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Thread: COIN Counterinsurgency (merged thread)

  1. #241
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    As always when the center of gravity comes up in a discussion, people rapidly begin to talk past each other. To paraphrase Carl - I'm ashamed to admit that I don't have my copy of On War close to hand - the center of gravity is that thing (piece of geography, fortress, unit, weapon system...or 'the people') which serves as the 'hub of all power and movement on which everything depends." It is not a 'source of strength', and dear Carl insisted that for an enemy to possess a CoG, it must operate as a single entity. I would submit that there are cases where 'the people' - and who are these people anyway? - do not fill this role in counterinsurgency.

    For all you Clausewitz haters out there, you can look at it another way. In the earliest phases of a counterinsurgency, the insurgents may have no claim on the people. In that case, the people can, by definition, hardly serve as the insurgents CoG no matter how you define it. In other phases, the counterinsurgent may face a people completely supportive of the insurgents. In that case, they hardly need to be 'protected'.

    By the way, I have to hold my nose everytime I write 'the people'. It is a sloppy term that obscures more than it clarifies.

  2. #242
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well said, Eden.

    We do tend to get wrapped around terminology axles and we sure hop on the latest fad...

    Causing us to frequently get too busy counting alligators.

    Your points are well taken and they don't even address the fact that those 'people' are more than amorphous, they're unbelievably diverse and may not want what you or I would want were we in their shoes...

  3. #243
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    Jedburgh posted a link to this paper about rethinking the COG concept and how maybe it is time to get rid of it except foe general historical study. Short paper and thought provoking.

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...les/PUB805.pdf

  4. #244
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    Default Operational Effectiveness and Strategic Success in Counterinsurgency

    Operational Effectiveness and Strategic Success in Counterinsurgency by Dr. Steven Metz at SWJ Blog.

    When I was a young professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College I joined a small committee responsible for strategy instruction. This was all new to me: I had to learn before I could teach. One of the ideas that most impressed me then—and continues to today—is a simple, elegant, yet powerful way of thinking about strategy: it must be feasible, acceptable, and suitable. Feasibility means that there must be adequate resources to implement the strategy. Acceptability means that the "stakeholders" of the strategy have to buy in. Suitability means that the strategy had to have a reasonable chance of attaining the desired political objectives. This was the most important of all. A feasible and acceptable strategy was worthless if it did not offer a reasonable chance of attaining the desired political objectives. Reading Major General Dunlap's essay on counterinsurgency reminded me of this. His recommendations are feasible and acceptable but short on suitability...

  5. #245
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Bz

    You do good work.

  6. #246
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    I'm new to posting here, so forgive me if my formatting is lacking. I'll also lead with the disclaimer that I am approaching this from an academic standpoint, as I haven't been in the AOR in a while and won't be for a while due to my current job - so I am definitely an armchair quarterback.

    While I agree with your arguments, I think that there are some valid points in Maj Gen Dunlap's article.

    The essence of the article is that airpower has contributions to make that can enhance the effectiveness of COIN operations - IE that the effects of airpower are what matter and not the means. In this light, his argument is essentially a strategic one - airpower can have positive effects at a tactical and operational level while supporting the overall strategy. In other words, the same effects a ground unit could have on insurgents can be had by well placed use of airpower, with less cost collateral-damage wise. This enhances the strategic effect of the airpower, assuming that keeping the population happy with us/the HN government is a part of our strategy.

    While I agree that this strategic linkage could be made better, it doesn't change the fact that it exists. After nearly a year of lurking on the SWJ boards just reading, it seems to me that there is a very large bias against airpower in general and the USAF in particular. While this is understandable (clearly the AF is focused on the Big Wars and is not able to focus on Small Wars to the same level as the USA/USMC) I think that the point MG Dunlap is getting at is exactly right - people need to not look at who/what is providing the effects, but at the tactical/operational/strategic effects of the forces themselves.

    Now before I lead you to think that I am advocating using aircraft with targeting pods and strikes from above to win a small war, let me clarify. I believe that the point Maj Gen Dunlap is making is that better integration is necessary. The soldier on the ground is clearly better able than a Predator or F-16 at 15,000' to tell the friendlies from the enemy (although almost all USAF platforms have the technical, if not ROE/doctrinal ability to gather their own intel/targeting data through organic means). But isn't it better if the grunt on the ground has a ROVER and can see the "eye in the sky" perspective? Or even better, has a persistent overhead view (Predator on station for hours at a time), can see who comes and goes from a given area, and then make decisions based on this? In addition, the use of airpower need not involve folks dying. The ability of air to have a psychological effect in a non-kinetic way does seem to have been lost - early in OIF and definitely in OEF it seemed that low passes in full grunt with flares were used extensively. I haven't heard much about that sort of thing lately (doesn't mean it doesn't occur) but the psychological effect of helplessness one gets when attacked with relative impunity by air should be considered (I've read several places that being shelled is much more terrifying but it seems that that would have severe unintended collateral damage consequences). Finally, if things do go south good comms and especially ROVER, laser designator, or datalink help can mean quick, accurate, and relatively low collateral damage fire support from above.

    My point, to wit, is that the true STRATEGIC impact of airpower in COIN is when it is used operationally/tactically in a seamless manner with the rest of the joint force. There have been several prominent examples of our forces failing to do this - Anaconda being a good one. Airpower cannot win the COIN war on its own - that is true. But it can help save many lives on the ground as a partner. I agree with what you have said about dispersion, though better intel from the ground and persistence in the air can help combat that. And I strongly agree about the commitment to the supported HN - I think perhaps that in light of lack of support at home, sometimes airpower may be forced to be used as a substitute, though.

    We haven't talked much about the Cyber implications of all this, and neither did MG Dunlap. It seems to me that in a society like Iraq's seems to be, where rumor travels fast, that our efforts in the cyber/informational domain have a ways to go.

    Finally, let me say that my opinion is that the real role of the USAF in particular in small wars is to make sure that small wars are the only ones we fight in. Our brothers and sisters in the USMC and Army are of necessity focusing on the current fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, which entails some risk (reference last week's leak of the assessment of risk by the JCS). Our biggest job in the AF is to support them while decreasing that risk by maintaining the ability (along with the USN) to overwhelm any conventional attack by the air.

    I fully expect that this post will generate a lot of controversy, so I suppose that it is good that it is my first. Like I said at the start, I do think that the ground forces are definitely the primary vehicle for winning in the COIN environment. I do think that the AF has some capabilities that could be integrated into the joint fight, and are sometimes overlooked due to not understanding the capabilities involved.

    I look forward to your thoughts on this - thanks! -Cliff

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    Default Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for COIN

    RAND, 11 Feb 08: War By Other Means: Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency
    In early 2006, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) asked RAND’s National Defense Research Institute to conduct a comprehensive study of insurgency and counterinsurgency (COIN), with a view toward how the United States should improve its capabilities for such conflicts in the 21st century. This is the capstone report of that study, drawing from a dozen RAND research papers on specific cases, issues, and aspects of insurgency and COIN. The study included an examination of 89 insurgencies since World War II to learn why and how insurgencies begin, grow, and are resolved. It also analyzed the current challenge of what is becoming known as global insurgency, exemplified by the global jihadist movement, as well as lessons about both insurgency and COIN from a number of cases, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan provide the current policy context for this study. To be clear, however, the study is concerned with deficiencies in U.S. capabilities revealed in those conflicts, not with how to end them satisfactorily. Most new investments to improve U.S. COIN capabilities would not yield capabilities of immediate use. That said, to the extent that the findings can help the United States tackle the problems it faces in Iraq and Afghanistan, this would be a bonus. Regardless of how Iraq and Afghanistan turn out in the short term, the United States and its international partners will not have seen the last of this sort of challenge, and they must become better prepared than they have been for today’s insurgencies.....
    As noted, numerous other products of this study are or soon will be in the public domain. These include:

    Byting Back—Regaining Information Superiority Against 21st-Century Insurgents: RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Volume 1

    Counterinsurgency in Iraq (2003–2006): RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Volume 2

    Heads We Win—The Cognitive Side of Counterinsurgency (COIN): RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Paper 1

    Subversion and Insurgency: RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Paper 2

    Understanding Proto-Insurgencies: RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Paper 3

    Money in the Bank—Lessons Learned from Past Counterinsurgency Operations: RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Paper 4

    Rethinking Counterinsurgency—A British Perspective: RAND Counterinsurgency Study—Paper 5


    Note: Most of the above are linked elsewhere on the board. I've reposted them all in one location because they support the final, and I figured many of you would find it useful to have them all together. Paper 5 has not been published yet; I will plug the link in here as soon as it becomes available.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-07-2016 at 03:37 PM. Reason: Was a stand alone post.

  8. #248
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    Default Context

    I am also new to this site, but here goes...

    Personally, I find that views expressed on the utility of Air Power are invariably weakened by the subjective position of the person expressing them (so I'd better be careful!). Although most do not acknowledge it, I believe airmen are in one of two schools of thought: the 'Primacy of Air Power' camp ('Air Power rules 'ra ra ra'') or the 'Air Power has its Optimum Effect in a Joint Context' group. Consequently, when observations are made about the use or usefulness of Air Power today they often 'degenerate' into arguments between those from the former school and those who are outside the air community, while those from the latter school say very little, rarely arguing with anyone.

    The debate about Air Power's role in COIN is therefore part of a larger discussiion which does not facilitate an objective analysis of its utility in Small Wars. However, one point seems clear (to me anyway), that regardless of which camp is correct, Air Power has been under-utilized and probably mis-used on the current COIN campaigns. Given the enduring nature of both the endeavours in Iraq and Afghanistan, this sub-optimal situation cannot be allowed to continue so the debate must move beyond distracting expressions of the relative value of Air, Sea and Land Power to one that ensures each Component fulfils its full potential.

  9. #249
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smyth View Post

    Although most do not acknowledge it, I believe airmen are in one of two schools of thought: the 'Primacy of Air Power' camp ('Air Power rules 'ra ra ra'') or the 'Air Power has its Optimum Effect in a Joint Context' group. Consequently, when observations are made about the use or usefulness of Air Power today they often 'degenerate' into arguments between those from the former school and those who are outside the air community, while those from the latter school say very little, rarely arguing with anyone.
    Hi Paul, that is very well put based on my experience. The Joint Ops folks just don't talk about options that much...despite the fact that they some very good ideas.

  10. #250
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Armies in COIN

    http://www.jcpa.org/text/Amidror-perspectives-2.pdf

    a.) I have taken to liberty of linking the document in this location, as it was originally linked in the ME forum. In my opinion it has far wider implications. I think it is necessary, in order to create rational discussion to de-link from the context in which it was originally posted.

    b.) That being said, it is a document produced by an IDF General. Thus it exhibits the unique qualities and perspectives, of the IDF experience. It is hard/impossible to find to a more challenging environment, with higher stakes. It also reflects the IDF need to get rid of "imported theories of warfare," which have led them so badly astray.

    c.) The problem I have with this document is that, while 99% of what it suggests is good common sense and a logical reversion to simple, proven and effective methods, the "sales icing" adds elements which can probably only confuse. Even though the writer defines "Asymmetric" in a useful way, there is simply no need to include the word or a discussion of it. In fact this strongly indicates that the document was written for the consumption of a US audience.

    d.) Personally, I find this a simple, useful and very worthwhile document. It is in the same vein as Ron Tira's work, and reflects the need to go back to basics.
    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

  11. #251
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    Default Learning from Israel

    Wilf is correct in bringing this paper to SWJ users attention, but the perspective offered is very much based on the author's experience and would another senior officer say the same thing? It is a long time since I read Frank Kitson's Low Intensity Operations (I still have a copy) and suspect it says the same thing.

    Both authors base their experiences on a hostile environment, in which the opposing minority (the enemy terrorist / insurgent etc) are within a local population - that are not citizens of the state facing the threat.

    Perhaps that is why COIN is different from Counter-Terrorism (CT) in the Western democracies?

    I like the six points made:

    1) A political decision to defeat terrorism, stated explicitly and clearly to the security forces, and the willingness to bear the political cost of an offensive.
    2) Acquiring control of the territory in and from which the terrorists operate.
    3) Relevant intelligence.
    4) Isolating the territory within which the counterterrorist fighting takes place.
    5) Multi-dimensional cooperation between intelligence and operations.
    6) Separating the civilian population from the terrorists.

    Here in the UK the national CT strategy has been publicised, yet remains little understood and has been marred by successive decisions (let alone what happened in Ulster). The ideological contest has hardly been started, even to the extent of refusing access to public buildings for meetings - a step advocated by some ex-radical / extremists.

    Using the six points how do others score progress in Afghanistan, Iraq and other theatres pf conflict?

    davidbfpo

  12. #252
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Six points of contention?

    1) A political decision to defeat terrorism, stated explicitly and clearly to the security forces, and the willingness to bear the political cost of an offensive.
    Pretty straightforward and achievable if seldom realized due to political constraints in a democracy as well as for OpSec reasons in today's rapid global communications environment.
    2) Acquiring control of the territory in and from which the terrorists operate.
    Logical but can be exceedingly difficult if there's a cross border problem...
    3) Relevant intelligence.
    Always helpful if sometimes far from easy.
    4) Isolating the territory within which the counterterrorist fighting takes place.
    Always helpful if sometimes far from easy. Highly dependent upon troops available and terrain.
    5) Multi-dimensional cooperation between intelligence and operations.
    An imperative frequently occluded by human nature...
    6) Separating the civilian population from the terrorists.
    Exceedingly difficult in the best circumstances and highly likely today to be impossible due to 'human rights' considerations and public condemnation of harsh measures.

    Seems to METT-TC applies; all situations are not identical to Malaya or Palestine. Being the government versus working with a host nation government colors many things quite differently.

    All sounds great. Pity it isn't that simple...

  13. #253
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    Default Is Counterinsurgency the Graduate Level of War?

    Is Counterinsurgency the Graduate Level of War? by COL Dave Maxwell, SWJ Blog.

    Some Random Thoughts on COIN Today

    I have to respectfully disagree with the assertion that “counterinsurgency is the graduate level of war.”

    Despite being an avid believer in and advocate of COIN (and FID and UW) for most of my nearly 30 year career I still believe that that the graduate level of war has to be full spectrum and those that are practicing the graduate level of war are those that can shift between major combat operations and stability operations and when necessary assist a friend, partner, and ally in the conduct of COIN. Now that everyone is chasing the shiny (but not really) “new” thing (COIN) and calling it the graduate level of war I it think is disparaging to our great general purpose forces out there who are still going to be required to conduct major combat operations in some form or fashion and will have to be able to combine those operations with stability operations once the battle is won.

    The graduate level of war is any form of war because war is as complex in major combat operations as it is in stability operations. The real “PhDs of war” are those that are able to recognize that the actions they take in the beginning of conflict (e.g., March-May 2003) are going to have effects on the outcome and the post conflict phases (e.g., May 2003 to the present)...

  14. #254
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    Default Right you are!

    While the metaphor that COIN is the "graduate level" of war was briefly useful, Dave Maxwell's comments are absolutelyon the mark. Small Wars - by any name - are what we have done for most of our history and will likely continue to do most of. But, as he says, the real PhDs in war will be able to transition to BIG wars and back again without missing a step. The PhD in war will folow the Clausewitzian maxim of knowing the kind of war one is fighting and not mistaking it for something it is not.

    Hear, hear!!!!!

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    I've never been a fan of the "graduate level of war" meme. Education level is a poor analogy for warfare, IMO. One might argue that all war is "graduate level" because if you lose you're just as dead.

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    Default This COIN is global and Religious...

    One extremely important distinction between current COIN Ops and historical examples of insurgency is the central role of religion in the WoT. Wars always involve ideology and frequently contest competing theological visions. Yet this war is being waged against the west by those whose raison d'terre (sp) is 'God's will'.

    In this sense, my humble opinion is not so much that COIN as a theory requires graduate level aptitude, but that COIN involving the complex dynamics of Islam (in the biblical location of the Garden of Eden, Abraham's birthplace, ancient Babylon, no less) requires a cognitive expertise exceeding previous wars because of the possibility of inflaming religious tensions that may/can instigate not only WW III, but perhaps the Apocalypse envisioned by all three Abrahamic Traditions.

    See: Rand National Defense Research Institute's study: "Heads We Win: Improving Cognitive Effectiveness in Counterinsurgency".
    Last edited by MSG Proctor; 07-20-2008 at 01:50 PM.
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  17. #257
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    I cringe inwardly when the military absconds with academic titles and concepts as if the trappings of academia invoke legitimacy when more often they represent dusty thinking. "The graduate level of war" concept was briefly useful as memetic for effect. It got the concept of counter insurgency noticed, but only briefly truly reflected a graduate level of study and all that "graduate level" should mean.

    When information assurance and security courses began to make inroads into the University they all occurred at the graduate level. The level of thinking, adapting and cognitive processing required was just not available in the undergraduate level. Partly this is because there was no base level of understanding and all of the learning was at a synthesis level rather than rote. As the processes and concepts were matured the courses were moved to earlier and earlier into the graduate curriculum and then into the undergraduate level. In the University there are a lot of reasons that faculty and administration like to keep courses at the graduate level ($$$$$) but the fact remains most of the high level stuff now is simplistic.

    In a lot of ways that is similar to small wars, insurgency, and counter insurgency. That does not mean there is not a graduate level of war though. Consider that a bachelor or undergraduate program is the engineer, the do'er, the journeyman and you have a good idea of the breadth most practitioners of war need to be at. The undergraduate acquires knowledge, skills, and abilities to apply them to particular tasks.

    The graduate level is about mastery, artistry, and even a little bit about expansion of the art. The graduate level of any program is about synthesis and the creation of knowledge. Any element of the spectrum of war and the methods/tactics used can have that higher level expectation beyond the practitioner. There can be problems when to tightly focusing on a single aspect. Much like computer science faculty spent way to much time on encryption giving over much of the practical research in information technology the master of military arts can focus on one aspect and lose some of their discipline in a myopic view.

    A doctoral level of war is about the creation of knowledge and the rigorous application of the disciplines standards to the practice. The epistemology of the discipline is applied to validate the concepts, knowledge, contributions and the more rigorous that application the more valuable the knowledge.

    The military should be wary of attempting to acquire the trappings of an academic metaphor in the application of knowledge and creative process. As a quip the "graduate level of war" can help to generalize the value of the ideas and concepts. As a rule academic rigor can stagnate and impede the evaluation and construction of knowledge.

    We have all used the phrase "That is academic".

    Consider that phrase and what it means. Often used in a derogatory sense it means something important. It is the application of knowledge tools against concepts that bear not only on the surface of meaning but the deeper philosophical and tangential issues of an idea. The construction of valued science must meet the highest standards or be ridiculed no matter the social value of a discovery. Semantical deconstruction of concepts and ideas is entirely to important to science to be thrown away. Is this idea ever going to be that important to the military that an academic metaphor would truly apply?

    Look at the cultural negativity that the vast majority of military members show towards the academia, and especially the low esteem held by the military for academics. Last week as an academic another military member (major) mentioned that I was a widget builder. I was also referred to as a "pet academic". I find it a little humorous that a military that holds academia as such an inferior organization would then go about adopting the terms, traditions, trappings, and titles of the inferior institution. In fact you might say the roles are that of insurgent and counter insurgent. Don't be to hasty in where you judge those roles to reside. Who is adopting what traditions?

    With the greatest respect to the members of the military this old, fat, ugly, slow former Marine corporal would suggest a few things for the elite officer corps to think about. If I pinned on an officer rank it would basely and rightly offend all members of the military. Yet the military would abscond with the traditions of academia and use terms like "graduate level", "doctorate level" without concern or respect for academe traditions. This is a deeper problem in the power roles between the entities. The question is do you call a colonel by his rank, or his academic title if he is also a doctor? Is it defined by geography, role or something else?

    So it is interesting to see the perspectives and discussion about terms and memes that turn around the issue. Beyond civilian and military relations there is a deeper current between academic and military members. A search for legitimacy whether needed or not, and a shared communal fracture in the pathways of communication. I would suggest there is a current insurgency between the entities and let the individuals involved sort the roles each chooses.
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    Default Prefer to debate, but

    I prefer to debate COL Maxwell because I respect his intellect and I know I'll get schooled when I challenge him, but unfortunately this time I can find nothing to disagree with.

  19. #259
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    But if COIN were the graduate level of war, couldn't we choose to take 20 years to fight the "African-American Women's Issues Among Red-headed step-children born under a blue moon in Westchester County, New York Between 1920 and 1922?"

    And would Grant Writers become the most important aspect of warfighting?

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    There is too much emphasis today on specialisation and on cases which are the extremities of any given system and, at least as far as I see it, woefully little to general knowledge and to 'common sense'. As a freshly graduated historian I just cannot understand why so many relevant historical examples are simply left out of consideration.

    Examples like Mao's advices in Three main rules of discipline and the eight points for attention, or the roman legions' soft power activities so brilliantly summarised in Monthy Python: Brian's Life. If we speak of the legionnaires I would like also add that apart from buidling activities, they participated in the administration of the provinces, conducted road patrols, served as embedded advisors in indigenous armies etc. Now that's full spectrum.

    We just don't have to reinvent the wheel all of the time.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

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