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Thread: Porch shines a torch on COIN

  1. #21
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    Dayuhan,

    I agree with your point on historical context and will go out on a limb and state that is fact, not an assumption. However, I need an example on what you mean by humans changing? In what way? Getting fatter and dumber yes, but relevant to strategy and Small Wars in what way are we changing?

  2. #22
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Dayuhan,

    I agree with your point on historical context and will go out on a limb and state that is fact, not an assumption. However, I need an example on what you mean by humans changing? In what way? Getting fatter and dumber yes, but relevant to strategy and Small Wars in what way are we changing?
    Example:

    Go back to Carl's scenario:

    It doesn't matter much why those guys want the villagers to do this or that. They want them to do this or rhat and maybe the villagers don't want to.
    Imagine two such villages, or provinces full of villages, or nations full of villages, in a situation like this. Imagine that those two scenarios are identical in every respect, except one.

    In scenario A, the "villagers" believe, to their core, that "those guys" are their superiors. They have no concept of equality, they have known only submission. They know that "those guys" may be manipulated perhaps, and that they can prosper by joining "those guys" and playing their game, but they know beyond doubt that anyone who tries to directly oppose "those guys" or stand up to them is gonna get nothing but a whuppin', or more likely a killing. They see themselves as completely alone, with little or no chance of finding help or allies.

    In scenario B, the villagers believe, absolutely, that they are equal to "those guys" in every respect. They believe that they have rights. They know "those guys" are stronger and maybe they can't fight them head on,. but they know that there are ways they can be beaten, they know it's been done before and they have a pretty good idea of how it's been done before. They know there are people out there who will help them, and they know how to contact them. They believe that they can fight and they believe that they can win.

    Between these scenarios you have changed nothing but the attitudes and knowledge of the people... but I suspect that from the perspective of the Small Wars operator, you have changed a great deal.

    Now look at it from the perspective of "those guys". In scenario A, "those guys" know they can do any damn thing they please and get away with it. They can kill who they will, torture as they please, burn crops and raze villages, beat and intimidate... and they will face no consequences. n scenario B, "those guys" know that a domestic and international populace that expects them to conform to 21st century human rights standards is watching everything they do. Again, all you've changed is the attitudes of the people on the "those guys" home front... but that change has a profound impact on how "those guys" can prosecute their conflict.

    Carl mentioned that in the in the effort to conquer the American west, Americans once learned "everything there is to know about Small Wars". It is of course absolutely true that genocide is an effective way of resolving a small war. A US Congressman is said to have remarked, after observing the pacification efforts in Northern Luzon, that "they don't rebel any more because there's nobody left to rebel". Those tactics are effective, no doubt. That doesn't do us much good, because we don't do that any more. Our standards have changed, and our expectations of ourselves have changed. We have changed.
    “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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    That makes sense, not sure people are changing, but their perceptions and values are. This seems to be very much what happened during the Arab Spring. The people lost their fear of the government and security forces. If the government is willing and the security forces willing that can viciously suppress the people. If the government leaders don't accept that as option or they lose control of their security forces (Egypt) then that attitude change forces change. I do think it is important to note that for this work the government either must lose control of its coercive security forces, or the people have the means to defend themselves. Good point, one that is obvious in hindsight, but I wasn't following you at first. Thanks.

  4. #24
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    That makes sense, not sure people are changing, but their perceptions and values are. This seems to be very much what happened during the Arab Spring. The people lost their fear of the government and security forces.
    I think changes in perceptions and values do change people. I can think of few things that change a person so thoroughly as self-belief, and the conviction that victory is possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I do think it is important to note that for this work the government either must lose control of its coercive security forces, or the people have the means to defend themselves.
    This is another key reason why I think lessons drawn from wars of colonial conquest have limited applicability to wars fought in support of a foreign government. The colonial conqueror brings an army with him and can be reasonably sure of sustaining its loyalty. The indigenous government has to draw an army from the same populace it governs. When the populace stands up and stops following orders, the army is looking through its sights at their own people. That doesn't always prove to be a constraint, particularly in the short term, but it's certainly something any government that seeks to compel people to do the government's will has to think about.
    “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 carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Just to illustrate, suppose you were a present-day sheriff, or a mayor, in a small racially mixed town in the US with a history of racial issues. One of those places where people know each other by name. If you were to ignore historical context and try to manage those issues in the ways that kept the peace so effectively for your predecessors in, say, the 1950s or the 1920s, how do you think that would work out in today's historical context?
    You miss the essentials of police work. Those don't change. You know the people. You know their neighbors, the neighborhood, their relations, where they work and where they play. You know who can be trusted and who can't, who is reliable and who is not. You know the law and you know when to enforce it to the letter and when to use officer discretion and you know who that is going to work on and who it won't work on. You know how to listen and remember what you hear and connect to other things you hear. You talk to people and say hello to them. You don't provoke people needlessly, that makes for bad blood and trouble where it doesn't have to be. You make sure to they know that when you indicate you mean business there is no mistake. The list goes on.

    These are the essential things, the fundamental things. They don't change. And they don't change because human nature doesn't change. Some things change, the TV stuff that people associate with actual cop work. Yep, not so much rubber hoses nowadays. Good officers never interviewed that way because they knew it didn't work. But the things that differentiate good police work from bad police work, those don't change.

    Similarly, the essentials of small war fighting don't change either. Lt. Johnson and Capt. Pershing would probably have figured things pretty quick if they had been time transported to Afghanistan. Capt. Patriquin and COL McMaster would have figured things out in Moroland with the same alacrity. In my view, small wars are very human affairs which is what makes them so interesting. As such, it is the men who make the difference, their ability to think and figure effectively. That don't change much. Smart men did good then, they do good now. That was Moyar's main point in A Question of Command.
    Last edited by carl; 07-14-2013 at 07:51 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  6. #26
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Carl mentioned that in the in the effort to conquer the American west, Americans once learned "everything there is to know about Small Wars". It is of course absolutely true that genocide is an effective way of resolving a small war. A US Congressman is said to have remarked, after observing the pacification efforts in Northern Luzon, that "they don't rebel any more because there's nobody left to rebel". Those tactics are effective, no doubt. That doesn't do us much good, because we don't do that any more. Our standards have changed, and our expectations of ourselves have changed. We have changed.
    That is a BS argument. Genocide won the west and won the PI and we can't do that anymore so there is nothing much to be learned from those things. That's nonsense. The historical record is detailed and it doesn't show that.

    In fact, I distrust any argument that uses the word 'genocide' anymore. It has evolved from what I consider its proper use to describe something like Rwanda or the Final Solution into a word empty of actual meaning whose use is to shock the uneducated.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  7. #27
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Bill Moore:

    I read that article and was quite impressed. Something jumped out at me though as I read it. The word 'strategy' is so imprecise that its use just muddies the waters. I know it confuses the hell out of me the way it is used. Prof Gray could have written that whole article and never used the word strategy one time. He could have substituted the word wise, wisely, appropriate or a a phrase like 'course of action' or not used the word at all and the article would been just as good and rather more clear. Even Prof Gray mixes things up when he talks about a simple general theory of strategy and adds (or war). What is meant by strategy is just intelligent or wise action guided by some homework and brainwork.

    That is more or less what your two long comments were about too, in my view; they were about the things we did that were dopey and how we could have done some things that weren't so dopey.

    The word had some utility in the past but now I think it has lost it. The way people use it it is as if it is some kind of magic thing that will fix all if only we could think strategically and act so too. That gives it a sort of mystical quality that doesn't advance the discussion in my opinion. I think it much more useful to say something is unwise or stupid instead not being strategic.

    So much for that. The paper made 3 extremely good points. None of them are shining revelations, but small wars have been fought for a long time so there probably aren't any shining revelations that didn't occur to the first or second Pharaoh. But the points are stated extremely well and result in a "Aha! Of course. How come I couldn't see it and say it like that?" moment, at least for me.

    The first is his point about any and all endeavors in small wars are political. You do nothing but battalion sweeps, H&I fire and air strikes and that is political. Not smart maybe but it is just as political as a shura every morning and a jirga every night.

    A second is that the insurgent can mostly afford to get the warring part wrong and still prevail. The incumbent government though cannot. They have to get the warring part right or they lose. That doesn't mean they will win but if they get that part wrong, they will, shura as shootin', lose.

    The third is extremely important and is about political, cross border sanctuary. He says that if the benefits of shutting down the sanctuary aren't judged to be worth the costs, you had better rethink the whole thing and probably give it up.
    Last edited by carl; 07-14-2013 at 08:42 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  8. #28
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    Default Before you jump in, you need to know what you are doing

    That's what I get from this conversation.

    First, you have to ask yourself:

    1. What is the most important issue to address for American security?

    Then, you have to ask yourself:

    2. What should we do about it? (Or is benign neglect an option?)

    And, in the process, you need to ask yourself: "what is sustainable," and "what can work given our system of government and our own culture?"

    As far as I can see, when it comes to Afghanistan, our security elites first went off to Iraq, and then decided that the lessons it learned regarding countering insurgencies in the midst of the Iraqi civil war would be the main lens through which we would view our mission in Afghanistan. This was our response to 9-11. This doesn't even get into the Saudis and our relationship with them.

    We are trying to negotiate a SOFA so that we can keep troops in Afghanistan. Working as a third party has constraints. A plan that doesn't recognize that is not a good plan. Initially, right after 9-11, had we not been diverted to Iraq, maybe an occupation government might have worked for a while.

    It will not work now. Bob Jones once suggested (tongue in cheek to make a point, I'm assuming?) arresting Karzai. That will never happen and if we tried now, we'd be facing a NA, warlord and Taliban insurgency. And we'd break the international alliance

    Somehow, in response to the Afghan disorder partially created by neighboring intelligence agencies, the US and its allies decided that building a centralized working Afghan government within a ten-to-twenty year window would be our response to 9-11.

    We paid a lot money over the years for allies to "do counterinsurgency," and not just in Iraq or Afghanistan. We funded all sides of conflict. Congress only recently cut the funding to some nations but the coindinistas would have funded this supposedly brilliant plan forever, because, uh,"Galula!"

    Somehow, the tactics of imperial small wars and the diplomacy of Cold War modernization was supposed to beat back this disorder and convince regional players not to be so naughty.

    For over a year now, our organization, Shafafiyat at ISAF, has worked with Afghan leaders to reduce the threat that corruption and organized crime present to our shared goals in Afghanistan. From the outset of our efforts, we have engaged continually with representatives from Afghan civil society, with students like you, and with officials from across the Afghan government, to develop a common understanding of the corruption problem—and to frame the problem from the perspective of those who have experienced it—as a basis for shared action and reform. We have been very fortunate to have inspiring partners in this effort who have helped us define, understand, and begin devising solutions to the problem. Afghans have been our teachers, helping us to understand how we can ensure that our development and security efforts are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
    - Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster: Anti-corruption speech at American University of Afghanistan

    http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/tra...ghanistan.html

    Aid is fungible. We have paid for all sides of this conflict for ages. That includes regional nukes, from the 80's onward, the nuclear umbrella under which the disorder is partially being run.

    How the American military got to this point will be the subject of historians and scholars for ages and ages. But I fell for some of it early on so I guess I should learn to be little less judgemental.

  9. #29
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    Default I posted the following before:

    Douglas Porch at bookforum:

    http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/015_03/2750

    Previously in another thread I mentioned an article by Matthew Cavanaugh, at West Point. The article is in Infinity Journal (and he is a student of Colin Gray's?)
    and mentions that like only a few percent of West Point students take an elective in strategy.

    https://www.infinityjournal.com/arti..._Adaptability/

    I also think that until fairly recently, for the American military, Saudi-US-Israel alliance against Iran and our old security relationships in AfPak from the Soviet times blinded us to alternate narratives. We really believed some strange mythology related to our time in Afghanistan countering the Soviets, or, at least, American military men and women of a certain generation.

    State is pretty awful too. One should read some of the late Indian defense analyst B. Raman's writing on the subject of State and its weird clientitis in the region. It's stunning. To back it up with American arguments, you can look at the arguments by John Glenn during the early 90s.

    Plus, I am sorry to say, money and the making of it via contracts in DC pretty much runs a lot of our foreign policy and this supports bad military thinking and strategy.

    PS: A nice supplement to the Gray article is the interview by Harry Summers I have been posting around here:

    http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/con.../summers2.html

    Sorry my comments are so disjointed, I'm in a rush. I may clean them up later.
    Last edited by Madhu; 07-14-2013 at 10:51 PM. Reason: Added PS

  10. #30
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Critics gone wild: COIN as the root of all evil

    A lengthy review by David Ucko of Porch's book alongside Gina Gentile's 'Wrong Turn' by David Ucko, which in places is very critical. Deserves a longer read, maybe even printing off:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/1...18.2014.893972

    It also provides a glimpse into david Ucko's own book, which has been reviewed on SWJ.

    The review appears in the journal Small Wars & Insurgencies and is not behind a paywall.
    davidbfpo

  11. #31
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    I have recently purchased a copy of Porch's book, along with two others so a review in a few months time.

    Then today I was reminded in this blog article that Porch believes "COIN has come home":
    a much deeper trend is at work, which is the theme of a brilliant but little known book, Counterinsurgency, by an American military academic Douglas Porch. Porch follows the insight of Hannah Arendt who noted in The Origins of Totalitarianism that the violence and racism that accompanies imperial conquest abroad usually has a boomerang effect on the homeland. Porch shows how counterinsurgency strategies such as those used in Palestine by the British and Algiers by the French had far reaching domestic consequences.....

    In his conclusion, he writes, "Nor has the United States escaped the domestic consequences of the global war on terror which recalls the British and French cases: democratic dissent is first colonialised (by which I think he means made alien) and then criminalised."
    Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkin...-on-greenpeace
    davidbfpo

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