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Old 07-11-2009   #1
William F. Owen
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Default More killing. Less good deeds

Started this thread, because I think this is spot on the money.

I like it because I think it is essentially correct. I hate it because this guy is saying everything I, and quite few other SWJ folks, have been saying for a long time, but just says it better. Plus being a Brigadier, can't hurt.
(I don't defer to rank, but the authoritarian tendency within most hierarchies does.)

I don't expect the "COIN-oil" folks to agree, but war is war, and winning wars hasn't really changed in 3,000 years.
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Old 07-11-2009   #2
Tom Odom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Started this thread, because I think this is spot on the money.

I like it because I think it is essentially correct. I hate it because this guy is saying everything I, and quite few other SWJ folks, have been saying for a long time, but just says it better. Plus being a Brigadier, can't hurt.
(I don't defer to rank, but the authoritarian tendency within most hierarchies does.)

I don't expect the "COIN-oil" folks to agree, but war is war, and winning wars hasn't really changed in 3,000 years.
You are right. I won't agree regardless of how many times you proclaim that war is war. Over simplifying is every bit as bad as over complicating.

The brigadier makes some good points and he make some doubtful ones. Most of the doubt comes with taking a point supposedly of the opposing view to its extreme and trying to paint it as middle of the road, as in
Quote:
Hearts-and-minds is also a strategy of exhaustion but one in which the enemy’s will to resist is undermined by largesse.
Makes for a snappy read as in the 15 second sound bite to writing; does not reflect reality or COIN.

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Old 07-11-2009   #3
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Default Hearts and Minds

I agree that there is much to support and admire in this essay - however I fundamentally believe that we must maintain the 'hearts and minds' concept at the core of what we do out there. It is in essence the centre of gravity in this struggle; it provides coherence across the spectrum of operations, from tactical to strategic, from Kabul to Kandahar to the villages and huts in Helmand; equally it provides a neccessary constraint in the battle against the insurgent. There is too much evidence about to suggest that our inability to constrain collateral damage, right at the lowest level in village and mudhut, when we take a route to remorselessly hunt down the enemy, would lead us to a position where we take 1 step forwards and 2 steps back. We must continue to get 'among the people' with all the attendant costs in men's lives and materiel. I firmly believe that the people there still want to be liberated from the threat of the Taliban; that does not preclude their ability to live and exist as a Pashtun people - the coalition offers the people a greater chance of achieving that than anything the Taliban can match. I agree that military victory is something that is not on the agenda, it need not be, its not about that. We must have the Afghan's 'hearts and minds' at the forefront of what we do if we are ever going see Afghanistan as a stable state that represents their culture and their way.
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Old 07-11-2009   #4
William F. Owen
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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
You are right. I won't agree regardless of how many times you proclaim that war is war. Over simplifying is every bit as bad as over complicating.
I concur that over simplifying something is not useful. I submit that usefully simplifying something is mostly necessary.

More to the point, my "proclamation" is aimed at attempting to illicit the views and perspectives of those who can accurately describe, what about the combating of irregular enemies makes the nature of war different?

Warfare does require different approaches. No one would contest that, but it is warfare none the less.

Quote:
Makes for a snappy read as in the 15 second sound bite to writing; does not reflect reality or COIN.
I agree. The 15 second sound bites that jar with me are "heats and minds" "human terrain" "80% political, 20% military" "complex war-fighting" and "you need a network to fight a network."
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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 07-11-2009   #5
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Default Spot on the money?

A lengthy commentary on the Afghan situation and whether it is really that vital a battleground; the author Rory Stewart has been a soldier, diplomat and academic and has travelled extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq. Living in Kabul in 2005: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...annot-win.html A slightly longer edition: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n13/stew01_.html

Worth reading through for its many pertinent comments and seems to fit here, even if killing is not the focus.

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Old 07-11-2009   #6
Gian P Gentile
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"Hearts and Minds" has always been a name, a label, a code applied in these kinds of small wars to ostensibly describe what folks wanted other folks to think were actually happening on the ground, and afterwards, what they wanted others to think did happen.

The British in Malaya broke the back of the communist insurgency there not between 1952-1954 under the hearts and minds campaign of Templer, but with the use of brute military force combined with Briggs's resettlement program between 1949-1951. Once the insurgency's back was broken, Templer in charge was able to use persuasion of hearts and minds to further things along. This explanation is real and is truthful and has been put forward by a number of leading British scholars over the past few years, most recently in a special issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies that challenges the Malaya Coin Paradigm.

Moreover, one can see the same thing being done by such high priests of population centric Coin like Gallieni and Lyautey in Madagascar and Morocco respectively. Lyautey especially would use the language of "peaceful penetration," of progressive development to better people's lives in order to soothe domestic tensions in France over imperial action and internal issues with the French Army. But again, these hearts and minds techniques were ostensible; actually Lyautey crushed resistance in Morocco by the more time honored process used by the French Army in that region: the Razzia. Historian Doug Porch's excellent campaign study of Lyautey in Morocco shows this to be the case.

Wilf is right, war is war, it is not "armed social science," and real war, not happy war sold through clever-speak of "hearts and minds" language involves killing and death. And in actuality the historical models that we use to prop up this ostensible notion of "hearts and minds" were won through killing and destruction that broke the back of the resistance.

It is time to get a clear view of what we think we are trying to do in places like Astan.
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Old 07-11-2009   #7
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Default No, Wilf is not correct

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
"Hearts and Minds" has always been a name, a label, a code applied in these kinds of small wars to ostensibly describe what folks wanted other folks to think were actually happening on the ground, and afterwards, what they wanted others to think did happen.

Wilf is right, war is war, it is not "armed social science," and real war, not happy war sold through clever-speak of "hearts and minds" language involves killing and death. And in actuality the historical models that we use to prop up this ostensible notion of "hearts and minds" were won through killing and destruction that broke the back of the resistance.

It is time to get a clear view of what we think we are trying to do in places like Astan.
And neither are you, Gian. You both are offering reductionist viewpoints poised against a red herring reductionist view.

I agree that we need a clear view of Afghanistan. War is war is not a good start.

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Old 07-11-2009   #8
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Wilf, Gian, are you two really advocating that we scrap any attempt to win the support of the populace and just engage in a “war is war” killing spree? In which case we tell the AF to unleash the B-1s and -2s to bomb A’stan until the rubble is bouncing in a depopulated wasteland.

I doubt that’s your position, but it reads that way.

From the article,
A hearts-and-minds approach is predicated on the proposition that we foreign, Western, culturally Christian, invaders can persuade a sizeable proportion of the Pashtun population to cut themselves off from their cultural roots; subject themselves to an equally foreign and incomprehensible form of government resting largely on the customs of the tribes of pre-Roman Germany; and abandon their cultural birthright of unrivalled hegemony over “Pashtunistan”. To do this we offer some new buildings, some cash and more reliable electricity—none of which have been important to them so far in their history.[8] Attendant on these “inducements” of course is the removal of their ability to generate cash by farming poppies and the destruction of cultural mores—the subjection of women and the application of traditional law for example—that define them as a cultural group.
Nice straw man. Not “hearts and minds” as I’ve ever understood the concept. It is, however, a reasonably accurate summary of “nation building.” Let’s make that distinction, and then we can all agree that “nation building” is, indeed, a load of crap.

We can also discuss what "hearts and minds" is, or should be, in the context of developing an effective strategy for ending the violence and turning the country over to its own people, with their own government rooted in their own cultural traditions and norms.

In that context, Wilf is dead on about killing the right people. Gian is dead on in his observation about "happy war sold through clever-speak of "hearts and minds" language." But I think that we'd better keep in mind that Wilf also pointed out that killing the wrong people is counterproductive, and that our goals in places like A'stan and Iraq should be:

1. Stop the violence.
2. Turn the country back over to its own people.
3. Leave.

I don't see that happening without, at least, the tacit support of the population. I don't see that minimal level of support emerging unless we address the concerns of the population, beginning with the safety of "me and mine," while we're engaged in killing the right people.
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Old 07-11-2009   #9
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The title of is very familiar one: "How to Win in Afghanistan." What is "win?"

From the conclusion:

Quote:
In Afghanistan a strategy focusing on the annihilation of Taliban power is the only way to achieve broad political progress. Until that is done, Afghan institutions; political, bureaucratic, police and military, will be denied the time and space they need to achieve a robust maturity. There will be a time when reconstruction and other aid will begin to produce dividends and that time will be marked by the establishment of security which, in Afghanistan, requires the removal of the insurgent and the extension of the coercive authority of the Afghan state into Pashtun areas. Until then NATO must be prepared to act as the proxy for the Afghan state in establishing control over the Pashtun population.
I think we need to consider the possibility that we are rearranging deck chairs and that no operational strategy (annihilation of the Taliban, pop-centric COIN or whatever) will achieve success given the various limitations on what we can do. While there are some compelling arguments in the piece, I don't see annihilation of the Taliban as practically achievable. For many of the same reasons, I don't think the pop-centric COIN can "win" at the end. There are several reasons, but the main problem is Pakistan. One can't annihilate the Taliban nor protect the population when the enemy has a safe haven - a safe haven that happens to be in a country that, for its own reasons, does not wish to see a strong, independent Afghan state. It's also a country where we cannot operate openly and the government has both limited ability and desire to establish the kind of control over both territory and resources necessary to dismantle the safe-haven.

The author makes several good points about "exhaustion" but the problem I see is that with a safe-haven, exhaustion works against an annihilation strategy as well.

IMO our problems with Afghanistan rest at the policy level where the objectives are murky and appear to change with the winds. The result is that those engaging in debates on operational strategy for Afghanistan often operate under differing sets of assumptions. Until things at the policy level become coherent I don't think these debates, nor the war itself, are going to go anywhere.
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Old 07-11-2009   #10
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Hi Gian,

Looks like it's time for a point by point deconstruction !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
Wilf is right, war is war, it is not "armed social science,"
"War is war" is a tautology of the form X = X. It is also a logical fallacy that confuses the sign with the signified in that
if killing is involved, and
war is killing, therefore
this is war
By that logic, I would argue that the US is engaged in an ongoing COIN campaign in LA - one, I would note, that they appear to be loosing .

Second point, war is armed social science if, by social science, we mean an empirically grounded, predictive model of how a society operates in certain situations. The very concept of State-on-State, conventional warfare governed by "Laws" or "Rules" (e.g. Geneva Conventions, etc.) is predicated on the existence of a particular model that is both a) comprehensible to all involved and b) contains win, lose and draw positions (i.e. recognized end states in a recognized social process).

Taking the two together, "war is war" and "war is not armed social science", leaves us with a Hobbesian model of a war of all against all. If this is the case, and I would not argue that it has been at some times, then what are the limits of "war" if any?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
and real war, not happy war sold through clever-speak of "hearts and minds" language involves killing and death.
Hmmm, nice rhetorical point, Gian . Yes, "real war" involves killing and death but let me also point out that all life involves death and all societies have killing; it is a matter of degree as to how much killing is acceptable in a society before it is called "war".

I do, however, totally agree with you about the dangers of selling a "happy war". That is a rhetorical trick used by the same people who are never willing to take responsibility for their actions and, IMO, is of the same ethical standards as the war as video game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
And in actuality the historical models that we use to prop up this ostensible notion of "hearts and minds" were won through killing and destruction that broke the back of the resistance.
I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. It's not that I disagree with you on the use of killing and destruction, I don't. What I disagree with is whether or not it "broke the back of the resistance". I would suggest that what it did was to establish, beyond an immediate doubt, that certain forms of "resistance" were currently "unacceptable" (and bloody dangerous to their advocates!). This doesn't change the likelihood of "resistance", it merely shifts the form of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
It is time to get a clear view of what we think we are trying to do in places like Astan.
Absolutely, and that has been a problem for a long time. It is also why war must be armed social science. Without an empirical model grounded in historical patterns, we are left with, as Max Forte would say, an "ideological septic tank" as the definer of "what will be". Maybe something along the lines of "Oh, let's just get rid of the nasty dictator and they will all become good republicans/democrats".....
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Old 07-11-2009   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
Wilf, Gian, are you two really advocating that we scrap any attempt to win the support of the populace and just engage in a “war is war” killing spree?
No. That is no what, or I guess Gian is saying. To whit...

Quote:
In that context, Wilf is dead on about killing the right people. Gian is dead on in his observation about "happy war sold through clever-speak of "hearts and minds" language." But I think that we'd better keep in mind that Wilf also pointed out that killing the wrong people is counterproductive, and that our goals in places like A'stan and Iraq should be:

1. Stop the violence.
2. Turn the country back over to its own people.
3. Leave.
That is why I am coming from.
Stopping the violence means stopping the violent people.
Build all the schools, hospitals and community centres, once you have a secure environment and THEY can maintain it.
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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 07-11-2009   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
"War is war" is a tautology of the form X = X. It is also a logical fallacy that confuses the sign with the signified in that[INDENT]if killing is involved, and
war is killing, therefore
this is war
.... but that is not what "War is War," has ever aimed to impart.
War is war is an aphorism that correctly observes that that war has an enduring and fundamental nature, that has not changed over time. Thucydides and Clausewitz wrote about it, and did so usefully and accurately.

As Clausewitz, Foch and many others have said, "beware the people who tell you that you can have war without killing."

If that is wrong, then please show me how?

Quote:
That is also why war must be armed social science.
How can a social science be aimed primarily at breaking the will of the enemy?

Putting in place all the humanitarian and social programs aimed at the civilian population, probably is social science, but that it does not break the enemies will to endure, in the same way killing him does. No social science has ever been founded on telling someone "do what we tell you to improve your life or we will kill you."
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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 07-11-2009   #13
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Hi Wilf,

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
.... but that is not what "War is War," has ever aimed to impart.
War is war is an aphorism that correctly observes that that war has an enduring and fundamental nature, that has not changed over time. Thucydides and Clausewitz wrote about it, and did so usefully and accurately.
As an aphorism, I don't have a problem with it. Unfortunately, too many people interpret it not as an aphorism but as a fundamental (axiomatic) "Truth" in the logical sense. I do disagree that it has a fundamental "nature" (I'm not really that much into Platonic essentialism), but I certainly agree that it does have fundamental boundary conditions (although they vary in time, space and culture).

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
As Clausewitz, Foch and many others have said, "beware the people who tell you that you can have war without killing."
I agree, although I would have phrased it slightly differently. I can conceive of such a war being fought but, to the best of my knowledge, it never has been. As far as the aim of that warning, however, I totally agree - it is right up there with Pie in the Sky.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
How can a social science be aimed primarily at breaking the will of the enemy?
Well, a "science" is a body of empirical regularities that has been abstracted into formulas of some type. Those regularities are what you termed its "nature". War is a social activity and it is aimed at social opponents (i.e. a society rather than an individual). Social science is the sub-branch of science that studies regularities in human societies and the individuals who compose them. How can you study war without studying social science?

Having said that, I never said that there was a specific social science aimed primarily at breaking the will of the enemy; although PSYOPs fits the bill as a sub-discipline of both psychology and communications. As a note, it is a major mistake to equate "social science" with "social work" - the two are by no means synonymous .

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Putting in place all the humanitarian and social programs aimed at the civilian population, probably is social science, but that it does not break the enemies will to endure, in the same way killing him does.
Wilf, that's social work or development work - it's a sub-set of social science. You're also switching levels of analysis again. I agree, humanitarian and social programs may not break an enemies will. If you kill him by itself, however, you create new enemies unless you take a delenda Cartago est tactic which, at the moment, is improbable in the extreme.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
No social science has ever been founded on telling someone "do what we tell you to improve your life or we will kill you."
Hmmm, try Russian psychology during the 1930's - 1950's or modern theories of governance .
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Old 07-11-2009   #14
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Default History is not on the side of COIN...

Tom said:
Quote:
"Hearts-and-minds is also a strategy of exhaustion but one in which the enemy’s will to resist is undermined by largesse. "

Makes for a snappy read as in the 15 second sound bite to writing; does not reflect reality or COIN.
He's correct -- so is the statement he refutes. The COIN idea is more than largesse. However the COIN idea does rely on largesse to more than a small extent. The real truth is somewhere in between. That, however, is not the problem with COIN efforts, that problem is in application of COIN principle by a third party and not the government that has an insurgency issue. There are those who firmly believe in the need for such intervention and there are others that strongly doubt such interventions are or can be effective.

Those are two schools of thought. We are all exemplars of our inner selves. My suspicion is that if we could realistically categorize humans as pro-COIN or con-COIN, a heavy majority would be the latter and while an armed force can direct people to do things they do not agree with, the performance of people is enhanced when they believe in what they are doing and degraded if they do not believe. The basic problem is that the efficacy of COIN is in significant dispute; the rationale for its conduct is in dispute and the logic and / or morality of third party intervention is questioned by some.

This creates spotty performance which can exacerbate rather than solve the insurgency issue. That fact needs to be recognized.
Quote:
I agree that we need a clear view of Afghanistan. War is war is not a good start.
Maybe. War is war. That, as Wilf and Marc say, an aphorism and not an immutable fact -- but we need to recognize Afghanistan is a war; it is not a COIN operation. As was Iraq, it is more complex than that. In fact Afghanistan is far more complex and a far tougher nut than is Iraq. In any event, we are committed to a course in Afghanistan that entails the use of some COIN principles, no question.

kingo1RTR summarizes the current problem thusly:
Quote:
We must have the Afghan's 'hearts and minds' at the forefront of what we do if we are ever going see Afghanistan as a stable state that represents their culture and their way.
I suspect that is right at this point. We have started on a course and we have an obligation IMO to finish it reasonably successfully. He's correct that military victory is not on the agenda -- never was -- but an acceptable outcome can be obtained.

That is a problem with any COIN action, that's the best that can be hoped for in this era, an acceptable outcome.

The problem is that with an intervention, the slices of acceptability are smaller due to more players -- and the dominant player's "acceptable" may not coincide at all well with the goals and desires of the others -- particularly those who live in the nation that the dominant player can leave. Thus, that inclines the dominant player to go for a more warlike effort -- if his armed forces are involved -- than might the government with the insurgency.

Gian sums it up really well:
Quote:
It is time to get a clear view of what we think we are trying to do in places like Astan.
We are committed to an effort in Afghanistan. We should finish what we started.

Gian correctly addresses the broader issue for the future. What we should also do is determine whether this intervention stuff in other nations is advisable. We should then prepare to try to avoid such interventions OR be better prepared to perform them.

Either way, circumstances may dictate that we have no choice and must intervene -- but we need to insure that before we do, we sort out the roles and missions, understand the costs and that the armed forces are trained to perform the military functions and understand what those functions entail while the civil side of government is prepared and trained to undertake its responsibilities at the earliest opportunity.

Both J Wolfsberger and Entropy contribute very valid comments on the issue of Afghanistan. Points that should've been considered eight years ago -- and whose probable answers were known eight years ago...

marct:
Quote:
...then what are the limits of "war" if any?
Good question. I suspect the answer is that "You ain't seen nothin' yet." As my Mother used to say, it'll probably get worse before it gets better; a statement applicable both to Afghanistan and to war in general...

He then really wraps it up very neatly:
Quote:
... It's not that I disagree with you on the use of killing and destruction, I don't. What I disagree with is whether or not it "broke the back of the resistance". I would suggest that what it did was to establish, beyond an immediate doubt, that certain forms of "resistance" were currently "unacceptable" (and bloody dangerous to their advocates!). This doesn't change the likelihood of "resistance", it merely shifts the form of it.
And that is the problem with COIN...

It's an ill advised effort to solve problems that are better solved in other ways. If you commit Armed Forces to such an effort, you are placing an instrument of war in position to start and / or exacerbate a war and the probability is that it will not do that well. That can only end badly or, at best, with an acceptable outcome.

Acceptable to whom and for how long...
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Old 07-11-2009   #15
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Ken

Thats a very taut and accurate summary of the debate to date. I'll start reading these strings from the bottom in future!
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Old 07-11-2009   #16
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Quote:
My suspicion is that if we could realistically categorize humans as pro-COIN or con-COIN, a heavy majority would be the latter and while an armed force can direct people to do things they do not agree with, the performance of people is enhanced when they believe in what they are doing and degraded if they do not believe. The basic problem is that the efficacy of COIN is in significant dispute; the rationale for its conduct is in dispute and the logic and / or morality of third party intervention is questioned by some.
As usual, Ken is right on point with this view, and how prevalent it can be. Like my pops says, "Don't you go and take any chances with those people, shoot first and ask questions later."

And as I often feel the tingling on the back of my neck when sitting through ROE training/review with troops, Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, is not only uttered often under their breath, I can sense it on the mind of a majority of them. That has extended to several officers and senior SNCOs, and when we fail to get those folks on board, we are failing miserably.

Edited to add: Wilf, if your view is indeed what you claim it is, after getting a stir from folks, then simply re-title this thread as: "More killing of the right folks first...then do good deeds."

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Old 07-11-2009   #17
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what about the combating of irregular enemies makes the nature of war different?
Irregulars can control their loss rate by hiding in the population. Something the Luffwaffe - for exampe - couldn't do. Therefore, if you strategy is "kill more insurgents," your strategy is easily defeated.

Not sure why a Brigadier can't figure out that soldiers in Afghanistan can't kill insurgents who are hiding in Pakistan. I'm not that bright and it's obvious to me.
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Old 07-11-2009   #18
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From where I'm sitting, a lot of this debate seems to buried in semantics. The term "Hearts and Minds" is at the forefront of course. People who have worked in these environment naturally aren't going to like that term, at least if it meant literally. It's a really poorly chosen phrase. Of course we are never going to win the hearts and minds of any significant segment of the population. If I believed that that was really our goal, I would be skeptical too. But, as LTC Kilcullen has noted "hearts and Minds" isn't about making them like us, it's about convincing them that it is in their best interests to side with us, or at least not with our enemies.

Another problem seems to be the idea that COIN proponents are saying that we can achieve our acceptable outcome without killing. Well, of course that is ridiculous. Of course you will have to kill some bad guys to achieve the acceptable outcome. We will also have to teach the host nation how to kill bad guys. Saying otherwise would be naive. The thing is, I have never heard a COIN proponent say that we can achieve an acceptable out come with out killing. The ones that I have heard have only said that we cannot kill our way to victory and the killing the enemy should not be our main focus.

Now I am just an enlisted swine. I don't have any extra letters after my name nor have I attended any of the cool military schools that teach all about such things. I haven't read Clausewitz or Jomani or any other military philosopher/theorist. I have never been to any "Symposium" on COIN or anything else. I have only my own experiences and views to draw from but here is my take, for whatever it's worth, on the fight we face now, whether you choose to call it COIN or irregular war or "Overseas Contingency Operations," whatever the label Du jur is currently. Wilf and others maintain, that we should focus on killing the enemy first and then, once the insurgency has been defeated, start doing things to help the populace (the so-called hearts and minds stuff) in order, I presume, to reduce the likelihood that the insurgency will restart. My experience tells me that if we don't do both things simultaneously then we will never get to the point that we can transition to the other. It's pretty obvious what would happen if we just did the "hearts and minds" stuff without also killing bad guys, that's why I haven't heard anyone advocate that. On the other hand, if you just focus on killing bad guys and don't do the "hearts and minds" stuff, you will run out of national will to fight before they run out of bad guys. The insurgents do not have a standing army to be defeated. They have an ideology (actually a series of ideologies, there is more than one insurgency going on. But that doesn't change the central point). That ideology is what attracts people to support and/or fight for them. Now part of the attractiveness of that ideology is derived from the things that the host nation government does or fails to do (as Bob's World has pointed out) and part is derived from what we do or fail to do. If we do nothing but focus on killing the enemy then we are doing little reduce the attractiveness of the insurgent ideology. So, we keep killing bad guys and members of the populous keep joining and it ends up being a huge game of Whack-a-Mole that we (as in the American/Allied people) will ultimately lose our taste for and leave. If, on the other hand, we can push the host nation government to do its job, while we continue to do things that make the insurgent ideology less attractive (the infamous "hearts and minds" stuff) then our kinetic operations will have a better chance of creating the security we need to achieve our acceptable outcome.

Now some maintain that by focusing on the kinetic fight we are reducing the attractiveness of the insurgent ideology. After all, joining an insurgency which has a good chance of ending in your death is irrational, right? Unfortunately, in my experience, rationality is not necessarily an inborn trait in humans. If you only have one tool, the stick OR the carrot, you will end up missing large parts of the population and you may even have counter-productive results. Again, I have not heard many people advocating a "carrot only" approach, not anyone credible anyway. The "stick only" approach has many more supporters. They believe that by making it so dangerous to support the insurgency that they can break the will of the people to support the insurgency. Now, I am no historian by any means, but I can think of several historical examples where this type of thinking failed. In WWII the Germans executed whole towns of people in both fronts in order to crush the insurgency but were never able to do so. The Germans all but leveled London and the Allies did level several German and Japanese cities but neither succeeded in breaking the will of the other's populous. Even the commonly held belief that Hiroshima and Nagasaki broke the will of the Japanese people is, as I understand it, false. Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not break the will of the Japanese people, rather it broke the will of a Japanese person, the Emperor. As I understand it, if he had ordered the Japanese to continue fighting to the last, they would have.

That, in a nut shell, is my decidedly non-scholarly, and somewhat rambling take on the COIN vs. Kinetic debate.

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Old 07-11-2009   #19
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Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
Irregulars can control their loss rate by hiding in the population. Something the Luffwaffe - for exampe - couldn't do. Therefore, if you strategy is "kill more insurgents," your strategy is easily defeated.
Leaving the Luftwaffe out as an irrelevancy, the answer to your statement is that you have to weed them out with good intel; thus your strategy is not defeated; your job is simply made a lot harder harder and it will take longer. As we have seen...
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Not sure why a Brigadier can't figure out that soldiers in Afghanistan can't kill insurgents who are hiding in Pakistan. I'm not that bright and it's obvious to me.
You're bright, so's he. How Pakistan is addressed and discussed is more subject to sensitivities in Commonwealth nations in general and in their Armed Forces in particular. You can safely bet large sums of money that any Coalition service member of any rank concerned with Afghanistan is painfully aware of that border and the R&R centers on the other side of it. They are also frustrated that they know where the nodes on the other side are but can do nothing except wait helplessly until the R&R is over and the bad guys head north and enter Afghanistan.
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Old 07-11-2009   #20
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Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
Irregulars can control their loss rate by hiding in the population. Something the Luffwaffe - for exampe - couldn't do. Therefore, if you strategy is "kill more insurgents," your strategy is easily defeated.

Not sure why a Brigadier can't figure out that soldiers in Afghanistan can't kill insurgents who are hiding in Pakistan. I'm not that bright and it's obvious to me.
The Luftwaffe was actually hiding very well. The aircraft were hidden close to the airfields, often in forests. Lots of CCD as well.

The Luftwaffe's problem was rather that its country (cities, industry) wasn't able to hide and got treatment as fair game by the Allies.
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