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Thread: The Col. Gentile collection and debate

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    As for Jedburg’s mean statement that I was hunkered down in a fob I point him to a recent oped piece that I had published in Army Times on that subject. He could also ask any number of 4 star generals on down to the lowest private in my squadron if I “got it” and new how to do coin. And finally, he might try asking other commanders who lost soldiers what their priorities were. I know what I said at that Heritage panel did not fit in with what the coin experts believe actual coin ops should be like, but again my impression of counterinsurgency warfare is that fighting is its basic element and so killing and not being killed were my top priorities. So go ahead Jedburg and ask people who knew of me and I trust you will not get the profile back that you have created on me.
    Jedburgh was not accusing of you of being hunkered down in a fob (I assume you're talking about this post) - he was quoting from my blog post after that Heritage event. For the record I was not accusing you either, merely observing that the mentality of "kill the enemy" first and foremost could conceivably push a commander to only expend his resources when he has the best chance of killing the enemy. That view would make sense if there was a defined amount of enemies, but in a COIN environment where you can create new enemies even when you kill people who deserve to be killed, it doesn't make sense to me - probably because I don't conceive of COIN as a war-fighting mission as much as you do.

    That said, anyone who takes on conventional wisdom gets kudos. Also I hadn't made the connection between the frustration factor and the torture issue - good point. Although apparently everyone here disagrees with you, obviously someone needs to write articles like this to force us to reexamine our starting points.

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    Dear Adrian:

    thanks for clarifying that point. I, like most of the participants on this blog, have lots of things going on during the day and i came to it in the afternoon and tried to answer as many points as i could rather quickly.

    thanks again for the clarification and for your comments.

  3. #23
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    I must have missed the class as Dr Tyrell states and I never really did get Foucault or Derrida because for the life of me I don’t get what he is telling me. I guess I just must be slow. No matter, I will restate my impression of the coin manual’s paradoxes when I was in combat in Iraq and based on reflection upon my return: my impression was that the paradoxes removed the essence of war which is fighting. You might disagree with what I have to say but I think the logic is pretty clear.
    Conspicuous by its absence is any real logic (in the sense of reasoned argumentation) in this response. (Yearling USMA PY201 students would probably fail for an effort like this.) Also conspicuous by its absence is any attempt at rebuttal of my allegation of a category mistake in the article's subsumption of COIN under war. Category mistakes, btw, have been central issues in mainstream Western analytic Philosophy ever since Gilbert Ryle (a good old Oxford Don at Christ Church) coined the term in his 1949 Concept of Mind. Therefore, being confused by Foucault and Derrida (Continental philosophers of the "touchy-feely" sort) is not a good excuse, IMO. Actually the absence of any meaningful reclama or rebuttal discussion on this issue is fully understandable. It seems to indicate a blind spot in the author's conceptual schematism. For more on this topic, one might read the essay by Donald Davidson (another mainstream Anglo-American analytic philosopher of language so the Derrida dodge again won't work) "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme," a response to WVO Quine's (Harvard logician) seminal essay "Two Dogmas of Empiricism." Since LTC Gentile is at USMA, perhaps a trip to the second or third floors of Lincoln Hall for some remedial training in logic and critical thinking might be in order. As a minimum, I would suggest a close reading of Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought by David Hackett Fischer.

    I argue that this entire construct is flawed. That by and large the American army has done pretty well in Iraq—even prior to the surge--with the strategic and political cards it was dealt.
    Metrics are always tied to presumptions. If we accept the presumption that the Army's mission in Iraq has been to amass a body count, then I cannot disagree with the quoted claim. However, I tend to think that just accurately placing rounds on target is too narrow a view of the mission. Back in the days of SASO as an Army mission, racking up corpes was not a good metric for the success of that mission. And it still is not a good metric for SASO's replacement.
    My article in fact threatens the intellectual base of the new coin doctrine because it calls its basic theoretical premises into question. Counterinsurgency war is not “armed social science” as Kilkullen has called it. Instead at its basic level is violence and death; this was my impression after a year in Baghdad.
    This is a very telling statement about the author's preconceptions. What was witnessed was violence and death and the witness has choosen to describe this as "counterinsurgency war." However, what Kilcullen addresses is probably more like what Immanuel Kant calls a regulative ideal--not the state of thiings as they are but instead the future state of things that one is trying to attain. The article is a threat because it is reactionary, not because it is visionary. It seeks to turn back the hands of time, not move forward into a brave new world. I suspect that had people in the 18th Century taken the approach described in this rebuttal, then the world would still condone slavery and have many nations ruled under the pretense of the divine right of kings.

    I will pose a counterfactual again that I posted last week on this blog: If the army had read books like Nagl’s before the war and trained and taken seriously coin operations would things be any different in iraq than they are now? If the army had focused predominantly on coin prior to 2003 would the march to Baghdad gone the same way?
    This is a question that is misframed. It really does not matter how much training in COIN had been given prior to the start of OIF. What does matter is that the mission was assigned based on a misreading of the reality on the ground in Iraq. Apparently, senior leadership above the Service departments (and perhaps within them as well) did not forese the need for a COIN force after the regime change was effected. Instead, they seemed to believe that the swap out would be more like what happens between November and January after a Presidential election in the US.

    To repeat, war is not “armed social science,” though many of you may want it to be.
    War may not be "armed social science," but COIN is not necessarily war simpliciter. I submit that COIN is sui generis.

  4. #24
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    Great stuff here as always Ken.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    and I'm carnivorous. Not to mention you can eat it with a knife or a spoon, whichever's easier and works best (METT-T for MRE's?)...

    Van has it right, I think.

    Seems to me that LTCs Gentile and Kilcullen are having a techniques disagreement. That's good for everyone. I think FM 3-24 is basically okay, if a tad touchy-feely and I also agree with much of what LTC Gentile says. Thus there's some merit to both sides, IMO -- I suspect, as usual , the average commander will fall in between, most will do it right and ol' METT-T will be the determinant as it always is...

    While LTC Gentile alludes to the paradoxes as potentially introducing a mindset it seems to me that he accords it more power than any other document I''ve seen the Army or the Marine Corps publish. I'm afraid our mindset is too deep for one pub to change.

    I do disagree with him on one point -- in his comment above he says that the Army has done pretty well in Iraq with the strategic and political cards it was dealt. I agree broadly but would submit the errors in the first eighteen months due to the lack of doctrinal effort and training emphasis on occupation, nation building and counterinsurgency throughout the Army from 1975 until I retired in 1977 and continuing until I retired as a DAC in 1995 were responsible for many those errors. There were a number of people pointing out the likely future and they were diligently ignored. Sort of understandable in the 1975-1990 period; bad ju-ju post 1990, the proverbial handwriting was on the wall...

    Which gets to my point (and Van's) -- we have got to be a full spectrum Army.

    Along that line, there's another article in the AFJ, Culture Battle by Colonel Henry Foresman Jr. That I think speaks to both 3-24 proponents and believers in LTC Gentile's approach. The culture is the problem. He says several things that I think are pertinent:



    He agrees with me; smart guy...

    However, he also makes a very valid point that it seems to me that both 3-24 and LTC Gentile barely touch upon:



    I believe that is a critical point and the last phrase is the reason. I don't care how good we are. Goesh pointed out that Mr. & Mrs. America are basically cool with body bags but they want results. My sensing is he's absolutely correct and if the perception of Mr. & Mrs America is that we aren't doing well; they'll pull th plug. Techniques then become irrelevant.



    My perception also. Good article and bears reading.

    Like Steve, I take issue with some of LTC Gian's premises and essentially for the same reason. However, I do not agree that we haven't transcended the Cold war mindset -- I suggest, as does COL Foresman, we haven't transcended the WW II mindset. We are still structured essentially as we are in 1946. For those who say "Brigade Combat Teams," my response is RCT -- with which we fought most of WW II outside the North African Desert. Not to mention Korea then back to Brigades for Viet Nam. Lest I be misunderstood, Brigades are good, Divisions are bad (even if we did err in the structure ot the light infantry Battalions). Notice that we did not do away with the Division...

    I think we did not to avoid the two star spaces loss; we may need them to mobilize -- just as we will need the 3K plus Colonels and 3K plus SGM/CSM even though those are the same numbers we had in 1960 with an Army almost twice the size of todays. Mobilization backup is what that's all about but 'mobilization' is (unfortunately and stupidly) a nasty word in Congress. Thus we dissemble to keep the ability to expand tremendously. Prudent; we should. I just think there are better ways to do that.

    Creighton Abrams structured the Total Army to force the government to call up the RC to go to war. The tear down of that started in DS/DS because the then CofSA and then DCSOPS hated the idea and fought Congress demands to send ArNG Brigades to Kuwait. Post DS/DS, they continued to do that in various little ways, some effective and some not. What they did not do was prepare for the present (then or now...).

    It's mostly about protecting the institution. To fight WW II.

    We need to be able to do that but we could be a whole lot smarter in how we go about it and still be prepared to cope with the more likely threats in the next decade or so..
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

  5. #25
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    A number of things LTC Gentile says are undoubtedly right and he has identified the problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    by and large the American army has done pretty well in Iraq—even prior to the surge--with the strategic and political cards it was dealt.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    It has pushed us into doing things that make no sense to me: like arming the enemy of the government that we support.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    It does not take into account the reality of conditions on the ground in Baghdad, the fact that there is civil war occurring, and those 25,000 additional combat troops simply are not enough to solve militarily what is essentially a political problem.
    I’m going to suggest that you guys are such experts on trees, and so wedded to your particular tree related theories, that you can’t see the forest. Only the amateurs, and detached professionals, can see the forest. There are no military solutions to Iraq’s political problems.

    The people haven’t abandoned you. (Strangers still show up at funerals for KIA. People still donate to charities for the wounded. Everyone is appalled by the conditions at Walter Reed.) They haven't lost faith. They just know that asking you to sacrifice your life in pursuit of an impossible objective is stupid.

    COIN - in Iraq - is a knife. LTC Gentile’s approach is a bigger knife; it feels better, but is no more effective.

    We know the resources we can apply. We know the tactics we can use. What we need is an achievable objective.

    The country is hungry for a politician who will identify a reasonable objective, and without bull####, tells us how long it will take to achieve, what price we need to pay and why it’s worth paying.

    We’re not optimistic.

  6. #26
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I thought that was Asplundh; the Tree Experts...

    I don't know anyone here or anyone in any of the services or retired therefrom -- and that's a large crowd of tree experts -- who ever thought there were any military solutions to Iraq's problems.

    I think you're missing the point. I don't know anyone who believes the Nation has abandoned them -- I do know many who disagree with this statement:

    "They just know that asking you to sacrifice your life in pursuit of an impossible objective is stupid."
    simply because they know that the objective isn't stupid. They also know that many who have not been there think it is stupid and mostly, they're cool with that.

    They don't see it as an impossible objective; the objective was to open a window and let the Iraqis make their own decisions. That window was opened and is being held open. It likely will continue to be held open regardless of who's elected next year and mostly, the largest regret is that too many here do not understand all that. Regardless, the tree experts will confound the amatuers and "detached professionals" (whatever they are...) and continue to do their job in spite of that lack of understanding. Like they always have.

    The country may be hungry for a politician who will identify that objective and without BS tell them how long it will take, what price they need to pay and why it's worth paying. I suspect they will be disappointed in all those desires, particularly the 'without BS' part.

    I could point out that the country has in one form or another been told everything I said two paragraphs above; the problem is that, for some, those things are inadequate or insufficient cause to be there. Nothing any politicians says or does will change that; those minds were mostly made up and they aren't going to be changed. You may or may not be aware there some in the Armed Forces who fall in that category as well. They'll mostly still go and do their thing because they believe that how well one does something that one does not want to do is a mark of value.

    Pessimists are never optimistic, it's contrary to their nature.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    A number of things LTC Gentile says
    The country is hungry for a politician who will identify a reasonable objective, and without bull####, tells us how long it will take to achieve, what price we need to pay and why it’s worth paying.
    Well,only speaking for myself here, but there are some who will NEVER listen to or believe what any politician says and only listens to, believes, and learns from what the likes of Petreaus, Nagl, Gentile, et al have to say.They've made it clear what the cost is, and they've made it clear that it requires patience. And they've made it clear that there is undeniable progress.

    We’re not optimistic.
    Some of us are. If I had to just rely on what the president or the media says, I'd have lost hope by now. But after listening to Petreaus and Crocker, researching what has been done by others, and reading what the folks here have to say, I'm very optimistic. I understand progress isn't the number of Muslims killed or the number of major cities blown up, it's the number of would-be terrorists who aren't that way anymore and who don't want me killed. It's watching before my very eyes Islam turning into the religion of peace they claim to be.
    To say I'm impressed with what I'm hearing and reading about what our guys (military and civilian) have done and are doing, is an understatement. Awe-inspriring would be a better word. I can't begin to tell you how much I want to be a part of this and how much motivation it's giving me to get through the required (and boring) math and science classes until I start taking the more interesting courses.

    Don't underestimate us. There are many of us (not as many as I'd like, but enought to have a voice) inexperienced, commom, everyday, civilian shmucks who know perfectly well what's going on and what it all means and who go FAR beyond just putting yellow "support the troops" bumper stickers on our SUV's.

    Ken
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-20-2007 at 10:10 AM. Reason: spelling, grammar

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    I am not in a rush to ignore FM3-24; in fact in my “Eating Soup…” piece I say up front that its middle chapters are relevant and useful to senior commanders in Iraq. My critique of the manual was directed at its paradoxes in the first chapter. I based my critique on my impression of the paradoxes after a year of combat as a tactical battalion in Iraq. My impression expressed in the form of a critique argued that the paradoxes removed the reality of war—which at its most basic level is fighting—from the manual.

    Understandably with this critique I questioned the theoretical and underlying premises of the Coin doctrine. I also argued at the end of the piece that the influence of the new Coin doctrine has pushed the Army into dogmatism in its current operational approach in Iraq.

    I believe that FM3-24 has become the defacto operational doctrine of the United States Army and it has not been questioned or seriously debated as such. I do believe that what we are seeing is unique with the American Army. This Coin doctrine has become so overriding that it now prescribes action. In short, it has moved beyond the accepted definition that doctrine is authoritative but requires judgment in action to the point where it determines future action. As I have already argued in a previous posting I believe that the Surge and many of its tactics and methods are an example of our dogmatism run wild. Ironically during the Cold War Soviet Officers used to quip that they didn’t need to understand American Army doctrine because the American Army never followed it anyway. Now, ironically, one can argue the opposite. Want to know what the Americans are going to do? Just read FM3-24.

    As far as your comment of not wanting to have the army repeat “its past mistakes from Vietnam” I couldn’t agree with you more which is why I have been thinking and writing about this topic. But brace yourself here: it is not me who is repeating these past mistakes but you. The mistakes from Vietnam as you imply were that the American Army became so consumed with conventional warfighting that they ditched and refused to consider problems of unorthodox war. Well, inversely, as I see it that is what we are doing now with Coin and to our detriment. I know this idea does not go over well with many because so called Coin experts and practitioners after being pushed to the sidelines during the Cold War now are enjoying their place in the sun and anything that challenges and questions their dominance is attacked.

    Onward social science warriors….

  9. #29
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Sir,(LTC. Gentile) What would you recomned as a COA for Iraq?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    As far as your comment of not wanting to have the army repeat “its past mistakes from Vietnam” I couldn’t agree with you more which is why I have been thinking and writing about this topic. But brace yourself here: it is not me who is repeating these past mistakes but you. The mistakes from Vietnam as you imply were that the American Army became so consumed with conventional warfighting that they ditched and refused to consider problems of unorthodox war. Well, inversely, as I see it that is what we are doing now with Coin and to our detriment. I know this idea does not go over well with many because so called Coin experts and practitioners after being pushed to the sidelines during the Cold War now are enjoying their place in the sun and anything that challenges and questions their dominance is attacked.

    Onward social science warriors….
    I still fail to see where you can find a precedent for COIN replacing the sort of warfare that the Army has always preferred to prepare for. Training was reoriented during Vietnam, as was a certain level of doctrine (the level depended on the branch in question), but all that was quickly phased out as soon as the conflict ended. If memory serves the real peak for such training came in 1968-69, and most lessons had faded by 1975 or so. I have seen little to convince me that the same thing will not happen again. After all, we were "surprised" by Somalis using RPGs against helicopters...

    If the political objectives of the United States call for the Army to be involved in COIN frequently (which is very possible given the number of failed states and the looming creation of AFRICOM), then at least some percentage of war preparation should be directed to that end...and not just a token 10% or so. That's just responsible planning.
    "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

  11. #31
    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Rank Amateur et al;

    There are no military solutions to Iraq’s political problems.
    Better to say "There are no military solutions to political problems". I'm certain that most members of the Council understand this at least intellectually, and a majority have really internalized the concept. At the end of the day, militaries only buy time for politicians to sort out the solution*. This having been said, synchronization and deconfliction of combat and non-combat measures in Small Wars (including COIN) is essential to success (per the U.S.M.C. 1940 manual and other sources). The problem is often one of persuading the civilian leadership that the military is not the correct wrench with which to pound screws.

    Re: optimism- In Iraq, we should be guardedly optimistic. It won't sort itself out in a fashion that will be to our liking, but if we can sever the outside support for the insurgents, not make any more gaffs on the scale of Abu Ghraib, and stick with it for the full decade it takes to succeed in COIN, we've got a great chance of success. Sadly, the media and the self-serving defeatists are doing every thing in their power to make this impossible, no matter the strategic damage they cause us. Note the long lasting geopolitical damage we suffered from the precipitous pullout from Somalia. Now increase that by an order of magnitude...
    - In the GWOT, if we can avoid validating the allegations that the West is waging war on Islam, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, especially as Muslims are coming out against violence and the irhabi. If the popular meme reverts back to a "Christian vs Muslim" perception of the conflict, it could rapidly degenerate into calls for genocide from both sides. Again, guarded optimism is in order, but we must remain cognizant of the risks and possible consequences.


    *In a republic with civilian control of the military, won't comment on other arrangements.

  12. #32
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    Default COIN & Geezers: The In-house War

    Gentile states that when the Tal Alfar lessons were applied to Baghdad, our troops were subjected to "supreme tactical vulnerability". That's pretty serious stuff to taxpayers like me and ol' Mom & Pop back home. How much of that statement is a reflection of reality on the street and how much of it is a reflection of the inherent friction that is becoming readily apparent between COIN proponents and for lack of better word, old school (geezers?), traditional military thinking? More importanty, how much is this in-house war detracting from success of the mission in Iraq?

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Somehow I find it hard to believe that any combat arms

    unit in the US Army is going to forget that the reality of war and fighting is no longer apporopriate because it is not it an FM...

    LTC Gentile says:

    "I believe that FM3-24 has become the defacto operational doctrine of the United States Army and it has not been questioned or seriously debated as such."
    Sweeping statement. It certainly seems to be the case that it is for operations in Iraq at this time -- as it probably should be. Does that necessarily mean it is the de facto operational doctrine for the entire Army. I doubt it. I'd also suggest that the nominal Soviet quip is probably apocryphal and it was earlier alleged to the Brits -- though it is essentially correct -- and the American Army hasn't changed, that'll always be correct.

    We're too independent and egotistical for that. Most Commanders take the mantra and adapt it to their needs and do their own thing. And that's good.

    He may be correct in that we will go overboard on the COIN side; we as an Army have a tenedency to do that to the detriment of training. We must be a full spectrum Army, no question -- and that is a heavy training task and it is expensive; there are a lot of pressures to focus more narrowly. Having been in and around the beast for 45 years, I've watched that oscillation too many times. I think there are enough people coinvinced that we need to do the whole deal to avoid the trap this time. We'll see.

    I spent a lot of time training to fight a land war in Europe. Never stationed or fought there -- but I ate a heck of a lot of rice. Pity, I dearly love Bratwurst...

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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.

  17. #37
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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 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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