Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are We Still Talking About This?

Reading through yet another rehash of COIN vs. conventional over at AM (I'd specify a post, but the comments on every post have been going down this road), I've been thinking about what a future force structure would look like. I would like to think that most readers of this blog realize that both COIN and conventional doctrine will be part of the tool kit that DoD brings to the table to meet the needs of the nation's strategic interests (however that may be defined - if it ever really will be defined). I'm prone to believe that most operations would follow somewhere along the lines of Frank Hoffman's ideas of "hybrid warfare," where most operations would contain elements of both and that we'll have few conflicts that are purely one or the other. You know, like Iraq and Afghanistan should have been if they had been properly planned from the beginning.

If this ends up being DoD's direction, to prepare for hybrid warfare, then I doubt there will be any major changes to the force as it stands now and that we will rely on general purpose forces (GPF). Sorry Dr. Krepinevich. This begs the question of how you train this force to be able to execute both doctrines nearly simultaneously.

In execution, the doctrines aren't so divergent. In my experience (let's emphasize that, since many other vets may have other experiences), we were able to adequately train both between deployments. This probably falls into the "war is war" discussion. At one point though, my brigade was fortunate to be tapped for both an NTC and a JRTC rotation during our 16 months between deployments in order to train HIC and COIN (as we understood it then). Thankfully, we were the only lucky brigade to do this. Since then, Training Center rotations have been almost exclusively focused on COIN and MOUT.

But why can't you train both doctrines in one rotation? Why can't you leave the towns in the Southern and Central Corridors during the HIC phase of a rotation in the box? Make the commander figure out how to deal with that stuff when he's trying to fight an armored fight. You know, like during the invasion of Iraq. The scenarios could be set to have a high intensity focus followed by reconstruction. I don't understand why it has to be an either/or. That and it more realistically portrays actual conflicts.

All this rambling is to say, could we please, for the love of all that is holy, stop arguing like it has to be one way or another. The argument that "COIN is the answer to all of our prayers" or that "COIN is a baseless canard" doesn't do anyone any good. Population- verus enemy-centric COIN, GPF versus Advisory Corps, NTC needs to train this or that but not the other, etc. The world is much more complicated than that. Shouldn't our doctrine allow us to respond to that complexity? Without diluting abilities purely in the interest of consensus, a step back and some deep thinking could probably help us a lot more.

1 comment:

  1. Good timing. Yesterday, Secretary Gates:

    "The old paradigm of looking at potential conflict as either regular or irregular war, conventional or unconventional, high end or low – is no longer relevant."

    We pay lip service to the spectrum of conflict but then understand it as a mostly binary system. The enemy doesn't have a differentiated theoretical construct, but somehow manages to find our weak spots.

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