Nation-building, Stability Operations and Prophylactic COIN

Nation-building, Stability Operations and Prophylactic COIN - Dr. Adam Shilling, PKSOI Perspectives.

The Army is abuzz with the concepts surrounding counterinsurgency (COIN), stability operations and other irregular warfare as the United States contends with a complex international environment. The following will examine these concepts doctrinally and then suggest another way to look at them.

Doctrine is simply a mental model that the military uses to organize and understand its environment and its activities, and then to build a shared understanding of those among service members. The value of a particular mental model—in this case, a doctrine—is not really whether it is right or wrong, but whether it is useful; useful in aiding understanding and in prompting an appropriate institutional response to the environment. An alternative mental model is not necessarily a contradiction of doctrine; it may be merely another useful way of looking at things...

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I wouldn't classify Pakistan as a rogue, failed, or failing state. At risk, possibly, though that's been the case as long as I can remember. Of course with enough well-intentioned American assistance anything could happen - a sufficiently vigorous American "stability op" could probably reduce Switzerland to failure - but at the moment it's above that threshold.

In any event the American concern with Pakistan is with the impact on the US, of which the Pakistan-India relationship is but a part. The US is not out to protect India, neither would India rely on the the US to look after its interests. India will look after India, probably more effectively than we could.

China may or not fail - or enter into a disorderly period of political transition - but that would have nothing to do with rogue, failed, or failing states, and it's not something the US can provoke or prevent. Nigeria is a risk but there's no US effort to transform or stabilize, nor any will to undertake such an effort. Nobody wants to be involved in an African mess.

Where do you see the Obama administration trying to transform the status quo in a rogue, failed, or failing state - or anywhere - other than the cases reluctantly inherited from the previous administration? All rhetoric aside, isn't deter/contain/ignore still what we're doing with states that meet this description? I see no evidence in the field of a policy of aggressive - or even assertive - transformation, nor do I see any reason why anyone would adopt such a policy. As far as I can tell the Obama policy is to wind down the current engagements as fast as possibl ewithout seeming weak or defeatist, avoid further entanglements, and try to focus attention on domestic affairs - not really an unreasonable policy, under the circumstances.

The relationship:

a. Nation building: To provide the specific institutions (i.e., the tools) needed to

b. Transform societies (such that they might become less of a problem for, be better served by, and better service the expanding global economy)

c. With COIN being required: To prevent, preclude and, if necessary, to defeat any resistance (which is sure to come) to this initiative.

With DOS, DOD and other agencies of American power moving strongly and specifically in this direction (Obama administration's "development, diplomacy and defense").

A "status quo" foreign policy -- designed and implemented to maintain the status quo? I do not think so.

Rather, this foreign policy focus seems to have been designed and implemented to overcome the status quo -- and to achieve significant change in the international environment.

Obviously if the State of Pakistan completely failed and the Mullahs assumed control it would have a significant impact on India. A failed Russia will create a host of security problems throughout Europe that will impact their economy. A failed China would be a disaster to the entire global economic system. If Nigeria fails, it will have repercussions throughout West and Central Africa. However, a failed Sudan hardly deserves a glance for other than humanitarian reasons when it comes to our interests. However, how we address these challenges will require a lot more creativity than simply applying stability operations doctrine, which usually results in simply reinforcing that which has already failed.

Apples and oranges, really. The success or failure of Russia, China, India, or Brazil depends and will continue to depend on their internal policies. None of them face any external threat whatsoever, and they are not and will not be impacted in the slightest degree by anything that happens in rogue, failed, or failing states. The only exception I can see would be if Iran (arguably "rogue") were to take action that cut the flow of Gulf oil. That would certainly have an impact on China and India, but the US concern over that possibility is connected to our own vulnerability, not China's or India's.

I can't see how any other rogue, failed, or failing state issue would affect the rising powers at all.

I would also suggest that the US acts according to its perception of its own interests, not those of China, Russia, India, or Brazil. I don't think the US always perceives its own interests clearly or pursues them effectively, but I don't see that anything we do is designed to benefit other powers, not that they particularly need or want our help.

I suggest that we pretty much see our interests as follows:

a. To provide the international environment necessary for the continued successful transition -- towards capitalism and markets -- of such WMD-armed great and rising powers as China, Russia, India and Brazil.

b. This, so as to avoid one of our worst nightmares, to wit: these states failing in their transformational endeavors and, thereby, becoming (1) rogue, weak, failing or failed great/rising powers," (2) with vast quantities of "loose WMD" and (3) with this event also resulting in the complete collapse of the global economy.

Thus, the question:

Can a "status quo" foreign policy (deter/contain/ignor problem states) (1) achieve the objectives outlined at "a" above and (2) preclude the problems outlined at "b" above?

Or does the success of "a" and the preclusion of "b" require a more aggressive foreign policy re: problem states; one which sees the following relationship (1) nation-building (providing the institutions/tools needed to), (2) effect positive societal transformations, with (3) COIN being required to prevent, preclude and, if necessary, deal with any resistance to this effort and process.

Algeria, Pakistan, Iraq, for a start. Generally a good thing to push, but in some countries it simply equates to mob rule (e.g. Iraq). It all goes back to what we're all gettting at, what exactly is in our national interest (policy), then how do we effectively pursue that interest?

it is frequently stated that it is our "policy" to deny safe haven to terrorism by making the local government effective (tranlate as transform into our vision of legitimate government)

The translation is your own, and may or may not reflect reality.

Where exactly have we pushed our values, forms of government, of economic models on rogue, failed, or failing states, other than those who have attacked us or our allies? I don't see us pushing anything on them at all: all I see is the old model of deter/contain/ignore.

As far as other states go, it seems to me that we get on quite well with people who don't adopt our form of government, as long as they don't rock our boat... do you see us pushing our form of government on, say, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Uzbekistan, China, etc? I certainly don't.

We don't need to push our economic model on anyone; people adopt it on their own. China, Vietnam, India, etc didn't embrace capitalism because we pushed it on them, they embraced it because they want to make lots of money and buy stuff, and because their experience with competing economic models was miserable. Promoting capitalism is completely unnecessary; it promotes itself. Material ambition is, after all, a consistently human trait.

I see plenty of evidence of such ambition, and it is frequently stated that it is our "policy" to deny safe haven to terrorism by making the local government effective (tranlate as transform into our vision of legitimate government). We have been pushing our values, our form of government and our economic models with a passion that our enemy probably envies.

Install or change, no. Regime change was backlash, not policy; it hasn't worked as expected, it's proven (as many of us anticipated) to be very expensive and fraught with unintended consequences, and I doubt that it will be repeated any time soon.

Certainly there's a policy of strengthening allied foreign governments, as there has been for many years. Our choice of allies is sometimes questionable and or methods of strengthening often dubious, but that's another issue. This has nothing to do with transforming rogue, failed, or failing states, though it is consistent with deter/contain/ignore, which has been our prevailing policy toward rogue, failed, and failing states since the end of the cold war.

Dayuhan:

Well, let me try this again:

Do you see any evidence -- from money, soldiers, or anything else -- to suggest an American policy which is designed to install, change and/or strengthen certain foreign governments -- and/or the institutions within such governments (such as their military and police forces)?

If so, to what ends do you see such policy and efforts being made?

Dayuhan:

I agree, the paragraph of mine you quoted is in effect a plea to said policy types to stop trying to do something that will likely never be done acceptably. We need better intel, we need to better fund and man the State Department and we should put SF to doing their design mission and stop using them for minor DA that a well trained Infantry Battalion can perform.

For those that think said Battalions aren't adequately trained, my question is whose fault is that?

We are capable of doing so much better and to have the cockups we continually have is really inexcusable. Those Infantry Battalions can do DA and will do it well -- what they cannot do is development work and 'nation building.' Nor should they be able to do so. To have them try is a woeful misuse and a major flaw in policy and strategy.

"If we go into that position and come out with an unsatisfactory outcome (as we have in the past) we need to question not only what went wrong in the field, but why we put ourselves in that position in the first place."

This is what I and a number of folks, some in fairly high places have been saying for years. The failure to do just that is mostly political but the Services and DoD share the blame.

"They will still probably fail, and when they do it will not be the fault of the people, the doctrines, or the tactics, but of the people who tried to accomplish a pointless and impractical task with completely unsuitable tools."

Totally true. The services will try, a lot of folks will bust their tails to make things work but when the initial concept is flawed and misuses the tools available, success is improbable.

Ken,

I suggest the flaws in COIN theory are so deep, so often proven wrong that any embrace of the idea beyond minimal DO or SF employment is foolish for the US in this era. Too many factors including the mediocre training of new entrants, enlisted and commissioned, into the force will insure that GPF involvement in such operations will be only marginally successful if at all.

A lot of the COIN discussion on this site seems to focus on deficiencies in tactics, execution, doctrine, the training and orientation of practitioners. This makes sense, as many of the people here are field practitioners. It seems to me, though, that our problems typically begin on the policy level. As brother Wilf has told us many a time and truly, policy drives strategy and strategy drives tactics. If we lack a clear policy with well-defined and achievable end-state goals, how can we expect to develop effective strategies or tactics? Not saying we shouldn't try to refine the methods by which COIN is practiced, but if we don't also examine the decisions on when and where and to what ends those tactics are applied, we're going to find ourselves in the same place over and over again.

If a government threatened by insurgency is terminally incapable of governing and has no prospect of gaining the capacity to govern, no amount of COIN or FID will succeed, no matter how well we know the culture or how refined our tactics are. The best physicians on earth cannot reanimate a corpse. If we go into that position and come out with an unsatisfactory outcome (as we have in the past) we need to question not only what went wrong in the field, but why we put ourselves in that position in the first place.

I was about to start on "nation building", but you've heard that rant before, ad nauseam. If we send forces out with orders to ride unicycles up Mt Everest or to cut down a forest with a herring, they will do the best they can to develop doctrine and methods suitable to that task, and to put them into effect. They will still probably fail, and when they do it will not be the fault of the people, the doctrines, or the tactics, but of the people who tried to accomplish a pointless and impractical task with completely unsuitable tools.

Can the same be said (you see no evidence from money, soldiers, etc.) to suggest an American policy which is designed to install, change and/or strengthen governments -- and institutions within such governments (especially, the military and police institutions) -- such that these governments might have the capabilities needed to, themselves:

a. Effect the societal transformations that we desire (those that can enhance the societies' ability to [1] receive benefits from and [2] better service and support the global economy) and

b. Via enhanced military and police capabilities, better deal with those "insurgents" (Islamic or otherwise) who might rebel or resist such a societal transformation processes?

Yes, the same can be said. I see no evidence whatsoever of a policy of "societal transformation" in any general sense, nor do I see any evidence of even the remotest interest in doing so. Certainly there's no need for it, as the states in question pose neither threat nor obstacle to global economic growth.

All I deduce from Iraq and Afghanistan is a semi-sentient backlash to 9/11, from which we've been unable to extricate ourselves. No reason at all to assume a global policy of societal transformation, unless of course you really really want to.

I disagree with the authors argument that all COIN operations requires that we engage in nation building as defined by the author (political and economic reforms). Although FM 3-24 may state that the major objective of all COIN operations is the creation of good governance, yet that is simply the way the U.S. (and West in general) has decided to view COIN. Some would argue (myself included) that this view is promoted by misguided academics, and not supported by history. Recently the insurgency in Sri Lanka was defeated by aggressive military operations, and the response by some in the U.S. government and the UN is they did it the wrong way. Instead of listing numerous examples where insurgents were defeated militarily, Ill just state Im not aware of situation where an insurgency was defeated by nation building. The frustration experienced by many in Afghanistan is easily understood, since the primary line of effort there are feeble attempts at nation building, not defeating the insurgents.

Bill... comment immediately above describes our policy approach nicely...

Simply put... indirect rule. Not that there is anything wrong with that but we are just not ruthless enough to be the lawgiver Lycurgus. Instead we promote, encourage and cajole the host government to adopt modernity all the while explaining that we are loathe to violate the host government's often newly won sovereignty.

The mother-may-I approach to state-building (very different from nation-building) drags out the process... Just rip the damn bandage off and be done with it.

Ken... thank you so very much for your detailed response... It appears that Gian, Bill, you and I agree... kindred spiritedness abounds :-)

Thanks to you both for a very interesting exchange... I actually save these comments and incorporate your points into my suck as appropriate (rendering due credit of course)...

v/r
MAC

Bill C.

Since you addressed an open thread. I guess I can provide a response to your question:

"Does my comment immediately above help explain what much of United States foreign policy generally -- and nation-building/stability operations, societal transformations and COIN/Prophalactic COIN specifically -- are all about today?"

In the minds of some, not all or even most Americans. Fortunately, it is such a flawed goal that it will drop where it belongs, into the 'Too hard and unnecessary for the theoretical benefit possibly derived' box. It resurfaces every 30 years or so and we have to relearn that it is impractical.

Does my comment immediately above help explain what much of United States foreign policy generally -- and nation-building/stability operations, societal transformations and COIN/Prophalactic COIN specifically -- are all about today?

The worlds worst proofreader strikes again...

Second to last paragraph on my 4:31 post should read:

"...The problem with COIN theory and application is much deeper than proposing that we should have embraced this or that technique earlier or that better management and execution will improve the fortunes of the counterinsurgent."

I suggest the flaws in COIN theory are so deep, so often proven wrong that any embrace of the idea beyond minimal DO or SF employment is foolish for the US in this era. Too many factors including the mediocre training of new entrants, enlisted and commissioned, into the force will insure that GPF involvement in such operations will be only marginally successful if at all. Not least, the speed and reach of communications capability today will insure that most errors are caught and magnified with concomitant effect on the media, the populace and the Congress...

Dayuhan:

Whereas, you "see no evidence, from money, soldiers, or anything else, - to suggest an American policy of trying to force capitalism on those who have yet to embrace it voluntarily ..."

Can the same be said (you see no evidence from money, soldiers, etc.) to suggest an American policy which is designed to install, change and/or strengthen governments -- and institutions within such governments (especially, the military and police institutions) -- such that these governments might have the capabilities needed to, themselves:

a. Effect the societal transformations that we desire (those that can enhance the societies' ability to [1] receive benefits from and [2] better service and support the global economy) and

b. Via enhanced military and police capabilities, better deal with those "insurgents" (Islamic or otherwise) who might rebel or resist such a societal transformation processes?

"MAC" McCallister:

"Are we saying that better counterinsurgency tactics can indeed rescue a failed policy and strategy?"

To quote Donald Rumsfeld who would agree you, Gian and I, "Mercy Goodness, no." If the strategery is wrong, only rarely will superb tactical or operational performance provide and remedy for that shortfall. In COIN / FID, particulalry, the odds of such remediation are very slim indeed.

"COIN is a technique... Security operations (COIN) seek to provide protection for the development process to proceed i.e. promote economic progress better government, administrative infrastructure, transparency, legitimacy, blah, blah, blah, which we assume, will generate popular support for the regime. "

I agree with that, I merely add the caveat, again, that the GPF will never and should never be very good at doing that.

I further posit that the idea of a regime to be supported is not well understood, is generally aimed at supporting a regime that we think we would like and that only rarely will we really like what results. The record thus far, in those with GPF commitment, is 0 for 3. The Philippines circa 1898-1913 through 1946 do not count for a host of reasons.

"Lastly, we hype our role as an outside promoter of social, political and economic development way too much."

Strongly agree -- and that unfortunate predilection skews the Congressional and Media approaches which in turn adversely affects a an already flawed policy twisted by defense sales concerns and military primacy in foreign affairs due to misplaced budget priorities and the sheer weight and reach of DoD versus that of State.

"Counterinsurgency as understood in theory or as prescribed in FM 3-24 has never been practiced... ever. ...

Oh, it's been stabbed at, rarely, by some units some of the time to achieve local successes not only in Viet Nam but in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Transitorily but present, no matter how fleetingly and widely dispersed.

However, I agree that the US Armed Forces have generally not practiced what the doctrine preaches -- in fact my point in this thread was that they never have and never will. Elements of those forces can and will do it right but it cannot and will not be done well by the mass of the GPF. A few temporary local successes will not equate to a 'win.'

Speaking of which, there has not been and will not be a 'win' in a COIN effort -- the best that can be obtained is an acceptable outcome. It's also been my observation that what might be acceptable tends to be redefined downward as time passes...

There are several problems with COIN theory. One big one for the US is that we are an impatient nation and most of those sent to practice the technique will be present only briefly and will be systemically forced to be impatient until they rotate out so the cycle can be repeated at less than yearly intervals. Another is that, as you said:

"Security operations (COIN) seek to provide protection for the development process to proceed i.e. promote economic progress better government, administrative infrastructure, transparency, legitimacy, blah, blah, blah, which we assume..."

Simply stated, you cannot provide a development process successfully (or economically) without security; the theory envisions doing both things concurrently and that is a major error in an academic theory that cannot be practically applied. There are others flaws but expecting the GPF to do this thing at all well is one of the most dangerous and poorly understood aspects.

Equally flawed is the theory that a dedicated, COIN / FID subset of specialists will work. We cannot afford the numbers and skills required for commitment to an effort that will entail years and tons of money for marginal success -- at best.

I suggest the flaws in COIN theory are so deep, so often proven wrong that any embrace of the idea beyond minimal DO or SF employment is foolish for the US in this era. Too many factors including the mediocre training of new entrants, enlisted and commissioned, into the force will insure that GPF involvement in such operations will be only marginally successful if at all. Not least, the speed and reach of communications capability today will insure that most errors are caught and magnified with concomitant effect on the media, the populace and the Congress...

Can't leave without citing my pet peeve -- we are playing to the opponents strength when we should be forcing him to play to ours. :)

Brother Ken... No worries on the money post... I might have overreacted :-)

I am a bit confused though concerning your response to Gian. Are we saying that better counterinsurgency tactics can indeed rescue a failed policy and strategy? If yes, then I must disagree. There are no new COIN tactics under the sun... although Sun Tzu did explain that "There are not more than five musical notes yet the combinations of these give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard."

My opinion and my opinion only...

COIN is a technique, not a tactic or strategy for that matter, to tide a weak and unstable host government over periods of internal unrest until the constructive forces of economic and political development are strong enough to control the situation without external assistance (FID). Security operations (COIN) seek to provide protection for the development process to proceed i.e. promote economic progress better government, administrative infrastructure, transparency, legitimacy, blah, blah, blah, which we assume, will generate popular support for the regime.

Two problems agitate against current U.S. COIN policy and technical approach: irrelevance and counter-productivity. COIN as a stand-alone technique is irrelevant because smart people (scholars, academics, elected officials, etc, etc.) dont really understand the reasons and sources for insurgency... social science psycho-babble notwithstanding. The latest attempt at understanding what drives insurgency along the frontier is to categorize the unpleasantness as either grievance or greed based. A study of the classical narratives of political and military history (Thucydides, Tacitus, Machiavelli, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Taymiyya, Gibbon to name just a few) offer far more prescience than forty-plus years of enlightened social science that peddles relativism and tends to equate burqas, honor killings, and wearing the skin of a slain opponent on your head (saw it first hand in Liberia) to our barbaric custom of denying health care to the poor.

We underestimate the constraints and restraints (must do, cant do) on our local allies willingness, capacity and capability to make/impose recommended reforms. All technical blueprints aside... societies evolve... or do we actually believe that we can be a modern lawgiver Lycurgus?

Lastly, we hype our role as an outside promoter of social, political and economic development way too much.

Counterinsurgency as understood in theory or as prescribed in FM 3-24 has never been practiced... ever. The problem with COIN theory and application is much deeper than proposing that we should have embraced this or that technique earlier or that better management and execution will improve the fortunes of the counterinsurgent.

r/
MAC

"MAC" McCallister:

Sorry, I didn't make clear that the money to which I referred had nothing to do with the human foibles you accurately cite. I'm unsure which money Bill C. referred to but the reason for my comment to Bill C. was that we're doing what he suggests now as we did in Viet Nam. Didn't work then, isn't working now. My reference was aimed solely at the US budgetary funding apportioned to, respectively, DoS and DoD. The former is miniscule -- badly so. The latter is excessive -- also badly so. Even very badly so...

That perverse and flawed monetary imbalance drives the policy train, thus it is the money followed. That anomaly allows 'doctrine'-- such as it is -- and presumed capabilities (often wrongly judged and sometimes absent...) to nudge or even force policy(ies) in often poor directions.

For example, the GPF can do COIN and FID. However, they will never do it well nor should they be able to do so. Such employment should always be a course of last resort.

However, if they are expected to do it well, they will too often (once was too often...:< ) be placed in the position of having to do that. A situation not favorably affected by pathetically ancient personnel policies, poor unit rotation design * and dangerous risk aversion in high places.

That's a funding and a 'doctrinal' driven nudge to policy exacerbated by lack of possession of viable alternatives such as adequate SF, competent diplomacy, better intel and total lack of DoD capability to conduct strategic raids in any strength at all.

That of course does not address the military and political will to do those things...

* I'd be willing to bet that the designers of each rotation into Afghanistan at both DA and CentCom were different people, were in turn told by NCOs, Civilian employees or other non-decision makers that "we tried that before and it didn't work" or "wouldn't it be better to send the 69th back to the same AO?" and the Deciders went ahead and did it stupidly because THEY knew better than their predecessor. Personnel turbulence, egos and the competitive push to do something that looks original on ones watch / during the rating period are a big part of the problem...

We haven't been in Afghanistan for nine years, we have had some people there for eight to ten or more tours, all making new policies as they rotate in -- and among jobs in-country...

Dayuhan, Ken,

... a very valid point... but that is why we have a commander's intent and when we can't achieve the commander's intent (policy) in prescribed ways, we look at "how" we do business i.e. doctrine. I am not sure that the folks are attempting to deduce policy by studying doctrine. Maybe we should review our assumptions upon which our COIN doctrine is based such as the idea that we can actually create societies that are rational, secular, achievement/progress-oriented via universally applicable recipes for action ... something us anti-social work and modernizers with guns crowd has been advocating for quite some time now...

Ken, where did I go wrong in my post to make you think that I believe it is all about money? Even if it were... and I do not believe this to be the case... money, like prestige is not necessarily sought for its own sake but for the advantages which it brings... it is a second level of scrutiny... Don't just look at the desire for money, call it greed and be done with it but contemplate the reasons for why monies are sought... Maybe availabilities of monies ensure "independence from a patron and independence of action"... then study what independence of action implies and the benefits or detriments it brings...

Life makes your head hurt... :-)

v/r
MAC

If one were to follow the money -- and follow the soldiers -- could one get a somewhat better handle on policy?

Not necessarily. Observed phenomena are subject to multiple interpretations, which often tell us more about the preconceived ideas of the person doing the interpreting than they do about the phenomena in question.

When I look at today's flow of money and soldiers I conclude that Americans, when responding to attack, are likely to punch any available tar baby with enormous vigor, and then when the hand doing the punching gets stuck they are inclined to follow up with a head butt. Not the most attractive interpretation, perhaps, but I learned long ago that one should never attribute to malice - or conspiracy - what can adequately be explained by stupidity.

I see no evidence, from money, soldiers, or anything else - to suggest an American policy of trying to force capitalism on those who have yet to embrace it voluntarily, far less any effort by the mass of capitalist powers conspiring to do the same. There's no need to do that, and no desire - too expensive, too much trouble, and too little to gain.

Dayuhan:

"...military forces in the field may have no clear idea of what policy they are trying to execute."

Can't speak to the current wars, haven't been there -- however from what I see it appears that is as true now as it certainly was in earlier wars.


Thus the military, as usual, ends up playing it by ear -- and at the whim of a seven to twelve month rotation cycle creating a general 10-20% turnover monthly (usually in a different area and a different job than in the earlier deployments) and wherein wheels are arbitrarily reinvented -- and thus policies changed -- more often than annually as key players move about.

Bill C.

"If one were to follow the money -- and follow the soldiers -- could one get a somewhat better handle on policy?"

That's the way it works now. That, as they say, is the problem. That's the way Mac apparently thinks it is and is likely to stay. That results in the effects I cited above...

How's that working out for us?

If one were to follow the money -- and follow the soldiers -- could one get a somewhat better handle on policy?

I certainly agree that military forces in the field may have no clear idea of what policy they are trying to execute. Policies are often ephemeral and uncertain, and if the civilian government isn't sure what they are, how can the military know? My point was simply that you cannot effectively deduce policy by reviewing military doctrine.

Reference: "The army executes policy, it doesn't make policy."

We wish it were so simple... Clemenceau may have been correct when he exclaimed that war in general was too serious a business to be left to generals. Thus, politicians began to intervene in decisions previously left to the military... I personally have no argument with the premise that the civilian leadership must control the military instrument... but reality just isn't as neat and tidy as the statement... ["the mental model emerging ... is completely irrelevant to policy"]... wishes to evoke.

The objectives of irregular or frontier warfare are often far from clear. Objectives are often ill-defined resultants of compromise at the political level between different groups or different members of coalitions such as central government leaders, political parties, bureaucracies, military branches, merchant families, governors, district administrators, metropolitan power-brokers, village elders, religious leaders, strongmen, etc, etc. As a result the political and policy directions handed to the military are often vague, ambiguous, as well as too ambitious. And the complexity only increases as we get closer to ground truth... where policy rubber actually meets reality road. This means (all abstractions as to what the world ought to be aside) that the boot on the ground is required by necessity to execute activities traditionally assigned to politicians or policy-makers since Clemenceaus admonition...

Ever participate in negotiations with locals and promise a certain action to cement a negotiated solution? Irregular or frontier warfare it turns out is very messy, detailed, local and sometimes too political to be left entirely to politicians and policy-makers residing in a far away embassy consulate, cubicle, and think tank or like myself, sitting at a lap-top computer keyboard one or two oceans away, to resolve...

Id submit that any "mental model" emerging from the military side is actually relevant to policy... as long as the boot on the ground understands and appreciates the problem facing his political master (its called the commanders intent and very necessary to execute the mission).

r/
MAC

I see no clarity here, and a "mental model" emerging from the military side is completely irrelevant to policy, which emerges from the civilian side. The army executes policy, it doesn't make policy. What the policy is at any given moment is sometimes difficult to say: it's subject to change, it may be purely responsive, or indiscernable, or absent.

The author suggests a different, possibly more- clear "mental model;" one that allows us to call "stability operations," as they are envisioned today, what they actually are, to wit: "Nation building."

Likewise, he calls our attention to the present-day goal of "nation building: "Part of a broad effort to promote political and economic reform with the objective of tranforming a society emerging from conflict into one at peace with itself and its neighbors."

In addressing the concept of "prophylactic COIN," he suggests that this "societal transformation" effort should be applied proactively -- prior to any conflict.

The author, however, could have gone further. He could have acknowledged the United States' overall goal for making "nation building" a central part of its 21st Century foreign policy focus, this being: (1) To connect these abarent societies to the global economy -- such that they (2) become less of a problem for it, (3) benefit from a formal dependence and association with it, (4) better service and support its needs and, thereby, (4) better contribute to the maintenance and preservation of the current great power peace.

Such additional input would have rounded out the new "mental model" -- and possibly more fully explained what nation building/stability operations, transforming entire societies and COIN/prophylactic COIN are all about today.

Dayuhan, et. al:

Have you had a chance to read this article -- which seems to address a number of things that we have been discussing?