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December 05, 2006

Comments

FYI - link to previous post is broken.

Another excellent post. I especially commend these lines "You can't win a counterinsurgency fight by killing people. Indeed, killing the wrong people is a great way to lose a counterinsurgency campaign, since the entire purpose of counterinsurgency is to gain popular support for your side." to the denizens of Bizarro World.

If you didn't catch it this morning, you should peruse the NPR archives for an interview with a Lt.Col. who is charged with training the trainers to send to Iraq.

While this is a man justly proud of doing his best at a monumentally difficult task, what I found heart-breaking is that the number of people he is training will allow for US trainers to be available only at the battalion level, while the Colonel himself recognized that the only chance for beating the insurgency is to embed US trainers with highly motivated Iraqi troops at the company level.

In plain English, we are STILL engaged in a losing strategy.

ye gods.

[again, thanks for your willingess to rejoin the collective.]

An excellent post, Andrew, and I'll also second what Dantheman said about the passage he quoted.

Our future military must still be capable of fighting such battles, or in time we will risk fighting in high-intensity conflict when we no longer possess such superiority.

I can take this as rejoinder (and a very good one) to my suggestion that making the military into a peacekeeping force was what we should have done. I still disagree, I think we should have used our economic superiority to create conditions where other countries would be unable to engage in a high intensity conflict, and our change in emphasis to having the infrastructure to deal with an existential threat was shaped by the cold war, but I recognize that it is not as clear cut as I would like it to be.

we should have used our economic superiority to create conditions where other countries would be unable to engage in a high intensity conflict

How might we do that? If that's possible, it might well be a lot more cost-effective than maintaining a military, but I'm honestly curious how you could somehow prevent nations from developing conventional forces. How would you propose we convince China to stop its military buildup, for example?

That means we need armed forces capable of fighting and winning against insurgencies as well as in high-intensity conflict.

If high-intensity conflict seems unlikely for the likely future, why should the Army seriously focus on it? Seriously, at what point should the US just say: "we have $X for the armed forces/military, and we will make tradeoffs among the many competing demands."

Even if we lose our current superiority, would we necessarily lose our parity before recognizing that we need to start focusing on it again? (And to respond pre-emptively to the claim that existential threats justify all: which is the US more likely to be vulnerable to: economic destruction due to its current finances, or physical destruction and invasion?)

Thanks for returning/cross-posting.

I'd echo Brian--it takes a *long* time to build up forces that can be used for high-intensity warfare (cf the runups to both WW's),
so the need to be "instantly ready" on a large scale is unclear (compared to being equally ready for the lower-effort stuff)--I'm
happy to hear a counterargument though.

These posts are what I wish we had more of--an exercise in thinking through the issues. I remember thinking, circa 1990 (end of the Cold War) that the Pentagon faced a problem unprecedented in the previous 50 years, namely, what were our armed forces actually *for*? We'd known from 1940-45 (the Axis) and 1945-1990, but there wasn't anyone around who had
really had to address this problem--admittedly, one that goes beyond the military.

Brian/DCA,

Given that building for HIC is hard, and we're already so good at it, I think we're seeing a success at deterrence. All things being equal, I think we'd rather deal poorly with insurgencies than have to deal at all with a 'real' war.

That doesn't really justify the obsession with furthering widening the gap in terms of traditional warfare. It's not like a conventional battle is even a close issue right now (correct me if I'm wrong, Andrew) - so pouring exorbitant amounts of money into "ooh shiny" toys seems like a mis-allocation of resources given the threats currently in existence.

Andrew – WELCOME BACK! Great series of articles and I need to sleep on it. At first reading I would just say: Andrew for SecDef.

Andrew is back!

I'd like to see us honestly examine and redefine our national interests overseas. I'm not in favor of developing an effective counterinnsurgency force if is going to be used to force the equivalent of the Somocistas on to some small country in the name of the "national interest" (ie businness interests or paranoid ideology.) Not that I'm accusing Andrew of that. I'm expressing doubt about our ability to define national interest in a way that is reality based and moral.

I also am very grateful for this series, Andrew.

"Counterinsurgency also requires incredibly disciplined soldiers."

A problem, huh. I guess I should wait for the next post. But Green Berets or Seals are a)very expensive, in terms of time, money, and force protection/support, and b) not scalable. Enough of "right kind" of troops needed in Iraq were simply not available under any imaginable scenario.

Let us say we needed 300k troops. Budgeting another 50k or 100k "supertroops" will be politically difficult over a decade of peace, even if these seasoned disciplined pros were willing to sit shining their pieces and refusing outside offers. 200k? Inconceivable. And considering decent rotations, I think we needed a million for Iraq. I have no reason to believe it inconceivable that the entire ME or Latin America could explode, and 5 million urban counter-insurgency warriors needed. For I do think future wars will be fought in near-hostile cities.

I think the idea of adequate welltrained and disciplined troops simply will not work, will not accomplish the necessary missions. Iraq should have taught us that we do not need a somewhat bigger professional Army, but that we need a huge reserve. Or just forget most missions.

Now it has been my idiotic idea that somehow quantity could turn into quality, with the inspired leadership and tactical officers. The idea is that every pro is watched by one veteran buddy who cares about him, and two inexperienced strangers who won't let him slide. If every Iraqi unit had an equal number of American advisors in it, I suspect we would have decent results.

Draft everyone for two years, teach them to shoot a rifle and teach them Arabic or Spanish or Mandarin, and one other skill, and put them in the reserves.

All things being equal, I think we'd rather deal poorly with insurgencies than have to deal at all with a 'real' war.

Great point Pooh. Only our grandparents still alive actually remember what that is like. Where I live we still have the WWII submarine watch posts on the shoreline, and it is hard to imagine the days when they were manned 24x7. Other generations faced a genuine short term existential threat that is hard to imagine today.

So, do we split the difference and not be capable of fighting that real war if it comes? Can we do both with the same forces, equipment training, and troops?

No easy answer I think.

You raise interesting questions, OCS. However, I think it is clear that we are currently erring way too far towards the HIC side of things over the other. Somewhat ironically, the more we spend on fancy stuff, the more we ensure that we're not likely to face a situation where it will be especially useful or cost-effective. We're victims of our own success, in a way, yet we refuse to acknowledge the obvious as it repeatedly smacks us across the nose.

I don't think it is a question of preventing China (or other nations) from developing conventional forces, it would be in making their populations not be willing to accept a high intensity conflict, ideally (and perhaps overly optimistically) by having them join the consumerist West rather than fight. I cop to this being idealistic, but had we spent a small fraction of the money that we have spent in the past 10 years on weapons systems on trying to raise living standards and such, is it hard to imagine that Afghanistan might not have been such an inviting haven for the Taliban?

Again, this would have required almost superhuman courage, to forego our most powerful weapon(s) and substitute the strength of our ideas, but, as you have pointed out, it may be impossible to adapt the kind of hi-tech systems and emphasis that the current military has for a counter-insurgency campaign. Furthermore, everyone seems to give lip-service to the notion that our ideals are our greatest weapon. Perhaps it is time to actually follow thru on that notion. But that would mean giving up dreams of Red Dawn and Nicaraguan rebels invading Texas, which I have no problem with, but some might have.

I thought this NYTimes article is related to this discussion, in that the strength of AQ and other terrorist movements is in the fact that they are decentralized. I think that everything points to the fact that decentralized systems are superior to centralized systems, unless such centralized systems aim to completely eradicate the opposition.

Sorry this isn't sketched out too well, I will try and put something up at TiO this week.

One thing that is unclear to me is the extent to which Iraq problems are due to inadequate COIN or the overall political situation making our COIN ability irrelevant. My impression is that our COIN effort in Iraq was mediocre, but was that much of a factor in the overall outcome?

Inadequate numbers of US troops, disbanding the existing Iraqi army and police forces, incompetent and corrupt reconstruction effort, encouraging militias and sectarian division with the structure of the new Iraqi government -- was our COIN ability really that much of a factor in what happened?

I don't think the Iraq failure can be attributed much to the military, but rather to the civilian leadership. The one exception seems to be the highest levels of the military which were complicit in the horrible civilian decision-making.

The inadequate body armor and unarmored humvees was a symptom of that problem rather than a cause of failure.

Looking forward to the next installment, particularly how your prescriptions mesh with or diverge from Rumsfeld et al's plan for a smaller, more agile, Special Forces-oriented military.

To the extent that counterinsurgency operations primarily call for hearts-and-minds thinking, it seems to me the greatest mistake in the military execution of the Iraq War (setting aside the mistake of doing it at all) was the belief that hearts-and-minds could be won with a small force, with (as far as I can tell) no historical precedent.

it would be in making their populations not be willing to accept a high intensity conflict

Hmm...I'd tend to think that their populations would be much more likely to listen to their own government than to us. And I think it's probably in the Chinese government's best self-interest to, for one, figure out what to do with those millions of excess males.

And, sure, we should do what we can to mitigate such things in advance that aren't, for example, sheer figments of the imagination of some guy who's working way more than he ought to. When we can tell the difference, that is.

Hmm...I'd tend to think that their populations would be much more likely to listen to their own government than to us.

Soft power, Slarti. TiVo's and toaster ovens...

First Battlestar Galactica, then Tivo.

Or, first electricity, then television, then something to watch on it, then Tivo.

Dang, wish I could clear the autocomplete buffer without clearing a whole lot of other things.

Sure thing, Daffodil.

Oh, see the things you learn on the internets.

I love it when the autocomplete function on my mac tries to fill in those passwords that tell the blog I'm not a robot. I have done this enough that almost any letter or number will elicit a complete password, which is, naturally, wrong.

COIN is of special interest to me. I took a course in International Conflict in the late 1970s, and it seemed to me that low-intensity conflict was going to be the standard "from now on."

My reasoning at the time was pure Cold War/MAD:

1) Any direct HIC between the US and USSR stood an unacceptable risk of escalating to nuclear war.
2) Therefore, their military and geopolitical conflict was carried out via proxy wars between client states.
3) Which usually meant propping up a compliant satrap government that frequently disregarded the interests and well-being of the client state's citizens.
4) Which led to various "liberationist" movements opposing the superpowers' satrap.
5) Those "liberationist" movements generally fought low-intensity conflicts, because even when they had superpower support, the support was at least nominally covert.
6) Thus we had the US and USSR each supporting its own satraps on the one hand, and supporting guerilla movements opposing each other's satraps on the other.

The end of the Cold War obviously rendered much of my reasoning moot, ending superpower sponsorship of guerilla movements/terrorist organizations. But the lessons of the era - that LIC could empower groups who previously had been shut out of the political process, could be fought on the cheap, could last for decades, and could bring down a government - haven't gone away.

It still seems to me that an LIC model ought to be studied as a SOP for waging armed conflict. And it seems obvious to me that COIN is an essential part of LIC, on all sides of the conflict. My goal in thinking about this is to keep armed conflicts to a minimum, in number, duration, intensity, and damage to the surrounding country.

But doing that would require devoting to LIC as much in professionalism and resources as HIC, only spread out more and in different ways: more intel and counter-intel agents working over extended periods of time; more assassins and saboteurs working at pressure points (command, communications, supply lines) - and more counter-assassins and counter-saboteurs, who'd protect those pressure points.

It isn't so much a matter of creating an LIC/COIN model (any country with an intelligent foreign policy already had elements of those things) as making it at least as important as HIC in terms of resources and brainspace allotted to it.

When Rumsfeld first started talking about re-engineering the military, I thought that's what he had in mind, and I was (cautiously) in favor of it. I'm not sure if that is what he had in mind, or if he was only thinking in terms of mobile mini-armies making lightning strikes and then getting out, which isn't what I'm talking about at all.

I think it is clear that we are currently erring way too far towards the HIC side of things over the other.

I guess I need to make the point in here that Rummy was trying to change this… Wrong place wrong time?

I do worry about the Chinese. If not for that threat I would agree totally. I do see them as a WWII type threat within a decade. I’d love for you to tell me I’m on crack Andrew – I’d sleep better at night.

I guess I need to make the point in here that Rummy was trying to change this… Wrong place wrong time?

No, I don't think so - his obsession with "ooh shiny" was all about stuff that would kill the other guy's "ooh shiny" quickly. I think you're conflating intensity with volume of soldiers. As Andrew has already stated, COIN is much more man intensive than tech intensive.

Well, it worked with the Soviet bloc, though I guess one could argue that they weren't going to be fooled forever. And Tiananmen could be argued as a counter example. However, it seems to me that our nuclear capacity, coupled with getting everyone broadband and X-boxes, might do the trick. I don't see the Chinese as a threat, except commercially. I commend this one from the ObWi vaults. But I understand the underlying notion and am not completely convinced about China being such a threat.

Would really be interested in Andrew's take on China and Asia as a region.

One of the main points Andrew Bacevich makes in The New American Militarism (which I review & summarize here) is that the US's security would be better ensured if our military weren't engaged in what is called "force projection" -- that is, protecting a hegemonistic empire -- but was actually focused on the common defense. For actual defense, HIC is usually more appropriate than COIN, because COIN tends to come into play when you're doing dumb-ass things like invading another country without a plan for afterwards.

Andrew:

Paragraph breaks are your friend. Seriously.

Andrew: Dealing with that kind of situation requires a degree of discipline beyond anything most of us will ever require.

Exactly.

This is another really good post, Andrew, and I thoroughly agree with it. Again, glad to see you back.

Jim Henley wrote (after the Italian CIA man was killed by US soldiers who were shooting at passing cars on the road to the Baghdad airport) that the most dangerous thing to do in Iraq was scare a US soldier. And that isn't (absolutely not) to say that US soldiers are easily scared: it's that it takes a level of discipline way above what the US military is instilling in its soldiers to deal with the counterinsurgency.

Leaving aside (though I think it all ties in) the issue of US soldiers being ordered to commit kidnapping and torture, and getting away with murder - the Abu Ghraib situation, which infects the whole barrel of flour like a diseased octopus: still, even without that, I agree very strongly that a major problem was that the US military was not ready for dealing with counterinsurgency. The UK military was more ready - simply because the UK military has been dealing with a counterinsurgency in Ireland for decades. (And the problem was simplified there by soldiers and civilians all speaking English.)

You said in an earlier post that general officers are uninclined to change what they know works. I think there's also a problem of the US not being willing to look at how other countries do better than the US (not even the US's close allies) and take best practice from other countries. This is a larger problem than just within the US military - indeed, from what I've read, the US military may be more willing to look outside at best practice examples elsewhere.

PS: Andrew, believe it or not: I recalled Jim Henley's post - or rather, that one line from it, I hadn't looked at it in ages. Found it again by googling. Added the link to it to this comment, and only then re-read it - to discover that Jim Henley was responding to a post you'd written (your name meant nothing at all to me then, sorry, so I didn't recall it with the content of the post) and (looking at the comments) that you'd linked to Jim's post from your blog, too. But, I swear, I didn't realise this until after I'd written and posted the comment above.

I agree very strongly that a major problem was that the US military was not ready for dealing with counterinsurgency. The UK military was more ready - simply because the UK military has been dealing with an insurgency in Ireland for decades.

There's your answer. Impose direct rule and/or martial law in, say, Texas. Sooner or later the natives will revolt, and the practice your troops will get while suppressing them will stand them in good stead in other counterinsurgency wars.

On a serious point: the best way to get good at chess is to play a lot of chess. The best way to get good at push-ups is to do a lot of push-ups. The world is full of low-level wars and peacekeeping situations. Are you going to argue for a much higher level of commitment to UN missions by the US, in order to keep the troops in training?

And another point:

Traditionally, the Army has trained primarily for high-intensity conflict, because it was assumed that was the critical task. If the Army failed in a stability or support operation, the nation would survive. Losing a high-intensity conflict, however, would mean a far more dire problem. (Conversely, the U.S. was only involved in one threat that could be considered existential in the 20th century: World War II.

You are getting very close here to asking: if such low-level operations do not affect the nation's survival or wellbeing, why are we doing them? I'd be interested in hearing an answer. Why will the army be mainly fighting COIN? What threat does the nation face from a successful insurgency on the other side of the world?

ajay: Are you going to argue for a much higher level of commitment to UN missions by the US, in order to keep the troops in training?

As I understand it, though, the US military is unwilling to place troops under a UN command, and is even unwilling for US troops on a UN operation to wear UN blue helmets. It's an interesting idea that I'd like to see Andrew discuss, because I think it's got the same problem for the US military - acknowledging that the military of other nations may be better in some areas than the US military, and learning from them. (Even in small areas. Apparently British and US military were mutually bemused that the British military consider it essential to be able to "have a brew" when on the march - and the US military don't.)

ajay: if such low-level operations do not affect the nation's survival or wellbeing, why are we doing them?

I think that's pretty obvious. This is empire, folks. No wonder the Brits are better at it.

Now the question becomes, should this really count as "fighting and winning the nation's wars"? Especially when you consider that Congress has shirked its Constitutional duty to actually declare war since World War II?

Well, I think the US interest -- Western interest generally -- in avoiding failed states is sufficient to justify the use of force, under well thought out circumstances. I wonder if the correct answer isn't a new service, or a new Corps within an existing service (like the way Army Air came up in the 20s and 30s) dedicated to COIN. And the related disciplines of peacekeeping and nation-building. (Not really buidling -- which doesn't strike me as a military function -- but keeping-people-from-digging-the-hole-deeper).

It wouldn't be free, but then screwing up on things like Iraq cost so much that such things really wash away.

I'd like to think that such a Corps would have been involved in the planning, and that maybe someone would have thought beyond the 'greeted as liberators' fantasy. Wishful thinking on my part, I guess.

Of course the cost of the Iraq war has to be measured far beyond money. Whether or not there are some deadenders who think 'victory' is still possible, it's not going to happen. We're going to draw down substantially, Anbar is going to be West Waziristan (haven plus Islamist local rule), and AQ will get to say, correctly, that once again they have fought a superpower to its knees.

There's not much point, just yet, in arguing whether it could ever have turned out differently. I think historians of the future will likely find that if the summer of '03 had been played very differently, a more stable state might well have emerged. On the other hand, the same flaws in thinking that led to the mistakes of that period also led to the war itself, so one can't really say that it was a plausible option.

Doctor Science: I think that's pretty obvious. This is empire, folks. No wonder the Brits are better at it.

We got better at it after we gave up the Empire - and, more than that, the Imperialist way of thinking. For all the starry-eyed Kiplingesque thinking about the "burdens of Empire", any Empire rests on absolute military superiority over the "natives". Which is why the other face of Empire is terrorism.

While it is difficult to identify who the 'high intensity conflict' may turn out to be against, a leading candidate among those who worry about these things is China. It would certainly help the US military to defeat China if US tax policies were not sending enough money to establish and operate a carrier group to China every month.

I was going to say that Dr. Science got the tense wrong, but I think Jesurgislac's comment is equivalent, depending on one's paradigm of Empire.

the US military is unwilling to place troops under a UN command, and is even unwilling for US troops on a UN operation to wear UN blue helmets

Yes, for some very good reasons, IMO. Possibly also for some less-good reasons as well, which is why I'd like to hear what Andrew has to say on that topic.

I'd guess that the quick answer is that the UN is more of a hands-bound police force than a combat force, and putting US soldiers into a role where they have to, for example, put themselves at elevated risk because they're prohibited to return fire, is probably something our military commanders are reluctant to do. Whether this is a justifiable position probably fodder for lots and lots of additional discussion.

I know the US brass are unwilling to put their troops under UN command. But this isn't a physical barrier, it's a policy - which can be changed. Should it be changed?

My argument is that, if you want to learn COIN/low-intensity conflict, the best way is to do lots of it. And one easy way of doing that would be to put lots of US troops into UN missions.

Think of it as a training rotation: you do your six months at Fort Irwin learning about Air/Land Battle; then you have a bit of time back at your home base; then you do six months in the Congo learning about peacekeeping or COIN/LIC.

Constrictive rules of engagement are not a peculiar feature of the UN; they are part of every successful COIN/LIC effort. I emphasise "successful". If the US brass don't like them, they should learn to change their attitudes, because otherwise they will continue to lose every COIN/LIC they get into.

The other aspect of UN missions is that it will teach US troops to work with foreign allies, which is something at which they, frankly, suck. Sorry, but they do.

Off Topic (somewhat) - Someone needs to stage an intervention at Bizarro World.

They're wailing like Gollum when he lost the ring.

ajay,

What is your basis for your assertion that U.S. troops 'suck' at working with foreign allies? I'll concede ignorance here, as the only foreign allies I've work with have been the ROKs, but I'm not aware of a systemic failing of American cooperation with foreign allies.

On a separate note, I'm not sure placing U.S. troops under UN command would help much for COIN training, as I don't know of many (if any) places where UN troops are involved in dealing with insurgencies.

Andrew- I can't speak for Ajay, but I have read numerous complaints by foreign nationals about how hard American forces are to work with. Do you ever read http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/? I remember he got pretty frustrated about the "
friendly" fire case a year or so ago. You might want to check the archives.

Speaking of cultural confusion, Jes, what do you mean by "having a brew"? Is that British for brewing tea? 'Cause in American, it means beer.

Or does the British Army still have its "one cup of grog a day" ration that Wellington's Peninsulars got? ;)

Speaking of cultural confusion, Jes, what do you mean by "having a brew"? Is that British for brewing tea? 'Cause in American, it means beer.

Really? *raises pinky, sips daintily* That must have caused confusion when Brits asked Americans if they wanted milk. ;-) See having a brew usage on this forum.

It is a well-known fact in Britain that all problems look better after you've had a nice hot cup of tea.

We got better at it after we gave up the Empire - and, more than that, the Imperialist way of thinking. For all the starry-eyed Kiplingesque thinking about the "burdens of Empire", any Empire rests on absolute military superiority over the "natives". Which is why the other face of Empire is terrorism.

Truly said. But that just re-inforces my point, which is that the problem is trying to use the Army as an imperial force.

CharleyCarp:Well, I think the US interest -- Western interest generally -- in avoiding failed states is sufficient to justify the use of force, under well thought out circumstances.

Only if by "failed states" you mean Mississippi.

The US only has *more* of an interest in avoiding "failed states" than anyone else (=the UN) if we are a world empire. If we have special COIN forces, that is a direct policy statement that we are planning to occupy (even more) other countries.

We have neither the obligation nor the right to be the world's policeman -- and, as Andrew points out, it's neither in the Army's job description nor their training.

Another way of looking at it is: our interest in avoiding failed states *should* be sufficient for us to make true diplomacy a priority. We need to stop thinking of force as a first-line choice, as the direct, forceful, (manly), easy, all-American way to solve problems.

"Another way of looking at it is: our interest in avoiding failed states *should* be sufficient for us to make true diplomacy a priority."

Ah - that presupposes there's someone to be diplomatic at, which implies a functioning central government.

A failed state is not a poor state, or a state devastated by natural disaster, or even a state whose inhabitants you dislike.

A failed state is defined as one that doesn't have a functioning government that can actually act for, speak for, or represent the inhabitants of said state. E.G.: Afghanistan, the war against which most of us agreed was legitimate and necessary (the fact that Bush screwed it up doesn't change the originating fact).

If another Afghanistan situation develops - i.e., someone who has attacked the US, killed Americans, etc. - has taken refuge in a state that has no functioning government, I'm not sure what good diplomacy does.

On the other hand, the same flaws in thinking that led to the mistakes of that period also led to the war itself, so one can't really say that it was a plausible option.

Just so, Charlie. A "marketing plan" which was more upfront about the actual commitments would not have been a very successful one in terms of actually getting us into Iraq. I think if either one of the twin lies of "out by autumn" and "oil revenues will make this thing pay for itself" were removed, there would have been a whole lot more cover for the Sensible Centrist Pundits to ask "why are we doing this again?" instead of "shut up, you defeatist, frenchie-hippie."

Or maybe not. Friedman recognized all the things that could go wrong, and willfully blinded himself to the facts that the way this thing was being sold and conceived would cause many of those things to come to pass.

CaseyL: Afghanisten was not a "failed state" situation before we came in, it was IMHO a fairly straightforward "they attacked us first" situation. Which we botched strategically.

The point I'm making is that COIN is, *most* of the time, in support of empire, and we shouldn't be engaged in such operations in the first place.

DS, I don't recognize sentences in which the UN acts as the subject, generally: 'the UN has an interest' is OK if the following clause is 'in cheap rentals in NYC' and is not OK if it's 'in seeing to it that Bosnians don't get massacred.'

It's a tool. That can be employed by a single member, usually. It's not always the right tool for the job, but acting as if it's a player, and not a tool, leads one to all manner of mistake.

I don't see blue helmets really doing COIN. That's I think maybe a separate unit of the US Army. Bigger than the current special forces, dedicated to learning language and customs. Andrew?

And DS, if there are indicia of a failed state, surely an ongoing civil war, taking place within the country, where neighboring powers support and fund different factions (and the government) has to be on the list.

This is exactly why Rumsfeld is now gone. He wanted an adaptable army, yet he himself was not adaptable in adopting counterinsurgency tactics when needed. The army needs more training in conducting these kinds of ops. And we need more soldiers to do it right in Iraq.

The point I'm trying to make, CB, is that the US only needs dedicated COIN forces if we rule the world. We shouldn't have more of an vested interest in whether one state or another has failed than any other country does -- that's why I mentioned the UN. What I meant was, "it's not our business unless it's everybody's business."

Not to mention that, as Andrew is saying, COIN is much more situation-specific than HIC. COIN in Iraq will be different than in Afghanistan, not to mention in Northern Ireland or Algeria or Vietnam, because it's about hearts & minds.

Again, the only reason for the US to have specialized COIN forces is if we think we will need them, which is a declaration of imperial intent.

Posted by: Charles Bird: "This is exactly why Rumsfeld is now gone. He wanted an adaptable army, yet he himself was not adaptable in adopting counterinsurgency tactics when needed. The army needs more training in conducting these kinds of ops. And we need more soldiers to do it right in Iraq."

I've never seen anything to indicate that Rumsfield wanted a more adaptable Army; he wanted a faster, in-and-out Army. His failure was not in understanding that 'faster in and out' is useful in some situations, and useless in others.

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