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Thread: New project coming up

  1. #1
    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Smile New project coming up

    I have a new project coming up as for my second semester of my first undergraduate year of college, I'm taking an upper division level class called American Foreign Policy After WWII. Eventually this course I'm taking ends with a rather large final paper which has to be turned in at the end of the semester, and has to be about contemporary foreign policy issue.

    Since I have to start working on it soon, I was going to do my research paper on The Evolution of COIN in Iraq between 2005-Present.

    The first part of this that I have to work on is a one page abstract/summary, in addition to an a detailed outline and annotate bibliography.

    I've also already have begun collecting resources for this including secondary sources in the forms of basic books and manuals about the Iraq conflict. I will also have to collect some primary sources too, however here I what I have so far in terms of sources.

    Here is the sources I have on hand to work with so far,

    Fiasco by Tom Ricks

    The Gamble also by Tom Ricks

    The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen

    The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual

    The US Army Stability Operations Field Manual

    How do my choices of sources look and if anybody could recommend anything else that would be great. Any perspective content recommendations or anything else would be much appreciated.

    Thank you, and I hope I haven't opened up too large a question here since this forum deals with Iraq on a daily basis.

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    Default

    Just a recommendation - depending upon your definition of "evolution" you might want to focus on one echelon (or range of echelons) and/or focus on one facet of our operations (kinetic targeting, training ISF, civil-military projects, etc). If by "evolution" you mean learning, then realize that there is a lot of disagreement as to whether there was any evolution below, say, the company or battalion level - they largely got it. If by "evolution" you mean a change in the way we did business, then this might best focus on the greater emphasis on "money as a weapon system", pushing ISF deeper into the fight, chipping away at Sadr's militia and political power, etc.

    Also, Ucko wrote a book on the very topic that you're covering. It has at least one big-name detractor. See here: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/201.../#comment-6463
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 01-23-2010 at 06:20 AM.

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    Default Cobra ii

    You mentioned Foreign Policy, but intend to write about COIN. Is the paper Foreign Policy or Counter-Insurgency? Regardless, I would recommend, "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq", by Gordan and Trainor.

    If looking specifically at Foreign Policy, an angle is potentially the early 2003 de-Baathification and disbanding the Iraq military. Arguably, these two ideas created more issues than they resolved, and you could compare/contrast them with the de-Nazification of Germany post WWII.

    Best of luck

    John

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Since I have to start working on it soon, I was going to do my research paper on The Evolution of COIN in Iraq between 2005-Present.
    With the greatest respect, you're backing yourself into a corner with the title.
    What are you seeking to learn? - rather than prove.

    To date, the idea that "few smart men" saved the US Army is without evidence, and only promoted by those who see themselves as the "few smart men."

    Detecting and countering a relentless cult of "individual self-promotion" over the actual military achievement of the men of the ground is going to be your main challenge.
    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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    Tough topic for an undergrad paper, and not sure why you are using 2005 as the beginning point of the "evolution" you plan to study, but these might be useful:

    "PRT Lessons from Iraq" by Terrence Kelly, pp. 105-127 in: http://www.ndc.nato.int/download/downloads.php?icode=79

    "After the Fight: Interagency Operations"
    http://www.usamhi.army.mil/USAWC/Par...r/schnaube.htm

    "What NATO can learn from 'the surge' in Iraq"
    http://www.ndc.nato.int/download/downloads.php?icode=8

    "Measuring counterinsurgency effectiveness: easier said than done" by Kirk Johnson, pp. 94-112 in: http://www.ndc.nato.int/download/dow....php?icode=139

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Kevin, a tough topic, but I would strongly urge you to talk with your prof for the course and clear it with them before you hand in your outline. If they balk at looking at the "evolution of COIN" (whatever that might mean), then you need a fallback option. You might think about the neo-con belief that the Revolution in Military affairs blinded the perceptions that led to policy decisions to go into Iraq, and that the "evolution of COIN" is also, and in parallel, an evolution of the FP perceptions about the cost of this type of mission.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Concur with Marc on

    discussing with your prof before you proceed.

    as pointed out, you are all over the map in terms of levels. for a Foreign Policy course you really need to be at the strategic levels of war - national and theater. That leads you toward sources which address national level decision making and CENTCOM level planning. Bob Woodward's first cut at history (very much from the inside on the national level) beginning with Plan of Attack and ending with The War Within should be among your sources. So should Tom Ricks' books - Fiasco and The Gamble - as should Linda Robinson's Tell Me How This Ends. In fact, The War Within, The Gamble, and Robinson should be read together. There is also, as you well know, much on this site from all these opinionated bloggers and you should be looking at the higher level military and foreign policy journals as well - Parameters, JFQ, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, among others.

    good luck

    JohnT

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Please no, not Iraq

    Kevin23,

    I have a new project coming up as for my second semester of my first undergraduate year of college, I'm taking an upper division level class called American Foreign Policy After WWII. Eventually this course I'm taking ends with a rather large final paper which has to be turned in at the end of the semester, and has to be about contemporary foreign policy issue.

    Since I have to start working on it soon, I was going to do my research paper on The Evolution of COIN in Iraq between 2005-Present.
    I'd steer away from Iraq. There is far more to US foreign policy than Af-Pak and Iraq. Global soldier (in the Cold War), Global policeman (in GWOT), Global banker and emergency helper (today) - nice slogans. What underpins them? National interest and a capability to intervene. What are the weaknesses of either or both? Then select contrasting examples, of the minimum and maximum "footprint". Yes, Iraq can then feature and as it is contemporary, the Yemen.

    Professors get used to reading and marking papers based on easy options, "thinking out of the box" should get better marks.
    davidbfpo

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    I didn't even consider the course name in my first comment. Now I'm starting to wonder if the topic is even appropriate - definitely concur with Marc's suggestion.

    This is something that I have had to grapple with recently. You're expected to choose a topic to write on at the start of the semester (presumably before you've learned about the subject matter). For me, I'm in the process of choosing topics for three separate papers on topics that I don't know enough about (in my opinion) to intelligently select a topic. I've done some research and picked out issues and questions to focus on, but even with that much information I have no idea if these are issues that can be discussed in 5 pages or if they require 25 or 200. If there were no page limit, then it wouldn't be an issue - but there is a page limit. However - and getting back to Marc's point - in speaking to my professors, they each gave me some good advice on narrowing the topics and asked me if I'd like another week to refine them. My impression is that I'm one of very few people looking to choose a topic that will be educational for me, rather than some BS topic that is easy to write about (so I also concur with David's comment). They each seemed pleased that I was taking the assignment seriously and they suddenly became very flexible.

    I'd be curious what is on your course syllabus. Does anything related to COIN show up on your syllabus? Even if it does, that would seem odd to me, given that COIN is an operation, not a strategy. Or does Iraq or A'Stan or Pakistan show up? If so, is it just the last one or two class meetings where the professor just hits on recent developments? Those might be topics that are a bit too narrow and/or too recent to objectively analyze. I'd think looking at how George HW Bush handled foreign policy might be something where you can more effectively demonstrate what you've learned in the course (and will be more educational, too) because it was the overlap of the end of the Cold War, was punctuated by provocative US exercise of military power, and basically is a good time window to focus on in our shift away from leading "the free world" to being a leader in "the world community."

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    Default American Foreign Policy After WWII

    I think David sums it very well:

    Global soldier (in the Cold War), Global policeman (in GWOT), Global banker and emergency helper (today) - nice slogans. What underpins them? National interest and a capability to intervene. What are the weaknesses of either or both? Then select contrasting examples, of the minimum and maximum "footprint".
    and I think that the issue of the minimum or maximum "footprint" is key.

    So much for my thoughts. A piece of advice on writing a 10-page article from my law school faculty advisor (who qualified as a SME on your topic). Feel free to write a 100-page article. Then condense that down to 10-pages. The latter will be 10 times better than the former. The same lesson also included a lesson on my use of "Weltanschauung" in the draft. You know German; I know German; but you are writing in English - so don't show off and just say "worldview".

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member Wargames Mark's Avatar
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    One specific aspect of the American experience in Iraq, and which was evolutionary, was the development of ways to combat the IED threat. Even though your topic is much broader than IED Defeat, I recommend reading the material in the Left of Boom series of articles by Rick Atkinson at the Washington Post. These articles describe the process by which the military addressed the problem.
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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I didn't even consider the course name in my first comment. Now I'm starting to wonder if the topic is even appropriate - definitely concur with Marc's suggestion.

    This is something that I have had to grapple with recently. You're expected to choose a topic to write on at the start of the semester (presumably before you've learned about the subject matter). For me, I'm in the process of choosing topics for three separate papers on topics that I don't know enough about (in my opinion) to intelligently select a topic. I've done some research and picked out issues and questions to focus on, but even with that much information I have no idea if these are issues that can be discussed in 5 pages or if they require 25 or 200. If there were no page limit, then it wouldn't be an issue - but there is a page limit. However - and getting back to Marc's point - in speaking to my professors, they each gave me some good advice on narrowing the topics and asked me if I'd like another week to refine them. My impression is that I'm one of very few people looking to choose a topic that will be educational for me, rather than some BS topic that is easy to write about (so I also concur with David's comment). They each seemed pleased that I was taking the assignment seriously and they suddenly became very flexible.

    I'd be curious what is on your course syllabus. Does anything related to COIN show up on your syllabus? Even if it does, that would seem odd to me, given that COIN is an operation, not a strategy. Or does Iraq or A'Stan or Pakistan show up? If so, is it just the last one or two class meetings where the professor just hits on recent developments? Those might be topics that are a bit too narrow and/or too recent to objectively analyze. I'd think looking at how George HW Bush handled foreign policy might be something where you can more effectively demonstrate what you've learned in the course (and will be more educational, too) because it was the overlap of the end of the Cold War, was punctuated by provocative US exercise of military power, and basically is a good time window to focus on in our shift away from leading "the free world" to being a leader in "the world community."
    In terms of when things will be discussed in my class. My prof is definitely planning on addressing post 9/11 issues, including Iraq and Afghanistan in early April at the latest so to answer your questions about recent developments in is planning to into detail on many things.

    I also asked him at the end of last week about my paper idea and he said it sounded ok. He just warned me against letting balloon out of control in terms of content.

    I also see your point about making the paper informative and demonstrative of what I've learned in the course, and if I feel/ or my professor feels I can't do that with my current topic. I will switch topics to something else although I don't know what yet in case I need a backup? On which I will think creating a topic dealing with something more on a strategic level, or regarding a post-Cold War Presidential Administration's approach to foreign policy would be good also?

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    If you've already cleared the topic with your Prof, I'd suggest that you "Continue to March." If the requirement is a "research paper," these are usually something that digs into some detail on a specific topic not covered, or not covered in depth, within the readings or lectures. The title of the course topic (American Foreign Policy, in this case) is usually given a broad interpretation.

    If you are concerned about a "policy level" viewpoint, you can frame the "evolution" of COIN in Iraq in terms of its subsequent influence on the Obama Af-Pak strategy and/or the follow-on review that led to the POTUS's (eventual) decision to send more troops in response to the request of GEN McChrystal.

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    Kevin:

    Echoing CMSBelt's comments, I would be concerned that COIN, which is a broad and as yet very hard to define, limits and identify, may be a bit more than you need to bite off, will be evolving as you chew, and make take you too far afield from Foreign Policy.

    The prior Foreign Policy, pre-2003, was one of containment via, among other things, no fly-zones, embargoes, UN engagement and Kurdish protection and humanitarian assistances. Any of those areas, and related sub-areas, are often little explored in current academia, but easily documented,and may be ripe for a bang-up paper.

    As we contemplate embargoes on Iran, what did we learn form those applied to Iraq? Did they forestall military actions? Did they spawn huge corruption, even of the UN programs themselves? Did they accomplish Foreign Policy objectives. The answers are readily identifiable, and may give way to substantial insights of relevance to Iran, a current issue.

    Gareth Stanfield published the big book on the Kurd last summer, and there are volumes of source info, as there are on the UN Oil for Food Program/embargo stuff.

    The substantive Foreign Policy underlying Iraq's invasion was one of pre-emptive war, and. arguably, a pre-emptive war driven by poor and inaccurate intelligence. One Foreign Policy issue is the shift from containment to pre-emptive war.

    The next significant Foreign Policy issue there was the US strategy for a Post-Conflict Iraq. Here you run into post-conflict planning, the chaos of inter-agency, the sub-blunders like De-Baath, and PRTs, COIN as tactics within.

    I'd remember my policy thesis advisor's guidance to stay small and focused, and within manageable limits.

    Steve

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    Default Rand Study on COIN Iraq

    I did not see this recommended in any of the posts but if you are going research COIN in Iraq you should read that study.
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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