Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 52

Thread: Edward Luttwak - Counterinsurgency as Military Malpractice

  1. #1
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    The Green Mountains
    Posts
    356

    Default Edward Luttwak - Counterinsurgency as Military Malpractice

    Recent article in Harper's, not a huge fan of his from what little I know, but some good points:

    http://www.harpers.org/DeadEnd.html

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    12,886

    Default Painful reading

    I've admired Luuwak's writings before, but this article is a painful read. His final paragraphs, with many illustrations from WW2 German actions stretch credibility. One small quote should enliven SWC:

    'Is it therefore the case that counterinsurgency doctrine has been evolving backward, from the doubts of the 1950s to the certitudes of 1890? That is no accusation, alas, because one needs to go back even further to find convincing models of success in defeating insurgents by military means'.

    davidbfpo

  3. #3
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    The Green Mountains
    Posts
    356

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I've admired Luuwak's writings before, but this article is a painful read. His final paragraphs, with many illustrations from WW2 German actions stretch credibility. One small quote should enliven SWC:

    'Is it therefore the case that counterinsurgency doctrine has been evolving backward, from the doubts of the 1950s to the certitudes of 1890? That is no accusation, alas, because one needs to go back even further to find convincing models of success in defeating insurgents by military means'.

    davidbfpo
    Agreed. But I think his larger point about the unsuitability of high-tech, conventional armies to fight small wars is worth repeating.

  4. #4
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    DeRidder LA
    Posts
    3,949

    Default Luttwak

    Luttwak has been a consistently good writer on the Arab-Israeli Wars. In that capacity, he often looked at the issues of technology and war fighting. Two notable cases: the 73 War when the IDF's long-standing preference for CAS as flying artillery cost the Israelis dearly on the Sinai and the Golan fronts; and in the 82 invasion when rapid advances led to the decision to enter and seize Beirut on the assumption that maneuver warfare advantages for the IDF would play equally well in a city.

    Best

    Tom

  5. #5
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    806

    Default

    Luttwak is always worth reading, especially when you disagree with him. I haven't completely digested everything he says in the article, but here is a telling quote:" The armed forces of the most advanced countries, and certainly of the United States, all formidable against enemies assembled in conveniently targetable massed formations, are least effective in fighting insurgents. That was demonstrated in Vietnam in many different ways over many years..." If you want to know how the war looks to one of the (rare) intelligent members of Lower Manhattan's elite, this is a good read.

    One further comment. He makes it clear that he sees strong parallels between the current war in Iraq and the 19th century Spanish guerrilla war against France. I agree that there are strong similarities, and possibly stronger than even he suggests. But his implied argument, that similarity of circumstances results in similarity of outcomes, seems weak.
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

  6. #6
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rocky Mtn Empire
    Posts
    473

    Default

    I love to read Ed Luttwak because he challenges me to really think through everything I have developed to that point in time. The theory of COIN as malpractice is exactly that type of challenge.

    In the end, I believe that COIN has to evolve to meet the challenges outlined by Dave Kilcullen in his "Counter-insurgency Redux". We are not automatically doomed to failure, and history does not automatically repeat itself.

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    6

    Default roger29palms

    I haven't read the article yet but what I know of Mr. Luttwak is what I recall him saying on TV in an interview of talking heads before the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991. At the time, the Iraqis were preparing to fight WW1 with their forts and trenches. It was going to be a bloody fight for America as the Iraqi army was battle hardened, 4th largest military in the world, and so forth and so on. He certainly painted a gloomy picture for those about to attack Hussein's forces.
    Mr. Luttwak certainly didn't understand the capabilities of our military then despite being portrayed as an expert by the program's commentator nor did he grasp what a ponderous and outclassed outfit it was that confronted us. During the Iran-Iraq war the LA Times had a telling article on the Iraqis' abilities. It stated that despite our advice to use their inherent mobility coupled with our satelite imagery giving them a bird's eye view of the Iranian's positions and likely intentions, they remained a timid army of little prowess and imagination.
    All in all a surprising level of unawareness for an "expert". Perhaps he is more knowledgable now than then but I couldn't say.

    Roger

  8. #8
    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    212

    Default Let them fight....

    Luttwak is probably most famous for his theory on Civil Wars: Let them Fight.

    It will make you think so it is worth reading up on the theory. There are many contentious points to dig in on. Might be worth a seperate thread: Luttwak's let them fight theory of civil wars...

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/S...ubContrassID=4

    http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m30399&s1=h1

    http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/con...twak-con0.html

    Luttwak on Iraq: "One reason for optimism...is that the violence itself has been separating previously mixed populations, reducing motives and opportunities for further attacks. That is how civil wars can burn themselves out."

    Luttwak on Civil Wars: "Civil wars can be especially atrocious as neighbors kill each other at close range, but they, too, have a purpose in this world - they can bring lasting peace by destroying the will to fight, and by removing the motives and opportunities for further violence."

    Luttwak on COIN: "Occupiers can thus be successful without need of any specialized counterinsurgency methods or tactics if they are willing to out-terrorize the insurgents, so that the fear of reprisals outweighs the desire to help the insurgents or their threats."
    Last edited by TROUFION; 03-12-2007 at 05:17 PM. Reason: Additional Quote to build SA on Luttwak's thought process.

  9. #9
    Council Member wm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    On the Lunatic Fringe
    Posts
    1,237

    Default

    I believe Luttwak had a piece in Foreign Affairs a few years back on Iraq. Has anyone read it? If so, how does it square with his piece in Harpers?

    I happen to agree with his assessment on the political nature of insurgencies and the power that coercion plays. If readers are willing to suspend their patriotism for a while, they might find some interesting reading on how the rebels coerced the loyalists (and vice versa) in the future US during the American Revolution in such places as the "Neutral Ground" in Westchester County, NY, in northern NJ (Mercer and Monmouth counties, e.g.), and in the Carolinas. Many readers probably know about Banastre Tarleton's "massacre" after the battle at Waxhaws, but the rebels were equally as evil in the South.
    We might have even more evidence about rebel atrocities had the Howe brothers and Cornwallis been victorious--the victors, after all, usually do right the history books

  10. #10
    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    212

    Default Luttwak-Foreign Affairs: Give War a Chance 1999

    Gotta give Luttwak some credit on catchy article naming.

    This is one of his FA articles: link and summary below:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/199907...-a-chance.html

    Give War a Chance
    Edward N. Luttwak
    From Foreign Affairs, July/August 1999

    Article preview: first 500 of 2,793 words total.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Summary: Since the establishment of the United Nations, great powers have rarely let small wars burn themselves out. Bosnia and Kosovo are the latest examples of this meddling. Conflicts are interrupted by a steady stream of cease-fires and armistices that only postpone war-induced exhaustion and let belligerents rearm and regroup. Even worse are U.N. refugee-relief operations and NGOs, which keep resentful populations festering in camps and sometimes supply both sides in armed conflicts. This well-intentioned interference only intensifies and prolongs struggles in the long run. The unpleasant truth is that war does have one useful function: it brings peace. Let it.
    Edward N. Luttwak is Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


    PREMATURE PEACEMAKING

    An unpleasant truth often overlooked is that although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace. This can happen when all belligerents become exhausted or when one wins decisively. Either way the key is that the fighting must continue until a resolution is reached. War brings peace only after passing a culminating phase of violence. Hopes of military success must fade for accommodation to become more attractive than further combat.

    Since the establishment of the United Nations and the enshrinement of great-power politics in its Security Council, however, wars among lesser powers have rarely been allowed to run their natural course. Instead, they have typically been interrupted early on, before they could burn themselves out and establish the preconditions for a lasting settlement. Cease-fires and armistices have frequently been imposed under the aegis of the Security Council in order to halt fighting. NATO's intervention in the Kosovo crisis follows this pattern.

    But a cease-fire tends to arrest war-induced exhaustion and lets belligerents reconstitute and rearm their forces. It intensifies and prolongs the struggle once the cease-fire ends -- and it does usually end. This was true of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49, which might have come to closure in a matter of weeks if two cease-fires ordained by the Security Council had not let the combatants recuperate. It has recently been true in the Balkans. Imposed cease-fires frequently interrupted the fighting between Serbs and Croats in Krajina, between the forces of the rump Yugoslav federation and the Croat army, and between the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia. Each time, the opponents used the pause to recruit, train, and equip additional forces for further combat, prolonging the war and widening the scope of its killing and destruction. Imposed armistices, meanwhile -- again, unless followed by negotiated peace accords -- artificially freeze conflict and perpetuate a state of war indefinitely by shielding the weaker side from the consequences of refusing to make concessions for peace.

    The Cold War provided compelling justification for such behavior by the two superpowers, which sometimes collaborated in coercing less-powerful belligerents to avoid being drawn into their conflicts and clashing directly. Although imposed cease-fires ultimately did increase the total quantity of warfare among the lesser powers, and armistices did perpetuate states of war, both outcomes were clearly lesser evils (from a global point of view) than the possibility of nuclear war. But today, neither Americans nor Russians are inclined to intervene competitively in the wars of lesser powers, so the unfortunate consequences of interrupting war persist while no greater danger is averted. It might be best for all parties to let minor wars burn themselves out.

    THE PROBLEMS OF PEACEKEEPERS

    Today cease-fires and armistices are imposed on lesser powers by multilateral agreement -- not to avoid great-power competition but for essentially disinterested and indeed frivolous motives, such as television audiences' revulsion at harrowing scenes of war. But this, perversely, can systematically prevent the transformation of war into peace. The . . .


    www.foreignaffairs.org is copyright 2002--2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. All rights reserved.

  11. #11
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    806

    Default

    I remember that FA article. I didn't think it was anywhere near as good as Give War a Chance (1992) by P. J. O'Rourke.
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

  12. #12
    Council Member Danny's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Posts
    141

    Default Quotes

    Troufion,

    Of the three interesting Luttwak quotes you give, I cannot locate the third one in any of the links you cited.

  13. #13
    Council Member wm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    On the Lunatic Fringe
    Posts
    1,237

    Default

    I was thinking about a Luttwak piece on disengaging from Iraq. I never got a chance to read it. I know he advocated withdrawal but am not sure if he used the same justification as his current Harpers argument.

  14. #14
    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    212

    Default 3rd quote from Dead End article

    http://www.harpers.org/DeadEnd.html

    My bust, this was from the article that started Granite's thread

  15. #15
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Morning Calm
    Posts
    177

    Default

    I think Luttwak is still a little too enamored with the Roman Imperial model.

  16. #16
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    47

    Default On Luttwak

    I just read Luttwak's article. Some merit exists with his statements, however his writing is ultimately weak. Luttwak's article is full of generalizations and broad characteristics. These are not hallmarks of good writing. Furthermore, he displays lapses in logical thinking. German COIN during WWII was not really that effective. Look at insurgent campaigns in Ukraine or Yugoslavia and his assertions are blown to bits. As a journalist, I want a clear, concise take away lesson. He failed to provide this. His work is a rehash of other things he's already published. I happen to know other historians who echo my sentiments.

  17. #17
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    DeRidder LA
    Posts
    3,949

    Default Good Point Menning

    German COIN during WWII was not really that effective.
    Roger that and in many ways it was not "COIN" but rather full suppression backed with ethnic cleansing.

    Tom

  18. #18
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    3,195

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Roger that and in many ways it was not "COIN" but rather full suppression backed with ethnic cleansing.

    Tom
    I would say German efforts were COIN in warped hindsight only. At the time they called the "bandit suppression," and the objective was to clear an area of anything that would hinder their post-conflict plans. They didn't even consider any sort of COIN as we understand it today (to include hearts and minds-type stuff) until it was far too late, and even then it was only backed by some within the power structure.
    "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

  19. #19
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Largo, Florida
    Posts
    3,989

    Default Dave Kilcullen on Edward Luttwak's COIN Op-Ed

    On the SWJ Blog - Edward Luttwak’s “Counterinsurgency Malpractice” by Dave Kilcullen.

    I spent a few hours recently, reading Edward N. Luttwak’s article in Harper’s Magazine, “Dead End: Counter-Insurgency as Military Malpractice”, and carefully thinking over his argument. It was a pleasant holiday from the reality of war here in Baghdad, and a reassuring reminder that there are still havens of calm (like CSIS, where Dr Luttwak is a Senior Fellow) where one can consider issues thoroughly and arrive at firm conclusions. From my viewpoint, here in Iraq, things somehow never seem quite so black-and-white.

    Professor Luttwak is a famous defense policy expert, with publications on the Roman Empire, nuclear strategy, coups d’état and globalization, among others. He is not a specialist in counterinsurgency or the Middle East, but his opinions carry much weight and we should all welcome his recent foray into the field. I hope he will forgive this précis, but in essence he argues that “insurgents do not always win, actually they usually lose. But their defeats can rarely be attributed to counterinsurgency warfare, as we shall see”. The means he argues are most effective are wholesale reprisals and “out-terrorizing” the insurgents...
    Would appreciate any comments to made both here and on the blog - again, thanks.

  20. #20
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Canberra, Australia
    Posts
    307

    Default

    Luttwak's article is weak in terms of justification of his position. The inaccurate and selective citation of historical example is an old rogues trick in any such polemical piece.

    Increasingly I am getting tired of 'expert' advice from 'Terrorism' and 'COIN' experts from academia and the media who are not burdened by any practical experience.

    I am also finding that these people are increasingly 'blood thirsty' in their recommendations. It is amazing how easy it is for these people to be profligate with others lives.

    The disproportionate influence they seem to have on some opinion and policy makers is particularly worrisome. I for one would take more heed of Luttwak (and all the other polemicists) if they saddled up and joined the fight in some constructive way that transcends self promotion and media hits in 'Factiva'.

    If they just want to be windbags they should stick to monday morning quarterbacking in their own small circle of acolytes, undergrads and interns, all of whom can assuage their egos as to their true genius.....

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •