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Thread: Applying the lessons of late 19th/early 20th century asymmetrical warfare

  1. #41
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default There is an anti-intellectual bias held by many but it isn't total.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    ... but on the whole, folks in the military don't listen to them because of the anti-intellectual bias of the military. The good stuff is out there, but it takes a long time to master it.
    I think rather than bias, your last clause better explains the failure to listen...

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default Underwhelmed by Linn's arguments

    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    Brian Linn for one.
    I liked Linn's book on the Philippine War, but the alleged similarities to Iraq leave me unmoved. The parallels do seem superficially compelling, especially to an audience with little knowledge of the Philippine conflict, but each is slightly stretched, and the cumulative stretch approaches the breaking point. The lessons to be deduced, IMO, go rather beyond the breaking point, and the rather more compelling differences between the conflicts don't seem to get much attention.

    For example, there's a huge difference in the fundamental objective of the wars being looked at. The Philippine War was an outright war of conquest; the objective was to annex the Philippines and govern it directly as a colony. The objective in Iraq and Afghanistan is quite different: we're trying to develop an indigenous governing capacity, not to govern these states ourselves. This policies Linn cites as things the Americans did right in the Philippines generally involved the effective exercise of direct governance functions by Americans. This makes perfect sense in an environment we propose to directly govern. If the objective is to develop indigenous government, it makes no sense at all: if Americans directly exercise governance functions they are competing with and undermining the governance structure we are trying to create. Experience with imposing direct governance simply doesn't translate to an effort to cultivate independent governance.

    There are other differences as well, many of them: the political and social context, the capacities and constraints of American forces, the capacities and constraints of opposing forces, and many others. In the context of the differences, the parallels, and the lessons deduced from them, grow rather pale.

    I realize that academics with niche expertise have excellent reasons for drawing parallels between their niche and current conditions, but the rest of us would be well advised to crank up the skepticism before accepting the conclusions emerging from the process.

  3. #43
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Ok lets just call it guerrilla warfare or even small wars then if that term works better?
    Nothing wrong with Guerrilla Warfare(armed civilians fighting for a cause). 95% of the world will understand what mean, the only people who don't are in the military.

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    I realize that academics with niche expertise have excellent reasons for drawing parallels between their niche and current conditions, but the rest of us would be well advised to crank up the skepticism before accepting the conclusions emerging from the process.
    I will let Brian defend himself (if he even cares). But I think its too easy to discount his expertise and the nuances of what he has to say as "niche expertise" ... the skepticism is often a fig leaf for anti-intellectual bias. I mean really, it's not like the "doers" have done the square root of dick to solve the problems. Perhaps we should listen to some of those pointy headed intellectuals who have spent their entire adult lives thinking about these issues.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-20-2010 at 07:05 PM. Reason: Fix quote

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    Default So, John Grenier,

    what is an intellectual ?

    Serious question, so I ken whether I is or is not one - and whether I've an anti-intellectual bias.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Pretty clear: the guys who puff out their chests and say that the academics "don't know anything because they have never been there" (which often isn't the case because the academics have been there and they've decided to move on to another side of their lives), the military types who refuse to embrace any kind of real learning and education and continue to propogate the "lessons learned" joke that is PME; the promotion system that looks down upon officers with advanced degrees (as in they are wasting their time in graduate school instead of being the aide to some dull witted GO, which is the key to promotion) and makes it very difficult for them to get promoted; the guys who just discount the experts (normally it takes 12,000 to 15,000 hours of experience in anything to approach being an expert, but people who have read a dozen really bad books on this crap will consider themselves experts) because they are not in the military. It's like porn, you can't really define it (those Richard Hofstader did), but you recognize it when you see it.

  7. #47
    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    Pretty clear: the guys who puff out their chests and say that the academics "don't know anything because they have never been there" (which often isn't the case because the academics have been there and they've decided to move on to another side of their lives), the military types who refuse to embrace any kind of real learning and education and continue to propogate the "lessons learned" joke that is PME; the promotion system that looks down upon officers with advanced degrees (as in they are wasting their time in graduate school instead of being the aide to some dull witted GO, which is the key to promotion) and makes it very difficult for them to get promoted; the guys who just discount the experts (normally it takes 12,000 to 15,000 hours of experience in anything to approach being an expert, but people who have read a dozen really bad books on this crap will consider themselves experts) because they are not in the military. It's like porn, you can't really define it (those Richard Hofstader did), but you recognize it when you see it.
    Excuse my lack of experience or naivete,

    However, I thought from within the officer corps especially earning a graduate degree of any level or type was something highly valuable and rewarded?

    Also doesn't the type of thinking you described exist in the other organs of US defense and foreign policymaking?

    Btw I hope I'm not steering to far off topic?

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    Default Nope, Kevin,

    definitely not highly valuable and rewarded. That's why Dave Petraeus is still an O-5.

    And keep trucking on your degrees.

    Regards

    Mike

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    You've fallen for it -- of course in a system as large as the US military, some guys will get to the top. DP is the wunderkind and an extreme political animal -- the reason he got promoted wasn't because of his degrees, but because he played the political game. That's how all GOs get promoted. BTW, what has his genius done for us in winning these wars? Nothing.

    The military values bull#### degrees, like the ones they get from PME.

    Sure, there is a direct connection between academia and the government -- it is pretty much the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex. The problem is that the military guys never have the brainpower to contribute much in those circles. Some folks are happy being a tool. Here's a question for you? When was the last time the highly educated brain trust of the US military won a war for this country? Something is clearly wrong in the way we are educating our highest and most trusted officers.

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    John, are you the person described in this biographical sketch? I'm trying to put your point of view in context.

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    Pete,

    Yes, sir.

  12. #52
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    I will let Brian defend himself (if he even cares). But I think its too easy to discount his expertise and the nuances of what he has to say as "niche expertise" ... the skepticism is often a fig leaf for anti-intellectual bias. I mean really, it's not like the "doers" have done the square root of dick to solve the problems. Perhaps we should listen to some of those pointy headed intellectuals who have spent their entire adult lives thinking about these issues.
    I wouldn't wish to comment on anti-academic bias in the military: the closest I've come to the military is this website, which probably does not constitute a representative sample. I recognize that the measurement of bias is necessarily imprecise, but it might be amusing to weigh the proposed anti-academic bias of the military against the frequently alleged anti-military bias in the academe.

    In any event, as I stated above, I find the comparison between the Philippine-American conflict and the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan to be strained and unpersuasive. A few reasons are hinted at above; I'm willing to expand upon those if it seems appropriate. If you disagree, you might consider telling us why... if you're finished making assumptions about other participants in the discussion.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Grenier View Post
    But I think its too easy to discount his expertise and the nuances of what he has to say as "niche expertise" ... the skepticism is often a fig leaf for anti-intellectual bias. I mean really, it's not like the "doers" have done the square root of dick to solve the problems. Perhaps we should listen to some of those pointy headed intellectuals who have spent their entire adult lives thinking about these issues.
    Actually on reflection spurred by Dayuhan, I would opine that actually there is a real problem in both the UK and US with pseudo-academia or real academic issues never held to rigour.
    The whole COIN debate has been characterised by poor history, sloppy thinking, and agenda pumping. None of those things speak well of a desire to be academic, if the folks concerned are not forced to be disciplined.

    Just because someone got a PhD, it does not mean they can take their training wheels off.
    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.
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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Actually on reflection spurred by Dayuhan, I would opine that actually there is a real problem in both the UK and US with pseudo-academia or real academic issues never held to rigour.
    The whole COIN debate has been characterised by poor history, sloppy thinking, and agenda pumping. None of those things speak well of a desire to be academic, if the folks concerned are not forced to be disciplined.

    Just because someone got a PhD, it does not mean they can take their training wheels off.
    However despite these points,

    Couldn't it obviously be agreed on though that some progress within the COIN debate, has been made in terms of addressing the three issues that you just mentioned and that been alluded to earlier?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Couldn't it obviously be agreed on though that some progress within the COIN debate, has been made in terms of addressing the three issues that you just mentioned and that been alluded to earlier?
    Progress has certainly been made. Even the stupidest pig finds a truffle!
    However we are still living under the influence of some less than stellar thinking.
    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Progress has certainly been made. Even the stupidest pig finds a truffle!
    However we are still living under the influence of some less than stellar thinking.
    And that comes from all quarters (to include the military).

    Degrees these days are box-checks, and may not be what they were fifty years ago. And military training has had issues in the United States for the entire existence of the nation. Put the two together, and you have issues.

    The whole COIN issue, to me, should be "are we going to actually preserve what we learned this time?" instead of "is Iraq like the Philippines/Vietnam/Malaya". And I don't have much faith in the U.S. military retaining anything of value, since it's failed to do so in every other conflict of this nature that it's been involved in.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post

    The whole COIN issue, to me, should be "are we going to actually preserve what we learned this time?" instead of "is Iraq like the Philippines/Vietnam/Malaya". And I don't have much faith in the U.S. military retaining anything of value, since it's failed to do so in every other conflict of this nature that it's been involved in.
    You can, as you did with WW2 IF someone bothers to codify the lessons into an understanding and practice of Irregular Warfare. COIN is a form Warfare, beyond anything else. It IS about breaking will. It needs to be considered in those terms and the lessons will endure.
    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

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    You can, as you did with WW2 IF someone bothers to codify the lessons into an understanding and practice of Irregular Warfare. COIN is a form Warfare, beyond anything else. It IS about breaking will. It needs to be considered in those terms and the lessons will endure.
    You appear to have more faith in the system than I do, which may be a good thing. I think the last serious effort to do this was the USMC Small Wars Manual.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    The problem with trying to codify the lessons of past experience, of course, is that every case is different and what works in one may not work in another. A manual - even a very good one - makes an excellent servant and a terrible master. It's all too easy to cast them in the latter role.

    Somewhere between trying to fight yesterday's war and relearning everything from scratch there is probably a wise middle ground, but I don't know that we'll ever find it.

    The Owen/Jones debate - break the will of the insurgent vs remove the root cause of the insurgency - will always be with us and probably always should be: both sides have an important piece of the puzzle. The balance between the two that any given situation requires will have to be worked out on a case to case basis. There is no recipe.

    I'm not convinced that there's any set of tactical lessons or methods that would have made our current engagements substantially easier or more successful, because I believe that the primary errors that created the mess were at the level of policy and strategy. A better field manual might have helped in a few cases and a few places, but I can't see it changing the overall picture.

    I also don't see the "lessons of late 19th/early 20th century asymmetric warfare" being a game-changer. Certainly it was much easier for light-skinned people to whip dark-skinned people into submission then than it is now: that's why Portugal can no longer run Brazil, Belgium can no longer run the Congo, England can no longer run India. These things have not become impossible because we have lost some knowledge or capacity that our ancestors had, they've become impossible because the world today is a very different place. Our problem isn't that we have failed to learn the lessons of history, but that the other folks have succeeded in learning the lessons of history. The things we did back then are not going to work today, it's time to adjust to the real world before us.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 06-26-2010 at 02:27 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Actually on reflection spurred by Dayuhan, I would opine that actually there is a real problem in both the UK and US with pseudo-academia or real academic issues never held to rigour.
    The whole COIN debate has been characterised by poor history, sloppy thinking, and agenda pumping. None of those things speak well of a desire to be academic, if the folks concerned are not forced to be disciplined.

    Just because someone got a PhD, it does not mean they can take their training wheels off.
    Nuff said.

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