Terrorism, COIN, and National Security

Terrorism, COIN, and National Security

by Francisco José Moreno

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As a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and to destroy his organization. The pursuit of bin Laden and Al Qaeda soon became a battle against the Taliban and as time passed the original mission receded into the background.

The Taliban lost control of the government, but it did not wither away. As the search for terrorists in Afghanistan turned into an all-out war against the Taliban, the 9/11 connection became increasingly difficult to retain. New reasons for staying in Afghanistan were then offered. In March 2003 the U.S. undertook the invasion of Iraq. While the new explanations for the Afghanistan war had been a stretch, the attack on Iraq obeyed no discernible logic and the attempts to justify it were mere fabrications. Despite the repugnant character of his regime, Saddam Hussein had no involvement with 9/11 and, as far as anyone has been able to show, posed no threat to any vital American interest.

The balance sheet of American actions in Afghanistan and Iraq is not a positive one.

Download the Full Article: Terrorism, COIN, and National Security

Francisco Jose Moreno is a political and economic consultant based in Miami, FL, who has published numerous books and articles on U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security. He was a professor of political science at New York University for over 20 years, chair of the NYU Politics Department, and a lecturer of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Moreno served six years in the U.S Army and Army Reserve, including four years in Army Intelligence and Psychological Warfare. Mr. Moreno holds a PhD from NYU as well as degrees in Law and Economics from Havana University.

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Anonymous, who exactly is arguing that our COIN doctrine worked in Iraq? It simply suppressed the threat long enough to allow us an honorable exit and then allow history to continue its march. I'm not convinced that John Robb or 4GW theorists have really adequately explained what is happening either. If you consider Robb's recent endorsement that AQI has right sized and that is why they're resurgent, then I would argue that is overly simplistic and fails to explain what is really happening. First off we really don't know what their size is, and second there are more factors influencing their resurgence that "right sizing". Consider that Western forces are turning over the protection of Sunnis to security forces controlled largely by a Shi'a led government for one "minor" factor.

This would suggest that for all the years of COIN as practiced in Iraq just maybe the Iraqi's did not get it as they sure are trying to lose the Sunni awakening crowd.

Taken from the NYTs article mentioned in the previous comment;

At a meeting of local tribes last week in Diyala Province, Iraqi military and police officials alienated many of the hundreds of Sunni tribal leaders present by threatening them with arrest unless they signed pledges to inform on and turn in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia members. Those belonging to the insurgent group, the authorities said, would be hunted down mercilessly. An Iraqi police training video playing on a screen in the background showed police dogs attacking people.

"The enemy they are talking about lives with us -- they are our neighbors, our brothers, our family, so you cant just open fire on them," said a tribal leader, Abdul Jabir al-Saadi.

A day earlier, near the western city of Falluja, a joint American-Iraqi military raid seeking to arrest a person suspected of being a Qaeda leader killed several villagers, including a child.

The local government released a statement denouncing the raid as a "terrorist operation" that had been "motivated by the deep hatred of this city and its people." Hundreds took to the streets in protest.

A man who said he was a member of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Abdulah al-Dini and who agreed to speak briefly to a local reporter, said his group fed off such public anger.

"The support of the mujahedeen believers is increasing every day," he said.

We talk as if the entire Sunni insurgency has simply disappeared along with AQI. If that is the case meaning COIN has worked then explain the following as even the COIN supporters would have a difficult time explaining it;

•Al Qaeda in Iraq surges. Baffles "experts (why do we continue to spend the big bucks employing these beltway experts when they get the basics of 21st Century insurgency wrong ?!?). Here's some more from the article: Each member in a cell of the group, which numbers from 6 to 20 fighters, is trained in a range of specialties. The cells leader, or emir, has the authority to plan attacks, often working in concert with other insurgent groups, including Baathists. The organization is designed so that the loss of any individual, including a leader, has as little effect as possible. NOTE: Why did it resurge? The same reason for why it declined. It got too big and aggressive for its partners/competitors in the Sunni open source insurgency. It became a threat. As a result, they killed it with US help. Now that it's rightsized, it fits nicely within the insurgency and is free to grow again.

If we had been paying attention to Kilcullens' "conflict ecosystem" and Robb's "open source warfare" it would be easy to explain with any of the other leading COIN theories it would be difficult to explain.

AQI has in fact rebounded/reorged to the structure of 2005 which was their strenght and since then they are in fact becoming more deadly with each passing day for the current Shiite government.

If people would have paid attention to a recent AQI internal study of their failures released to the internet after the killing of their top leaders one could see the changes coming-but hey AQI internet videos are nothing but propoganda.

It is really interesting to see this organization grow, suffer, reorg, and grow again in the face of the strongest GPF Army and 4500 SOF personnel in the world---makes one stop and think exactly as the writer states ---does any one understand anything about 21st century warfare ie 4GW?

Bill M:

"Successful conquerors throughout time did not try to change societies they conquerored, just make them pay tribute. They ruled through their norms."

This does not seem to be the American way of war.

In the American way of war, it seems that conquest is only considered to have been achieved when the subject society has, indeed, been transformed as we desire (consider the transformation that occured in Japan and German post-WWII; and consider the changes that occurred during and post-the Cold War in China and Russia).

"Just to be clear, are you arguing that we should transform the military to make it a society transform tool."

I make no such argument. I do, however, observe. And what I see is that one might, indeed, say that the US military, re: the 20th Century "hard cases" (Japan, Germany, China and Russia), did use the US military -- and its other instruments of power -- for the purposes of societal transformation. And it would seem that it is trying to do this same thing again today in the case of the remaining outlier/less-integrated states and societies of the world.

The definition of national security to include "... the protection of the lives and wellbeing of the countrys citizens from attacks by foreign entities, their allies or their agents." is an invitation to unbridled imperialism. The government must point out that citizens venturing abroad are accepting the protection of their sovereign hosts and the taxpayers of the US are in no way obligated to maintain a response force to extricate them from the vagaries of fate.

Bill C:

How much more evidence do we need ???

In sum: If you follow the money, follow the soldiers, follow the changes and investments in equipment, doctrine, training, etc.; all of this seems to be designed in consideration of, tailored to and implemented for an "outlier states and societies" agenda.

None of this is evidence; it's just talk. If you follow the money and the soldiers, what you see is that unless failed/failing/rogue states attack other states or harbor those who do, nobody pays any attention to them at all. Do you see any money or soldiers going to Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe, the DRC, Myanmar, etc?

Failed/failing/rogue states do not in themselves necessarily pose any threat to or restraint on the development of the great and rising powers. Has the existence of North Korea inhibited the development of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, or China?

The reality is that we can - and almost certainly will - deter, contain and ignore almost all rogue/failed/failing states and suffer no adverse consequences at all. Only quite rare cases would require intervention at all, and after current experience I very much doubt that intervention on the Iraq/Afghanistan scale will be contemplated for some time.

Bill C, you make an interesting argument. We're scared of power failure. That makes sense, but on the other hand we push tranformational change which normally means we push democracy, which in itself can be destablizing and lead to power failure. Was Pakistan more stable under military or civilian rule?

Just to be clear, are you arguing that we should transform the military to become a coercive society tranformation tool? Successful conquerors throughout time didn't try to change the societies they conquerored, just make them pay tribute. They ruled through their norms. What you're proposing is quite grand and I don't think Congress or the American people want to fund it.

Bill M:

The author seems to suggest that the greatest threat to American national security today is great power war.

Our national leaders, post-the Cold War, might disagree.

Their concern and contention (which I am not sure Mr. Barnett addresses as they/I do) seems to be that the greatest threat to American national security today is great power failure.

From a foreign policy standpoint: Should such WMD-armed great or rising power as China, Russia or India fail -- in these rather early stages of their experimentation with capitalism and markets -- then in such a scenerio lies our greatest potential for disaster (loose WMD on the grandest scale imaginable; reversion to communism or something worse, great power civil war[s], etc.).

Thus, our foreign policy designed to address this adverse scenerio; by dealing with (one of) the primary obsticles to the success of these great and rising power, to wit: outlier entities (rogue, weak, failing and/or failed states and societies) who (1) get in the way of or (2) otherwise preclude optimum -- and necessary -- global economic activity and expansion.

What to expect as we seek to "transform" these non-integrated entities (often against their will) and harness them to the engine of the global economy? Terrorism directed at us and our "allies" And insurgencies directed at our "agents of change" (the local governments that we install and/or sponsor to do our transformational bidding).

In such a major undertaking as this, can we say that FID will suffice? Or will other requirements (COIN; conventional application of force) also be required to support "government-building," "nation-building," "societal transformation" and the other requirements this project entails?

Bill C.

I think you presented some convincing evidence and of course this view point was promoted by Thomas Barnet's book "The Pentagon's New Map", which focused on closing the gap (another way to say we need to integrate the outliers).

However, even if we continue to go down this path and pursue this integration objective using diplomacy, development and defense, that does not mean or even imply that "our" forces need to conduct COIN.

This is more of a diplomacy and development issue than a defense issue. In some countries FID may be required, and in a few exceptions we may have to engage in nation building. However, as a citizen I don't see a clear tie between outliers not being integrated and our national defense. I actually think our intervention will increase risk to our nation and damage our economy. I only have one vote come election day, but I don't think a good case has been made for this strategy.

Wasn't President Obama recently quoted as saying he didn't want to get stuck with nation building in Afghanistan? That doesn't seem to jive with your assessment above. Also as the author of the article stated (with solid supporting arguments) our two recent adventures has appeared to hurt our international standing and put our security at greater risk, which once again undermines this alleged strategy.

Dayuhan:

Consider this article:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/21/in_the_beginning_there_...

Might the considerations and actions of:

a. President Clinton and his belief that "failing states are a threat to the emerging, democratic, free market world."

b. President Bush and his contention that "weak states are not just a moral problem but a matter of national security." And

c. President Obama and his failing states-oriented foreign policy (development, diplomacy and defense).

Consider also the new Unified Combatant Command AFRICOM.

How much more evidence do we need ???

In sum: If you follow the money, follow the soldiers, follow the changes and investments in equipment, doctrine, training, etc.; all of this seems to be designed in consideration of, tailored to and implemented for an "outlier states and societies" agenda.

What evidence would lead us to believe that this has not been -- and is not -- the case?

Bill C:

Today, the viability of today's great and rising powers -- and the present posture of great power peace -- is considered to be dependent upon the successful modernization (via "our" local governments) of the outlier states and societies of the world -- and upon our ability to better connect these states and societies to the engine of the global economy.

Who exactly is saying that the viability of the great and rising powers is dependent on modernization of the outlier states? On what evidence could such a contention possibly be based?

The reality is that for the most part these "outlier states" have little or no impact on the viability of the great and rising powers; they are neither necessary nor threatening and can be (and have been) mostly ignored. They only get attention on the rare occasions when they attack another state or harbor those who do.

I applaud Mr. Moreno's short paper which challenges the McCarthyism views of the COINdistas.

His assessment about our current efforts hurts, and while the truth hurts, it would be foolish to build a national policy built on the inane assumptions being pushed by those who believe this approach is working. We still have those who want to intervene with the internal workings of every country that isn't integrated into the Western model in hopes of denying safehaven to terrorism. We're too polically correct to state we're only focused Islamic terrorists, which means this type of intervention will simply make the problem worse. Even if we were able to effectively achieve this global tranformation of governments, terrorism will continue to exist (Islam based and other groups, other groups that exist in Western societies whether communists, anarchists or environmentalists). We all know this, so instead of calling it a war against terrorism, let's call it what it is, a war against AQ and its affilates. We can fight and defeat AQ, we're not going to defeat a tactic.

One area that I disagree with the author on is that the military is not the right tool for CT. If the threat was simply based in our homeland I would agree, but the threat dispersed over the globe, and the police do not have the authority or reach to strike these targets pre-emptively or in response to an attack. This falls into the realm of our Special Operations Forces.

Such things as national security, terrorism and insurgency -- and how they are perceived today -- may be better understood in terms of (1) the continued viability of the great and rising powers and (2) the present posture of great power relations (peace).

Today, the viability of today's great and rising powers -- and the present posture of great power peace -- is considered to be dependent upon the successful modernization (via "our" local governments) of the outlier states and societies of the world -- and upon our ability to better connect these states and societies to the engine of the global economy.

Attempts to modernize and incorporate these outlier states and societies has, and will, continue to be meet with resistance (in the form of terrorism and insurgencies).

Thus, terrorism and insurgencies are considered to be the 21st Century obsticles that we must overcome now, in order to be able to service and sustain the gains made in the 20th Century (the viability of the current great and rising powers and the current great power peace).

Perceived price to be paid of we fail? Look back to the 20th Century -- or to a worse ("failed" WMD-armed great and rising powers) scenerio.