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Thread: Lost Lessons & Fresh Thinking: a challenge for SWC

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    Council Member Morgan's Avatar
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    Moderator's Note

    The catalyst for this thread's creation comes from the discussion in the re-opened thread 'Recruiting for SWC members because....':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3837

    A number of relevant posts have been edited and copied over.

    Perhaps this challenge has appeared before in discussions and maybe even a thread, for as one recent poster noted:
    Groundhog Day. I felt like I was making the same arguments over and over.
    (Ends)


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    It does seem we're often kicking a dead horse. I also agree with whoever wrote that the quality of the articles overall are going down, and if peer review was mandated SWJ would return to it original quality level articles.
    I, too, hope I'm not looked upon as one of "those people" that is less than qualified to add to the discussion on here.

    As to the topics being discussed, while some have been discussed at length, some have barely been addressed.

    For example I just ran across an article about a proposal to create a new agency....US Office of Contingency Operations. Apparently, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas has put forth HR 2606 that advocates the creation of an agency that is designed to focus on stabilization & reconstruction operations instead of relying on ad-hoc relationships seen during the last 10+ years. I advocated something similar (Bureau of Strategic Assistance) in an earlier article. I think this proposal is a pretty good idea. Any takers on this new topic of discussion?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-03-2013 at 11:05 AM. Reason: Add Mods Note to explain copied over with 16 others

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    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill...r2606#overview

    4% chance of getting past committee.
    1% chance of being enacted.
    This overall idea is far from new, I only posted the link above to provide "one" perspective on the possibility of it going anywhere.

    The following link is more entertaining.

    http://www.phibetaiota.net/2010/01/j...cy-operations/

    “That proposal may be controversial in some circles — particularly in areas the development community, where there’s concern that USOCO might represent a more cumbersome bureaucratic structure. But Bowen’s idea is attracting some powerful allies, like the widely admired former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. “I do support the concept,” Crocker, the incoming dean of the George Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University, emailed me. “The current situation requires a perpetual reinventing of wheels and a huge amount of effort by those trying to manage contingencies.”
    Don't forget rice bowls (U.S. Dept of State and USAID).

    http://www.state.gov/j/cso/releases/...013/206410.htm

    GOAL #1. Make an impact in three or four places of strategic significance: In 2012, CSO focused 80 percent of its effort on four major engagements – Burma, Honduras, Kenya and Syria. CSO also worked in more than 15 other countries, including Afghanistan, Belize, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.
    Clearly an argument can be made that all these countries are so much better since CSO has intervened on their behalf; however, I can't make it.

    It is a worthwhile topic to resurface, I realize OCO is a new proposal, but it is the same gal we talked about before. She is just wearing a different dress.

    My two cents:

    Cent one: If we're going to do it, we should of course endeavor to do it effectively.

    Cent two: There is no clear linkage between doing reconstruction and stability in areas where the conflict is based on ethnic conflict. So even if we do it get right, which is doubtful, what will it accomplish? That is how I would frame the debate.

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    Default On the quality of participation

    This is my opinion. As such it is clearly open to challenge. But it is based on a fair historical perspective and so might be worth something. At the height of the COIN revival I was fearful that we would fall back into the default mode of trying to forget about small wars as we did after Vietnam. We also did the same after every single major war we have fought. After the Revolution we fought Indians in the Northwest Territories and Florida but then along came the War of 1812 with a major conventional enemy (and we darn near lost the war). After New Orleans we fought Indians again all over the West. Then along came the Mexican War against a major conventional enemy and Scott, Taylor, and Doniphan led us to victory. After that we had to learn to fight Indians all over again. In 1861 along came the civil war with West Pointers fighting West Pointers. Big armies on the move. Lots of technical innovation. After it was all over and Sheridan had scared the French out of Mexico massing 50,000 troops on the border, we had to learn to fight Indians again. Then we fought Spain in 1898 - it is amazing how many former Confederate generals marched again to the sound of the guns in the blue and khaki uniforms of the US, Fitzhugh Lee and William Oates come to mind. In the aftermath, the dirty little wars in the Philippines and Caribbean raised up and Pershing chased Pancho Villa all over Northern Mexico but we had to learn that these weren't the kinds of wars we were prepared to fight because people were not only not learning the lessons, they weren't even recording them. WWI was followed by the Banana Wars which only the Marines were interested enough to record but they were also preparing for the next big one. They published their Small Wars Manual at almost the same time as their Tentative Landing Operations Manual which was a major influence on conventional operations in WWII.

    The point of all this is that neither our political nor our military leaders like the small, nasty, dirty wars. We all want to fight the "big one" (why are we pivoting toward Asia? - not merely for the obvious and real threat of China). As the small wars wind down, interest fall off among both military and civilian national security analysts. This leaves the door open for smart, intelligent challenges to the prevailing wisdom of small wars - challenges like those of Gian Gentile both on these pages and his new book. As for our junior officers, they are looking at being assigned to units planning against conventional conflicts with China (perhaps) and certainly not toward Iraq now seen in the media as a totally foolish effort without any redeeming social virtue or Afghanistan which our president says we are leaving in 2014 regardless of conditions on the ground. The Administration has floated the idea of no residual force of any kind - the zero option. and who wants to be the last casualty of a war we have deemed is not worth fighting anyway? As a result, interest in our broad topic has died down.

    This fact - loss of broader interest - makes our forum (Journal and Council alike) all the more important. Here we can not only record the lessons we needed to learn but debate them and, perhaps, allow the next generation to actually learn them and not make the same mistakes that we and previous generations made.

    On that note

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I agree with you, John, and have commented many times here about the similarities I feared (and am seeing) between what the Army (and military generally) did after Vietnam and what they're doing now. It's been something of a historical pattern for the US, and one that is concerning (or should be, at least). Information, knowledge, discussion, and historical context for small wars are all things that need to be preserved and continued. If not us, who?
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The pattern which irritates me is that the U.S. returns into the wars of choice business again and again, no matter how poor an investment it is.

    I don't care about whether it's a very poor or skilled and thus simple poor investment. Neither should be done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I agree with you, John, and have commented many times here about the similarities I feared (and am seeing) between what the Army (and military generally) did after Vietnam and what they're doing now. It's been something of a historical pattern for the US, and one that is concerning (or should be, at least). Information, knowledge, discussion, and historical context for small wars are all things that need to be preserved and continued. If not us, who?
    Institutionally yes, at the individual level I still see a high level of interest. Those of us in the SW community have to take some responsibility also, because we have a number of amateurish articles that claim all future wars will be small wars, and there has been too much non-critical comments on our COIN doctrine within our own community. In many ways the Small Wars tribe isn't that much different than the Big Wars tribe.

    If we were more self-critical and receptive to non-doctrinal ideas instead of being perceived as COIN doctrine Kool-Aid drinkers (doesn't apply to all, or even most, but it does to many of our most vocal and well known SW advocates), and we provided options that supported achieving the balance between capabilities that SECDEF Gates advocated we may be in a different place. I too share your concerns that we'll throw the baby out with the bathwater, based on the past decade of far less than successful small wars. If our community provides options for future defense policy makers that address all security concerns (and hopefully our diehards in SWJ realize there are more security concerns than Small Wars) then maybe we'll bring the more rational and deep thinkers on war back into the community? SWJ has provided a great service to the national security discussions from the tactical to strategic levels, we just need to realize where our nation is at now and find a way to contribute to that dialogue in way that keeps small wars in the discussion.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Institutionally yes, at the individual level I still see a high level of interest. Those of us in the SW community have to take some responsibility also, because we have a number of amateurish articles that claim all future wars will be small wars, and there has been too much non-critical comments on our COIN doctrine within our own community. In many ways the Small Wars tribe isn't that much different than the Big Wars tribe.

    If we were more self-critical and receptive to non-doctrinal ideas instead of being perceived as COIN doctrine Kool-Aid drinkers (doesn't apply to all, or even most, but it does to many of our most vocal and well known SW advocates), and we provided options that supported achieving the balance between capabilities that SECDEF Gates advocated we may be in a different place. I too share your concerns that we'll throw the baby out with the bathwater, based on the past decade of far less than successful small wars. If our community provides options for future defense policy makers that address all security concerns (and hopefully our diehards in SWJ realize there are more security concerns than Small Wars) then maybe we'll bring the more rational and deep thinkers on war back into the community? SWJ has provided a great service to the national security discussions from the tactical to strategic levels, we just need to realize where our nation is at now and find a way to contribute to that dialogue in way that keeps small wars in the discussion.
    Bill,

    One of the problems I've seen historically is that this topic is usually viewed as an "either/or" sort of statement. There's too often a tendency to shove one of the topics off the table to make room for the other (or the "flavor of the month"). Obviously there are more security concerns than Small Wars, but small wars are the problem that just doesn't want to go away. I don't vocally advocate for one over the other: obviously they're equally important in a sense, with one or the other getting priority depending on the international situation. But I do worry that (yet again) we'll shed any number of hard-learned lessons (or learn the wrong ones) in our rush away from the current situation. We've done that so well too many times in the past.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I suspect that the SWC was built on several pillars, such as frustration, interest and hope.

    Hope came with innocence, and a belief that we could "fix" these problems, or "win" these conflicts on our terms.

    That innocence is lost, hope is forlorn, and interest is waning. This is human nature.

    Perhaps the members, like the services, are gathering up their lessons learned from this experience and leaning forward for the next, hopefully "better" conflict.

    One of the big tactical ideas born of the past decade was that of "population-centric approaches." The idea being that because people are so important in these types of conflicts that we must focus our efforts on understanding each valley, village and person, and then focus our engagement on "fixing" or "winning" them to what it is we hoped to accomplish. That is a very tactical view of populations and their role in these populace-based conflicts.

    Applying a strategic lens to this sound concept reveals the reality that one cannot simply bribe, develop or secure a populace to what some illegitimate foreign system of governance wants for them; instead those illegitimate foreign systems must take their understanding of these local populations where they believe their foreign interests to be at stake and ask "how do I tailor my own actions and goals in a manner to be consistent with the fundamental needs of these people my actions will impact, and how do I best pursue those interests in a manner consistent with their culture(s).

    It is about changing us, not them. It is about fixing our approach to governance, not theirs. Someday we will learn this, but at the institutional level it is an insight that escapes us.

    So long as we continue to cast strategic problems in tactical terms, and recognize, select and promote strategic leaders for tactical prowess in the face of strategic failure this will likely continue to remain beyond our grasp.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (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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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Part of the challenge is getting people to look back. As cropped up in one of the linked blog posts, at least 2-3 generations of U.S. students and "leaders" have been conditioned to value law degrees, engineering, and the like above liberal arts (including history and geography). People like to forget that during the "good old days" of the Powell Doctrine we were scattering penny packets of troops all over the place in humanitarian assistance, advising, and the like. Like it or not, our military has historically been involved in small wars more than they have conventional conflicts. Even the fiction about Afghanistan being our "longest war" doesn't hold up to historical examination. That's absolutely no knock on the folks doing the heavy lifting there, but between 1865 and 1890 the Army was involved in this little thing called the Indian Wars. It may not look impressive now, but it absorbed about 75% of the Army's field strength (either in garrison duties or campaigning). It wasn't popular "at home" (when people even remembered there was fighting going on), there were locals seeking to make a profit of the government's presence, and West Point didn't even bother teaching tactics to match the environment (they were still busy fighting the Civil War).

    I could go on, but the short version is that I agree with both Stans. This stuff is important, and if we don't keep up the chatter too many important lessons will slip away again and have to be relearned the hard way.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default I don't see any fresh thinking on Small Wars....

    An an outsider to the military, I don't see much difference between some of supposed "retreat into conventional mode" and the "small wars are important" types.

    I see a comfortable retreat into familiar arguments about familiar topics using overly represented and familiar examples by some proponents of the study of small wars--with no real reflection on what might have happened in the past decade or so and no opening up of the discussion on a theoretical or practical level.

    Why the constant retreat to a few examples that seem to keep cropping up, the British in Malaya, Algeria, the Indian Wars, the Phillipines?

    For the study of the Afghan campaign, a very careful full-rounded study of various South Asian insurgencies (outside the comfortable frameworks often presented on SA insurgencies here, same old same old, even the Indian General that wrote an article on COIN basically just repeated "hearts and minds") might be interesting.

    I feel I spend too much time commenting already and would prefer to read academic papers or books on "small wars areas of interest" to me that don't seem to be covered much here. If I find interesting things, I will post--time permitting.

    The moderators are awesome. The commenters and contributors are awesome.

    David is absolutely terrific as a moderator.

    But if the study of small wars is so important why are those interested always circling around the same few topics in the same way? I see nothing new, just the same old half-conceived notions of American history and practice regarding small wars.

    It's a fascinating topic so where is the robust study and argumentation outside a little social science and some tactical discussion?

    Best to all.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Not everything can be that clear with an opinion

    Hey Madhu,
    Would almost tend to agree with you. However, seems all the lessons learned from the past and our members' vast knowledge of the same has fallen on deaf ears.

    We are not always meandering in the past, but sharing what we may feel has indeed been overlooked and deserves a relook or, we feel a need to share what our past revealed.

    As duly noted, most of us come from military backgrounds and are in one form or another, still serving.

    Not everything herein is Small Wars, but most everything has something to do with what may eventually occur and has often been overlooked by far more intelligent beings.

    Regards, Stan
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    Why the constant retreat to a few examples that seem to keep cropping up, the British in Malaya, Algeria, the Indian Wars, the Phillipines?
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default Lost Lessons

    For the group at large, many have commented that here we go again, we're going to forget all the lessons learnt about Small Wars just like we did after Vietnam. What lessons do you feel are critical that we allegedly learned since 9/11 that we are at risk of losing?

    This is an important question, because so far no one has really addressed it.

    I'll challenge some comments I find to be illogical that are offered up by small wars advocates:

    1. DOD pushed the "Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific" so they could focus on big wars and ignore small wars. This is wrong on all accounts. The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific was directed by our National Leadership (not DOD) for very sound strategic reasons. It just so happens that there are a number of potential scenarios in the region that could result in a state on state conflict of significant severity. DOD is focused on preventing those, if that fails we have to be ready to fight. The number of U.S. service members that would be killed in a conventional conflict would most likely be significantly higher than those killed in Small Wars. Bottom line we have to be ready for the unlikely, because the unlikely is more important to our national interests than the very often exaggerated threat from small wars to our interests. Second, there are more small wars in the PACOM area of responsibility than any other. There are over 20 separatist, insurgencies and terrorist movements in India along, and the number rapidly increases as you start moving east through Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, etc. The PACOM conducts FID in a number of countries (at different levels), so no one is exactly running away from Small Wars, but at the same time our leaders have an appreciation of the full spectrum of threats and what ones pose significant risk to us, and which ones simply counter some of our interest.

    2. There are more small wars than larger state on state wars. That is very true, and lets hope that remains the case. However, in and of itself that is not a strong argument for the U.S. military to focus on Small Wars, because the vast majority of them we have little or nothing to do with. On the other hand, it is important to note that sometimes it is very much in our interests to engage in Small Wars for strategic reasons (not just because there are more of them).

    3. We lost our Small Wars knowledge after Vietnam? What small wars skills did we gain during Vietnam that we lost? I admit many in the conventional army and Marines (especially LTCs and below in the 90s couldn't spell insurgency) may have ignored them, but Special Forces and some elements of general purpose forces were constantly engaged in small wars around the globe since the end of the Vietnam until 9/11. I came in during the late 70s and most of my career was focused on so called small wars and irregular warfare.

    4. At the tactical and operational level what did we learn since 9/11 that we need to maintain that we're at risk of losing? I don't want to touch policy an and strategy, because we apparently didn't learn much in that regard. I can think of a few things, but want to hear your comments first.

    The point of this effort is to move beyond the empty rhetoric of here we go again repeating history and tossing the baby out with the bath water and identify specific skills and knowledge we're at risk of losing. Once identified we can develop recommended ways to preserve these skills/knowledge.

    I'm not convinced our military was as ate up as some of you seem to think. Our guys were doing back to back rotations in Bosnia and Kosovo prior to going into Afghanistan and Iraq, and that was certainly a messy small war by definition. 3d Special Forces Group (many of them) deployed to Afghanistan shortly after redeploying from Africa where they were supporting Peace Operations (small wars in this case), we had a long history of conducting counter narcotics missions globally (small wars sort of), and the list goes on. Go back to the 80s the list gets much more extensive. We seemed to do pretty well initially in Afghanistan with a few extraordinary men, local partners, and bombers. It got stupid when the policy got stupid. We did well in Iraq, to include the SF units working with Kurds who played a significant role in the decisive operations to oust Saddam. It was our politicians who denied we faced an insurgency that delayed the military's adaption to the threat. Not saying big Army was prepared for what came, but it wasn't as simple as some here seem to imply it was.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    We have learned how to do the wrong things better, but at the same time have somehow convinced ourselves that any strategic failures in the face of that tactical prowess are the fault of others - the host, the congress, the unwillingness to fully commit to a Clausewitzian or Galulaian solution either one, etc.


    I for one hope that the primary lesson learned is that we still are not very good at this and that our "new" approaches are no better than our old ones at actually helping some place become more naturally stable; and that forced conditions of artificial stability by our hands are harder to create and less durable to sustain in the emerging environment. They also will remain hotbeds for follow-on insurgencies and recruiting grounds for acts of transnational terrorism.

    In the words of Huey Lewis, we "need a new drug."
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    In the late 40's and early 50's the Air Force came up with the concept of using an American Air Force and a small force of advosrs(CIA) but let the supporting country supply the needed Army. So I say the biggest lesson lost is that the Air Force cannot fight a Small War.....They can.
    Aren't we the supporting country?

    That might work in some circumstances, if the country we're supporting has a functional army and the terrain is suitable. There will also be many circumstances in which it will not work, notably those in which the "country" we're supporting has no army, or if we've chosen to disband that army.

    The US, it seems to me, has a uniquely persistent habit of entering what might be called "large small wars": conflicts that may be fought on a "small wars" model, but with a scope, duration, and expenditure that are anything but small. Creating a government, building a nation, installing a democracy are not small endeavors. If we adopt goals that require us to do these things, we are moving into a large small war, and that's troublesome territory. In a large small war attrition and political will become major factors, and public tolerance will be limited.

    One overlooked lesson, if it was ever learned in the first place, would be to keep small wars small, and to resist the temptation to pursue objectives that push the scale out of hand.
    “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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    Default Thanks for the correction and point of agreement

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    Thanks for the comment too, Stan.

    I tend to paint with too broad a brush in order to make a point. It's not a good habit. That's one reason I want to read more academic works. I need to break this habit. If I read more, I would have already known your point....

    At least we all agree on one thing, we need more study and to keep the study alive, current and vibrant. I think one area that I have a kind of cultural disconnect from the military (or maybe the blogs I read?) is that I'm not really looking for quick "lessons learned" in the sense of "oh, look at what those guys did."

    I have certain curiosities or questions about conflicts and want to read up on the questions because I think that current COIN doctrine oversimplifies the history of some campaigns used as a model. Gian Gentile in his book says that the models are too rigid and prevent a kind of grand improvisation (not minor tactical improvisations) or tailoring of a counterinsurgency campaign toward a specific conflict in all its peculiarities.

    I have such a different narrative of colonial small wars in my head because of my ethnic background that sometimes it's like I'm from Venus and you all are from Mars.

    Well, naturally that, given that I'm posting on a site about small wars....
    “I am practicing being kind instead of right” - Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    Even where the history is reasonably well studied, attempts to deduce currently relevant lessons from that history often stray onto very thin ice. I sometimes get the feeling that writers decide which lesson they want history to teach and then go looking for some history to teach it.

    I feel like this thread is wandering away from the immediate question of why the traffic here is growing so thin and what can be done to increase it, and toward questions more related to small wars generically.
    “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 davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Lost Lessons & Fresh Thinking: a challenge for SWC

    The catalyst for this thread's creation comes from the discussion in the re-opened thread 'Recruiting for SWC members because....':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3837

    A couple of relevant posts have been edited and copied over.

    Perhaps this challenge has appeared before in discussions and maybe even a thread, for as one recent poster noted:
    Groundhog Day. I felt like I was making the same arguments over and over.
    davidbfpo

  19. #19
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    Default Bill Moore's 4 points and one other

    Bill's four points/challenges are at the heart of the issue. Let me tak a stab at each:
    1. The shift toward Asia was, in fact, made for perfectly valid strategic reasons. But it also has the effect of reemphasizing the "big one". The issue here is whether the legitimate concern over a potential peer competitor is at the expense of the more constant small wars threats and capabilities. It is an issue of balance and one we have not done well with over time.
    2. It is not the fact that there are more small wars than big ones but rather that the history of the military of the US (and the colonies before we were a country) saw much more engagement in both numbers of cases and longer periods than big war engagements. If past is prologue, then we need to keep studying the small wars along with the big ones and be prepared to fight them.
    3. The Army as an institution did turn its institutional back on small wars after Vietnam. Although there were pockets where an institutional memory was retained - LTC Don Vought at CGSC (Fort Leavenworth) salvaged all the stuff on COIN in the 70s and stored the documents under the heading of "Terrorism" (which was then in vogue). In the 93 I had a student there who on his deployment to Haiti the next year lamented that he had not paid more attention to what we were giving him with regard to small wars - and he was a good one. My big army counterparts in the 80s did not pay much attention to anything that was going on in SOUTHCOM because it really was not career enhancing. Yet, if that was the whole picture, we would never have had David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster (who was in the CGSC class during my tenure and published his well received book that year),or some of the other leaders of the COIN resurgence. Again, I would argue that the issue os one of balance.
    4. Bill, I don't think that you can avoid addressing policy and strategy in any discussion of the application of military power. Saint Carl (aka CvC) made the point that "war is the extension of politik (translates as both politic and policy depending on constext) with the addition of other means." That, to me, means that the "strategic corporal" is not confined to the USMC. What we do at the tactical and operational levels have profound impacts on the strategic and higher levels. A Salvadoran student of mine at Leavenworth stated in class that the decision taken during the FMLN 89 offensive to murder the Jesuit leadership of the U of Central America (and their housekeeper and her daughter) very nearly defeated the Salvadoran government and armed forces. It was a decision taken by a Colonel who happened to command the military academy (not functioning at the time) but gained command of the city because of the attack Clear case of tactical stupidity resulting in strategic and political disaster.

    Last point: In my recent review essay in the Journal (w/Amb Ed Corr) we noted the difference between assisting a funtitoning government and military and having to create one because we have destroyed what previously existed and are now the occupying power. We noted that this situation was analogous to what Callwell called Imperial Policing or what the Marines later practiced in the Banana Wars. We agree with Neustadt and May (Madhu, see their THINKING IN TIME) that analogies must be used with great care but we also cannot escape their use. If we are the occupying power then WE must nation build - an obligation under the laws of war. If we are a supporting power then the host government must nation build if it does not want to see an insurgency return. How we and our allies undertake those tasks is a question that is always frought with peril. I would simply add that we did reasonably well in these tasks in both set of circumstances in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, and Peru between 1983 and 1995. All 4 are reasonably well functioing democracies two or more decades later.

    Cheers
    JohnT

  20. #20
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    Default

    Quotes are from JohnT's post:

    1. The shift toward Asia was, in fact, made for perfectly valid strategic reasons. But it also has the effect of reemphasizing the "big one". The issue here is whether the legitimate concern over a potential peer competitor is at the expense of the more constant small wars threats and capabilities. It is an issue of balance and one we have not done well with over time.
    I'm not sure if anyone is looking at the next "big one", the "big one" is a bit a straw man in my opinion intended to downplay the risk of another war between states in favor for transforming the military into little more than a low intensity conflict force. I hope the military is investing in many able to fight and prevail against another state actor, but not at the expense of maintaining our small wars skills. It seems many of our small wars zealots, are generally our younger officers who didn't serve in the military when our joint war fighting capability wasn't much better than the USSR's as demonstrated in Grenada. They quickly forget, or came in after the initial major combat operations to oust the Taliban and Saddam, that those capabilities are still essential. That leaves all the stuff between those major combat operations that often fall into the realm of small wars. The first question is the military really bad them at them, or is the real issue stupid policies? If the military is bad at small wars, then is it at the tactical or operational level? or both? If we're going to maintain or develop the needed skills, then we need to get into DOTMLPF specifics to address our weaknesses, but before we can do that those weaknesses need to be clarified. Then we can revamp our education, training, manning, organizations, etc. as needed so they're capable of operating in the full spectrum of conflict. We need to avoid the straw man argument of the "next big one". It is a COINdista myth that misrepresents what those opposed to the COINdistas are saying. The COINdistas can't predict the future anymore than those opposed to our involvement in COIN. Our national level leaders are telling us to prepare for a range of new threats in an increasingly unpredictable world. To me that means a force with a wide range of capabilities that is agile and flexible, and can operate effective throughout the full spectrum of conflict. It includes cyber and space domains now, it includes runts like North Korea getting nukes, dangerous transnational criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, dangerous state actors, and in some cases assisting a partner deal with an insurgency. I actually think we a lot of things the legacy force needs to adapt to, and I don't think we're there yet. Small wars is only part of the equation.

    2. It is not the fact that there are more small wars than big ones but rather that the history of the military of the US (and the colonies before we were a country) saw much more engagement in both numbers of cases and longer periods than big war engagements. If past is prologue, then we need to keep studying the small wars along with the big ones and be prepared to fight them.
    Agreed, see above, but what does being prepared to fight them mean? Why aren't we prepared now? Most importantly, what do we need to do?

    3. The Army as an institution did turn its institutional back on small wars after Vietnam. Although there were pockets where an institutional memory was retained - LTC Don Vought at CGSC (Fort Leavenworth) salvaged all the stuff on COIN in the 70s and stored the documents under the heading of "Terrorism" (which was then in vogue). In the 93 I had a student there who on his deployment to Haiti the next year lamented that he had not paid more attention to what we were giving him with regard to small wars - and he was a good one. My big army counterparts in the 80s did not pay much attention to anything that was going on in SOUTHCOM because it really was not career enhancing. Yet, if that was the whole picture, we would never have had David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster (who was in the CGSC class during my tenure and published his well received book that year),or some of the other leaders of the COIN resurgence. Again, I would argue that the issue os one of balance.
    SF belong solely to the Army before USSOCOM (SF is still part of the Army, but receives its SOF doctrinal direction and SOF unique funding from SOCOM), and even before USSOCOM stood up SF was still carrying the small wars torch. Regular Army Officers and NCOs attended FID training at our Institute for Military Assistance before they deployed on FID missions (maybe a model worth relooking). However, not all was well in the force, and now I'm going to support you on why we need to be concerned about the future.

    There were many powerful officers in the Army who were opposed to SF and Small Wars in general, and we had friends in the big Army like GEN Myers. However, SF leadership felt threatened enough in the early/mid 80s to compel SF to focus on Direct Action and Strategic Reconnaissance (before it became Special Reconnaissance) to keep SF relevant in Big Army's eyes and thus funded. At least that is the rumors we heard on the teams when shifted our focus from UW to conducting DA and SR. I hope our SF leadership didn't embrace these missions for any other reason than to keep SF alive. I definitely don't want to see us go back to those dark days. It almost seems unconceivable that we could go back to those days, but I'm sure many felt it was inconceivable after Vietnam to forget the lessons from that war.

    We're on the same side that we maintain these skills and the knowledge gained, but again we have to move beyond broad sweeping statements like we can't afford to lose them and provide solutions that can be acted upon.

    4. Bill, I don't think that you can avoid addressing policy and strategy in any discussion of the application of military power. Saint Carl (aka CvC) made the point that "war is the extension of politik (translates as both politic and policy depending on context) with the addition of other means." That, to me, means that the "strategic corporal" is not confined to the USMC. What we do at the tactical and operational levels have profound impacts on the strategic and higher levels. A Salvadoran student of mine at Leavenworth stated in class that the decision taken during the FMLN 89 offensive to murder the Jesuit leadership of the U of Central America (and their housekeeper and her daughter) very nearly defeated the Salvadoran government and armed forces. It was a decision taken by a Colonel who happened to command the military academy (not functioning at the time) but gained command of the city because of the attack Clear case of tactical stupidity resulting in strategic and political disaster.
    My point is we can do little to influence policy. The military isn't going to stop Sen. McCain from going to Syria and posing with terrorists and pushing for a policy to arm the anti-Syrian Government opposition and their Al-Qaeda allies. The military isn't going to stop idealist politicians from pushing policies like R2P, and the military won't stop future Bush administrations from creating policies related to building shinning cities on the hill in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military leadership can advise against it, but at the end of the day we salute and move out. However, we can influence our education and training to better prepare our forces for a broader range of contingencies.

    See: http://zenpundit.com/?p=24935

    2. Policy is the True Fog of War:

    Having a clearly defined, coherently articulated policy based upon vital interests and empirical facts that sets a few realistic objectives in a way that makes possible shared understanding and broad political support is no way to go about losing wars.
    Last point: In my recent review essay in the Journal (w/Amb Ed Corr) we noted the difference between assisting a functioning government and military and having to create one because we have destroyed what previously existed and are now the occupying power. We noted that this situation was analogous to what Callwell called Imperial Policing or what the Marines later practiced in the Banana Wars. We agree with Neustadt and May (Madhu, see their THINKING IN TIME) that analogies must be used with great care but we also cannot escape their use. If we are the occupying power then WE must nation build - an obligation under the laws of war. If we are a supporting power then the host government must nation build if it does not want to see an insurgency return. How we and our allies undertake those tasks is a question that is always fraught with peril. I would simply add that we did reasonably well in these tasks in both set of circumstances in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, and Peru between 1983 and 1995. All 4 are reasonably well functioning democracies two or more decades later.
    I applaud the effort you made to further differentiate FID from Occupation Operations. I am an advocate for developing an occupation doctrine regardless of how politically incorrect it is. Hopefully we never have to use it, but it would at least make us think about the possibility and plan for it which we didn't do well in Afghanistan and Iraq. In my view that is the most significant lesson from the last decade at war.

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