Thursday, October 05, 2006

A New Strategy on Insurgency - Years Too Late

Military Hones a New Strategy on Insurgency - New York Times:

The doctrine warns against some of the practices used early in the war, when the military operated without an effective counterinsurgency playbook. It cautions against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees. Instead it emphasizes the importance of safeguarding civilians and restoring essential services, and the rapid development of local security forces.

“The doctrine warns against some of the practices used early in the war, when the military operated without an effective counterinsurgency playbook. It cautions against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees. Instead it emphasizes the importance of safeguarding civilians and restoring essential services, and the rapid development of local security forces.…

The doctrine is outlined in a new field manual on counterinsurgency that is to be published next month. But recent drafts of the unclassified documents have been made available to The New York Times, and military officials said that the major elements of final version would not change.

The spirit of the document is captured in nine paradoxes that reflect the nimbleness required to win the support of the people and isolate insurgents from their potential base of support — a task so complex that military officers refer to it as the graduate level of war.

Instead of massing firepower to destroy Republican Guard troops and other enemy forces, as was required in the opening weeks of the invasion of Iraq, the draft manual emphasizes the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. “The more force used, the less effective it is,” it notes.

“The more force used, the less effective it is,”

Stressing the need to build up local institutions and encourage economic development, the manual cautions against putting too much weight on purely military solutions. “Tactical success guarantees nothing,” it says.

“Tactical success guarantees nothing,”

Noting the need to interact with the people to gather intelligence and understand the civilians’ needs, the doctrine cautions against hunkering down at large bases. “The more you protect your force, the less secure you are,” it asserts.

“The more you protect your force, the less secure you are,”

The military generally turned its back on counterinsurgency operations after the Vietnam War. The Army concentrated on defending Europe against a Soviet attack. The Marines were focused on expeditionary operations in the third world.

“Basically, after Vietnam, the general attitude of the American military was that we don’t want to fight that kind of war again,” said Conrad C. Crane, the director of the military history institute at the Army War College, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one of the principal drafters of the new doctrine. “The Army’s idea was to fight the big war against the Russians and ignore these other things.”

A common assumption was that if the military trained for major combat operations, it would be able to easily handle less violent operations like peacekeeping and counterinsurgency. But that assumption proved to be wrong in Iraq; in effect, the military without an up-to-date doctrine. Different units improvised different approaches. The failure by civilian policy makers to prepare for the reconstruction of Iraq compounded the problem.

The limited number of forces was also a constraint. To mass enough troops to storm Falluja, an insurgent stronghold, in 2004, American commanders drew troops from Haditha, another town in western Iraq. Insurgents took advantage of the Americans’ limited numbers to attack the police there. Iraqi policemen were executed, dealing a severe setback to efforts to build a local force.

Frank G. Hoffman, a retired Marine infantry officer who works as a research fellow at an agency at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., said that in 2005, the Marines sometimes lacked sufficient forces to safeguard civilians. As a result, while these forces were often effective ‘in neutralizing an identifiable foe, they could not stay and work with the population the way the classical counterinsurgency would suggest.’”


We've almost lost as many soldiers in Iraq as we lost people on September 11, 2001. When we invaded in 2003 most Americans believed that there were Iraqis on board the planes that attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center. A large number of the troops on the ground believed it too.

We didn't do the basic preparation. Now we're finding, and paying, the high price of doing over what could have been done right. Thousands, of ours, too late. Tens of thousands, of Iraqis, too late. Maybe too late to accomplish any goal at all.

con·cept: A New Strategy on Insurgency - Years Too Late