The rules murdering their troops…

A top article from the NY Post on the COIN Center blog – most definitely stimulating for the grey matter and really makes you wonder what’s it all about. The day of 911, I was working with a guy who had just come back from a US college and I clearly remember his words that this was Pearl Harbor all over and from this point on, America would consider itself at war. The implications of this were that the gloves would come off and any pretence of being a team player would vanish if it got in the way of the main effort…

Somewhere along the way, the ‘war’ seems to have been lost out of the whole ‘war amongst the people’ model – the key part is that, unlike peace support and reconstruction and peacekeeping and all the nice safe sounding words (like offshore and deployment and operations…) is that war is war and there not very much nice about it – certainly it is not about trying to be nicer to the bad guys or potential bad guys than to your own troops, or hobbling them with rules to prevent anything bad happening (apparently except to them)…this is a war.

Bad things happen in wars. Sometimes people get caught in the middle and get hurt. That’s war but we accept these risks because there are bigger things at stake…Any non-combatant death is bad but the key is whether there was an intent to kill, either directly or passively by failing to apply a reasonable duty of care (key word: REASONABLE!!) War is and always has been (possibly always will be so long as people are involved) messy, untidy, dangerous and indiscriminate…we should not be kidding ourselves that we can write a book and toss in some technology and all of a sudden make it squeaky clean and politically palatable.

However, this article and FM 3-24 both skirt around or possibly even overlook the key point: the keys to successful COIN are probably endurance and habit forming – the foe that can stick it out the longest AND ensure that the habits it desires are embedded over a couple of generations (Note: speed is not a characteristic of COIN!!) will most likely be declared the winner. While the Malaysian Emergency may have been declared ‘over’ (won?) in 1960, the last CT did not surrender til 1988. Similarly, and they are probably halfway there, it will still be another ten or so years before anyone can confidently state that the troubles in Ireland are truly over. You want to be out of Afghanistan in ten years? You’re dreaming – you might as well pull the pin and bail out right now…

Wars are wars and you can not fight (definitely not win) them with a sterile ‘big arrows, little maps’ approach…forget the non-lessons of DESERT STORM and get down and dirty…

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