09 June 2009

WarThinker's Digest - Issue #2

WarThinker's Digest is a feature of theScience of Global Security & Armed Conflict blog that scans the scholarly literature from academia, government agencies, and major think tanks, highlighting new reports and documents bearing on the complexity of conflict and future trends in warfare. A must-read feature for defense and security strategists from all sectors interested in honing their "actionable intellect."

Inside the Surge: One Commander's Lessons in Counterinsurgency

Author: Jim Crider

When Lieutenant Colonel Jim Crider arrived in the Doura neighborhood of Baghdad in February of 2007 as the commander of 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Riley, Kansas the Sunni neighborhood appeared beyond hope. The streets were largely empty of life and the air was filled with the foul smell of burning trash and open sewage. Improvised explosive devices, small arms fire, hand grenades, and dead bodies were a normal part of every 1-4 CAV patrol in the spring and early summer of 2007. However, through the ruthless implementation of the counterinsurgency principles outlined in Army Field Manual 3-24 and several pragmatic decisions along the way, the neighborhood began to turn in July of 2007. By the end of September, the unit had seen the last attack on its forces. Businesses reopened, the streets were full of people, and there was hope. This paper contains some of the primary lessons learned during their 14 month combat tour. In his foreword to the paper, CNAS Senior Fellow and author of the New York Times best-seller Fiasco Tom Ricks calls Crider’s work “the first in-depth review offered by an American battalion commander about post-invasion operations in Iraq.

Read the article HERE.

Principles of Modern American Counterinsurgency: Evolution and Debate

Author: Janine Davidson
The Brookings Institution

Insurgency and counterinsurgency are not new to Americans. People often forget that the American Revolution was an insurgency by colonists against the British crown. In South Carolina, Frances Marion, the so-called “Swamp Fox” who hid with his band of guerrillas in the woods and led raids against British troops, is considered an American hero. Likewise, during the American Civil War, southern “partisans” such as John Mosby, of Mosby’s Rangers, became infamous for their successful guerrilla tactics against Union soldiers.

Americans have an even more extensive history as counter-insurgents –with a mixed record of success.2 Early American expansion led to a number of bloody engagements between the Army (and sometimes the Marines) and various Native American tribes in the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), in the Creek and Seminole Wars that followed in the South, and in the many famous clashes with the Sioux, the Comanche, and others in the West throughout the 1800s. Many of the lessons learned through trial and error on the American frontier were handed down through word of mouth by soldiers who brought their personal experiences from one fight to the next.

This nearly uninterrupted string of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations informed the U.S. military’s approach in later conflicts, including the guerrilla elements of the Civil War and its aftermath; the Mexican-American War of 1846-48; the Spanish-American War and the long struggle against Filipino insurgents from 1898 to at least 1910.3 The Marine Corps leveraged the only doctrine the Army had up to that point (Small Wars and Punitive Expeditions)4 in the so-called Caribbean “Banana Wars,” and ultimately recorded its lessons learned from that experience as doctrine in the 1940 publication of the Small Wars Manual.

An excellent, concise primer on modern COIN. Read it HERE.

100 Years of COIN: What new have we Learned?

Author: David Betz
Kings of War

After a comprehensive review of COIN research, David Betz reaches some interesting conclusions and poses some intriguing questions for understanding the next generation of (perhaps Post-Maoist) conflict. In particular, he highlights "two really exciting new areas of insurgency research." The first is the concept of a ‘virtual dimension’ in which the battlespace is viewed as an arena or "theatre," in which the commander functions as a "producer." Betz has written on this topic previously.

The second is the study of insurgency, or more specifically ‘Islamic Activism’, using social movement theory (SMT). Betz points in particular to the work of Quintan Wiktorowicz. I share Betz's enthusiasm about the potential promise of SMT as a useful way of thinking about current ideologically-driven movements. I have used this quite a bit in framing issues related to "radicalization" into violent extremism. I agree there are also important applications to understanding insurgency as well.

Read Betz's post HERE.