Earlier I indulged myself in ruminating all over Abu Muqawama's post this afternoon. I missed the point. Completely. COL Gian Gentile made an appearance and raised one of his calls, which is like Pavlov performing a cowbell concerto to me. Gentile was not the point. In part it was a response to Justin Logan at the Cato Institute, who criticized Exum's statement that real counterinsurgents want less counterinsurgency, not more of it.
More after the jump...
Exum's response sparked a discussion of the differences between policy, strategy, operations and doctrine. The discussion widened to include "grand strategy" and so on and the discussion in comments seemed to take a turn. Somewhere around my delight at seeing Gentile present a question that I thought, "Oooh! Oooh! I got it!" I lost the point. I completely forgot to read Logan's petulant post which had inspired the need to discuss policy vs doctrine. I posted two lengthy comments and, satisfied, went about finding things worth reading.
Having opened Logan's post in a separate tab, I eventually came back around to it. "D'oh!" I said to myself. Not only had I missed the point, but there had in the meantime been a response to Exum's post by Benjamin Friedman.
Sheesh, fellas, he's barely warmed the seat he's occupying. As with Clouseau, Cato attacks before one is settled in the house.
Logan quotes a Bush NSC member in what appears to be a slam by agreement, then settles on his point:
Orienting planning and resources more toward COIN is likely to lead to more counterinsurgency wars. I’m pretty confident in this prediction. If somebody disagrees, I’d like to hear a better fleshed out argument behind the idea that telling policymakers “we now know how to do COIN pretty well” will lead to those policymakers to decide we ought to do it less.
Mr. Logan's main peeve is that people like Exum, if successful, will provide politicians with a capability that they just shouldn't be trusted with, and so the best alternative is to not develop the capability.
Friedman strikes with a slightly different approach with a similar theme, first exhorting Exum to exercise his stark power as the FNG at CNAS, and then stating the meat of his argument:
Second, the stark divide between strategy and operations is an ideal. The theory that the military services are only professional technicians serving the ends of politicians is too simple. The Army has political interests, which change with its structure and leadership. Those interests affect our defense and foreign policy.
I will not argue that, given the opportunity, the military will influence policy. Leaders of any significant organization in this country will, given the opportunity, say their piece and will attempt to influence policy. In fact, isn't that what think tanks do?
The question is, how is becoming capable of succeeding in what is now a shooting war in Afghanistan threatening? How does the Army's addition of "secure" to the bag of tricks alongside "attack" and "defend" threaten these two men? Their response is that of threatened men, and it appears that they are irritated with Exum for having joined CNAS, who they wish would quit advocating counterinsurgency as a remedy for terrorism. I will have to look into Cato's recommendations for dealing with terrorism. I don't know anything about their corporate stand on that topic. The only thing I do know is that they object to the CNAS take on it.
More clear to me is that the realist view of small wars wars could use support.
Friedman wraps it up,
They say that the best solution is don’t do it and next best is to severely curtail your objectives and stop confusing counterinsurgency with counterterrorism.
Personally, I'd like to see my Army quit confusing counter-guerrilla with counterinsurgency. Perhaps then this discussion wouldn't seem somewhat silly. What this argument seems to settle into is that good counterinsurgency will not only not help stop terrorism, but will also lead policymakers into trying to change the governments of even more countries. You know, if the government ever "got" counterinsurgency, and that removing one government in favor of revamping the governmental landscape of a nation will include counterinsurgency; understanding that really effective counterinsurgency is not a purely military exercise, then the enormity of the task would be plenty discouraging to its wanton application.
A quick glance at the current state of Afghanistan will answer the question of whether the United States Government in its many forms has truly learned this lesson.
It seems to me that their real fear is has to do with the policymakers, not the military's attempt at development and deployment of doctrine to satisfy the requirements put on its plate by those policymakers.