Friday, December 11, 2015

Don’t Forget COIN, Because COIN Threat’s Getting Worse: CNAS

Dear Headline writer.  COIN is not a threat (unless you are an insurgent).  But this illustrates the problem we have with our use of terminology. 

Here is the link to the new CNAS report. “Uncertain Ground: Emerging Challenges in Land Warfare.”

I would say what has always been a threat is revolution, resistance, and insurgency, yes these natural phenomena take place in the gray zone between peace and war.  Yes we need to know and understand counterinsurgency but we need so much beyond that and our COIN efforts really need to be directed toward advising and assisting friends, partners, or allies in their fight against lawless, subversion, insurgency and terrorism.  We should not be conducting COIN ourselves because as noted in the recent NDU publication" Lessons Encountered" on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:  "A prudent great power should avoid being a third party in a large-scale counterinsurgency effort.  Foreign expeditionary forces in another country’s insurgency have almost always failed." The two exceptions being Malaya and the Philippines (1899) both of which were conducted by the de facto occupying powers/quasi governments, the UK and US.

COIN was not appropriate for countering Russia in Ukraine and Crimea. And is not appropriate for countering ISIS and Iran.  It is not appropriate for countering the Three Warfares of China nor for countering Al Qaeda.  

Fortunately Paul Scharre only uses COIN three times in the text of the 35 page CNAS report and twice in this excerpt below.  But after the last 14 years the popular press and pundits have adopted COIN as the shorthand for describing anything and everything that is not conventional state on state war even using erroneous statements such as those in the title as "COIN Threat's getting worse."

The Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command face a diverse array of challenges. From a resurgent Russia to a chaotic Middle East to a rising China, the evolving security environment presents a myriad array of possible challenges. Any number of these could involve the commitment of U.S. ground troops, potentially in large numbers and for operations that could be far different from the counterinsurgency wars the U.S. military has fought for the past decade plus. At the same time, the scope and character of possible ground operations has evolved beyond easy characterizations between counterinsurgency vs. traditional warfare, unconventional vs. conventional, irregular vs. regular. Non-state actors possess increasingly advanced weapons, such as anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and low-cost commercially available drones. These will allow them to contest U.S. forces for control of terrain and impose heavy costs on militaries advancing into these low-end anti-access/area denial environments. Nation-states have also adapted their tactics, relying on “gray zone” or hybrid approaches that use proxies, deniable operations, propaganda, and cyber attacks to achieve their objectives without overt military aggression.

Observer, Mentor, Liaison Team members, Maj. Jim Hickman and Latvian army Maj. Juris Abolins, patrols through the village of Nishagam, in Konar province, Afghanistan alongside members of the Afghan national army, March 18. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Moeller)
A Michigan National Guard soldier patrols in Afghanistan alongside an Afghan soldier and a Latvian ally.
WASHINGTON: As the US military refocuses on Russia and China, it mustn’t forget the hard-won lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, because they’ll only become more relevant in future conflicts. With technology spreading, populations rising, and megacities sprawling, “war among the people” — whether it’s counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, or just conventional warfare in an urban setting — will only get nastier and harder to avoid.
You thought roadside bombs were bad? Imagine off-the-shelf mini-drones bombing US troops. Homebrewed high explosives got you down? Imagine extremists with 3D printersand a database of weapon designs. Suicide car bombs? Imagine explosive-laden cars that drive themselves. US military transmissions jamming each other by accident? Imagine guerrillas getting cheap GPS and radio jammers online. Media revealing military secrets or reporting faux pas that get the local population up in arms? Imagine that local population, enemy informants included, tweeting video of everything US forces do.
(Continued at the link below)

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent paper. Among the passages I found especially interesting are:

    (from page 5): What we know and project about the future operating environment tells us that the significance of the “human domain” in future conflict is growing, not diminishing. Many factors underpin this assertion: the threat of hybrid warfare, involving multiple entities; the increasing ability of non-state actors to de-stabilize entire regions and challenge national forces; the complexity of rules of engagement that constrain one side and enable the other to operate with near impunity “amongst the people”; and, importantly, the increasing pace and mutability of human interactions across boundaries, through virtual connectivity, to form, act, dissolve, and re-form in pursuit of hostile purposes. Simultaneously, the importance of conflict prevention and the ability to shape conditions in regions to maintain stability through actions highly focused on human factors is also rising in significance. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore these developments nor minimize their origins and solutions within the “human domain” as have occurred in the past. In a word, the success of future strategic initiatives and the ability of the U.S. to shape a peaceful and prosperous global environment will rest more and more on our ability to understand, influence, or exercise control within the “human domain.”

    ​(from page 6): Just as during the Cold War, future successes may not rest on combat victories. Rather, the nation should measure the value of forces that operate on land as much by their contributions to sustaining the international order and the security of our international partners and allies as by their contributions to war. Operations in the “human domain” provide a unique capability to preclude and deter conflict through shaping operations that leverage partners and populations to enhance local and regional stability. Moreover, effective engagement does not rest entirely on the forward stationing of large formations. Interdependent teams of conventional and special operations forces can build local forces capable of handling many situations that previously called for direct U.S. intervention, while maintaining a low-cost, small footprint presence almost indefinitely.

    Preventing conflict is always difficult, but it remains a far better option than reacting after fighting has erupted. Success at maintaining the peace however carries its own paradoxical risk. Forward deployed, actively engaged forces have proven essential to contributing to peace by reassuring our friends and deterring our enemies. Such forces provide a broad range of benefits that includes: demonstration of U.S.​ ​commitment, establishment of enduring relationships with regional military and political leaders, improved capability of hosts to handle their own internal security challenges, increased willingness of hosts to participate in friendly coalitions, ability of the U.S. to achieve a higher level of understanding than is possible just with technical means, reduced chance of experiencing strategic surprise, reduced chance that an aggressor will miscalculate U.S. resolve or capability, and increased responsiveness to crises.

    Yet, those very military forces and actions critical to preventing conflict frequently remain invisible to the public and policymakers as well. Many see only the expense and not the value. Historically as we have come out of a war we have significantly reduced our capacity to operate on land, without adequately accounting for what one risks by doing so.
    I would add that the same is true of other non-military forms of political "warfare" (or peacefare, if you prefer).

    Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D.
    Senior Fellow, The Alexander Institute for the Study of Western Civilization


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