Small Wars Journal

Survey on FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency

The Jedi Knights, aka the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies at Ft. Leavenworth, are pondering the conversation on the need/utility of rethinking FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency.

You can help them out by spending 10 minutes on this survey.



You sound like you are a product of the USMC system!

ILE is universal -- all (except some medical specialties and such) Army majors go to at least the core course -- 3 1/2 months.

A colleague and I are about to publish an SWJ essay on PME framed with the philsophy of design. Stay tuned to SWJ!

Best, Chris

p.s. collegial, collaborative, intellectual discourse is never snobbery!


Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:24am

I don't know how Army CGSC selection works, but in the USMC, the population is relatively small and somewhat self-selected (although less true now than it was a few years ago as the board picks from all the eligible candidates, but there are ways to try not to get selected). The population in the MC is also supposed to be at least slightly above average. As far as SAMS (we have SAWS), if it is like SAWS, the population is exceedingly small and self-selected on the application side, then board selected. I.E. both are not necessarily a representative sample. Overall, the depth of learning you suggest requires intellectual curiosity plus at least a semblance of a graduate education introduction plus time. Few people have all three.

While this may seem like snobbery on my part, I'm basing it off of my own experience. Until I went to grad school, I was reading the usual light history and honestly not getting much out of it. Once I learned how to read and learn at a different level, both the material and what I got out of it changed. That, plus it takes a long time to build the background required to get much out of going into scholarly history. I liken it to throwing mud at a wall. It takes a lot of mud and a lot of time, a lot of it ends up on the ground, but if you keep at it, you start filling in the holes.

p.s. ILE exception is the history curriculum. It is quite good!

Hi Peter,

I am an educator (at Army Command & Staff).

I am not an historian (my doctoral pgm was in public admin); albeit, I am more and more swayed by the eclectic study of history as I learn how creativity and critical thinking work (much of it is based in heuristics/metaphoric reasoning).

Eclecticism, in my view, is about providing multiple views on the same phenomenon/historic example.

I am quite optimistic about many of our students at CGSC (as I was when I was on faculty at the War College). Although you are right to a point, many of my students have been quite rigorous in their approach to learning. I have been very impressed for the most part.

I am also very impressed with the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies program and its Basic Strategic Art Program, 59 educational plan. These are really world class programs. Cannot say the same for the curriculum in the CGSC ILE program -- it is rather mediocre (or less than what should be expected in a graduate school level program-- which may be part of the problem). Of course these opinions are my own and do not represent an official view :)



Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:40pm

Will you make the results available?

Curious as to what your background is? I ask, because I'm skeptical that our officers really are equipped to deeply immerse themselves in history in scholarly ways to build a "bank of heuristics." I'm all for it, but it is a pretty big leap to go from reading the normal popular history on everyone's reading lists as opposed into stuff like Gumz's argument and Schmidt's theory of the partisan that he bases it on. I also think it isn't just history, but IR and especially socio-economics that help give people a real understanding of the dynamics behind conflict. In any case, I don't think that your average officer is at all equipped for such study. I'd say that few will succeed, regardless of intellectual capacity, without a foundation that teaches them how to read for these heuristics. Second, a lot of people have zero interest in the amount and depth of reading required to get there. I was recently told by a fellow O-4 that a 2500 word essay was a "long read." Another O-5 CO at a course I attended was told that a 6 page paper was a "varsity read" and said "I don't do varsity reads." The paper was completely non-technical and really had no depth of thought to it. This is the culture we're dealing with. Of course, there are those who like to read, or feel that their profession requires it, but many do not. To that note, many of Huntington's assumptions about the professional man in The Soldier and the State do not hold true in this environment today, if they ever did.


One of our looming challenges is not so much doctrine as it is how we cover complex nation-building in our DOD schools, colleges, and universities.

In that regard, we need to pay more attention to deep immersion into studying history. History, presented in scholarly ways and read in depth, provides the opportunity four our officers to build a "bank of heuristics" for later sensemaking. There really is no substitute (I am convinced).

Interesting how we tend not to study the Philippines (especially in the early 50s) and Vietnam (from the North's and insurgent view -- 2 post-colonial wars).

RE: Vietnam -- There is no war I can think of that covers the full range of military operations (to include the looming nuclear exchange between USSR and US down to the peasants view of the world in a village). And there is so much available.

I am neither a believer in "lessons learned" nor "best practices" -- our best hope is to have a range of heuristics in our officers that they can call upon (essentially as insightful metaphors). In that regard, I am not a fan of doctrine -- it is way too reductive and always presents a monistic paradigm that is coutnerproductive to "design" acting and thinking. If we are to have a doctrine, make it an annotated bibliography of "essential" readings.

Critical reasoning and creative thinking are, in practice, the "anti-doctrine." And they should be.

What if "doctrine" is the problem?



Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:51pm

Thank you for your responses. I appreciate the suggestions and will incorporate many of them as this project progresses. However, as written the survey was designed for SAMS or CGSC students, which is why I didn't include spots for NCO designation, etc. Although you could write in your rank under the "Other" tab for international or OGA respondents. But, point taken.

Just to clarify, the purpose of the survey is to gauge perception of the manual. And, even in 10 questions, it's been very informative. It is, by no means, intended to be a comprehensive study of FM 3-24 or COIN. I would add that the discussion thread here has given me a sense that the anecdotal evidence I've picked up from students, and the response in the survey, are tracking the sense in the larger community.

So, please, feel free to take the survey despite your reservations. Or email me directly: Again, the point was to verify that what I was hearing as anecdote is more than such.



Who mentioned making Iraq into three States and then incorporating their citizens into the U.S.? Occupation doesn't mean annex, it is actually mandates certain services we must provide by international law. Seemed to workout relatively well for Germany and Japan. Of course we tried your idealist approach and look at what we have in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Insufficient courage and too much idealism get us nowhere, not to mention the severe suffering the populace must endure in those countries.

Like many others posting here I lived through the dysfunction of the Paul Wolfowitz endorsed idealism and arrogance in Iraq, and can't see how that approach can work anywhere.

I'm talking about providing protection and giving them some space to get on their feet before we pull the rug out from underneath their feet by establishing a non-functional government based on "our" perception of legitimacy. This would be an international effort as it was in Germany, not simply a U.S. occupation.

Funny, the Iraqis I spoke to were very disappointed with our lack of will to take charge, yet you seem to endorse just that. What do we do? We deactivate the military, then begin a progam of debathification to remove everyone with skills from the government, and then hand it over to a brand new government that was really only endorsed by the Shia. That is called mob rule, not democracy.

Bob's World

Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:19pm

(My response is also to Chris's question, and largely concurs with what Bill M submitted while I was typing.)

Bob's World

Mon, 12/06/2010 - 5:16pm

So...things would have been better if we had made Iraq into three new states or territories of the U.S.? Draw lines with one primarily Sunni, one Shia and one Kurd? All immediately granted full rights and privileges of US citizenship?

I think that the U.S. overestimates the wonderfulness of America, and how appreciated it will be when one gets a big slice of Americana slammed dry and sideway up their 4th POC.

Long prior to the U.S. invasion, the conditions of insurgency were sky-high in 2 of 3 of these populace groups in Iraq, but well suppressed by Saddam's regime. The country was a powder keg ready to blow. Also worth remembering is that the US had been waging war in the form of harsh sanctions, control of airspace, access to the global community, and subject to regular use of deadly force through aerial bombing for the 13 years preceding the U.S. invasion. Probably not on anyone's Christmas card list when we rolled in uninvited.

I'm not sure how much being really good at occupation would have helped. Certainly AQ would have came in just as fast to exploit our presence there, and equally certainly as many, if not more foreign fighters would have infiltrated to support AQ's cause.

Kind of like if you came home from deployment and found Jody in your house, eating your food, riding your Harley, and taking care of business with your family. Are you going to be less pissed if he's doing all of that very well???

On the other hand, if by occupation manual, you mean one that clearly states that the occupying force will likely be met with resistance no matter how bad what he replaced was; and will never be the COIN force, no matter how thoroughly defeated and non-existent the former government is. Then you might be on to something. Occupation and dealing with resistance is very different than annexation and dealing with resistance. A COIN manual is not a great help when one is not doing COIN, and IMO, the US is not doing COIN in any of the OEF/OIF locations.


You'll see several of my old posts probably going back to 2006 where I addressed this very concern multiple times to a rather hostile crowd. We were in denial that we were in fact an occupation force, so we produced what was perceived as a puppet government, and because we did it so quickly it was largely ineffective. This is much different than COIN. I think we still would have had resistance, but we would have responded much more effectively, rather than hoping the "new" government would step up to the plate. COIN like, but very different.

In my view this is one of the many dangers of allowing political correctness to shape our policies. Bill

p.s., for perspective, commend a very good piece by a scholar on faculty at USMA:

Jonathan E. Gumz, Reframing the Historical Problematic of Insurgency: How the Professional
Military Literature Created a New History and Missed the Past, Journal of Strategic Studies, 27 July 2009.

I know this is a little bit out-of-the-box, but would we have needed a field manual 3-24 if we had instead focused on "Occupation Operations?"

If we had occupied and provided US military governance immediately (notwithstanding hiring former Iraqi government officials to assist us in governing), would an insurgency have taken place?

I think our biggest issue may be that when we move in to topple regimes, what is our plan to occupy? We are still ignoring this large "elephant in the room."


Fri, 12/03/2010 - 2:52pm

"...Bring the guys with dirty boots together and produce more Vietnam primers; and ensure they have input to the FM as well...."

The COIN Center at Fort Leavenworth is trying to do this with a certain measure of success through a range of means like the annual symposium, internet forums/blogs, and the monthly Virtual Brown Bags sessions. I'd encourage anyone with a desire to shape COIN 'doctrine' development to engage the CPON Center (

Bob's World

Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:26pm

I have sitting here next to me a copy of "Vietnam Primer" written by SLA Marshall and then LTC David Hackworth in the '67/68 timeframe. It's a great little tactical guide based on lessons learned in Vietnam for tactical leaders going to Vietnam. Tools like this are very valuable and we need to do a better job of producing similar products by and for tactical leaders going to Iraq, Afghanistan, Mindanao, HOA, etc.

This is not the part of FM 3-24 that I find problematic though. The part that needs adjusting the most, IMO, is the theoretical/strategic foundation. Now perhaps this doesn't belong in an military manual for primarily tactical military users; but if not here, where? If not the military to produce this, who?

This one aspect I liked about Galula's approach is that he discussed insurgency at the theoretical down to the operational level. Where I see us making the kinds of mistakes that really hurt us it is at the flag grade and policy level, not at the Squad and platoon. Just as for the lead man every form of maneuver is a frontal assault, things get pretty fundamental for our guys out there at the squad and platoon level as well. They will easily adjust the nuance of their operations as their senior leaders get smarter; getting those senior leaders who think they know every thing they need to know from their own experiences over the past several years is the challenge.

Bring the guys with dirty boots together and produce more Vietnam primers; and ensure they have input to the FM as well. But also bring those who also deal with this higher level of theory, policy and strategy together as well and be willing to put some sacred cow concepts on the alter. Afterall, an ignorant squad leader learns real fast, or faces dire consequences. An ignorant general or senior policy maker can gleefully wallow in ignorance for years and never be held to personal consequences for the effects of their actions.

Sabers8th (not verified)

Fri, 12/03/2010 - 11:21am

Like Xenophon said above what were you doing.... OIF 1 I was in a Tank Company as a SSG and 06-07 was doing Convoy escort as a 2LT and 1LT. Now I am CA maybe include a branch/MOS?


Fri, 12/03/2010 - 10:05am

The survey asked when you were deployed and where, but it doesn't ask what you were doing.

I was on a battalion MTT team. The section on developing Host Nation Security Forces is focused on the operational level of that aspect. So, the only insight it provided at our level was how much of FM 3-24 was being ignored at higher levels.

Someone doing one mission is going to have a very different view of the document than someone doing another mission. It's an important distinction.


Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:20am


1. Ditch Question 1 entirely as irrelevant (at best background data)

2. At any time during or after your deployment did you make use of FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency"? If yes, what year?

3. Before the publication of FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency" in December 2006, what, if any, sources of information on counterinsurgency were you using? Please list titles or authors to the best of your ability.

4. Given the best you can remember, please briefly describe the parts, sections, chapters, or themes you found most useful. For example: "chapter 3, on intelligence", "the parts on the population," or "the sections on how to plan COIN ops", or "I found little useful info in the FM".

5. On a scale from "Not useful" to "Extremely Useful", please rate how useful you felt FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency" was to you.

6. Please check the box next to the phrase that best describes how FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency", was used during your tour. (Please check all that apply.)

Please check the box next to the phrase that best describes how FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency", was used during your tour. (Please check all that apply.)

- Informed my own understanding of this type of conflict

- Changed planning and operations of my unit.

- Had no effect on my unit.

- Changed planning and operations of my command.

- Informed my subordinates about counterinsurgency.

7. How useful was FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency", in informing your subordinates about the reasoning behind plans and operations informed by the discussion of insurgent war in the manual?

8. In your opinion, how important was an official statement of doctrine on counterinsurgency, like FM 3-24, to the success of operations in Iraq or Afghanistan?

9. At what levels do you think FM 3-24 was most useful?

10. Please describe why you think FM 3-24, "Counterinsurgency" was or was not important to success in Iraq and Afghanistan. (deleted 'military' - the whole point of COIN is that success requires more than just military engagement).

It's good to see that someone is asking some questions...broaden the focus and I think you will get a better response not just from the US but coalition friends and allies, and not just operators in the operational theatres but also trainers and other non-deployed support staff whose insights may be useful


Thu, 12/02/2010 - 11:16pm

Couldn't agree more with LongTabSigO and Sabers8th. There needs to be an Soldier/NCO/Warrant field.

Full disclosure: I am an NCO

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 11:01pm

Again, LongTabSigo is spot on. And to Anonymous above - yes we need NCO and Soldiers' input most of all.

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:51pm

First off, please NCOs, junior enlisted and Warrant Officers to the survey. E1 thru E9, W1 thru W5, in case those designing the test forgot.

Brett Patron

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:01pm

Mike F:

Question 1 should add in their drop down OEF-A or OIF, OEF-P, OEF-TS, OEF-CCA, JTF-HOA.

Then the rest of the questions will have a lot more context, especially in significantly less-well resourced AORs.

MikeF (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:56pm

Good comments thus far. This will be my last comment on this thread.

Please continue to add your thoughts on the survey. The constructive criticism is much needed, however, I would ask that if you have a serious disagreement, then please add your solution.

These are tough questions. Surveys only provide a start point.

If the Jedi Knights get too upset by your comments, then I'll call tomorrow to smooth things over.

Consider this your forum. At SWJ, we strive to merge the academic mind with that of the practitioner.



Thu, 12/02/2010 - 8:35pm

So they automatically assumed not a single enlisted soldier read the manual? Fail

MikeF (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:45pm


That's how Rand worked it out back in 1962.


David Kilcullen had the same thoughts during his SWJ book signing.


Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:37pm

Since neither Iraq or Afghanistan were true COIN issues to begin with rather occupation challenges (still COIN like, but very different in key respects). Hopefully we're not stupid enough to repeat Iraq, but we will support host nation's conduct COIN like we're doing now in many parts of the world. Does FM 3-24 help in that case, or was it myopically desiged to support OIF?

cjr (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:37pm

I dont know what they expect to learn from a 10 question survey about something as complex as counterinsurgency and a manual that is hundreds of pages long.

Maybe if this survey is just a screen for people that have something useful to that they could be invited to a seminar(maybe ~a half day for ~few hundred, broken into groups of ~30) to discuss their perspective in some detail, then that would be something useful.

MikeF (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:23pm

LongTabSigo and anonymous,

What questions should be asked?

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 6:10pm

LongTabSigo is spot on. What about all the other places in the world US forces are supporting variations of COIN (or FID) such as Colombia, Philippines, Africa? Typical myopic shortsightedness. Ao the new 3-24 will end up as a how Iraq was done so we can train to do another Iraq. Jedi Knights (or should I say Nights because the lights might be out upstairs) what were you thinking?

Brett Patron

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 4:47pm

Everything you need to know is in the first question. They only ask about Iraq or Afghanistan.

I guess that's the only place where there's an insurgency to counter?


Baath Tubbed (not verified)

Fri, 12/10/2010 - 11:40pm

While I commend the effort to discuss revisions to the FM, the survey is flawed. And this leads me to believe the underlying discussions at Leavenworth that are the foundations for this discussion are flawed.

OIF or OEF were not examples of COIN. They were examples of an occupying force conducting foreign internal defense. We are not the counter-insurgent in these conflicts.

In Iraq, as an invader and occupier, we enabled a Shia revolution. The Shia in charge (PM Maliki's Dawa Party for example) have long been Iranian supported guerrilla organizations that violently opposed the previous regime. Our forces enabled this revolution to occur, whereas prior to our invasion the revolution was held in check by Saddam's security forces.

The violence we have witnessed in Iraq has been a mixture of resistance to the occupation, counter-revolutionary violence aimed at the Shia guerrillas that the occupier installed into power, counter-revolutionary violence directed at the enabling force (occupier), terrorist -- tied to the notion of a global jihad to make Iraq part of a global caliphate, and criminal violence.

Applying the FM to this problem is akin to forcing a round peg into a square hole. And it is incredibly intellectually dishonest for senior leadership to not only ignore this fact, but then try to sell this FM as being successful and useful in Afghanistan.

The FM simply does not apply to Iraq, or Afghanistan and the authors and supporters of the FM's failure to recognize this problem has lead us to the point where we are today -- and is directly related to the massive loss of treasure we have dumped into both countries.

Besides the problems outlined above, a major fundamental flaw in the FM is that it was written from the basis of colonial powers fighting insurrection within the borders of their far reaching empire. It simply not applicable to scenarios we face today (Western forces occupying Muslim lands and attempting to install, protect, and enable new governments).

It is time to scrap the FM altogether and write a new FM that is applicable to not only the actual conflicts we may a face, but specifically the role we will play in those conflicts.

Abu Nasr (not verified)

Sat, 12/11/2010 - 12:40am

This is easily one of the best discussions on SWJ in years.

It is unfortunate to see that the survey still has not expanded its questionnaire to NCOs. At the same time, it is refreshing to see a discussion critical of FM 3-24. For the past several years, criticizing this FM was tantamount to blasphemy.

NCOs are mentioned very late in FM 3-24. The second appearance of NCOs is in a unique manner related to training host nation forces.

"6-51. NCOs should be selected from the best enlisted security force members. Objective standards, including proficiency tests, should be established and enforced to ensure that promotion to the NCO ranks comes from merit, not through influence or family ties. Many armies lack a professional NCO corps; establishing
one for a host nation may be difficult. In the meantime, adjustments will have to be made, placing more responsibility on commissioned officers."

How is this not a Mao-styled conversion from guerrillas to conventional forces? Either Iraqis and Afghans have reinvented warfare for the 21st century or the American perspectives on these wars have been completely wrong. It is long due to re-examine the two wars we have been fighting for nearly a decade.

We backed Afghan insurgents opposed to the constituted government in Afghanistan. The insurgents served as the main ground forces adding legitimacy to their overthrow of the Taliban. Unlike traditional revolutions, the NATO-backed insurgents failed to win popular support in the areas controlled by the Taliban today.

In Iraq, we back Kurdish separatists that had converted to third phase conventional forces and enabled the second phase Iranian-backed Shia guerrillas into converting into the third phase of their revolution. In this case, Coalition Forces served as the main ground forces removing legitimacy to the overthrow of the Baath Party.

As far as the question of whether Iraq and Afghanistan were insurgencies, the answer is yes. The difference being what FM 3-24 would refer to as the "host nation" is in fact the insurgency.

To quote Kilcullen for Counterinsurgency Redux,

"Politically, in many cases today, the counterinsurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier -- a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counterinsurgency."

Opponents to revolutions are not insurgents, they are counter-revolutionaries. To label opponents of a corrupt government (Karzai) or an Iranian-friendly regime (Maliki) as insurgents is simply incorrect.

Revolutionary legitimacy has proven itself far more important than the inaccurate sociology at the core of FM 3-24. Would the readers of SWJ support the political platform of any foreign force that protects your neighborhood? If readers would not flip political ideologies on a dime simply because a new entity is providing security, why would we believe this to be the case for other people?

This is the political reality that should be addressed in future additions of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Revolutions create counter-revolutionaries and revolutionary legitimacy creates a larger base of popular support than foreign forces providing timelined temporary security to locals.

Grant Martin (not verified)

Sat, 12/11/2010 - 3:33am

The "good" thing is that we aren't following our COIN doctrine in Afghanistan that I can see- so if this isn't a COIN-applicable environment, don't worry- we aren't applying COIN!

Now, having said that, there are isolated cases of BN Task Forces and SOF doing COIN, but I'd argue they are the exception and not the rule. From my, admittedly limited, vantage point we have these priorities: 1) FORCEPRO, 2) Getting polices signed and building the impression of "Afghan-led" plans/ops, and, 3) Working on internal information generation- which results in power point presentations and getting the Afghans to build ppt presentations- and is a result of the need to massage the messaging that DC gets.

Once we started looking at things through that lens, the fact that we weren't following our COIN doctrine started to make sense. Of course you wouldn't prioritize partnering or supporting Afghan efforts (COIN?) if they weren't in your top 3 priorities.

Now, what we're unsure of at my level (at both IJC and NTM-A- based on conversations with an admittedly limited number of staff officers) is whether our politicians are driving this or whether it comes from more of a risk-averse culture emanating out of our bureaucratic military structure. This structure seems to support short-term, easily-measured things and punishes long-term, hard-to-measure efforts that require a certain level of risk in the short-term.

Hopefully, for our institution, it is the former, although it would be nice to get that message and thus be able to plan more realistically with known constraints. If it is the latter, then the disconnect with those advocating COIN and those requiring risk-averse SOPs is worthy of investigation.

But maybe that is okay, if this isn't a COIN fight after all. And maybe the powers that be understand that and thus only pay lip service to it. If that's the case, I would be very surprised. Maybe our behavior has "emerged"- since that is the environment then mabye we've just been caught up in the "irreversible momentum" that is the propensity of this environment...

Grant Martin
MAJ, US Army

These comments are not the position of the US Army, DoD, or NTM-A/CSTC-A.

Lawdawg (not verified)

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 3:23pm

I concur Abu Nasr - this is good discussion worth the read.

That being said, I think the foreword in FM 3-24 says it all when it comes to the nature of the publication and I quote... "The FM is designed to fill a doctrinal gap" and "that every insurgency is contextual and presents its own set of challenges." (However, the survey in an of itself its rather broad IMHO, but that may have been the intent)

Personally, I did benefit "slightly" from utilizing the "principles" contained in FM 3-24, but working with Iraqi Police presented a very different set of challenges. It's one thing to say you have to provide security under the RoL - accomplishing that in Iraq (or any other country) is an entirely different matter. In my case training the police was one goal, but getting a Judge to hear a case and estblishing a fucntional correctional system is another.

Anything can be improved upon (we do that all the time with any Army publication). I too can see the benefits of criticizing FM 3-24 - simply because thats how new ideas emerge and become applied in the future.