Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: "The Global Counter Insurgency" Some Thoughts

  1. #1
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Point New York
    Posts
    268

    Default "The Global Counter Insurgency" Some Thoughts

    What follows are some thoughts on the interim essay in the SWJ Magazine by Morgenstein and Vickland The Global Counter Insurgency: America's New National Security and Foreign Policy Paradigm.

    I posted them as a response to the article and I am pasting them here as a thread.

    Just some thoughts on this essay by Morgenstein and Vickland. I appreciate the authors’ call for a reestablishment of good relations with key allies who as the authors rightly point out we have “rubbed the wrong way” over the past 6-7 years. I also agree with their call for maintaining key security alliances that has served the United States so well over many, many years. Too, refining and clarifying the vague term “war against terror” into a more usable framework of “global counterinsurgency” also makes sense.

    Morgenstein and Vickland's essay is about policy and not strategy. It uses George Kennan’s Containment Policy as the model for how to construct a foreign policy. Clearly there was a mind on Kennan and he perceptively saw the world around him in 1947, defined the threat, and then proposed a policy of containment to deal with threat posed by the Soviet Union. Morgenstein and Vickland, ironically, do not highlight what happened to Kennan’s policy of Containment once it was “militarized” by a security policy constructed initially by Paul Nitze and then put into practice in places like Vietnam. Years after he formulated his policy of Containment Kennan became continuously dismayed on how it had become militarized. The irony is that this essay by Morgenstein and Vickland appears to be pushing the United States and its allies toward a militarized foreign policy of countering the global insurgency. George Kennan would not approve.

    The paper is essentially an extrapolation of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, into American foreign and national security policy writ large. Kennan roles his eyes in his grave as he witnesses the continued militarization of American foreign policy. The rejoinder to this statement would be “no, no, you miss the point that it is just as much about soft power as hard.” But because the American approach to counterinsurgency is narrowly premised on a certain “population centric” theory the methods that the essay ultimately calls for push the United States toward large numbers of boots on the ground in order to “protect” people from the insurgents; in this case on a global level wherever the global insurgents threaten American interests and its allies.

    Morgenstein and Vickland’s essay is emblematic of how American foreign and security policy, and operational methods in Iraq and Afghanistan are built on the “micro tactics” of past attempts at countering insurgencies turned into readily digestible templates for action in the form of historical lessons learned. This essay relies heavily on two specific cases, or lessons learned, from David Galula’s experience in North Algeria from 1956 to 1958 and the “Marine Corps Small Wars Manual” (MCSWM). Galula wrote his book, “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” based primarily on his experience—experience—fighting insurgents in North Algeria. Admittedly Galula also used his reading and knowledge of other counterinsurgencies but primarily the book is based on his experience. The American Army’s FM 3-24 is heavily premised on Galula. But David Galula commanded an infantry company in a very small area of a couple of miles in the mountains of north Algeria with a population of about 15,000 people dispersed in a relatively few number of villages and hamlets. The MCSWM aside from some helpful and pithy statements about being nice to people in a counterinsurgency and accepting the political primacy of things is essentially about the tactics of moving small squads of marine infantry around the mountains and jungles of Central America in the 1920s and 1930s.

    The point here is that today in Iraq (and potentially Afghanistan) we have built operational method and a military strategy in Iraq on the backs of the micro tactics of David Galula and the MCSWM. This essay does the same thing but on a much greater scale.

    Finally, this essay does not reconcile the huge mismatch between its proposed foreign and security policy with that of military strategy. Perhaps the authors never intended to do so. However by defining the threat facing America as a global insurgency and then building a foreign and security policy based on a certain approach built on micro-tactics to countering that insurgency, one wonders how the American Army as a strategic resource can fulfill its role within that overarching policy. How many Iraqs and Afghanistans can the American army conduct at one time without being grinded into nothingness and irrelevance?

    The fundamental issue that emerges after reading this essay by Morgenstein and Vickland is one of aligning military strategy to foreign and security policy. Perhaps retired Army General Gordon Sullivan is right in his recent "Army Times" article calling for a one million man American Army to match strategy to policy.

    Kennan continues to role his eyes in his grave.

  2. #2
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Lansing, KS
    Posts
    361

    Default There you go again Gian...

    Actually, I'm kidding ...
    After reading your comments, I wanted to offer a counter perspective because of what I would term your unwillingness to consider the alternative (majority) view point on FM 3-24.

    However, after reading (scanning) the Global Counterinsurgency:...

    I have to concede your point that Keenan would be rolling his eyes in his grave. The most significant issue with the proposed approach is that it turns the "80/20 rule" on its head. You might be able to make the arguement that this would be an approach for a military strategy in an area in which a "whole-of-govt" approach is applied, but the authors seem to pose the construct as a national policy approach. Not sure when security became narrowly construed as military, but that appears the case in this instance.

    Live well and row brother
    Hacksaw
    Say hello to my 2 x 4

  3. #3
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Wink I can't believe I'm saying this, but...

    I have to agree with you, Gian.

    Personally, and speaking as a Canadian as well as an Anthropologist, I am very frustrated with this paper. To me, it reads like a call to Empire; paying lip service to different (American) opinions and disregarding the rest of the world except inasmuch as they align with the US.

    One thing I do agree with is that they are reviving the older Napoleonic concept of Grand Strategy.
    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/

  4. #4
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    567

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Morgenstein and Vickland’s essay is emblematic of how American foreign and security policy, and operational methods in Iraq and Afghanistan are built on the “micro tactics” of past attempts at countering insurgencies turned into readily digestible templates for action in the form of historical lessons learned.
    I agree. It seems to me that creating "ink spots" is now considered "success," which is dropping the bar so low that anyone can clear it. Creating ink spots is supposed to be a strategy, not an objective.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

  5. #5
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    57

    Default

    I think Galula was a smart man...I've read his book on COIN and am now reading his book on his experiences in Algeria between 1956-1958.

    However, based on my experiences in Iraq, the Balkans (and studying the wars there when I was a Balkans analyst), and reading about other fights, I'm just not sure classical coin is the end all be all.

    I just finished D. Michael Shafer's great book "Deadly Paradigms." This looks at COIN policy and how the US always would use three oughts...1. Security, 2. Good Government, and 3. Progress.

    There's nothing wrong with this theoretically. But it ignores the situation on the ground and how it can vary from place to place. What if the government/whoever is in power is not interested in reforming? How much leverage do we have to make them bend to our will? What if the guy that is the government's man in some rural area does not want to reform and provide services? What if that undermines his influence? You could replace him, but he kept security and now everything goes to hell...

    Shafer said we should look at 1. constraints on leverage, 2. intragovernment limits on reform by our would be ally, 3. nature of relations between the people and the government and also the people and the insurgency.

    Galula believes the battle is for the people...but is it these days? Is it in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not always...the insurgents sometimes try to win the people, and other times not...more than anything, they seem to be trying to deny the host governments' influence...not so much winning the people. Many times they ignore the people and use fear only...one could surmise that they may think they don't need "the people."

    I'm just wondering if insurgencies today are more than having the population as the sole center of gravity...

    I admit I'm a novice, but I just have these thoughts and am curious about other opinions.

    Also, why don't more people read Shafer? I never see him mentioned...

  6. #6
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tulanealum View Post
    Galula believes the battle is for the people...but is it these days? Is it in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not always...the insurgents sometimes try to win the people, and other times not...more than anything, they seem to be trying to deny the host governments' influence...not so much winning the people. Many times they ignore the people and use fear only...one could surmise that they may think they don't need "the people."

    I'm just wondering if insurgencies today are more than having the population as the sole center of gravity...
    That is why I say the COG is the ground/territory ( The Hub of all power and Movement). On another thread Jedburgh posted an interesting paper called Ungoverned territories which like criminal gangs is often what they want. So long as the people and the Government don't interfere they could care less about them.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

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