Wednesday, May 26, 2010

USSOCOM commander: "COIN doctrine [is] an oxymoron"

ADM Eric Olson, speaking at a conference today, pretty much laid into COIN doctrine and rhetoric:

The U.S. military's counterinsurgency tactics increasingly place too much emphasis on protecting local peoples and not enough on fighting enemy forces, said [...] Olson.

While the U.S. military has adopted a population-focused strategy in Afghanistan, Olson said May 26 he "fears counterinsurgency has become a euphemism for nonkinetic activities."

The term is now to often used to describe efforts aimed at "protecting populations," Olson said during a conference in Arlington, Va.

The military's top special operator, in a shot across the bow of modern-day counterinsurgency doctrine proponents, then added: "Counterinsurgency should involve countering the insurgents."

The admiral went on to describe COIN doctrine as "an oxymoron" (a word choice that strikes me as a little imprecise, if not exactly nonsensical), noting that

[...] "almost none" of what the doctrine contains is "actually applied" during military operations, he said.

Olson pointed to parts of the current counterinsurgency doctrine that is based on U.S. military efforts in certain provinces of Iraq. Those tactics rarely apply anywhere in Afghanistan, he said.

"It is an imperfect template from which we must deviate," Olson said to a silent room.

I guess my version of 3-24 was missing the page that directed thoughtless, automatic execution of an unalterable plan (a plan that revolves around hugging the enemy until he quits).

Seriously though, if what he's saying is that we ought to remember that counterinsurgency is bigger than just the nonkinetic action, bigger than just development projects and COPs and restrictive ROE, that the rhetoric is starting to diverge from the reality...

...then I agree. And I applaud him for saying so.

(Of course, if he's saying we just need to kill more bad guys, then I think it's a lot more complicated.)


  1. I guess my version of 3-24 was missing the page that directed thoughtless, automatic execution of an unalterable plan (a plan that revolves around hugging the enemy until he quits).

    My version DOES have the Forward, though, the second paragraph of which says this:

    "This manual takes a general approach to counterinsurgency operations. The Army and Marine
    Corps recognize that every insurgency is contextual and presents its own set of challenges. You cannot fight former Saddamists and Islamic extremists the same way you would have fought the Viet Cong, Moros, or Tupamaros; the application of principles and fundamentals to deal with each varies considerably."

    It also says that COIN is a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations. It also says that "conducting a successful counterinsurgency campaign requires a flexible, adaptive force."

    And c.

  2. Does it offer any guidance for when pop-COIN is inappropriate?

  3. Schmedlap, you fool. Pop-centric COIN is ALWAYS appropriate!


  4. It's perfectly fine approach, so long as the enemy cannot go some place where you cannot follow, and reliable host nation forces are being developed to take over in a reasonable time frame.


  5. Admiral Olsen appears to be prempting the same frustration that GEN McCrystals staff also stated in the recent Rolling Stones article. We have ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan conducting COIN because our leaders Chose to. Yes they chose to. Instead of continuing in pursuit and domination we succumbed to the casualty averse tendencies perpetutaed by modern media and startegic communication. The political pressures brought to bear by distasteful (albeit necessary) act of destroying our enemies. Nobody questioned the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo. Yes the nuclear option brought controversy but eventually it has been widely accepted that these acts "saved" lives,...American lives and when you are at war that is what is important. We were not at war with just the governments of Japan and Germany,...we were at war with a people who popularly supported regimes whose fundamental ideals were contrary to our own and threatened our nations freedoms and prosperity. We are in the same situation today confronting a Diaspora that is largely sympathetic to our enemies and whose belief systems threaten our founding notions of justice and liberty. Killing bad guys is very much in order and it appears we have alot more to do. A recent War College study examined the Gaza-Israel conflict and was critical of Israels failure to "win over" the populace in Gaza. Honestly,..who participated in this study and what planet are they on. The post WWII dominace of the us was a result of the crushing defeat upon our enemies not because we worked dilligently to win their hearts and minds. That only occurred after the populcae of our enemy had been defeated militarily, economically, informationally and diplomatically.

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