Tuesday, February 16, 2010

See, this is what happens...

...when we just train our guys on touchy-feely COIN stuff and they forget how to fight!
“This is difficult,’’ Lance Corporal Michael Andrejczuk, 20, of Knoxville, Tenn., said yesterday. “We are trained like when we see something, we obliterate it. But here, we have to see them and when we do, they don’t have guns.’’
Oh, never mind. (Emphasis mine.)

12 comments:

  1. Gian Gentile is a necessary counterweight to the COIN clique, but some of what he writes is downright crazy.

    Fighting is eclipsed in importance in the new doctrinal manuals? Last I checked, the four basic missions of the Army included offense, defense, stability and support--that's two for, two against. Hardly "eclipsed"...more like "balanced".

    This reminds me of his claim that the IDF "failed" in Lebanon due to an over-emphasis on counterinsurgency (which is a grossly exaggerated statement, with only a small layer of truth)

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  2. I particularly love his line, "A certain group of defense thinkers dominating the Army’s current intellectual climate". Oh, you mean people other than you? Waaaa...

    While he writes sensible stuff (particularly about the popular "Surge Narrative"), it's slowly being outweighed by stuff that's absolutely ridiculous. In many ways, he's beginning to remind me of Ralph Peters.

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  3. I happen to agree with COL Gentile far more than I disagree. And I am not quite sure how this piece illustrates or fails to illustrate anything that he has written/said/etc - or anything that the Ink Spots folks have written/said/etc.

    If a man emerges from a Taliban hideout after shooting erupts, US troops say they cannot fire at him if he is not seen carrying a weapon - or if they did not personally watch him drop one.

    Oh no! That sounds just like the restrictive, mired-in-COIN-dogma ROE that we had in... early 2005.

    What this means, some contend, is that a militant can fire at them, then set aside his weapon and walk freely out of a compound, possibly toward a weapons cache in another location.

    Show me the officer who will do the 15-6 investigation on that incident and find any wrongdoing on the part of the shooter. Again this sounds like our ROE in early 2005. As it turns out it, it also describes exactly an incident that occurred in 2005 that resulted in a 15-6 investigation. And our BDE CO was furious that the investigating officer saw no problem with a man dropping his AK and running to a known weapons cash (which had weapons, ammunition, and grenades in it). The JAG also couldn't find a problem with it, in spite of the BDE CO's ire.

    In another example, Marines pinned down by a barrage of insurgent bullets say they can’t count on quick air support because it takes time to positively identify shooters.

    Oh geez. Now we need to positively identify the enemy before we go dropping 500-pound bombs or firing Hellfires? Oh wait, it's been that way for years. My bad.

    I guess my point is, whether you think COIN is the silver bullet, magic bullet, a bullet in our heads, a dud round, or just a bullet on a slide, those comments from the news reporter only illustrate one thing: Joe says stupid things when there are reporters around. And that predates 2005.

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  4. Schmedlap: I have great respect for the good Gentile, but he uses some pretty harsh arguments. His paralel to the british and french during the interwar period seems to me quite absurd. The problem then was exactly the lack of adaptability, while Gentile seems to decry too much and rapid adaptability.

    The 2006 example is also misleading, insofar as part of the problem for the Israelis were their *lack* of the COIN approach, going back to the occupation of Lebanon. The main blame for the 2006 loss was among the Israelis put down to fluffy combat-doctrine wich even the commanders didnt understand. (http://www.webcitation.org/5j0uD2zlT) Gentiles argument has some merits, but it relies on the point that Israeli fighting skills had atrophied due to policing the occupied territories and meeting little to no resistance. I hardly think that can be said for Afghanistan.

    Finaly, he uses a lot of invective language, COIN ideas have "infiltrated" the discourse and become a "deepseated dogmatic" way of thinking. Its the good old story of "They".

    Wich doesnt mean that he doesnt have many good points. But I balk at some of the presentation.

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  5. Anon @ 8:57 -- The problem then was exactly the lack of adaptability, while Gentile seems to decry too much and rapid adaptability.

    To be fair to Gentile, I don't think this is his argument at all. In other places he explicitly states that he's arguing in favor of adaptability and flexibility, he just hedges much further in the direction of conventional capabilities than many of us would.

    Where I really disagree is with his contention that the U.S. military is currently hedging much too far in the direction of irregular warfare; to me, this seems just plainly and dramatically incorrect. This is not a COIN Army, no matter what the "dominant narrativ" is saying.

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  6. @Anon
    I agree with the presentation. Also agree with your points, and others' points, about Israel 2006. That happens to be one of the areas of disagreement that I have with Col Gentile. The problem in Israel 2006 was not that they spent too much time training on COIN. The problem was that expectations are out of whack. Nasrallah was surprised at the Israeli response and lost a lot more men and equipment than he would have preferred. The Israelis were portrayed as having gotten in over their heads because - gasp! - the enemy actually seemed to have learned something and put up a decent fight. That's not a failure or shortcoming. That's war.

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  7. The Israelis were portrayed as having gotten in over their heads because - gasp! - the enemy actually seemed to have learned something and put up a decent fight. That's not a failure or shortcoming. That's war.

    Really glad you made this point, Schmedlap, and totally agree.

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  8. Actually, iterative reports by the Israelis concluded that a lack of training in HIW and a concentration on the sort of COIN done at checkpoints and whatnot did contribute to the deterioration of combat skills by the IDF.

    That's not as important as the muddled strategy by the highest ranking officers in the IDF and their civilian overseers before and during the Lebanon war, but it was an issue considered important enough to correct before the punitive expedition against HAMAS in Gaza in 2008.

    SNLII

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  9. Just to extrapolate from the age and rank of the Marine quoted, he's a 20-year-old LCpl. This suggests that he probably entered active duty as a 19-year-old, bound for MCRD, and now he's advanced to the rank of E-3.

    His training as an infantryman mostly would entail what he learns in ITBR/SOI at either Lejeuene or Pendleton, a program of about two months (give or take) that builds about his recruit training.

    It is NOT designed to make him proficient at COIN or a savant when it comes to articulating ROE. It means that he's received the most rudimentary training that would barely qualify him for his MOS (most likely 0311), with the rest of his crucial training supplied today by his team leader, squad leader and Ares.

    The third typically proves more unforgiving that the first two, but it varies by platoon. Chortle, chortle.

    It's a bit silly to then draw some point about his view of warmaking and the overall contention COL Gentile makes about force-wide changes. It also somewhat misses the point about the light infantryman's work in COIN, which is in many ways similar to how he would go about his work on most other battlefields along the spectrum of ground operations (patrolling, digging in for defense, using some combined arms but at his very low level mostly listening to orders from his far more experienced TL).

    If you were looking at, say, the Field Artillery, you might suggest that an E-2 emerging from school or an E-3 bound for his first deployment would have more time on the guns over the past 18 months than those more senior to him in his battery. They, instead, have concentrated on doing what FA has been carved up to do, and for many of them that means not exactly plotting and shooting but rather guarding detainees, working as ersatz infantry or doing what troopers term the "COIN BS."

    While it's cute to see someone to compare for the sake of humor the apple of an inexperienced LCpl's first view of war amongst the people to the reflections of an early 2009 polemic in JFQ by the dean of history at USMA, we really can't push the metaphor too far, lest one be thought to be insincere at best or simply lost at worst.

    SNLII

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  10. While it's cute to see someone to compare for the sake of humor the apple of an inexperienced LCpl's first view of war amongst the people to the reflections of an early 2009 polemic in JFQ by the dean of history at USMA, we really can't push the metaphor too far, lest one be thought to be insincere at best or simply lost at worst.

    I would've thought it difficult to "push the metaphor too far" in two sentences.

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  11. Oh, also, for what it's worth, here's a line from the introduction to TRADOC Pam 525-3-0, otherwise known as the Army Capstone Concept (fresh as of 21 DEC 09):

    Building on the foundation of combined arms close-combat competencies--fighting power--the Army must hone its ability to gain, sustain, and exploit physical control over land and resources and exert psychological influence over people by threat, force, and effective security operations.

    The dominant narrative has taken hold! No mention even of FIGHTING!

    What's that? They DID mention fighting? Oh. Whoops.

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  12. Actually, iterative reports by the Israelis concluded that a lack of training in HIW and a concentration on the sort of COIN done at checkpoints and whatnot did contribute to the deterioration of combat skills by the IDF.

    I agree that it had somewhat of an effect, but the American experience in counterinsurgency has been much different. Battles at Tora Bora, COP Keating, etc. were probably just as fierce, if not worse, than the firefights against Hezbollah. Hezbollah just came to the fight far more prepared than the Israelis did.

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