Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Congress Has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and The Rest of the US Government?

My latest article on Small Wars Journal.

Congress Has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and The Rest of the US Government?

by David S. Maxwell

Journal Article | December 29, 2015 - 1:56pm
Congress Has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and The Rest of the US Government?
David S. Maxwell
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 the United States Congress has embraced what Russia, Iran, China, Al Qaeda and even ISIS have long known and that is unconventional warfare (UW) is a form of warfare that is optimized for achieving national objectives in the space between peace and war.  Congress, in Section 1097, has directed the Secretary of Defense to develop a strategy to counter unconventional warfare being conducted by adversaries of the US.  Congress recognizes the US has a strategy gap between peace and war and the directive to the SECDEF is the forcing function necessary to develop a strategy and to bring new and creative thinking to the national security challenges we face.
What is Unconventional Warfare?
In Section 1097 and in joint US military doctrine it is defined as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
However, our adversaries employ their own unique forms of unconventional warfare by effectively integrating conventional and special operations forces, all elements of their national power, and in particular psychological warfare, while exploiting conditions, to include resistance, in countries and regions around the world to counter the west and often the US directly in order to achieve their political and security objectives.  They take a more holistic approach to unconventional warfare and are willing to employ it as a matter of course.  In     contrast the US has long viewed unconventional warfare as something only Special Forces conduct and then only to be used in very rare situations when there are no other alternatives.  In short, in the past the US has shown it does not have the stomach for unconventional warfare.  Fortunately, Congress has recognized this shortfall in US security strategy.
Directive from Congress
DOD has 180 days to provide to Congress a strategy to counter unconventional warfare.  The clock is ticking.  It will be interesting to read the response to Section 1097.  One possible bureaucratic course of action would consist of reviewing what the Department is already doing and showing the metrics of terrorists removed from the battlefield and listing all the capabilities the Department has that are and can be used to counter-unconventional warfare.  The Department will even tout the new joint unconventional warfare doctrine from the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved in September 2015.  The purpose of this course of action would be to meet the Congressional requirement with minimal disruption to the department and thus get Congress off its back.  Another course of action would be to view this as an opportunity for Congressional support of a new strategy that would be based on a thorough understanding of our adversaries’ strategies and how they are employing unconventional warfare.  The question is how with the department respond?
My concern is that the department and the rest of the US government will continue to have no desire to have anything to do with unconventional warfare.  It is complicated, messy, time-consuming, and hard to measure effectiveness and success especially when compared to counterterrorism and surgical strike operations where immediate results are demonstrated in the number of terrorists removed from the battlefield.
Why Focus on Counter-Unconventional Warfare Strategy?
First, our enemies are conducting their unique forms of unconventional warfare; Russia, Iran, China, Al Qaeda, ISIS (I think AQ and ISIS are much broader than "simply" terrorist organizations.)  We need to recognize the strategies they are using and attack those strategies to effectively operate in the "Gray Zone” between peace and war.
Second, focusing on our enemies conducting their unique forms of UW should lead to the recognition that we have to operate in the Special Warfare realm and not just the Surgical Strike realm.
Third, focusing on terrorism has caused us to think too tactically while a focus on counter UW can drive us to think more strategically and holistically about the problems we face by understanding the enemy’s strategy which poses complex political and military problems.
The Future of Warfare in the Gap Between Peace and War: Past is Prologue
As I opined in 2012 before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee looking at the future of irregular warfare, we tend to prefer conventional conflict that can be defined as  "an armed struggle or clash between organized political parties within a nation or between nations in order to achieve political or military objectives.”  However, what we more routinely face is conflict that is “non-conventional” in nature.  It is something ambiguous and difficult to understand.  It extends the continuum of conflict.  Conflict in the conventional sense begins when the armed struggle begins; however, non-conventional conflict encompasses a broad range of types of conflict, starting with thethreat or possibility of conflict and extending past conflict termination, because the conditions that gave rise to hostilities in the first place may still remain, though not visible or easily recognized.  It also includes armed clashes by unorganized groups that are not seeking to achieve any political or military objectives but may be exploited by external actors.  Non-conventional conflict encompasses the lawlessness of a society in which the governmental system has collapsed, but no organized group has risen to take its place.  Violence and terrorist-like activity can occur out of frustration with no identifiable purpose.  This type of conflict is non-conventional, because it is difficult to determine the objectives and methods of the actors, perhaps difficult to even determine the actors, and thus it is difficult to apply conventional elements of power.  This is the sensitive and complex environment that our adversaries seek to exploit through their unique applications of unconventional warfare.
Since 9-11 we have embarked on the search for new names of forms of conflict and doctrinal terms to address those conflicts and the ever evolving nature of conflict.  We rediscovered Counterinsurgency; we have tried Asymmetric, Hybrid, and Fourth Generation Warfare and now the Gray Zone.  We have invented new doctrinal concepts such as Security Force Assistance; Train, Advise, and Assist; Building Partner Capacity, Train and Equip Programs, Human Domain, and ultimately decided on irregular warfare as the way to describe conflict in the post 9-11 world.  If we examine the history of conflict at theCorrelates of War Project we would realize the irony that what we are calling irregular in fact has been more regular than what we describe as conventional war.  Less that 20% of all conflicts since 1815 have been state-on-state conventional conflicts.  Or simply peruse Sir Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: A History and Max Boot’s Invisible Armies to see that irregular warfare is the most prevalent form of warfare and is in fact pretty regular.
But at the heart of irregular warfare lies revolution, resistance, and insurgency.  These phenomena are taking place around the world but they are not new.  If you want to be a practitioner and strategist and operate in and develop strategy for the Gray Zone in the space between peace and war and conductpolitical warfareunconventional warfare, and counter-unconventional warfare, as well as operate effectively in the human domain then you must read, study, and internalize the fundamentals of revolution, resistance, and insurgency as embodied in the Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project first produced by the Special Operations Research Office (SORO ) in the 1950's and 1960's. It now continues under the direction of the U S Army Special Operations Command and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory's National Security Division.  Most important it is unconventional warfare that can support or exploit revolution, resistance, and insurgency.
Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and US Approaches to Unconventional Warfare
Unconventional warfare has not been and is not now well accepted within the US military and the US government.  The most recent attempt to raise unconventional warfare as a strategic option for our national security strategy illustrates the issue.  Some 28 years after the establishment of the USSOCOM in 1987, the command produced for the first time a joint unconventional warfare doctrinal manual.  USSOCOM had to lobby for over a year to get joint staff approval just to write the manual and when it was completed and approved in September 2015 the Joint Staff decided to make the manual For Official Use Only (FOUO).  Although this is not a classification it in effect makes the manual unavailable to the public as well as to academia.   I can only speculate the on the rationale for this but some action officers have said that it is a result of the controversy surround the unconventional warfare exercise Jade Helm that took place in 2015.  The real impact of this decision is summed up in the words of one my mentors who said that the surest way to make a doctrinal manual irrelevant and useless is to make it FOUO.
While the Joint Staff allowed unconventional warfare doctrine to be marginalized our adversaries have been perfecting and employing theirs.  The following charts summarize the unique unconventional warfare approaches of the RussiansIranians, and the Chinese.  The last chart summarizes the US approach to supporting a resistance or insurgency.  As you read these charts notice that the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese approaches provide a strategic framework for understanding how they will employ special operations and conventional forces and all the instruments of national power to accomplish their objectives while the US approach is very tactical and focused on “how to do” UW by Special Forces only.
Russian New Generation Warfare
(Continued at the link below)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CRS Report on Building Partnership Capacity

The entire report can be downloaded here:  http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44313.pdf

Interestingly the recent Philippines mission is not addressed in the case studies.  The Huk Rebellion is covered as is Colombia.  Not saying the current Philippines should be one of the case studies (and I do think that the Huk Rebellion case is an important case study and I am glad it is included).  But in case anyone is interested here are three charts that put the recent Philippines mission (OEF-P) in historical context and contemporary perspective (from the Foreign Internal Defense (FID)  point of view).  But I do think that the current Operation Enduring Freedom Philippines mission supports the very important conclusion highlighted in the excerpt below. 

Within the case studies explored, BPC was least effective as a tool for allowing the United States to extract itself from conflict (victory in war/war termination). However, it was most effective as a tool for building interpersonal and institutional linkages, and for alliance building."

It is interesting that FID is only mentioned twice in the report (excerpts below).  I think this is interesting because FID is a much broader mission than building partner capacity and security force assistance because by definition it is interagency and whole of government - training of foreign military forces is only one small part of FID - it consists of US government agencies support (advice and assistance) to a host nation's internal defense and development programs so that it can defend itself against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism.




CRS Report on Building Partnership Capacity

 
Extract: "Given that U.S. leaders often argue that a BPC effort could help accomplish more than one of the above goals, determining what constitutes the "primary" strategic objective for a given BPC effort required analytic judgment. CRS organized the cases according to public statements at the time, with particular attention paid to how leaders described the purpose of the BPC effort. Effectiveness was judged based on two criteria: whether the strategic goal was achieved, and whether the effort produced unintended consequences that were obviously and meaningfully damaging to U.S. national interests. Within the case studies explored, BPC was least effective as a tool for allowing the United States to extract itself from conflict (victory in war/war termination). However, it was most effective as a tool for building interpersonal and institutional linkages, and for alliance building."

...

The latter observation is borne out by the current manifestations of BPC across the DOD’s activities. Although the programs and authorities listed above are the focus of most analysis and discussion with respect to BPC, they do not capture the full extent of DOD’s activities and expenditures in this area. This is because DOD has integrated BPC—in its various guises and manifestations (security cooperation, assistance, foreign internal defense, security force assistance, and so on)—across a wide range of its operations and activities (see “DOD Activities That Build Partner Capacity”). In order to do so, different DOD components utilize a variety of funding sources. For example, according to a 2013 RAND study, rather than using DSCA earmarked funds for specific activities with partners, 

Most [BPC] programs are funded by other, less narrow [funding] sources, such as operations and maintenance funds. Examples include exercises overseen by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military-to-military contacts, which are often (but not always) funded by Traditional COCOM Activity Authority. In each of these cases, DoD uses a specific authority to use its operations and maintenance funds for a given security cooperation activity. In some cases, these funds are then reimbursed, but more often than not, the security cooperation activity comes at the expense of another defense priority.20 

DSCA, with its relatively narrow mandate, oversees only a smaller subset of DOD’s overall BPC activities. This has financial oversight implications, as it is difficult to determine what, specifically, DOD spends on non-DSCA BPC programs. 

...

What Does “Building Partnership Capacity” or “Train and Equip” Mean on the Ground? Given that BPC is a term of art, a number of programs, capabilities, and activities fit under its umbrella. On the ground, this heterogeneity manifests itself in several different ways. The U.S Army, in its Field Manual 3-22: Army Support to Security Cooperation, outlines the main tasks that U.S. ground forces would use to conduct what it terms “security force assistance.” This is an operationalization of both DOD BPC efforts and congressionally authorized “1206 Train and Equip” programs. It also applies to more traditional forms of security cooperation, especially “Foreign Internal Defense” missions performed by Special Operations Forces. The mission to equip is often tailored to different situations in specific countries. 

Individual Training. In this task, U.S. forces train foreign security forces on “military occupational skills appropriate to their organization and equipment.” That is, U.S trainers provide individual members of partner nation security forces with basic instruction in how to shoot their weapons, move in a tactical environment, and communicate with members of their unit. This training may also involve instructing officers and leaders in principles of military leadership, as well as tactical mission planning and execution. 

Collective Training. In this task, U.S. forces train foreign security forces on “collective tasks at the battalion level and below.” That is, units (from a squad of approximately 10 individuals to a battalion of up to approximately 500 individuals) that perform the same type of missions (infantry, reconnaissance, logistics) learn to fight and conduct operations as a unit, increasing in complexity from squad patrolling to battalion-sized maneuvers. 

Staff Training. In this task, U.S. forces train the staffs of foreign security forces in their functions, encompassing “staff training from company level troop leading procedures through military decision-making at the task force level.” That is, staff officers and noncommissioned officers learn how to plan tactical operations and obtain decisions and guidance from commanding officers and noncommissioned officers in leadership positions. Such training could range from planning and synchronizing fires and movements in a platoon defense to coordinating company maneuver and artillery fire in a battalion-sized attack. 

Institutional Training. In this task, U.S. forces train the staff of a foreign nation’s “force generation structure and ministerial or departmental staff.” It may focus on force generation, budgeting, and oversight.30 While largely limited to Army and Marine Corps units (along with Special Operations Forces), the method of conducting basic military training and weapons training, moving along in complexity to unit training, is applicable to all military and security force “train and equip” programs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Solving Long Division: The Geopolitical Implications of Korean Unification

I love the UROK for the new name of Korea - the United Republic of Korea (UROK - we can develop some modern themes and messages around that) .  


Solving Long Division: The Geopolitical Implications of Korean Unification


  • DECEMBER 16, 2015
  • Patrick M. Cronin, Van Jackson, Elbridge Colby, Richard Fontaine, David Eunpyoung Jee, Hannah Suh
  •  
  • Reports
Eight CNAS experts examine a host of issues posed by unification – including nuclear weapons and deterrence, the U.S.-Korea alliance, and relations between the countries in Northeast Asia – and offers key findings to inform how policymakers should prepare for unification on the Korean Peninsula. The authors note that the aim of this report is not to debate unification but to further consider its geopolitical implications.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

50 Shades of Gray: Why the Gray Wars Concept Lacks Strategic Sense by Adam Elkus

We should remember Colin Gray (whom I do not think was the inspiration for the Gray Zone) and Clausewitz.  And my fear is that we do not heed Clausewitz' wisdom that we must first understand kind of war upon which we are about to embark and instead we focus on simply trying to name the war.

“The American defense community is especially prone to capture by the latest catchphrase, the new-sounding spin on an ancient idea which as jargon separates those who are truly expert from the lesser breeds without the jargon.”  Colin Gray

“Thus it has come about that our theoretical and critical literature, instead of giving plain, straightforward arguments in which the author at least always knows what he is saying and the reader what he is reading, is crammed with jargon, ending at obscure crossroads where the author loses its readers. Sometimes these books are even worse: they are just hollow shells. The author himself no longer knows just what he is thinking and soothes himself with obscure ideas which would not satisfy him if expressed in plain speech.”
Major General Carl von Clausewitz

Yes Adam is correct to note that USSOCOM has lost control of the new term  "Gray Zone" with everyone applying it to everything. (or old term -see below for the chart on the 100 names of "LIC" that I have been carrying around since 1994 - note "Gray Area Phenomena")   The USSOCOM White Paper can be accessed here: http://maxoki161.blogspot.com/2015/10/ussocom-white-paper-gray-zone.html)  And Yes Adam is right that Limited War and Compellence area useful concepts and do not need to be reinvented.

While I was hopeful that the Gray Zone would be a useful construct to describe the space between peace and where (where we have a strategy gap) what is really taking place in that space is what has always been taking place - revolution, resistance, and insurgency (RRI) .  Please take a look at the Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project at the link below.  I had preferred Political Warfare with a nod to George Kennan (http://maxoki161.blogspot.com/2015/03/sof-support-to-political-warfare-white.html) but USSOCOM adopted the Gray Zone.   But we should be focusing on is revolution, resistance, and insurgency (and of course this is nothing new). This is what we should be focusing on.  And of course our adversaries are fomenting and  exploiting RRI in the space between peace and war and it was good of Congress to recognize that they are conducting their unique forms of unconventional warfare in that space (thus the directive in NDAA 2016 Sec 1097 to DOD to develop a counter-UW strategy: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1735/text#toc-H57D78DE2C41D4347BF5202B774B80E94)  But now Gray Zone is being used to describe everything from Little Green Men in Ukraine to competition and potential conflict in the South China Sea to north Korean provocations (http://csis.org/publication/issues-insights-vol-15-no-13-struggling-gray-zone) 

Excerpts: 

Gray zone terminology has also been applied to characterize conflict in the South China Sea. Surely Putin’s various operations, Chinese territorial disputations, civil wars in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram’s terrorism in Nigeria are not equally gray? The idea that the term somehow meaningfully encompasses all of these conflicts is bizarre. But this is not the biggest flaw with the gray wars concept. It is yet another example of the recurring problem of military strategists and civilian analysts inventing new terminology to replace forgotten, yet perhaps more coherent concepts. Gray zone wars seem to be a composite of two very well known ideas in military strategy and political science: limited wars and compellence.

Gray wars are often defined as wars in which combatants minimize the scope and scale of combat. This is not an exotic new stratagem as much as the realization that, as Carl von Clausewitz noted, absolute war — war unconstrained by any kind of political limitation — is largely if not completely impossible in practice. The political context of war always involves some degree of minimizing the scope and scale of combat.


  • ARIS Logo


    Assessing Revolutionary And Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Studies

    The Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project consists of research conducted for the US Army Special Operations Command by the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Its goal is to produce academically rigorous yet operationally relevant research to develop and illustrate a common understanding of insurgency and revolution. Intended to form a bedrock body of knowledge for members of the Special Operations Forces, the ARIS studies allow users to distill vast amounts of material from a wide array of campaigns and extract relevant lessons, enabling the development of future doctrine, professional education, and training. The ARIS project follows in the tradition of research conducted by the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of American University in the 1950s and 1960s, adding new research to that body of work, republishing original SORO studies, and releasing updated editions of selected SORO studies.


50 Shades of Gray: Why the Gray Wars Concept Lacks Strategic Sense

  • by Adam Elkus 
  •  Dec. 15, 2015 
  •  7 min read 
  •  original
Many men, as they age, start to worry about gray hairs. America’s military men, however, worry about gray wars. Gray wars are, as the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command noted, wars in which groups or entities “seek to secure their objectives while minimizing the scope and scale of actual combat.” These wars and geopolitical conflicts, ranging from the Russian annexation of Crimea and its continued aggression in Ukraine to Boko Haram’s reign of terror in Nigeria, require allegedly new means of training, organization, and doctrine. There’s only one problem: The “gray wars” concept lacks even the most basic strategic sense. Like the book and movie 50 Shades of Grey, the gray wars concept grossly over-exaggerates its own transgressions from the norm. Beneath the hype is something rather ooh-la-lame rather than ooh-la-la.
First, it should be observed that this definition, which is applied to both wars with Vladimir Putin’s deniable “little green men” and Middle Eastern wars in Iraq and Syria featuring mobile combined arms maneuver, is incoherent. Yes, Putin is keeping it low-key, but can the same really be said of any of the Syrian or Iraqi factions contesting major cities and tweeting beheading pictures at each other? If the latter form of combat is somehow lacking in scope and scale, it is certainly not lacking in ferocity due to the intentions of the combatants (who are all fighting for their survival). And one can also quibble with the idea that these conflicts also are somehow lacking in scope and scale to begin with. Every faction in Syria and Iraq is fighting a war of utmost ferocity, and the expansion of the Islamic State to battlegrounds beyond Iraq and Syria suggests that the conflict may not necessarily be limited to its primary theaters of operation.
Gray zone terminology has also been applied to characterize conflict in the South China Sea. Surely Putin’s various operations, Chinese territorial disputations, civil wars in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram’s terrorism in Nigeria are not equally gray? The idea that the term somehow meaningfully encompasses all of these conflicts is bizarre. But this is not the biggest flaw with the gray wars concept. It is yet another example of the recurring problem of military strategists and civilian analysts inventing new terminology to replace forgotten, yet perhaps more coherent concepts. Gray zone wars seem to be a composite of two very well known ideas in military strategy and political science: limited wars and compellence.
(Continued at the link below)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A disgraceful definition of dereliction of duty by the DPRK

I am not sure that this title is helpful.  Certainly an interesting perspective and some useful points for analysis.  Sure by Miller's definition north Korea is almost a  "failed state."
But it is also one that has not "failed" to the point of collapse because it has absolute and complete control of the first of the five functions of a state: "coercive force to defend itself and administer its rule."  This is what has prevented north Korea from collapse even if all other functions are a "failure."  

With the author's time in Korea I would have hoped that he would have been exposed to Robert Collins' "Seven Phases of Collapse" or "Patterns of Collapse" (overview here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/10/when-north-korea-falls/305228/ but he should have been exposed to the details as they have set the foundation for observing for indications and warnings of regime collapse)

What is the precipitating event that will lead to collapse?  As we have written many times over the years since we wrote the plans for north Korean instability and collapse it is when the Kim Family Regime no longer can govern the entire territory of the north from Pyongyang (loss of central governing effectiveness) and the loss of coherency and support of the military and security services.  The combination of those two conditions will lead to collapse.  But the Collapse-War Paradox is that those same conditions could lead to a decision by Kim Jong-un to ensure the protection of its single vital national interest: survival of the Kim Family Regime.  That decision could be to execute its campaign plan to reunify the peninsula by force which in the north's calculation would ensure survival of the Kim Family Regime (though we know that would be a mis-calculation as it would not be successful).

And again, I can no prediction on if and when the Kim Family Regime will collapse.  But I will predict that if it does happen it will be catastrophic for the ROK and the regional powers and will have global impact (and of course for the Korean people living in both the north and the South).  But let me end with four thoughts and quotes:

"Deterrence works, until it doesn't"  Sir Lawrence Freedman

"There are only two ways to approach planning for the collapse of North Korea: to be ill-prepared or to be really ill-prepared" Dr. Kurt Campbell 1 May 1998

Sun Tzu - "never assume the enemy will not attack, make yourself invincible." -  The Collapse Corollary: "Never assume the KFR will not collapse - prepare now."

Strategic Planning and Preparation Paralysis arises from a fear of what comes next - thus the Collapse-War Paradox

Let me conclude with this final statement: 
Unification is the only way to end the north's nuclear program and to end the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against the Korean people living in the north by the Mafia-Like Crime family cult known as the Kim Family regime.

A disgraceful definition of dereliction of duty by the DPRK
A disgraceful definition of dereliction of duty by the DPRK
Before predicting its collapse, North Korea must be seen for what it is: a failed state
Robert E. McCoy 
December 11th, 2015


North Korea is a wicked problem. A wicked problem has been variously defined by the social sciences as one that defies resolution due to adequate information never being available or dynamic characteristics that are difficult to isolate or pin down.
An example of this is the varying predictions about when a North Korean collapse will occur. Even though everyone in the region needs to be prepared for regime collapse should it ever occur, the problem facing Northeast Asia really isn't whether or not the DPRK will implode; it is that North Korea is a failed state. It is that failed state with which others in the region and the U.S. must prepare to deal.
In preparing for failed states, it is imperative to know precisely what we are dealing with. Seminal work in this regard can be found in Paul D. Miller's 2013 book Armed State Building: Confronting State Failure 1898-2012. The root cause of the disasters in dealing with failed states is a lack of understanding of why and how nation-states fail - witness first Iraq and now Syria. This requires a highly nuanced grasp of the factors behind failed or failing states. However, in order to comprehend how states fail, it is first necessary to recognize what states are supposed to do.
Miller's analysis postulates that there are five functions that states are to perform. They are: (a) a state must have a coercive force to defend itself and administer its rule; (b) it must exemplify a theory of justice that is accepted by its citizenry; (c) a state must be the supplier of a host of public goods and services such as infrastructure, education and other necessary social services, to cite only a few; (d) it must offer a sound fiscal foundation for its people, be involved in the economy only to the degree necessary to accomplish its purposes, and its burden on the citizens limited to what is acceptable; and finally (e) the state must be the creator or facilitator of actions for the human good.
If a state isn't fulfilling these functions, then it is failing or has already failed
If a state isn't fulfilling these functions, then it is failing or has already failed. However, in dealing with a failed state, one must determine what the nature of its failure is. Much of the difficulty when dealing with failed states in the past is that there has been little, if any, analysis of the causes behind any one particular failure. Yet it is foolhardy to apply any solution to an undefined problem.
(Continued at the link below)

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.”  http://www.cnas.org/sites/default/files/publications-pdf/CNAS%20Report_Uncertain%20Ground_151203%20v02.pdf

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) http://www.nationalguard.mil/news/archives/2009/03/033009-Afghanistan.aspx
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)

Joint Statement between the United States and the Republic of Korea

Some good news here.  Many positive statements in this joint statement. I hope both the ROK and US national security practitioners can take...