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  1. #1
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    Default A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Porch

    A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Porch

    Entry Excerpt:

    A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Porch:
    Relooking French Encounters in Irregular Warfare in the 19th Century
    by Michael Few

    Download the Full Article: A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Porch

    To complement the recent interviews conducted by Octavian Manea, we reached out to the defense analysts experts at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. In the first interview of this series, Dr. John Arquilla described how he felt that French Encounters with Irregular Warfare in the 19th Century can inform COIN in our time. This rebuttal comes from Dr. Douglas Porch, a historian in the National Security Affairs (NSA) department. This department specializes in the study of international relations, security policy, and regional studies. NSA is unique because it brings together outstanding faculty, students from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard and various civilian agencies, and scores of international officers from dozens of countries for the sole purpose of preparing tomorrow's military and civilian leaders for emerging security challenges. Notable alumni from the NSA department include LTG William H. Caldwell.

    Download the Full Article: A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Porch

    Douglas Porch earned a Ph.D. from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. Currently, he is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.



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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Porch shines a torch on COIN

    Professor Douglas Porch, of NPS, has a new book due out at the end of July 'Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War', which is likely to arouse interest, if not controversy.

    From the summary:
    Douglas Porch's sweeping history of counterinsurgency campaigns carried out by the three 'providential nations' of France, Britain and the United States, ranging from nineteenth-century colonial conquests to General Petraeus's 'Surge' in Iraq, challenges the contemporary mythologising of counterinsurgency as a humane way of war. The reality, he reveals, is that 'hearts and minds' has never been a recipe for lasting stability and that past counterinsurgency campaigns have succeeded not through state-building but by shattering and dividing societies while unsettling civil-military relations.

    (Elsewhere)The reality, he reveals, is that 'hearts and minds' has never been a recipe for lasting stability.
    Link:http://www.amazon.com/Counterinsurge...=douglas+porch and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Counterinsur...=Douglas+Porch

    A very partial review by a Guardian journalist, which includes this:
    The book came from listening to his students, many of whom are seasoned officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who repeatedly told him that COIN hadn't a hope of changing the countries for the better. And when he lost two students to "green on blue attacks", he felt an obligation to expose the official doctrine and, in some way, to stop scholarship being militarised.
    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...oad?CMP=twt_gu

    Professor Porch's NPS entry:http://www.nps.edu/Academics/Schools...lty/porch.html

    I have read and enjoyed two of his books on French military history.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Porch and Gentile books ordered....

    http://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Turn-Ame.../dp/1595588744

    Both have books on COIN coming out and I've pre-ordered both (I think I've mentioned that in a previous thread around here. Maybe I won't be so lazy for a change and write up a review or something. I also plan to read what I suppose might be a bit of a rebuttal, the book by Peter Mansoor on the surge.)

    Sorta kinda related to the point made on the 'benevolence' of "hearts and minds", a recent review:

    “The Imperial lion has roused itself, invoking the Spirit of Clive and of Hastings and Dyer, he roars again,” observed The Daily Tribune in August 1942. Tiring of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress agitating during the war, the British Raj unsheathed the sword. Mass arrests, censorship, and suppression of civil liberties coerced India’s cooperation against the Axis Powers. All pretense of enlightened benevolent rule vanished as Britain showed that its empire, like all others, rested on force.""
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin...iberal-empire/

    As I said in a note to a friend, the last sentence seems to be the point of the papers by Porch that I've read: that force mattered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Professor Douglas Porch, of NPS, has a new book due out at the end of July 'Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War', which is likely to arouse interest, if not controversy.

    From the summary:

    Link:http://www.amazon.com/Counterinsurge...=douglas+porch and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Counterinsur...=Douglas+Porch

    A very partial review by a Guardian journalist, which includes this:

    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...oad?CMP=twt_gu

    Professor Porch's NPS entry:http://www.nps.edu/Academics/Schools...lty/porch.html

    I have read and enjoyed two of his books on French military history.
    David, good catch and the book promises to be provocative. I read several pages on Amazon's website, and this quote is just an example of his diatribe against our current way of war:

    COIN as symbolized by FM 3-24 and the ephemeral tactical triumphs of the Petraeus guys in Anbar join a succession of failed organizational concepts that include the Army of Excellence, the Air Land Battle, through the RMA, and now the SOF-led petty war with conventional units in support-we’re all Chindits now! Not only does the special operations tail wag the conventional army dog in this model, it runs the risk of failing catastrophically in the face of a serious challenge, much as the French Army collapsed in 1870.
    I'm glad to see a dissenting voice, because it seems everyone in the media, academia, and parts of our military have blindly embraced our COIN doctrine. One lone and vocal dissenter Gian was frequently attacked for just not getting it. Our doctrine is flawed and needs to be challenged, maybe with the COINdistas out of the ranks we can approach with a more critical eye now? My concern is we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it is a risk we need to take.

    I especially liked the article you provided the link to, but you may want to remind the author that we no longer have five star generals .

    I didn't see this in the pages provided as re-aheads on Amazon, but apparently Prof Porch makes a supportable argument that democracies that engage in COIN eventually direct those practices against their own populations, thus

    Think of mass surveillance, of drones, secret courts, the militarisation of the police, detention without trial.

    Hannah Arendt identified "the boomerang effect of imperialism on the homeland" in The Origins of Totalitarianism, but the academic Douglas Porch has used the history of Britain, France and America to demonstrate that all the rhetoric about bringing, respectively, Britishness, liberté and freedom and democracy to the "little brown people who have no lights" is so much nonsense and that these brutal adventures almost never work and degrade the democracies that spawned them in the first place.
    His key criticism of Porch's book was that it didn't offer an alternative, and that alone will undermine many of his arguments IMO.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I just got finished reading Into the Fire by Meyer and West and it provided a worms eye view of "COIN", or our idea of it in Afghanistan. Basically you drive into a village for an afternoon every couple of weeks and ask what they need, how is security and have you seen any dushmen. They need everything, security is fine and no we haven't seen any but that next village over is suspect. I have no idea what that is about but anybody in his right mind knows that kind of thing can't work. You can't win any war, large or small, being that stupid. Anybody who successfully prosecuted small wars in the past, and there are lots that were successfully prosecuted, would be completely mystified by that, along with force pro, big bases, short tours in theatre, contracting practices and all the other goofy things we do. If you use "COIN" as a synonym for 'stupid', I'll go along with that but not that small war practices don't often work or that these conflicts can't be won.

    Where did people get the idea that small wars don't involve fighting? If you actually read what went on in those wars you can't get that idea. West's account of Binh Nghia was ambush patrol after ambush patrol and fight after fight. Galula's account of his time in Algeria stresses the number of ambushes laid and how they never slacked off on the number. The Philippines was fighting and figuring how to get at them, or cutting them off from the people by moving the people. Plenty of application of force. Anybody who didn't figure that wasn't paying attention. Again, if "COIN" means stupid, ok.

    That bit about societies being innocent naifs until some small war unleashed the devil within is nonsense. Militarized police, surveillance and all that stuff was happening anyway, in my opinion. To think that mature bureaucracies won't try to grab power is naive. They didn't need some small war to set them along that path. If Ms. Arendt has a different opinion, that is all she has, an opinion. There ain't no way to prove it one way or another.

    It always seemed to me that one of Gian's motivations was to rationalize failure of the establishment big military. The argument seemed to be that small wars couldn't be done therefore big military couldn't be blamed for being stupid when they didn't get it right. A support for that is the either/or approach, we can be good at big wars or small, but not both. That is organizational self serving nonsense. You can be good enough at both, if the leadership is good. Gian's argument is sort of a martial manifestation of a modern American cultural trait, it is never my fault.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Where did people get the idea that small wars don't involve fighting? If you actually read what went on in those wars you can't get that idea. West's account of Binh Nghia was ambush patrol after ambush patrol and fight after fight. Galula's account of his time in Algeria stresses the number of ambushes laid and how they never slacked off on the number. The Philippines was fighting and figuring how to get at them, or cutting them off from the people by moving the people. Plenty of application of force.
    The Americans still lost in Vietnam, and the French still lost in Algeria. The Philippine conflict was a war of colonial conquest; it belongs to another era and has little or no relevance to today's conflicts.

    Would more application of force have "won" in Afghanistan? Maybe, in some places, for a little while. It wouldn't have made the GIRoA any more able to govern, and it wouldn't have made "nation-building" a viable construct.

    First step to winning any war, small or large, is a clear, practical, achievable goal. Not sure we ever had one of those in Afghanistan.
    “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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    Judging by Bill Moore's post, this professor is totally in synch with me.

    I've been writing about the stupidity of small wars, the neglect of conventional military capability (attention-wise, not necessarily budget-wise) and the risk that population control methods devised to control some foreign people may be used at home.


    The forces drawing attention to the current affairs - small wars, stupid anti-piracy patrolling et cetera - are overwhelming, though.
    Last edited by Fuchs; 07-10-2013 at 02:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The Americans still lost in Vietnam, and the French still lost in Algeria. The Philippine conflict was a war of colonial conquest; it belongs to another era and has little or no relevance to today's conflicts.

    Would more application of force have "won" in Afghanistan? Maybe, in some places, for a little while. It wouldn't have made the GIRoA any more able to govern, and it wouldn't have made "nation-building" a viable construct.

    First step to winning any war, small or large, is a clear, practical, achievable goal. Not sure we ever had one of those in Afghanistan.
    All very interesting, but of course none of it has anything to do with the point made in my paragraph that generated it.

    Perhaps you are right that our efforts in the Philippines so long ago are not relevant, but I disagree. I think military history most always has things that are relevant and there are things to be learned, especially small wars. I am probably wrong but this is because small wars seem to be more matters of people than weapons and tech. Steve Blair (I think) has a quote from Fahrenbach about the frontier Army knowing all there was to know about small war fighting. That surely was another era but things learned then are still relevant I think too.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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