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