The US has finally reinvented counterinsurgency

The US was so upset after the defeat in Vietnam that they failed to recognize that the war was mainly lost politically. The military strategy became the scapegoat despite the fact that the counterinsurgency was in fact quite successful during the final years. At Fort Bragg huge amount of documentation on how to conduct counterinsurgency was actually burned in the courtyard! The message was clear: Never ever get entangled in such a war again!

I often wondered why the lesson from Vietnam, and indeed those from Algeria that the French learned, seemed to have been lost when the US entered afghanistan and Iraq. Not until 2004 were the theories of counterinsurgency reinvoked, after many unnecessary lost years. Perhaps it is too late.

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Comment by Jim Werbaneth on May 26, 2010 at 3:36pm
I know Small Wars Journal well, and the last time I taught both classes, recommended it very highly to my students.
Comment by Rex Brynen on May 26, 2010 at 3:26pm
Jim--you might also want to point you students at a few of the excellent blogs on contemporary US military operations and strategy, especially Small Wars Journal.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on May 26, 2010 at 3:25pm
Can't go to war without footnotes. I read that on Wikipedia.
Comment by Rex Brynen on May 26, 2010 at 3:23pm
Bibliography, yes--but apparently not enough footnotes ;)
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on May 26, 2010 at 3:21pm
Thanks for the link to FM 3-24. Not just for me, but for my students; I teach undergraduate courses in American foreign policy and military history, and this could be very useful.
Comment by Brian Train on May 26, 2010 at 3:14pm
Two votes for The Accidental Guerrilla (thanks for mentioning it Rex). And FM 3-24, while still vastly overwritten and riddled with jargon, is a new thing in military field manuals - written with the input of civilians and even has a bibliography!
Comment by Rex Brynen on May 22, 2010 at 1:53pm
While you're at it, you might also want to get David Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerilla--another volume that reflects current Western "COINdinista" thinking--and also persuse the US Army/Marine Corps' Counterinsurgency Field Manual FM 3-24.
Comment by Kim Kanger on May 22, 2010 at 1:37pm
Brian, I have heard about that book and often thought about bying it. Make I should take the occasion and do it.
Comment by Brian Train on May 21, 2010 at 2:13pm
Kim, a book you should take a look at, if you haven't already, is "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife" by John Nagl. It's a comparison of how the British and American armies variously learned, relearned, or failed to learn lessons from the insurgencies in Malaya and Vietnam. Not everyone agrees with Nagl, but he was and is one of the people who helped to shape doctrine in the American army today.
Comment by Kim Kanger on May 20, 2010 at 2:53am
No insurgency is the same as the other. The French in Algeria benefited from a certain legality as being the state and present established power since more than 100 years back. The main issue for them was to convince people that they were not leaving, which they could do since they had no intention to leave, and that they were strong enough to defeat FLN. If they could do this then people would start to side with the presumable victor, the French. In the end they failed, though, and left.

The problem for the US in Afghanistan is that they don't have this legality. There is not a chance in space that they will be able to convince people that they will stay, because they will not. Eventually the US will leave (or is it the plan to make Afghanistan the 51st state in the US and stay there forever?). People might be convinced that the US can keep the Talibans at bay but never that the Talibans will be defeated since the Talibans have their safe haven in Pakistan (like FLN had in Tunisia and Morocco), and while they might have confidence in the US strength, they have no confidence whatsoever in the strength of the government in Kabul. Everyone knows the Talibans will be back within weeks after the US have left. Therefore the only chance for us all is to conduct counterinsurgency to lessen the impact of Taliban presence and then try to make a deal with the more moderate and just "nationalistic" part of the Talibans. Hopefully they will then root out the hardliners and keep al-Qaida away.

A more sinister solution...give all afghan women US citizenship and evacuate them before you leave. Then the Afghan "problem" will be solved within a generation.

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