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Old 04-24-2015   #1
davidbfpo
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Default A 'Digger' writes The Rise and Fall of Western COIN

Professor Michael Evans, of the Australian Defence College, has a lengthy article in an Australian journal (with free access). Long ago his experience was in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe (where we met in 1985) and he emigrated to Australia in the late 1980's.

Link:https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/201...terinsurgency/

The mini bio:
Quote:
Michael Evans is the General Sir Francis Hassett Chair of Military Studies at the Australian Defence College, Canberra, and a professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University. He was the lead author of the Australian Army’s December 2009 doctrine manual, Counterinsurgency, and currently co-ordinates an annual course in Irregular Conflict for senior Australian and international military professionals.
In summary I expect he'd be happy to say "Its a dirty, nasty form of warfare much to be avoided. The supreme irony is the post-9/11 COINdinistas repeated every single mistake from the 1960s and 1970s".

He wrote early on:
Quote:
The West’s record in fighting modern insurgents from the Cold War era to the age of globalisation is characterised by multiple political reverses.
This article seeks to explain the swift rise and fall of Western counterinsurgency between 2004 and 2014. This is an important task to undertake because, even though the West has now abandoned its brand of post-9/11 counterinsurgency, our Islamist opponents from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan through Al-Shabaab in Somalia to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to wage modes of insurgent warfare. We now face the difficult task of crafting an alternative way of war to fight guerrillas and militia forces and, unpalatable though it may be, we must seek to learn lessons from our recent experience with counterinsurgency.


What struck me in my first two readings was how little attention appears to have been given to non-Western experiences of COIN, notably in India and Southern Africa. Here on SWC we know there are many post-1945 and post-Cold War successes and failures before the latest campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I often wonder if COIN is necessary not to defeat the local / regional opponent, but to create enough security to enable political dialogue and hopefully peace. My own thinking is influenced by events in Southern Africa, where the "battles were won and the war was lost" as the politicians could not see clearly enough.
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Old 04-28-2015   #2
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A reply from the author to my comments:
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After reading Tom Mahhken's book 'Strategy in Asia', on irregular warfare in Asia that looks at India, Pakistan and SE Asia I came to the conclusion that there is no 'Asian school of COIN'. I will try to PDF same. Mostly, Asian COIN is a variant on Western ideas (India love Kitson-Thompson).
As for Southern Africa - again British and French ideas dominate. Thompson was the key text for Rhodesia; Beaufre on indirect total strategy for South Africa.
Looking for indigenous thinking at the strategic level is a bit of a lost cause.
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Old 04-28-2015   #3
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John Nagl's "Eating Soup with a Knife," revived the Western concept of COIN, a concept based on myths perpetuated by John's inaccurate portrayal of the Vietnam War embraced by so many in liberal academia and now the military. Fortunately, it is being called into question. While anti-COINdista, who I describe as those who argue COIN is the only form of war in the future, and all we have to do is win the people's hearts and minds to achieve our goals, I do think there are gems within our COIN doctrine worth preserving. However, lets not forget it is an armed conflict, and each situation is different, but the skillful use of force will generally prove to be the most effective means to defeat an insurgency. Winning hearts and minds is essential for consolidating those wins unless you envision a nation that lives under perpetual martial law. We have never found the balance, and tend to give insurgents too freedom of action with our current approach.

The North Vietnamese under Ho were not seen as legitimate by many, in fact Ho ruthlessly killed those in North Vietnam opposed to him. The outcome of the war was not predetermined, North Vietnam simply employed the coercive use of conventional power more effectively. His insurgency in the south was largely suppressed. The fact that the South Vietnamese fought so bravery when the North conducted their final conventional invasion would indicated that despite their internal troubles they didn't want to fall under communist rule. Nor did countries in the region, there was no one with greater knowledge of the region that the former PM of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. He stated the war in Vietnam gave other countries time to build their defenses against communist aggression, so in his view from that aspect it was a win. It was not a war between simply North and South Vietnam, the communists succeeded in taking Laos and Cambodia, and sponsored an insurgency in Thailand. The domino theory actually had merit. Since we can't discuss the Vietnam War honestly, we need to focus on other examples in my view, and there plenty to study.

I look forward to reading Prof Evan's paper, but based on short excerpt above it does seem we spend too much staring in a mirror when studying COIN. There are numerous non-Western COIN doctrines that do not conform to our current version of COIN. Communists countries around the world, supported by the USSR had their own doctrine for COIN. Iran clearly has its own doctrine. Of course, so did the Nazis (in many respects they paralleled modern day western COIN in words, but not in practice). They may all have parallels with the West, but they were unique to their form of governance.
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Old 04-28-2015   #4
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Bill, I too have significant problem's with the perspective on COIN captured and propagated into US COIN doctrine by John Nagl - however my primary concerns are nearly a mirror image of your own.

IMO the US borrowed much of the tactical approach of the Brits in Malaya, but with none of the strategy. What John and most miss about Malaya, IMO, are the strategic lessons, choosing to focus on what the military did in support of the WOG COIN, as actually being the COIN.

The Brits returned to Malaya bent on restoring the colony, but quickly (compared to the US in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq) came to realize that goal was impossible, and therefore any COIN approach in support of the same would be infeasible. So they gave up on restoring illegitimate government under British governance, and instead shifted to facilitating the growth of legitimate local governance. This demanded the Brits to give up their control; and also to facilitate full participation and opportunity across the entire population. The military merely created the time and space for this to occur.

The Brits "won" by losing. Their dream of colony dashed by reality, the helped a sovereign commonwealth partner to emerge instead.

The US, on the other hand, fearful of the spread of communism, sought to quash the legitimacy of Vietnamese independence won over the French by the people of Vietnam. Now, did all Vietnamese want to be communist? Of course not, but a much greater percentage did not want to be French, or under the control of any other external power, such as the US.

It is a moot point, IMO, to debate the legitimacy of Ho's government with those who saw their interests served best by governance protected by a Western power like France or the US; the essential debate is legitimacy of the governments created/protected by the US in the South. Neither had universal legitimacy, but at least Ho's legitimacy was domestic.

Good COIN requires governance that seeks to be fully inclusive, that is reasonably controlled by the will of the people, and that is evolutionary in nature. This must be supported by security forces that protect this inclusive, evolutionary system of governance, and not some particular government. The branch that cannot bend, will surely break. When the majority perceive themselves to have effective legal mechanisms to shape governance in the context of their cultural expectations, the number who perceive they must act out illegally and violently will typically be rare and small. There is no fundamental problem with employing reasonable state power against these few, but again, it must be in support of an inclusive, evolutionary system, and not to simply defend a status quo that keeps some man or family in power, or that appears designed to support the fears and interests of some foreign power.

The US sucks at COIN because we think US control is so much better than what we replaced that people affected by it will not resist. That is beyond naïve.

The nature of governmental action will drive the nature of population response. But the character of governmental action will determine the degree or scope of that population response. Until the US military incorporates a presumption that resistance insurgency will follow invasion; and that revolutionary insurgency will follow any effort to create, shape or protect a foreign government, we will continue to suck at COIN.
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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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Old 04-28-2015   #5
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Or, to paraphrase a Texas saying, when it comes to COIN, the US is "all hat and no cattle" (with hat being tactical programs, and cattle being a feasible strategic framework).
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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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Old 04-29-2015   #6
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Strategy exists at all levels, what you're discussing IMO is little strategy, the strategy of how to "win" a particular operation or smaller scale war. COIN is unique, I know you don't consider it war and I do, but regardless we both understand it has a unique strategic context at the local level. Using the diplomacy, information, military, and economic (DIME) model, despite its limitations, all of these elements can perform at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. In my opinion you're arguing we failed to understand the operational environment and had an ineffective operational approach. Certainly that is true, but we probably disagree on several points on what we did wrong.

Transitioning to big strategy, you have to look at the war in a global context, and that has little to with so called legitimacy at the local level. It had a much larger Cold War context. At this point in time it had everything to with relative power vis--vis the communist and so called free world. From that perspective the war demonstrated, that the U.S. was willing to stand up against perceived communist aggression. It demonstrated the U.S. was willing to support it allies, and as Lee said it gave time for the still weak governments in SE Asia to strengthen their defenses against USSR sponsored insurgencies. Over time it was realized, although I doubt it was an objective going in, that this war, much like our support to the resistance in Afghanistan helped weaken the USSR, which contributed to its collapse and our subsequent post-Cold War era where we often appear to be strategically adrift.

I disagree with that view, strategy is simply more complex in a multipolar or non-polar world, so it can't be explained in a Cold War context. Local issues still have global implications, but the implications vary greatly, and need to be considered on their own merits. The last thing we need is a strategy today that parallels our Cold War strategy. It would limit our options and more often than not cause us to mischaracterize issues.
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Old 04-29-2015   #7
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Ok, now we are diverging into a couple of distinct issues. Both important, but clearly distinct.

First, strategy for successful COIN. More accurately for the US, strategy for successful support to someone else's COIN. COIN is fundamentally a domestic operation, and if revolutionary rather resistance against an illegitimate foreign presence, really does not fall within the logic and fundamentals associated with war and warfare. The Government of Baltimore is currently conducting COIN. The US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are providing support to foreign efforts to deal with their own revolutionary insurgency, while at the same time contributing to the parallel resistance insurgency generated by our very presence and actions. (more to follow)
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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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Old 04-29-2015   #8
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Successful COIN demands first and foremost that the population/populations where the revolutionary energy is the strongest, perceive themselves to have a viable political alternative to that which they feel compelled to revolve against - and trusted, certain, and legal ways to pursue that alternative that make sense in the context of their respective cultures.

The US always skips this step. We fixate on what we think is best for us, and then create or adopt some government who we believe most likely to act as we think is fit, wrap this fundamentally illegitimate entity in the nomenclature and trappings of "democracy" - and then task the military to build partner military capacity to protect this abomination from large elements of its own population. As this begins to fail of its own weight, we then apply more and more direct US energy (security, development, etc) in efforts to prop the whole thing up - but ultimately this has always failed.

When our overarching strategy was to prevail in a Cold War bi-polar contest, a tie in Korea and a loss in Vietnam could both contribute to a larger win. But that does not mean by any stretch that either of those conflicts were necessary, or even particularly helpful, in attaining that "win." They did not however cause a strategic "fail."

But what is the US larger end now?? What can a loss in Afghanistan and/or Iraq possibly contribute toward? What can they cause? They cannot contribute to a larger win because we have not defined a larger win. They can only contribute to a larger fail.

We have a grand strategy post-Cold War that is essentially to play not to lose. We are in a spread defense, we cannot score, and we see any who seek to score against us in anyway as a new "threat" to add to our ever expanding list. The surest way to lose is to play not to lose. The US needs a new grand strategic focus and a game defined in terms we can play to win if we hope to get off the current odyssey of bleeding off strategic altitude in exchange for tactical airspeed. As General Zinni commented to my war college class 9 years ago, "we don't know where we are going, but we are making good time."
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Robert C. Jones
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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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Old 04-30-2015   #9
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Quote:
Successful COIN demands first and foremost that the population/populations where the revolutionary energy is the strongest, perceive themselves to have a viable political alternative to that which they feel compelled to revolve against - and trusted, certain, and legal ways to pursue that alternative that make sense in the context of their respective cultures.
From a Western perspective true, but this assumption ignores history. Insurgencies historically have been defeated more through the use of force than political maneuvering. Obviously we don't fight that way, but then again our approach to COIN is still looking for a victory somewhere.

Quote:
The US always skips this step. We fixate on what we think is best for us, and then create or adopt some government who we believe most likely to act as we think is fit, wrap this fundamentally illegitimate entity in the nomenclature and trappings of "democracy" - and then task the military to build partner military capacity to protect this abomination from large elements of its own population. As this begins to fail of its own weight, we then apply more and more direct US energy (security, development, etc) in efforts to prop the whole thing up - but ultimately this has always failed.
Agree, and even when we can see it coming we don't change course. Operational design promotes reframing when the situation changes, but I think most people are psychologically wired to resist change, so while they may agree with reframing conceptually, doing it is another thing altogether.

Quote:
When our overarching strategy was to prevail in a Cold War bi-polar contest, a tie in Korea and a loss in Vietnam could both contribute to a larger win. But that does not mean by any stretch that either of those conflicts were necessary, or even particularly helpful, in attaining that "win." They did not however cause a strategic "fail."
Of course any arguments of what would have happened if we didn't intervene are counterfactual. Still worth entertaining, but there is no way we can honestly know what would have happened. The fact that we did fight with an international coalition may have demonstrated to the communists that the West and its allies were willing to stand up to communist aggression. It "may" have served as a form of strategic deterrence that in the end prevented a nuclear holocaust. Who knows?

Quote:
But what is the US larger end now?? What can a loss in Afghanistan and/or Iraq possibly contribute toward? What can they cause? They cannot contribute to a larger win because we have not defined a larger win. They can only contribute to a larger fail.
Not defined well, but I think we have defined the larger win, and that is an international order that protects our interests (clearly not black and white), and sustaining U.S. leadership (though President Obama seems to be backing away from this).

Quote:
We have a grand strategy post-Cold War that is essentially to play not to lose.
Where is this articulated?

Quote:
The US needs a new grand strategic focus and a game defined in terms we can play to win if we hope to get off the current odyssey of bleeding off strategic altitude in exchange for tactical airspeed. As General Zinni commented to my war college class 9 years ago, "we don't know where we are going, but we are making good time."
I don't disagree with this aspiration, but the world is changing fundamentally and frankly I don't think we know what we want the new order to look like. We have some idea of what we don't want it to look like, but that perspective results in reacting instead of proactive strategic shaping. I also think we're too divided politically to reach a consensus of where we want to go. There is little consensus on Cuba, ISIL, Iran, and Russia to name a few. If we had desired strategic goal then we could frame these issues in a larger context and make smart choices. That doesn't seem to be happening at the moment.
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Old 04-30-2015   #10
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From a Western perspective true, but this assumption ignores history. Insurgencies historically have been defeated more through the use of force than political maneuvering. Obviously we don't fight that way, but then again our approach to COIN is still looking for a victory somewhere.
Bill, I need one example. Sure, insurgencies have been suppressed for a decade or two quite often by a government that remains uncoerced and set on sustaining its oppressive ways, but those insurgencies always come roaring back. Perhaps with different leaders, different organizational names or ideologies - but the insurgent is only the tip of the iceberg of the insurgency. The insurgency is a condition of grievance residing deep within a population.

Insurgency is suppressed in the Philippines over and over - but never resolved. Those who hold power will never give it up willingly. A very common condition in those places colonized by Spain. Similar in Algeria and across Sunni Arab populations held under the Ottomans, then the Europeans, and then governments formed or sustained in unnatural stasis by the US for purposes of containment and economic interest. Groups come and go, but the insurgency smolders and flames off and on. But that is not successful COIN by any true measure (regardless of what RAND and their study says).

As to where the US states we have a strategy that is play not to lose? Nowhere. That is my assessment. But what else do you call a strategy that is largely to sustain the status quo and promote US perspectives in an era where so many seek change and to be more like themselves?? What is a win for us, other than preventing that from happening?
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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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Old 04-30-2015   #11
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Bill, I need one example. Sure, insurgencies have been suppressed for a decade or two quite often by a government that remains uncoerced and set on sustaining its oppressive ways, but those insurgencies always come roaring back. Perhaps with different leaders, different organizational names or ideologies - but the insurgent is only the tip of the iceberg of the insurgency. The insurgency is a condition of grievance residing deep within a population.
Too easy, I'll give you three. Sri Lanka's recent defeat of the LTTE, Saddam's defeat of the Kurds and Shia in 1991, and Assad's father defeated an Islamist insurgency in 1982.

For me legitimacy is a side issue that desired, but not always possible. Furthermore, winning has a legitimacy of its own, the side that can most effectively wield force. From a strategy perspective, I'm principally interested in achieving strategic objectives. There are few government leaders or governments willing to step aside because a segment of their constituency doesn't approve of them, and if they engage in armed conflict to replace that government they are now engaged in war. Both sides, or the multiple sides, have interests that they consider legitimate. Clearly it wasn't in Saddam's, Assad's, or the Government of Sri Lanka's interest to acquiesce to insurgent demands, all were seen as legitimate by segments of their population, so the legitimacy argument loses steam when we try to apply an U.S. melting pot onto other countries.

I'm not arguing whether it was morally right, or that peace would be sustained (is it ever?, we had a civil war after defeating the British), or anything other than the power that be achieved its objective and has legitimacy with a segment of its population. If you want to argue there is a better way, that may or may not be a valid argument. To dismiss that force works is simply wrong. To say it isn't the U.S. way of war (or COIN), is true (unless we need to suppress a separatist group like we did during the Civil War, where we used brutal force). The South didn't see the North as legitimate, instead they were coerced with force. A rough peace endured for decades after, and really the political objectives weren't achieved until well after the Civil Rights Movement, but the war (or insurgency) was won well before then.

Taking it a step further, outside actors like the U.S. have their interests, and they'll often intervene on the side that best represents their interests. This has been a historical truth that I don't see changing anytime soon.

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Old 05-01-2015   #12
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Bill,

Your three examples make my point. In each of those cases the government defeated the insurgent, but in so doing only served to suppress the symptoms of insurgency for a short time, while at the same time making the conditions of insurgency within the populations those insurgent groups emerged from worse.


I realize we call that "COIN" but it really isn't. It is counterinsurgent, not counterinsurgency. We could more accurately call it "SOIN" - suppression of insurgency. There are times and places and situations where SOIN makes sense. If you are a colonial power whose primary concern is extraction of resources at lowest possible cost, and the population is resisting your presence, and in revolution against your client regime, then by all means, suppress the symptoms and get on with your colonial profit making.

This is not what the US's mission is these days, but yet the SOIN that so many think of as COIN is derived from the lessons learned from those type of operations.

How would the US benefit in the long term from helping some client regime suppress the symptoms of insurgency in their country?? This is what creates and thickens the vectors of transnational terrorism back to the US. This is what validates and enhances the UW operations of AQ and now ISIL as well.

We have to stop thinking about insurgency as if we were still a colonial power. Until we can do that we are doomed to fail. It is not the fault of our tactics, though bad tactics do not help. It is the fault of our poor strategic understanding of the problem and our poor strategy for approaching these problems in general.


Once one shifts to thinking about these types of conflicts in the proper framework it becomes clear why legitimacy is the central issue, not a side issue. A side issue for SOIN, but central for COIN. One cannot create legitimacy in some other government, and one cannot grant legitimacy to some other government. The more one interferes between a population and their government, the less legitimacy that government has. SOIN operations are typically a deathblow to legitimacy.

The reality for the US is that our interests are better served the less we interfere in these foreign revolutions. I was at a meeting with several successful business executives and a couple members of the state department. For state all corruption is bad. One exec commented that for many places, corruption is how taxation occurs where there is no effective legal taxation. The State reps had a fit. Likewise, insurgency is often how democracy occurs where there is no effective legal means to shape governance. That truth makes people have a fit as well. But still truth all the same.
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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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Old 05-01-2015   #13
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In general agreement, and why I and others think we need a strategic context that consists foremost of desired ends. Then we can assess if suppressing an insurgency is in our interests or not based on criteria that are bigger than the local conflict.

I'm specifically speaking of U.S. interests, but clearly most of our allies and partners share many common interests that will facilitate collaboration.

While you may be right about riding a dead horse in some cases (Karzai, Maliki, Marcos, etc.), there is strategic risk to simply pulling the rug out from their feet. Beyond local repercussions, over time it sends a message that the U.S. is a fickle friend and will weaken our alliances. Based on that aspect, and I'm sure there are others since it is a tangled web, I don't think dropping someone like Maliki is as easy as you make it seem.

Quote:
This is not what the US's mission is these days, but yet the SOIN that so many think of as COIN is derived from the lessons learned from those type of operations.
What is the U.S. mission today? We understand the difference between FID and COIN, so sticking specifically to COIN, our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was to protect/defend the fledging governments that we deemed legitimate. The war in Afghanistan was tied to fighting to the al-Qaeda network, so in my view the intent was legitimate, but in practice fighting al-Qaeda became a side show at best. We started calling every low level Taliban IED producer a high value target and instead of targeting the real networks that threatened us we almost completely transformed the fight. I'm not touching Iraq at the moment, I still can't talk or write about it without spitting venom.

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How would the US benefit in the long term from helping some client regime suppress the symptoms of insurgency in their country?? This is what creates and thickens the vectors of transnational terrorism back to the US. This is what validates and enhances the UW operations of AQ and now ISIL as well.
It depends, if we allowed AQI to take over Iraq it certainly wouldn't have reduced terrorism? Allowing Maliki and the Shia to dominate basically made Iraq a proxy state to Iran, so in the end allowing AQI to win would have undermined our interest, and promoting mob rule by imposing democracy to facilitate a Shia take over did undermine our interests. Obvious, maybe in only hindsight, but I don't think so, we needed to develop different options. Let's not forget, AQ attacked several time before 9/11 and then of course the tragic attacks on 9/11 long before we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Our actions made have made the threat worse, the jury is still out on that, but the threat was there before hand.

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We have to stop thinking about insurgency as if we were still a colonial power. Until we can do that we are doomed to fail. It is not the fault of our tactics, though bad tactics do not help. It is the fault of our poor strategic understanding of the problem and our poor strategy for approaching these problems in general.
What makes you think we view COIN as a colonial power?

Quote:
Once one shifts to thinking about these types of conflicts in the proper framework it becomes clear why legitimacy is the central issue, not a side issue. A side issue for SOIN, but central for COIN. One cannot create legitimacy in some other government, and one cannot grant legitimacy to some other government. The more one interferes between a population and their government, the less legitimacy that government has. SOIN operations are typically a deathblow to legitimacy.
Legitimacy may or may not be the central issue depending upon our strategic goals. Furthermore, I think globalization and information technology has fundamentally undermined the folk wisdom that all politics are local. The overwhelming number of foreign actors, both state and non-state, in many of these conflicts (not all) requires we reframe them. Local issues may have provided the tinder that allowed the fire to start, but once it started it took on different characteristics, meaning addressing the original underlying issues won't solve the problem.

Quote:
The reality for the US is that our interests are better served the less we interfere in these foreign revolutions. I was at a meeting with several successful business executives and a couple members of the state department. For state all corruption is bad. One exec commented that for many places, corruption is how taxation occurs where there is no effective legal taxation. The State reps had a fit. Likewise, insurgency is often how democracy occurs where there is no effective legal means to shape governance. That truth makes people have a fit as well. But still truth all the same.
Of course our business execs would say that, that is how they facilitate deals in many foreign countries. I don't disagree it is part of most cultures, but it is still one of the biggest drivers of conflict in many countries. A government that steals from its people is not legitimate. This is another myth, like all politics is local, that NPS COIN professors like to promote. It matters, and in many locations it matters enough to fight.
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Old 05-01-2015   #14
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Since we always seem to lack a strategy for even drinking coffee--interesting short read.

http://zenpundit.com/?p=44685

Is Strategy Dead?

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a “zen“]
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Old 05-01-2015   #15
Bob's World
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Pay your taxes yet Bill?? :-)

To a few of your points:

1. Saddam, being a grand master of SOIN, there was no such thing as AQI until we took him out and attempted to replace him with an even more illegitimate, and far less effective, government of our choosing and design. Hell, I even know the American contractor, now an MG in the AF reserve I believe, who wrote their constitution for them.

2. If we put the guy "on the rug" does that mean we are then sentenced to forever working to keep him on the rug, and that if we ever stop we are then pulling the rug out from under him?? When did it stop being a fundamental right of a population to remove a leader who they believe must go? It's still right there in the US Declaration of Independence last time I checked.

3. Every society has a degree of low level corruption that is normal in the context of their respective cultures. We need to stop judging cultures different than our own as being "wrong." Worse, we will do stupid things, like turn traditional Afghan patronage into a massive centralized Ponzi scheme in the name of "centralized government," and then pour Billions of development and security dollars into that Ponzi scheme, and then have the gall to wag our fingers at the Afghan government for being corrupt when we made the whole thing and then funded it!

4. Everything makes me think we view COIN as a colonial power. Our doctrine is all derived from colonial TTPs of Europeans and our own. Everything we do when we go conduct foreign COIN is IAW those colonial perspectives as well. It would be much easier if you could point out for me the one or two things we do in COIN that are not.

The problem is that the truth about insurgency is just to awkward, embarrassing, and inconvenient for governments. It is a big "F" on their report card, and governments almost always come up with dozens of excuses for the F that are beyond their control, (ideology, evil people, bad weather, foreign influence, unemployed youth, etc), and then go out and attempt to hunt down and kill the ones who called them out and gave them that F.

The US is not bad at real COIN, but that is a domestic operation and what we do internal to the US to maintain our own stability. But we don't think of real COIN of being COIN at all, and equally believe strongly that fake COIN (SOIN) is real.

So some Jones rules on Insurgency and COIN that would make us much better:
1. Recognize that all COIN is a domestic operation, and if one is outside their own nation (even if they just took down the government there, but don't intend to stay), it is something else.

2. Resistance insurgency is a continuation of war and warfare, so it is ok to treat it as such.

3. Revolution is internal to a single system, so is not war or warfare. so should never be treated as such. It is civil emergency and an illegal form of democracy.

4. Insurgency need not be violent. The nature of the problem is not changed by the character of the tactics.

5. Any occupation will create a resistance effect by its very nature, the character of the occupation will, however, shape the character of the resistance.

6. Any government created by an occupying or foreign power is de facto illegitimate and will create a revolutionary effect among some aspects of the population by its very nature. Character of that relationship and the perceived degree of illegitimacy will shape the character of the revolution.

7. Revolutions do not happen in healthy governance ecosystems. If one occurs there is a problem in the system that must be addressed if one hopes to effect a true cure and not just suppress the symptoms.

8. Most foreign insurgency we deal with is a blend of Resistance (due to our presence) and revolution (due to the government we created or protect). Many insurgents will be motivate by both factors and they all look alike. Either govern it ourselves and wage war on the population until the suppressed survivors are ready to become Americans; or back out and let the population sort out their own governance issues.


American needs to learn that the world has changed, and that our approach to foreign policy must change also. We must accept more risk in allowing others to sort out their own governance issues, and we must become more tolerant of governance that does not meet our approval. We used to know this and follow those guidelines. We were considered odd by the Europeans for this, but were much better liked in general around the world because of this as well.
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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)

Last edited by Bob's World; 05-01-2015 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 05-02-2015   #16
Bill Moore
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Here you go again twisting statements to make them fit into your model

Quote:
1. Saddam, being a grand master of SOIN, there was no such thing as AQI until we took him out and attempted to replace him with an even more illegitimate, and far less effective, government of our choosing and design. Hell, I even know the American contractor, now an MG in the AF reserve I believe, who wrote their constitution for them.
I wrote,

Quote:
The war in Afghanistan was tied to fighting to the al-Qaeda network, so in my view the intent was legitimate, but in practice fighting al-Qaeda became a side show at best.
Was Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan before we invaded?

As for Iraq, an AQ franchise was was in Kurdistan, it was Ansar al-Islam (AAI) before we invaded, but it was not in Iraq proper. They actually benefited from our no fly zone, because Saddam would have killed them off.

Quote:
2. If we put the guy "on the rug" does that mean we are then sentenced to forever working to keep him on the rug, and that if we ever stop we are then pulling the rug out from under him?? When did it stop being a fundamental right of a population to remove a leader who they believe must go? It's still right there in the US Declaration of Independence last time I checked.
I think you're confusing your law education with foreign policy and national interests. I don't disagree with you on this, but there are other factors that shape these decisions.

Quote:
3. Every society has a degree of low level corruption that is normal in the context of their respective cultures. We need to stop judging cultures different than our own as being "wrong." Worse, we will do stupid things, like turn traditional Afghan patronage into a massive centralized Ponzi scheme in the name of "centralized government," and then pour Billions of development and security dollars into that Ponzi scheme, and then have the gall to wag our fingers at the Afghan government for being corrupt when we made the whole thing and then funded it!
A government and its employees stealing from its people has nothing to do with cultural norms. Those are organizational norms, and when they are the norm then government is not serving its people. What is low level corruption? Is a police officer roughing up your relatives to get protection money, the face of government, acceptable corruption? Are government executives who take large percentage of aid or profits a minor level of corruption that strengthens the relationship between the government and its people? This myth was started by businessmen to justify how they do business in these countries. I guess pedophiles are O.K. in SE Asia, because it is normal for families to sell their children to human traffickers to have sex with Euro Trash males in their 40s and 50s? Hey it is their culture, no harm. Ask the pedophiles and that is what they'll tell you.
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Old 05-02-2015   #17
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You wrote about AQI,
Quote:
It depends, if we allowed AQI to take over Iraq it certainly wouldn't have reduced terrorism? Allowing Maliki and the Shia to dominate basically made Iraq a proxy state to Iran, so in the end allowing AQI to win would have undermined our interest, and promoting mob rule by imposing democracy to facilitate a Shia take over did undermine our interests.
That is what I responded to in regards to Iraq. We brought AQ to Iraq when we invaded. You add that we also facilitated AQ to gain an earlier toe hold with our no-fly zone. Perhaps, I'll take your word on that.

We argue "interests" to rationalize all manner of activities, like taking down the Taliban government rather than simply punishing it and leaving it in power. We then end up engaged in generation-long campaign that is absolutely counter to our interests.

Many think the US income tax is stealing. People know when their government is operating outside the cultural norms of their society. in some areas people can vote in new government. in other areas they must resort to revolution. These things are self-leveling. When we intrude to skew the results to be what we think is best for us we disrupt their governance. You would not want China to spend a Billion to get their candidate elected as our president. You'd feel that what they did legally and for their interests was a very illegitimate thing indeed. Other people in other countries feel the same way when we label their revolutionary movements as terrorists, and then conduct operations to ensure that our candidate stays in office.

We have lost our way, one step, one decision at a time over the past 70 years. it happens. We just need to shoot a new azimuth and get back on course. We also need to recognize that some approaches to securing and advancing interests that used to work reasonably well are no longer feasible in the current environment. Our archaic and flawed understanding of what insurgency is, why it happens and how to best resolve it is also a major contributor to many of our current challenges. It is why all of our great tactical actions do not produce intended strategic results. We remain drawn along by our own inertia though.
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Robert C. Jones
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(Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

"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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Old 05-02-2015   #18
Bill Moore
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Professor Michael Evans, of the Australian Defence College, has a lengthy article in an Australian journal (with free access). Long ago his experience was in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe (where we met in 1985) and he emigrated to Australia in the late 1980's.

Link:https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/201...terinsurgency/

The mini bio:In summary I expect he'd be happy to say "Its a dirty, nasty form of warfare much to be avoided. The supreme irony is the post-9/11 COINdinistas repeated every single mistake from the 1960s and 1970s".

He wrote early on:


What struck me in my first two readings was how little attention appears to have been given to non-Western experiences of COIN, notably in India and Southern Africa. Here on SWC we know there are many post-1945 and post-Cold War successes and failures before the latest campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I often wonder if COIN is necessary not to defeat the local / regional opponent, but to create enough security to enable political dialogue and hopefully peace. My own thinking is influenced by events in Southern Africa, where the "battles were won and the war was lost" as the politicians could not see clearly enough.
Finally read, "The Rise and Fall of Western COIN," and while the history of its evolution was generally accurate the paper tended to fall apart towards the end.

I like their description of the confluence of the end of colonialism and the start of the Cold War, and the number of insurgencies it spurred. In my view, this is the insurgency Bob writes about. Mostly local in scope, and the COIN doctrine was 80% political and 20% military, or colonial era COIN.

The other forms of COIN addressed were modernization (U.S. style) and the more globalized COIN promoted by Kilcullen (the closer to reality in my view). The parallel's they drew between JFK's administration's views on COIN and today's are incredible, but not surprising.

Where I thought the article fell apart was when the authors confused COIN with CT. Killing UBL was not COIN, it was a direct action mission to kill a mass murderer. It was pure counterterrorism. I'm not aware of anyone in the U.S. who thinks we can defeat an insurgency by killing HVIs, but we can certainly destroy terrorist networks and prevent future attacks.

There two long term recommendations do little to address the concerns they already identified. In fact their recommendations will simply prolong the mis-practice of COIN. I agree we need to study it as part of a whole, rather than trying to isolate it as a field of separate from the rest of war and strategy, because of course it will be ignored when it fades from immediate interest. However, it seems they're proposing studying the same doctrine that has failed us.

The second recommendation I somewhat addressed already, they warn we shouldn't develop a parallel illusion with conventional war that Western technology and SOF can bring about lasting strategic results. True, but who said they would? Maybe we need to realize we can't always achieve lasting results and scope our objectives appropriately?

I loved this parallel in the article.

Quote:
In 1987, Charles Maechling, Jr., the Johnson administration official in charge of counterinsurgency in Vietnam wrote of the US effort in South-East Asia during the 1960s:

[American counterinsurgency] in theory failed in practice since it had to be implemented by an unpopular, unrepresentative local regime … The presumption by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in supposing that middle-grade US Army officers and civil servants from the American heartland could create a viable rural society … in the middle of a civil war is staggering. There was no way for the Americans to get beneath the surface of Vietnamese life.
Quote:
In an eerie parallel, in September 2013, in an article in Foreign Affairs, General Karl W. Eikenberry wrote,

It was sheer hubris to think that American military personnel without the appropriate language skills and only a superficial understanding of Afghan culture could, on six- or 12-month tours, somehow deliver to Afghan villages everything asked of them by the [2006] COIN manual. The typical 21-year-old marine is hard pressed to win the heart and mind of his mother-in-law; can he really be expected to do the same with an ethnocentric Pashtun tribal elder?
As the article points out, if you don't have a viable partner, then our current approach to COIN is pretty much doomed. That means we either need to change our objectives or change our approach, yet we usually fail to do either.
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Old 05-02-2015   #19
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An article in Open Democracy fits here and it open with, my emphasis in bold:
Quote:
The current military escalation against ISIS, French engagement in the Sahel, and numerous UN and regional peacekeeping operations illustrate that military interventions are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Today, most of these interventions, at least nominally, aim at ending armed conflict and (re)building functional states with some degree of inclusive governance. It is a good idea to ask why such policies often fail. Even when narrow stabilization goals are met, such as in a number of French interventions in Chad and the former Zaire, this often occurs at the expense of long-term stability and democratic governance. Interventions rarely, if ever, positively contribute to improving the political environments that originally generated the crises which sparked the interventions in the first place.
Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/nathan...rventions-fail


Clearly not all interventions are COIN or SOIN but the article helps the debate as the author's own focus is on the French, a nation that has often intervened and engaged in COIN.


The author has a short paper on French interventions:http://www.fondation-pierredubois.ch...in-africa.html


The author is an American and affiliated to a previously unknown Swiss place of learning.
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