- The new manual should spend some time and space discussing counterinsurgency as it fits within and relates to the total spectrum of warfare. This gets to the authors' 5th point, but I don't think they went far enough. The problem with a manual that focuses on a subset of warfare is that it can often treat that subset as a one-off that has limited applicability to our understanding of warfare qua warfare. 3-24 does not state that this is the case for COIN, but its writing allows for that interpretation. From my perspective, this discussion goes beyond CT vs. COIN. If smart people sat down and wrote this well, it would be more about how to apply power to achieve foreign policy goals and how COIN tactics play in to this. A more general discussion, in my opinion, would also help address their #12: the use of violence.
- Speaking of #12, the new manual should go beyond the fact that legitimate violence is an element of COIN and expand on how to use it: primarily the use of indirect and air fires. I've cited some stats previously on how much my brigade blew up during the Surge in Iraq. We dropped over a hundred thousand pounds of bombs and fired thousands of artillery and mortar rounds (I have no idea how many rotary wing engagements we had in the year) and yet we were hugely successful by most metrics - mainly an amazing decrease in violence in both our AO and in Baghdad (AQI was using our AO to funnel car bomb parts into the capital). We need a frank discussion on using this power to achieve our goals so the guy on the ground can use this information.
- We need a better discussion of ends. I don't know that the new manual wants to wade into the minefield that is COIN metrics, but FM users need a better guide on how to set end goals for their COIN operations and how to understand if they're moving in the right direction, if they're not moving in the right direction, and when they've met those goals. The end states I wrote as a planner were simply terrible because we didn't know how to write them, resulting in platitudinous drivel such as "set the conditions so that the Iraqi people can self govern and protect their people in an environment were services are provided and a healthy economy exists" or some such crap. We just had no idea what we were working towards other than "better than things are now" - talk about mission creep potential.
- Interagency, interagency, interagency. Division of labor at the USG level needs to get sorted out. As the U.S. Army and USMC move into a period of relative reset as Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, they're going to have to take a hard look at what they can afford (in time and money) to do in the future. Maybe building schools or hospitals or local governance councils in a war zone shouldn't be on the METL. Maybe it should, I don't know. But that analysis needs to be done so the next time we get into the nation building business everyone knows what is expected of them. I could write a book on this topic, because it's still so screwed up (you don't want to get me started on police reform, for instance). This would be some heavy lifting and depends on non-DoD participation, so I'm not going to hold my breath for it, but I think it needs to be addressed and eventually figured out.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Ink Spots' friends-of-the-blog Carl Prine, Crispin Burke, and Mike Few (SWJ Editor) made the case this morning at the Small Wars Journal for a serious rethink and rewrite of FM 3-24 (Counterinsurgency). This is has been suggested from time to time, often by Carl as well others of the more COINtra bent, and I wholeheartedly agree. And I think these three thinkers and experienced counterinsurgents took the right approach: concise points on why the current doctrine is insufficient that should be readily apparent to anyone who has participated in COIN operations. I'm guessing they had some difficulty in word-smithing this piece as it's very hard for any group of people to agree on the prescriptions for a new manual, but the problems they identify are spot on. I would suggest adding a few more to the list, though.
Great job, gents - I hope your paper informs Leavenworth and that they make some serious changes to the doctrine. This is a great start and I hope it gets the ball moving.