained to me why in his opinion the Dutch and Danes are much better at getting things done with political innovation and experiments than Germans: Whenever there's a challenge, they have one or maybe two university institutes as scientific advisors and thus usually one advising voice.
    The German government on the other hand has a whole committee of scientific advisors from dozens of universities. There's almost never just one voice, and the different politicians pick the advice they like and don't get anything experimental of consequence done.

    I suppose the overall noise level and diversity of voices heard from new technologies, new institutions et cetera does also have an element that promotes inaction.


    __________________
    *:
    Als Adam grub und Eva spann wo war denn da der Edelmann? / When Adam dug and Eve spun, where was then the aristocrat?
    This simple line is still associated with the huge peasant revolts in Germany of around 1525, when huge peasant armies overwhelmed the ruling class in Southern Germany and were only defeated with help from North Germany and mercenary support.
    It didn't take any modern technologies then to set ablaze much of Central Europe within months, almost turning around a thousand years-old dominant order of society.
    Last edited by Fuchs; 11-27-2012 at 03:37 PM.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Look, a singer can probably push a regime over the brink with a popular song and music video that's on almost all smartphones in the country and copied like a virus.
    The thing is that it is typically only in retrospect that we know that the regime was on the brink!
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  15. #35
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    People with close-up knowledge of the country in question often sense such developments 'a bit' earlier than the foreign public.

    Your foreign politicians won't get such news in their intel dossiers in time if your intelligence agency co-operates industriously with the dictator's domestic intelligence agency, of course.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Did Caesar struggle with insurgencies?

    ...But soon it was not just the emperor's legions and his goods moving on those roads and vessels. All manner of commerce, migration and information moved with greater speed as well. This breakthrough in "information technology" designed to ease the control of empire soon drove the cost of sustaining empire to exceed the benefits. When people cannot be controlled in isolation, they will tend to act out en mass.

    The same happened to the Holy Roman empire upon the advent of the printing press. When Rome could no longer control information and knowledge, they soon could no longer control those many diverse people who increasingly came to question the legitimacy of that system of rule.

    Great Britain's empire began before the age of steam powered industry and transportation and electronic communications. But as their empire was a major facilitator of developing and expanding those technologies in efforts to maximize the income from their far flung possessions, it was those very technologies that soon came to tax the ability of a government in London to exercise control over diverse populaces around the world.

    ...The Soviets offered glasnost to the suppressed populaces of the Soviet Union in the hopes that this "openness" and increased transparency of governance would reduce criticisms of governance. Instead it provided a catalyst of information empowerment to many diverse populaces across the empire, and within a decade the empire collapsed. Oh, it could have sustained itself for decades no doubt, through generations of bloody, suppressive state violence and control over the people, but Gorbachev did what few in his position have done before or since: He let the people go, and in so doing sealed the fate of the Soviet empire.
    All of these seem to wedge the history into the theory, and I'd have to question the fit: in each of these cases there were many factors active and the spread of information was not necessarily the dominant factor in any case.

    In any event the fall of empires past seems of questionable relevance to the fight against terrorism and AQ. The US is not en empire, and does not hold the Middle East as an Imperial possession, neither does AQ threaten the existence of the US. The Middle Eastern countries now facing actual or potential upheaval are not parts of any empire, each has its own internal issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    What is going on today in the Middle East is little different. A region of frozen conflicts, autocratic regimes, and powerful external influences. The people there are informed now in ways they have never been before, and with no threat of Soviet dominion to serve as rationale for accepting a much more benign brand of Western manipulation they are drawing courage from each other and acting out to force their own governments to listen and evolve, and to remove what they deem as inappropriate external influence.
    I think it's very different indeed from any of the cited examples.

    Certainly there's a great deal of tension between governments and various populaces and popular factions all over the Middle East, and in many other places as well. That's not about us, though, and our role in the resolution of those tensions is and should be generally pretty minimal. In some cases there may be scope for action by the US or other outside parties, but only when it's asked for and clearly needed: the last thing we want to do is to try and impose ourselves as a mediator, still less as a spokesperson for "the populace".

    The link between AQ and this populace/government internal dynamic is the weakest point in your argument, and you've presented little evidence or reasoning to support it. It seems to me that AQ grows less out of the tension between individual Muslim governments and their own populaces than out of a perceived tension between a long-oppressed but rising Islam and a long-dominant but crumbing West. Again, AQ have tried to extend that perception to generate support against Muslim governments they dislike, but those efforts have seen very limited success. Tho only narrative that's ever really worked for them is opposition to direct foreign occupation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Equally the cost of control is going up. Governments overly reliant on control to sustain an artificial stability create very brittle systems, and those systems are shattering. Governments that have more flexible systems are also under pressure to evolve, but are better able to flex and bend and continue on.
    The cost of controlling what, for whom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    When we learn how to facilitate and accept for others the same freedoms we demand for ourselves, we will break free from the challenges of this period of post -Cold War transition and enter a new age of American influence. But if we cling to the past and the comfort of a status quo designed by and for us, it will break us, just as it has so many before us.
    When we learn that the internal affairs of other nations are not our business, and that we've no business trying to define any other government's relationship with its populaces, we may (or may not) begin the process of extracting our collective head from out collective bung. That may take time and effort; it's been there a while and it's in deep.

    There's a lot to be thrashed out, all over the world. Most of it isn't about us, though it may have some effect on us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    After all, it is human nature.
    It's also human nature to shove reality into our pet theories, whether or not it fits.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The theory comes from history, not the other way around.

    Too many seek to understand and solve "terrorism" and "insurgency" wholly within the context of a particular place and time and set of facts, and wholly within the context of the mission and ability of their particular institution sent out to deal with the same. This is so incredibly limiting.

    Our history books love the war stories, but more often the truly interesting and helpful insights are buried in footnotes, or must be derived from clues authors sprinkle across their text without even being aware they are doing so. Often their main points and conclusions are of questionable value, but buried within the verbiage they use to make those points one finds the nuggets that helps form greater understanding.

    Consider this popular example. Comparing British tactics in Malaya to US tactics in Vietnam is great sport; but it offers very little toward the understanding of why either situation occurred to begin with or equally what led to one result in one place, and very different results in the other. No pure military study helps one get to better understanding of what the truly interesting and important lessons from those conflicts are.

    Military professionals love to put these conflicts into the context of war, identify a "threat" and wage war against it.

    Development professionals love to put these conflicts into the context of basic needs, identify ways to meet those needs, and then poor money and energy into addressing them.

    Governance professionals look for external factors for why they might be so rudely, illegally, and quit often violently, challenged in their governance. They then place blame on those external factors and set out to defeat them. This might be some ideology or form of governance different than the one they promote, or it might be some "malign" and "evil" competitor internal or external to the state that is somehow leading the populace to this dangerous state.

    This is all human nature as well. People are the common thread. We are assigned roles and we play those roles out. History repeats over and over again as these roles are cast in the universal context of human nature, but flavored with the unique facts of each particular event.

    I know I irritate many on this site when I tend to point out the futility of arguing tactics and weapons when one is pursuing such a flawed strategic understanding to begin with. Likewise when I dare to suggest that Clausewitz's very brilliant insights on war and warfare are often not much help (indeed, often quite dangerous) when applied to the internal conflicts and competition for power internal to some particular populace of system of governance.

    I also know I don't have all the right answers or are asking all of the right questions. But I pursue answers and ask questions all the same. We have an opportunity to evolve, but opportunities only matter if one is willing to risk departing the well trod path of business as usual to pursue other insights that might actually help us get to where we are seeking to go.
    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 Dayuhan's Avatar
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    History's a big place, and you can pick something out of it to support practically any point you want to make.

    I think the comments in the previous posts about the decline of empires are dangerously oversimplified and of debatable relevance to issues between the US and AQ, and more generally between the US and the Islamist terrorist fringe.

    I think you're overrating the extent to which AQ specifically and Islamist terrorism in general derives from an insurgency dynamic, meaning conflict between governments and the citizens of the countries those governments govern. I think the relationship you're claiming needs a great deal more supporting evidence than you're providing.

    I think the model you propose has real relevance to questions of insurgency, but I think, again, that you overrate the connection between AQ and insurgency, and exaggerate the extent to which AQ is a reaction to specifically American actions. The issues you cite can help understand populace/government relations in the Middle East, but I think you overrate the extent to which these conflicts are about us or require our involvement.

    There is real risk in this construct: if we adopt the idea that AQ exists because we "broke" Muslim governments and put them out of touch with their people, some bright person is likely to conclude that we can disable AQ by "fixing" Muslim governments and making them accountable to their people. I can imagine no worse strategy.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    In recent discussions with analysts several have commented on the importance of the local Muslim faith context changing, as the Salaf school gains adherents, so enabling the strand that supports the violent Jihad (Salafism has many strands and may not support the violent Jihad). Islam has changed in many ways recently, notably with external private funding of the more conservative schools of thought - even in places like Kashmir, where a local variant dominated.

    I expect someone has written on this private funding, much of it from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia and the possible impact on the violent Jihad. Suggestions or pointers please.

    We know that the local context can suddenly and rapidly change when foreign fighters arrive to reinforce an existing insurgency. Of late Mali and Syria have been cited as examples, although the Pakistani reinforcement, if not creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan is the most well known example.

    Clint Watts directed attention to a pro-regime, Syrian newspaper report yesterday, so a caveat applies:
    published the names of 142 foreign fighters from 18 countries the regime said were killed alongside rebels in Syria's conflict....47 Saudis, 24 Libyans, 10 Tunisians, nine Egyptians, six Qataris and five Lebanese. It also listed 11 Afghans, five Turks, three Chechens, one Chadian and one Azerbaijani.
    Link:http://www.thenational.ae/news/world..._campaign=feed

    The violent Jihad has a long history before 9/11 and the appearance of AQ. Sometime ago I read a book on them in Imperial India and beyond, they were simply called something else.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    History's a big place, and you can pick something out of it to support practically any point you want to make.

    I think the comments in the previous posts about the decline of empires are dangerously oversimplified and of debatable relevance to issues between the US and AQ, and more generally between the US and the Islamist terrorist fringe.

    I think you're overrating the extent to which AQ specifically and Islamist terrorism in general derives from an insurgency dynamic, meaning conflict between governments and the citizens of the countries those governments govern. I think the relationship you're claiming needs a great deal more supporting evidence than you're providing.

    I think the model you propose has real relevance to questions of insurgency, but I think, again, that you overrate the connection between AQ and insurgency, and exaggerate the extent to which AQ is a reaction to specifically American actions. The issues you cite can help understand populace/government relations in the Middle East, but I think you overrate the extent to which these conflicts are about us or require our involvement.

    There is real risk in this construct: if we adopt the idea that AQ exists because we "broke" Muslim governments and put them out of touch with their people, some bright person is likely to conclude that we can disable AQ by "fixing" Muslim governments and making them accountable to their people. I can imagine no worse strategy.
    These are all fair concerns. But I would offer a few thoughts to consider:

    1. "Simple" and "Simplistic" share the same root word, but are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to understanding some situation. In between the two lay some of our favorite stomping grounds of "complicated," "complex," and "confused." You are very right that "simplistic" solutions do not offer much, unless through pure happenstance they fall upon the right approach. But simple is genius. Simple is so very incredibly difficult to get to yet so very easy to apply. So often we reject simple solutions because we fear they are so, well, "simple," that they could not possibly have merit. So we instead embrace confused, complex and complicated approaches, because if anything is so hard it must be worthwhile, and if I am not producing the results I intended, that is to be expected, after all, this is "complex."

    My goal for years has been to get to "simple." The problem is that once once starts to get close to simple one tends to get farther and farther from the comfortably confused, complex, complicated place where most everyone else is happily mucking around. Thus the quote from Einstein I keep at the bottom of my posts. Einstein was the grand master of simple.

    2. As to AQ, I don't overrate AQ, but certainly our approach to AQ over the past decade-plus holds them in very high esteem. After all, if everything we have so carefully crafted (from our image of ourselves to our goals for the governance of the Middle East, etc) are all falling about our ankles, it must be some very important, very powerful enemy that is causing that to happen. Right? Wrong.

    No, I think AQ is largely a joke, but a very dangerous one who will have the last laugh if we do not stop chasing them in such a complex, complicated, confused manner from pillar to post around the country, with Intel leading our strategy, and military leading our foreign policy, and no nation's sovereignty more important than our own fear of this little band of opportunists.

    We need to strike 80% of the organizations currently on the "terrorist" list off, not add more to. We need to analyze why some group loosely associated with AQ is not part of AQ so the we can address them wisely, not why they are AQ so that we can address them simplistically.

    It is convenient to our egos, and those of the many out of touch regimes around the Middle East, if in fact AQ is Pied Piper, and that they have indeed brain washed good people to do bad things with their radical, Islamist ideology. But the Pied Piper is a fairly tale, and so is the idea that ideology causes terrorism and insurgency. Governments cause these conditions and they manifest deep withing broad segments of any given populace. Governments are the arctic winds blowing down from the north, and insurgent populaces are like large masses of ice that form and break away from the pack to cause trouble. Our COIN and CT approaches go after that aspect of such masses that floats above the surface, and largely ignores the reality that any effort designed to simply shave ice off of the top or to press the entire mass through brute force beneath the surface, out of sight and mind, is a fool's errand. It can produce temporary effects that look like success, but that are very temporary and symptomatic in nature, and that require constant energy to sustain. So the typically fail, unless the warm waters of good governance work to melt and blend that entire mass into the larger sea.

    AQ does not make icebergs, but they work to leverage the destructive energy within and across a sea of such icebergs of popular discontent.

    As to Muslim governments being broken, no, we did not "break" them any more than a rich, entitled man "breaks" his children when he allows them to act out with massive unearned wealth with few rules and little consequence for bad behavior. We have manipulated the governance of the region for our own purposes and our actions have indeed allowed many regimes of the region to act with growing impunity toward their own populaces. Those governments did this of their own free will, they need to own their problems and address them. Most seek to simply bribe or suppress such problems back into submission. This is a new era and I don't think such approaches will work. Those Republicans who yearn for the forced, artificial stability of the final years of the Cold War are idiots, or rather "intelligent fools." Likewise those who think we can "fix" this through regime change, nation building, US values and US-brand democratic governance.

    We did not break this and we cannot fix this. We are, however, the major player in the mix. It is easy for these governments, and for organizations such as AQ to blame the US. This is human nature, just like the US blames AQ and ideology. We can, however, form a more helpful perspective and be willing to accept that change is happening and that many of these systems will find solutions that work for them that do not necessarily make us happy. It is not about us. We must learn when to simply let people sort things out for themselves, and how to better set red-lines for all parties that work to minimize the violence of change, and how to better mediate from neutral positions, rather than mandate from biased positions we take so often.

    So, yes, simple is hard. But it is my goal. But what I offer may not be quite to simple yet, I assure you, it is not simplistic.
    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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