Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quote For The Day

We are proving this true. Today the AP reports new recommendations by a Pentagon panel apparently commissioned by the Joint Chiefs. If you read that and much of the other statements made about the potential way forward, then read the quote below.

Traditionally attracted by the purely military aspect of warfare-that is, by the pursuit and destruction in combat of guerrilla bands on the ground-operational commanders invariably hope to succeed in maneuvering them like regular units and to gain a rapid and spectacular success. They have little interest in the less noble work with the population and the destruction of the clandestine organization that enables guerrilla bands to survive despite local defeats the forces of order periodically inflict.

Only a long occupation of the countryside, which will permit police operations among the people...can succeed. ~ Roger Trinquier, "Modern Warfare, A French View of Counterinsurgency," 1961

Is it just me, or are those who are famous for fighting the last war seeking to drop the counterinsurgency and just go with counter-guerrilla warfare? Those who have studied successful counterinsurgencies and unsuccessful counterinsurgencies, including the men that wrote the basis for our current doctrine... and even including one of the men who actually helped write the doctrine... have demonstrated that this is exactly what unsuccessful counterinsurgents do. Pakistan has become our great national excuse for not practicing our own doctrine in exactly the type of situation that challenges us to be expert practitioners of our that doctrine.

It is, alas, not sexy... "less noble," as Trinquier puts it. Perhaps "less glorious" is along the line of his meaning. AirLand warriors find it repulsive, inglorious and weird. Those who advocate it thoroughly are the military equivalents of nerds. Nerds are decidedly unmilitary. As one Captain told me in Afghanistan while observing another Captain, "The Army is like a sports team, kinda like a bunch of jocks." Nerds and Jocks. Anyone want to predict which way that struggle is going to go in a jock society?

Granted, I have not read the study. There are some things lower in the storyline that allude to some recommendations that may indicate that the study said more than what the AP reporters were able to glean.

That would be a shock, wouldn't it?

I sat in on a seminar during my lunch hour today, a panel discussion by three subject matter experts on information operations. One was Shameen Rassam, an Iraqi-American journalist with tons of experience on the media side in the Middle East, one was Farhad Pashwak, an Afghan-American on the verge of a doctorate who has been downrange in this war, and the last was Dennis Murphy, staff member at the Combined Arms Center, a retired officer who has taught at West Point and specializes in "New Media." It was an interesting discussion.

The room was full of Majors and Lieutenant Colonels. The questions were good, but the while there was the acknowledgment that we are being schooled in Information Operations by the Taliban, no one noted that the Taliban choose their message and put all of their efforts into supporting that message, while we are always just doing what we do... disjointed COIN... and then trying to come up with something to say about it.

Ms. Rassam stressed that our message must be culturally understandable to the target population. Mr. Pazhwak stressed the change within the Taliban message to include more of the international Jihadist message and their emergence into more sophisticated media while still utilizing traditional appeals to the romantic oral historians of the Pashtuns. Mr. Murphy stressed the fact that commanders in the field needed to determine their IO message in the planning phases, that the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) needs to present IO in the courses of action.

Mr. Murphy's recommendations come closest to actually raising the idea that the idea needs to drive the actions. Both Ms. Rassam and Mr. Pazhwak pointed out that when you come up with your message, it needs to be something that the indigenous population actually cares about, can understand, and finds it appealing. This goes for both your positive messages and countering the enemy's IO.

It's all interesting in the schoolhouse. Wonder how it's going to fly on the football field.


  1. No, I'm afraid it is not just you. Can't seem to get these people to acknowledge we are even at war. How can we get them to understand the differences?

    It sounds like you've had an interesting day. Boy, wish I could have been a fly on those walls. ;)

  2. You seem to hint in this post that the culture of the services is a bigger impediment to a successful implementation of COIN than is acknowledged in most quarters. Do you think this is the case. And if so, what do you believe is the best way for the civilian leadership to address this.

  3. Thanks for including the comment by Anonymous Vern. He speaks to the heart of the matter: Afghanistan, itself.


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