Understanding the “IN” in COIN
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
-- Albert Einstein
After the Vietnam War, it has been apparent that the Department of Defense (DOD) wanted to ignore any counterinsurgency (COIN) lessons learned. It was as if the DOD wanted to downgrade the importance of COIN. Operation Desert Storm created an albatross for policymakers, military leaders, and the public view on how “all” wars could be waged. The view created was that overwhelming troop levels coupled with high technology and weapons that any conflict is winnable. What Desert Storm should have taught us is that no enemy will face America on the front end, conventionally, but would instead face America on the back end, guerrilla warfare.[i] This way of thinking permeated its way into our military culture and I contend is jettisoning any lessons we could be learning. Our policymakers and military leaders do not seem to understand insurgencies. Most of our approaches are ineffective, if not counterproductive. Too many lives have been lost due to ignorance and in some cases carelessness. Marcus Tullius Cicero's once commented to the Roman Senate: "for arms are of little value in the field unless there is wise counsel at home."[ii] Cicero was telling the leaders of his time, which I hope this paper attempts to tell the leaders of our time: you may have powerful armed forces, but unless you think problems through, adopt a prudent strategy, and apply armed force wisely, your power is useless to you. There was no "wise counsel at home" in Rome of Cicero's day nor is there in our Washington, D.C.
Administration after administration has failed to learn what “internal wars” are all about and how best to go about intervening in them. I believe the coming wars of the future will not come from nation states, nor will the use of futuristic weapons; it will be from the streets and marketplaces of urban and rural areas of third world countries. These individuals will be living in impoverished areas, with lack of governance, high birthrates, lack of education and healthcare. These individuals will be the primary targets of insurgent groups that want to overthrow an existing government and replace it in one of their own minds. Expanding populations means lower literacy rates, income disparity, hunger, unemployment, or land rights. Current data show the world’s population is increasing while becoming urbanized, littoralized, and connected through electronics.[iii] This means that future world’s population will be crowded, urban, networked, and coastal. More people in urban areas will now be competing for employment opportunities and other resources. With increased populations fighting for limited or scarce resources, insurgencies could form for which a host nation might need assistance. This makes a desperate population susceptible to ideologies that an insurgent group could provide.
USG doctrine has tried to establish bumper sticker slogans for insurgent wars. Counterinsurgency (COIN) is the most accepted term used, and other names are associated such as revolutionary war, guerrilla warfare, irregular warfare (IR), low-intensity conflict (LIC), stability operations (SO), Foreign Internal Defense (FID), and “hearts and minds.” These are nothing more than fly by night or knee-jerk reactions that try to catch the attention of a lower level troop or in the case of a politician, a voter. In 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom used the phrase, “Shock and Awe”; the only “Shock and Awe” was the industrialized strength insurgency that formed because “we” never understood the vast cultural dynamics of Iraq. After these debacles, our leaders should have a keen understanding of strategy and how to coordinate that through a policy aimed at shaping the future of a host nation and eliminating an insurgency. Unfortunately, NO ONE seems to understand the “IN” in COIN.
The Appropriate Approach
The author contends that American’s need to understand the “Who Lives There”[iv] approach to understanding insurgencies. The “Who Lives There” approach is an analytical methodology for identifying and understanding deeply-rooted grievances within a given society experiencing insurgency. Insurgency is a socio-political war in which a complex and varying blend of religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural factors all play roles in the conflict. As each insurgency necessarily is different from all others, one must examine each factor within the context of the culture and norms of the specific country under study. Because knowledge of the human terrain (especially its grievances) is central to understanding an insurgency, the “Who Lives There” methodology focuses on core issues contributing to popular unrest and ultimately points the way to socio-political solutions that will have real, lasting impact. Although there are multiple research studies on the concepts of COIN, there is little dedicated to confront an insurgency effectively. The “Who Lives There” approach showcases that political, military, social, and economic programs (PMSE) are the components of any COIN operation.
Army Field Manual 3-24 defined insurgency as “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.”[v] Insurgencies want to challenge the existing government for control of all or a portion of its territory or force political concessions in sharing political power. Insurgencies require the active support of some portion of the local population. In sum, an insurgency is “armed politics.” This will require political choices at the tactical level.[vi]
The ink of the scholar is worth more than the blood of a martyr.
-- The Prophet Muhammad
The World as We Know It
American’s only see the world through one lens- their own, and the majority do not understand how the other half of the world lives. We hear about insurgencies like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, or DAESH, but have no “earthly” idea as to the social context of these groups. In the case of Boko Haram, we create a hashtag, when 300 schoolgirls are kidnapped, but yet have no idea what or whom a Hausa-Fulani or Kanuri is. When it comes to the Middle East, we will call them Arabs, not understanding the cultural difference between Arabs, Persians, or Pashtuns. If we can’t comprehend a general context of the others, then we definitely will not understand the forces that are shaping third world countries. Let us now then take a quick gander around the globe to see what the current state of affairs is like.
China is currently battling an insurgency of its own in the Western province of Xinjiang. The Islamic Xuighurs have a low-level skirmish against ethnic Chinese Hans. China has the ongoing debate of sovereignty of Taiwan, the expansion and militarization of the South China Sea, and the current land grab in Africa. India is battling a Marxist inspirited insurgency in the Naxalites and has continued fighting in the disputed Kashmir territory with Pakistan. All this while Al Qaeda has announced a new terrorist group in the region titled Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). AQIS will no doubt look to cause uprisings in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.[vii] The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is seeking separation and has been active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country and is dealing with a growing disenchanted youth population that has already committed violent atrocities.[viii] Thailand has been dealing with Islamic separatists in the south since the 1960s.[ix]
DAESH has already been well documented with the struggles in Iraq and the Levant. Israeli is dealing with insurgent groups from Hamas to Hezbollah. The Kurds continue to struggle for independence from Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Turkey is not only battling DAESH but has an ongoing feud with Kurdish separatists. Recep Tayip Erdogan, Turkey’s premier, is rapidly tightening his grip on Turkey to make it a one-party quasi-fascist dictatorship.[x] Iran is trying to strengthen its grip within the region. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has advisors in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Yemen is a failed state with no governance outside the capital of Sana’a. A multitude of groups is vying for control of Yemen. Al-Qaeda and DAESH are fighting for control of the people, while Saudi Arabia is supporting the pro-Hadi rebels while Iran supports the Houthi rebels. Bahrain dealt with its own Arab Uprising in 2011 and still could be active.[xi] Saudi Arabia’s economy is in trouble with falling global oil prices.[xii] Sultanate Qaboos of Oman is rumored to have cancer and is in his 80’s and has yet to name a successor.
Nearly the entire continent is ablaze with insurgencies and/or political-social instability. Somalia has been a hotbed for insurgencies for the past 25 years. With no government, al-Shabab controls a large amount of the country. Sudan has now split into two countries with South Sudan dealing with a growing insurgency. Uganda and the Central Africa Republic both have insurgencies with groups crossing into both countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo is legendary for insurgencies, with Kamuina Nsapu in the past year growing from a regional insurgency to country wide. After Operation Odyssey Dawn, Libya is a collapsed state with a multitude of insurgent actors vying for control of Tripoli. South Africa is currently seeing one of its worst economic crashes and rumors of DAESH having small operations out of the country. Angola which neighbors South Africa is dealing with the FLEC, Zimbabwe’s communist President and Robert Mugabe is in his late 80s and is reportedly ill and has not named a successor. There were uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. Nigeria is dealing with Boko Haram in the North and militants in the southern Nige Delta region. Liberia is rising out of a
20-Year civil war and if conditions do not improve could be ripe for an insurgency, Cote d’Ivoire’s government is dealing with army personnel not being paid. Algeria and Mali both are dealing with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Peru, Nicaragua, and El Salvador have all dealt with insurgencies in the last 25 years. Mexico is dealing with widespread corruption, and the cartels are a major criminal syndicate that has global reach. Columbia is fighting the longest insurgent conflict against the FARC. FARC and Columbia have signed a peace deal, but the people rejected.[xiii] Venezuelan citizens are protesting against the leftist regime, and a full-blown insurgency could happen within the next two years. The narcotics trade between all countries brings vast amounts of cash but fuels political and social instability. The narcotics trade reaches all the way into North America, Africa, and Europe. Bolivia which has staved off prior insurgencies is dealing with the worst drought in 30 years. Brazil is in a political uprising since audiotapes were leaked of the President paying hush money to another politician The Zetas and MS-13 are paramilitary groups that have operations in the United States and will protect their trafficking at all costs.
Other Instability Factors
Although this was a quick tour of the world, the problems are deeper than this outline provides. It is done so that readers can understand the broad nature of an insurgency. Even though these problems were listed as an overview, many of these problems are absent to Americans to include our leaders. Who would have thought in 2001, that the war in Afghanistan would be ongoing 16 years later or that our military would be fighting the third Iraq war of my lifetime? This alone should show that a viable long-term strategy has been invisible to our military leaders and policymakers or that we knew absolutely nothing about the countries that we operate in. You cannot just stop at the political and military factors. One must understand the socio-economic factors that lead to instability as well. These include but not limited to income disparity, literacy rates, hunger, water resources, access to water, chemical pollution, and environmental degradation. These factors and many others are where insurgents will look to make political changes through violence.
You can always count on Americans to do the right thing- after they’ve tried everything else.
-- Winston Churchill
The Ugly Truth
Dr. John Nagl argued that counterinsurgency is the graduate level of warfare.[xiv] The military knows how to wage conventional war but has trouble focusing on the integration of economic development, understanding cultures, and understanding tribal dynamics. Trying to integrate all these skillsets is what makes counterinsurgency the graduate level of war. It seems apparent that some senior military leaders and policyholders have an “allergy” to counterinsurgency operations. This view though is contrary to the kind of warfare that our military force is most likely to engage in. Imagine if a football team only prepared for a passing game and not a run game or defense. This is the mindset of some military stakeholders. This mindset does not mean there is no need for readiness against a conventional nation-state. Rather that the military needs to be ready for what it is most likely to confront while still maintaining a conventional force ready for state actors.
When leaders and policymakers are going to commit America’s sons and daughters to war, then policy should not be flawed, and the appropriate military strategy should be employed. To this, one must understand what an insurgency. Something at this time people do not seem to comprehend. There have been numerous books written over the past ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan, by excellent scholars and troops, yet there are very few that have studied on how the insurgencies were conceived, developed, and sustained. It is like the doctor who treats the symptom and not the ailment.
The Ailment: Insurgencies are “Local”
To treat the ailment, one must have a thorough understanding of what an insurgency is. Note though, that an insurgency is not a disease, it is “an outward manifestation of societal illness.”[xv]Lamborn notes that a disease is revealed through symptoms, but the illness might be hidden for years. The same for an insurgency, the outbreak of an insurgency might reveal itself, but the causes could take years. An insurgent goals might be his ideology, but poor governance is the “petri dish that empowers a virus to become an epidemic.”[xvi] It was established previously that an insurgency is armed politics. An insurgency occurs mainly because of failed PMSE components of any government. Therefore, how governments are perceived, will determine whether its leaders are legitimate or illegitimate. Most insurgencies hold no territory; therefore, they could be located anywhere. An insurgency consists of individuals who make up the society of host nation. Mao Tse Tung can be considered the first teacher of how to operate an effective insurgency.[xvii] Mao believed insurgency must happen at the local level. Mao understood the grievances with the local populace, which allowed him to carry out a protracted war with popular support. Because his guerrillas had the support of the local populace, they could choose when, where, and how to attack government forces.[xviii] Because he controlled the local populace, he controlled the conditions that drove the conflict. Mao’s insurgent build-up focused around the people thus making any insurgency people-centric.
Mao described his warfare as a jigsaw puzzle meaning instead of one definable strategy they could be broken into separate conflicts that outlined a broader goal.[xix] Mao stated that revolutionaries are “fish that swim in the water of the people.”[xx] The local population becomes the center of gravity, meaning the greatest importance. Center of gravity refers to the support of the population; therefore, it is a strategic, operational, and tactical objective for both insurgents and counterinsurgents. An insurgency is a different form of war. All conflicts should teach us to pay attention to the needs and wants of a population. The population is now a principal weapon of an insurgent or counterinsurgent. Because insurgencies must have the support from the local populace, most insurgents are from the local population. T.E. Lawrence wrote that an embedded force must get to know the families, clans, tribes, and even enemies[xxi]. He encouraged his troops to learn the local dialect and to speak it. Lawrence embraced the culture, by advising his forces embedded in the Bedouin tribe, to wear an Arab kit and headscarf.[xxii] Wearing the local clothing allowed for trust to be built between the locals and the embedded force. This also confused the insurgents, because they could not distinguish individuals from the uniform.[xxiii]
Insurgencies must be looked at as “social environments, which adapt, evolve, and consists of nodes, links, boundaries, inputs, and outputs.”[xxiv] If we are to view insurgencies as environments, forces should be embedded in the environment to possibly understand and defuse an insurgency. Most of the world does not know each other’s culture. This unawareness becomes a huge challenge for a counterinsurgent. A COIN force must understand the culture of any local populace. British General Sir Rupert Smith argued that a country cannot just deploy troops, but rather they must employ troops.[xxv] Smith’s means that soldiers will have to engage within the local communities they operate in. This engagement means understanding the culture.
The Prescription: Politics and Persuasion
Most counterinsurgents start off fighting an insurgency the wrong way because they don’t understand the drivers; therefore, the counterinsurgent force has time and ground to make up. Insurgents have the advantage of time. A saying in Afghanistan by the Taliban is “American’s might have the watches, but we have the time.” Because the USG wants to treat the symptoms of an insurgency and not the actual ailment, our government is already “off the mark.” Political warfare and influence operations are the vital roles that no American seems to understand when conducting a COIN operation. Political organization at the lowest level[xxvi], and effective propaganda -- harping on a key theme that affects broad areas of society, and competent political leadership are the keys to defeating an insurgency. Americans tend to think weapons, weapons, weapons as the key to combating and defeating an insurgency. This is about as clear as ocean front property in Arizona. Any legitimate government will derive its power from how stable the security, political, economic, and social structure is of that society. This is where American military personnel can assist in education, governance, and civil infrastructure projects. Political Warfare and Influence Operations happen within the PMSE framework of a COIN operation.
No two insurgencies are the same because no two countries are the same. At a fundamental core, some form of politics motivates all insurgencies. Political factors have always shaped conflict, regardless of conventional or irregular. Therefore, the goal of any insurgency is to overthrow a ruling government and replace it with one of an insurgent’s vision. Effective politics is the means of effectively communicating ideas and goals for which the mobilization of the public would support; therefore, in a war amongst the people, the insurgency will win by coercion and persuasion.[xxvii] Emile Simpson notes that military forces miscalculate the political risks by seeking out battlefield opponents and body counts. To take the fight to the enemy in COIN, “true” victory will be found through market chats; thus, the political battlefield is more important than the physical one.[xxviii] Success in war ultimately depends on consolidation of political order over government institutions.[xxix] Grievances amongst the population can cause a breakdown in the PMSE elements, making the conditions right for an insurgency. In the Harvard International Review, Gian Gentile stated that war cannot be a substitute for foreign policy, meaning the importance is on the political landscape of a nation.[xxx] Making partnerships is more important than the obliteration of targets in an insurgent conflict. If a target audience is to be influenced, then policy must be geared towards how that audience will view military action.[xxxi] Our military must seek to establish the military conditions to bring about a political solution. Any military strategy must consider the action of its forces because a target audience is interpreting these actions through a political prism.[xxxii]
A government must be able to bring about governance to its citizens. If it cannot, it cannot be perceived as legitimate, and cannot command the people’s allegiances. Policies should be geared towards the grievances of the people; thus, having a greater chance of ending any insurgency. If the USG wants people to subscribe to a political message, it must think about how local people interpret that message into political terms.[xxxiii] Host nation governments must look at individuals and place them into correct contextual groups for the appropriate political message. Groups can be assigned by social, geographical, age, language, doctrinal, and cultural groups. Once a group analysis has been done, leaders can then formulate policies governing the habits of these groups.
Poor governance has high costs for society. When resources are not made available to the public, the clock turns back on the development of a host nation. This, in turn, creates further instability and gives an environment for an insurgent to operate within. After Vietnam, Henry Kissinger stated, “we fought a military war, our opponents fought a political one.”[xxxiv] Any perception of injustice could be one of the most important grievances a society has against a government.[xxxv] In the global economy we live, citizens no longer confined by borders but connected to the international community. Individuals are connected globally through technology; citizens of one country can see what happens in another. This connection might cause some to lose faith in the governance of their country and take up an insurgency, regardless of location. If individuals lose faith in their government, then individuals might look to remove the ruling government.[xxxvi] Corruption in government facilitates insurgencies. Corruption is a force multiplier to nations that border each other. Terrorist groups thrive in nations where corruption is rampant rather where governance is positive, and the population has stability. It is not body counts nor how many JDAMS that were dropped in determining the outcome of an insurgency. It is the political factors, government’s reforms that will decide the success of a COIN operation.
True and genuine reforms are most important for a counterinsurgent as it robs the insurgent of his greatest weapon, which is the support of the people.[xxxvii] American stakeholders should see intuitively which governments are likely to be able to overcome insurgency through a willingness to make “true” meaningful reforms. These governments deserve US military support if requested which can enable them the time and space necessary for those efforts. Counterinsurgency support to host nations that are unwilling to take the difficult steps towards improving themselves in the eyes of their people will almost always lose, regardless of how much support the U.S. might provide. The military has always played a central task as it relates to political and economic reforms in armed conflicts.[xxxviii] Policymakers should be as close to the politics on the ground, and this is where a counterinsurgent force can play a role.[xxxix]
“Influence is an active verb, and its goal must always be action.”[xl] Influence from a military point of view can be defined as a way to “galvanize public opinion and motivate it to take specified actions that contribute to a clear political goal.”[xli] Jacques Ellul, the preeminent thinker of propaganda stated: “we know that propaganda’s first requisite is to be heard, to excite individuals, and make them look or listen.”[xlii] COIN is a war of ideas sand which shows that the strategy of any insurgent or counterinsurgent has a propaganda component. Propaganda must be consistent, but once effectively reached to an audience can help shape events through public influence.[xliii] V.I. Lenin stated the art of any propagandist in in the ability to persuade an audience through truthful means which influences an individual to act a certain way.[xliv]Campaigns designed to influence are built around people. Focus on people, and their communities help counterinsurgents bring stability and positive governance to a host nation. Propaganda must be addressed to crowds, shown to be personnel, and always remember mass movements are composed of people that can be seen as being assembled.[xlv] A successful influence operations campaign will appeal to an individual by every approach- visual, graphic, and auditory to support a host nations.[xlvi] Irregular warfare is about people, not platforms.[xlvii] Unfortunately, the insurgents present themselves as the political solution and align a propaganda campaign as the ammunition to this strategic “political warfare.” Denying the legitimacy of an insurgent is vital to any COIN campaign. An insurgent will be judged by the population for what he promises, not what he does; therefore propaganda is a powerful weapon for any insurgency.[xlviii] As Simpson notes in his masterful book, War from the Ground Up, “if force is a language, war is the interpreter who acts as a medium between the speaker and the listener.”[xlix] This language describes the meaning of action through a political objective. Since COIN is a strategy of policy, a counterinsurgent’s force needs to be interpreted through that policy.[l] With the support of the local populace, intelligence could be acquired on insurgents, and assist in defeating an insurgency. Intelligence is paramount to defeating an insurgency, but this intelligence has to come from the local population. Ellul stated, “propaganda must respect local facts, or it will destroy itself.”[li] Famous insurgent, T.E. Lawrence famously wrote, “better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfect.”[lii] Lawrence infers that anything done from an indigenous force will be accepted and tolerated more than if it were to be from an outside force. An effective propagandist will see an individual as a cell in a social organization, but as a cell organized into a social unit.[liii]
In COIN operations, people is more vital and important than technology. This implies that people are instrumental in being the primary weapon against an insurgent, not the superiority of firepower that the military processes. Wars evolve rather than transform; therefore, the way a counterinsurgent fights should adapt to the insurgent threat. When utilizing influence operations, narratives must be centered around people and politics. LTC (Ret.) Paul Cobaugh, states that in every insurgency, there must be a costumed and crafted messaged geared towards the people.[liv] Propaganda is not changing an adherence of doctrine: it is changing the individual to an action.[lv] Narratives must come from someone locals trust and will vary across different cultures, which could mean districts, regions, and nations. Narratives must be legitimate to its targeted audience. Narratives transcribe the political agenda and therefore will decide success or failure.[lvi] Narrated propaganda is most effective when addressed by local nationals to their fellow citizens.[lvii] This is because local nationals know the sentiments and opinions and stereotypes that propaganda must reach.[lviii] Host nation governments must be first and quick to the truth when it comes to narratives. If you do not capture the headlines, then you become the subtitle.[lix] Insurgents are immersed in the local population and therefore are more adaptive to getting a story out, whether true or false. As Cobaugh notes, being first creates “required” credibility. True propaganda can expand an ideology without force and set an entire mass movement in motion.[lx] Edward Bernays, considered the father of advertising, stated that propaganda is the executive arm of an invisible government.[lxi] What Bernays refers to is that no social significance to a society is done without propaganda. An effective propaganda campaign allows host nation governments to reach citizens all across a country, without having major representation. General Stanley McChrystal once said that COIN is about having a constant dialogue with the local population.[lxii]
The time to win a fight is before it starts.
-- Frederick W. Lewis
Who Lives There
Drones nor advanced weapons can assist in the human terrain; the human terrain is where a counterinsurgent will achieve an enduring strategic victory. Our nation’s military has used the M1911 automatic pistol since 1911. This should inform us that it is the software (human-brain) over the hardware (weapon) that is most important in combat. Since humans are the most important aspect of warfare and understanding an insurgency is culturally driven, we must update our thinking to confront insurgent conflicts better. Just like software has to be updated, so should our view on how to defeat an insurgency. Typical thinking is that policy is for Foreign Service Officers and propaganda is for career PysOps folks. This is not so in a generational conflict like the U.S. is involved in. This is why understanding insurgencies is so vital to not only policy and military leaders, but military personnel at the lower echelons. This means “Who Lives There’ is a must for our policymakers. The “Who Lives There” approach is a way forward to solve our misguided view on confronting insurgencies. “Who Lives There” provides an analysis to wisely bring about political reforms to ensure quality across a social spectrum. “Who Lives There” will allow for host nations to preempt an insurgents political power, allowing for a government to officer “genuine and true” political and social reforms. In ending, I will provide a brief overview of PMSE to understand “Who Lives There.”
Any governments fighting an insurgency must enact meaningful reforms to address grievances. Insurgencies are established by grievances or perceived grievances in a host nation. Therefore, the people are the center-gravity for any COIN operation. Some grievances can come from oppression, literacy rates, income disparity, hunger, unemployment, or land rights. Current information demonstrates the total populace is expanding while at the same time getting to be plainly urbanized, littoralized, and associated through gadgets. This implies future total populace will be swarmed, urban, arranged, and waterfront. More individuals in urban territories will now vie for economic openings and different assets. With expanded populaces battling for restricted or rare assets, uprisings could frame for which a host country may require help. Diplomacy will be top down, but the challenges and resolutions will be bottom up.
Any COIN operation must be a civil-military approach versus strictly a military. When troops are committed, the human factor in the military operations will be the most important because the people are the center of gravity. Military personnel must be sent in as advisors and embedded into an indigenous force. These advisors should be kept small in number(s). The indigenous force must take the lead in operations and be seen as the face of any operation. This does not mean that U.S. military personnel cannot or should not be sent into combat with an indigenous force. There is a need for embedded Army personnel to be sent into combat. An embedded advisory force, utilizing American enablers such as military intelligence, logistics, air power, and precision weapons, could bring about a combat force multiplier on the battlefield against an insurgency. These missions would be to accompany, advise, and assist. The operations would still have to have a local face.
A key component for the military will be to accept defectors into the fight against any insurgent group. Leaders must be actively engaged with an insurgent group as well. There are moderates in an insurgency, and it could be negotiated that they put down arms and join the political process, even if they have blood on their hands. Daniel Marston argued an insurgent could be the enemy one-day and the solution the next.[lxiii] Leaders of an insurgent group that would not negotiate or put down arms then can be dealt with tactically. Propaganda is important as it can assist in winning over the population while showing the insurgent force that it is not in their interest in taking up arms. Propaganda is a psychological component that can lead to better intelligence. Propaganda is effective and important to influence multiple audiences.
The human terrain in COIN operations is as difficult and as important as the physical terrain. The human terrain will drive the operational terrain. Instead of exclusively focusing on science, engineering, and mathematics, DOD could put more emphasis on the language, cultural understanding, and societies. Insurgency is a social war made up of different religions, ethnicities, and groups.[lxiv] Because each insurgency will be different, the U.S. military will need to have a force capable of understanding the cultures and norms of each host nation. Thus, the military needs to understand “Who Lives There.” Any COIN force must be seen as operating on behalf of the local populace, or any deployment would be done so in vain. American troops can support the people while not supporting the ruling government. American Army personnel will need to promote social progress and bring about “true” social change if needed. Successful insurgents usually require external support. Mobility and dispersal are essential to the insurgent survival.
The analysis found the stability of a government depends on its effectiveness of politics but also on economic development. Many nations that suffer from social-economic conditions are ripe for instability. Military personnel will need to take notice of any distribution of wealth. Traditional conventional military resources will not be accessible in the future operating environments. Any COIN operation will be a protracted war, and the American people must have the will to stay the course, however long it might be. Army troops will need to be aware of the politics affecting the people living in locations.
Until the U.S. accepts the political challenges where insurgencies operate, we will continue to struggle when sending a COIN force.[lxv] Military officials love to quote Clausewitz and his theory that war is an extension of politics. They often quote this but have forgotten the very heart of what warfare truly is. If the USG does not come to understand the realities of Third World Countries, then we will spend the next 16 years or more fighting conflicts that our government does not understand. This means that U.S. military personnel must understand the drivers of conflict and instability in nations that they might operate. Unconventional conflicts and challenges require unconventional means- that is a military force that understands the PMSE techniques, which require a judicious understanding over the long haul.[lxvi] There are many warriors deployed to battle insurgents, but these kinds of wars are not about warriors- they are about people, local indigenous people. Emile Simpson states best “that the military domain should be an extension of policy, not a conceptually sealed-off environment.”[lxvii] Insurgencies start with the ambitions of local ordinary people, so therefore our strategic objectives should be geared towards a host nation’s government addressing these aspirations through reforms and other policy norms. Districts, cities, villages, provinces, or a nation is nothing more than the sum total of a potential target audience for influence operations. Therefore, having a deep understanding of the social network analysis of a target audience will help someone understand the “IN” in COIN.
In the fight against insurgencies, people need to realize, that the application of purely security measures may not restore peace and orderly governance because the fundamental of unrest may be economic political or social. The motive should not be material destruction; it should be a project dealing with the development of political, social and economic of the people. This requires a serious study of the people of racial, political, religious and mental development. The most practical approach to solving the problem is to understand the problem and understand the possible approaches to and repercussion to be expected from any action that may be contemplated. We must understand cultural norms and political realities. It is the people who will decide victory, not security manpower or tactical bravado. If the locals respect us and believe we have their best interest at heart, they will do all they can in their power to assist, but if they believe that "one" does not care or viewed as being hostile, you can't expect them to help us. If the people are for you, you cannot lose, but if they people are against you, you cannot win. Americans must learn that- defeating an enemy's strategy is of far greater importance than defeating his troops. With the collapse of an enemy's strategy, all his forces become moot. Only when our policy makers and military leaders understand this, will the USG be able to operate comfortably in the uncomfortable in insurgent warfare.
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Lawrence, T.E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, London: Doran & Company, 1935
Lenin, V, Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974
Shelley, L. Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime, Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Printing Press, 2014
Marston, D. Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Press, 2011
Nagl, J. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002
Maan, A (many other numerous authors). Soft Power on Hard Problems: Strategic Influence in Irregular Warfare. Maryland: Hamilton Books, 2017
Schadlow, N. War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory, Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2017
Simpson, E. War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
Smith, Rupert, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, New York: Random House Publishing, 2005
[i] I am indebted to Dr. John Nagl, who helped hone my research into insurgencies and used Desert Storm as the model for how wars are seen incorrectly. Dr. Nagl was also a Lt. Col in the Army and was a pioneer to adaptive change when confronting an insurgency. He was a co-author of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency Manual.
[ii] I am deeply indebted to G.L. Lamborn, who has become a dear friend and mentor. I am honored to use this quote from him which is also the title of the quintessential read for insurgencies, his book titled Arms of Little Value.
[iii] Kilcullen. David, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, Oxford University Press, 2013, pg. 61
[iv] Who Lives There and Who Lives There Research is trademarked and copyrighted
[v] Field Manual FM3-24, Counterinsurgency, Chicago Printing Press, 2006, pg. 2
[vi] Simpson, Emile, War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics (Oxford University Press, 2012), pg. 106
[vii] Sri Lanka recently fought a 20 year successful COIN against the Tamil Tigers. The author contends that this insurgent group could rise again as some of the underlining issues of the Tamil Tigers have not been addressed.
[viii] January 2016 a Starbucks in Jakarta was attacked 2 killed. On May 23, 2017 multiple suicide bombings at a bus stop killed three police.
[ix] For great insight into Thailand insurgents, read The Thai Way of COIN by Dr. Jeff Moore.
[x] Again I am indebted to G.L Lamborn for providing his insights into the Turkish coup.
[xi] Saudi Arabia military used heavy tactics and suppression. The grievances are still unaddressed
[xii] To get a better understanding, watch the PBS documentary- Saudi Uncovered
[xiii] Even though the peace deal was rejected, the FARC and government agreed to implement the terms/conditions while trying to sway popular vote
[xiv] Again I am indebted to LTC (Dr.)John Nagl
[xv] Lamborn, G.L., Arms of Little Value: The Challenge of Insurgency and Global Instability in the Twenty-First Century (Casemate Publishing, 2012), pg. 151
[xvi] Paul Cobaugh in Soft Power on Hard Problems: Strategic Influence in Irregular Warfare, Hamilton Books, 2016, pg. 25
[xvii] Lamborn, Arms of Little Value, pg. 112
[xviii] Lamborn, G.L., People in Arms: A Practitioners Guide to Understanding Insurgency and Dealing with it Effectively, Afghanistan-Pakistan Training Group, 2009, pg. 13
[xix] Ibid, People in Arms, pg. 34
[xx] Nagl, John, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, The University of Chicago Press, 2005, pg. 27
[xxi] Lawrence, T.E., Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wilder Publications, 1922/2011, Kindle E-Book
[xxii] Lawrence, T.E., Twenty-Seven Articles, Praetorian Press, 1917/2011, Kindle E-Book
[xxiii] Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Kindle E-Book
[xxiv] Kilcullen, David, Counterinsurgency, Oxford University Press, 2010, pg. 197
[xxv] Smith, Rupert, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, Random House Publishing, 2005, pg. 12
[xxvi] Essentially "precinct" in American political terms
[xxvii] Lamborn, G.L., Jihad of the Pen: A Practitioners Guide to Conducting Effective Influence Operations in an Insurgency, National Defense University Printing Press, 2010, pg. 6
[xxviii] Simpson, pg. 5
[xxix] Schadlow, Nadia, War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory, Georgetown University Press, 2017, Kindle E-Book
[xxx] Gentile, Gian, Beneficial War, Harvard International Review, December 2011, http://hir.harvard.edu/article/?a=2879
[xxxi] Simpson, pg. 72
[xxxii] Ibid, pg. 3
[xxxiii] Ibid, pg. 22
[xxxiv] Cheema, pg. 44
[xxxv] Lamborn, Arms of Little Value, pg. 15
[xxxvi] Shelley, Louise, Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime, Terrorism, Cambridge Printing Press, 2014, pg. 71
[xxxvii] Lamborn, Arms of Little Value, pg. 186
[xxxviii] War and the Art of Governance, Preface (no Number, Kindle Edition)
[xxxix] Simpson, pg. 91
[xl] Jihad of the Pen, pg. 13
[xli] Ibid, pg. 40
[xlii] Jaques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (Random House Publishing, 1965). pg. 298
[xliii] Bernays, Edward, Propaganda, IG Publishing, Brooklyn NY, 2004, Kindle Edition, pg. 52
[xliv] Lenin, Vladimir, Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, pg. 41
[xlv] Ellul, pg. 7
[xlvi] Bernays, pg. 54
[xlvii] Soft Power on Hard Problems, pg. 5
[xlviii] Galula, David, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (PSI Classics of the Counterinsurgency Era), (Praeger Printing Press, 1964/2006), Kindle E-Book
[xlix] Simpson, pg. 26
[l] Ibid, pg. 28
[li] Ellul, pg.54
[lii] Lawrence, Seven Articles, Kindle E-Book
[liii] Bernays, pg. 55
[liv] Cobaugh, pg. 1
[lv] Ellul, pg. 25
[lvi] Simpson, pg. 4
[lvii] Ellul, pg. 298
[lviii] Ellul, pg. 34
[lix] I am indebted to Gen. (Ret) David H. Petraeus who has mentored and provided insights regarding command and irregular warfare. Gen. Petraeus once stated that Sadar militant commanders having CNN Baghdad Station Chief cell phone on speed dial ready to get out stories- regardless of false or true. He explained he fired one of his first PAO officers while in Mosul for not coming clean about a bad day
[lx] Ellul, pg. 194
[lxi] Bernays, pg. 47
[lxii] Simpson, pg. 181
[lxiii] Marston, Daniel, Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, Osprey Publishing Press, 2008, Kindle E-Book
[lxiv] Lamborn, Arms of Little Value, pg. 13
[lxv] Schadlow, War and the Art of Governance, Kindle E-Book
[lxvi] Cheema in Soft Power on Hard Problems, pg. 54
[lxvii] Simpson, pg. 131
About the Author(s)
In my mind's eye the basic problem with our COIN effort in Afghanistan is rooted in our inability to reconcile the fundamental differences between the nature of an insurgency and the nature of UW.
In my experience the whole argument that we don’t 'get' COIN is a false narrative spawned by a lack of astute strategic leadership regards Irregular Warfare.
The defeat of our COIN effort in Vietnam inflicted upon our military intelligentsia an intellectual PTSD that seems to view the failures in Vietnam as the be all and end all of any military failure.
As a nation of immigrants I personally found the ethnic diversity of American society grants the American military an unique insight into foreign wars – especially so 'wars among the people’. The military emerging from less diverse cultures than our own struggle to establish a reasoned understanding or empathy that our own 'melting-pot' culture facilitates.
The enemy's strategic leadership, unlike our own, are perfectly aware of the similarities between the characteristics of an insurgency and UW and take great pains to ensure it remains so – while we on the other hand appear to not understand the gravitas of a failure to recognize the political /military differences between the two forms of political warfare.
The differences between the two are no-where better demonstrated than by the enemy’s command and control when shaping their tactical fires that are deliberately suicidal in their execution.
When it comes to assessing suicidal motivators we have a comical obsession with the explanatory arguments grounded in supernatural superstitions/fantasies. The enemy leadership find our God angle hilarious and gleefully offer up all manner of supernatural hubris that we dutifully devour with insatiable abandon.
They on the other hand perpetuate the Operational requirement that their foot-soldier do not survive numerous tactical encounters for the simple reason dead men tell no tales.
A good example of this was demonstrated when the attack on Mumbai was drawing to an end and the last survivors holed up in the Taj Hotel where in comms with their Command element back in Pakistan. As the wounded were struggling to stay alive their masters kept cajoling/chastising them not to survive. Sure it was all – virgins this, perfumed that, shahid there, takfir here blah, blah, blah, but the underlying inspiration was to maintain the plausible deniability of Pakistan’s UW campaign against India. Sure, a smaller fig-leaf of deniability is hard to imagine but the ruse seems to do the trick on our strategic planners. Contrast that effect with the zero impression the pretense makes on the Indian military's strategic mindset regards Pakistan.
It doesn’t take a genius to fathom that the seemingly endless supply of Chincom RPGs, PKM, AK, RPD hardware and ammo isn't forged from plough shears in Pakistan's Tribal Agency. In fact this arms cottage industry is tolerated/ patronized by the Pak Army for the simple reason all the gear that is fabricated in the TA by the wily tribesmen are so far out of mil-spec that nothing fired from any of the crap from the TA can hit the proverbial barn door beyond much more than a stone's throw - that's of course it don’t blow the side of your face off!
A shot up Ajmal Kasab was lying in his Mumbai hospital bed feeling a bit sorry for himself after he and his buddies murdered 166 innocent people. A Special Branch police officer was able to interrogate him before he had a chance to recover from the shock of his wounds and reboot his bullshit hero martyrdom bravado.
After some good cop – bad cop empathizing between the two Kasab confided to the cop he did it to ‘ buy the farm' for his parents and his siblings living in some godforssaken shit-hole back in the Punjab.
I don’t hold up the Indian Special Branch/Army as the voice of reason on Pak matters by any stretch but it is my experience that when insightful cognitive connections with those who oppose us – especially the young – are established a similar rather mundane motive-set emerges and the combatant driven by religious, Revolutionary or Resistance Energy is in reality an exception to the rule.
Many folks argue that if 90% or more of the native population are as unwelcoming of the insurgent as they are to the energy supposedly underpinning the insurgency, even the most modest execution of COIN would have ended the insurgency in Afghanistan a long time ago.
This is undoubtedly true for the simple reason a successful COIN campaign needs a battle eco-system wherein insurgents are fighting an insurgency fuelled by a legitimate political grievance. Just as critical the political grievance must be heart-felt by a significant proportion of the native population. I seriously doubt either of these criteria exist anywhere in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan after 40 years of war it is my view that 100 % of the native population have asked themselves the first, foremost and supreme question and IMHO more than 90 % have come up with the answer to Clausewitz's primary question.
We on the other hand have not. After 16 years we remain dumbfounded by the inability of our COIN to make progress against a political opponent who is waging a UW campaign against ourselves and our friends.
Unfortunately for us (and everyone else) careerist toxicity spawned by Command Happy, Power Point Rangerism and RMA mickey-mouse prohibits us putting down the 'heaven-sent' FM 3-24 and picking up FM 3-05.
One could argue that one of the essential conditions for a UW campaign to be a successful one is for your opponent to adopt a COIN/nation-building strategy rather than CUW. Schools to burn, bridges to blow up, businesses to extort, folks to terrorize etc.etc. - grist to the mill as it were.
We need to weigh up the strategic ramifications that pursuing COIN instead of CUW is exasperating the political conflict in a unstable TO awash with hundreds of tactical nuclear warheads.
IMHO the time is long overdue that we recalibrate and bring our blood and treasure to bear on the root-cause of the region’s politically inspired mass violence.
This is nicely done and very much appreciated.
Until now, you would think that I was the only one here who was/is able to provide important documentation, and links, in support an argument.
It is refreshing, therefore, to find someone, such as yourself, who is willing to, in support of their argument, go this extra mile/make such a necessary effort.
Again, thanks very much.
We, however, still need to address the critical question; this being that (and after reviewing the documentation that you have provided above) can we say:
a. That the overall goal of the U.S./the West for Afghanistan -- and, in general, for the weak, failed, failing, and/or rogue states of the world -- that this such overall goal has changed? (This such goal being to [a] transform the outlying states and societies of the world more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines and to, thereby, [b] lessen, and to eventually eliminate, the "ills" that are said to emanate from such outlying states and societies, to wit: terrorism, terrorist safe havens, insurgencies, civil wars, genocide, poor response to disease and natural disasters, etc., etc., etc.?)
b. That the overall problem associated with this such goal of the U.S./the West; that this overall problem, in fact, has changed? (This such overall problem being, of course, that the outlying states and societies of the world are often unwilling -- and/or simply unable -- to make the radical [and, yes, often alien and profane; depends on the culture of the states and societies concerned] political, economic, social and value "changes" that the U.S./the West requires?)
With regard to my "a" and "b" above, let us consider the following from the Executive Summary of the first document that you provided/linked. Herein, to specifically note words/ideas such as "good governance," "sustainable development," "economic opportunity," "representative and accountable governance," "improve livelihoods" and -- most telling re: installing our western "values" -- "improve the status of women."):
The U.S. strives to work with the Afghan Government to assure that the population of Afghanistan is safeguarded from violence, coercion, intimidation, and predation. Together, we will ensure that conditions are set for transfer of leadership in security matters and for good governance and sustainable development through 2014. USG efforts focus on key terrain, which are areas of strategic importance due to population density, key transportation networks, and economic opportunity. Security initiatives aim to protect the population from insurgent activity, to neutralize irreconcilable insurgents, and to disrupt the criminal patronage networks that feed them. Simultaneously, targeted measures in rural districts aim to deny freedom of movement to insurgents in their base areas and along lines of communication, areas which can threaten ISAF advances in key terrain. The USG supports GIRoNs efforts to solidify effective, representative, and accountable governance, to counter corruption, and to provide justice and dispute resolution. The U.S. aims to increase economic opportunity and improve livelihoods through support to Afghan health and education services, agricultural production and markets, private sector development, and improved security and trade across the borders. In USG efforts across security, governance, and development, actions should be taken to limit corruption, increase communications impact, and improve the status of women. Reconciliation, reintegration, and the achievement of sustainable peace are facilitated and supported by nearly all of the other objectives. These USG priorities are encapsulated in 13 Campaign Objectives that reflect what the USG aims to achieve through 2014. The sub-objectives within the Campaign Objectives reflect priorities for the next 12-18 months (see Graphic 1).
Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:
Thus: While the documentation that you provide above certainly:
a. DOES tell us -- and in no uncertain terms -- that the U.S./the West, now finally, understands and acknowledges the overall problem (see my "b" above); this, associated with pursuing its grand political objective for the outlying states and societies of the world (see my "a" above), and that the U.S./the West, now finally, has taken important and significant steps/actions to -- shall we say -- make the "transformational" medicine go down more easily. Your documentation above certainly:
b. DOES NOT tell us that U.S./the West has abandoned its grand political objective -- of transforming the outlying states and societies of the world -- this, more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines (this, so as to lessen, and to eventually eliminate, the "ills" that emanate from weak, failed, failing, rogue, etc., states.)
On this can we agree?
Of course I am completely able to produce such documents, and in abundance. I am curious to see if you are able to do the same, since you only seem able to quote and link to things that you feel support your own arguments.
But for the sake of sport, here are two key documents that played an important, high-level role in shaping the nature of the campaign in Afghanistan:
Excerpts from USG Integrated Civil-Military Campaign Plan for Afghanistan https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB370/docs/Document%209.pdf
"Access to Justice: Working with and through the Ministry of Justice and other Afghan institutions, security and judicial officials are increasingly aware of what Afghan law and Islamic law specifically say with respect to the rights of women, their role in society, and how women should be treated."
" Justice is a central tenet of Afghan culture. Lack of efficient justice is a key driver of conflict. Public perception is that the government allows a culture of impunity to thrive. Providing the government's capacity to render justice equitably and incarcerate those in violation of laws will improve the legitimacy of the state. In areas where the formal justice sector is not present, reinvigorating an informal justice system and linking it to the formal structure will provide Afghans with access to a necessary service and fill a justice vacuum that the Taliban then cannot exploit"
"Traditional Governance Structures: Thirty years of war have damaged but not destroyed the Afghan tradition of local rule through traditional governance structures such as tribal jirgas. Across Afghanistan, the popu1ation is often confronted with what is perceived as a choice between supporting corrupt officials or insurgents. Traditional governance structures offer viable alternatives. Recognizing this, insurgents commonly attempt to co-opt or coerce local elders and community members to provide governance on their behalf. Failing this, village leaders are targeted. Given the absence of GIRoA presence below the district level and lack of presence and capacity in district centers, Afghanistan's traditional governance structures, where functioning, continue to be feasible options."
"Human Security: Afghans, in more violent areas, struggle with a lack of basic security and services, including freedom of movement. Afghans in most areas have a low standard of living and few stable, licit employment opportunities. At the same time, some communities suffer from a breakdown of communal and tribal structures that have traditionally provided communal support, dispute resolution, and protection during hard times. ill these areas, Taliban justice, money, and imposition of security, albeit brutal, have some appeal to people suffering from three decades of conflict."
"Islam is an important element of Afghan culture and religious
leaders have a great deal of influence. Still, factors such as strong tribal and ethnic identities and an historical aversion to foreign powers tend to feed power struggles and engender resistance to central government intervention."
"Qualitative assessment of the degree to which traditional and religious leaders promote community responsibility for security, stability, and development.
"Support local communities toward reestablishing and/or strengthening traditional mechanisms"
Excerpts from ISAF Commander's Counterinsurgency Guidance https://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/official_texts/counterinsurgency_guidanc…
"The Afghan people will decide who wins this fight, and we (GIROA and ISAF) are in a struggle for their support. The effort to gain and maintain that support must inform every action we take. Essentially, we and the insurgents are presenting an argument for the future to the people of Afghanistan: they will decide which argument is the most attractive, most convincing, and has the greatest chance of success."
"We need to understand the people and see things through their eyes. It is their fears, frustrations, and expectations that we must address. We will not win simply by killing insurgents. We will help the Afghan people win by securing them, by protecting them from intimidation, violence, and abuse, and by operating in a way that respects their culture and religion. This means that we must change the way that we think, act, and operate. We must get the people involved as active participants in the success of their communities."
"Every action we take must reflect this change: how we interact with people, how we drive or fly, how we patrol, how we use force, how we fund work programs and projects. This is their country, and we are their guests."
"The intricate familial, clan, and tribal connections of Afghan society turns "attrition math" on its head. From a conventional standpoint, the killing of two insurgents in a group of ten leaves eight remaining: 10 - 2=8. From the insurgent standpoint, those two killed were likely related to many others who will want vengeance. If civilian casualties occurred, that number will be much higher. Therefore, the death of two creates more willing recruits: 10 minus 2 equals 20 (or more) rather than 8. This is part of the reason why eight years of individually successful kinetic actions have resulted in more violence. The math works against an attrition mind-set. This is not to say that we should avoid a fight, but to win we need to do much more than simply kill or capture militants."
"If civilians die in a firefight, it does not matter who shot them -we still failed to protect them from harm. Destroying a home or property jeopardizes the livelihood of an entire family - and creates more insurgents. We sow the seeds of our own demise."
"We must think of offensive operations not simply as those that target militants, but ones that earn the trust and support of the people while denying influence and access to the insurgent. Holding routine jirgas with community leaders that build trust and solve problems is an offensive operation. So is using projects and work programs to bring communities together and meet their needs."
"It is a contest to influence the real and very practical calculations on the part of the people about which side to support. Every action, reaction, failure to act, and all that is said and done become part ofthe debate. The people in the audience watch, listen, and make rational choices based on who can better protect them, provide for their needs, respect their dignity and their community, and offer opportunities for the future."
"Build connections and be conscious of the need to pass them off to your
successor. Afghan culture is founded on personal relationships. Earning the trust of the people is a large part of our mission. Build relationships with tribal, community, and religious leaders. Success requires communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Seek out the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, and the
disaffected and bring them on the team. Understand the local grievances and problems that drive instability, and take action to redress them."
"Use your relationships with the people, the ANSF, and the GIRoA officials to become an expert on the loca l situation. Get to know the neighborhood. Learn who is the most successful farmer and why, who feels excluded and why, and which families are the most powerful and who they are united to by marriage. Be a positive force in the community, shield the people from harm, and foster safety and security so people can work and raise their families in peace."
"Think of how you would expect a foreign army to operate in your neighborhood, among your families and your children, and act accordingly. The way you drive, your dress and gestures, with whom you eat lunch, the courage with which you fight, the way you respond to an Afghan's grief or joy - this is all part of the argument."
"Learn how to adapt, how to shape the environment, and how to be more effective with the community leaders and the people. Listen to our Afghan colleagues; talk with the Afghans you meet; ask questions about how we can improve and help them achieve their goals. Listen to their stories and what they want to tell you. You are authorized - indeed, it is your responsibility - to adjust your actions within the intent of this guidance to adapt to local conditions."
If, as you suggest, strategy and policy documents -- which do not include a requirement to transform the subject state and its societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines -- if these such documents "are abundant,"
(Herein, "partnering with and respecting the host nation population and building solutions that they themselves can shape and sustain," this to be understood more in terms of [a] NOT requiring "transformation" more along modern western lines and, instead, in [b] EMBRACING the individual nations' traditional ways of life, traditional ways of governance, traditional values, etc.?)
If these such (non-transformative) documents, as you suggest, "are abundant," then:
a. Why have you, thus far, not been able to provide us with these such -- amazingly abundant -- strategy and policy documents? And
b. Why have you, now, attempted to assign this task/this responsibility (which, obviously, is your task and your responsibility) to me?
What is the problem here? Do you:
a. Lack the knowledge, skills and ability to provide us with links to these such -- "amazingly abundant" -- non-transformational/embracing of traditional ways of life, traditional ways of governance, traditional values, etc., documents? And, therefore,
b. Need my help in providing same?
(Note: If these such non-transformational -- but rather embracing of traditional ways of life, traditional ways of governance, traditional values, etc., documents ["building solutions that they themselves can shape and sustain" to be understood in exactly these such "non-transformative"/ "embrace the traditional" terms?] -- if these such documents do not exist, then neither you nor I, I believe, can hope to provide them. Yes? Is THIS the REAL problem that we are dealing with here?)
I would love to see you try and quote strategy and policy documents that describe specific efforts that involve partnering with and respecting the host nation population, and building solutions that they themselves can shape and sustain. Such documents and efforts are abundant.
With regard to my suggestion below that, re: insurgencies, we would be better served by looking at -- not "who lives there" -- but, rather, "who, for darn sure, does not;"
As to this such suggestion, consider the following:
a. C.E. Callwell, in his famous "Small Wars," would tell us that "small wars" are "a heritage of extended empire, a certain epilogue to encroachments into lands beyond the confines of existing civilization, and this has been so from early ages to the present time. Conquerors of old, penetrating into the unknown, encountered races with strange and unconventional military methods and trod them down, seizing their territory; revolts and insurrections followed ..."
https://www.amazon.com/Small-Wars-Their-Principles-Practice/dp/14385138… (See Chapter II: The Causes of Small Wars.)
b. Joseph Schumpeter would describe the matter in these terms: "Where cultural backwardness of a region makes normal economic intercourse dependent on colonization, it does not matter, assuming free trade, which of the civilized nations undertakes the task of colonization."
c. Rudyard Kipling, in his "White Man's Burden," would describe the situation in much these same terms. Herein, we should note that American Senator Benjamin Tillman, in discussing the Philippine Insurgency (to which Kipling's "White Man's Burden" speaks?) would address the U.S. Senate on February 7, 1899, would read aloud three stanzas of “The White Man’s Burden” and suggest that U.S should renounce claim of authority over the Philippine Islands. To that effect, Senator Tillman asked:
"Why are we bent on forcing upon them a civilization not suited to them, and which only means, in their view, degradation and a loss of self-respect, which to them is worse than the loss of life itself? ... The commercial instinct which seeks to furnish a market and places for the growth of commerce or the investment of capital for the money making of the few is pressing this country madly to the final and ultimate annexation of these people -- regardless of their own wishes."
Last (and this is specifically for dfil) to consider the following:
d. Within the U.S. State Department and re: the (former?) Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization:
"Mission: To lead, coordinate and institutionalize U.S. Government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife, so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy."
(Thus, "transformation," more along modern western political [see: "democratic" above], economic [see: "market economy" above], social and value lines; this was/is the raison d'etre of the U.S. State Department Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.)
Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:
Thus, to suggest that:
a. To better understand the "IN" in COIN, one must:
b. Better understand "who, for darn sure, does not live there."
To wit: the foreign power who is INvading/INterfering/INtervening; this, so as to (by way of outlying state and societal "transformations; "colonial" or otherwise) better provide for -- yesterday as today -- the wants, needs and desires of the foreign power's own states, societies and civilizations.
This such "transformative" activity, as Callwell informs us above, ROUTINELY leading to "revolts and insurrections?"
If almost all Afghans support the GOA then this war should have been wrapped up years ago. That is the bed rock on which Pop-Centric COIN is based but something is obviously wrong with the figures and the theory.
The "92% of Afghans support the government" is akin to the 98% support the typical African President for life gets at election time. Almost every Afghan I know holds the central government in contempt. The condinistas assume, without evidence, that a strong central government is seen as desirable by most people.
That of course doesn't mean most, or even a large minority of Afghans support the Taliban. It does mean, at a minimum they want to be left alone. No IEDs. No shakedowns. No air strikes. Not being run off the road by yahoos cursing in English. Fewer bribes. It doesn't mean they won't take cash off USAID etc either while simultaneously being displeased with the US gov (a fair number of Americans are in the same position). It also doesn't mean they're keen to join the ANSF. Which leaves us with the situation we have today with increasing political violence despite $1 trillion spent.
You're right about self-serving tripe, but a single complex battle doesn't address the scope of the complexity associated with conventional war. See my comment in the post below.
If dfil's data is correct about the 90+% of the people in Afghanistan supporting the government, which I doubt based on what I read about recently deeply flawed surveys, then that serves as counter evidence to the claim that if the population is on your side you always win. It never was, and never will be that simple. Kilcullen had it right when he said don't be a jerk, because obviously turning the populace against you doesn't serve our ends. Young soldiers, especially in the early phases of this conflict, and some officers, clearly violated this rule of thumb exasperating the problems we had to deal with. Missteps in the early phase of conflict are normal, and while they equate to set backs they're rarely decisive.
The Coindistas fail to realize that is more to winning than gaining popular support, which is a always dependent upon evolving conditions in the environment (the competition), you still have to neutralize the insurgents (kill, capture, reintegrate, etc.), and you still have to establish a functioning form of governance that can provide security and other critical services, etc. We can't base winning on transforming governments unless we have the resources and know how to do so, and most importantly a willing partner.
As a point of departure from popcentric COIN, I think what we failed to recognize in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that overthrowing an existing government with force is a lot different than conducting FID in support of an existing government. We can call it FID all we want, but that is simply putting lipstick on a pig. Until we accept responsibility and develop doctrine for military occupation operations I suspect we'll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes in the future when we overthrow a government. This is a much bigger problem set than simply dealing with an insurgency, but failure to address that problem set leads to conditions that generate insurgencies.
The Pop Centric COIN crowd is generally right with most of their assertions, but fatally flawed in others. The ones they get right are simply commonsense, hardly graduate level of war insights. Until everyone can get past their egos we're doomed to spin around in meaningless circles. What are the real problems we need to solve, that we have failed to do so far? Once those are identified we can start developing a meaningful dialogue and debate.
dfil: Above you said: "It is not about massive transformation, it is about moving the needle in the right direction."
During the Old Cold War, the Rest of World clearly understood that the ultimate goal of the Soviets/the communists was to transform the outlying states and societies of the world; this, more along communist political, economic, social and value lines. (Thus to, ultimately, achieve the massive and complete "transformation" of the outlying states and societies of the world.)
Thus, during the Old Cold War, if the Soviets/the communists intervened initially, only to "move the needle in the right direction a little bit:"
a. No one was fooled (as to the Soviets/the communists' true and ultimate goal -- see massive and complete transformation of the Rest of the World above). And, thus,
b. Significant resistance (of a "move the needle in the right direction a little bit" initiative) was often difficult to avoid.
Likewise today, the Rest of the World clearly understands that the ultimate goal of the U.S./the West is to achieve the massive and complete transformation of the outlying states and societies of the world; in this case, more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.
Thus, when the U.S./the West intervenes today -- only to "move the needle in the right direction a little bit" --
a. No one is fooled (as to the U.S./the West's true and ultimate goal -- see massive and complete transformation of the outlying states and societies of the world above). And, thus,
b. Significant resistance (of a "move the needle in the right direction a little bit" initiative) is often difficult to avoid.
Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:
If -- for many decades -- one has worn one's "massive and complete transformation of the entire Rest of the World goal" heart on one's sleeve (something that the Trump Administration is now attempting to correct/to do away with?),
Then it becomes nearly impossible -- and generally irrational -- for Rest of the World to believe (even if you are, in fact, actually telling the truth in this case) that all you wish to do is "move the needle in the right direction a little bit."
"In neither Iraq or Afghanistan have the governments become honest or competent."
That's an unrealistic standard to hold them to. There were and are numerous anti-corruption efforts, but it would be foolish to think some of the worst failed states in the world would make enough progress to qualify as "honest" or "competent" in the span of a few years. It is not about massive transformation, it is about moving the needle in the right direction.
"IS didn't exist in 2007."
Yes it did. Check your facts. There was only a name change.
"It started as a result of US efforts to overthrow the Syrian government"
The Syrian civil war gave an opportunity for a terrorist organization that already existed in Iraq to get a fresh start in a new operating environment.
"reconciliation" between Sunnis and Shias wasn't it."
Yes, reconciliation certainly did happen, and I've already provided the facts that showed that it did in fact happen, and there are numerous reconciliation initiatives and efforts of record. Just because it didn't last doesn't mean it never happened at all.
"Except counterinsurgency totally recognizes this problem and works to address it through non-military lines of effort"
Recognizing a problem and fixing it are two different things. In neither Iraq or Afghanistan have the governments become honest or competent. The US COIN efforts have enabled corruption and rent seeking by pouring cash into the countries.
"IS was on the run."
IS didn't exist in 2007. It started as a result of US efforts to overthrow the Syrian government combined with Sunni opposition to the Iraqi government. Whatever the US did post 2003 in the region "reconciliation" between Sunnis and Shias wasn't it.
"There was no high level reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias. The Shias won the battle for Baghdad and there was a pause while the Sunnis regrouped paid for largely by the US) and IS emerged."
The Iraqi legislature was gridlocked, and then it was wasn't after the surge, and was able to finally pass legislation across party/ethnic lines. That's high-level reconciliation, however temporary. IS was on the run and being destroyed by Iraqi/U.S. forces and can in no way be described as resurgent in the 2007-2010 timeframe.
"BTW the US didn't "intervene" in Iraq it invaded and then screwed up the occupation which led to a civil war with the US being enemies of both Arab sides."
Obviously. But it did intervene in a civil war that broke out during the occupation when in the earlier stages they chose a more remote operating posture that kept more troops out of the cities and therefore out of the civil war.
" If the local government ceases to be corrupt, incompetent, tyrannical etc the rebellion will die out"
Except counterinsurgency totally recognizes this problem and works to address it through non-military lines of effort and engaging the population on strategy and execution of those efforts. Counterinsurgency isn't simply buying out rebels, that's a massive simplification.
There was no high level reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias. The Shias won the battle for Baghdad and there was a pause while the Sunnis regrouped paid for largely by the US) and IS emerged.
BTW the US didn't "intervene" in Iraq it invaded and then screwed up the occupation which led to a civil war with the US being enemies of both Arab sides.
The subsequent efforts at Pop-Centric COIN failed because the under lying premise- armed foreigners can prop up bad local governments in the face of substantial local resistance by buying the loyalty of the rebels is illogical. At worst you feed the rebels families and allow the fighters more time for combat. At best you get temporary ceasefires that the rebels deem tactically useful. If the local government ceases to be corrupt, incompetent, tyrannical etc the rebellion will die out without foreign troops but with foreign soldiers there will always be the nationalism card to play and all those US dollars will help prop up the bad government.
" I wonder how an announcement in 2004 that the US intended to wreck Iraq, spend a couple trillion dollars, take tens of thousands of casualties, empower Iran and it's Iraqi allies, spawn an Islamist group worse than AQ and in return we'd get a couple of years with reduced (from the 100 dead per night caused by the occupation)casualties? That's not "success" at any level."
The goal of stifling the sectarian civil war in order to facilitate high-level political reconciliation between the Sunni and Shia became the goal of the Iraq war at the midway point, and that particular goal was achieved and certainly qualifies as strategic in nature. Obviously a lot of bad things came about from the Iraq War, but it makes absolutely zero sense to say the U.S. intervened just to stifle a civil war that didn't come about until after the intervention. You're just twisting things again in cynical fashion to give yourself a rhetorical punching bag.
"COIN did have strategic-level success in Iraq"
If you're an Iranian I'd agree 100%. If a US tax payer then you're totally incorrect. I wonder how an announcement in 2004 that the US intended to wreck Iraq, spend a couple trillion dollars, take tens of thousands of casualties, empower Iran and it's Iraqi allies, spawn an Islamist group worse than AQ and in return we'd get a couple of years with reduced (from the 100 dead per night caused by the occupation)casualties? That's not "success" at any level. If you were an enemy of the US you'd want as many of these types of success as possible.
It's still extremely premature to judge the recent COIN campaigns failures on such a level as to discredit the entire concept of pop-centric COIN. COIN didn't become wholesale strategy in either conflict until their respective surges, and both surges were conducted in the shadow of enormous political pressure to withdraw. The amount of time the U.S. had to truly exercise the offensive on a strategic level in both wars while executing a COIN campaign was about 2 years before the drawdowns began. This amounted to a nation-wide example of clear, but not hold and build, where the last two are what consolidate progress. Nobody is going to build decent institutions that can stand on their own and sustain coalition progress in that short a timeframe, especially when the shift in mission toward institution building coincided with drawdowns. That's a bit of a simplification, but the military (and the State Department and other interagency partners) was executing a type of campaign they had little prior practice in while under enormous political pressure to get an extremely difficult job done on unrealistically short timelines.
Even so, COIN did have strategic-level success in Iraq. Extremists on both sides of the ethnic divide lost most of their influence and territory and were forced underground, which stifled the sectarian civil war to where civilian deaths were down by almost 90% after 2 years after the surge began. This helped create opportunity for high level political reconciliation for Iraqi parties since their constituencies weren't killing each other in the streets by the hundreds every week anymore, and major legislation that was needed to get the new government off the ground was finally passed. The insurgent groups weren't totally destroyed (which is an almost impossible standard to actually meet), but they were made irrelevant for a time. When ISIS made a comeback it was more due to their underground remnants seizing the opportunity of civil war in Syria to regenerate power and once they had decent influence there, could project influence into Iraq again. There's also the matter that Nouri-al Maliki implemented extremely sectarian policies in the wake of American withdrawal, literally issuing an arrest warrant for a Sunni Vice President the same day the last U.S. troop left, among other things. The Arab Spring contributed by worsening Maliki's sectarian tendencies and providing new operating space by which insurgent groups could reconstitute themselves outside of Iraq. Perhaps the argument could be made that the U.S. should have built a better Iraqi military. But it should be known that while it is appropriate to judge such wars by the staying power of what they leave behind, there is also a transition of primary responsibility from the intervening powers to the host nation. In the case of Iraq, many of the problems that helped give ISIS an opportunity in the immediate years after U.S. withdrawal were self-inflicted by the Iraqi leadership.
We're discussing the recent activities of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Pop-Centric COIN doctrine that has been used without success and is still being pushed. It's going forward that matters not the past apart from learning what didn't work and hopefully (but not likely) to repeat mistakes. What Romans or Stalin did is interesting but irrelevant as long as we try to make the locals love or at least tolerate us.
"Success" of a COIN doctrine results in the end of the rebellion. By that standard the current US doctrine (the one pushed by the author) has been unsuccessful. You can obviously grab a small chunk- building a school for instance- and claim that "COIN works" but that flies in the face of events on the ground at the level that matters- the entire state. If you went low enough I'm sure you'll find projects that went well for the French in Indochina or Soviets in Afghanistan. The list for the US in Vietnam must border on a full books worth just to list them.
A large part of the confusion may be that we're redefining COIN, whether by intent or accident. An insurgency is a revolt against an established government, with the implicit support of at least part of the population. Counterinsurgency involves the civil population to the extent that some effort be made to address grievances and wean them back to supporting the indigenous government (thus denying aid and comfort to the insurgents), and to protect them from insurgent attacks or coercion. One could debate whether we facilitated a revolt in Afghanistan, or just outright invaded the place with assistance from local proxies; there's no question in Iraq. In both cases, we installed sympathetic governments and declared success...in reality, neither achieved real stability, accepted by the population at large, and able to provide security and services to that same population without U.S. assistance. So we continue providing security, we continue rebuilding the infrastructure and the economy, we continue rebuilding social institutions, and simply because we don't know any other way, we fix those things in our own image. These aren't COIN activities, but those of an occupation. Reality is we're fighting two wars that never ended and the opposition fell back on guerilla tactics to continue the fight.
"Of course I'm cynical about COIN. It doesn't work. It's cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives."
To say counterinsurgency doesn't work is tantamount to saying insurgencies always win, which is obviously false. Maybe you mean a certain kind of counterinsurgency, but even that that's hard to nail down because there can be a million moving parts to a COIN campaign and it differs wildly from context to context, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan, or Kandahar or Khost. It could be something as simple as some advisors teaching a host-nation government how to digitize their payrolls or set up a surveillance camera. Counterinsurgency doesn't have to cost trillions of dollars. You're clearly thinking the challenging experience of Iraq and Afghanistan can be used to make blanket statements about the most common form of conflict in human history.
Nothing other than the strategic level really matters and even the "strategic" is currently more about resources not wasted than who controls what third world gravel pit.
Which highly conservative tribesman runs some side valley in Konar is completely irrelevant in the long run. Of course if you want to sell Pop-Centric Coin you're left with "success" stories at the lowest levels possible. The "little girls to school" narrative. Whether the village in question ever sided with the Taliban/AQI etc is often left out.
Of course I'm cynical about COIN. It doesn't work. It's cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives yet people keep pushing it for exactly the reasons I gave- profit, expansion and glory.
"You talk about Pop-Centric COIN as if the US has actually done it successfully."
First of all, there is no way that can be gleamed from my comment. But there are numerous tactical/operational-level success stories of COIN in recent years, whether it be a village or a certain district. But in the end making it happen on a strategic level is incredibly difficult, especially when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be considered some of the most challenging COIN campaigns attempted in modern history.
"Necessary hokum because the alternatives- a lot of very unpopular force or withdrawal- weren't options highly ambitious officers could use to advance their careers." That's obviously cynical and clearly just what you want to think.
"It's fought for profit, expansion or glory." That's a gross oversimplification, especially in regard to counterinsurgency campaigns or foreign intervention.
You talk about Pop-Centric COIN as if the US has actually done it successfully. It hasn't and neither did the British or French. It's hokum. Necessary hokum because the alternatives- a lot of very unpopular force or withdrawal- weren't options highly ambitious officers could use to advance their careers.
"Small War" isn't a synonym for "Pop-Centric Coin". It means an optional war. One that doesn't threaten the homeland. It's fought for profit, expansion or glory. Suez, Grenada and Panama come to mind. All small wars. None insurgencies.
What better place to question dubious theories on fighting insurgencies than a website devoted to small wars.
"That's self serving nonsense unless you think Midway and the Normandy Landings were some sort of beginners exercise."
That's a gross misunderstanding. Midway and Normandy are far simpler to understand on a conceptual level than counterinsurgency because they are conventional warfare. Conventional war is about breaking things, killing people, moving things from point A to point B, and seizing and influencing key terrain. That is complex in execution, not in concept. Counterinsurgency can involve rehabilitating an entire society/nation using a whole-of-government approach that involves dozens of government agencies, in addition to everything that encompasses conventional warfare and international aid. It's far easier for a troop to know how to blow something up than to know which Iraqi tribal elder isn't negotiating in bad faith and won't blow his development money away on patronage while devising sustainability metrics with a USAID/NGO/UNAMA/Host-nation government counterpart.
Calling population-centric counterinsurgency snake oil on SmallWarsJournal is tantamount to suggesting that Co2 traps heat is bunk on an Environmental Science Journal, just simply incredible.
"Dr. John Nagl argued that counterinsurgency is the graduate level of warfare."
That's self serving nonsense unless you think Midway and the Normandy Landings were some sort of beginners exercise. But of course "Pop-Centric COIN" was only about branding. Some factions of the US military "got it" and others didn't. The "warrior-scholars" knew best. Passing off David Galula's theories and Malaya as examples that could be followed snowed a lot of people who hadn't studied British & French COIN efforts. In the end it was apparent to most that the Condinistas were selling snake oil but by that time they'd moved onward and upward and since DC can't quit for fear of domestic political ramifications- "Who lost Afghanistan?"- the money keeps flowing.
If you take a serious look at the evolution of international relations over the last 100 years, you'd find the answer to your question.
First of all, keep in mind that we're talking at the level of the nation-state, not individuals, tribes, or clans. I'd like to drive 110 mph and ignore all tolls on my way to work, but the state says I'm supposed to obey speed limits and buy a transponder to use the toll road. If that's "foreign, alien and profane", I'm welcome to take the bus...or lead a revolt. The modern concept of the state says the sovereign government has exclusive authority over territory, and the subjects and resources therein. If enough subjects want to contest that, it's civil war, which is a different matter.
Since WWI, though, states have voluntarily ceded an increasing amount of authority to international institutions -- the UN, WTO, NATO, etc. From those agencies have sprung constraints on sovereign rights regarding waging war, exploitation of shared or scarce resources and endangered species, use of "global commons", economic conduct, and treatment of their own populations. So if your way of life, your way of governance, and your corresponding, values, attitudes and beliefs depend on violating standards of international conduct, then yes, it's possible a coalition of a number of states and international organizations may tell -- or force -- you to modify or abandon those behaviors.
The difference between that and the theory you're constantly advancing is that there's no deliberate strategy by the U.S., the UN, or the Trilateral Commission to "westernize" the world. Said interventions are not automatic, not easy, and rarely have a sweeping objective to reshape societies wholesale. (Unless your way of life depends on damming headwaters of a shared river to grow crops with slave labor to supply the global narcotics trade, which funds your ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to intimidate or dominate your neighbors...in that case, you're toast.)
I did not say that the operation to ouster Iraq from Kuwait was non-applicable. What I said was non-applicable were your twisted conceptions of "transformative" occupations. On the note of the Iraq War, yes the United Nations did not authorize the invasion, but it did legitimize the occupation through a resolution of support. They got over the fact that the U.S. invaded and moved on to trying to rehabilitate a failed state. Iraq also wasn't just a "lesser state", it was one of the most heavily sanctioned states in the world and was extremely isolated by the greater international community.
From Resolution 1483:
"Noting the letter of 8 May 2003 from the Permanent Representatives of the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the President of the Security Council (S/2003/538) and recognizing the specific authorities, responsibilities, and obligations under applicable international law of these states as occupying powers under unified command (the "Authority"),"
"Reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq"
"Stressing the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and control their own natural resources, welcoming the commitment of all parties concerned to support the creation of an environment in which they may do so as soon as possible, and expressing resolve that the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly,
"Encouraging efforts by the people of Iraq to form a representative government based on the rule of law that affords equal rights and justice to all Iraqi citizens without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender, and, in this connection, recalls resolution 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000,"
"Resolved that the United Nations should play a vital role in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance,"?
The UN would go on to play a large role in development assistance during the Iraq War through the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI). Therefore you can only view them as complicit in your conceptions of "transformative" operations, as you describe. But this is not actually what is happening, and therefore the role of the UN has not changed from its originally intended purpose.
"b. One which honors "transformation" -- of the outlying states and societies of the world -- this more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines? (And thus which accepts, accordingly, that worldwide conflict/global insurgency will be the order of the day?)
Thus, the cause of necessary "transformation"/necessary "change" (or, if you prefer, necessary "modernization") -- and much as in the case of the American Civil War -- this now being considered to be worth the destruction of the peace -- and worth the embrace of, in peace's stead, conflict, death, destruction, terrorism, refugee flows, etc. -- and, these, on a very large scale indeed?"
As I have mentioned before, I am not interested in hearing what you want to believe anymore after all the effort that has been expended on pointing out that this is not the actual nature of these operations or decisions.
The example you provide here (kicking Iraq out of Kuwait/the Gulf War/Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) -- and as you note -- this is a non-applicable and, thus, non-related case to our discussion here.
An example/case, however, that does appear to be relevant to our such discussion; this would seem to be:
a. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and
b. The resulting insurgency.
As to this such case/example, consider the following:
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, declared explicitly for the first time last night that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal. Mr Annan said that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN security council or in accordance with the UN's founding charter. In an interview with the BBC World Service broadcast last night, he was asked outright if the war was illegal. He replied: "Yes, if you wish." He then added unequivocally: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal."
Herein, should we consider that the U.N. does, indeed, appear to be toothless, useless, impotent, etc.; this, as relates to acting to prevent great and powerful foreign powers, such as the U.S./the West, from illegally intervening in the affairs of lesser states and societies; this, for example, so as to transform these "outlying" states and societies more along these great and powerful foreign powers' own political, economic, social and value lines?
In this regard, should we consider -- and as you seem to suggest/imply -- that role of the United Nations has now officially changed, for example, from:
a. One which honors the preservation of peace (and, thus, which accepts the responsibility to intervene so as to prevent violations of sovereignty -- acts which, since the Thirty Years War, have been considered to be the most likely cause of conflict in the world?). To:
b. One which honors "transformation" -- of the outlying states and societies of the world -- this more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines? (And thus which accepts, accordingly, that worldwide conflict/global insurgency will be the order of the day?)
Thus, the cause of necessary "transformation"/necessary "change" (or, if you prefer, necessary "modernization") -- and much as in the case of the American Civil War -- this now being considered to be worth the destruction of the peace -- and worth the embrace of, in peace's stead, conflict, death, destruction, terrorism, refugee flows, etc. -- and, these, on a very large scale indeed?
"My question, of course, is can the United Nations intervene -- not to overrule but rather to enforce -- the principle of individual sovereignty of a state; especially in such cases as when great and powerful foreign powers intervene in the affairs of other countries; this, for example, so as to transform these "outlying" states and societies more along the great and powerful foreign powers' own political, economic, social and value lines?"
Sure, such as when the UN authorized the intervention to kick Iraq out of Kuwait when the former invaded the latter. This does not pertain to your argument on powers intervening in states to "transform them" as you describe, because those recent operations have been authorized by the United Nations and where the UN plays a significant role in development/aid assistance in those efforts. If the UN thought these efforts were as morally egregious and unjustifiable that you make them out to be, they wouldn't have authorized or participated in them.
My question, of course, is can the United Nations intervene -- not to overrule but rather to enforce -- the principle of individual sovereignty of a state; especially in such cases as when great and powerful foreign powers intervene in the affairs of other countries; this, for example, so as to transform these "outlying" states and societies more along the great and powerful foreign powers' own political, economic, social and value lines?
This such question being consistent with my initial thoughts on this thread; which suggested that "transformative" interventions by great powers (such as the Soviets/the communists during the Old Cold War and the U.S./the West today); these tend to (a) be the "root cause" of what can become not only "local" but, indeed, "global" insurgencies and, thus, can tend to (b) significantly harm the interests of the collective community of nations.
(As to this "global insurgency" suggestion, note that, in the recently released new National Defense Strategy of the United States, such great nations as Russia and China have now been formally added to the top of the list of the United States' enemies/competitors. This providing that the exact same groups/categories of "threat" actors that the Soviets/the communists faced during the Old Cold War, and re: their "expansionist" designs back then [both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors], these have now become the exact same groups/categories of "threat" actors that the U.S./the West faces today, and re: our contemporary expansionist designs.)
It leaves us with the fact that the United Nations by virtue of Chapter VII of its charter still has the ability to authorize the use of force and intervention, and thus can overrule the principle of the individual sovereignty of a state in order to serve the interests of the collective community of nations. The United Nations charter is a treaty that is a binding arrangement for member states, and thus can be understood as international law. By earning a UN authorization/resolution of support to launch an intervention, such actions earn legal legitimacy in the eyes of international law.
dfil: Above you said:
"... the United Nations isn't just an international agency, it is the main supranational body of the world whose charter is a key foundation of international law and norms."
There appear to be at least three matters that we may need to consider here; these being:
First Matter: The charter of the United Nations does not appear to be "a key foundation of international law and norms." Herein, I believe, the following is a better understanding of the key foundations of international law:
The result is that international law is made largely on a decentralised basis by the actions of the 192 States which make up the international community. The Statute of the ICJ, Art. 38 identifies five sources:-
(a) Treaties between States;
(b) Customary international law derived from the practice of States;
(c) General principles of law recognized by civilized nations; and, as subsidiary
means for the determination of rules of international law:
(d) Judicial decisions and the writings of “the most highly qualified publicists”.
http://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ls/greenwood_outline.pdf (Note here, however, the important role that the U.N. may play; this, for example, in helping with the treaty-making process -- as described at Paragraph 7 [Other Sources"] of this document.)
Second Matter: Within the U.N. Charter, at Chapter I (Purposes and Principles), Article 1 (The Purposes of the United Nations), Item 2, consider the following:
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
Third Matter: As Hans Morgenthau noted in his "To Intervene or Not to Intervene" (see one of my comments above), the great powers that emerged after World War II (the U.S./the West and the Soviets/the communists); these such folks came to ignore these "equal rights"/"self-determination" aspects of international law; this, in pursuit of their, respective, "modernize"/"transform and incorporate" goals for the Rest of the World. Today, in spite of the Soviet Union now being long gone, the U.S./the West continues its such activities.
Thus, given that the U.N. charter (a) would not seem to be a "key foundation of international law" but (b) does seem to take great care in emphasizing the, exceptionally well-known, international law principles of "equal rights" and the "right of self-determination" of peoples (the U.S./the West, in spite of defeating the USSR, continuing to ignore same);
Given these such matters, exactly where does this leave us?
" In your mind then (a) a coalition of a number of western and non-western nations and (b) the approval of an international agency (such as the United Nations); this trumps the right of all the other states, societies and civilizations of the world; this, to choose their own political, economic, social, value and/or religious arrangements?"
I already said that it is no guarantee of legitimacy. But if a nation's own choices (or the choices of non-state groups within a failing/failed state that has no or barely any government) greatly threatens the greater community of nations, then yes, the interests of the community of nations can overrule that one nation, the same way that the actions and desires of an individual can be overridden for the sake of protecting a community. And the United Nations isn't just an international agency, it is the main supranational body of the world whose charter is a key foundation of international law and norms. And as I've said a million times before, interventions can work with the population to help chart a course for "political, economic, social, value and/or religious arrangements" and that an intervention is not always inherently against the will of the people.
I'm not going to address anything you say going forward on the matter of "abandoning a way of life" and "alien and profane transformations" because this is clearly what you want to believe about recent interventions and you will never internalize any information or arguments that contradict this line of thinking.
So: In your mind then (a) a coalition of a number of western and non-western nations and (b) the approval of an international agency (such as the United Nations); this trumps the right of all the other states, societies and civilizations of the world; this, to choose their own political, economic, social, value and/or religious arrangements?
These same such "rules of the road," thus, now applying to the U.S.; this, if we are -- likewise -- confronted with (a) a coalition of a number of states and (b) international organization who, together, (c) tell us that we must (1) abandon our way of life, our way of governance and our, corresponding, values, attitudes and belief; this, so as to (2) adopt, in the place of same, the foreign, alien and profane concepts that someone else (see the coalition of states and the international agency above) has chosen for us?
I've already mentioned that recent interventions have included voluntary coalitions that numbered dozens of nations, many of them non-western states. Therefore, this is not something that is solely confined to the West's/American doing. Therefore this also means that the world is not "turning against us" in dramatic fashion if nations are signing up to join American-led interventions by the dozens when they are under no obligation to do so. I have also stated that these interventions have frequently been authorized or earned the approval of the United Nations, whose charter is foundational to modern international law, and therefore intervention is not always automatically wrong in the eyes of international law. And if dozens of nations can come together in a coalition and earn a UN Authorization/resolution of support for an intervention then it is extremely likely that a government that is the target of that intervention is failing miserably at providing for its people. You are still assuming, in an all-encompassing manner, that the interests of intervening powers and the interests of the native population will never be aligned. Sovereignty is also not the penultimate principle to be defended in international order, in the same way that the free will of an individual should not supersede the common interest of a community in many circumstances. It's also astounding that you can remark that imperial conquest can respect the nature of how a society works but apparently recent multilateral interventions somehow cannot, just another example of your selective bias making itself obvious.
dfil: Above you said:
"very special, unusual, unique -- and exceptionally controversial" Imperial conquest (which is what you are describing) has also existed for thousands of years, so you're still totally wrong.
a. Are you, therefore, suggesting that the U.S./the West, today, is engaged in blatant "imperial conquest?"
b. Have you done any research, and can you, thereby, provide adequate references and examples; this, to support your suggestion that (a) the destruction of the way of life, the way of governance, the values, attitudes and beliefs, etc., of other states, societies and civilizations, this (b) was a/the routine/normal way that "imperial conquest" was done, as you note, for "thousands of years?" With adequate research on your part, I believe you will find that conquerors of old most often found it much more intelligent to work, as much as possible, WITHIN the existing political, economic, social and value arrangements of the states, societies and civilizations that they conquered. (Thus, "by, with and through" -- yesterday as today -- to be understood more in such "existing"/"before the conquerors got there" terms?)
c. Do you understand that, even if you are able to adequately support your such thought at "b" above, this does not mean that -- after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the advent, therein, of the concept of sovereignty/self-determination -- that after this event the "destroy and replace" activities we are discussing here (previous "tradition" or no) these were no longer considered to be right, proper and/or legal. (Focus here on the -- contemporary -- idea of "self-determination:" the right of people, everywhere, to choose their own political, economic, social, value, religious, etc., arrangements.)
d. Likewise, do you understand the exceptionally NEGATIVE national security consequences -- which can clearly come from ignoring these such edicts; such as these that I noted in my earlier comments:
1. The exceptionally sad and tragic -- and extremely dangerous --consequences that we find in the Greater Middle East today. (These, now "bleeding over" into Europe and beyond?)
2. The fact that much of the Rest of the World (both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors) appear to be turning against us -- this, much as they turned against the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War and for similar reasons. (In this regard, see the now much-discussed "worldwide insurgency" [ex: the move to authoritarianism?] -- this, versus the U.S./the West oppressive "world governor" role.) And
3. The fact that, with the U.S./the West's "ignore international law"/modernize"-"transform and incorporate anyway" example before them, such nations as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea -- and even such entities as the Islamic extremists -- may likewise feel justified in (a) doing their very own studying of "those that live there" and (b) doing their very own intervening to cure the problems related thereto.
(Thus, as to "national security," welcome to the New Cold War; a war of our very own making?)
"very special, unusual, unique -- and exceptionally controversial" Imperial conquest (which is what you are describing) has also existed for thousands of years, so you're still totally wrong. This is exactly the sort of extreme conclusion that can come from bias. But not all intervention is automatically imperial or ideological in nature, and you are not bothering to understand those distinctions.
The debate on recent intervention is not at all ideological (which because it involves democratization, you believe it is), it is a practical matter on security problems. It is so painfully obvious that what you argue (quotes below) does not come from what you understand, it is simply what you want to believe.
"Less in "national security" terms -- and more in "ideologically-driven"/"create a better world" -- or some other such -- terms?"
Failed/failing states and rogue regimes can and do pose security concerns to the broader international community. The use of force and development aid can and has been used collectively by the international community to address a common threat, and with the support of the United Nations.
"Whose ultimate goal is to destroy the way of life, the way of governance, the institutions and norms -- and/or the values, attitudes and beliefs of other states, societies and civilizations -- and to, in the place of same (and in one way or another--doesn't have to be by invasion and occupation) install and allow only one's own such attributes."
This is just what you want to be true. You need to Google your way to the strategy and campaign design documents that organize these efforts to discover that preeminent importance has been placed on working with and through the population and how that principle is actually being put into practice.
dfil: Above you said:
"Intervention has been a means of national security policy for thousands of years, so there is no "opening of the door by the West" and it is blatantly false statements like these that cause me to accuse you of having an anti-western worldview."
But here again it would seem, and re: such things as "opening the door," etc., you have missed the point entirely; this being, that it is not generic "intervention" that we are discussing here but, quite obviously, a very special, unusual, unique -- and exceptionally controversial -- form thereof; one:
a. Whose ultimate goal is to destroy the way of life, the way of governance, the institutions and norms -- and/or the values, attitudes and beliefs of other states, societies and civilizations -- and to, in the place of same (and in one way or another--doesn't have to be by invasion and occupation) install and allow only one's own such attributes. And, thus, one:
b. Whose grossly destructive and destabilizing nature (see both the Thirty Years War and, indeed, the Greater Middle East today) has been formally recognized -- and formally considered I believe -- to be both immoral and illegal (see the Treaty of Westphalia and related international law).
(Herein to note that, other forms of "intervention;" these do not seem to have garnered such massive and singular attention and such formal rebuke?)
Thus, at the end of the Old Cold War (cir. 1990), when the U.S./the West's national security posture was, arguably, in best shape that it had been in for nearly half a century (America no longer had a great power rival), how could the U.S./the West's -- continuing -- "modernize"/ "transform and incorporate other states and societies" activities be explained?
Less in "national security" terms -- and more in "ideologically-driven"/"create a better world" -- or some other such -- terms?
BEGIN FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT QUOTE
Imperialists don't realize what they can do, what they can create! They've robbed this continent (Africa) of billions, and all because they are too short-sighted to understand that their billions were pennies, compared to the possibilities! Possibilities that MUST include a better life for the people who inhibit this land.
(From Niall Ferguson's "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.")
"As to your such thought, might we say that the Soviets/the communists, likewise, may well have involved certain elements of the host-nation populace; this, in collaborative decision-making?"
"Certain elements" yes, but this is something that can be extremely different from war to war. Notice how my previous sentence/argument on this point is me being forced to point out the basic fact that there is nuance and complexity to this issue.
Some foreign interventions were launched as a collective response to a common threat. And yes, a threat can emanate from within one country to the greater whole (that is what you are saying the U.S. is after all). It makes sense, on a fundamental level, that within a system of any kind, if it has a problem that threatens to spread and cause massive consequences, it warrants an intervention of some sort. This is true whether its a body that needs surgery, or a car that needs a new part. The very definition of a problem is that if it is left unchecked it will create more problems, therefore meaning there are consequences to inaction. You have no vision for how this dynamic plays out in regard to severe national security issues, and therefore no understanding of how the world could mount a collective or preventive response.
Not all foreign interventions are automatically imperial or ideological in nature, which is what you are arguing (and will maintain irrespective of anything anyone else says). If dozens of nations (and recent coalitions have certainly included many non-Western states) can form a voluntary coalition and such a coalition can earn an authorization/resolution in support of the use of force from the United Nations (as many have) than it should be obvious that this is a collective effort aimed at a common threat (even though broadly inclusive coalitions and resolutions/authorizations are no guarantee of legitimacy). The United Nations (of which its charter is a cornerstone of international law) retains the power to authorize force and foreign intervention, which means that respect for sovereignty is not maintained in perfection and international law actually reflects this.
"(This, given that the U.S./the West, by its such actions, has "opened the door," and now made it both proper[?]" Intervention has been a means of national security policy for thousands of years, so there is no "opening of the door by the West" and it is blatantly false statements like these that cause me to accuse you of having an anti-western worldview.
Consider this, from the examples I provide above:
The overt attack on Afghan social values was presented, by the resistance forces, as an attack on Islamic values. This was also seen as an attack on the honor of women. The initiatives introduced by PDPA (the communist Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan) -- to impose literacy on women and girls -- inevitably raised questions as to the potential role of women outside the home. This provoked defensive actions from men, concerned with protecting the honor of women with their families, and to also ensure that traditional roles of women within the domestic sphere continued to be performed. It also generated fears that the important roles of women, as the primary vehicles for passing traditional and Islamic values from one generation to another, would be undermined if they were exposed to external and, particularly, non-Islamic values. This enabled the exiled radical Islamic parties to claim leadership of the resistance and to also declare a jihad.
In this regard, first let us look at your thought here:
"Apparently pointing out that foreign interventions can involve the host-nation populace in collaborative decision-making was something you decided to ignore wholesale." ...
As to your such thought, might we say that the Soviets/the communists, likewise, may well have involved certain elements of the host-nation populace; this, in collaborative decision-making?
Next, as to your thought here:
"It's become painfully obvious now that your arguments stem from a worldview problem (everything is the West's fault and they want to own the world at everyone else's expense), and you will say what you have to say to make this so.
As to your such thought, given my, constant and consistent, reference to the Soviets/the communist -- and to their "transform and incorporate"/"modernize" ideas (with references and examples to support same) -- given my such effort, does your characterization of my worldview ("everything is the West's fault") still seem to ring true? (Herein, you may, in fact, be at least partially correct; this, given that the U.S./the West does appear to be the "last man standing" -- this, as relates to the problems created by "ideologically-driven" great powers -- see below.)
Note: Hans Morgenthau, as early as 1967 and in his "To Intervene or Not to Intervene," explained the phenomenon which we appear to be discussing here -- a phenomenon which is not limited to just the Soviets/the communists and/or to the U.S./the West alone -- but, rather, appears at certain places in history to explain the "convert the heathen"/"modernize" actions of various religiously (now ideologically?)-driven great powers. A phenomenon that is known to be so destructive, and so destabilizing, as to (a) cause the 17th Century Treat of Westphalia to be implemented to bring a halt same and (b) cause international law to be written in an attempt to enshrine and enforce same. (Both, since the beginning of the Old Cold War, being ignored by the expansionist Soviets/the communists and by a similarly expansionist U.S./the West?):
BEGIN HANS MORGENTHAU QUOTE
"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other ... as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other. Thus the Cold War has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."
Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the above:
If we continue on our current path and continue to use (paternalistic/"white-man's burden"/ imperialistic?) justifications -- such those offered by you (and by our author above?) -- then we must realize that there are likely to be at least two adverse consequences of our such actions:
1. Much of the Rest of the World may turn against us -- much as they turned against the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War. (In this regard, see the now much-discussed "worldwide insurgency" [ex: move to authoritarianism?] -- versus the U.S./the West oppressive "world governor" role -- which appears to ongoing today?) And
2. Such nations as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea -- and even such entities as the Islamic extremists -- may feel justified in doing their own (a) studying of "those that live there" and (b) intervening to cure the problems related thereto. (This, given that the U.S./the West, by its such actions, has "opened the door," and now made it both proper[?], and legal[?], to [a] violate sovereignty and to [b] ignore international law; this, so as to [c] "fix" the problems [as whomever sees them?] in other states, societies and civilizations?)
"a. It is not various, different and sundry "inside the country" problems which give rise to these insurgencies but, rather,
b. The common, singular, problem of foreign interference and foreign expansionist designs (see my examples above); THIS is what gives rise to these insurgencies."
There you go again Bill. Nobody who has ever invested a serious effort into learning about these subjects will ever make this argument. Not every insurgency (which includes civil wars, rebellions, and revolutions) that has ever existed in human history was triggered by external intervention. Was the Bolshevik or Maoist insurgencies a direct reaction to a foreign intervention? No, they sought to replace incumbent governments. This is some "insurgency 101" stuff.
"(So, to get back on track, I suggest that it is not so much "who lives there" that we should be studying but, rather, "who -- for darn sure -- does not?")"
How many times should I repost that figure I did the last time, i.e. "92% of Afghans support the internationally-supported government, while 4% support the Taliban" until you realize that foreign intervention is no guarantee of popular resistance? Apparently pointing out that foreign interventions can involve the host-nation populace in collaborative decisionmaking was something you decided to ignore wholesale.
It's become painfully obvious now that your arguments stem from a worldview problem (everything is the West's fault and they want to own the world at everyone else's expense), and you will say what you have to say to make this so.
As per my thoughts below, here are a couple of examples of how foreign interference/foreign intervention (often through a "bought and paid for" local government/governor) -- interference/intervention designed to transform others and societies more along alien and profane political, economic, social and value lines (i.e., to "modernize" them) -- how this such foreign intervention/interference becomes the "root cause" of insurgencies.
The overt attack on Afghan social values was presented, by the resistance forces, as an attack on Islamic values. This was also seen as an attack on the honor of women. The initiatives introduced by PDPA (the communist Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan) -- to impose literacy on women and girls -- inevitably raised questions as to the potential role of women outside the home. This provoked defensive actions from men, concerned with protecting the honor of women with their families, and to also ensure that traditional roles of women within the domestic sphere continued to be performed. It also generated fears that the important roles of women, as the primary vehicles for passing traditional and Islamic values from one generation to another, would be undermined if they were exposed to external and, particularly, non-Islamic values. This enabled the exiled radical Islamic parties to claim leadership of the resistance and to also declare a jihad.
(Item in parenthesis above is mine.)
http://www.amazon.com/Afghanistan-Armies-Empires-Peter-Marsden/dp/184511... (On Page 58, in Chapter 4 entitled "The Soviet Military Intervention."
But, in several modern campaigns — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya, for example — the government or invading coalition forces initiated the campaign, whereas insurgents are strategically reactive (as in “resistance warfare”). Such patterns are readily recognizable in historical examples of resistance warfare, but less so in classical counterinsurgency theory. ...
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. Pakistan’s campaign in Waziristan since 2003 exemplifies this. The enemy includes al-Qa’ida (AQ) linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture against 21st century encroachment. The problem of weaning these fighters away from extremist sponsors, while simultaneously supporting modernization, does somewhat resemble pacification in traditional counterinsurgency. But it also echoes colonial campaigns, and includes entirely new elements arising from the effects of globalization.
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/uscoin/counterinsurgency_redux.pdf (See bottom of Page 2 and top of Page 3.)
Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:
Thus, the author's suggestions -- such as those in the quoted item below -- which seem to emphasize studying the local populations -- this, rather than studying the foreign entities that were (the Soviets/the communist back-in-the-day) and are (the U.S./the West today) bent on "modernizing" the other states and societies of the world -- these such suggestions miss the point entirely. This point being that:
a. It is not various, different and sundry "inside the country" problems which give rise to these insurgencies but, rather,
b. The common, singular, problem of foreign interference and foreign expansionist designs (see my examples above); THIS is what gives rise to these insurgencies.
BEGIN QUOTE FROM OUR ARTICLE ABOVE -- WHICH TOTALLY MISSES THE POINT:
The author contends that American’s need to understand the “Who Lives There” approach to understanding insurgencies. The “Who Lives There” approach is an analytical methodology for identifying and understanding deeply-rooted grievances within a given society experiencing insurgency. Insurgency is a socio-political war in which a complex and varying blend of religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural factors all play roles in the conflict. As each insurgency necessarily is different from all others, one must examine each factor within context of the culture and norms of the specific country under study."
(So, to get back on track, I suggest that it is not so much "who lives there" that we should be studying but, rather, "who -- for darn sure -- does not?")
I don't see anything new in this article about insurgency, instead is simply repeating our doctrine. When the author asserts Americans don't get this, especially the military, it points his lack of experience on the ground with our forces. Even junior NCOs who have COIN experience could have written the article. Whether they choose to follow the doctrine is another matter.
While his assessment of the impact of DESERT STORM on military thinking is generally correct, what about the other 200 plus years of our history, and centuries worth of world history? Like most narrow minded academics they tend to focus on Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, yet that is a small sample of our FID/COIN experience. Furthermore, instead of providing the wise counsel he claims to be providing, he is making the same uninformed and dangerous argument that the U.S. will never face adversaries who will engage us in conventional warfare (again because of DESERT STORM). Time to move on from that time frame, because our adversaries did a long time ago. China and Russia have developed impressive conventional and nuclear capabilities, gray zone strategies that have little to do with guerrilla warfare, and new war fighting doctrines that may neutralize our conventional forces in the next war. Maybe we'll be the ones choosing to wage war via guerrilla warfare?
I'm not following how a quick walk around the world listing various well known trouble spots and conflicts provides the readers with a broad understanding of the nature of insurgency? How does that differ from listing Waterloo, Battle of Stalingrad, Battle of New Orleans, DESERT STORM, and then saying now you have a broad understanding of conventional war? Perhaps his point was there are insurgencies all around the world, and guess what, you would be hard pressed to find any period in the history of man when that wasn't the case. We certainly don't need to get involved in all of them, and they're of secondary importance to adversaries that can change the international order and potentially defeat us militarily.
He asserts that Americans only see the world through their own lens. While over generalizing, hard to argue this, since this is actually a universal human trait. Only the very curious and those self-aware of their biases can view the world through multiple optics. This is hardly unique to Americans, and it applies equally to our adversaries. Seeing the world equates to our understanding, and on this point, I was hoping the author, based on his research, would enlighten us on the specifics of how our lack of understanding of the human domain actually impacted the outcome of our efforts. I agree with his point, but he failed to actually make that point effectively. Instead he focused on all Americans don't get this, well aren't we fortunate the author does.
Regarding some of his other points, I have to believe he doesn't have operational experience, because we have been doing influence operations for decades (tactical to strategic), we have been doing civic-military operations for decades, and the list goes on. They are not panaceas, and if we don't understand the human dynamics sufficiently they really don't matter.
I always laugh at those who call upon Mao as some legendary strategist who had legitimacy with the majority of the Chinese people, and therefore he rode to victory. Mao's victory was made possible by the Japanese the Soviets, it was far from simply an internal conflict. It was a series of missteps and fortune that led China into an era of even more darkness than they experienced during their century of humiliation. Did Mao govern well after he won? I guess so, if you consider Mao's and Stalin's use of mass murder and terror good governance.
The author claims to have a unique understanding of insurgency no other Americans have, again this statement demonstrates a lack of awareness. He claims insurgency is a higher form of war because of the political and social factors. In fact, insurgency can be considered the High School graduate level of war, compared to conventional war. As the author states, insurgency is relatively localized. Contrast that with a conventional war, where a nation's leaders must also manage complex international diplomacy with multiple countries, maintain the will to fight at home, conduct extremely complex, high tech warfare against a peer opponent, and oh by the way still deal with local political, social, and economic issues. It is past time for the irregular warfare crowd to park their arrogance in the garage and start providing value added commentary to help solve real problems.
All the discussion on good governance sounds good in theory, but we have little ability to compel our partners to provide it. If that is the case, and our interests are being threatened by the insurgency, then we need fresh thinking on new approaches to protect our interest when our preferred way of COIN turns out be infeasible. Another article repeating our existing COIN doctrine isn't unhelpful, but it also offers nothing new, and we need new thinking on what so far have proved to be intractable problems.
"(1) Achieve the "transform and incorporate the outlying states and societies of the world" aspect of our raison d'etre? And, thus, will not be able to:
(2) Better (or adequately?) provide for the material, etc., wants, needs and desires of our states, our societies and our citizens?"
This is where you're completely wrong. The interests of the host nation population and the intervening powers can be in genuine alignment. These are not always mutually exclusive as you suggest.
Again, if the intervening powers do not adequately involve the population's concerns into nation building, the effort will not be sustained by those populations once the intervening powers leave, and it will have been a massive waste of effort.
The best way to understand the "in" -- in "insurgency" -- is via the concept of foreign "interference"/ foreign "intervening."
To wit: As a rebellion against unwanted alien and profane political, economic, social and value changes/"reforms" -- that an interfering/intervening foreign great nation/great civilization (exs: the Soviets/the communist in the Old Cold War; the U.S./the West today) -- via their "friendly" (think "bought and paid for") "local governments" -- seek to impose, in one way or another, on the native populations.
Thus, this thought, from our article above, would seem to be incorrect:
Administration after administration has failed to learn what “internal wars” are all about and how best to go about intervening in them.
(Herein, to note that these are [a] "proxy" rather than "internal" wars and that, accordingly, [b] the "intervening" -- by the foreign power -- this occurs  on the front-end and, thus,  is the "root cause" of the insurgency.)
Thus, based on the information that I have provided here, the below quoted item -- also from our article above (which emphasizes the "ambitions of the local ordinary people" and the requirement of the local governments to accommodate same) -- this must be understood, in the context I provide here, in terms of the local government telling the intervening/interfering foreign nations to:
a. Take their "modernization"/their "transform and incorporate" campaigns/reforms and
b. "Shove them" (you know where). Yes?
Insurgencies start with the ambitions of local ordinary people (they want the foreign intervening/foreign interfering people and their alien and profane "modernization" ideas and campaigns thrown out), so therefore our strategic objectives should be geared towards a host nation’s government addressing these aspirations through reforms and other policy norms.
(Items in parenthesis above are mine.)
The problem here, of course, being that if (a) we comply with these wishes of the local ordinary people (Americans/westerners: take your ideas and go home!) then (b) we certainly will not be able to:
(1) Achieve the "transform and incorporate the outlying states and societies of the world" aspect of our raison d'etre? And, thus, will not be able to:
(2) Better (or adequately?) provide for the material, etc., wants, needs and desires of our states, our societies and our citizens?