Saturday, January 25, 2014

Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

Read the entire article at Small Wars Journal at the link below.

Reference coindinista and cointra at an NDU panel a week or so ago Conrad Crane, perhaps half in jest, used the term "COINfused."  On the one hand it can be interpreted with some humor as in confused about COIN but upon reflection I thought it could also mean the fusion of both the so-called and mythical coindinistas and cointras fusing the important and valuable ideas from both sides of the debate so that we can capture best practices that can be incorporated into doctrine and training that will support campaign planning and ultimately support good policy and strategy.  

This essay is quite an interpretation But of course the 5 lessons apply to military operations in general and not exclusively COIN.
V/R
Dave


Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

by J. Furman Daniel, III

Journal Article | January 25, 2014 - 9:09am
Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista
J. Furman Daniel, III
Abstract: This essay argues that General George S. Patton Jr. was a surprisingly proficient practitioner of small wars in three different contexts−the 1916-1917 Punitive Expedition to Mexico, the 1942 North Africa campaign, and in 1945 as Pro-Council to occupied Bavaria. While these lesser known campaigns will always be overshadowed by Patton’s other exploits, this essay attempts to accomplish three goals: first, to provide an alternative and more nuanced view of General George Patton; second, to underscore elements from these campaigns which may be of use to modern counterinsurgents; finally, to identify the elements that allowed Patton to succeed as an unlikely counterinsurgent despite his lack of formal training or practical experience. To this end, this essay will first briefly examine Patton’s role in each of these campaigns and will then proceed to an analysis of the factors that made Patton successful and the lessons which can be learned from this unlikely Coin-danista.
Nearly seventy years after his death, General George Patton still evokes many powerful images.[i] Patton is known as a prophet of mechanized warfare, a stubborn adherent to the value of horse cavalry and the sabre, an Olympic athlete, a contradictory mix of prayerful and profane, a mystic believer in atavistic reincarnation, a lifelong student of military history, and one of the most successful and dynamic commanders of the Second World War.[ii] Truly, George Patton is a unique figure in American history and, as such, means many things to many people.[iii]
One thing that Patton is almost never called is a counterinsurgent. Indeed, in many ways, such a label would be misleading. While the US military was heavily engaged in a series of small wars and pacification campaigns during his youth and early career, these experiences were generally denied to Patton. In fact, Patton was never formally trained in counterinsurgency techniques and the closest he came to being educated in these arts was his time as a cavalryman on the Western Plains. Although these deployments were formative experiences that helped Patton develop his leadership style and impressive horsemanship, they were more anachronistic reminders of the battles of the Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee than training for counterinsurgency.[iv] Furthermore, Patton missed opportunities to acquire these skills on the job. Despite a powerful desire to see action, he did not participate in the campaigns in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Russia, or China. These campaigns largely defined the US military during the period and had a profound impact on other future American Generals such as Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower.[v]
Given this lack of formal training or practical experience, how can Patton possibly be considered a counterinsurgent? This essay will argue that Patton exhibited these unlikely talents as a counterinsurgent in three distinct campaigns: The 1916-1917 Punitive Expedition to Mexico; the 1942 Campaign in North Africa; and during his brief and controversial tenure as Military Pro-Council to Bavaria in 1945.[vi] While these efforts are less well known than Patton’s Invasion of Sicily, the Cobra breakout, his subsequent attempt to close the Falaise Pocket, or his dramatic relief of Bastone during the Battle of the Bulge, they contain potentially powerful, and overlooked, lessons for students of history and practitioners and the military art.[vii]
By developing this unconventional view of the great general, this essay attempts to accomplish three goals: first, to provide an alternative and more nuanced view of General George Patton; second, to underscore elements from these campaigns which may be of use to modern counterinsurgents; finally, to identify the elements that allowed Patton to succeed as an unlikely counterinsurgent despite his lack of formal training or practical experience.[viii] To this end, this essay will first briefly examine Patton’s role in each of these campaigns and will then proceed to an analysis of the factors that made Patton successful and the lessons which can be learned from this unlikely Coin-danista.
Punitive Expedition to Mexico 1916-17
While the Punitive Expedition in Mexico from 1916-1917 is not one of the more celebrated chapters of US military history, it was an extremely influential episode in the early career of then Lt. George Patton. After initially being tasked to stay behind the expedition at Ft. Bliss, TX, Patton eventually persuaded his friend and mentor General John Pershing to include him as his personal aid during the expedition. In this role, Patton was indispensable to Pershing. Patton was energetic and thirsty for action and he quickly expanded the scope of his duties beyond the typical tasks assigned to a general’s aid.[ix] In addition to delivering messages, clerical work, and personal assistance, Patton served as a scout, an intelligence analyst, an operational planner, an interrogator of prisoners, a forward air observer, a liaison with the local population, and led multiple raids into enemy controlled territory. In essence, Patton was learning the rudiments of low-intensity warfare through an intense inside look at the center of Pershing’s headquarters and by personally leading and directing many of the essential tasks of this unusual mission.
Patton’s most famous exploit of the campaign was on May 14, 1916 when he used three Dodge touring cars to lead a raid on a house which contained rebel leader Julio Cárdenas and two of his men. In a swirling gun fight that recalled scenes of the mythic American West, Patton and his men killed Cárdenas and his two associates as they attempted to first fight and then flee on horseback, strapped their lifeless bodies to the hoods of their cars, and beat a hasty retreat as more of Villa’s fighters arrived on the scene and threatened to overrun their position.
This engagement is notable for more than its dramatic blend of the Army’s horse drawn past and a harbinger of its mechanized future. In addition to being the first mechanized assault in American military history, it was one of the few American successes in an otherwise frustrating and inconclusive campaign. By removing Cárdenas from the insurgent chain of command, this raid greatly curtailed the banditos’ freedom of action in the local area and singled to the local population that the US Army was able to act on local intelligence and mount bold strikes deep into hostile held territory. On a more personal level, this success gained Patton a large amount of favorable press and helped establish his growing reputation as a bright young officer within the US Army. In addition to these laurels, this successful raid was a microcosm of Patton’s early effectiveness at conducting counterinsurgent campaigns.
Patton was successful in this tactical-level counterinsurgency mission for a number of practical and theoretical reasons. First, Patton used his contacts with the local population to gather timely information regarding the whereabouts of the Mexican forces. He then combined this knowledge of the human terrain with his rapid reconnaissance of the geographical landscape. Patton then acted quickly and decisively, traveling as light as possible and making use of the mobility provided to him by his primitive Dodge touring cars. Next, Patton bravely engaged the hostile forces, but was careful to avoid potentially hurting local civilians who were busy cleaning a cow carcass. With a great degree of tactical skill and personal initiative, Patton was then able to fix the enemies’ position and to bring his superior firepower to bear on the insurgents. As the beleaguered bandits attempted a desperate escape on horseback, Patton remembered the old wisdom that he had heard from the Confederate raider John Singleton Mosby to shoot at horse of a fleeing rider and not the man himself. This adage proved accurate, as Patton and his men were able to first drop the horse and then silence the fleeing rider. Once they neutralized their targets, Patton and his forces tied the bandits to the hoods of their vehicles and made a hasty retreat as forces loyal to Cárdenas began to arrive on the scene.
Patton’s first taste of action highlighted his ability to succeed across a wide range of different environments, including a low-intensity counterinsurgency campaign. As will be discussed in greater detail in the Lessons and Conclusions sections of this work, Patton was able to combine his knowledge, cultural skills, leadership, initiative, and his political acumen to achieve tangible tactical results. While this early adventure is often forgotten, it is impressive that as a young and inexperienced officer, Patton could quickly master his tactical situation and harness his impressive array of talents to achieve success in a mission that he was not formally trained to conduct.
(Continued at the link below)

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