Posted By Uncle Jimbo • [June 28, 2010]
Crush points out, while nodding sagely in agreement, a piece by COL Gian Gentile bemoaning the idea that an insurgency should be fought using a counterinsurgency strategy. I think it bears a look at COL Gentile and his deep and abiding distaste for COIN prior to taking him too seriously. There is plenty to debate about the best way to counter an insurgency, but if you are going to debate you need an open mind. That is lacking here as the rhetoric in COL Gentile's piece clearly shows. Emphases showing his spleen are mine.
The principles of population-centric
have become transcendent in
the U.S. Army and other parts of
the greater Defense Establishment. Concepts
such as population security, nation building,
and living among the people to win their
hearts and minds were first injected into the
Army with the publication of the vaunted
Field Manual (FM) 3–24, Counterinsurgency,
in December 2006. Unfortunately, the Army
was so busy fighting two wars that the new
doctrine was written and implemented and
came to dominate how the Army thinks about
war without a serious professional and public
debate over its efficacy, practicality, and utility.
Actually I recall a whole lot of professional and public debate about COIN while things were gong South in Iraq and COL Gentile's voice was front and center vociferously opposing it. In the end, his view didn't prevail and he isn't too pleased about that.
The fundamental assumption behind
population-centric counterinsurgency and the
Army’s “new way of war” is that it has worked
in history, was proven to work in Iraq during
the surge, and will work in the future in places
such as Afghanistan as long as its rules are followed,
the experts are listened to, and better
generals are put in charge.
Did I miss something, I thought that a switch to COIN was one of the major factors in our victory in Iraq. even the Anbar Awakening was conditioned upon our employing a strategy that was focused on safeguarding the populace and helping the Iraqis do just that.
Of course, leaders in war must be held
accountable for their actions and what results
from them. But to use as a measuring stick the
COIN principles put forth in FM 3–24 with
all of their underlying and unproven theories
and assumptions about insurgencies and
how to counter them is wrong, and the Army
needs to think hard about where its collective
“head is at” in this regard.
I get the feelng you think it might be "up its ass".
It is time for the Army to debate
3–24 critically, in a wide and open forum. The
notion that it was debated sufficiently during
the months leading up to its publication is a
chimera. Unfortunately, the dialogue within
defense circles about counterinsurgency
and the Army’s new way of war is stale and
reflects thinking that is well over 40 years old.
In short, our Army has been steamrollered
by a counterinsurgency doctrine that was
developed by Western military officers to
deal with insurgencies and national wars of
independence from the mountains of northern
Algeria in the 1950s to the swamps of
Indochina in the 1960s. The simple truth is
that we have bought into a doctrine for countering
insurgencies that did not work in the
past, as proven by history, and whose efficacy
and utility remain highly problematic today.
Yet prominent members of the Army and the
defense expert community seem to be mired
in this out-of-date doctrine.
I think that ignoring the recent success of this strategy in Iraq is telling.
For example, the widely read counterinsurgency
expert Tom Ricks, in his blog
The Best Defense, regurgitated some pithy
catechisms from another COIN expert, the
former Australian army officer David Kilcullen,
on how to best measure effectiveness in
COIN operations in Afghanistan. One of the
measurements put forward by Kilcullen and
then proffered by Ricks is the stock mantra
that in any COIN operation, the greater the
number of civilians killed, the greater the
number of insurgents made, and therefore the
less pacified the area. Sadly, Ricks and many
other COIN zealots have accepted the matter
as fact and have gone on to believe other such
things as matters of faith.
Zealots eh, project much?
It is time for FM 3–24 to be deconstructed
and put back together in a similar
way as the Army’s Active Defense Doctrine
was between 1976 and 1982. That previous
operational doctrine was thoroughly debated
and discussed in open (not closed bureaucratic)
forums, and the result of that debate
was a better operational doctrine for the time
commonly referred to as Airland Battle. In
short, FM 3–24 today is the Active Defense
Doctrine of 1976; it is incomplete, and the
dysfunction of its underlying theory becomes
clearer every day. The Army needs a better
and more complete operational doctrine for
counterinsurgency, one that is less ideological,
less driven by think tanks and experts, less
influenced by a few clever books and doctoral
dissertations on COIN, and less shaped by an
artificial history of counterinsurgency. When
will the Army undertake a serious revision of
this incomplete and misleading doctrine for
The fact that I am quite familiar with COL Gentile and his opinions regarding COIN would seem to argue against his feeling that there was no public debate about how to deal w/ insurgents. It seems more likely that since he lost those public debates he is now bitter. The Army needed a doctrine to deal with the active insurgencies we were facing and COL Gentile was definitely heard, he simply didn't prevail. We continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the particular tactics that make up this doctrine and empirical evidence from the battlefield is examined to facilitate that. it may seem counter-intuitive for an Army to have a sweetness & light side, but it remains a fact that you can't kill your way out of every problem.