18
May
10

Pentagon: No More Counterinsurgency

A while back my 2014: The Exodus post got this comment DMM — you really think the U.S. Army / National Guard is gonna have much trouble with a few rednecks with guns? They’re been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and those guys have 10 x the training and 1/100th the fear of some dude who puts on a camouflage hat and thinks he’s a warrior.

Of course, I already knew the answer to that and the Elusive Wapiti just did a book review on 4th generation warfare that also somewhat addresses this issue. On Sunday I came across the following article stating “U.S. military strategists are quietly shifting gears, saying that large-scale counterinsurgency efforts cost too much and last too long. This is of course what the naysayers that don’t belong to the I-am-against-this-war-because-a-republican-is-executing-it crowd* have been saying regarding the ultimate fate of the engagements. The US simply doesn’t have the stomach for long, drawn-out engagements and we no longer have the financial wherewithal to do so, as also noted by this article.

The biggest spur, however, is a growing recognition that large-scale counterinsurgency battles have high casualty rates for troops and civilians, eat up equipment that must be replaced and rarely end in clear victory or defeat.

In addition, military thinkers say such wars have put the U.S.’s technologically advanced ground forces on the defensive while less sophisticated insurgent forces are able to remain on the offensive.

Counterinsurgency “is a good way to get out of a situation gone bad,” but it’s not the best way to use combat forces, said Andrew Exum, a fellow with the Washington-based Center for a New American Security. “I think everyone realizes counterinsurgency is a losing proposition for U.S. combat troops. I can’t imagine anyone would opt for this option.”

Of course, counterinsurgency was held forth as a sure thing during the Bush administration. The “surge” was lauded as the answer to the rising insurgency, and once the troops were in the arena we did indeed see a decrease in the violence. But continued heavy presence is not feasible fiscally, politically or strategically as it tends to increase the number of insurgents or those who are sympathetic to their cause. Further, more troops simply delay, not stop, acts of insurgency from occurring, and doesn’t change the “hearts and minds” of the people who still want to carry out such acts but who rationally decide its not worth the risk at the time.

In a confrontation with standard borders and forces the US military will easily quash their enemies in 3rd Gen Warfare as long as we have the money to prosecute a war, the financials of which is becoming ever shakier. But 4th Gen Warfare is a response to 3GW and is in ways superior to it. 4GW will never produce spectacular, overnight results. However, it can take numerous, even constant, defeats and still come out the victor by simply wearing down the will of its opponent to continue the fight. It does this by being malleable and being impossible to defeat in the types of head on confrontations that 3GW militaries excel in. 4GW troops simply melt away and back into the ranks of civilians which provides them both protection and anonymity. In contrast, 3GW militaries are marked by their rigidity and non-mobile bases which means they can be both identified and located reliably which the more mobile 4GW opponents use relentlessly against them.

So to answer Dan’s comment, yes, the most powerful military in the world does indeed have problems with a few rednecks with guns.

* It is interesting to note that the anti-war protesters are gone now that Obama is in office, despite no real change in what we are doing overseas

** I think its also worth noting that our military superiority almost ensures that the only actions our military will be tasked with are 4GW as there are only a few countries who could seriously think about challenging us, and not too many more if you figure an alliance of two nations

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22 Responses to “Pentagon: No More Counterinsurgency”


  1. May 18, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    I understand your point. I think that this is a complex issue that cannot be oversimlified without losing the essential elements neccessary for understanding.

    1. Insurgencies are not random events that just happen and therefore need to be countered. They are deliberate campaigns put together by informed actors. When such actors are incompetent, even small military forces are more than a match for them. They often die (or go to jail) so quickly that they do not even make the news.

    2. Military professionals acknowledge that there is a “spectrum of operations” from global nuclear war to assistance to local communities (digging wells), and everything in between. Insurgencies fit within that contintineum. Nor are they one-size-fits-all.

    3. Through effective military action, sometimes it is the insurgents who are worn down and give up, or sometimes they sift to political action instead of military action.

    4. When the goals of your national military policy are important, then the cost must be paid, even if it is very expensivce and takes a long time. The communists in our ouwn country advocated that we should surrender at every step of the Cold War, including the campaigns in Vietnam, Cambodia, Berlin and Korea. During parts of it, we fought against various insurgencies with some success right up until we surrendered. In the current struggles, the only way we could lose is to give up.

    5. Military force is not the only element of national power that a nation can use to thwart an insurgency.

    6. The East-West paradigm by which we define insurgencies is probably obsolete in dealing with the Islamic 14th century minded peoples that we are currently fighting.

    7. We may disagree about our current policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we cannot avoid that eventually we must do something about the Islamic world. Current immigration policies globally are permitting the spread of an ideology that is violently opposed to our own way of life. They will inevitably come into conflict. It is to our advantage to chose the time and place. Waiting until we are over-run with their wretched refuse who can then vote us into extinction will be too late.

  2. May 18, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    dan,
    true. Yet certain communities may have local numerical superiority and yet have violent disagreement with the majority. That was the beauty of a system of government where the majority rule was restrained by a Constitution that limiteds the powers a government could offer to a majority in exchange for a vote. But now that the Constitution is universally ignored, all bets are off.

  3. May 18, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    “This is all based on a very VERY large assumption: that the civilian population, by and large, supports the insurgents. In America that is simply not the case. If the civilian population overwhelmingly opposes the government it will change it via voting, without bloodshed. Any desperate “uprising” against the government, by its very definition, cannot have broad support of the populace in this country.”

    I do not agree. By and large, every civilian populace just wants to be left alone and survive. That was is true in Afghanistan today and was true during the American Revolutionary War in 1776. It only takes a small motivated fraction of the population to overthrow a government. What is required, however, is agnosticism among the bulk of the public as to which government is better. That of the host government, or that proposed by the insurgents.

    I do not believe for a minute that overwhelming opposition to the government would be peaceful and blood-free. Not in this day and age.

    I’m actually kinda looking forward to the changes that 4GW will wreak on our society. I am looking forward to population that demands government serve them, not ask “what can I do for my country?”.

    DMM, thanks for the link.

  4. May 18, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Dan,

    When you write “Any desperate “uprising” against the government, by its very definition, cannot have broad support of the populace in this country.” what definition of uprising are you using? Even when modified with the term desperate it still has no meaning that would support that statement.

    Could an uprising happen and gain sufficient support from the populace? Its happened twice in this country, once successfully and once not, but it has happened.

  5. May 19, 2010 at 4:28 AM

    It has happened more than twice.

  6. 6 slumlord
    May 19, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Phoenix Program?

    The problem is that a modern western democracy has difficulties with dealing with long term commitments, especially commitments which cost blood. That’s why LeMay was right, in insisting that any wars that the U.S chooses to wage should be short otherwise the U.S. should not enter the war. Democracy does not have a capacity to endure long term commitments which are painful.

    The other issue here is that sometimes the best response to a counter insurgency is political rather than military. But that implies a certain degree of intelligence amongst the politicians, perhaps it’s best to stick with military solutions.

  7. May 19, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    7. We may disagree about our current policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we cannot avoid that eventually we must do something about the Islamic world. Current immigration policies globally are permitting the spread of an ideology that is violently opposed to our own way of life. They will inevitably come into conflict. It is to our advantage to chose the time and place. Waiting until we are over-run with their wretched refuse who can then vote us into extinction will be too late.

    The immediate answer is to cut off the flow of immigration and to expel those here illegally. Both of which our politicians are unwilling to due. The longer term solution is to convert the muslims to another religion. I’d vote Christianity but most anything would be better for the long term safety of the West.

    Also, I would be interested in what you have to say regarding your #6, your “East-West paradigm”

  8. May 19, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    Slumlord,

    You pointed out the biggest weakness that a society such as ours has in prosecuting a war. If it goes on long enough it will be unpopular, especially if there is no forward momentum to be seen. Since there are no armies to crush and no front line to advance there is no momentum to be seen by the populace.

  9. 9 slumlord
    May 19, 2010 at 11:44 PM

    Doubleminded

    You pointed out the biggest weakness that a society such as ours has in prosecuting a war.

    Then the smart thing to do is not to fight it.

    The immediate answer is to cut off the flow of immigration and to expel those here illegally.
    That a lot’s smarter and politically expedient. I’ve often wondered why the U.S. or any country for that matter, simply stops accepting any people from states which pose a risk to national security. Oh, I forget…. that would be racism. Still that’s that way it’s gonna end up.

  10. May 20, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    Then the smart thing to do is not to fight it.

    All wars are not alike. But we should accept that there may be some wars where surrender is not an option. THis is not to say that there might not be more profitable ways to fight the war than shipping 125K troops to the other side of the planet and rotating them out every 12 months (4 months for Marines, 3 months for Air force).

    In the war against global islam, we could have certainly ignored 9-11 and just continued to take one on the chin every 3-5 years. We could have had our president make speeches about “not resting until those responsible are brought to justice”, and then quietly go back to doing nothing… just like before. But eventually even a country as large as ours must come to the realization that those ankle-biters are becomming a major irritant and need to be swatted down. You don’t have to call it a war. But you do have to strike back in self defense.

    It is arguably NOT the smart thing to do to submit to another country being at war with you while you do nothing. Our government has a moral obligation to protect and preserve our citizens and institutions against foreign manufactured attrocities.

  11. May 20, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    I do not subscribe to that opinion.

    What part? That the Constitution is universally ignored or that all bets are off?

  12. May 20, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    What do you call it then the federal government exercises powers that are not granted to it? When the executive, legislature and judicial branches all take powers for themselves, not granted in the constitution. Then instead of acting as checks and balances they act as co-conspirators? When political speech is regulated but Porn is sacred? When religious expression is suppressed? When valuable private property is seized without warrant or trial? When family courts are established to ensure no equality before the law? When tax courts assume guilty until proven innocent? When the Government can interfere in every matter of your personal life including what you eat and how much water you use to flush your toilet?

    I will grant you that YOU may not ignore the constitution, and I may not ignore the constitution. But both political parties, all judges, legislators and politically appointed federal department chiefs ignore it whenever they please. The same is true at teh state level.

    The one question public officials never ask themselves is: What gives me the power to do this?

  13. May 20, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    Of course the Constitution was not exhaustive. That was never its intent. The intent was to LIMIT the scope, and therefore the size, of the Federal Government. I think that the Tenth Amendment makes that abundantly clear “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Now recall that this amendment was one of ten called the Bill of Rights that was required to get consensus to get the Constitution passed. Various Signers feared that even the limitations in the Constitution itself were not strong and obvious enough and so added that additional wording.

  14. May 20, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    And how about the Commerce Clause which states: [The Congress shall have power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes but is used to regulate everything, even if the product stays withing the state, never crossing a border, and as in the case Wickard v. Filburn gets upheld by the Courts as affecting those things which will not be sold or traded, in that particular case, wheat grown by a farmer for his own consumption. SCOTUS ruled that it affected interstate commerce and so ruled against a farmer growing wheat for his own non-commercial use. By extension (and this is not a stretch in the slightest) this means that the FedGov can regulate your own personal vegetable garden.

    And how about this very recent ruling by SCOTUS that certain criminals can now be held past their sentence without a new trial or new charges being placed upon them? That ruling violates both the 5th and 8th amendments

    5th: No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, … nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

    8th: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  15. 15 slumlord
    May 21, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    Prof Hale

    In the war against global islam, we could have certainly ignored 9-11 and just continued to take one on the chin every 3-5 years.

    I personally would have taken a Mossad type of approach. But that’s the problem with a populist democracy, the public bays for blood and the politicians need to put on a show. Democracies don’t do subtlety.

  16. 16 slumlord
    May 21, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    sorry about the italics

  17. May 21, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    The purpose fo the Constitution was never to describe all possible laws, but to establish and define the federal government. It therefore places limits on how that government operates. Limits that our government does not recognize. Those limits are essential to prevent mob rule or the situation where the majority could permanetly suppress the rights of the minority. It is working out so far pretty well for the racial and ethnic minorities.

    The new minority is the man with the job and middle class income. The majority of people who pay no federal taxes are deciding how the federal taxes will be spent and see nothing wrong with raising more of them (on the minority).

    The Constitution was written to prevent that from happening. It has failed. Even the civil rights act of 1964, recently back in the news thanks to Rand Paul, was an unconstitutional regulation of private property. The courts, legislatures and executive branches all agreed to enforce it anyway. Even the States only objected to the violation of states rights, not the unconstitutional imposition on personal rights.

  18. May 21, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    …But that’s the problem with a populist democracy,

    I disaggree. I think that the American people would have been pleased to read in the paper that “Bad guys died mysteriously on the other side of the planet last night”.

  19. May 21, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    The War On Drugs is another example. The War On Booze required a Constitutional Amendment to prosecute. Why? Because the FedGov had no authority in the original Constitution to do any such thing. so why is it that the gov does so now with drugs? It has no Amendment that grants it such authority?

    And how about the Income Tax? The original income tax, part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894. This tax was decided by the United States Supreme Court to be unconstitutional in 1895. Why? Because it was a tax on “property” and it was a direct tax without respect to the census and therefore unapportioned. The income tax raised its ugly head again after the 16th Amendment was passed, but SCOTUS ruled repeatedly that the 16th “conferred no new power of taxation”* If no new powers were granted, then the new is as unconstitutional as the old. Still all three branches of the FedGov play along as it is to their benefit.

    *Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co., 240 U.S. 103 (1916); see also Brushaber v. Union Pac. R. Co., 240 U.S. 1 (1916).

  20. 20 Tarl
    May 23, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    But eventually even a country as large as ours must come to the realization that those ankle-biters are becomming a major irritant and need to be swatted down. You don’t have to call it a war. But you do have to strike back in self defense.

    If Islamic ankle-biters need to be swatted, are two expensive, exhausting, manpower- and money-intensive wars (plus the efforts to turn two Third World shitholes into bastions of freedom and prosperity) the best way to do this? Obviously not. Iraq was not even about swatting terrorist ankle-biters; indeed, it created an ankle-biter problem where there wasn’t one before.

    There has to be a cheaper way to go kill bad guys than invasion and prolonged occupation. Death-dealing drones seem like a good alternative, though we need to stop giving a shit that supposedly these attacks anger the locals.

  21. May 24, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    Tarl,
    If you are really interested, I can explain it to you. But if you are ego-invested in your own position, I don’t see any point wasting my time.


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