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Old 05-21-2009   #21
William F. Owen
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How we deal with the issue is another question. Do we ask the military to become more attuned to the political dimension? Does the State Department need to develop some sort of "Directorate for COIN" to address the political dimension while the military focuses on combat? Is there an intermediate approach? Or something else entirely?
We/you need to teach what war is to officers when they first join, and keep beating it into them, year after year.

You now have an Army that views COIN as something different from WAR, and has to make up a silly language using words like "Complex", "Human Terrain" and "Hybrid", because no one learnt to walk before buying a Honda 750. - and this is merely my opinion. If someone can tell me I am wrong I would be heartened!
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Old 05-21-2009   #22
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We/you need to teach what war is to officers when they first join, and keep beating it into them, year after year.
Agreed. But the great trick here is defining what "war" is. Maybe, "the organized effort by one group to impose its will on another group"?
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Old 05-21-2009   #23
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Agreed. But the great trick here is defining what "war" is. Maybe, "the organized effort by one group to impose its will on another group"?
The use of violence for political aims, so yes, on one level - "the organized effort by one group to impose its will on another group", but Thucydides and CvC have laid it all out in great detail. I don't think there are any grounds to be confused as to what war is, once you correctly characterise "violence" and "political aims."
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- 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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Old 05-21-2009   #24
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...If that is the cultural paradigm, it will carry over to the battlefield, where the military will focus on combat and leave the political dimension to the politicians.
Seems to me that would be advisable. We have tried the 'Soldier as Diplomat' routine for about 60 some odd years now -- how well has that worked out for us?

Diplomacy is essentially a positive effort -- to achieve a desired outcome with minimal cost to own side. Warfighting is a negative effort, the intent is to destroy at a minimum the will of the opponent. Mixing the two creates conflicts of intent, interest and outcome.

Bob's World pointed out yesterday that use of force by the US used to be very rare and that many today do not recall those days. Our excessive application of force in recent years has done us no favors and is certainly partly the responsibility of DoD for playing around, often by default, in matters not their concern. That has not really been beneficial for the nation -- or the world.
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...the strategic goal has little to do with troops in the field or territory conquered.
True. I think there's a message in that.
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How we deal with the issue is another question. Do we ask the military to become more attuned to the political dimension? Does the State Department need to develop some sort of "Directorate for COIN" to address the political dimension while the military focuses on combat? Is there an intermediate approach? Or something else entirely?
Well, we're not doing at all well on your first item -- and have not for many years. On the second, I'd suggest that if it gets to a need for COIN, State has already failed -- they need to stop the COIN fight before it starts if at all possible.

There may be an intermediate approach but Americans in general do not do 'intermediate' well. Something else entirely is possible but improbable as, if there were a better solution, someone probably would have found it in the last few hundred years.

People or groups of people should endeavor to do what they do best. Coordination of effort can be successful, fragmentation of effort invariably creates confusion and promotes poor performance, the infamous seven 'Ps.'
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Old 05-21-2009   #25
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If the enemy makes you believe that doing him harm, will somehow do you harm, he's won! - and you have no legitimate recourse to armed action. - EG: Ghandi - and Ghandi was not an insurgent! He used Politics, without warfare - so not a military problem.

This is one area where WILF and I take very different perspectives. I take WILF's position to be that insurgency begins when the violence begins, as does the military mission, with both also ending along with the violence.

I see Insurgency as a continuous spectrum that every populace and governance are continuously operating within. Most well down below Mao's Phase I insurgency in what has been described as "pre-insurgency" or "phase 0 insurgency". Perhaps most accurately it is "pre-violence insurgency".

Not only was Ghandi, and also Dr. King here in the states, insurgents; they were so successful at insurgency that they never had to resort to violence to force the government to address the conditions of poor governance that gave rise to their movements.

On the flip side of that "COIN," I also see the passing and implementation of the U.S. Civil Rights Act as the most successful COIN effort ever executed by the US government as well.

Once either the insurgent or the counterinsurgent resorts to violience to accomplish their ends it recognizes a failure at accomplishing the same peacefully first. It does not mean the earlier effort was not equally insurgency or counterinsurgency.

The critical benefit of taking my perspective is that it puts and keeps the onus for COIN on the civil government, making the case that this is an enduring committment and the essence of their function in relation to the populace: Provide Good Governance. Just becuase their failure may result in violence in no way relieves them of their duty to that end. The military comes in as needed and out again once good governance is restored.
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Old 05-21-2009   #26
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Perhaps most accurately it is "pre-violence insurgency".
You could call it a "Protest Group" or even "Political Party."
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- 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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Old 05-21-2009   #27
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You could call it a "Protest Group" or even "Political Party."
There's a difference, Wilf? Seriously, if the political goal is to change the current balance of power and resource allocation in a society, then the means will flow along a continuous spectrum from "passive resistance" (a la Ghandi) to outright revolt. When does it become and "insurgency"? I would have to disagree with you that it does so when violence starts. I would argue, instead, that it is when violence becomes the means of choice, so it's not a crisp set, it's a fuzzy one.

Case in point, and keeping with BW's MLK example, are the Rodney King riots in LA an insurgency? How about the actions of James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen (see here)?

The problem, and it is a sliperry slope one, is that whatever term is applied to a group, then the group will start adopting some of the implications of that term.
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Old 05-21-2009   #28
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This is one of those important nuances that can make the difference between a successful or failed COIN.

I think there is a difference between a political group and pre-violent insurgency.

The difference for me lies in my definition of causation for insurgency "A perception of poor governance on the part of some significant segment of the populace that they also perceive they have no legitimate means to resolve."

I see a political group as one that is working within a legitimate system to effect change. An insurgency, perceiving that either there is no legimate means, or that the legimate means that exist, for whatever reason, will not work to adddress their concern, works outside that system to effect change. If that fails as well, they will most likely rise up to acts of violence.

A political group (defined as one working within the legimate system) will likely just accept political failure and live with it, or perhaps if it may cause them to move into the realm of "pre-violence insurgency.

A matter of stages, so shades of grey. Again, I see this as a continuous spectrum. Making it too black and white creates unneccessary gaps and seams that the insurgent can exploit
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Old 05-21-2009   #29
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Seriously, if the political goal is to change the current balance of power and resource allocation in a society, then the means will flow along a continuous spectrum from "passive resistance" (a la Ghandi) to outright revolt. When does it become and "insurgency"?
So you mean subversion?

It becomes an insurgency when you use "military means." - physical actions using organised violence. The ONLY reason Ghandi opted for non-violence was that it made the use of military force against him, illegitimate and illegal. - which was the point of my original thesis about the success of tactical actions.
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- 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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Old 05-21-2009   #30
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Just a quibble about definitions:

Does "military means" include TTPs considered illegal by the laws of war, etc?
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Old 05-21-2009   #31
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Mao was not a genius (his mistakes cost millions their lives) and this shows why. The military implements policy, it does not make policy. The competence of a military is something that limits or enhances policy. There is a body of opinion that strongly suggests that Mao was misreading Clausewitz (which he read) when he was stating this.
William,

Show me a leader that understands neither the domestic political motivations on the ground, nor the political landscape back home, and I'll show you a leader that doesn't have enough information to make the right decisions in a COIN environment.

Likewise, to suggest that senior-level military officers don't play a role in formulating policy is incorrect. They testify before Congress all the time and are expected to assist Members in crafting their own views. If they don't understand the political dynamics at play, then they can't offer their best advice. If Petraeus didn't understand the politics on both sides of the ocean, would he have been as successful in Iraq?

In theory, politicians formulate policy and the military implements it. But in reality, politicians don't typically know enough to make informed defense decisions without military input.
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Old 05-21-2009   #32
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Does "military means" include TTPs considered illegal by the laws of war, etc?
Not sure about "illegal" TTPs but actions deemed illegal by the various conventions would not disqualify something from being military, in my view, so yes, I guess it would.

- BUT we are getting off the point, which was that I find it hard to see how actual "tactical success" (not abuse, over reaction, or atrocities) can undermine "strategy". If the enemy has managed to cause YOU to believe that harming HIM, is counter productive, then YOU have been suppressed into not acting.

Military history just does not support this thesis in my view. In the vast majority of cases, tactical success gains you advantage, be it operational or strategic.
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- 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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Old 05-21-2009   #33
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We Americans are strange cats though....Generals (though never Admirals I like to remind my Navy brothers) become Presidents, and Presidents think they are Generals. War is politics and politics is war. There are rules, but no few read them, and the rest tend to ignore them.

Yet like no other nation, it is clear and inviolate that there is civilian leadership of the military, and we all serve the people and protect and preserve the Constitution. The fact that some in the military dare to have thoughts on policy and strategy and actually voice them has never placed any of that at risk, and I suspect has made us what we are today.
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Old 05-21-2009   #34
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In theory, politicians formulate policy and the military implements it. But in reality, politicians don't typically know enough to make informed defense decisions without military input.
Can't argue with that. As Ashkenazi said, "Do not ask for my opinion. Tell me what you want done, and I'll tell you if it is possible." - He is helping construct policy by informing people as to the limits of the military instrument. I think we all understand this.

Soldiers have to know enough, not to do those things which are counter-productive to the political intention, so Rules of Engagement? Mao's "Point for Attention." etc etc, and MacArthur being relieved of Command in Korea.
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- 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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Old 05-21-2009   #35
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...As Ashkenazi said, "Do not ask for my opinion. Tell me what you want done, and I'll tell you if it is possible." - He is helping construct policy by informing people as to the limits of the military instrument. I think we all understand this.
is one very smart General.

Reassuring that someone is doing it right instead of (a) ignoring the Pols (we've seen how that doesn't work...) or (b) sticking their nose in where it does not belong (and we've seen how that doesn't work).
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Old 05-21-2009   #36
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BUT we are getting off the point, which was that I find it hard to see how actual "tactical success" (not abuse, over reaction, or atrocities) can undermine "strategy". If the enemy has managed to cause YOU to believe that harming HIM, is counter productive, then YOU have been suppressed into not acting.

Military history just does not support this thesis in my view. In the vast majority of cases, tactical success gains you advantage, be it operational or strategic.
Clausewitz spoke of a 'culminating point of victory'; which I submit a number of armies, Napoleon's and the Third Reich being the two most prominent examples, have managed to undermine their own strategic aims with continuous tactical successes against the enemy. I would also argue that Israel's long term aim of peace and security has likewise been undermined by its military successes (particularly 1967,1973, 1982, and 2006).
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Old 05-21-2009   #37
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Interesting graphic, but I'm not sure how useful it is. For example, a significant portion of insurgents in Afghanistan are part-timers who join in for a variety of reasons where do they fit in? Are they really at the political/strategic level of thinking? The point being that insurgents are hardly homogenous and I think at the end of the day the differences between "us" and "them" are not as great as the graphic makes them out to be.

Perhaps an easier way to describe the differences are that insurgents usually have the "home field advantage." Is fighting on and for the "home field" inherently more political/strategic?
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Old 05-21-2009   #38
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Interesting graphic, but I'm not sure how useful it is. For example, a significant portion of insurgents in Afghanistan are part-timers who join in for a variety of reasons where do they fit in? Are they really at the political/strategic level of thinking? The point being that insurgents are hardly homogenous and I think at the end of the day the differences between "us" and "them" are not as great as the graphic makes them out to be.

Perhaps an easier way to describe the differences are that insurgents usually have the "home field advantage." Is fighting on and for the "home field" inherently more political/strategic?
Mao named the three phases of Insurgency:

“strategic defensive,” “strategic stalemate,” and “strategic offensive.”

We then renamed these phases U.S. doctrine calls them “latent and incipient,” “guerrilla warfare,” and “war of movement.”

This probably goes to why Neil needed the slide. To our "task-based" way of thinking this was all tactical stuff. Mao was thinking about effects at all three phases.

Look at the Tet Offensive for example. Most NVA and VC were most likely focused on the tactical objectives that they had been assigned. Senior leaders in S. Vietnam were probably most focused on the coordination of the overall offensive on the ground.

But the true impact of this "failed" offensive was a tremendous N. Vietnamese stategic victory back in the US. Did Giap have this as his primary purpose in planning the attack? I don't know. Certainly he hoped for operational success, but I suspect he understood the strategic potential of the offensive as well.

How many battles in the American Revolution were fought with the primary goal not of defeating British forces on the battlefield, so much as to sustain the requisite moral and support of the American populace for the fight, and to garner the support of the French to come to our assistance?

At the end of the day, the tactical scorecard in both wars was largely irrelevant to the final outcome. The insurgent does not have to win the fight to win the war. This is the basis behind Niel's diagram. We have to do both.
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Old 05-21-2009   #39
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Thanks, BW, that's a good explanation. I think I got wrapped around the axle by the line "how the insurgent views things." Maybe it would be clearer if "insurgent" were replaced with "insurgency" or "insurgent movement."
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Old 05-21-2009   #40
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The insurgent does not have to win the fight to win the war.
Bob,

Just a note -- I agree with what you're stating, but I do not think it applies to small wars alone. The Wehrmacht had tremendous tactical successes against the Red Army in the opening phases of the Second World War, but it still did not manage to achieve a decisive or strategic advantage at any point in the conflict. In fact, its victories sunk it deeper operationally and logistically into a situation in which the possibility of victory became increasingly smaller. There is required some kind of synergy not simply between the tactics and strategy, or strategy and politics, but through the whole system from the political ends to the tactical means. It is much more simple for the insurgent/terrorist/militant IMO because his decision for war is not at all separated from his desired goals.
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