01 March 2013

More Thoughts on Counterinsurgency

There are two major schools of though on CounterInsurgency (COIN from here on out).

The first school of thought is that we go in, we set up programs, we chase down and kill bad guys, and somehow this leads to stability and prosperity.  The current COIN manual kinda espouses this view.  This is how we fought in Vietnam and how the USSR fought in Afghanistan.

The second school of thought is that we go in, figure out how we can help the local populace achieve the goals they want to achieve, and then help them build prosperity and security.  This is the kind of COIN that you find espoused in books such as "The Ugly American" which is really a must read for anyone trying to understand effective and ineffective ways to combat an insurgency. 

When you take a look at the two schools of thought, it becomes clear that one is "top down, government centric" and the other is "bottom up, people centric."  Getting people at all levels involved in governence and development, empowering them to be part of the process.  This type of COIN is generally the more successful strategy.

Depending on how a person thinks depends a lot on how they are going to view a successful counterinsurgency strategy.

The first type of strategy is endorsed by the big government crowd.  The second type of strategy is endorsed by the pro-liberty crowd.  Guess which strategy has a better chance of winning?  If you guessed strategy number two you are correct.

The question becomes, with what I see as a homegrown insurgency brewing in the United States, how can our own government which recognizes that a successful counterinsurgency strategy involves empowering the people, rush so hard to failure in trying to curb the freedoms of Americans?

On the flip side, they got away with it in Europe.  However the Europeans didn't give up their guns, and now that the money is running out people are forming tribes, acting local, and getting a bit more "conservative" when it comes to relying on big government.  We only have to look to Greece to see our financial future, so it isn't too much of a stretch to think that our political future will be similar.

It is funny, that a government that can most effectively wage a COIN fight is the government that needs least to do so.  The French led the way in the insurgency against a bloated and abusive central government, heck Mao did the same (then created another bloated abusive central government, but for the peoples own good of course).  Whatever the case, the more people feel disconnected from their government, the more disenfranchised they feel, the more likely an insurgency is to succeed.


Peter said...

I guess the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful insurgency is that the former tries to tackle objectives that are way too big, too tough or too dangerous. They try to eat an elephant all in one mouthful, even before they've killed it.

The latter tackles the problem one step at a time. First, locate the elephant. Second, determine when and where it goes, and what vulnerabilities exist in each journey it makes and at each destination. Third, tackle it where it's more vulnerable and you're less vulnerable. Wear it down. Fourth, even if you succeed in bringing it down, you've still got to eat and digest it - and you can only do that one mouthful at a time, otherwise you'll kill yourself trying.

Successful insurgencies have learned to operate one mouthful at a time. That's what I learned the hard way in eighteen years in a conflict zone, including both regular and irregular warfare. History teaches that lesson repeatedly, for those who have eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and brains to learn from it.

Aesop said...

"figure out how we can help the local populace achieve the goals they want to achieve, and then help them build prosperity and security."

Probably also helpful to find out if the goals of the local populace have any goals aligned with our own, along with seeing if their version of "prosperity and security" look anything like our version as well, or anything we could at least live with.

When their idea of "prosperity" is everyone quoting from Mao's Little Red Book, either in Hanoi or Hartford, or of "security" is finishing the job Himmler and barrels of Zyklon B started out to accomplish in the 1940s, no amount of COIN doctrine is going to lead to any sort of outcome we should even step into.

At that point, the Cpl. Hicks Plan of pulling out and nuking the site from orbit as the only way to be sure is probably the better tactical and strategic choice, with arming all parties (to our financial profit, and only with low-tech weapons we aren't going to find ourselves on the receiving end of, down the road)and assisting them in efficiently killing each other to extinction a good second option.(cf. Iraq-Iran, ca. 1980s).

The primary failure of Vietnam started in the swivel chair in the Oval Office, when LBJ couldn't begin to grasp that millions of rice farmers from the Delta to the DMZ weren't exactly the same as a bunch of West Texas sharecroppers and ranchers, who just wanted Chevys, TVs, and ice cream, and red-bloodedly willing to fight to kill Commies.
But hey, what's 58,000 dead American troops and millions of casualties along with a 30-year military malaise and hollowing out of our forces at the height of a geopolitical Cold War over a fundamental lack of vision, between friends?

Aesop's First Law Of Insurgency Assistance is "Don't get involved in conflicts where the underlying wish of the people on the ground is for everybody who wasn't born there to butt the hell out."

It's pretty much the same reason cops dread going on domestic disturbance calls.

I believe our first president said something about "avoiding foreign entanglements", in the same vein.

So, how's Iraqi/Afghani self-determination, and that "Arab Spring" thing been working out for us, anyways?

I mean, thank heavens the Muslim Brotherhood isn't machine-gunning and/or arresting opposition, and Al Queda hasn't burned one of our consolates down, killed some Seals, and dragged our dead ambassador through the streets to butt rape him literally, and American foreign policy figuratively, while we dithered. And who could have predicted any of that?

One can only look forward to the same level of political tone-deafness if TPTB ever turn their sights on an internal campaign to win hearts and minds and stamp out any counter-revolution here. Their motto, "We never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity", should bring cheer to every freedom-loving soul in the nation.

Best Regards,

Tom Stedham said...

I don't know "Aesop", but...
ALL "news accounts" of the alleged "rape" of the US ambassador have been categorically ruled to be false.
You can Google it, and EVERY SINGLE SOURCE has its origin in a Lebanese "new agency". That agency has made a detailed statement, saying that they did NOT release the information, and that there is NO SOURCE for that claim.
The rest of his commentary... well, I'm not addressing it.
I'm a journalist, and I'm simply pointing out that a piece of PROPAGANDA has been almost universally proven to be just that: false propaganda.
Unless you have an autopsy from the US Gov't stating otherwise?
Oh, right. That hasn't been released.

No less a far-right site "Washington Times" has an article about this:

I would post the Snopes link, which links to the CNN video, showing "men" trying to REVIVE the ambassador, but I'm not sure anyone would accept its authenticity.

Paul Bonneau said...

"The question becomes, with what I see as a homegrown insurgency brewing in the United States, how can our own government which recognizes that a successful counterinsurgency strategy involves empowering the people, rush so hard to failure in trying to curb the freedoms of Americans?"

I suspect the answer is a combination of impatience, arrogance and stupidity. Also, when one has a vast abundance of military power, the temptation for using it - as opposed to using less spectacular and instantly gratifying means, like connecting with the people - must be overwhelming. I don't think we have to worry that the ruling class and their minions are going to wise up, either.