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Thread: COIN Counterinsurgency (merged thread)

  1. #301
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    It seems growing anything worthwhile takes resources. A concern we might should have is related to the training infrastructure and other resources needed to maintain a readiness level in the use of combined arms.

    While there are places like the CTCs (I'm going to lump the places like the WSMR, the Stumps, San Clemente Island, and some of the USN and USAF ranges in that category) that combine maneuver space with CALFX space, at home station where units are garrisoned there are few places (some MPRCs and MPTRs) that allow a greater integration of multi-service capabilities and the echelonment of supporting fires. Even fewer that don't shut down multiple other ranges which impact other folks training. Often to do such training one has to get lucky, commit other resources well in advance, or make tough decisions about training where other will not, cannot, or when they will not. All of those take resources as well.

    I bring it up because understanding what is required to make combined arms training possible is something you learn by doing - and frequency plays a role. It is often installation specific - while there are regulations which standardize things like SDZs (Surface Danger Zones - there are often environmental impacts, or local policies which unit leaders need to know to make training possible and do it reasonably safely. For me I was lucky enough to have some great teachers who bother understood the requirements, the need to do it, and were willing to underwrite my mistakes (I had plenty, but none from which I was unable to recover)

    Now, we've got some great small unit leaders who are employing combined arms to different degrees in theater, but as to how many of them have had the benefit of spending time thinking about the training aspect of it I don't know.

    What concerns me is that we may have a gap in some of that experience based knowledge amongst the company grades, and more junior SNCOs - I honestly just don't know. I do know allot of our qualification processes have been streamlined to support making more time available to units for recovery, planning and preparation as they go through the pipe- which has its benefits. Perhaps those contracts and services will remain in place and we'll just extend them to an eventual post war environment until we catch up - again I don't know how big the gap is.

    I guess that until we determine exactly how big the gaps are in our ability to execute the types of combined arms tasks we think may be required in the future as they relate to doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leader development and education, personnel and facilities, and how those DOTMLPF gaps relate to one another we really don't know how much our capabilities in those areas have atrophied, or what the rate of decay may be as they show up in the war fighting and/or joint functions. We probably also don't know what gaps we may have in the generating forces' capabilities to react to those gaps either.

    We absolutely have some of the best leaders I've seen since I entered service in 1985 - maybe they were always there, but the conditions did not support (or require) us to let them live up to their potential - I don't know (but I do suspect). However, there are allot of systems that have to be sustained to support them shifting gears, and the broader system - the one that pays the bills - does not support balance, instead it equates effectiveness to efficiency - based of short term political goals vs. retaining capability to support national security (e.g. political vacillation).

    As there seems to be concurrence (at least here on SWJ) that combined arms capabilities that support being able to execute the full range of our tactical tasks I could only recommend that the services (it really falls in their responsibilities as force and capability providers) think about a CBA (capabilities based assessment) to such end - pick a scenario that borders on unlikely (because those seem to be the ones that happen) and then run it all the way through over a 10 year period with all the stability and reconstruction life suckers we know will probably follow - and in between add in some other things that call into questions capability and capacity and then report it honestly - and make DOTMLPF adjustments as possible.

    While I know our experimentation and exercises do cover a range of conditions and scenarios, I'm not sure if we really link it to a total review of our supporting systems. You'd think the QDR would, but I'm not sure it does so in a comprehensive manner that reaches down all the way down. We have allot of reporting systems on readiness, with allot of reporting requirements (probably too many). What I don't know that we have is a good way of linking all of them so they tell us what we need to know about ourselves in a way that allows us to make good decisions based on current and future requirements vs. always being in a react to contact mode.

    Best, Rob

  2. #302
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default More like an OPED rather than an essay, but interesting nonetheless

    Overall, like Bill M and many others, I largely enjoyed the argument put by Gian, albeit wishing he had used a few more facts and a little less assertion to justify his argument. Hence my view that it read liked a Post or Times opinion piece rather than an article in a refereed journal. (The Editor(s) chasing balance or controversy, perhaps?)

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. I think the term 'population centric COIN' refers to quite a specific set of circumstances, which, as identified by Gian, reflect an 'FM -24' centric view of COIN. Perhaps a clearer distinction is required. Gian applies the term with such broad brush that I think it becomes hard to distinguish whether his real problem is with the strategic choice that America's leadership has made to engage with insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan (and a few other places such as the Philippines) or merely the operational / tactical decision to pursue a 'population centric' strategy.

    2. The depiction of Briggs' role in the article as supposedly view by 'COIN experts' is perhaps more than a little bit of artistic license in order to allow Gian to set up the contrived Briggs / Templar and Casey / Petraeus comparison. Any student of the Malayan campaign that does not recognise the 'Briggs Plan' as the operational scheme that both 'turned' the campaign and the plan that was largely carried out by Templar is missing the point.

    3. It is a false argument to say that Casey didn't get the COIN problem. Whether one is doing it as a 'COIN expert' or a commentator.
    Lets not forget the review(s) that he commissioned , nor the fact that he created 'COIN' aids like the MNF-I CFE in Taji. This makes the Casey 'not getting it argument' ring a little hollow to me - no matter whether it is coming from 'COIN experts' (who, bizarrely, increasingly appear to be journos, academics, ex-soldiers, political pundits and beltway think tankers - rather than actual soldiers) or authors seeking to contrive a point.

    4. The point that Gian (and others) keep trying to make about strategy vs tactical / operational technique is cloudy. It is hampered by the association with the term 'population centric'. Indeed, 'population centric' is a 'way' , as identified by Gian. But that does not mean that there are not instances where counterinsurgency is a strategy (as I argued in my recent monograph, Confronting the Hydra ).

    I think many of Gian's points about 'Population- centric COIN' (and 'COIN experts') have some merit. However, isolating 'population centric COIN ' and making it synonomous with all COIN to derive a view about COIN strategy or its general utility is a stretch.

    Cheers,

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 11-29-2009 at 02:31 PM. Reason: Fixed up misplaced apostrophe

  3. #303
    Council Member kingo1rtr's Avatar
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    Default Back to the Future

    I thought Col Gentile's article was both thought provoking and balanced - nothing less that one would expect from a knowledgable professional.

    However: for my money he is guilty of a slightly narrow analysis. Whilst FM 3-24 has acted as the neon lamp for the counterinsurgency moths (I don't mean that dis-ingenuously)I think the Colonel would do well to broaden his narrative analysis to take account of work such as Rupert Smith's 'The Utility of Force' which majored on 'population centric warfare'. His closing point that we would do well to study the British experience in the second half of the 19th Century is apt. There is something poignant about the fact that we (British Army) are back where we were 150 odd years ago, in Baluchistan, with the Pashtuns, Waziris and others. Same same for Iraq (look at the Kut experiences of the British Army in 1916 - 18).

    It is from this telling cycle of history that we should be drawing strategic conclusions from, not continuing to wallow in this tactical (and occasionally operational) level debate.

    Nor ought we to take our eye off the Army Officers' traditional love for the intellectual pissing matches. Look at Monty in the Western desert in 1942 and the way that he used Dorman_Smith's plan (having dismissed him from post) but of course made sure that in his telling of that story it was his plan. Patten and Eisenhower were no different in that respect either. The professional jealousy that von Manstein encountered amongst other senior German Generals during [and after] the war is symptomatic of the same thing.

    There is only so many times that Gallula, Kitson, Thompson et al can be reviewed by the 'military chatterati' and something new and relevant/timely/telling be drawn out - they are after all generally a series of tactical vignettes stitched together with a retrospective operational level narrative.

    Lets raise the game and look at strategy and grand strategy. Is the coalition strategy right? Have we got an alliance campaign plan? Is the surge US thinking or is it a coalition game that we are in. When will we seize our Casablanca moment and get the senior coalition leaders on to a campaign footing and hold Karzai and the AfPak leadership to account.

    I suspect that my great grandson will one day pull out FM 3-24, and Kitson, probably Petraeus and Ricks and others too, as part of his pre deployment training, before he strikes out onto the dusty plains of Kandahar; maybe he will take some good from those texts (as we do now because this game doesn't change that much)and then gently reflect on the irony of his great grandfather's generation of military leaders who failed to get 'the great game' and cut and ran on the basis of a 'sucessful surge' leaving in place a fragile peace, no better than how it was before they arrived.
    Last edited by jcustis; 11-29-2009 at 10:42 PM. Reason: post moved to appropriate thread


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  4. #304
    Council Member rborum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    The whole edifice of "POP-COIN" comes to rest on the assumption that "protecting the population" is a method in and of itself. Additionally it assumes that merely doing it, creates the desired end state. So why not protect the population by killing the insurgents?

    "POP-COIN" manages to argue that killing insurgents equals killing innocent people in the same way Manoeuvre Warfare argued that doing stupid things was bad and past this off as insight.

    Doing stupid things is always stupid. Killing the right people for the right reason, always works. We have 3,000 years of history to prove it.
    wilf - This may be the most concise and clearest counter-POP-COIN statement I have heard yet. It circumvents the semantic quibbling about the aims (what we should be doing) and focuses on differences in the approach (how we should be doing it). Nicely stated.

    Your comments about Lawrencian idolatry are also quite thought-provoking. I do not possess the knowledge of history that you, Gian and others here have, but the current COIN Wars seem to me to be heavily influenced by metaphor and symbolism (at least in their rhetoric) - TE Lawrence is clearly a standout icon in the Pro-POP-COIN discourse. If we have gotten lost in our tacit assumptions (like Lawrence as an aspirational ideal), then you are absolutely right to remind us to question - or at least to critically revisit them.
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  5. #305
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    The whole edifice of "POP-COIN" comes to rest on the assumption that "protecting the population" is a method in and of itself. Additionally it assumes that merely doing it, creates the desired end state. So why not protect the population by killing the insurgents?
    And why not protect the population by getting rid of insurgents, but focusing on doing so by resolving the root causes of their insurgent ways?

    The problem with simply killing insurgents is (in a similar vein to how I think you argue in your case against POP-COIN) that unless you have laid the link analysis chart against the fabric of a society and determined that each and every insurgent arose as an individual entity with zero ties to that fabric, you cannot just keep on killing and killing in a society so bound by honor and tribal ties and expect for the situation to remain static and stabile.

    This matter of difference is critical to efforts involving our national interest. I have my own misgivings about where Afghanistan falls, and it would certainly be much easier to pack up and head home and call it a draw.

    As a trigger puller, I am going to ensure that the fair share of knuckleheads are given dirt naps. The calculus to it all involves a determination of whether the host nation can sustain that same effort in your stead, and just who those knuckleheads are. When they do not readily present themselves to be put down, the calculus shifts then to the amount of carrots required to get the information to find them. It's all a remarkably simple cycle. The folks physically on the ground do not, rest assured, view population-centric COIN as a method in and of itself.

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    Default You still have to do it

    Wilf,

    Even if you're killing the insurgents, you still have to protect the populace. If you're fighting a conventional war, you're generally going to endeavor to defend key terrain that you currently have ownership over. The principle is take the terrain (the populace in this case, block by block, village by village), defend it, consolidate gains, then push on to take the next chunk of terrority. Consolidation is IMO the so what of defending the populace, it is achieving permanent gains. Of course you still have to kill bad guys, but prior to defending the populace in Iraq, we were only making limited gains with the killing piece. A lot more to it as you well know, but I don't understand the backlash against defending the populace. It is part, a key part, of the overall effort. If your point is what do you after you have your defense in place, then your point is well taken. If it is we shouldn't do it, then please clarify why not?

    As for Lawrence being a bad soldier, please explain. I guess I'm in the crowd that holds him in rather high regard. Some folks consider a person a bad soldier if he doesn't shine his boots, rolls his sleeves up, or wears unauthorized head gear. If you're evaluating Lawrence negatively because he was a non-conformer I guess, but if you're telling us he was not that effective, then please enlighten us. Please tread lightly, this could be a hard pill for many of us to follow.

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    Actually, I don't think Pop-centric COIN is all about "protecting the population" at all.

    Pop-centric COIN--done properly--is about seeing the political loyalties of the population as central to the COIN mission, and recognizing that defeating the insurgents requires that much of the population be shifted away from actively supporting them. In doing so, one can:
    • dry up insurgent recruitment
    • weaken insurgent resolve and motivation.
    • exacerbate splits and tensions among insurgent soft- and hard-liners.
    • inhibit the ability of insurgents to collect necessary resources from the local population
    • enhance the ability of the counter-insurgents to gather the intelligence critical to eliminating insurgent forces.


    Often that requires protecting the population--or, at least, rendering them less vulnerable to insurgent pressures. However, it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

    Pop-centric COIN certainly doesn't have anything against killing insurgents--indeed, it thinks it is rather desirable. It does suggest that killing insurgents in a way that generates even more insurgents, weakens the very government that one is trying to protect, and alters the regional and international environment in ways that further constrain the mission is not terribly helpful.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Default Right on, Rex.....

    with this:

    Pop-centric COIN--done properly--is about seeing the political loyalties of the population as central to the COIN mission, and recognizing that defeating the insurgents requires that much of the population be shifted away from actively supporting them. In doing so, one can:

    - dry up insurgent recruitment

    - weaken insurgent resolve and motivation.

    - exacerbate splits and tensions among insurgent soft- and hard-liners.
    inhibit the ability of insurgents to collect necessary resources from the local population

    - enhance the ability of the counter-insurgents to gather the intelligence critical to eliminating insurgent forces.

    Often that requires protecting the population--or, at least, rendering them less vulnerable to insurgent pressures. However, it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
    And, if you have the right conditions, mobilize the population to provide active support in favor of the "counter-insurgency".

    However, all this avoids the questions which are not answered by the various debaters:

    1. What if the HN government is a bunch of knockleheads themselves ?

    2. Is a Strategy of Tactics ("best practices COIN") capable of defeating the insurgency under that condition ?

    3. If so, what is the recipe ?

    Mark of the Red Hand of Ulser, you write a good monograph on insurgency (genetic, no doubt ); and lay out in more detail Rex's bullet points. And, you emphasize the importance of the narrative. What if the narrative in truth stinks ?

    Regards to all

    Mike

  9. #309
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default please sir, may i have some more?

    This 1952 Time cover may have helped paint Field Marshal Templer as the face of hearts and minds. Check out the steely gaze.

    Templer was a hands-on manager and was famous for flying to trouble spots. Sometimes his chastising of the villagers had humorous consequences. Noel Barber mentions such a case after a guerrilla ambush caused Templer to immediately fly to the nearest village where he harangued the collected inhabitants:

    "You're a bunch of bastards," shouted Templer; and Rice, who spoke Chinese, listened carefully as the translator announced without emotion: "His Excellency informs you that he knows that none of your mothers and fathers were married when you were born."

    Templer waited, then, pointing a finger at the astonished villagers to show them who was the "Tuan," added "You may be bastards, but you'll find out that I can be a bigger one." Missing the point of the threat completely, the translator said politely, "His Excellency does admit, however, that his father was also not married to his mother."
    Pictures and quote from the highly informative Psychological Warfare of the Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960, page at psywar.org.

    http://www.psywar.org/malaya.php

    Another colourful chap was C.C. Too, first local chief of the Psychological Warfare Section.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._C._Too
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #310
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Mike, If the narrative is a dud then...

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    with this:
    Mark of the Red Hand of Ulser, you write a good monograph on insurgency (genetic, no doubt ); and lay out in more detail Rex's bullet points. And, you emphasize the importance of the narrative. What if the narrative in truth stinks ?

    Regards to all

    Mike
    ...it is time for a new one, as soon as possible. I think (and the record shows) that you can do all sorts of clunky / stupid things for a fair while in counterinsurgency /small wars and still recover. However, one of the hardest errors to fix / recover from is a dud narrative.

    I tried to emphasis this in the monograph by linking it with the adjective 'compelling' - having a story is one thing, having a story that motivates sufficient passion (good or bad) to get people to act is another thing all together.

    Whilst we are straying from Gian's post about 'population centric COIN' , in a way I think there is a link between the platitudes of that approach and the platitudes we receive about the development of a narrative. I find it kind of amusing that 'population centric' is shortened to 'pop centric' - a bit like 'pop art'. The analogy brings to mind superificiality and light weight 'art' - and the result is sound bite doctrine and shallow thought.

    I think that doctrine like FM3-24 (or any other doctrine) has little utility with respect to 'narrative' beyond merely highlighting that one is needed. The peculiarities (political , cultural and social) of each war make it impossible to provide a 'how to' guide for the narrative.

    Picking the narrative requires something that I suspect only intellect, experience and appropriate political nous can provide. It is my observation that these traits are apparently in short supply as many of the narratives that our political leaders and IO people are offering are risible, barely making the grade against ill-informed domestic audiences and often being down right funny (in a sad way..) when played to a 'target' audience. That is not to say that it can't be done - the example of the Indonesian Goverment's counter JI narrative strikes me as one that hit the mark- but it does seem all to rare.

    I will also assume that your question was less than rhetorical and will take the bait about some contemporary narratives.

    I think the current Iraq narrative is essentially sound, but given the US price paid and the ongoing costs, cedes just a little to much to the 'Iraqi Sovereignty' LOO.

    I think that the Afghanistan narrative is a contradictory mess - and that is just to the US/UK/ Canadian/ Aus /NATO domestic audiences. The narrative to the locals is truly off message. But we are getting way off post and topic now...

    BTW, thanks for the feedback on the paper - although I had never regarded the art of 'Blarney' as a genetic trait!

    regards,

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 11-30-2009 at 06:45 AM. Reason: title

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    What if the narrative in truth stinks ?
    The usual solution to that problem would be to impose a more attractive narrative. Once upon a time the default choice would have been "Communism vs Capitalism", nowadays it would more likely be "Islamic Extremism vs The West".

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The usual solution to that problem would be to impose a more attractive narrative. Once upon a time the default choice would have been "Communism vs Capitalism",
    Or to turn a phrase, a la Lee Kuan Yew, getting air-conditioners or getting "ventilated".

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    Council Member Ratzel's Avatar
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    People always point out how we lost COIN knowledge after Vietnam. I think this was a matter of trading off for the bigger threat. The threat of the Soviets invading W. Europe was world changing. Military planners could have created a COIN type Army but doing so would have been dangerous.

    Today, there is no Soviet threat or anything close. So developing a COIN Army is an option. It would be nice having COIN capabilities to clean up threats 1) near our energy needs 2) along our sea lanes 3) in Mexico 4) and in other places in Latin America.

    Right now I don't see any major HIC threat. And if there is, I believe having proper air power and control of space is a bigger concern than how we configure our ground forces. American ground forces are much more dynamic compared with "weapons platforms." So the best thing to do is to create a high tech air force and navy for HIC, and configure our ground forces for COIN. If a HIC threat emerges, then we can start to retrain the ground force accordingly. Six months of intense ground combat training will probably suffice?

    This would leave our "weak-spot" as being any HIC enemy that could achieve its goals in our six month retrain window. And this enemy would have to deal with our air power, special operations, and naval force (not to mention any ground forces who, while being under-trained for HIC, would still be combat hardened enough to at least stop any potnetical enemy from achieving anymore gains).

    The key here is that we must control the sea, air, and space (and hopefully cyberspace) before anything else.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzel View Post
    It would be nice having COIN capabilities to clean up threats 1) near our energy needs 2) along our sea lanes 3) in Mexico 4) and in other places in Latin America.
    It would certainly be nice to have the capability to "clean up threats" in all of these areas, but wouldn't it take rather more than upgraded COIN capabilities to do that? At the very least it would require meddling in a whole bunch of very murky local conflicts, not an entirely attractive prospect.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The only places the U.S. really need worry about insurgencies are where they coincide with our critical national interests.

    "Fortunately" a focus of U.S. foreign policy over the past 60 years has been to heavily shape the politics and governances of those same regions to support/enable those same interests, making it much easier to identify the essential insurgencies as they tend to target us as phase 1 to their primary nationalist goals at home.

    All forms of COIN are tactics. If you want to talk strategically, then lets discuss the policy changes requried to engage these areas where our critical national interests will likely remain for the foreseeable future in a way that is less intrusive to the governance of the region and is more sensitive to the right of the populace over the rights of a particular ruling class to remain in power.

    This is the essence of "Populace-Centric" engagement, which is a far different animal indeed to the current fad of population centric COIN. Insurgencies are won in the halls of government, not the homes of the populace; and when an insurgency goes "global" (god, I hate the misnomer of global insurgency) it is fixed in the halls of the government under that collective attack. The problem being of course, that governments are made of politicians, and politicans don't typically step to the front of the line to take responsibility when things turn to crap on their watch.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-30-2009 at 12:47 PM.
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Ratzel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    It would certainly be nice to have the capability to "clean up threats" in all of these areas, but wouldn't it take rather more than upgraded COIN capabilities to do that? At the very least it would require meddling in a whole bunch of very murky local conflicts, not an entirely attractive prospect.
    If the US Army is considering creating a COIN centric force, then by default its admitting that "meddling in a whole bunch of murky local conflicts" is exactly what it plans on doing. In the cold war we built a force that could fight the Soviets in a conventional war in Western Europe. The Soviet threat was what we built the force around. In we build a COIN force, we're saying that we believe small wars and insurgencies to be our biggest threat.

    Any talk on the future of the force must contain some sort of analysis of what the future threat environment will look like. At the very least, even if we're unsure of what the future will look like, I think we can all agree that we must always control the sea, air, space , and if possible cyberspace. This is easy and will benefit us no matter what future threats will look like.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Wilf,

    Even if you're killing the insurgents, you still have to protect the populace. If you're fighting a conventional war, you're generally going to endeavor to defend key terrain that you currently have ownership over. The principle is take the terrain (the populace in this case, block by block, village by village), defend it, consolidate gains, then push on to take the next chunk of terrority.
    You may well be right. I think it is very context dependant, but at the most basic level I want to bad guys to fear me. I want to break their hearts and weaken their minds. I have limited resources, I want to focus it on hunting the problem, not protecting some folk, and leaving others un-protected. The issue is allocation and use of resources.

    As for Lawrence being a bad soldier, please explain. I guess I'm in the crowd that holds him in rather high regard. Some folks consider a person a bad soldier if he doesn't shine his boots, rolls his sleeves up, or wears unauthorized head gear. If you're evaluating Lawrence negatively because he was a non-conformer I guess, but if you're telling us he was not that effective, then please enlighten us. Please tread lightly, this could be a hard pill for many of us to follow.
    I'll tread as lightly as the evidence allows me to do. There are at least 7 biographies on Lawrence, and not so much good or objective military history. As a soldier and UK national, T.E.'s job was to enact British Policy. If that meant lying and cheating, then so be it. His job was explicitly to deliver Palestine to the British. No the Arabs.
    I greatly admire some non-conformers. It really depends on how their lack of conformity actually helps. To date a rational and objective, relevant and evidence based measure of T.E. actual contribution is lacking - thus, good soldier or not, I do not see him as being really relevant to current debates or issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Actually, I don't think Pop-centric COIN is all about "protecting the population" at all.

    Pop-centric COIN--done properly--is about seeing the political loyalties of the population as central to the COIN mission, and recognizing that defeating the insurgents requires that much of the population be shifted away from actively supporting them.
    .... but that's a a very context specific assumption. It's actually the ideal, that almost never occurs in reality. Defeating insurgents requires that the insurgents realise they can never win using violence. How and why they come to believe normally results from their being stopped from being able to conduct effective violent action in pursuit of their goal.
    It does suggest that killing insurgents in a way that generates even more insurgents, weakens the very government that one is trying to protect, and alters the regional and international environment in ways that further constrain the mission is not terribly helpful.
    So doing stupid things in counter-productive? OK. We can agree. It still doesn't make the case for "POP-COIN". As I have said before, I want to involve as few of the population in the fight as possible.

    As concerns political loyalty, I don't care who they vote for. When they do vote, I want to make it clear, there is no hope of casting a vote for an agenda or idea promoted by violence.

    We'll all look pretty silly if the Taliban get voted into power in A'stan....,
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  18. #318
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    Default Voting?

    Wilf's Comment:

    "As concerns political loyalty, I don't care who they vote for. When they do vote, I want to make it clear, there is no hope of casting a vote for an agenda or idea promoted by violence.

    We'll all look pretty silly if the Taliban get voted into power in A'stan...., "

    Somehow, we got back to this voting thing, and the possible idea that the Taliban might win. If it were the case, shouldn't COIN and our diplomatic efforts be focused on the majority??? (Back to jmm's challenge: What of the truth stinks?)

    I keep looking back to square one: You need to find substantial concensus before peace and stability can begin. The essence of that concensus is a national Loya Jirga, and not any more of this silly Western voting stuff. (Great concept for later).

    I'm thinking of a real one, and not the paper tiger proposed by His Honor. Absent a real concensus of the elders and influencers (including Taliban), we are chasing our tails there.

    Why do we need more forces and police? To fight the opposition. If the opposition is the majority, and the majority, at the least, is accomodated, then the whole forces and police thing goes away. No.

    Then, they (not us) have a straight-up political problem that, at the least, needs to be brokered out between themselves.

    A key comment I heard loudly was that the original constitution has deep flaws, and needs to be fixed if there is any hope of a viable Afghanistan. If that is the case, how does it get addressed.

    Another is that a strong Pkistan commitment is essential. That for a President who narrowly survived ouster for old corruption charges and, according to India, doesn't run the country anyway.

    The latest Ricks post cites a Guardian article where Amb. Holbrooke is trying to build support for an international super-czar to take provisional control---a work-around of Karzai and the UN, but NATO won't buy in.

    Let's see. Holbrooke wants to work around UN and the President of Afghanistan. Eikenberry opposes the troop build-up, and, according the the International Crisis Group, UNAMA is ineffective.

    With Hobrooke's gauntlet on the table, it seems like his latest confrontation of Karzai may be his last Hurrah if it fails. All their bridges will be burned.

    Perhaps we could get the US conflicts ironed out first, then tackle the Afghan problem (what ever it actually is), and the Pakistani one. (As the brainless pageant bimbo says: "I pray for World peace!")

    Back to the Pop Corn (oops. COIN?) matter. I keep trying to find a clearly-defined military problem to which a military solution can be applied. (No, we are all too grown up to buy into the "AQ will attack my shopping mall if Karzai isn't protected and trained" thing).

    I'm really looking forward to someone who can answer jmm's questions:

    "1. What if the HN government is a bunch of knockleheads themselves ?

    2. Is a Strategy of Tactics ("best practices COIN") capable of defeating the insurgency under that condition ?

    3. If so, what is the recipe ?"

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    Default PS-COIN in Northern Iraq

    From my little perch in Tikrit in Dec 2007 to June 2008, the snapshot looked like this:

    Sunni fighters fleeing the Shias in Baghdad, and using the blackmarket and cross-border smuggling.

    Sunni fighters being squeezed between SF snipers in the outlands and major house-to-house operations in and around any insurgent, sniper or IED activities.

    A non-representative provincial elected govt stocked ala the Sunni boycott. (All removed after the elections, same as in Ninewa).

    Provincial administrators aching for help from their Shia controlled national ministries, and tolerating US mil/civ assistance (but with some serious loathing).

    A public anxious for fighting to stop and an economy and services to emerge.

    This was the "set" into which various tactics were adopted and applied to stabilize the conflict and improve public services and the reach of govt (non-representative).

    In most instances, I sat and commiserated with gov't officials about the devastation, and the continued military interruptions, and we tried (with some success) to use the military movement and convening authorities to bring connections between the central and provincial/local governments.

    Most Iraqis that I spent time with were, in fact, anxious for us to go, and them to take charge. They were just looking for us, as the babysitters, to make connections and betterments while we were there (anybody need a school building?).

    Northern Iraq was tough at that time, and the military, in my opinion, did an excellent job under the circumstances.

    But I really can't identify any COIN strategy that seemed to work or succeed. Just a lot of intensive innovation and reactions aimed at a strategy of stabilization. No flower petals on our way out. No hearts and minds significantly won. Just the Giterdun thingon everybodies' part.

    By the summer, I was working with the UN Disputed Boundaries Team for the rest of 2008. Still, I didn't see much difference except for less fighting us.

    For Sunnis in Northern Iraq, especially, the central government was no piece of cake, but they were anxious to go to try and take bites out of it, not us. Wasn't that the point?

    How does all that related to the "Strategy of Tactics?" Was COIN really applied? Would COIN have succeeded?

    Wouldn't know.

    Steve

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    Default Wilf, Rex et al ...

    I'd amend Rex's statement to delete the "pop-centric" adjective (which leads to debate as to what it means) and simply say:

    Rex as amended
    COIN--done properly--is about seeing the political loyalties of the population as central to the COIN mission, and recognizing that defeating the insurgents requires that much of the population be shifted away from actively supporting them.
    That, of course, must take into account that we are not talking electoral politics in a Canadian ryding or Chicago ward - the bad guys have guns, etc. But, the bad guys consist of more than combatants with guns, unless they are simply bandits living off the countryside with no political organization.

    The basic "political" insurgency can be reduced to three main groups, which are interactive and which may shape shift back and forth as to roles.

    1. The combatant group - legally irregular combatants.

    2. The infrastructure group - legally ?; should they be treated as combatants or as civilians ?

    3. The supporting group - generally, legally civilians. The source of logistics, financing, personnel and intelligence.

    How do you deal with those three groups ? We have three basic paradigms (all from Southeast Asia of the 50s-60s).

    One is the "kinder and gentler" British approach in Malaya where group 1 was handled primarily by military means (although there was a conversion effort which had some success, especially when that insurgency fell apart). Groups 2 and 3 were handled politically by the in-place civil administration and judicial system, along with various population control measures.

    The second is the authoritarian approach used in Indonesia ca. 1965-1966. There Group 1 (the IndoCom combatants) was easily handled because they attempted a coup and not a mass-based revolution. So, how to handle Groups 2 and 3 ? The third largest Communist party in the world, the PKI had approximately 300,000 cadres and a full membership of around two million. The answer was to kill ca. 500K and detain ca. 1000K.

    The third is the Philippines under Ramon Magsaysay, which was more akin to the Malaya model, but which had a separate Third Way flavor. In rhetoric and popular perception, Magsaysay's program was both revolutionary (it broke with some establishment norms) and also counter-revolutionary (vs. the Huks).

    My point is that any counter-insurgency must deal with both the military and political side of the insurgents; unless they have no political side and are simply bandits. How to deal with the insurgents' political side (Groups 2 and 3) has varied; but in one way or the other, their political side has to be neutralized (kill, detain or convert).

    I'm often confused, Wilf, by what you write. At times, it seems you are saying that the military effort is the only material factor; but are you really advocating the Indonesian model ?

    At other times, you seem to be saying that both the military effort and the political effort are material; but that the military forces should not be involved in the political effort, leaving that to the civil administration.

    The US model (whatever it might end up) is not likely to follow the Indonesian model. The amount of emphasis on the military effort vs the political effort, and who does the political effort, seem the relevant issues to the US.

    And, my three questions as cited by STP are still on the floor here and in the "Winning the War in Afghanistan" thread.

    Regards

    Mike

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