Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?

Recommended reading:  “Is Counterinsurgency the Graduate Level of War?“, David S. Maxwell (Colonel, US Army), Small Wars Journal, 20 July 2008 — “Some Random Thoughts on COIN Today.”  This has a wealth of insights.  It deserves a review, which time precludes doing now.  This is a brief post, taking this idea in a different direction (with some overlap of Colonel Maxwell’s thinking).

The outcome of the debate about the effectiveness of the surge, and more generally COIN, may shape history of the US and the world for the next decade or two.  Should we decide that the surge and COIN worked, we will probably continue to reconfigure our forces to intervene in the internal affairs of other states.  And we probably do so, even more frequently than we did in the 20th century.

Concluding that we know how to fight insurgencies might mean a Long War for America, an unnecessary war (read “America takes another step towards the “Long War”” to see this process at work).  And, since I doubt we know how to wage COIN, an expensive and probably unsuccessful war (for more on this see Why We Lose at 4GW and How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?).

Here are some random throughts on COIN today (more random than Colonel Maxwell’s well-reasoned article).  This post intermixes discussion of COIN and the surge, as they are often conflated in US military and political discussions.

A. There was no “surge”, just a redeployment

First, the “surge” should be called the “redeployment.” There has been no meaningful increase in the number of Coalition troops in Iraq, which had been more-or-less stable since the end of 2004. This graph shows that Coalition strength is only slightly above the average for the past 4+ years, since troop levels stabilized in Spring 2004. The increased number of US troops has been largely offset by departure of allied forces.

Wars have been won by skillful redeployment of forces, so this is no trivial affair.  Calling it a “surge” was inspired marketing.

B.  Did we use any sophisticated COIN theory in Iraq, as described in FM 3-24?

How many of FM 3-24’s ideas have been put into practice?  Despite its powerful backers, with General Petraeus as our commander in Iraq, the impact of FM 3-24 remains unclear.  The new COIN doctrine emphasizes efforts to (1) increase the legitimacy of the government we support and (2) precise applications of force.  Our Iraq operations during 2007 have diminished the national government (building bases without their approval, conducting operations they oppose, and arming their opponents) — plus a 4x increase in bombing.  Not exactly following the FM 3-24 recipe.

From a broader perspective, our “surge” tactics in Iraq — doing sweeps, a massive increase in bombing, and funding popular front militia — were all done in Vietnam.  Funding local militia is ancient (“better to have them inside pissing out of our tent than inside pissing in.”).  Giving locals the choice of accepting our money or suffering our firepower is another, equally ancient tacic (see here and here for examples of this in Iraq).  This combination — money plus firepower — may have been the secret formula for success in the Northern Alliances quick victory over the Taliban (and the CIA bag men might have been more effective than the more famous special ops teams and B-52’s.

C.  Could the locals have accomplished the same results in 2007 without us?

“In effect FM 3-24 and Counterinsurgency as a term have become code, simply stated, for nation building.”
— Gian P Gentile, comment posted at the Small Wars Journal, 20 July 2008

What basis is there for our belief that we can successfully build nations — let alone allies?  Germany and Japan had long histories as cultural units, and longer and more successful histories as States than Iraq.  Their success after WWII is attributable to our generosity and support, but primarily to their people’s work and wisdom.

There are signs of nation-building in Iraq, mostly due to a few key factors.

  • Ethnic cleansing.
  • Development of local governments which suppress rival forces in their zones.
  • The cease-fire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.
  • Iran brokering settlements among the Shiite Arab factions.

These were the factors that reduced violence (not nearly peace, yet) in the Iraq civil war.   (As opposed to the Anbar Awakening, which reduced American deaths — it largely involved US paying locals not to shoot at us, or to fight others groups shooting at us)

What did we do to facilitate these things?  Did the redeployment of Coalition troops, and the changes in their tactics, have effects so large as any of these factors?  Did we negotiate any of these things?  Or do we just claim credit for the results?

The COIN tradition, going back to Nagl’s seminal How to Eat Soup with a Knife, attributes key actions in insurgencies to westerners rather than their local allies.  Quite flattering to western audiences, and matching our prejudices.  Could the Malaysian government have successfully suppressed the 500 thousand ethnic Chinese people that formed the core of the rebellion.  Could the Iraq leaders have reduced the horrific violence of late 2006?  Without the leadership of western elites?

D.  What has been accomplished by the surge and our new COIN tactics?

Since the invasion much blood has been shed, self-identities of Iraq’s people have shifted, and new regional governing machinery is being built. These trends gain strength both from our support and our casual neglect (even contempt) of Iraq’s central government.  This moves Iraq toward a new future, but by a process in which we (rightly) have little influence — and whose result might not further any US goals.

There are few signs of political reconciliation, the primary goal of the surge.  Most of what progress in this area trumpeted by pro-war analysts is imaginary.  For example, the new de-Baathification law.  As Juan Cole says,

“{it} was loudly denounced by the very ex-Baathists who would be affected by it. In any case, the measure has languished in oblivion and no effort has been made to implement it.”

The provincial elections look to be kicked into the future, along with the vital referendum on the status of Kirkuk.  The Iraq parliament frequently operates in violation of its own rules and often the Constitution as well.

Meanwhile, much of what we ask the Iraq government to do — furthering our political goals — is absurd.  No Iraq government, however weak or strong, can do these things without suffering a severe loss of legitimacy (a scarce thing in today’s Iraq, outside of Kurdistan).

  1. Give us their oil on terms more generous than Canada gives foreigners.
  2. Grant extra-territorial immunity to our troops and mercs.
  3. Grant us authority to conduct operations without their consent.
  4. Enlist tens of thousands of Sunni Arab militia, whose loyalty to the government by most accounts ranges from low to zero.

Conclusion

The problem with using propoganda to maintain support for a war among both the people and the army is that it works only at a high cost:  divorcing our thinking from reality.  A good spin on the news is seductive, esp. when it plays to deeply held beliefs about the rightness of our cause and the power of our forces.  This may have happened with the selling of the surge and new COIN tactics.  They maintained sufficient American support to continue the war, but only by contaminating our thinking with false beliefs.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance are:

Some posts about COIN on the FM site:

  1. ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy , 21 February 2008
  2. The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24, 19 March 2008
  3. A key to the power of FM 3-24, the new COIN manual  (20 March 2008)
  4. How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
  5. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I, 7 June 2008 — Thoughts about eating soup with a knife.
  6. Nagl gives a profoundly wrong vision for the US military, 22 June 2008
  7. Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008

Posts about the fragmentation of Iraq

  1. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq (29 December 2005)
  2. The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace (13 March 2007)
  3. Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq (27 September 2007)
  4. Iraq, after the war (20 May 2008)
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26 thoughts on “Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?

  1. So COIN is another faith-based initiative! Perhaps COIN philosophy in the military will evolve into a theology, like Marxism in some university poli-sci departments.

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  2. I’ve come to conclusion over time that just about any, reasonably stable and legitimate Gov’t is better than the chaos of the alternative. Another tragedy is Somalia, after decades of chaos there finally came out something of a legitimate Govt … now smashed.

    There needs to be more on the ground research, more work on prevention of Gov’t collapses and more co-operative work with the NGO’s (who often have a much better view of the facts on the ground).

    The ideal COIN strategy is one the involves not single shot being fired.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This echos Sun Tzu’s comment about war: the ideal war is won without fighting.

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  3. Perhaps the thing about COIN is whether you can afford to win or afford to lose. The United States could afford to live without Vietnam. Britain could afford to live without India and Malaya. But can Israel live without the West Bank? The United States will one day leave Iraq – one way or the other – but Israel can’t leave except on boats to Europe. I believe that is why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so vicious. The same thing applies to the trouble at the Mexican-American border. If the United States loose 4GW in Arizona or New Mexico it will effectively mean that these areas return to Mexico.

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  4. “The problem with using propoganda to maintain support for a war among both the people and the army is that it works only at a high cost: divorcing our thinking from reality.”

    This is a brilliant statement, and it applies to an even broader concept than COIN, the GWOT. Whether it was orchestrated in advance or spontaneously generated by Fox News, the phrase “America’s War on Terror” — which began flowing along the bottom of the screen of Fox News coverage of 9-11 within minutes of the first crash into the twin towers — set a framework of thought for US responses which seriously limited our ability to understand and deal effectively with the challenges before us — from finding and capturing Bin Laden, to misjudging entirely the difficulty of invading and stabilizing Iraq.

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  5. “The problem with using propaganda to maintain support for a war among both the people and the army is that it works only at a high cost: divorcing our thinking from reality.”

    Brilliant. If you lie to your subordinates, you can, at best, hope that they will accomplish what you have asked. However, what you asked for is not what you really wanted, is it?

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  6. “Hubris” is not limited to the military The Big Three US automakers showed plenty of it as they continued to produce big gas-guzzling cars over more than two decades while the Japanese developed the smaller efficient cars that now dominate the market. Hubris, the belief that every problem has a technological solution, is deeply engrained in the American character.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. As described in “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy“, our primary enemies are paranoia and hubris.

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  7. “Hubris, the belief that every problem has a technological solution, is deeply engrained in the American character.”

    American technophiliac hubris is only one variety of hubris. In the flourishing jungle of hubris there are many, many species.

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  8. To plato’s cave & judasnoose : it’s interestin’ that a nation barely 2 odd centuries old could possess such hubris. “Manifest Destiny” & “American Exceptionalism” are thought provokin’ to an alien as me.

    Any way to explain?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: America is the outgrowth or expression of western traditions going back to Machiavelli (1469-1527), who said that statemen should focus on the needs of this worth — not the next.

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  9. “Any way to explain?”

    On the simpliest level, I would say the spoiled brat syndrome. Having achieved by a measure of luck, circumstance, lack of really serious compeditors, and some hard work, so much and so fast.

    Having risen on the platform of the US Constitution, the best by far document of it’s type ever concieved, (now virtually trashed) to pre-eminence. Since the fall of the Soviets, also being entirely unchecked.

    Put that all together, add your own ingredience, and you have the recipe. There’s an old expression, I think it’s from Hollywood, Old hollywood, Bogart, Tracy, James Stuart, Hitchcock, etc, It goes something like this;

    “The day you begin to believe your own publicists hype about yourself, is the day your on you’re way down.”

    So it is I’m sorry to say, and quite apparently for Amerika.

    Thier is an up side, that we as serious students appreciate, that we are however blessed to be living in a time to witness such a grand and facinating demise of an empire. One that will resonate in text books and lore for centuries to come.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Folks have been predicting doom for America since its creation. We have outlived all those critics, and will IMO outlive those of today. America is not our culture, our wealth, or the Constitution. It is our people and out ideas.

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  10. A good spin on the news is seductive, esp. when it plays to deeply held beliefs about the rightness of our cause and the power of our forces.

    Our educational system should prepare people to recognize and dispel such blandishments as the classical education once did. See Plutarch’s How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend

    In this essay Plutarch treats not of the obvious “toadies” who seek to suck some advantage from association with a rich or powerful man, but of those more subtle flatterers who present a passable counterfeit of true friendship and who seemingly take an interest in one’s welfare while, in fact, directing one on the path to ruin (Chapters 3-4). The flatterer ingratiates himself by means of feigned agreeableness and perverts our natural self-love to make us believe what is not true about ourselves. He is, in short, the enemy of truth. A friend, on the contrary seeks to profit you by speaking the truth. As Phocion said (Chapter 23) “I cannot be your friend and your flatterer.”

    Chapters one through five discuss the nature of the flatterer and of the friend and the necessity of a rule for distinguishing the one from the other. In chapters 12 and 13 he digresses on the ruin of great men seduced by flatterers. Plutarch’s advice may be gathered into nine heads:

    1. A flatterer is mutable, inconstant, not his own man but ever-changing to be the man he thinks will appeal to his victim (Chaps. 6-8).
    2. A flatterer praises indiscriminately and copies rather his object’s vices rather than virtues (Chap. 9).
    3. A flatterer is always seeking to please (Chaps. 10-11).
    4. Give a flatterer absurd advice and speak impertinently of his undertaking and he will agree with your disagreeable counsel (Chap. 14).
    5. A flatterer appeals to the lower, not the higher, nature of his victim (Chaps. 15-20).
    6. Beware of one who is too eager to seem a friend and who works too hard at gaining your trust (Chap. 21).
    7. The flatterer labors to please rather than profit you (Chaps. 22-23).
    8. A flatterer will seek to separate you from your true friends by speaking ill of them (Chap. 24).
    9. The surest prophylactic against the evils of the flatterer is a just opinion of oneself that will reject, as untruthful, the flatterer’s insinuations (Chap. 25).

    http://snipurl.com/38cna

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  11. Could the locals have accomplished the same results in 2007 without us?

    They could have gotten end of 2007 results, but over a much longer 2-4 year time span, assuming America continued the successful-but-slow ‘light footprint’ of Rumsfeld.

    They could not have achieved the results if Bush had continued to push the same ‘staty the course’ light footprint but seen a Dem dominated Congress be successful in cutting US support. The single biggest success of the Surge was that it showed Bush was willing to change tactics to ‘win’ — fast enough to keep political support. The Surge allowed Reps and blue-dog Dems to vote ‘one last time’ for victory, rather than accept defeat.

    The N. Viet commies never beat the US military, the Dem Party voted to stop fighting, then stop funding the corrupt, incompetent, cowardly S. Viet gov’t which respected human rights far more than commies did.

    In general, almost nothing good that the gov’t does couldn’t be done w/o gov’t, but the gov’t would do it faster.

    A good spin on the news is seductive, esp. when it plays to deeply held beliefs about the rightness of our cause and the power of our forces.

    This is exactly why there is so little talk in MSM about Iraq now — because reasonable truth shows the anti-war “we have already lost” anti-surge folk to have been wrong. It’s hypocritically inconsistent of many anti-war folk to claim in early 2007 that the war is lost, the surge won’t work, etc., and then to declare a year later that the surge wasn’t even necessary for the slowly growing peace in Iraq.

    I liked Ron Paul in all his domestic stuff, but I was against his desire to pull out of Iraq. In my nightly prayers, I often pray for A world of peace, a world without dictators. I’m really glad Saddam is gone and Iraq has a democracy (that is so quickly degenerating/ advancing towards the usual democratic difficulties of getting things done against interest group opposition).

    I even argue the world needs a Human Rights Enforcement Group, like a league of democracies who are willing to fight (as in shoot guns, not just talk) for human rights.

    On what we’re asking for from Iraq, I think most of the public really should wait for the deal before criticizing it too much — I assume that both sides are asking for too much.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: “They could have gotten end of 2007 results, but over a much longer 2-4 year time span, assuming America continued the successful-but-slow ‘light footprint’ of Rumsfeld.”

    Do you have any evidence or reasoning to support this? Almost everything that has reduced the level of violence in Iraq — now defined as “victory”, without any explanation of how this benefits America — has happened as a result of initiatives by the locals, and probably would have evolved similarly without our involvement. The most important being (probably) the ethnic cleansing, the Sunni Arabs expelling foreign Al Qaeda elements, the intra-Shiite conflicts to estabilish leadership.

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  12. (Maximillian) “Thier is an up side, that we as serious students appreciate, that we are however blessed to be living in a time to witness such a grand and facinating demise of an empire”

    Your description of America’s rise and fall is right on, but I doubt you really mean the above. If this empire crashes, it will be unimaginably painful to live through it. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon can be brought to heel, and what will make politicians have to respond to the needs of ordinary people.

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  13. “Lord Mr. Ford, I just wish that you could see
    What your simple horseless carriage has become
    Well it seems your contribution to man
    To say the least, got a little out of hand
    Well Lord Mr. Ford what have you done?” — Jerry Reed

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  14. “such hubris. “Manifest Destiny” & “American Exceptionalism” are thought provokin’ to an alien ”

    In response to YT, America has enjoyed many exceptional advantages. It had natural resources, it had a vigorous and intelligent population, it had a large dose of “Protestant work ethic, and its anti-monarchial republic was truly innovative in its day. Often foreigners would predict American defeat only to be dumbfounded when there seemed to be a exceptional Providence protecting fools, drunkards, and the USA. However “exceptional” is not the same as “invulnerable” or “immortal.” And when the remnants of these advantages have been squandered completely, the crash will be exceptionally tragic.

    As for Manifest Destiny, let me be politically incorrect for just a moment. The North American First Nations were vigorous enough to cause problems, but not vigorous enough to build a sustainable rival civilization. (Read Ben Franklin’s autobiography for an account of how drunken “Indians” caused problems in white cities.) They could seduce white women to throw off the shackles of respectability, but they could not build rifle factories. If you wonder why the early whites were so motivated to exterminate natives, go back and read the historical accounts of white women fleeing the dreary drudgery of white civilization to live as “Indians.” The white males could not ignore this threat — it struck at the very root of their collective survival. This sexual and reproductive history has been downplayed because it is not politically correct. Further, the reproductive threat of the natives coincided with economic opportunity, so it was natural for the government to hand out parcels of land — which was, perhaps, the birth of Big Government in America.

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  15. Incidentally, I am aware that not all aboriginal tribes treated women in the same way. My claim is just that as soon as white men realized some white women might willingly flee white civilization for an aboriginal life, white men began to write about this phenomenon as an urgent problem. I will substantiate this with historical quotes if I can find them…

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  16. It’s not the source I wanted, but here’s an example of the kind of text that details the role of Indian culture in Colonial America:
    [quote]
    An unsigned contemporary manuscript in the New York State Library reported that when Iroquois men returned from hunting, they turned everything they had caught over to the women. “Indeed, every possession of the man except his horse & his rifle belong to the woman after marriage; she takes care of their Money and Gives it to her husband as she thinks his necessities require it,” the unnamed observer wrote. The writer sought to refute assumptions that Iroquois women were “slaves of their husbands.” “The truth is that Women are treated in a much more respectful manner than in England & that they possess a very superior power; this is to be attributed in a very great measure to their system of Education.” The women, in addition to their political power and control of allocation from the communal stores, acted as communicators of culture between generations. It was they who educated the young.
    [/quote]
    http://www.ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/FFchp3.html
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The same can be said of Japan, yet that is hardly considered a woman’s paradise. From what little I know of native American cultures, the role of women was not better than in “white” America (probably worse, on average, in terms of distribution of work between genders), nor was there any significant movement of women from one to the other.

    Without additional support (nor any relevant expertise on my part), I suspect we have here myth-making. More of the “noble savage”, the ecological – democratic – feminist wonderful-folk that anthropologists manufacture for credulous western audiences. All this account omits to score 100% is a description of their sexual freedoms.

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  17. ” The day you believe your own publicists’ hype about yourself, is the day you’re on your way down.”

    To plato’s cave,maximillian & judasnoose : thanks for the detailed comments. Especially judsnoose’s insights on white women fleeing to live as natives…very interesting facet of American history.

    To Tom Grey : a world without dictators would be near heaven on Earth, but what sorta leaders would chair the Human Rights Enforcement Group? Have you considered the dangers of firearms in the hands of extremists & fanaticists?

    As regards Irak : “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”.” The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

    We’ll have to wait & see.

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  18. To plato’s cave : indeed, the death of the U.S. will be very painful to witness. Despite whatever faults of its leadership since WWII ended, She has been a beacon of hope to millions everywhere.

    I concur with you, Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon & the rest of the military – industrial complex are not gonna just come crashin’ regardless of the economic & fiscal health of the U.S.

    Most important of all, has anyone any suggestions ’bout how to bring the immediate & present tribulations of the Citizens of the U.S. to individuals who can influence policies?

    Or do the Peoples of the U.S. have to follow the example of their Founding Fathers?

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  19. For now, the most effective way to influence these policies, is to harp on the expense and lack of profit. That will encourage a falling out between corporate/business powers versus military/government powers.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Money money money. How fortunate we are that the Founders were wrong, and that money is the only thing worth considering in the political health of the polis.

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  20. What’s missing from the USA, for now, is a significant labor movement. It was painted pink and shipped out to wherever good communists go for their afterlife. Hehe.

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  21. This is an interesting discussion, and I had to catch up on the reading before commenting. Is COIN the graduate level of war? Like all types of warfare; sometimes yes and sometimes no. I am not an expert on COIN.

    But why are the COIN discussions so important? Because for the first time in a couple of centuries militaries are thinking about military strategy in a context outside of the Clausewitz, Jomini, Mahan, Fuller, etc.. wartime centric military strategy, the COIN debate is part of a larger, and growing, military strategy debate towards peacemaking, or war prevention.

    Why is this important? Because it has the effects of broadening the debates in other aspects of military strategy. An example would be the evolution of military strategy involving nuclear weapons from a broad position of MAD into a peace time strategy of escalation control and a wartime strategy of escalation dominance. I’m being general for the example, much intellectual rigor is still required in this and other schools of military strategy.

    In other words, military strategy that has been focused on extending influence of military power in wartime, and the threat of that extension of military power being the preserver of peace, is no longer good enough. COIN is one part of the growing discussion that bridge the gaps between a peacemaking military strategy and a war winning military strategy, and the influence of counterinsurgency doctrine into other sphere’s of military strategy can have broad effects on the prevention of war itself.

    That is the real power of the COIN discussion IMO, and what makes it graduate level, not the specifics of COIN doctrine itself.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Not to say you are wrong about the specifics, but I believe the relevance of COIN is that it provides a basis for massive military spending in an era when conventional (state to state) warfare is becoming less likely (and hence less obviously deserving of massive funding).

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  22. To describe the US military efforts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan as counterinsurgencies is of course a misnomer.

    According to the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms:

    *insurgency — An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.

    *insurgent — Member of a political party who rebels against established leadership.

    *counterinsurgency — Those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and
    civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency. Also called COIN.
    http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new_pubs/jp1_02.pdf

    So the resistance by the citizens of a country to a foreign military occupation is not an insurgency, and the occupying force’s effort to defeat that resistance is not a counterinsurgency. In other words, the occupation resistance forces are not aiming to overthrow a government but to resist an alien occupation.

    But COIN does sound better. It has a nice ring to it, and some people (most notably General Petraeus) have gone to the mint with it.

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  23. Don Bacon — there were Iraqi elections, remember? The Maliki gov’t is the constituted gov’t of Iraq, the terrorists/ insurgents are in opposition to Maliki as much as against the US — more, in fact, in terms of death targets.

    resistance by the citizens of a country to a foreign military occupation is not an insurgency

    Well, if the elected leaders agree with the military occupation, resistance by the citizens can then be called an insurgency. Tho many of the AQ fighters are not citizens of Iraq, and thus part of the insurgency is a proxy war between. But if the current reality doesn’t match static definitions, the mismatch doesn’t change the current reality. I notice you fail to suggest more accurate terms — since foreign non-Iraq killers aren’t mentioned by you.

    Galrahn, I think you’re more correct about COIN becomming more important to fill in the gaps as nation vs nation all out war becomes less common. Fab Max thinking it’s an excuse for more mil-industrial spending is also mostly true, tho.

    Fab questions my idea that 2007 Iraq results could have been gotten without a surge — but then supplies the reasoning, that everything: “has happened as a result of initiatives by the locals, and probably would have evolved similarly without our involvement.” That’s also my assertion, except I add the important time element. I should also add the casualty issue — a lot more Iraqis would be killed, because the Iraqi forces, without the active US support, are not as good so winning would take longer and be more expensive in terms of Iraqi lives.

    But I know that most anti-war folk care no more for Iraqi lives than for Darfur Sudanese lives, except that they prefer to use Iraqi deaths as a stick to beat on Bush, while refusing to use Darfur deaths as a stick to beat on … the anti-war (but genocide OK) folk.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is in my opinion a material oversimplification.
    * Elections held during a foreign occupation have little validity.
    * The Iraq government has few of the attributes of an actual government (see the links above for more discussion of this).
    * Most studies indicate that the foreign fighters were a tiny part of the insurgency (insurgencies), perhaps only 5%.

    “a lot more Iraqis would be killed, because the Iraqi forces, without the active US support, are not as good so winning would take longer and be more expensive in terms of Iraqi lives.” That is just a guess, and an unknowable one. Perhaps without our involvement (e.g., following a fast withdraw) the insurgency would not have caught fire (foreign infidel armies are incendiary).

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  24. For now, the most effective way to influence these policies, is to harp on the expense and lack of profit. That will encourage a falling out between corporate/business powers versus military/government powers.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Money money money. How fortunate we are that the Founders were wrong, and that money is the only thing worth considering in the political health of the polis.
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    Were they so different? After all the charges made against King George, was it not a tax that finally broke that camel’s back?

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