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Time to reevaluate counterinsurgency

Posted By Crush • [June 27, 2010]

West Point professor Col. Gian P. Gentile writes that it is "time for the deconstruction" of the Army's Counterinsurgency manual. I agree.

Col. Gentile writes (emphasis mine):

Concepts such as population security, nationbuilding, 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.

[...]

It is time for the Army to debate FM 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 Yet prominent members of the Army and the defense expert community seem to be mired in this out-of-date doctrine.

Col. Gentile has more in "Freeing the Army from the Counterinsurgency Straightjacket."

Both the field and the institutional Army have gained much experience over these past 4 years in actually fighting two major COIN campaigns. Should we not consider that experience and integrate it into a revised doctrine for counterinsurgency? The German army in World War I went through major doctrinal introspection and then change after only 2 years of combat on the Western Front. It drew on a vast amount of combat experience (often from the lower ranks of the army), codified that experience into an operational doctrine, trained on it, and then put it into practice against the enemy.

Why is our military still carrying on as if there isn't anything wrong? If counterinsurgency is as great as its proponents portray, it should be able to withstand the debate that Gentile calls for. Either way, our nation must do whatever it takes to win. We have the best troops and equipment in the world. We just need a strategy that will work, and after four years, it seems obvious to this author that counterinsurgency does not.


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