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US Army Counter-insurgency manual
December 19, 2006 2:57 AM   Subscribe

So, you want to run a counter-insurgency? (Large .pdf of the current US Army counter-insurgency manual.)
posted by wilful (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
OK so this wont be to the taste of everyone...

I find it rather odd that the US army would release this publicly. Is it really of no use to insurgents? Maybe it's deliberate misinformation?

If legit, I guess it's effectiveness needs evaluating - I mean, current operations are going just swell, aren't they?
posted by wilful at 3:00 AM on December 19, 2006


Perfect and thanks wilful. I need this. Those evil bastards running the Rotary Club won't know what hit 'em.
posted by hal9k at 3:20 AM on December 19, 2006


Jihadists Read, Mock New U.S. Army Guide
posted by amberglow at 3:34 AM on December 19, 2006


Just skimming the introduction, but I found a nice list of bullet points - "Forces that learn CO[unter]IN[telligence] effectively have generally: "
I really don't wish to sound callous or like an armchair general, but wouldn't it be extremely easy to find examples where every single one of these ideas was repeatedly and blatantly turned on its head in Iraq?
Especially since the text goes on to point out the importance of learning from your mistakes - for both sides. And the insurgents seem to be way ahead in the game at this stage.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:39 AM on December 19, 2006


Amberglow, I expected an Onion article or, more likely, an imitator's less clever satirical take. But no, that's real Jihadist mockery.

At least the Glossary will help my IMing skills.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:42 AM on December 19, 2006


"Arabic, fool? Do you speak it?"

From what I can tell, no, no American intelligence guys don't.

And don't get me started on Farsi or Pashto. Knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia would help too -- I taught it to 14 yo's once, and it took about a week.

But I'm sure some nice person got a few promotions for this garbage.
posted by bardic at 3:58 AM on December 19, 2006


So, bardic: You've read it? Do you have some specific criticisms?

Put another way: What, exactly -- or, for that matter, even generally -- makes this document "garbage"? Is it just the fact that the document exists that bothers you, or is there some element of the doctrine it espouses that you disagree with?

Are you saying that unit commanders don't know the difference between Sunni and Shi'a? Then say it, don't imply it. We all know that US soldiers don't speak Arabic or Pashto or Farsi. We also all know (you included) that it's not realistic to expect them to, given current operational constraints (strained troop strength, the manifest dangers to soldiers and civilians of soldiers mixing with the populace, etc.).

It is realistic to expect special forces soldiers to know regional languages. Or it was, until it became necessary to accelerate training of special forces soldiers.

So, yes, it's "foolish" to try to operate a counter-insurgency without basic cultural knowledge tools like language and culture training. It was foolish to get into the damn war in the first place, and it was foolishly planned, and now we've got tens of thousands of soldiers stuck up the excrement race without milspec hand-powered propulsion devices, and you seem to be bitching about how unsanitary it is for them to be paddling with their hands.

As for the Jihadist mockery, it does kind of read like an Onion article. Or a Freep thread.
posted by lodurr at 4:38 AM on December 19, 2006


I find it rather odd that the US army would release this publicly. Is it really of no use to insurgents? Maybe it's deliberate misinformation?

I've skimmed it. This looks to me like it's really a distillation of standard wisdom on counter-insurgency practice. It's obviously intended as a document that can be easily digested by people who may not have the temperament to easily process dense prose.

In short, this is an introductory text. It's basically Counterinsurgency for Dummies. (Which, if you're actually familiar with the Dummies series, is not an insult.)

One thing you can see about this if you think about it is that the things in this manual won't do jihadists any good. These are best practices -- they're not specific tactics. This is basically a manual on operational mechanics; it's not a play book.

Now, if it were a "play book", it would be of clear value to the enemy -- but not as much as you might think. The officer corps of the US Army has as part of its ethos (and more so since the Vietnam-era officers have risen in rank) the notion that "plans are worthless, but planning is everything" (to paraphrase Eisenhower). That is, you make play books in order to understand how to make plays. Which you will need to do, once the enemy figures out the ones you're running.
posted by lodurr at 4:51 AM on December 19, 2006


lodurr, you're asking me to take this article seriously (which admittedly I only skimmed), and then liken it to an Onion article or Freep thread (I agree). Not sure what your point is.

My specific criticisms? Like not speaking the fricking language of either the people who are supposedly our "friends" or our "enemies"? Yeah, I think that's a pretty good place to start.

Skimming over the .pdf again, what's so shocking is that either A) the US miltary doesn't remember Vietnam or B) is hoping that American citizens will forget it.

I agree, we're stuck there. A document like this is basically astroturfing a decades-long operation of CYA, beginning with cretins like Rumsfeld who've probably hired multiple PR men and biographers to make sure they get his legacy "right." The NRO/Weekly Standard types have already started, mind you: "Well, it would've worked if you hippies the majority of American people had just listened to Grand Wizard Rumselfd more often. Cuz this shit is hard work!

To wit (a Dem, mind you.)

It's tragic that hundreds, if not thousands of more Americans (in terms of Iraqis, probably tens-of-thousands) will have to die for a mistake. It's criminal, IMO, that the US military has completely bent over and taken it from George Bush in order to throw fig leaves over his naked, atrocious failures as POTUS. (Then again, I'm hopeful that more Generals and below will wake up and realize that more time spent in Iraq = both more American dead and a longer Iranian hegemony throughout the whole region, even if they've got a few wunderkind who can put together this facile piece of obviousness.)

Shorter: "No Shit Sherlock."
posted by bardic at 5:10 AM on December 19, 2006


Err, missed your point on the "mockery" bit. But reading high-falutin' "Military Intelligence" pieces like this confirms that our military is doomed to failure in Iraq, and frankly, always has been.

How could Jihadists not laugh at this, and more importantly, the Iraqi Shia and Sunni (with no, no, no connection to Al Qaeda previous to 9/11) who are actively waging not a religious insurgency, but a tribal/quasi-nationalist one?

There's a reason why Iraqi Sunnis refer to their Iraqi Shia enemy as "the Iranians."

Perhaps more importantly, there's a reason why 97% of Americans don't get this bitter, and quite funny, joke.
posted by bardic at 5:15 AM on December 19, 2006


Now they tell us. Seems like it's the American people's fault for not having the stomach for the war, for "cutting and running," for not getting behind Our Fearless Leader in his quest for Heimat Sekurität . . . according to the Kristols and Kondrackes of the world, anyway. If only we'd had this valuable guide earlier, sheesh, we'd be out of Iraq and Baghdad would be Paris on the Euphrates today, full of happy, smiling, liberated people.

I posted a better PDF guide to victory in Iraq a few days ago. Compare and contrast. And then let's try putting the grunts in charge for a while and see if things improve. They can't get worse. Scratch that. They can, and they are. Daily.
posted by spitbull at 5:18 AM on December 19, 2006


For Shias, it wasn’t necessary: after the war Iraq’s Shia triumphalism was shared by all Shia parties; Iraq was now theirs and could not be taken away except by the Americans. There was no threat of Sunnis retaking the country because they had never taken it before: they had been given it, first by the Ottomans and then by the British. Iraq’s Sunnis, unsurprisingly, felt intimidated, and they increasingly came to view Shias as Iranians or Persians, refusing to recognize that Shias were the majority or that Shias had been singled out for persecution under Saddam. Sunnis were the primary victims of American military aggression and viewed Shias as collaborators. As Shias became the primary victims of radical Sunni terror attacks against Iraqi civilians, they came to view Sunnis as Baathists, Saddamists, or Wahhabis. Yet Shias showed restraint amid daily attacks meant to provoke a civil war; they knew the numbers were on their side.
posted by bardic at 5:19 AM on December 19, 2006


Surprised no one's mentioned Mr Packer's article from last week's New Yorker.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:26 AM on December 19, 2006


On Oct. 26, the Army released an updated field manual for Soldiers called "Urban Operations." The manual declares, "The goal of modern warfare is control of the populace." That goal applies to domestic as well as foreign operations: "From the mid-1950s through the 1990s, the Army conducted UO [urban operations] in the U.S. . . . during civil unrest and anti-Vietnam [War] protests."
posted by hortense at 5:59 AM on December 19, 2006


It's criminal, IMO, that the US military has completely bent over and taken it from George Bush in order to throw fig leaves over his naked, atrocious failures as POTUS.

News flash -- that's exactly what they are supposed to do. It's not the job of the military to act as a check and balance.

You want to know who was supposed to say something? The people and the press. You know what they did? Reelected Bush and kept a majority GOP Congress, and kept telling and retelling the lies that led to this.

IOW, it's this nations fault -- all of us citizens, every one. Those who didn't support the war cowered under the threats of those who did. As a result, I think over a million have perished, between Afghanistan and Iraq.

Don't try to blame the military. The military did exactly what the Constitution demanded of them. They followed the orders of the Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy. They tried to warn us. Remember this guy. DSM, three Bronze Stars, with V, two Purple Hearts, four stars, and one phrase "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers."

What has General Shinseki done since? What duty has required him to. He's kept silent, because that's what a solider does, because while president like Bush is a grave threat to our freedoms, a military willing to overthrow him is a vastly greater threat.

It is our duty to speak for him.
posted by eriko at 6:02 AM on December 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


Kingfisher, that's a phrase nobody's ever said before. Kudos.
posted by Phred182 at 6:04 AM on December 19, 2006


He's kept silent, because that's what a solider does, because while president like Bush is a grave threat to our freedoms, a military willing to overthrow him is a vastly greater threat.

I disagree. Good soldiers should be brave enough to speak truth to power and, in this case, rank idiocy.

There's plenty of blame to go around, I agree. But if officers didn't speak up and more of their troops got killed because of their political calculus, they are failures. Over-paid ones at that.
posted by bardic at 6:05 AM on December 19, 2006


That was a weird potshot at officer pay.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on December 19, 2006


IOW, it's this nations fault -- all of us citizens, every one.

There is no cabal lalalalalala

MetaFilter: I've skimmed it
posted by prostyle at 6:33 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


bardic: ... high-falutin' "Military Intelligence" pieces like this...

Very well, then -- I'll restate my point in your terms: THIS IS NOT A "HIGH-FALUTIN' MILITARY INTELLIGENCE PIECE".

It's an introductory manual. It's probably targeted at senior noncoms and junior officers.

AGAIN: You are applying a ridiculous standard. It's as though you've picked up a CS 101 text and got incensed that it doesn't include a detailed discussion of how to implement cellular automata in PERL.

You are also aiming at the wrong target. This is not the target you need to aim at. You need to aim at policy. This is remedial education. It's COIN 101, not COIN 601.
posted by lodurr at 6:35 AM on December 19, 2006


bardic: if officers didn't speak up and more of their troops got killed because of their political calculus, they are failures. Over-paid ones at that.

Easy enough to say. But what if you think that they'll be better off if you're still around to advocate on their behalf, as opposed to wandering in the [civilian] wilderness?

Is it cowardice to believe that your words will fall on deaf ears -- that your sacrifice will be worse than useless, will leave your comrades and subordinates with no advocate? To believe that it's better that they have a hamstrung advocate than none at all?

Is it cowardice to be jaded?

And for that matter: How do you know they're not "speaking truth to power", now? What are the options? Do you want the Joint Chiefs to hold a press conference -- to go outside the chain of command -- and tell the press what's wrong? I'm sure that would set a wonderful precedent for discipline in the ranks.

Of course, it might do just that -- they could go all Smedley Butler on the SecDef and the Pres. But even Smedley Butler waited until after he left the Army. Any suggestion that serving flag officers do that kind of thing has to be made with the clear understanding that it means the end of their careers, in order to be credible.
posted by lodurr at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


"... after he left the Army ..." » "... after he left the Marine Corps ..."
posted by lodurr at 6:46 AM on December 19, 2006


Electrodes! Apply directly to the the testicles!

(or is it not that kind of counter-insurgence manual?)
posted by Artw at 7:04 AM on December 19, 2006


Next up: Terrorists vandalise counter insurgency wiki.
posted by Artw at 7:06 AM on December 19, 2006


(or is it not that kind of counter-insurgence manual?)

Geeze, that's COIN 701: Appendix C, Subsection II: Paragraph 3,245; Ref [1]

Get it straight, it's apathetic citizens like you that caused all of this in the first place! Fuck!
posted by prostyle at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2006


spitbull: I posted a better PDF guide to victory in Iraq a few days ago. Compare and contrast.

Captain Patriquin's "guide" is clever (if mind bogglingly simplistic and frighteningly optimistic), but it's not actually a "guide to victory", now, is it? And neither is this simple counter-insurgency manual.

Let me know when you guys are actually interested in doing something besides chuckling knowingly and constructing simplistic armchair 'roadmaps to victory'.
posted by lodurr at 7:31 AM on December 19, 2006


Let me know when you guys are actually interested in doing something besides chuckling knowingly and constructing simplistic armchair 'roadmaps to victory'.

What? I haven't provided you with my PDF just yet! Here's a teaser on the title: Irony 101: Lodurr's Special Journey
posted by prostyle at 7:37 AM on December 19, 2006


Irony. Such a useful exercise.
posted by lodurr at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2006


“you make play books in order to understand how to make plays.”

Well said.

Re: military bending over - The purpose of the military is to defend society, not to define it. More here.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2006


I disagree. Good soldiers should be brave enough to speak truth to power and, in this case, rank idiocy.

Shinseki did. He wasn't the only one. Power did not listen. What should have Gen. Eric Shinseki have done afterward?

Refused orders? Then he's relieved of duty and faces court martial, and the next Chief of Staff gets the same order.

Ordered the forces of the United States to ignore the orders of SecDef and the President? No person wearing stars, no matter how many, has that authority.

Remove the President? Dude, Bush has done enough to destroy the freedoms of this country, but that would be nothing compared to a military coup.
posted by eriko at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2006


I find it rather odd that the US army would release this publicly. Is it really of no use to insurgents? Maybe it's deliberate misinformation?

It's a field manual. Those have always been publicly available. You can often find them at used book sales. Field manuals are generally written for junior officers, non-coms and enlisted men. They are also usually pretty generic. This is no different.

But if officers didn't speak up and more of their troops got killed because of their political calculus, they are failures.

I think you fundamentally misunderstand how the military works. As an officer, you may make suggestions to superiors. But after those suggestions have been rebuffed, you still have to do what you've been told to do, or resign your commission, at which point you will be replaced by someone else who will have to do what he's been told to do.

I really don't think you want the military interfering in the political process.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2006


That is to say,

metafilter: real Jihadist mockery.
posted by Phred182 at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2006


So what we have here is basically a War of Technical Writers and PDFs. When the invasion of Iraq was being prepared in 2001/2002 I was struck by the absurdly low numbers of occupation troops being mooted. I later compared it here to the UK's military occupation of Northern Ireland following the suspension of its dysfunctional 1970s government and the period of direct rule. For a much less hostile and engaged population, and with basically a simple 2-way strruggle, scaling it up to Iraq's size led to a comparable troop requirement of around 750,000 to repeat the "success" of Northern Ireland. The IRA produced its own training manual about how to combat occupation, and updated it through the decades. It was notable that the UK occupation troops in southern Iraq found that Iraqi resistance fighters were using IRA tactics and technologies for IEDs and remote explosive detonation within months that had taken decades to evolve. It's a WikiWiki War.
posted by meehawl at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Also, there are less salubrious manuals for occupation forces. It's still amazing to me that the British had to use tanks to free their two crap 007s who were setting bombs using native disguises.
posted by meehawl at 9:39 AM on December 19, 2006


Is it possible for insurgents to backwards-engineer counter-insurgency manuals? "Look, they do this expecting us to do this, so we do this to make them do that while our second team does something else entirely!" Hell, with all the various manuals floating around, maybe every good insurgency needs a staff of kick-ass research librarians.
posted by davy at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2006


And now of course there's this.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:01 AM on December 19, 2006


(also I believe some military personnel have sent group letters of protest to their representatives, which is not “protest” which might be a problem.)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:15 AM on December 19, 2006


I find it interesting that the fools can still mock the US Army and laugh at it's 'remnants' while they die in droves. While this war has certainly been handled terribly, they should probably begin understanding that every man woman and child in iraq will be dead by the time half the 'remnants' of the army have fallen at the current rate of exchange. No wonder they're still fighting, they're just counting on us being nice. Silly insurgents, taking advantage of America's compassion.
posted by IronLizard at 10:24 AM on December 19, 2006


No wonder they're still fighting, they're just counting on us being nice. Silly insurgents, taking advantage of America's compassion.

Yeah, White Phosphorous is like a pinch on the cheek. You little rascals!

While this war has certainly been handled terribly, they should probably begin understanding that every man woman and child in iraq will be dead by the time half the 'remnants' of the army have fallen at the current rate of exchange.

You might want to begin understanding that every dollar we've loaned will be gone three times over by the time our Mission is Accomplished. Hurf Durf stupid Iraqis!
posted by prostyle at 10:32 AM on December 19, 2006


George Packer's article on counter-insurgency in this week's New Yorker is highly recommended for those who'd like to read more on the subject.
posted by CRM114 at 12:39 PM on December 19, 2006


Oh I agree: The New Yorker should be required reading for every American pseudointellectual. It's right up there with Fark!
posted by davy at 12:55 PM on December 19, 2006


Well, but the New Yorker doesn’t have boobies. Unless I’m misreading those cartoons...
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2006


In many ways, IronLizard is right -- if he isn't being sarcastic. The US could simply start murdering everyone wantonly, like wars have been waged for hundreds of years, i.e. treat the whole place like Dresden.
Not advocating that, of course, but it does seem like if you wage some war, you'd do well to get your wage right the fuck on.

You might want to begin understanding that every dollar we've loaned will be gone three times over by the time our Mission is Accomplished. Hurf Durf stupid Iraqis!

Well, we could steal all their shit after we murder them all. Who knows, they might have something valuable.
posted by undule at 3:54 PM on December 19, 2006


treat the whole place like Dresden

Didn't all those years of bombing in WW2 eventually just show that you had to put boots on the ground to get anywhere? Germany was beaten in the land battles at Kursk, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow, Normandy, Berlin and during the Bagration offensive. Butcher Harris kept claiming that Germany would crumble and surrender but no matter how many tens of thousands of civilians were killed in a single night, blimey if those damn Bosch didn't just keep on fighting! What jolly bad sports. It's not like the Brits had the pulling-together example of the Blitz to learn from or anything.

The US-UK city bombing killed between 300K and 600K Germans, overwhelmingly civilian, with no evidence that it usefully hastened the end of the war. Just think how different things might have been if all those city bombers had instead been targetting railway lines, roads, and concentration camps...
posted by meehawl at 5:22 PM on December 19, 2006


As I recall, the bombing campaign was at least ostensibly strategic. In Europe, civilians weren't explicitly targeted. They just had the bad luck to be German...

Also, I don't think anyone (but maybe Harris, and I'm not convinced of that unless you can cite something -- it's just not what I recall, not saying it's not true) seriously thought the war in Europe was going to be won from the air. We weren't that stupid, then. Or at least, Marshall and Eisenhower weren't that stupid.
posted by lodurr at 7:16 PM on December 19, 2006


I find it rather odd that the US army would release this publicly. Is it really of no use to insurgents? Maybe it's deliberate misinformation?

Not really odd at all. It's an indirect descendant, more or less, of the venerable Small Wars Manual, which the USMC originally developed when putting down the Philippine Insurrection a century ago. (Of course, the Army has to develop its own doctrine -- turf as much as difference in mission.) It's a classic open-source approach. The more transparent your own operation is, the more open it actually is to input and change.

Anyway, no, it isn't a playbook in the sense that you can read it and know exactly when to zig if the Americans zag. But obviously anyone really wanting to defeat us is required to learn a bit about us, like the way we had a whole battallion of tank commanders who had learned cavalry operations from stolen Soviet training manuals. If they're smart, it can't hurt. And if they absorb it, there's actually quite a bit in there that is probably dual-use, i.e. serves an insurgency as much as a counter-insurgency. The key bit is how to become a learning organization.

Captain Patriquin's "guide" is clever (if mind bogglingly simplistic and frighteningly optimistic), but it's not actually a "guide to victory", now, is it? And neither is this simple counter-insurgency manual.

It's strange that people are placing these two documents at odds, as if they offer different prescriptions. They complement each other nicely. Patriquin seems to have been following the do, learn, change (or whatever it is) tempo quite well. The point that the COIN manual would make is that as good advice as Patriquin's PPT may have been for his district, it could easily be bad advice for the next district over -- or next year. And indeed, the idea that we have 100 or so battalions in country doing the exact same thing is precisely the opposite of what this manual, in theory, teaches. They're supposed to all be doing the same thing -- which is to say they're all supposed to be constantly figuring out what works for their zone and adjusting according to conditions.

Turning from this point to the Packer piece, which again is not in any explicit opposition to either of the other two, we have two interesting statements:

American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act.

and

Winning hearts and minds is not a matter of making local people like you—as some American initiates to counterinsurgency whom I met in Iraq seemed to believe—but of getting them to accept that supporting your side is in their interest, which requires an element of coercion.

It would not be inappropriate to say that during the Cold War, the US applied a global-level counterinsurgency strategy consistent with Kilcullen's outline, which is arguably a regional or local recapitulation of classical foreign-policy Realism.

Taking the alleged amorality of Realism to its end point, then, we could conceivably argue that the US was much better at running its counter-insurgency that way. Both times that we engaged our firepower directly in operations that were necessarily COIN-heavy, we got chewed up in the maw. Most of the time, we provided local commanders (dictators like Pinochet) with the equipment and expertise that they asked for, without worrying too much about how they used it. Then we (unfortunately for our national conscience) let them interpret their local conditions.

The hindsight lesson is that if you don't have sufficient control over your local allies they can make you look bad (which isn't the worst thing about it, by far, but from a strategic standpoint). But by the same token you allow 20 or 50 or 100 different local strategies to develop and -- you know -- some of them were successful without being awful.

The major difference between then and now is that we aren't creating the same sorts of alliances. If we could master the global and local strategic imperatives, and possibly figure out how to encourage the creation of these alliances without creating a world full of Abu Ghraibs, then we stand a real chance at winning in the other 75% of the game.
posted by dhartung at 7:34 PM on December 19, 2006


It's strange that people are placing these two documents at odds...

I'm not, really; what I was trying to highlight wasn't Patriquin's attitude (I agree with you about that -- I get more a sense of frustration from that PPT than anything else), but the attitude of the people who present it as some kind of amazing vision that both lights the way and damns the darkness. It's a good idea, and it should be tried, but if I recall correctly something like that has been tried already. Probably it wasn't followed through with sufficient resolve, if it was tried. And it might or might not work.

As you might say, it couldn't hurt. I would say, even if it failed -- i.e., even if it didn't make the Iraqis in Anbar like us -- it would probably help them by improving their sense of unity. Of course, it would most likely also result in what amounts to a warlord society, at least for the forseeable future. But that's better than chaos. I guess.
posted by lodurr at 7:51 PM on December 19, 2006


lodurr, I wasn't specifically aiming at you with that, anyway. No worries.

It's a good idea, and it should be tried, but if I recall correctly something like that has been tried already. Probably it wasn't followed through with sufficient resolve, if it was tried. And it might or might not work.

My comment in the thread about it was that the problem I saw was that beefing up the Iraqi Police in that fashion directly conflicted with the aim of creating a strong, secular Iraqi Army loyal to the central government. Thus it could never be more than an ad hoc, local approach.

Here's another thought. The discussion among the centrist how-can-we-save-this crew has lately leaned more strongly toward splitting Iraq three ways -- Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shi'a Arabs. We would probably have more success working at splitting Iraq nineteen ways -- or at least we would be closer to the COIN vision.

I would even argue that we would have had more success if we'd pursued a more let-a-hundred-flowers-bloom strategy toward the pre-invasion period (or today toward Iran), such as the never-really-considered Plan B put forth to invade just the south and liberate the Shi'a provinces while searching for WMDs. More choices, more options, more flexibility, more chances for success or screwup alike, without all the eggs in the one basket and the one real chance to get it right. (In any case, this is much more of a case of uncracking an egg, a point that shouldn't be forgotten. By myself, certainly.)

Here's another from Packer:
Kilcullen argues that Western governments should establish competing “trusted networks” in Muslim countries: friendly mosques, professional associations, and labor unions. (A favorite Kilcullen example from the Cold War is left-wing anti-Communist trade unions, which gave the working class in Western Europe an outlet for its grievances without driving it into the arms of the Soviet Union.)

A Santayana moment. Left-wing anti-Communist trade unions, just like the ones we created at home! For much the same reason. Of course, in both case studies, they often ended up providing muscle for very right-wing social control agendas -- bricks thrown at protesters and the like. But perhaps Kilcullen remembers that Australia had its own anti-radicalist elements within the trade unions -- which were bought by the CIA and helped bring down Whitlam.

Boy, history's fun! It all fits together like gears sometimes.
posted by dhartung at 9:20 PM on December 19, 2006


I visited the COIN-op center every week when I was in college...
posted by eritain at 9:24 PM on December 19, 2006


Yeah, White Phosphorous is like a pinch on the cheek. You little rascals!

You obviously have no idea how much white phosphorous/PETN/RDX/Napalm/yourfavoriteuglydeathinducingchemical is floating around in ASP's around the country. Let's not even mention how much more is produced daily. Hell, screw all that. Just make it weapons free 24/7, let massive amounts of randomly aimed small arms and crew weapons have their merry way this Christmas.

But this isn't what we want. At least, this isn't what any sane person wants. Additionally, despite your, comment, the money's not even the biggest issue here. I think what I want to point out, besides that our army has the biggest dick (no, not cheney), is the bonehead problem.

See, we have these boneheads in iraq who sound just like the boneheads we have here. Little do these boneheads realize that they're only hurting themselves, their families and neighbors by being so boneheaded. Silly boneheads.

We'll never win this war, because much like vietnam, the word win has pretty much been re-defined in a way to exclude anything we could reasonably hope to accomplish there. We didn't even have a stated objective at the beginning other than finding that which didn't exist. By the same token, the iraqi's fighting our troops (whichever side that was) won't win, either. Left to themselves, they'll be slaughtered by the vast numeric superiority of the side we're on, already. It'll be an ethnic cleansing, much like those seen elsewhere in these times. So, even if they 'win' and we leave : they still lose in the long run. It'll just be bloodier for (maybe) a shorter time.

So, what? We go and let a huge supply of oil get buried under the bodies of an entire ethnic group, losing everything invested in this fiasco. Or we stay, and the violence continues at it's current, somewhat lesser rate, while we grasp at straws, just buying time?

So, it's back to the boneheads. It's not a test of military might anymore. Some might call it a 'test of political will'. I call it three boneheads taking random swipes at each other and getting nowhere because they're too stupid to stop and they know that if they do, the others will just wreck things for the one who withdraws in other, less physically demanding ways.

So, while you're plugging away at how we should just leave now and let the genocide commence because it's too expensive (even though this completely our responsibility as a country, unlike darfur, ect) I'd just like to ask you how you like your dead arabs. Burned, shot or pureed? Who would you prefer prepare this tasteless dish for you?
posted by IronLizard at 9:34 PM on December 19, 2006


Oy. In Packer's profile we learn that Kilcullen's boss is Henry Crumpton, career CIA officer. He just quit.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel all right -- and it's gaining.
posted by dhartung at 11:30 PM on December 19, 2006


I'd just like to ask you how you like your dead arabs.

Sovereign.
posted by pompomtom at 11:37 PM on December 19, 2006


The US Army releasing a manual on counterinsurgency warfare is like the French knights of Agincourt releasing a manual on how to use a longbow.
posted by Ritchie at 12:28 AM on December 20, 2006


Er.... right.

In the heated pursuit of the bon mot, let us not confuse the US military with the political apparatus that deploys it. Or, for that matter, it's own Vietnam-era incarnation.

Also, let's get our metaphors straight. It would be like the french knights producing a manual on defense against the longbow. ["1.1 When facing massed ranks of armor-piercing projectile weapons, do not charge head-on with easily-pierced armor."]

Or maybe the relative merits of crank-tensioned crossbows versus longbows. ["2.3 Where the effectiveness of weapons is similar, rate of fire will trump other factors."]

With the result that, you know, maybe they would have tried to use their superior numbers to do something silly like Flank that rascally Henry chap. Get those longbows pointing somewhere else so they could get the armor in close where it could do some good. (Not that I'd wish for a different outcome on that one. I likes my anglocentric culture just fine.)

The actual irony is that there's never really been a shortage of bright guys in the US military who could see how to deal with the problems that faced it. There has occasionally -- as during the Macnamara and Rumsfeld eras -- been an unwillingness to listen to them. (The difference being that in Macnamara's time, the deafness was more systemic, penetrating down to the junior officer corps.)
posted by lodurr at 3:32 AM on December 20, 2006


In Europe, civilians weren't explicitly targeted.

Arial bombing targets entire urban centres for annihilation. How is that not explicit targetting of civilians? The only reason *to* target those areas is because they are chock full of civilians.

It was actually Fred Lindmann in 1942 who proposed to "dehouse" the German population. Harris seizon the paper and used it as justification right through until 1945.

It was a controversial policy even during the war. It was notable that as news of Dresden emerged, even Churchill scrambled to distance himself from the strategy. Harris responded to this by repeating his claim that bombing would shorten the war, and his famous quip that all the cities in Germany were not worth the life on one British soldier.

I don't think anyone (but maybe Harris ... seriously thought the war in Europe was going to be won from the air.

Arial bombing was never really about strategic goals - it was a terror weapon. Only the most deluded believed it was superior (morally or tractically) to precision bombing. By the end of the way most of the US and UK generals did indeed know this. Nevertheless, Harris was allowed to continue his rampages. Only the most Wellsian believed that aerial warfare could win the war - many believed it could shorten it. My argument is that precision bombing of military and industrial facilities would have been more effective. However, these were usually quite well defended and the casualty averse UK and US forces therefore the easy targets of night raids on lightly defended cities.

The classic book on this matter is Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. Taylor's thesis? Late-stage city bombings were designed to both appease Stalin and to warn him that the Western Powers would use scorched earth tactics were the Red Army to advance past Berlin.
posted by meehawl at 5:39 AM on December 20, 2006


For anybody not familiar with the details of the bombing of Dresden: Dresden was the Florence of Germany -- an old cultural city, filled with art treasures and architectural master pieces. It had never been bombed during five years of war, and was therefore filled with refugees and almost totally undefended when the British attacked on the 13th of February 1945.

Supposedly, the objective of the bombing was to cut of the supply lines to the German Eastern front, something that might be achievable in Dresden, if they had only destroyed the railway bridge over the river Elben. But the bridge wasn't damaged, and it wasn't even mentioned as a target for the British attack. But they did succeed in "showing the Russians what Bomber Command could do", starting a fire storm that killed between 20000 and 100,000 people. Anybody interested in knowing why it is difficult to know the exact number should read Kurt Vonnegut's book "slaughterhouse nr 5" for the gory details.

Five years before, the British accused the Germans of bombing hospitals in England. In Dresden the RAF destroyed all the 19 permanent hospitals, and almost all nonpermanent hospitals. The biggest children's hospital was a bombed several times with explosives and firebombs, and then shot at with machine guns from American Mustang planes, killing 45 pregnant women.
posted by JoddEHaa at 6:33 AM on December 20, 2006


Oh I agree: The New Yorker should be required reading for every American pseudointellectual. It's right up there with Fark!

Or feel free not to read anything, asshole. I'm sure that'll really bolster your genuine intellectual credentials.
posted by CRM114 at 7:26 AM on December 20, 2006


Oh I agree: The New Yorker should be required reading for every American pseudointellectual. It's right up there with Fark!

Granted, the magazine hasn't been the same since Tina Brown left, but when I linked to the article orginally, I thought the material was interesting and worth reading. If, rather than sneering at my and CRM114's middlebrow tastes you could, as others have done, respond to the article itself, or point us to other and better readings, you would be more in keeping with the better traditions of Mefi.

Your choice, of course.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:52 PM on December 22, 2006


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