Iraqi Non-Lethal Contributions to the Counterinsurgency

By CPT Justin Gorkowski, Small Wars Journal

In the battle for the support of the population, it is not the capture of the Zarqawis or the Bin Ladens that will defeat the insurgency in Iraq. Nor is it the cordon and search of the villages that have had their doors kicked in by every coalition force rotation over the past four years. The solutions are much more complex and much further out of the conventional mindset. The current threat is extremely unique, making it impossible to use a stenciled approach in applying large scale solutions developed in other insurgencies throughout history. What we can do is take the knowledge, experience and tools we possess, and immerse ourselves in the current situation, developing new methods and tools that are effective in defeating a known threat. One staple in an insurgency is the role of the population, and counterinsurgents must apply that knowledge to all actions and inactions. A method that effectively gains popular support in one geographic area may actually be counter-productive in another due to fundamental differences in the ways of life. Many factors contribute to the way people think and feel. Counterinsurgents cannot fully develop techniques that will affect thought and emotion unless they are immersed in the situation. Counterinsurgents need small unit leaders with the mental capacity and agility to think on their own to develop solutions not found in field manuals. They must be adaptive and continually reexamine the insurgent and population to be most successful in developing methods that are effective in defeat.

This article does not attempt to provide a solution to fight the insurgency in Iraq. It does provide insight on successful methods that can be applied to the current situation. An insurgency’s success is fundamentally based on its level of popular support. The counterinsurgent’s success is therefore intertwined with the limitation of the insurgent support base. Critical to the attainment of popular support for counterinsurgents is the presence of non-lethal effects. Non-lethal effects can simply be defined as the results of all actions that are not designed to kill. Primary contributors are civil affairs, public affairs, information operations, and psychological operations. Efforts must focus on effecting how people think and how counterinsurgent actions or inactions affect those thoughts...