Mar 272017

In counterinsurgency operations, tactical successes can often lead to strategic failure. Thus the oft-repeated admonishment to consider second and third order effects. And one of the reasons for this paradox is the prolonged time-horizons inherent in counterinsurgency, as is aptly demonstrated in an article published by West Point’s Modern War Institute:

The concrete barriers emplaced during the “surge” dramatically slowed sectarian violence—for a time—but also cemented the sectarian and ethnic divisions that empowered Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s power grab, contributed to government corruption, and set the conditions for the rise of ISIS. These same divisions will threaten Iraq long after ISIS is defeated if a political solution that incorporates and adequately represents all sects and ethnicities is not further developed.

Population-centric counterinsurgency primarily emphasizes securing the population instead of targeting the enemy and seeks to reinforce the legitimacy of the government while reducing insurgent influence. While US COIN efforts produced an array of tactical successes, the overall result cannot be construed as a total success. This is not a reflection of US service members, their efforts, or their sacrifices, but rather a function of the ambiguity typical of a COIN mission, time constraints, and poor quantitative metrics with which to assess mission progress. While policy debates take place at the strategic level, stop-gap measures and temporary solutions are constantly tried and tested in a process of tactical innovation that attempts to compensate for strategic challenges. However, what appear to be militarily successful tactical innovations can inadvertently compound strategic failures and erode progress toward a political objective. The widespread employment of concrete on the streets of Baghdad offers an illustrative example.

Read more here.

Mar 262017

A recent article by Nathaniel Moir in the Small Wars Journal is well worth the read. In it, he argues that “the legacy of the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine includes a contentious foundation” and that the work of Bernard Fall “provided a more circumspect corpus of work from which the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine may potentially still benefit.”

FM 3-24, written at the height of the Iraq war, was drawn largely from the work of advocates of the French doctrine on “la guerre révolutionnaire.” These included Charles Lacheroy, Roger Trinquier, and David Galula, who fought in Southeast Asia prior to 1954, but as Moir argues, “they failed to integrate understanding of cultural and historical nuances of the Vietnamese Revolution – particularly in terms of what such history meant for Vietnamese – into their operational doctrines.” Instead of understanding the complex origins of the Indochinese War, they developed theories that could be turned to operational use in other contexts, primarily Algeria. T

Conversely, “Bernard Fall integrated sustained scholarship of historical developments and dynamic cultural transformations occurring in Indochina prior to, and during its revolution.”

Read more here: Bernard Fall and Vietnamese Revolutionary Warfare: A Missed Opportunity for Counterinsurgency Doctrine?

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