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Thread: Insurgency Defined and COIN Principles

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    DDilegge
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    Default Insurgency Defined and COIN Principles

    The USMC – Joint Forces Command co-sponsored Joint Urban Warrior 05 War Game included a special cell tasked to examine future Counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. This special cell was comprised of personnel from all U.S. services, coalition / multinational partners, interagency organizations and senior “grey beards” (retired military and diplomatic personnel). The range of operational experience included Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Horn of Africa, Timor, Colombia, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Vietnam and other ops / deployments...

    The cell members; most experienced, well-read and studied in COIN; had current doctrine and historical studies at their disposal. The first order of business in the cell included an agreement on a definition of insurgency and a set of COIN guiding principles to enable a base for follow-on discussion and debate. The definition and principles follow:

    Insurgency Defined…

    Insurgency is competition involving at least one non-state movement using means that include violence against an established authority to achieve political change.

    COIN Principles…

    1. Effect political primacy in pursuit of a strategic aim.
    2. Understand the complex dynamics of the insurgency, including the wider environment.
    3. Apply power discriminately to influence human will.
    4. Promote unity of purpose to coordinate the actions of participating agencies.
    5. Isolate the insurgents from their physical and moral support base.
    6. Sustain commitment to expend political capital and resources over a long period.

    While the definition and principles may appear outwardly obvious – they remain a matter of debate in light of the global reach and goals of Al-Qaeda and associates. Your comments here are most welcome…

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    Default Coin

    The only issue not specifically addressed by this list is the idea of a "grievance" which is central to any insurgency.

    This list will be utilized in a COIN brief to a large group of military professionals reviewing lessons learned at NDU on 21 October. After this seminar, I will report any comments or further discussions that the list provokes.

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    Default Foreign Policy Failed States Index

    The July/August 2005 Foreign Policy Failed States Index shows a graphic on pg.59 identifying 12 criteria for use in identifying potentially failing or failed states. One listed is "Group Grievance." Failing states may include insurgencies, and they may merely provid an environment conducive to the growth and spread of insurgency. Perhaps some of the other criteria may be useful for the NDU discussion.

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    Registered User Myke's Avatar
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    Default Grievance

    You might consider the notion of a grievance erroneous. Salafist insurgency occurs because its adherents follow the dictates of the Qu'ran, Haddith and Sunnah, which directs them to establish the Caliphate to extend the reach of Sharia law over the entire globe. While grievances are frequently invoked (Israeli occupation of Palestine, for example) as a 4GW tactic, it isn't the genesis of the insurgency. The genesis is the divine direction to go out and establish the Caliphate. Salafis would have to do that even if everyone in the world did right by them from this instant forward.

    Reference Sahih Muslim 4294 (Kitab Al-Jihad wa'l-Siyar). See also Qu'ran 9:29 (if you're going to read it in English, stick to the Saudi published King Fahd translation) Kufr have three options: Accept Da'wa and say the Shahada, accept Dhimmitude, or die. There is no grievance, only compliance with Sharia and the dictates of Allah, as reported by his Prophet via the angel Gabriel. The best modern presentation of this is Said Qutb's "Milestones". Several good English translations are available.

    Might be splitting hairs here, but worth considering.

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    Post The mission from god syndrome

    Myke makes a good point about the enemy's motivation, even though bin Laden has stated grievance dating back to the 12th century, they all relate to a form of real estate worship, i.e. any land that was ever controlled by Muslims is Muslim land. The real importance of Myke's point is that it makes clear that the enemy cannot negotiate anything short of his objectives without losing his ticket to paradise. What that means for those fighting him is that the enemy must be destroyed. There will never be a signed peace agreement.

    With respect to Shari'a law, little has been written about what a barbaric legal code Shari'a is. This dark ages legal code does not deserve respect, much less implimentation. It is a code where cruel and unusual punishments are the usual. It is surprising how few legal scholars have taken a critical look at Shari'a law.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Why no discussion about Shari'a?

    Much of this may link back to Political Correctness. As soon as someone calls another culture "barbaric" or something similar they can be branded as racist or worse by the popular media.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Strickland
    The only issue not specifically addressed by this list is the idea of a "grievance" which is central to any insurgency.
    The emergence of an insurgency - or of a terrorist group - is more complex than a single grievance or even a stated list of grievances. Regarding analysis of factors central to the emergence of a politically-motivated campaign of violence, I personally like Dr. Sprtzak’s Indicators for Radical Groups at Risk for Terrorism (which is just as applicable to nascent insurgent movements as it is to emerging terrorist groups):
    The intensity of delegimitization: The degree to which the radical group challenges the legitimacy of its opponents. The more intense the delegitimization, the greater the risk for violence.
    Moral inhibitions and non-violence taboos: Societal strictures on the legitimacy of violence. Radical groups operating in fragmented political cultures with a history of violence.
    Previous experience with violence: A radical group whose members have experience with violence, conflict, and weapons.
    Rational assessment of risks vs opportunities: The degree to which the radical group has calculated the necessity and feasibility of confronting its enemies with violence.
    Organizational, financial, and political resources: The degree to which the radical group has the resources, or can access the resources, to support a campaign of violence.
    Sense of imminent threat: The degree to which a radical group feels threatened by its enemies. The more imminent and catastrophic the threat is believed to be, the greater the risk the group will resort to armed violence.
    Intergroup competition: The degree to which a radical group is in competition with another group for a shrinking constituency and terrorism is perceived to be the path to keeping the group on top.
    Age of activists: The degree to which the radical group is composed of young activists. The greater the concentration of activists between the ages of 18 and 25, the greater the potential for recruitment.
    External influence and manipulation: The type and level of support provided to radical organizations.
    Sense of humiliation and need for revenge: The degree to which the radical group is subjected to physical repression or torture, or perceives itself to be humiliated by its enemies. The greater the sense of humiliation, the greater the risk that the radical group will take revenge.
    Presence of violent leaders: The degree to which the leader or leadership of the radical group demonstrates a history of violent behavior. The more violent the leaders, the greater the risk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh
    The emergence of an insurgency - or of a terrorist group - is more complex than a single grievance or even a stated list of grievances. Regarding analysis of factors central to the emergence of a politically-motivated campaign of violence, I personally like Dr. Sprtzak’s Indicators for Radical Groups at Risk for Terrorism (which is just as applicable to nascent insurgent movements as it is to emerging terrorist groups):
    Agreed. I was simply pointing out that gentlemen such as Kitson, Galula, Thompson, Mao, Marks, etc., all reference a grievance or grievances, whether perceived or real.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Strickland
    Agreed. I was simply pointing out that gentlemen such as Kitson, Galula, Thompson, Mao, Marks, etc., all reference a grievance or grievances, whether perceived or real.
    Very true. As was pointed out in an earlier post, this is something that most insurgent groups have in common with terrorist groups. They all have an axe of some sort to grind. The justification of this axe isn't as important as the presence of the axe itself.

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    Default defining our terms

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh
    The emergence of an insurgency - or of a terrorist group - is more complex than a single grievance or even a stated list of grievances. Regarding analysis of factors central to the emergence of a politically-motivated campaign of violence, I personally like Dr. Sprtzak’s Indicators for Radical Groups at Risk for Terrorism (which is just as applicable to nascent insurgent movements as it is to emerging terrorist groups):
    We should take caution in mixing up terms such as insurgency and terrorism. Terrorism is a strategy and terror is a tactic. The fundamental fact of ANY insurgency is a grievance(s) that give rise to the vision of a counter-state.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Strickland
    We should take caution in mixing up terms such as insurgency and terrorism. Terrorism is a strategy and terror is a tactic. The fundamental fact of ANY insurgency is a grievance(s) that give rise to the vision of a counter-state.
    However, not every people with a grievance against existing authorities attempt to change - or secede from - the state by violence. What the list of indicators that I cited provides is a method of analytic forecasting for the emergence of such politically-motivated violence against the state. Whatever form it may take.

    However, for those observing nascent political (whether based on factional politics or ethnic/tribal/sectarian issues) groupings within a given state, those indicators do not stand alone. The nature of the state itself plays a significant part, and each potential indicator for the emergence of violence must be taken into consideration with whatever characteristic of the state in question either exacerbates or mitigates the particulars of that indicator.

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    Council Member M. J. Dougherty's Avatar
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    Default An Academic Definition

    I can't tell you how much reading I have done on this subject, but I think the best definiton for insurgency is the one Bard O'Niell uses in Terrorism & Insurgency: Insided Modern Revolutionary Warfare.

    Insurgency may be defined as a struggle between a nonruling group and the ruling authorities in which the nonruling group conciously uses political resources (e.g. organizational expertise, propaganda, and demonstrations) and violence to destroy, reformulate or sustain the basis of legitimacy of one or more aspects of politics
    Semper Fidelis,

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    (H) mjdoug1@center.osis.gov

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    Default Why do we need a definition

    While interesting to debate, do we really need to define insurgency to develop a successful strategy to counter one?

    The danger of a definition, especially one that doesn't fit the situation you're dealing with, is that our American planners are prone to fall back on a doctrinal answer book to look for cues on what their courses of action will be. It precludes a detailed non-bias examination of the present security challenge by pre-disposing the planners to see it as a "classical" insurgency, then they fall back on the wrong set of solutions.

    There are unique factors in every insurgency, or conflict, due to personalties, social factors, political factors, economic factors, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes our search for clear cut definitions reminds me of senior officers sitting around trying to explain why Clausewitz was all knowing and seeing, and then attempt to drive a square peg into a round hole in an attempt to demonstrate their point by using Clausewitz to explain a modern day security problem. The nature of a conflict is unique to itself, even if it may have many factors in common with similiar conflicts.

    Does a security problem really a definition for us to address it? Why?

    I'm not arguing that this type of discussion doesn't have value, but is it germane to solving the problem at hand in Iraq?

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    Default SECDEF as Quoted Today...

    29 Nov. AP - Don't Call it an 'Insurgency': Rumsfeld.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued on Tuesday that the guerrillas fighting U.S.-led foreign forces and the American-backed government in Iraq do not deserve to be called an "insurgency."

    Asked at a Pentagon news conference why he did not think the word insurgency applied to enemy forces in Iraq, Rumsfeld said he had "an epiphany."

    "I've thought about it. And, over the weekend, I thought to myself, you know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit," Rumsfeld said.

    Rumsfeld instead referred to the guerrillas in Iraq as "the terrorists" and "the enemies of the government." U.S. military statements also have referred to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces."

    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines an insurgent as "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government."...

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    Default Now the definition is important

    Our SECDEF has a unique ability to concisely summarize the situation; however, he may have over simplifed it this time. Saying we shouldn't call it an insurgency because it gives too much legitmacy is like saying you can't call the ocean blue because you don't like the color blue. However, for reasons stated previously I think Secretary Rumfield is right, these guys are not a true insurgency. I know it can be argued effectively they are based on some definitions out there, but lets see where we're at once we get a Iraqi government in place. Let's see what the so-called insurgents are fighting for then. They're going to have to put alternative plan on the table, hell they have been fighting for almost three years. We know they don't have one, and will soon simply be recognized is wacked out, semi-sophisticated, anarchists.

    Even though I'm currently leaning towards they're not insurgents, I still think much of our COIN doctrine is applicable in dealing with the problem. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Rumsfeld's War On 'Insurgents'

    30 Nov. Washington Post - Rumsfeld's War On 'Insurgents'.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Cool Swamps, Drains, and Gators

    Frankly I would say someone is trying to drain a swamp while a gator enjoys a rump lunch. The SecDef had similar discussions in 2003; his defintion of "insurgent" is irrelevant. The definition that counts is how the Iraqis see the insurgents or whatever label we care to tag them with. And therein lies the heart of the problem because that definition is is definitely split along ethnic (Kurd versus Arab) and religious (Sunni versus Shia) lines. Those lines were definitvely drawn long ago and were certainly active when the former asst SecDef told Congress in 2002 that Iraq did not have ethnic schisms ala the Balkans. That statement made as much sense to me then as "epiphany's" today in the current fight.

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    Default that famous statement

    I remember that statement, I was floored, and wondered if it was a joke. Now we can clearly see that they actually believed it based on ill prepared we were to deal with the reality that was right there to see if we simply looked. There is an old Italian saying, "there are none so blind as those who refuse to see". It's relevant in this situation.

    All water under the bridge now, but it needs to be remembered by future generations. Ties into that recent study you posted from the SSI.

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    Default definitions

    I trust that you are not insinuating that we all mimic Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of this mess. It may well be "all water under the bridge now," however, there are still plenty of us that will have to return for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th tour of duty in Iraq, and thus more will surely pay for this ignorance with their blood. This is unacceptable.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    At the risk of putting words in Bill's mouth, I don't believe that was his intent. I would say his was the same as mine: that the situation demands realistic assessments that can offer viable courses of action. Using our own cultural paradigms to define the legitimacy of the insurgents is NOT realistic. I believe Bill's "water under the bridge" meant that unrealistic assessments in 2003 cannot be fixed in 2005. That said, we should not compound those errors with further ones.

    Best all,
    Tom

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