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Thread: The US Military and COIN Doctrine, 1960-1970 and 2003-2006

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    Default The US Military and COIN Doctrine, 1960-1970 and 2003-2006

    RAND, 28 May 08: Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence:
    The U.S. Military and Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1960-1970 and 2003-2006

    The publication of a new COIN doctrine manual in late 2006 was widely heralded as an indication that the U.S. military was finally coming to understand the problems it has recently faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. This interpretation assumes a tight linkage between doctrine as written and operations conducted. As one way to test this proposition, this paper compares modern COIN doctrine and operations with those of the 1960s.

    In the 1960s, two periods of COIN doctrine can be observed. The first is 1960 to 1965, the period after John Kennedy was elected President but before U.S. combat troops were committed to Vietnam. The second is 1965 to 1970, the period of heaviest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In both cases, COIN doctrine as written by both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps emphasized the role of the population (so-called hearts and minds), civil-military relations, small-unit operations, intelligence gathering, and related concepts. Yet operations seldom matched this written doctrine; instead, the military attempted to attrite the insurgency through large-scale operations and heavy reliance on firepower. In short, doctrine as written and operations conducted were not tightly linked.

    As at least a partial explanation for this weak linkage, this paper posits a deeper set of organizational concepts and beliefs that has a much greater influence on operations than written doctrine. While a set of beliefs can often be helpful to organizations in conducting their preferred missions, it can be detrimental in other contexts. Much of the U.S. military prefers high-intensity warfare, a mission for which the organization is mentally and materially well prepared. However, mental preparation for this mission makes the military poorly suited to COIN.

    Altering the set of beliefs oriented toward high-intensity warfare will require more than just new doctrine and some additional professional education. It will require significant reorientation of the services both mentally and materially. If correct, this paper casts doubt on the military’s ability to truly be a “full-spectrum force,” because attempting to optimize for the full spectrum of conflict may produce a force that is not particularly good at any one aspect of that spectrum.
    Complete 48 page paper at the link.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post

    I wonder why they ignored the reinvention during the 1980s?

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    Default Maybe situating the theoretical proof?

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    I wonder why they ignored the reinvention during the 1980s?
    I am wondering if it was a deliberate omission because the link between COIN doctrine and COIN related actions at that point was probably 'stronger' than in the examples cited in the paper. It wouldn't be the first time that a paper about COIN ignores data that would spoil an otherwise 'great' theory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz
    I wonder why they ignored the reinvention during the 1980s?
    I don't think the '80s is really comparable, in the level of involvement of private and public entities, let alone academics from the soft sciences, with the military in conducting COIN-focused research and analysis in support of operations and doctrinal development. Although there was some output during that time frame, it was sparse, and was more like isolated individuals shouting into the wind rather than a coordinated, sustained effort. Sure, the '80s saw the publication of FM 100-20, Military Ops in LIC (1981, and a new version in '89) But that had just one chapter on insurgency & COIN, as did '92's FM 7-98, Ops in LIC. There was FM 90-8 Counterguerrilla Ops (1986) - but what was the effort expended relative to the other two periods? The '80s certainly didn't see any quality supporting material like the '60s DA Pam 550-series pubs on insurgency and COIN.

    But that's just my perception....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    I don't think the '80s is really comparable, in the level of involvement of private and public entities, let alone academics from the soft sciences, with the military in conducting COIN-focused research and analysis in support of operations and doctrinal development. Although there was some output during that time frame, it was sparse, and was more like isolated individuals shouting into the wind rather than a coordinated, sustained effort. Sure, the '80s saw the publication of FM 100-20, Military Ops in LIC (1981, and a new version in '89) But that had just one chapter on insurgency & COIN, as did '92's FM 7-98, Ops in LIC. There was FM 90-8 Counterguerrilla Ops (1986) - but what was the effort expended relative to the other two periods? The '80s certainly didn't see any quality supporting material like the '60s DA Pam 550-series pubs on insurgency and COIN.

    But that's just my perception....

    The whole COIN curriculum was rebuilt at CGSC then.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default My limited experience with RAND and several of the

    others is that their egos are such that they'll rarely recognize even their own earlier studies...

    Not to mention that they tend to produce answers sought by the requester or director of the study. I spent two miserable weeks at Santa Monica as the Army SME on a classified SDC effort; was treated politely, fed well, questioned thoroughly and worked with two sharp young analysts. The result was to undo much that had been done before my arrival; the real result was that the final product rejected most of my input and went back to what the study director had postulated out of his hip pocket before I arrived. Producing, according to the DCSOPS shop at DA, a product of less than marginal uitility. That's one example of many. Most think tank reports in my observation warrant some if not considerable skepticism...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz
    The whole COIN curriculum was rebuilt at CGSC then.
    Steve, being just an old NCO and thus ignorant of CGSC curricula then or now, I have to ask the follow-up question. Was the rebuilding of the COIN curriculum at CGSC in the '80s linked to any substantive change in published COIN doctrine (mentioned above) or rather was it rebuilt to reflect the doctrinal changes brought about by AirLand Battle in the revised '82 FM 100-5 Operations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White
    My limited experience with RAND and several of the others is that their egos are such that they'll rarely recognize even their own earlier studies...

    Not to mention that they tend to produce answers sought by the requester or director of the study. I spent two miserable weeks at Santa Monica as the Army SME on a classified SDC effort; was treated politely, fed well, questioned thoroughly and worked with two sharp young analysts. The result was to undo much that had been done before my arrival; the real result was that the final product rejected most of my input and went back to what the study director had postulated out of his hip pocket before I arrived. Producing, according to the DCSOPS shop at DA, a product of less than marginal uitility. That's one example of many. Most think tank reports in my observation warrant some if not considerable skepticism...
    Ken, I have mixed observations on the quality of RAND products, and most differences are (like with much else in life) driven by the people and personalities involved. Some are much like you describe your experience - in fact, I had a very recent experience with a prolific RAND author of material on risk modeling that was quite similar, and left me very doubtful of the quality of his published work.

    On the other hand, they do have some very insightful people who produce for them. Regarding recognizing their own earlier studies, as an organization RAND certainly does - they are very good at digitizing and reprinting older material of value. But when it comes to the individuals who carry out many of their studies; again, its a mixed bag.

    In regard to the value of the study at the head of the thread, I have yet to read the whole thing, so I can't offer a cogent judgment. But if it turns out to be a poor product, it wouldn't be the first time that I've posted something from RAND that turned out to be a waste of time. On the other hand, they do publish enough thought-provoking solid material that I find it useful to slot them in here when they're published, as appropriate.

    Ted

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Steve, being just an old NCO and thus ignorant of CGSC curricula then or now, I have to ask the follow-up question. Was the rebuilding of the COIN curriculum at CGSC in the '80s linked to any substantive change in published COIN doctrine (mentioned above) or rather was it rebuilt to reflect the doctrinal changes brought about by AirLand Battle in the revised '82 FM 100-5 Operations?

    It was linked to 100-20. My department (Joint and Combined Operations) was responsible for both.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Don't disagree with a thing you said, Ted. I've

    seen some good studies -- merely was pointing out that studies are like a lot of things; some good, some less so -- and few offer the holy grail.

    I read the linked study; not that bad. I agree with their conclusion that in Viet Nam we talked well and did not do exactly what we said we were doing (noting in passing that they apply some revisionist history to Viet Nam ); that much of the US military does prefer HIC (Obviously -- COIN is messy, tedious, expensive and destructive of HIC capability and unit pizazz) and that to adapt to a COIN dominated future, a massive reorientation of thinking would be required. Basically, they got their history and scholarship right. I think.

    However, I disagree with them on the ability of the Army to adapt elements of the force and structure training in such a way as to provide full spectrum capability. The Study suggests it probably cannot be done -- like most studies, it offers no firm, planted guidon recommendations and it maintains waffle room.

    While I agree that few units can be full spectrum, I'm quite convinced that most can specialize in one mode and if required switch to another with minimal retraining -- and the few that can do (and need to be able to do) the full spectrum bit know who they are and know they can do it.

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    I have a pretty extensive (to me) library of the RAND and other studies done for the Airforce in the 1980s responding to the LIC directives. I think this was a result of the different laws signed at the time. It is interesting reading as they had some really good ideas. I'm not sure why they never got any traction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    I have a pretty extensive (to me) library of the RAND and other studies done for the Airforce in the 1980s responding to the LIC directives. I think this was a result of the different laws signed at the time. It is interesting reading as they had some really good ideas. I'm not sure why they never got any traction.
    Well, there was the Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict at Langley AFB which also published a few things. As the first and, as far as I can tell, only Professor of Low Intensity Conflict at the Air War College, I can tell you there wasn't a huge amount of interest. I ended up teaching Latin American regional studies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Well, there was the Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict at Langley AFB which also published a few things. As the first and, as far as I can tell, only Professor of Low Intensity Conflict at the Air War College, I can tell you there wasn't a huge amount of interest. I ended up teaching Latin American regional studies.
    Most of the books I have were published at Maxwell. That may just the publishing location though. Any idea why there was no interest? There really did seem like some good ideas.
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    The whole COIN curriculum was rebuilt at CGSC then.
    Yes it was...

    But the big Army ignored it as irrelevant...

    You and I were 2 of those howling into the wind. I don't know if you remember the very first editorial board for LP#14 when a senior member of CSI tried to kill the project by announcing that the US Army would never step foot in Africa. Of course that same individual went on to become Deputy Director for SAMs until as CSA GEN Schoomaker essentially fired him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    (noting in passing that they apply some revisionist history to Viet Nam
    Just to point out that history by nature, in theory and in practice, is always revisionist; how could it not be? If it were not with regard to military history we would have never gotten past Thucydides.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Agree. I used the imprecise term

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Just to point out that history by nature, in theory and in practice, is always revisionist; how could it not be? If it were not with regard to military history we would have never gotten past Thucydides.
    in the popular sense (as opposed to the academic quest for ever more accuracy) of the study authors subscribing to a very few questionable and essentially post hoc views of what theoretically transpired on the ground. I also agree that most of their assessments were valid as I recall events. My apologies for my lack of accuracy and clarity and thus sowing confusion.

    That does bring up the question; after untold translations and transliterations and academically skewed interpretations, if he appeared today would Thucydides recognize his writing...

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