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Thread: The Col. Gentile collection and debate

  1. #41
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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.

  2. #42
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    It won't sort itself out in a fashion that will be to our liking,
    I agree: regardless of how many kinetic vs. COIN ops we run.

    Quote Originally Posted by Patriot View Post
    The paradoxes in FM 3-24 are nothing more than Sun Tsuisms for the 21st Century.
    I didn't find any paradoxes in Sun Tsu. I'd say it was more of a philosophy that the right thing to do depends on a number of factors. Whose correct in this dispute about tactics? Both and neither. It depends. But if neither tactic will achieve the objective, then it's neither.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 09-29-2007 at 08:34 PM.

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    Unfortunately, a COIN doctrine published by the US military, whilst great, is no good unless its commanders have actually been taught exactly how to implement its doctrine.

    There are many books similar to Nagls. I broadly agree with all of his assessments but remain sceptical that these lessons have been learnt, they have only been identified.

    There are also wider issues. The evangelical christian movement within the US does not assist with the way in which its political objectives are pursued. A religiously motivated military, much like a politically motivated military is to be avoided. They should be apolitical through and through. Only then can the military commanders ensure that their objectives are realistic and that their political masters understand (as they frequently don't) what the military can and cannot be realistically be expected to achieve. Being 'yes' men is not good enough. Polticians need it spelt out to them.
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    Default There are Lessons Learned and then

    there are Lessons Available - most of the time we default to the latter -no matter where in the spectrum of operations we find ourselves. That might be good in some ways since few situations are the same, bad in others since it means we might sometimes still be looking around for the right tool or applicable experience.

    From what I've seen, the learning curve has flattened out some and the war we find on the ground in Iraq is closer to the one we envision as the unit conducts its train up and deploys - this is not always true, but in the aggregate I think it is. This is important because it means units gain their footing faster and take the initiative away from AIF (from AQIZ, to JAM, to Organized Crime, to corrupt officials, to the significance of propane shortages or unemployment). I think units have learned that no matter where or when they were last time, somethings are going to be different and that means they are going to have to recognize those changes and be prepared to accept and where possible exploit them toward task and purpose - be it along a lethal line of operation or non-lethal line of effort. They have learned how to deal with people and how to solve a host of problems.

    Having doctrine (of any flavor) and implementing it is not the same - however we've gotten pretty good at building in mechanisms to prepare soldiers and leaders (and I include all the services) to operate along the lethal line and transition as needed. You could be talking about changing doctrine (BTW new FM 3-0 Full Spectrum Ops is out in final DRAG), you could be talking about the way the CTCs have shifted, you could be talking about the COIN Academy in Taji, you could be talking about the individual learning that has occurred through deployments. All effect performance and like I said - we're getting pretty good at being "full spectrum" at the tactical level.

    While I'm glad we have addressed some doctrinal shortfalls - be it 3-24 or 3-0 (and I hear there are some doctrinal reviews going on at JFCOM as well?), I give the credit to the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen on the ground who are applying what works, modifying to suit the problem, and where required disregarding what is not applicable for an appropriate solution. Good doctrine enables soldiers and leaders to make good choices - and reflects the value of thinking individuals.

    Best, Rob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    From what I've seen, the learning curve has flattened out some and the war we find on the ground in Iraq is closer to the one we envision as the unit conducts its train up and deploys - this is not always true, but in the aggregate I think it is.

    While I'm glad we have addressed some doctrinal shortfalls - be it 3-24 or 3-0 (and I hear there are some doctrinal reviews going on at JFCOM as well?), I give the credit to the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen on the ground who are applying what works, modifying to suit the problem, and where required disregarding what is not applicable for an appropriate solution. Good doctrine enables soldiers and leaders to make good choices - and reflects the value of thinking individuals.

    Best, Rob
    Rob,

    Would you be inclined to say that that, having undergone a sometimes difficult apprenticeship so to speak, the Army on the ground has now hit its stride and is at least a full journeyman, if not quite a master, of the COIN trade in Iraq? That, generally speaking, from top to bottom, from private to Petraeus, the Army knows what it wants to do, how to do it, and is slowly but surely defeating the insurgency? Is it accurate to say that the Army (and Marines) are succeeding in laying, from the bottom-up, a basis for something like an orderly and organized civil society (subject of course to matter beyond the Army's control)? Or is the situation in Iraq still too tenuous or unclear to comfortably make such observations?

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    Default Iraq and COIN doctrine

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    That, generally speaking, from top to bottom, from private to Petraeus, the Army knows what it wants to do, how to do it, and is slowly but surely defeating the insurgency? Is it accurate to say that the Army (and Marines) are succeeding in laying, from the bottom-up, a basis for something like an orderly and organized civil society (subject of course to matter beyond the Army's control)? Or is the situation in Iraq still too tenuous or unclear to comfortably make such observations?
    It is far too tenuous, in my view.

    My sense would be that there has been (1) major progress, possibly permanent, in dealing with AQI; (2) contingent success (based on temporary alliances of convenience) in dealing with non-jihadist Sunni elements, but this is subject to future change; (3) no real success in dealing with Shi'ite militias.. indeed, if reports of JAM shifting greater weight to civic action are correct, they may become more strongly entrenched than a year or two ago, even if the problem of Shiite revenge killings/sectarian cleansing has declined (partly due to the surge, partly due to so much successful sectarian cleansing).

    (4) Iranian influence--not a COIN issue, but certainly a key US strategic concern--has probably increased slightly.

    (5) Civil society and institution-building--minor successes at best.

    (6) Regional impact--still extremely negative, and a significant source of militant recruitment/mobilization elsewhere inside and outside the region.

    To get back to your original point, parts of (1) and (2) are due to improved COIN doctrine and implementation. However, they are also due to AQI missteps, coupled with a sudden Sunni ability to count (that is, a realization post-Samarra by Sunni tribal and militia leaders that they needed protection against an angry, well armed, and larger Shiite community/militias).

    (That being said, success is, in part, capitalizing on opponent errors.)

  9. #49
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    Default A personal oppinion based on observation

    Would you be inclined to say that that, having undergone a sometimes difficult apprenticeship so to speak, the Army on the ground has now hit its stride and is at least a full journeyman, if not quite a master, of the COIN trade in Iraq?
    I'd rather say we've gotten better at recognizing what needs to be done faster, and have figured out how to do it with less friction - and perhaps without undoing other things that we did not want to in the process. Sorry if that sounds like I'm qualifying it, but I think it deserves more then a yes or no.

    That, generally speaking, from top to bottom, from private to Petraeus, the Army knows what it wants to do, how to do it, and is slowly but surely defeating the insurgency?
    I think in the aggregate of units in Iraq the answer is yes (there is no way to account for evry guy or even every squad or platoon). This is due to MNFI-s leadership in terms of articulating CDR's intent, considering the reports from the lower echelons and making the best decisions it can with regards to campaign goals. I think we've got a much better loop going between units on the ground and those readying for deployment with what is going on in Iraq then we've ever had before. I think if you consider it in terms of AIF, I'd say yes, but if you extend it to the conditions which breed insurgency, make it a viable political recourse for Iraqis - we only have so much say, so much influence and limited resources - so if you extend it along those lines - the only folks who can finally defeat the insurgency are the Iraqis - I think they are starting to want security and stability at more then just one level. This would be a good thing.

    I'm not willing to put forward an opinion on the rest of the Army - for various reasons there is still a considerable portion of the Army (in terms of those in Institutional and support positions) that have not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan yet - until we can afford them that opportunity I don't think we will be at our best. Thee are in many cases valid reasons why these folks have not deployed yet - you can't take for granted all the things that built the Army, prepare it and sustain it - it takes a very large support system.

    Is it accurate to say that the Army (and Marines) are succeeding in laying, from the bottom-up, a basis for something like an orderly and organized civil society (subject of course to matter beyond the Army's control)?
    From what I see and saw, I think we are helping to provide the increased security for that process to take place (along with ISF and tribal allegiances) - but the basis has to be political in some sense - again, Iraqis have to buy into that at various levels. Iraqis have to take it and sustain it.

    Or is the situation in Iraq still too tenuous or unclear to comfortably make such observations?
    I think what has to be noted and accepted is that things change all the time - MNFI saw a success in Al-Anbar and was able to use that as something of a model to engage political buy in in other provinces - there are all kinds of internal and external things that can probably effect that. It could be from Turkey or Iran, it could be internal - If it were an assured thing we would not say we're going to be there for some time to come in some capacity or another.

    These are my thoughts on it - but I'd say folks have to make up their own minds on what they see and hear. Overall, I think the folks on the ground have made significant strides forward in Iraq over the last 6 months - I noticed it in early 2007 - some things just take time to work out, and I think by then we were starting to understand things on larger scale.

    Best Regards, Rob

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    To get back to your original point, parts of (1) and (2) are due to improved COIN doctrine and implementation. However, they are also due to AQI missteps, coupled with a sudden Sunni ability to count (that is, a realization post-Samarra by Sunni tribal and militia leaders that they needed protection against an angry, well armed, and larger Shiite community/militias).

    (That being said, success is, in part, capitalizing on opponent errors.)
    I like it when the enemy screws up - it makes for less work, but don't sell short the ability to understand a mistep/screw up and capitalize on it. Too often an enemy gives us an opportunity and we ignore it, miss it, or screw it up.

    I like your second part Rex - there is some art in being a good counter-puncher.

    Best, Rob

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    I will take it from the both of you then, Rex and Rob, that the US Army (and Marines) in Iraq are now and increasingly so, waging a Counterinsurgency campaign with sustantial, if still limited, success, and that the future, while unpredicatable, is more hopeful than a year ago or more - at least as things stand right now.

    Starting with the fact that some of the insurgents (mainly Sunni), and especially those from AQI, have overstepped themselves, and are paying the price. AQI seems to be in quite the hurt locker lately, and I am inclined to believe that with its deliberate targetting of the civilian population in its last major terror "offensive", it succeeded in turning even the Sunni population more or less against it. Combined with a more or less successful Coalition adaptation to the requirements of COIN, the Sunni backlash against the excesses of many of their own extremists have led to Sunni tribal leaders' re-evaluation of which side the butter on their bread truly lies (at least for the moment). In the Sunni areas at least, Coalition (and especially US) forces are more and more being seen as allies, at least for the time being.

    The Shi'a situation will have to be dealt with in time, particularly the Sadr'ists. I did notice a few years ago (around later 2004, maybe early 2005 - I am taking this purely from reported news and articles at the time - the Marines were clearing Fallujah and ordered to call it off just before finishing, whilst the Sadrists were rebelling in Najaf - and US troops dispatched to face them down) an increasing US awareness of the dynamics of the Sunni-Shi'a divide, and a developing ability to play them other off against one another. A strategy of divide and conquer, even if by necessity rather than design.

    However, gathering from Rex's post, even if the Sunni tribes and the US reach a practical accomodation, the Shi'a extremists will pose the greatest challenge of all to bring to heel, and their strength may even be increasing.

    Okay, I gather from what Rex has said that the situation is still too fragile to make evena tentative call on whether the US/Coalition forces are indeed slowly succeeding in defeating the insurgency; whereas Rob thinks that the situation is a little firmer and clearer than that, with the US/Coalition forces in Iraq having largely caught-on to the demands of the campaign, and succeeding in making things happen, so far. I think that it goes without saying that the Governmental side (above local tribal sheiks), which is formally outside the direct control of the US anyway, is a clear disappointment, but essential to the successs of the counterinsurgency.

    Be that as it may. But I gather that it could be argued, with qualifications especially as to its tentativeness, that US/Coalition troops in Iraq have more or less caught-on to what needs to be done, within the limits of what is possible for them to do (necessarily excluding such matters as Iraqi governmental politics at all levels of government); and furthermore that both General Petraeus' Iraq strategy and the COIN Doctrine from which it derives are genuine, if qualified and still reversible, successes so far.

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    Default COIN Twofer

    Of Cocktail Napkins and Doctrine
    Posted by SWJ Editors on March 4, 2008 3:59 AM

    Charlie at Abu Muqawama has the scoop (and an op-ed link) to the story behind authoring FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency.

    Petraeus' Big Tent - Cullen Nutt, New Jersey Star-Ledger

    The Front Page, a popular Washington, D.C., bistro, was an unlikely place for the genesis of a radical new war strategy for Iraq. But on Nov. 7, 2005, over gourmet burgers and beer, an equally unlikely group of military men and Ivy League eggheads sketched out a plan for a new Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual -- on a cocktail napkin...
    Not So Big of a Tent
    Posted by SWJ Editors on March 4, 2008 9:01 AM

    By Lieutenant Colonel Gian P Gentile

    The notion as presented in the article by Cullen Nutt “Patraeus’s Big Tent” that the construction and writing of the American Army’s new counterinsurgency doctrine FM 3-24 was based on wide-ranging debate within the American Army is fallacious.

    The outcome of the manual was predetermined by a few key individuals like General Petraeus, General Mattis, retired Army Colonel Conrad Crane, active Army Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, and neo-conservative analyst Fred Kagan, to name a few. The fact that a conference was held at Fort Leavenworth in February 2006 to “discuss” this pre-determined doctrine and even acknowledging that at this conference there was wide inclusiveness with civilian academics and analysts does not change the fact that the doctrinal outcome of the manual with its narrow use of historical lessons learned, theories, and principles of counterinsurgency warfare was predetermined.

    This is not to say that there was not good reason for the outcome of the manual to be pre-determined. The American Army and Marine Corps was at war and needed a revised counterinsurgency doctrine immediately. It did not have the luxury to debate the doctrine extensively over the course of many years...

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    Default The Colonels and 'The Matrix'

    The Colonels and 'The Matrix' (SWJ link).

    In what is billed as the First in a Series: The Rise of the Counterinsurgents, Spencer Ackerman of Washington Independent profiles the current debate concerning COIN in The Colonels and 'The Matrix'. The 'colonels' are LTC's Gian Gentile and Paul Yingling...

    ... Ultimately, the answer to that question will probably be endlessly debated. But the counterinsurgency community—they call it "COIN"—has perhaps the most organized answer. Counterinsurgency is a much-disputed concept, but it refers to methods of warfare used to divide a civilian population’s political and sentimental allegiance away from a guerrilla force. From the start of the Iraq war, a cadre of warrior-thinkers in the military has questioned the use of tactics that focus more on killing enemies than giving the Iraqi population reasons not to support terrorists, insurgents and militias. "We don’t just talk about the enemy, we talk about the environment," explained Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, until two weeks ago the corps commander in Iraq, in a lecture Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. Not all of them assert that the early use of a counterinsurgency strategy could have won the war. But most contend, after the decline in violence in Iraq during the last half of 2007, that a counterinsurgency strategy would have allowed the war to have been less deadly than it is.

    This small but dedicated group includes, most prominently, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq and Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command. Other luminaries are Petraeus COIN braintrusters like David Kilcullen, a gregarious former Australian Army officer and State Department adviser; Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who will soon teach military history at the Ohio State University; and Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, who helped craft Petraeus and Mattis’ much-praised Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, a seminal text for the COIN community known as FM 3-24.

    Less visible but highly influential members—many are lieutenants, captains and enlisted soldiers and Marines who came of age in Iraq and Afghanistan—include Janine Davidson, who works in the Pentagon’s directorate of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; cultural anthropologist Montgomery McFate; Harvard human-rights expert Sarah Sewall (an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign); and Marine Corps University Professor Erin M. Simpson. The Democratic-aligned Center for a New American Security think tank plays host to many emerging counterinsurgency figures, like Colin Kahl, Nate Fick, Roger Carstens, Shawn Brimley, and, starting in the fall, Nagl. During moments of downtime, the community obsessively reads and comments on the Small Wars Journal and Abu Muqawama blogs...

    ...the next major debate over U.S. defense policy can be gleaned. Yingling speaks for an ascending cadre of young defense intellectuals, most of whom are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who assert that the U.S. military must embrace principles of counterinsurgency if it is to triumph in the multifaceted fight against global terrorism. Gentile, formerly one of those theorist-practitioners, believes the military has already moved too far in the direction of counterinsurgency, which he contends allows analysts to ignore the limits of U.S. military power. Both arguments represent an attempt to answer a searing question: What are the lessons of Iraq?
    Charlie at Abu Muqawama has more commentary on The Colonels and 'The Matrix'.

    Also see Gian's latest op-ed, Misreading the Surge Threatens U.S. Army's Conventional Capabilities, at World Politics Review.

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    Default A (Slightly) Better War: A Narrative and Its Defects

    A (Slightly) Better War: A Narrative and Its Defects - LTC Gian Gentile, World Affairs.

    The U.S. Army’s new strategy in Iraq—launched in February 2007, along with a surge of 25,000 additional American troops—qualifies neither as particularly new nor even as a strategy. Better to call it, instead, an enhanced reliance on tactics and operational concepts previously in use. Or, put less charitably, an over-hyped shift in emphasis that, on the one hand, will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq but, on the other, might well leave the United States Army crippled in future wars.

    Properly understood, the surge narrative is really not about Iraq at all. It is about the past and future of the U.S. Army. It resurrects dubious battlefield lessons from the past—Vietnam, principally—applies them to Iraq, and extrapolates from there into an unknown future. On all three counts—past, present, and future—the narrative suffers from numerous and irreparable defects. Its reading of the past, grounded in the cliché that General Creighton Abrams’s “hearts and minds” program “won” the war in Vietnam, is a self-serving fiction. Its version of the more recent past and even the present is contrived and largely fanciful, relying on a distorted version of both to tell a tale in which U.S. forces triumphed in Iraq in 2007 and did so despite the misguided efforts of their predecessors even a year before. More than anything else, the surge narrative stakes a claim on the future, instructing us that its methods of counterinsurgency will be uniquely suited to the next war and to the one after that.

    From the surge, its most fervent advocates have extracted a single maxim: that they and only they have uncovered the secret to defeating insurgencies. Prior to the surge, in this telling, only a few exceptional units were engaged in proper counterinsurgent operations...
    Much more at the link.

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    Default Gian is about to turn into that one

    trick pony people go on about.

    Having agreed with him that the force is out of balance -- but disagreed on how far and how dangerous that is at this time; having agreed with him that good units in Iraq were doing the right things prior to the surge -- but disagreed on how many were doing it well; having agreed with him that conventional warfare and major combat operations are really the graduate level of war -- but disagreed that COIN is totally unimportant; having agreed, I thought, that we must have a balanced force with some elements able to excel at each of the spectrums of warfare, I've said about all I have to say on the topic (as I hear Gian breathe a sigh of relief... ).

    I did note his final words in that well written article:
    More than that, Iraq bids to transform the entire force into a “dead army walking.” We who believe this to be the case may be in error on some counts. Preparing to fight the last war will not be one of them.
    Those words cause me to note what I believe is an astounding lack of faith in the Army and to ask; then those who believe that to be the case are preparing for precisely what?

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    Default king of battle

    As a former Artilleryman (switched to MI this month), I agree that FA is in trouble as a branch. Officers, NCO's, and Soldiers are not universally pleased with non-standard ILO missions, but do them because that is their duty. We've lost a lot of the FA technical skills that are highly perishable. But does that mean all the branches are in trouble?

    Our infantrymen and tanks are fighting as squads, platoons, and companies/troops, not as battalions/squadrons, brigades, and divisions; but in reality, squads and teams actually fight the war, so is this an overly bad thing? It may make higher level commanders rusty, but for the trigger puller who only sees the men to his left and right, the experience he is gaining in OIF/OEF is immense. Can anyone better attest to this?

    This article points out that some units were fighting COIN before it became sexy and official. I drove around Iraq throughout 2006, and I never saw any Combat Outposts. A couple patrol bases, but not the forward presence we have now. We went many a convoy without seeing any US troops (other than the other convoys). If not original, "The Surge" changed the Army-wide mindset, and made it the new stategy. The data I read about IEDs on convoys shows that something new is working, as attacks are WAY down from my time there. That is a great thing, regardless of who gets credit for it.

    From the article:
    "Critics of this decision ought to ask themselves: If Abrams had chosen otherwise, would the ground phase of the 1991 Gulf War have been completed in four days? Would the 2003 drive to Baghdad have been accomplished in three weeks?"

    Just some Monday morning quarterbacking, and in no way an insult to any of those Soldiers who fought in the invasion, but would we now trade a longer invasion for a shorter occupation? If Abrams had chosen otherwise, would there have been a plan B for after capturing Baghdad?

  17. #57
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    Ken:

    Even when we have disagreed on things (probably most of the time) I have learned much from our discussions.

    Patmc: At least in Baghdad, i think the notion that the cops have been a key factor in the lowering of violence has been way overstated. For the size of the city there have just not been that many put out there and many of the points that have been called cops are actually Joint Security Stations which had been in place as ISF fobs.

    However, I do think that in Talafar in 2005 with 3ACR and in Ramadi in 06/07 with 1/1 AD cops may have played a significant role. Neil Smith's recent article in Military Review on 1/1 AD in Ramadi makes a pretty convincing case (albeit without viewing things from the Iraqi side) that there were enough cops in Ramadi to have made a significant difference; combined of course with the other efforts of the brigade, like co-opting the tribes to ally with them to fight alqueda.

    gian

  18. #58
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Abrams choice had little or nothing to do with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    ...
    From the article:
    "Critics of this decision ought to ask themselves: If Abrams had chosen otherwise, would the ground phase of the 1991 Gulf War have been completed in four days? Would the 2003 drive to Baghdad have been accomplished in three weeks?"

    Just some Monday morning quarterbacking, and in no way an insult to any of those Soldiers who fought in the invasion, but would we now trade a longer invasion for a shorter occupation? If Abrams had chosen otherwise, would there have been a plan B for after capturing Baghdad?
    Abrams made the logical decision to put the main effort into ability to deter a peer competitor as he should have done. He did not take COIN or FID off the table; that was done later by Donn Starry at TRADOC and affirmed by Bernie Rogers as CofSA. The Army kept some semblance of effort at LIC until John Wickham left the job. Then it got almost totally wiped out by a series of Artillerymen and Tankers with a lot of European experience.

    To put the principal effort into Europe post Viet Nam made all the sense in the world. To downplay COIN and FID made sense. That was true in 1972 and it remained true until the late 80s. However, to later eliminate anything to do with LIC, particularly after 1991 was simply wrong. Still, even that and the foolish Weinberger and Powell doctrines -- abrogation of which by both Clinton and Bush 43 prove that DoD cannot influence US Foreign policy to the extent they'd like to believe -- were not the real problem.

    The problem that created the lack of planning for the post attack phase was poor training; specifically BCTP. In that training regimen, the war was played by the Generals and Colonels, active on one side and retired on the other and it was good solid and very effective training. However, it had a flaw. After the last big US attack, the victory was won -- then they turned off the computers and the lights and left the room...

    The problem in Iraq was no one had trained on what to do so they effectively did nothing for a year and a half. That's been fixed. The even better news is that BCTP has also been fixed in current iterations.

    What is worrying is that Eurocentricity still seems to be with us...

    That's not the last war, it was three wars ago...

  19. #59
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    The U.S. Army’s new strategy in Iraq—launched in February 2007, along with a surge of 25,000 additional American troops—qualifies neither as particularly new nor even as a strategy.
    Interesting statement, and one worth discussing-

    One way of expressing strategy is in ends, ways and means. Did any of these change? When did they change and why did they change? Did they change all at once, or over time? Were they explicit changes or implicit changes that became explicit over time. Was it a combination of bottom up changes that were codified into something else at the right time? Was it sausage? Does it matter?

    I think over time we've gotten much more pragmatic about our ends, probably an acceptance of realism over idealism - meaning we'll settle for a more acceptable outcome vs. the ideal outcome. Again I emphasize that happened over time and that realization allowed us to adjust our expectations some.

    With regards to "ways" I think those have also shifted over time. It was not an overnight shift, but it was codified in the MNF-I CDR's guidance I saw early in 2007, and that did have an effect. I believe it changed the way units approached their mission before they arrived vs. the 3-4 month adaptation curve I saw in previous units. It changed the subordinate commander's intent, and that changed the operational and tactical focus, and the allocation of resources - at least that is what I attribute s the cause - I say that after having asked several BCT and TF CDRs if it made a difference in the way they saw their key tasks - nothing new there - its doctrine. However, the codification of a change in guidance into the CDR's intent combined with other environmental factors - the increase in means (U.S. and Iraqi) and some misteps by the enemy facilitated a shift in "ways" on a scale that registered. Its not mono causal, but a CDR's understanding and intuition of when to shift operational focus is his responsibility - had it failed, had he erred in his judgment the CDR would certainly be held accountable.

    An increase in troop end strength and an increase in funding is certainly a strategic increase in means. The decision to focus that increase primarily in MND-B is an operational increase in means - and it is also a change in ways. Baghdad was regarded as decisive for a number of reasons from credibility of the Iraqi government and our continued efforts (our domestic will) there, to countering the focus of enemy efforts, to providing the center of Iraqi government an air of increased security where political issues could be brought up and addressed in an environment that showed the potential for progress.

    So if an expression of strategy is ends, ways and means, and one of those changed significantly, then did the strategy change? It may have been sausage over time, but we did not realize and codify it until about 2007. We hang the mark there for some good reasons.

    WRT risk in Army capabilities and capacities - there is always risk. We cannot and should not count on policy to produce objectives that conform to the expectations for which we have spent the most $$ preparing. Its the other way around. Yes, we must be full spectrum, but in order to secure the policy objective with available resources we may be required to accept risk in other parts of the spectrum at various times. It is our job to point out those risks, but it is also our job to accept them (and mitigate where possible) once the policy objective has been decided.

    Post policy objective I believe we will balance out - it will not be as before where we were absent a portion of the spectrum - we will and should move to account for those missing capabilities. As such we will not look as we did in 2000. We will and should be a bit different. We are working toward what we've always said we must do - provide ready and relevant land power, the operational environment has caused us to redefine some what is relevant to those types of conflicts we anticipate, and as such we are changing some to ensure our readiness to meet the challenges we may be called on in pursuit of policy.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 06-26-2008 at 03:22 AM.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default An Alternative title for this piece might have

    been Attack of the strawman. I think that even a casual review of posting history on this site reveals that Gian has several deeply entrenched positions on this issue. Nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of us who have similarly strongly held views on a wide range of issues.

    The problem I perceive with some of the argument presented is that a false dilemma is being postulated . No one - from Secretary Gates through to Nagl is on record as advocating abandonment of US conventional abilities and the US' obvious superiority in this field. You only have to look at where the rubber hits the road in terms of planned expenditure on capital equipment and systems over the next decades to find further proof of this point. And yet, it only takes one or two (or a dozen...) folks to speculate openly and in an logical fashion about the last five years of 'unconventionality' 'might mean' and the cry goes up that the conventional sky is falling in.

    Of course, there is no doubt that that some skills, conventional or otherwise, may have perished through lack of use whilst the US Defense force has been preoccupied with its tasks in Iraq and Afgahnistan. Realistically, that is to be expected. It has happened in every war before these ones and will no doubt happen during the next one as well. This is why we have the Services and Service Chiefs and charge them with 'raise, train and sustain (and reconstitute)' functions. This 'loss' of skills is really only an issue if you do not trust in either the Services or the Service Chief's abilities in this regard - but that is a different argument to the 'be aware of the COIN Bogeyman' one.

    Regarding Gian's recycled point (from other posts) that folks prior to the surge were doing COIN as well - I do not detect any real disagreement from anyone who actually is in the 'know' about this point. The point (that has been stated previously) is that it (the COIN practice) was just not necessarily as coherent or effective as what has developed since. Such an observation is neither a personal attack nor a slight on the hard fought and valiant efforts of any serviceman or servicewoman (or unit) pre- surge, it is simply a statement of fact.

    The point I will conclude with is that the 'dilemma' that Gian presents is not a zero sum game. National Security planning never has been - it is about the art of balancing finite resources against a world of possibilities and trying to strike an appropriate balance. Picking winners in such a game is never easy - but picking turkeys is - they stand out by a mile. And for my money, either an 'all conventional force' or an 'all COIN force' approach (or variations on similar themes) are both turkeys. Picking a 'winning approach' is not served by creating false dilemmas.
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 06-26-2008 at 05:13 AM. Reason: spelling, syntax

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