COIN – a perspective from 23rd century textbooks
Here is some speculations inspired by The Counterinsurgency Library. How will a 23rd century historian see the COIN literature?
- No more COINs after Iraq and Afghanistan
- COIN and WWIII — the similarities
- COIN and WWIII — how likely to occur was each?
- COIN and WWIII — the common driving factor
- COIN and WWIII — misallocations of physical and intellectual resources
- For more information about Fourth Generation Warfare
The CI Library is a wonderful tool, a powerful application of the Internet’s ability to make us smarter. How will a 23rd century historian see the COIN literature it contains? Here is my guess…
I. No more COIN’s after Iraq and Afghanistan
Neither America or any other State will attempt large-scale attempts to directly fight insurgencies in foreign lands. They may send cash, advisers, and trainers, but no combat troops. The local government will retain the lead role. If there is no functioning government, other major powers will either abandon it (e.g., Africa) or take over (intending to restore order and exit). But the incredible cost in blood and money of America’s early 21st century adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will act as definitive proof of the intolerably low cost-effectiveness of COIN in foreign lands.
Nobody else had the resources to attempt such a thing. After the recession of 20XX, and the resulting devaluation of the US dollar, neither did America.
II. COIN and WWIII — the similarities
The COIN literature quickly become like the post-WWII literature discussing WWIII, atomic wars or USSR invasions of western Europe. It will employ thousands of officers, scholars, and officer/scholars. Serious, lavishly funded, and increasingly fantastical. For example, it ignored that the heavy lifting in the Iraq War was done not by COIN, but the tried-and-true colonial trifecta of popular front militias (loyal so long as well-paid), firepower, and sweeps (the latter two working together to keep the locals suppressed).
III. COIN and WWIII — how likely to occur was each?
Increasingly we look back to see WWIII as a prospect far less likely than it was seen during the cold war. The preparations for WWIII were in part driven by our paranoia, and exhultaion in the power of the weapons we posses.
COIN will be similarly seen in the future – an unrealistic scenario, fueled by both our fears and our arrogant assumption that we can manipulate foreign societies (although we cannot do so at home, despite having far more data, understanding, and effective tools).
IV. COIN and WWIII — the common driving factor
The commonalities between the two will spark many 23rd century investigations by social scientists. Why were such large literatures written in the 20th and 21st century on scenarios that never happened? That never were likely to happen?
The answer will seem obvious. Both were byproducts of America’s trillion-dollar per year spending on war. The money: tens of millions streaming each year through RAND, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and hundreds of other think tanks and universities. The money: thousands of officers working for degrees every year, both them and their professors generating papers about the current hot dot in warfare. Plus an interested audience from the millions of veterens, many retaining interest in the subject.
V. COIN and WWIII — misallocations of physical and intellectual resources
23rd century writers will find it incredible that such vast resources were wasted in the face of pressing and urgent needs elsewhere.
- The development of an urban underclass,
- floods of illegal aliens — poorly assimilated, adding ethnic strife to the growing underclass problems,
- environmental problems,
- consistent spending beyond our national income (leading to massive foreign debts),
- the obvious peaking of global oil production,
- the horrifying greying of the boomers (and certain collapse of the social welfare systems)
All of these were high probability – high impact events quite obvious by the late 21 century, yet attention was lavished on high impact but low probability overseas threats — starving the government leadership’s attention from other subjects.
They will find these things difficult to understand, just as we find the foolishness of our ancestors difficult to understand (e.g., WWI).
VII: For more information about Fourth Generation Warfare
I have developed a simple typology to show the relationship of the many works on modern warfare, to show the relationships among the various theories about modern warfare. This has evolved into a first cut at a solution to 4GW. These are the first steps in a long series.
- A solution to 4GW — the introduction
- How to get the study of 4GW in gear
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
- Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
- 4GW: A solution of the first kind - Robots!
- 4GW: A solution of the second kind
- 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Don Vandergriff is one of the very few today implementing solutions of the third kind.
Grand Strategy and National Security
A related question concerns grand strategy. Does America need a grand strategy? If so, what should it be? Answers to these questions illuminate many of the questions hotly debated about foreign policy and national security.
- The Myth of Grand Strategy (31 January 2006)
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy (1 March 2006)
- The Fate of Israel (28 July 2006)
- Why We Lose at 4GW (4 January 2007)
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” (24 July 2007)
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? (28 October 2007)
- ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy (21 February 2008)
- One telling similarity between the the Wehrmacht and the US Military (10 March 2008)
- America needs a Foreign Legion (18 April 2008)
- Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW (original September 2005; revised 30 May 2008)
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I (19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008)