I recommend reading these comments to this morning’s post!

The comments to the following post are excellent, with powerful and valuable links to other material.  My thanks to everybody who posted there!  It’s a privilege to have shared a thread with you. 

8 thoughts on “I recommend reading these comments to this morning’s post!”

  1. The consensus answer to the question of the preceding post — Did COIN theory have any effect on the Iraq War — seems to be no. The next question should be: was 4GW theory validated in any way by the experience in Iraq, and might it have produced any different outcome if it had been consciously employed?
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a powerful question! My guess is that use of 4GW theory would recommend avoiding foreign wars unless absolutely necessary. Which, in retrospect, would have been the best result.

  2. Senecal, how on earth can you use the term “consensus answer” to the replies on FM’s COIN question with only one or two even being on subject. Almost all just used COIN to make some other point. I was expecting a very interesting dialogue here and it’s mostly just bizarre. Your “next question” on 4GW vs. COIN is one I expected to come up and agree with you on need. IMO they are not the same. Equating leads to missing a lot in the orientation part of OODA.

    And FM, your post here on the excellence of those comments leaves me caught wondering whether to laugh, cry or pound my shoe on my computer.

    What exactly is the connection between DOD Anti-Terrorism Training and Counter Insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures beyond that they are both aspects of living in today’s environment? Your add that training required to familiarize DOD personnel and families with how to be safer as they move about in the world has some sinister possible connection with SERE is absurd. You indicate no knowledge of either the DOD Anti-Terrorism efort or SERE. I write this as someone who has been through both. I give you no slack here – homework required.

    The ACLU thing seemed rather strange to me so I checked further. I was not due for AT Level I refresher until Sept but decided to do now. The question raised about “protests” IS NOT in the online program. Nor could I find it in “CJCS 5260, Antiterrorism Personal Protection Guide: A Self Help Guide to Antiterrorism.” I won’t say definitively it’s not in some other document, but what I ref is the main line. What it DOES SAY IS as a tourist:

    “Avoid public public disturbances, political demonstrations,and rowdy crowd scenes such as sports venues. Avoid religious sites where your presence may be offensive. Enjoy your visit but be prudent, be a hard target, and report anything you think is suspious to appropriate authorities.”

    Unless you dispute the complete existence of terrorism across the globe, I see no basis for criticism of DOD AT training. It is an excellent intro to recognizing the need to keep your head on swivle. All U.S. citizens would benefit by taking. ACLU is just ACLU, I guess. AND it certainly is no primer for sinister further action.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I believe the simplest explanation is that DoD removed the offending text. That would be the logical thing to have done.

    The relationship between COIN and DoD anti-terrorism training is, IMO, obvious. I suspect that this is obvious to you and everybody else reading this.

    As for the discussion of COIN, this is a gloss on a the many far longer discussions. here are a few:
    * ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy, 21 February 2008
    * Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics, 6 March 2008
    * The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24, 19 March 2008
    * A key to the power of FM 3-24, the new COIN manual, 20 March 2008
    * Dark origins of the new COIN manual, FM 3-24, 23 March 2008
    * How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
    * COIN – a perspective from 23rd century textbooks, 10 June 2008
    * Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008

  3. Ed,

    I agree that the discussion of COIN was disappointingly oblique, though I have to include myself in the guilty as I didn’t contribute anything myself (not that I have a whole lot to add other than impressions from 2nd and 3rd-hand sources).

    As for the DOD AT training, it appears that there are two possible scenarios:

    1. The ACLU is perpetrating a hoax with a photoshopped mock-up of the web page.
    2. The DOD took action to remove the offending question some time between receipt of the letter on June 10 and today when you took the course. Given the potential for immediate bad press, and the ease of editing online course materials, 6 days doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    The danger is that this alleged incident occurs in a context of ever-increasing criminalization of dissent, using post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws and powers against anyone the government doesn’t like (exactly as I and others predicted at the time). The ACLU letter gives a good primer on the specifics of this.

    The connection to SERE is not a perfect analogy but an instance of a seemingly-innocuous training program becoming the seed for something much more “sinister” as has been well documented.

    I’m glad the DOD took the question down. I doubt it was sinister in intent, but probably the genuine opinion of whatever hack was cranking the questions out. Nixon for one certainly saw the protesters as “the enemy.”

    On the other hand, maybe the DOD is thinking about the 1967 protest in which the marchers’ ostensible goal was to levitate the pentagon. Maybe they should have anti-witchcraft training . . .
    Fabius Maximus replies: If you find this discussion of COIN to be “disappointingly oblique”, perhaps you should read some of the many others — all longer and more detailed. A few are listed in my reply to Ed’s comment above.

  4. FM,

    I’ve read most of those posts you listed. Been coming almost daily since you moved here from DNI. I was just saying the round of comments wasn’t one of the better ones in terms of discussion that I’ve seen. A couple of good tidbits like the link to the DOD thing, but as Ed pointed out, not really digging into the meat of the subject matter. But hey, some posts get nibbles, others get a feeding frenzy.

    I do find the comments on this blog to be of a very high quality generally, especially compared to anything else out there, and I really appreciate that you respond to so many and engage the readers in discussion. That’s rare. Big thanks to you for taking the time from your boat-in-a-bottle building to put all this together, and everyone else whose insightful comments I’ve learned much from.

    The application of the new COIN manual to Iraq? I haven’t seen much evidence that it was. Seemed all through the fanfare of its roll-out USAF was still dropping 500 pounders like candygrams . . . And I agree with the “consensus” view here and among many others that the current situation is primarily the outcome of internal Iraqi dynamics and Iranian actions.

    In re: 4GW and Iraq, yes quite a proving ground for 4GW theory, much of which (insofar as it can be said to be a coherent body) held a a lot of explanatory power. Other stuff shown to need tweaking. And of course in 4GW best not to invade in the first place . . .

  5. Fabius, I have spent too much time looking into this having looked at the 2002 AT Level I and the current. First, the question as presented is completely out of sync and context with the flow of the course. While I’m sure you won’t be convinced, having taken this 4 times, that question is not in line with how AT is defined or approached. As presented it stands out like a sore thumb in relation to the rest of the real Threat Section. Next the format is very definetly not the one in use. While I cannot be absolutely certain, I did not notice any changes from last September and content is basically the same as the 2002 PPT version.

    Which leads to the second comment, AT and COIN may be linked in your mind and there is a obvious relationship, but they are very separate entities. COIN does not drive or effect AT. The fact that the Awareness training does not need to change very much should give you an indication.

    The idea that DOD changed things might be the simplest solution but I doubt very seriously it is the right one. trust ACLU if you want.

    OBTW, if you’re interested in AT vice COIN or CT, look up the “Downing Report” post Khobar Towers. Lessons Learned usually aren’t, and recommendations never get applied. In this case they were. Believe it or not even DOD gets it right on occassion, but don’t take my word on it.
    Fabius Maximus replies: By now this should not need explaination to anyone paying attention, but the US government does not clearly distinguish between foreign and domestic threats. Hence the commonality of AT, COIN, and CT methods (in practice if not in theory) — and legitimate concern about drift of methods back home from our foreign wars. Wiretapping and surveilance. Militarization of internal security, such as increased use of violence by SWAT teams delivering warrants. No knock raids in Iraq and Cleveland. It’s a long list. Let’s hope torture does not appear on this list in the future.

    As for the ACLU charges, I do not “trust ACLU” or “trust DOD”. It’s a matter of evidence. The ACLU has had their say. Now we wait for the DoD response. This is not actionable information, so we can wait for further developments. IMO there is no point in getting excited at this point. Nor is this a game, where we root for either side.

  6. Ed: I confess my knowledge of COIN and 4GW is very limited. I only know what I’ve picked up here, at DNI and John Robb’s place. My “consensus” observation above wasn’t so much about COIN, but the general impression I received from the previous post that we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan in the first place — that our “mission” there doesn’t make sense, and isn’t achievable by any military means.

  7. Senecal,
    I am not an expert in the Middle East, nor in COIN or SPECOPS. My reading/investigation for my website does take me into the books by Kilcullen, Colin Grey, Nagel, Hammes, etc. Kilculen’s background, time on the ground, body of work overall tell me his view should have much weight.

    While none are interested in my life story, I spent the last part of my Navy career and first 10 years as a contractor working very complex operations for warfare experimentation, testing and training for what is called the network centric concept. In 1998 I began to realize we were not examining situations in the litorals with non-state or state sponsored asymmetric actors. In the summer of 2000 I was heavily involved with one event that did look at how decisions might get made in a Middle East scenario with WMD, non-state players and the results were most intriguing. USS Cole and 9-11 changed focus for that group to homeland security exercises.

    Throughout this period as a planner, controller, analyst my work required figuring out how the “bad guy” might play so as to make events as realistic as possible. My current job in anti-terrorism forces me to understand/use two tools – MSHARPP and CARVER (can Google) – one based on looking at how vulnerable a place might be looking outward from the “target” as the defender, then inward as the attacker.

    To close this and make my point, much that is being written these days seems to focus on all the mistakes the US has made (there are many) to the absolute denial it seems of world actors with freedom to do as they please, with agendas that have aspects that while the US may effect, still will exist if we were to disappear behind the sea wall. Call it what you will, Irregular warfare, Hybrid Warfare, COIN, 4GW, terrorism, there are multiple groups that have figured out that IEDs, hostage taking, use of the internet, small unit tactics, etc, etc can be used most effectively to hold the rest of the civilized world at bay. They can control areas of countries, hollow out governments and create lawless enclaves, and using information technology, aerodynamics (airliners if you will)and biological and chemical agents they can again go “expeditionary” and they can wait and wait.

    Some now, with their frustration with the Bush administration, with weariness of the long war, seem to want to create what Nassem Nicholas Taleb labeled the narrative fallacy – a new story that will match new decisions to trivialize or ignore the world’s asymmetric warriors.

    “We should have recognized on Sept 12th, 2001 where this would all go, and turned this all over to the cops. Let’s go find Thelma and Louise.” Really?

  8. Ed: you may be right. You’ve looked at this stuff a long time in a serious way. I usually don’t argue with my doctors, either, although I’ve learned that doctors like everyone else see the world conventionally, and think by paradigms. Since Vietnam, I’ve seen that most talk about US foreign affairs, particularly war, is designed for public consumption, to rationalize or simply disguise what’s actually going on and what our real motives are. My first reaction is always skeptical, contrarian.

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