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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The Col. Gentile collection and debate

    Moderator's Note

    Being an outsider to the protracted debate in the USA over COIN I am familiar with some of the names and prompted by a new book review of Colonel Gian Gentile's latest book, I have merged six threads today. On a quick review some were single posts and others longer discussions here. This thread was called 'Eating Soup with a Spoon' and is now 'The Col. Gentile collection and debate'. Somehow I suspect there are other threads as 'Gentile' appears in 162 threads, but for now this is enough.(ends).


    Eating Soup with a Spoon - Lieutenant Colonel Gian Gentile, Armed Forces Journal

    The Army's new manual on counterinsurgency operations (COIN), in many respects, is a superb piece of doctrinal writing. The manual, FM 3-24 "Counterinsurgency," is comparable in breadth, clarity and importance to the 1986 FM 100-5 version of "Operations" which came to be known as "AirLand Battle.

    The new manual's middle chapters that pertain to the conduct of counterinsurgency operations are especially helpful and relevant to senior commanders in Iraq. But a set of nine paradoxes in the first chapter of the manual removes a piece of reality of counterinsurgency warfare that is crucial for those trying to understand how to operate within it...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-08-2013 at 03:29 PM. Reason: Add note after merging

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    Eating Soup with a Spoon - Lieutenant Colonel Gian Gentile, Armed Forces Journal
    I, of course, take issue with the basic premise of the article. I believe we treat counterinsurgency as a variant of war not because that is the most strategically effective approach, but because we have been unable to transcend Cold War thinking. We know how to fight wars. We're good at it. So we pretend that things not amenable to warfighting are, in fact, war. It's a classic example of the old adage "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." In fact, I think there is an inverse correlation between the extent to which we approach a counterinsurgency campaign as warfighting and the success we meet (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador).

    I'll be interested to see how the debate unfolds on the AFJ discussion board.
    Last edited by SteveMetz; 09-18-2007 at 09:52 AM.

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    Default The Hard Sell of COIN

    Mom and Pop back home don't want Sonny boy and Sissy schmoozing with the enemy, they want dead enemies first and foremost. The hard sell of COIN goes way beyond a cold war mindset. Financiers and carpetbaggers aren't about to educate the Public to the efficacy and need for COIN, that's for sure and the Military isn't capable at this juncture in our history to take on the task of educating the Public nor is it necessarily their role. For one thing, to enter the Public realm with its informal give and take and free-flow of information and critique with all its ignorance and insight requires latitude and flexibility the Military doesn't fully possess. There is a disconnect in the Public mind between killing and disabling enemies and probably always will be - if you ain't gonna' kill 'em, send in the Peace Corps type of thinking. The COIN learning curve and proving grounds Iraq is providing is being wasted IMO because of an ignorant Public, power hungry politicians and carpetbaggers, in that order. Ultimately, We The People are responsible for our woes and worries, not our Military and not our politicians.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I do not take issue with the fact that War is violent and that COIN is war – in my reading of 3-24, I don’t think it does either. Part of this is my preference to always view doctrine as descriptive and not prescriptive (Unit SOPs are generally prescriptive). I’d also say that I never saw guys on the ground contemplating if it was a good idea or a bad one to shoot a clearly identified AIF setting an IED, carrying an RPG, or PKC, or even setting up a mortar – nobody was confused about the best way of immediately securing the populace was to kill those AIF actively engaged in violent activity. If there was information on a cache or meeting of AIF conducting plans or related activity – a mission was generated as quickly as possible to capture or kill them. The Iraqis and CF I worked with understood that until physical security was established, the other LLOOs would be compromised – they also understood that you had to prepared to quickly transition from conducting a Community Engagement type activity to pouncing on the enemy if he showed the will to contest our control of an area.

    At the level where dyed in the wool insurgents seek to impose their will on the population it is a duel & no amount of LLOOs is probably going to convince them to give up - this minority is going to have to be captured or killed by either HN or CF.

    I don't think 3-24 advocates sacrificing Tactical success - it just acknowledges that you can't pursue purely lethal Tactical operations and expect that success at that level will translate to Operational and Strategic success in COIN, or for that matter any type of war. Do we want it - you bet - every time we meet that enemy we should relentlessly pursue him until he is captured, killed, denied any freedom of movement, expelled, etc. Tactical success is credibility, and it permits our (friendly forces) own freedom of movement to pursue the LLOOs that can be translated to Operational and Strategic success in a COIN environment.

    Clausewitz’s duel where there are winners and losers is appropriate. Within a province or city where insurgents have the initiative and unrestricted freedom of movement then COIN forces (HN or CF) will not – it’s a zero sum game – you either have the initiative or you don’t at what ever level you are considering. The priority for COIN forces at that point goes to seizing and retaining the initiative. This begins with lethal operations at the Tactical & Operational levels, but does not end there. 3-24 recommends transitioning to a mix of security operations and other LLOOs to develop the PMSEII so that while those who will not re-enter society are captured or killed, the conditions which lend credibility to the insurgent message and attract people to the insurgent cause are changed.

    Within the COIN environment there are ongoing operations that are going to feel more like the “Other then War” we once doctrinally used to describe those missions. The problem with that doctrinal description was that increasingly those environments proved that they could go to “War” on one side of a city, while on the other side of the city it remained a “Other then” environment. However, you can’t sacrifice the gains you’ve made that permitted a transition on one side of the river to a mix of lethal and LLOOs; and you can’t sacrifice the gains that permitted a larger transition at the provincial level – these are the operations that provide the long term gains because they address the conditions that made the insurgency possible.

    At the lower tactical echelons the focus is going to be sharper by comparison with larger echelons. If a BCT has the bulk of a province, it may have two TFs focusing primarily on LLOOs because the conditions permit it. However, the other TF may be clearing insurgents for months – the enemy gets a vote, and may have decided that he is willing to fight and die within the battlespace assigned to that TF. However within the Battlespace assigned to that TF – the part of the city assigned to a specific Company or CO TM may have a local leader that has galvanized the community against the goals of the insurgents – the violence within that community might be limited to assassinations and car bombs targeting the community leadership from insurgents infiltrating that company AOR– but its still lethal. The higher the echelon in COIN, the greater the chance that it contains different types of threats, must pursue different types of LOOs and LLOOs.

    I don’t think LTC Nagl or any other contributor to the 3-24 would take issue with that. On the Daily show – he made the remark – I have to paraphrase – “be prepared to kill”. Operrations on the ground would seem to reflect this – the number of AIF killed or captured, the number of caches seized and the limitations of AIF freedom of movement started with, or were generated from our ability to impose our will on the enemy through the use of violence. However, that tactical success was built upon with other LLOOs that engaged the communities and secured additional benefits that could not be attained otherwise. The NGO community and passive IOs can’t conduct COIN because they don’t have the capability to employ violence or contest the armed resistance employed by insurgents – we do. However, because COIN occurs in a Social setting, and is a contest for the will and support of the citizen – we must be able to follow up security by generating the foundations for stability.

    No doctrine IMHO should be a prescription for a problem – this is Clausewitz’s recognition that there is a subjective nature to War. Every War is going to be unique in the subjective due to the political context which surrounds it. There are all kinds of political goals by the various enemies we find in Iraq – the subjective nature of War may be different in Baghdad, then Anbar – that’s just the way it is. If we conduct a COIN campaign in another part of the world, those conditions will change along with the subjective nature unique to that War. The Objective nature, that War is violent, it has winners and losers, it is rife with fog, friction and chance, and the more protracted it is- the more chance plays a role, it is a social activity, it makes no sense when divorced from its political context is valid in any War.

    The problem with any doctrine that addresses the complexity of War is going to be its interpretation – I’m not sure you can have a doctrine that is going to change that while remaining broad enough in scope to acknowledge both the Objective and Subjective nature of War. Take what works and apply it to the War you (your element) are in, and save the rest when conditions change – that is the value in descriptive doctrine.
    Best regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 09-18-2007 at 07:31 PM.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Steve,

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    I, of course, take issue with the basic premise of the article. I believe we treat counterinsurgency as a variant of war not because that is the most strategically effective approach, but because we have been unable to transcend Cold War thinking. We know how to fight wars. We're good at it. So we pretend that things not amenable to warfighting are, in fact, war. It's a classic example of the old adage "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
    I'm not sure if I agree with your sketch of the causal logic, but I certainly agree with your "act as if" conclusion; at least for the institution qua institution. Still and all, I find Gentile's logic flawed. In particular, the following paragraph really bothers me.

    Yet the paradoxes actually deceive by making overly simple the reality of counterinsurgency warfare and why it is so hard to conduct it at the ground level for the combat soldier. The eminent scholar and strategic thinker Eliot Cohen noted that counterinsurgency war is still war, and war in its essence is fighting. In trying to teach its readers to eat soup with a knife, the COIN manual discards the essence and reality of counterinsurgency warfare fighting, thereby manifesting its tragic flaw.
    Let me pull this apart.

    Yet the paradoxes actually deceive by making overly simple the reality of counterinsurgency warfare and why it is so hard to conduct it at the ground level for the combat soldier.
    I would suggest that the use of paradoxes is a) quite normal in getting anyone to perceive a new viewpoint, b) inherently "simple" in presentation but complex in "unfolding", and c) only deceitful when they contradict already internalized paradoxes (e.g. "Peace through superior firepower", etc.). Anyone who has read any of the major works one Rites of Passage (or symbolism for that matter) knows that paradoxes are crucial in shifting a person from one role to another (the "why's" take much longer to explain, but are partly covered in a previous post of mine). That being said, this sentence is a strawman.

    The eminent scholar and strategic thinker Eliot Cohen noted that counterinsurgency war is still war, and war in its essence is fighting.
    A truly fascinating example of mixing a resort to "traditional authority (in the Weberian sense) with really poor logic. First, the appeal to "traditional authority" - imply that you are quoting, without quoting (or referencing), a scholar. The second point about poor logic is a touch trickier.

    Gentile relies on an appeal to traditional authority to define "counterinsurgency war" as "war". The fact that they are perceived as somehow different, shown by the use of "counterinsurgency" as a modifier, appears to be irrelevant to Gentile who proceeds to assert an essence, in the philosophical sense, to "war" and, by a backwards chain of logic, assert the primacy of the same essence to "counterinsurgency war". This neatly avoids the annoying little point that "counterinsurgency war" is perceptually (and linguistically and doctrinally) defined as an intersection set of two classes: counterinsurgency and war. Where is the second "essence"? This brings us to

    In trying to teach its readers to eat soup with a knife, the COIN manual discards the essence and reality of counterinsurgency warfare fighting, thereby manifesting its tragic flaw.
    Given the strawman and illogical "logic" already used, this conclusion is both unavoidable and, at the same time, tragically flawed. What he has missed is that FM 3-24 is, in fact, attempting to define the "essence" if you will of "counterinsurgency", not "war" (i.e. his missed class), and to show the intersection with "war".
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    In his attempt to tear down the "paradox" of tactical success guarantees nothing, he completely misses the meaning of tactical success itself.

    In the article, he completely focuses his perception of tactical success on what it means to his soldiers: their morale and fighting spirit. He discounts the importance of non-kinetic operations and pushes the importance the fight. He doesn't bother to clarify how aggressive engagement is going to help stabilize Iraq or defeat the bad guys - he just states it will keep up the morale and fighting spirit of his troops. This is almost the absolute stereotype of the conventional Armor officer who can't stand anything other than HIC.

    Don't misunderstand - I'm certainly not dismissing the importance of troop morale. The "cognitive dissonance" issue he mentions certainly does exist - but the essential concept of the three-block war and troops having to rapidly adapt and shift focus between killing and building has been around far longer than the term itself. Its just been ignored by many in the Big Army.

    However, I feel that the major error he makes is of separating the two aspects - killing and rolling up bad guys in this fight is inextricably linked with the essential non-kinetic ops required to stabilize and secure the country. They have to be linked and coordinated, with solid intel driving both into a fused effort. He makes it sound like you have to focus on one or the other; it ain't so, Joe. You have to do both, and that's what makes COIN (especially the impure messy COIN, SASO, CT, LE blend we have in Iraq) so difficult.

    ...I don't think they play at all fairly, and they all quarrel so dreadfully one can't hear oneself speak--and they don't seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them--and you've no idea how confusing it is....

    Alice

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    I like MarcT's discussion of the illogic of the Gentile piece. Another way of understanding the problem is that Gentile has made a category mistake, sort of as follows:

    'Counterinsurgency' (or 'COIN') names a category of things , or a set if you prefer. 'War' likewise names a category of things, or another set. In the passage quoted by MarcT, Gentile asserts, without any argument, that 'COIN' is a subcategory or subset of 'War.' (I suspect he also wants 'COIN' to be a proper subset of 'War,' but that point is not really relevant to this discussion, IMO.) He seems to presume that the set 'COIN' is wholely contained in the set 'War.' He has left out the possibility that the two sets may be completely disjoint (have no members in common) or only partially overlap/intersect (have some members in common). Either of these latter two options could put 'War' and 'COIN' at the same categorical level while Gentile's option makes 'War' a superset, a higher (or more fundamental and, therefore, more inclusive) category than 'COIN.'

    Regarding the use of paradox, I submit that when one finds paradoxes in one's explanation that means that one's explanation is not as reflective of the truth (defined here as corresponding to reality) as one would like to believe. Additionally, paradoxes indicate that the truth of one's explanation (truth now defined as coherence, or the "hanging together" of the explanatory story one tells with other beliefs one holds) is not quite as likely as it could be.

    Pointing out paradoxes in an explanation, in my experience, is most useful for rejecting that explanation's logical and practical efficacy. In other words, finding paradoxes in one's theory of how to counter an insurgency successfully would indicate that the theory might not be as good as one expects in achieving the desired results on a more universal scale.This is because as one expands the cases to be explained, more things come up that cause "disconnects" (or paradoxes) within one's explnatory schema.

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    I would suggest that the use of paradoxes is a) quite normal in getting anyone to perceive a new viewpoint, b) inherently "simple" in presentation but complex in "unfolding", and c) only deceitful when they contradict already internalized paradoxes (e.g. "Peace through superior firepower", etc.).
    . . .
    Gentile relies on an appeal to traditional authority to define "counterinsurgency war" as "war". The fact that they are perceived as somehow different, shown by the use of "counterinsurgency" as a modifier, appears to be irrelevant to Gentile who proceeds to assert an essence, in the philosophical sense, to "war" and, by a backwards chain of logic, assert the primacy of the same essence to "counterinsurgency war". This neatly avoids the annoying little point that "counterinsurgency war" is perceptually (and linguistically and doctrinally) defined as an intersection set of two classes: counterinsurgency and war. Where is the second "essence"?
    . . .
    Given the strawman and illogical "logic" already used, this conclusion is both unavoidable and, at the same time, tragically flawed. What he has missed is that FM 3-24 is, in fact, attempting to define the "essence" if you will of "counterinsurgency", not "war" (i.e. his missed class), and to show the intersection with "war".

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi WM,

    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    Another way of understanding the problem is that Gentile has made a category mistake
    Agreed. Personally, I prefer the use of fuzzy sets rather than crisp sets since they appear to be more reflective of human thought and characterization - "reality" if you will - but I believe that his argument is flawed in both.

    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    Regarding the use of paradox, I submit that when one finds paradoxes in one's explanation that means that one's explanation is not as reflective of the truth (defined here as corresponding to reality) as one would like to believe. Additionally, paradoxes indicate that the truth of one's explanation (truth now defined as coherence, or the "hanging together" of the explanatory story one tells with other beliefs one holds) is not quite as likely as it could be.
    I'm not sure I agree with you on this - it may be reflective of linguistic limitations pertaining to mapping reality. Still and all, that's a subject that probably needs a long discussion with lots of potables . On the other hand, I would note that there is a difference between using a paradox as an explanatory mechanism vs. using a paradox as an operational mechanism designed to shift perceptions so that a different mapping structure can be perceived (a point Gentile also misses IMO). The paradoxes in FM 3-24 are, to my mind, koans designed to induce a cognitive dissonance with "regular warfighting" perceptions. As such, I don't see them as explanatory paradoxes but, rather, as operational ones. I do agree with you that the use of paradoxes for internal explanation (coherence - your second definition of truth) is a danger sign.

    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    Pointing out paradoxes in an explanation, in my experience, is most useful for rejecting that explanation's logical and practical efficacy. In other words, finding paradoxes in one's theory of how to counter an insurgency successfully would indicate that the theory might not be as good as one expects in achieving the desired results on a more universal scale.This is because as one expands the cases to be explained, more things come up that cause "disconnects" (or paradoxes) within one's explnatory schema.
    Agreed. In fairness, though, all nomenological deductive theories are prone to this problem - it's an inherent attribute of mapping limitations. What is important, at the operational level or application level is whether or not the theory can "satisfice" in much the same manner as Newtonian physics works quite nicely below .3c. I think Ted's example of the "meaning" of tactical success is a good example of that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi WM,
    I would note that there is a difference between using a paradox as an explanatory mechanism vs. using a paradox as an operational mechanism designed to shift perceptions so that a different mapping structure can be perceived (a point Gentile also misses IMO). The paradoxes in FM 3-24 are, to my mind, koans designed to induce a cognitive dissonance with "regular warfighting" perceptions. As such, I don't see them as explanatory paradoxes but, rather, as operational ones.
    R. G. Collingwood described an interesting phenomenon in explanations that he called the Fallacy of Swapping Horses (as in "you can't swap horses in the middle of a stream.") I have no qualms about your distinction as long as we remember to keep astride of the same "horse of paradox" as that mounted by the author. The koan comparison is extremely apt IMO. I think we might also call out your use of paradox as a sub-category of cognitive dissonance. Your thoughts?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Perhaps Gentile will answer some of these comments...

    I'd be curious to see what he has to say regarding what's been posted to date.

    That said, I'm also curious as to why there is such a rush to both ignore the heritage of 3-24 and to attempt to have the Army repeat its past mistakes when it comes to COIN. 3-24 is in many ways a direct descendant of the USCM Small Wars Manual, and that clearly didn't damage the Marines' ability to conduct conventional operations. One the reasons 3-24 was needed was the rush to discard lessons learned in Vietnam (and elsewhere)...so in a certain sense the wheel needed to be invented again. I honestly don't think this is a "one or the other" proposition, and attempts to make it so (by either side) really damage the value of what's in 3-24.
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    I found LTC Gentile's piece to be less than compelling. For example, the paradoxes are seemingly presented as limiting thought and providing a straightjacket, in direct contrast to the manual's introduction to the paradoxes that:

    Quote Originally Posted by FM 3-24
    These paradoxes are offered to stimulate thinking, not to limit it. The applicability of the thoughts behind the paradoxes depends on a sense of the local situation and, in particular, the state of the insurgency. For example, the admonition “Sometimes, the More Force Used, the Less Effective It Is” does not apply when the enemy is “coming over the barricades”; however, that thought is applicable when increased security is achieved in an area. In short, these paradoxes should not be reduced to a
    checklist; rather, they should be used with considerable thought.
    If a senior officer is unable to use these paradoxes to stimulate thinking and instead reduces them for "chic" quotes in a media interview, I find it less an indictment of the paradoxes and more an indictment of an officer education system and promotion system that has allowed officers to advance in the ranks that haven't learned how to think.

    Another passage that troubled me was:

    Quote Originally Posted by LTC Gentile, Eating Soup with a Spoon
    The logic of the contradiction that "tactical success guarantees nothing," though, tells the reader he should not be enamored with tactical success because if he achieves it without success in other areas of COIN operations, such as essential services and governance, then it accomplishes nothing.
    In this case, the paradox doesn't state that tactical successes accomplish nothing, simply that they guarantee nothing. Yet, the implied reading of the paradox doesn't stop here, and a slippery slope then follows to where lieutenants (and lieutenant colonels) reading this paradox shouldn't be that concerned about tactics since they are not important in and of themselves.

    However, the paradox never states that tactical successes are unimportant; instead, it simply highlights that tactical actions don't exist in a vacuum and must be connected to operational and strategic objectives as well as host nation political objectives. Fighting isn't removed from the equation; it just isn't the only thing, and as the introduction to the paradoxes states, the application of the paradoxes, and in this case, the mix of tactical (kinetic)/non-kinetic depends on "a sense of the local situation."

    Finally, I found the following passage to be highly ironic since Eliot Cohen was the co-author of Principles, Imperatives, and Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency.

    Quote Originally Posted by LTC Gentile, Eating Soup with a Spoon
    Yet the paradoxes actually deceive by making overly simple the reality of counterinsurgency warfare and why it is so hard to conduct it at the ground level for the combat soldier. The eminent scholar and strategic thinker Eliot Cohen noted that counterinsurgency war is still war, and war in its essence is fighting. In trying to teach its readers to eat soup with a knife, the COIN manual discards the essence and reality of counterinsurgency warfare fighting, thereby manifesting its tragic flaw.
    Last edited by Shek; 09-23-2007 at 02:23 AM.

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    Default LTC Gentile article

    The paradoxes in FM 3-24 are nothing more than Sun Tsuisms for the 21st Century. They require much deeper thought and internalizing then any field manual can provide. As with the original writing of old uncle Sun, the intent of paradoxes is to stimulate thought, develop adaptiveness, adeptness, and rigor in the "art" of warfare. Often, we as Americans are fixated on finding "the" answer to a problem, whether it's a technology, a checklist, a specific tactic, or method. But the success of the US way of war is not finding "the" answer but finding "a" answer which is the whole point of the paradox.

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    In response to a number of recent posts namely Shek and Patriot I repeat my point in the article which was an impression I had of the paradoxes, especially the two that I concentrate on in the article, after a year in combat in Iraq: my impression was that the paradoxes removed a fundamental of war—fighting--which I experienced in a way specific to the Iraq War. The most important point that I believed I made in the article was how fighting insurgencies within a civil war like in Iraq are very hard on the combat soldier—in essence a discussion on the moral domain of war—and has not been commented on at all in this blog. Most of the postings in this blog that critique my article focus on my questioning of the paradoxes; why? Because it challenged the theoretical premises of a doctrine that so many have turned into an Orwellian nightmare that clouds creative thought and sadly produces dogmatic action. For me though, the more important aspect of my article was why these types of war are so hard to fight from the perspective of the combat soldier. And in this sense I believe that my critique of the paradoxes is still valid.

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    Default Paradox as theory or perception?

    Sir,

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    my impression was that the paradoxes removed a fundamental of war—fighting--which I experienced in a way specific to the Iraq War.
    As I noted in an earlier post, I think that you have fundamentally misunderstood the function of the paradoxes themselves while, at the same time, making a categorical logic error. Even leaving that aside, however, nowhere does FM 3-24 state that "fighting" should not be a part of counter-insurgency. Reduced to its simplest form, FM 3-24 argues that one should use the appropriate tool to achieve desired operational results. Given that the CoG of a COIN operation is the general populace where the desired strategic outcome is political legitimacy, "fighting" may well not be the most appropriate tool in all (or even most) situations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    The most important point that I believed I made in the article was how fighting insurgencies within a civil war like in Iraq are very hard on the combat soldier—in essence a discussion on the moral domain of war—and has not been commented on at all in this blog.
    Did you mean "morale" in this? That would certainly be consistent with your statement in the article:

    But most importantly, I was angry and bewildered because the paradoxes, through their clever contradictions, removed a fundamental aspect of counterinsurgency warfare that I had experienced throughout my year as a tactical battalion commander in Iraq: fighting. And by removing the fundamental reality of fighting from counterinsurgency warfare, the manual removes the problem of maintaining initiative, morale and offensive spirit among combat soldiers who will operate in a place such as Iraq.
    I must admit, after reading that particular statement, I could only shake my head and think about Curtis LeMay. This has to be one of the best examples of reductio ad absurdam that I have ever seen, and one of the reasons why I am requiring my students to read your article. If you truly believed this, then I am surprised that you are not arguing Iraq delenda est.

    If, on the other hand, it was not a mistyping and you actually meant "moral", I would ask you how fighting is more moral than winning?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Most of the postings in this blog that critique my article focus on my questioning of the paradoxes; why? Because it challenged the theoretical premises of a doctrine that so many have turned into an Orwellian nightmare that clouds creative thought and sadly produces dogmatic action.
    Again, you miss the point. In your article you state that

    However, the paradoxes are intended to frame the thinking of the reader for the entire manual. They are the theoretical framework that informs the entire manual. In this sense, they are crucial to the manual and for how our Army approaches and understands counterinsurgency operations.
    First of all, the paradoxes are, as Patriot notes, "Sun Tzuisms" or koans. They are not intended to "frame the thinking of the reader" but, rather, to re-frame the perceptions of the reader allowing them to think outside of a conventional warfare set of perceptions.

    Neither are the paradoxes "the theoretical framework that informs the entire manual". Less still are they an evil miasma that produces "an Orwellian nightmare that clouds creative thought and sadly produces dogmatic action". Rather, they are as Shek notes in his quotation "offered to stimulate thinking, not to limit it".

    Obviously, they do not have that effect on everyone. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has taken an introduction to Psychology course or read history in any depth. How people react to thoughts that go against their existing preconceptions has been quite well documented, and that includes feelings of anger, revulsion and unthinking rejection.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    For me though, the more important aspect of my article was why these types of war are so hard to fight from the perspective of the combat soldier. And in this sense I believe that my critique of the paradoxes is still valid.
    Certainly your article has served to highlight the difficulty some officers appear to have with this type of conflict. While I still think that your critic is logically invalid, it may well be psychologically valid for a certain portion of US forces.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    LTC Gentile's article and the subsequent discussions demonstrate that whether we use a paradox or dictum as a spring borad toward explorations of complex warfare the desired outcome is intellectual rigor to critically view our warfighting doctrine with our theoretical concepts of war and our historical interpertations. There is no solution to the dynamic problems of warfare, whether ancient or modern. Why do we continue to read Sun Tsu, Uncle Carl (Clausewitz), et. al? Because there is has consistently never been a solution (doctrine - how we fight) for war. The Soldier, as the instrument of applied force, whether in conventional or unconventional war, remains the essential element to success. His understanding of his role and fuction is critical for that force application. If his leaders do not understand the complexity of unconventional war then he will suffer that lack of understanding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    The most important point that I believed I made in the article was how fighting insurgencies within a civil war like in Iraq are very hard on the combat soldier—in essence a discussion on the moral domain of war—and has not been commented on at all in this blog...
    ...For me though, the more important aspect of my article was why these types of war are so hard to fight from the perspective of the combat soldier.
    I don't find the observation that "war is hard" to be particularly novel. Some old fogey mentioned two hundred years ago that in war everything is simple and the simplest thing is very hard. Was there an expectation that in the absence of a strong uniformed conventional army, war would be easy ("I doubt six months...")? If so that (hypothetical, of course) expectation is inexcusable and would show a stunning ignorance of history. A focus on kinetics because the rest of it is just too hard would be similarly inexcusable.

    That said, I do understand the need to remind people that "remember this is still really hard." Since the COIN manual came out, talking heads on TV seem to think "Oh, well now we've got the right plan, success will be easy!" But I don't think the specific audience that reads AFJ needs to be told that "this stuff is difficult."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile
    And in this sense I believe that my critique of the paradoxes is still valid.
    LTC Gentile:

    Sir,

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t disagree that one cannot neglect the moral/spiritual domain; however, the path that your argument uses to link the paradoxes and their potential impact on the moral/spiritual domain requires the use of a strawman – the claim that “tactical success guarantees nothing” should be read “accomplishes nothing.” If tactical success are not needed, then why would the manual not state that? However, this is not enough, and you then proceed to flail tactical failure by the counterinsurgent, which in no way, shape, or form is advised by the FM. So, your causal link between the tactical success paradox and a negative impact upon the morale of the fighting soldier requires a particular interpretation that removes the paradoxes from the reality of chapter in which you can find them.

    Next, while recognizing that you have some great insights to offer about the moral/spiritual domain of soldiers at the unit level based on your squadron’s experience in Iraq, I don’t see how this experience provides you with any special insight on how to read and/or interpret the meaning the paradoxes (it can provide some special insights on how other officers serving in Iraq interpreted the paradoxes, but this is not the same as having a special line to the best reading of the paradoxes). As you look at your discussion of the paradoxes, you remove them from the reality of their purpose, which is to “stimulate thinking” and not to “limit it.” Additionally, you can read the ten pages prior to the paradoxes and find the following excerpts (emphasis mine):

    Quote Originally Posted by FM 23-4
    1-105. The purpose of America’s ground forces is to fight and win the Nation’s wars. Throughout history, however, the Army and Marine Corps have been called on to perform many tasks beyond pure combat; this has been particularly true during the conduct of COIN operations. COIN requires Soldiers and Marines to be ready both to fight and to build—depending on the security situation and a variety of other factors. The full spectrum operations doctrine (described in FM 3-0) captures this reality.

    1-106. All full spectrum operations executed overseas—including COIN operations—include offensive, defensive, and stability operations that commanders combine to achieve the desired end state. The exact mix varies depending on the situation and the mission. Commanders weight each operation based on their assessment of the campaign’s phase and the situation in their AO. They shift the weight among these operations as necessary to address situations in different parts of the AO while continuing to pursue their overall objectives. (See figure 1-1.)

    1-107. Offensive and defensive operations are integral to COIN. COIN differs from peacekeeping operations in this regard; indeed, this is a key point. In peacekeeping operations, combat is not expected and the goal is an absence of violence. In COIN, such an absence may actually mask insurgent preparations for combat. This was the case, for example, in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in 2003.

    ***

    1-128. It is easier to separate an insurgency from its resources and let it die than to kill every insurgent. Clearly, killing or capturing insurgents will be necessary, especially when an insurgency is based in religious or ideological extremism. However, killing every insurgent is normally impossible. Attempting to do so can also be counterproductive in some cases; it risks generating popular resentment, creating martyrs that motivate new recruits, and producing cycles of revenge.

    ***

    1-141. Any use of force generates a series of reactions. There may be times when an overwhelming effort is necessary to destroy or intimidate an opponent and reassure the populace. Extremist insurgent combatants often have to be killed. In any case, however, counterinsurgents should calculate carefully the type and amount of force to be applied and who wields it for any operation. An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of fifty more insurgents.
    If one believes that the introductory chapter, of which the paradoxes are a part of, removes the reality that counterinsurgency doesn’t involve offensive operations or killing, then there is certainly an issue, but not one with the paradoxes.

    Lastly, the senior officer example that you use involves a fundamental misinterpretation of the manual. As I indicated earlier, this is not an indictment of the manual, but rather, an indictment of the OES and OPMS that has allowed someone to advance through the ranks and to positions of responsibility that cannot holistically digest newly written doctrine or even worse, only reads a small segment of the manual. Paragraph 1-107 above clearly demonstrates that the statement by the senior officer to the reporter that "if we are shooting, we are not having a good day" is not categorically true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    For me though, the more important aspect of my article was why these types of war are so hard to fight from the perspective of the combat soldier.
    But, sir, isn't that your job as their leader to tell them? I can't even imagine what it must be like for someone who served in Anbar in 2004 and saw his buddies killed by a Sunni insurgent, and then comes back this year and is now told the Sunnis are his friends. IMHO, you need to explain to him what's going on and why.
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-23-2007 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    The most important point that I believed I made in the article was how fighting insurgencies within a civil war like in Iraq are very hard on the combat soldier—in essence a discussion on the moral domain of war—and has not been commented on at all in this blog. Most of the postings in this blog that critique my article focus on my questioning of the paradoxes; why? Because it challenged the theoretical premises of a doctrine that so many have turned into an Orwellian nightmare that clouds creative thought and sadly produces dogmatic action. For me though, the more important aspect of my article was why these types of war are so hard to fight from the perspective of the combat soldier. And in this sense I believe that my critique of the paradoxes is still valid.
    I find the appeal to Orwell to be a good place to suggest that you read the essay, "Shooting an Elephant" by Orwell, found on-line here The essay opens :
    In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.
    Perhaps this essay, as well his "A Hanging" might provide some insight into the moral dilemma or quandry that LTC Gentile says is the main point of his article.

    BTW I previously suggested this essay on another thread at post #7

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