Wednesday, December 4, 2013

COIN Continuum

The idea of measurement, anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition, to a different condition, without any abrupt changes is still fighting the fight in regards to minting continuing COIN.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in general and the military’s FM 3-24 in particular have been the subject of extensive and often vitriolic debate in recent years. Now the debate is finally subsiding, but not in a satisfactory way. It must not be allowed to die yet.
The broad cycles of the counterinsurgency debate have followed a dialectical process as so many other historical and political debates do.

Thesis: Population-centric COIN works! People like John Nagl, David Kilcullen, and David Petraeus came out with enthusiastic endorsements of population-centric counterinsurgency based in large part on the British experience and the work of French officer David Galula. The Army-Marine Corps COIN manual, FM 3-24, came out in 2006 and was promptly published by a university press, which is unique for field manuals. When Petraeus went to Iraq and “The Surge” and the Anbar Awakening happened, the situation in Iraq immediately turned around and the United States military was saved from an embarrassing defeat. Petraeus came home to a hero’s welcome in the United States.

Their books: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam by John Nagl, and The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 by Tom Ricks.

Antithesis: Population-centric COIN is a crock! Before long, people like Gian Gentile and Douglas Porch launched vigorous counterattacks. They said that the historical foundations of COIN doctrine were weak and that population-centric COIN had a poor track record. Others, like Doug Ollivant, argued that a close look at the chronology of events in Iraq showed that the turnaround in Iraq had little to do with COIN. Finally, they noted that the application of the COIN FM 3-24 did not produce particularly good results in Afghanistan.

Their books: Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency by Gian Gentile and Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War by Douglas Porch.

First, we need to keep the issue on the front burner and try to come to supportable conclusions about what is and is not likely to work in this difficult realm.

Second, and underpinning the first, the answer to the counterinsurgency question depends in large part on a proper understanding of history. Thus, the practitioners must encourage historians to work on the history of counterinsurgencies. What really did happen in Iraq and in which direction did the causal arrows point? What really happened in Malaysia? And what can we learn from counterinsurgency campaigns not conducted by the United States, Britain or France?

Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command recently said that the COIN debates were merely intellectual exercises of little relevance to future challenges. Anybody who knows anything about history knows that he is almost certainly wrong. The choice is simple: we can enter future wars smarter than we are now or as dumb as we are now (maybe even dumber).

Chatting up several of Great Satan's Combat Rock Stars and COINgankstas - can't help to be constantly reminded of Killing To Control.

K2C LOL's a very confusion free black and white message about COIN:

It's not COIN's gig to influence ppl to forsake insurgents - it's the military's gig to ensure lottie dottie everybody knows that 'picking' the wrong side - the insurgency side - will result in a swift, nasty death -

"... The population should not be asked to pick sides. They should merely be informed that the Army will win, and that should be demonstrated to them, as forcefully and unequivocally as possible. No one should be confused that if you fight the Army/Security Forces, you will die or be captured. Evidence should be literally laid before them. There should be no more complicated message than that.

"...If some of the armed members of the population pick the wrong side, then so be it. Another common issue raised in defence of a seeking a greater cultural understanding is that of the risk of “blood feuds.” This is nearly always mooted in terms that unnecessary lethal force creates unnecessary enemies, as in killing one insurgent somehow creates more. This idea rests on a great many unexamined assumptions, and almost no actual evidence.
"...It may have happened. So what? Tribal peoples who are familiar with the blood feud idea do not use its existence as an objection to violence

Pic - "Sometimes you bring them the love. Sometimes you bring them the hate.”


Leif said...

The fact is that all of these guys are, intellectually-speaking, pretty thin gruel (to be fair, I have not yet read Porch's book). Nagl is a political scientist, not a historian. His book is just a slobbery love letter to Sir Gerald Templar. It's analysis of the US Army's learning process would get him an 'F' in a history department. Petraeus is competent, but an otherwise vain and self-serving man. Gentile is a self-promoting ass, and his work generally sucks.

All of these guys are focused primarily on polishing their resumes. Any actual benefit to the US defense community is accidental.

The real issue is simply this: the guerrilla's organization has to be destroyed, urban or rural. Moreover, every army has to be prepared to fight two foes: the most dangerous and the most likely. The former is always conventional, and the latter is almost always unconventional.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Leif!

COIN chiz can appear to be all dicombobulated for sure. And I've read tons of the books and chatted up the authors more than once.

Always leaned heavily towards Major Owen's K2C take on COIN personally.