This will put current content into a more appropriate context and nuance in general, and address the primary shortfall of the current manual. All lessons learned on COIN are corrupted by the policies and purposes of the times they occur in, but provide insights into strategic understanding. Purpose for action and relationships between parties are key. Move away from definitions based on degree of violence, type of ideology, or status of parties. Insurgencies range from war to civil emergency and often occur in a blend of types, or morph over time.
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Matthew Cancian February 21, The Army Field Manual , Counterinsurgency , provided a much-needed course change for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by focusing the attention of commanders on factors that are not traditionally the concern of the American military.
While many commanders had already recognized that conventional tactics were ill-matched to dealing with insurgencies and had adapted accordingly, others were still fighting the insurgents on an ad hoc and counterproductive manner in In line with Maj. Why are people fighting in the first place? Is the problem really the same as it was during the Cold War?
I argue that, in many situations, the COIN framework might not be sufficiently complete or appropriate to the ethnically based intrastate conflicts that have been prevalent since the end of the Cold War, in which case a different approach is needed. FM frames insurgency as a contest between insurgents and governments over an undecided population, a contest whose outcome is principally determined by the relative capability of each side to govern people.
The only LLO that gets its own chapter is developing host nation forces chapter 6 , underlining the importance of state capability and belying the claim that information operations is the most important LLO. Still, the LLOs are in line with the overall theory that lack of state capacity leads to state illegitimacy, which in turn leads to insurgency.
Is COIN just as applicable in ethnic conflicts as in non-ethnic ones? Most scholars take a broad view of ethnicity as being based on certain ascriptive characteristics like language, race, or religion: significantly for any state-building enterprise, it means that people have an identity other than the state to which they feel loyalty.
Most military participants in the US intervention in Iraq would find it hard to describe the course of events without reference to Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.
Compared to this, except for some references to the Hmong, a scholar of Vietnam might entirely omit any discussion of ethnicity, indicating a fundamental difference between those conflicts. In the case of an ethnically divided polity, a government might be seen as illegitimate not because it is weak as COIN theory would predict but because it is dominated by one ethnic group.
Some scholars, like Stathis Kalyvas, would argue that there is no fundamental difference between the civil wars of the Cold War and those afterwards. And certainly, if there is no fundamental difference between ethnic and non-ethnic wars, then the prescriptions we make in both cases should be the same. If, however, we believe that ethnic conflicts are different than non-ethnic ones, then we risk being not only unproductive, but counter-productive.
One criticism of focusing on ethnicity might be that deal-making between ethnic groups needs to be accomplished at a higher level than the military is responsible for. If we tried to foster a grand bargain between the Sunnis and Shiites, for example, we would have usurped a function that is appropriate to the State Department. Looking at the only LLO to get its own chapter in the FM , Working with Host Nation forces, we can see one area where our recommendations might be very different in an ethnic war than in a revolutionary struggle.
If insurgents are Sunni Arabs who are afraid that a Shiite-dominated government will persecute them, strengthening that government will not solve the problem; in fact, it will exacerbate the problem because Sunni Arabs will have a valid reason to fear and resist the central government that we are building. The focus on ethnicity defies simple additions and deletions to a checklist, however: sensitivity to ethnic concerns must pervade all aspects of COIN decision-making.
If it is a neighborhood that is dominated by the government-aligned ethnic group, this could be a propaganda coup for the insurgents. We have to push them out and reclaim our country. The most pertinent question in a revolutionary war would simply be how to provide the maximum benefit at the lowest cost, but this is obviously wholly inadequate when individual loyalties are influenced more by group identity than by beliefs about government effectiveness.
Consider also information operations, the LLO that ties all other LLOs together; FM rightly emphasizes the importance of messaging in countering any form of insurgency.
But who delivers the message is just as important in ethnic contexts as what the message is. Having radio broadcasters or news anchors who are uniformly of one ethnic group would send a clear message about whom the Americans are aligned with. Just as local Sunnis who joined the police in Anbar could easily distinguish a local Iraqi from, say, a Tunisian who was likely to be affiliated with AQI while many Americans struggled to do so, we might employ a messaging team that sounds normal to us, unaware of the shibboleths that loudly proclaim ethnic affiliation to locals.
But if certain contexts require different solutions, we require a different field manual for different conflicts, or even different areas in the same conflict.
Al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated not when the central government was strengthened, but when the sheikhs were co-opted and their young men integrated into local police units during the Awakening; this deal-making with mid-level elites and devolution of power is not envisaged by the current COIN doctrine. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the US government.
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Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 and operations
Matthew Cancian February 21, The Army Field Manual , Counterinsurgency , provided a much-needed course change for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by focusing the attention of commanders on factors that are not traditionally the concern of the American military. While many commanders had already recognized that conventional tactics were ill-matched to dealing with insurgencies and had adapted accordingly, others were still fighting the insurgents on an ad hoc and counterproductive manner in In line with Maj. Why are people fighting in the first place? Is the problem really the same as it was during the Cold War? I argue that, in many situations, the COIN framework might not be sufficiently complete or appropriate to the ethnically based intrastate conflicts that have been prevalent since the end of the Cold War, in which case a different approach is needed.
FM 3-24-2.0? Why US Counterinsurgency Doctrine Needs an Update
About publication. The purpose of this report is fourfold. The first is to highlight the key tenets of FM The idea that sets counterinsurgency apart from conventional military operations — that it is more important to secure the host nation population than to destroy the enemy — is counterintuitive to soldiers trained exclusively for conventional war. Its rationale therefore needs careful explanation. Second, to identify what is new compared to previous counterinsurgency doctrines and theory. The FM incorporates the most recent lessons learned by US Army and Marine Corps, and is both a source for the newest ideas on counterinsurgency and a source of current US military thought.