COIN Questionnaire Part 1

Randomly-selected COIN-themed pic

This image was drawn from a plug for Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2 – from the text, the author has some issues with the contemporary approach to COIN and I’m not altogether convinced that he is 100% in the wrong:

Few students of history realize that the brutally effective Japanese Army of World War 2, also fought many campaigns that may be described as Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2. The methods of Japanese Counterinsurgency in WW2 were unhindered by any of the guilt, lack of confidence, and/or confused thinking so apparent in the American-Marxist approach to counterinsurgency. In its own way, the Japanese Army was pure, and its distilled ferocity was unburdened by the treasonous misgivings of melting pot citizens harboring heterogeneous values and treasonous notions. Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2 was carried out to obtain victory. The clear-minded Japanese Army did not bother to invent false rules of war or self-defeating rules of engagement crafted by non-warriors trying to work off their own poisoned karmic debt. Neither did they subscribe to such insanely defeatist rules as those of the Geneva Conference. The Japanese Army knew that if they were defeated, Japanese survivors would be murdered by the same fair-play hypocrites who advocated “rules of war”. The Japanese Army was not hypocritical and the methods described in the e-book, Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2, provide important lessons for those uncorrupted by treasonous war rules, which favor enemy victory. Expose yourself to a different type of anti-partisan warfare, one which was always victorious and was feared as Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2.

 Excerpt from Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2
“The Japanese commander in the Philippines called for a minimum of 24 infantry battalions to secure his rear areas against guerrilla action and seven divisions to break up the regular invasion effort.”‘ This would mean a ratio of approximately three front-line troops for every one soldier tied down in rear-area security. In China, where guerrilla action was more fully developed, the requirements for rear-area security were greater and the number of troops so engaged at times actually exceeded those forces engaged in front-line action.
Strong Points
The Japanese made extensive use of strong points to ensure greater security in the occupied areas. Most of these were located in commanding positions, along railroad lines, near bridges, and adjacent to key industrial installations.In China alone an estimated 30,000 strong points were constructed. Of this number approximately 10,000, or one-third, were destroyed in the course of the struggle against the guerrillas.”
Anyway, moving right along…the FM 3-24 Revision project started with public release of a questionnaire seeking information on specific aspects of the publication’s content…I converted it to a Word document and broke some of the larger questions into smaller sub-questions – it’s quite long so I’ll work through my thoughts on the questions in a series of posts…the first couple of questions are administrative so I’ve left left them out…

3.  Are the current definitions of insurgency and counterinsurgency in FM 3-24, and updated by JP 3-24 (2009) adequate? If not, how would you change them and why?

See comment on IP1 – Definitions.

PART 1:  History, Theory, Principles, and Fundamentals

4.  Current US policy and attitudes, along with the contemporary media environment, make difficult the adoption of techniques such as massive resettlement of the population and the application of overwhelming firepower. Considering those limitations, what historical counterinsurgency case studies do you believe have the greatest benefit to determining the most successful counterinsurgent principles? 

These limitations are false in terms of the study of counterinsurgency and the determination of enduring principles; while they may affect specific campaign planning, they should not be allowed to affect determination of the principles of counterinsurgency/irregular warfare. It would be assumed that any competent commander and staff would be able to determine during planning what courses of action may be untenable due to cultural issues nationally, globally and/or within the host nation.

The following case studies are recommended for study:

The American War of Independence from the perspectives of the American insurgents, British counterinsurgents, Hessian ‘contractors’ and French intervention forces.

The New Zealand Wars 1840-85 and the campaigns against the Native Americans in the US. It could be argued that both these insurgencies actually sought to maintain as opposed to overthrow the status quo which while possibly placing them outside the recommended definition of insurgency, does not detract from the fact that the principles of counterinsurgency still applied – possibly another indicator that Irregular Warfare might be a more suitable title for this publication. If one opts for the legitimacy path to COIN, it should be noted that the underlying causes of both these series of campaigns can be found in a series of legitimate treaties that were breached by those who became the counterinsurgents.

The French and Yugoslav resistance movements during WW2, both of which are also examples of majority insurgent movements.

The Malayan Emergency must be included if for no other reason than to ‘myth-bust’ the counterinsurgency truisms that have arisen from this campaign.

Both the French and US experiences in Vietnam must be included. The French campaign is an example of a militarily-focussed approach coupled with a failure to realise that the ways and means of the 19th Century no longer applied in the mid-20th Century. The US campaign in Vietnam illustrates the true nature of counterinsurgency without the artificial constraints of the Malayan scenario and the potential ‘three block war’ nature of irregular warfare/counterinsurgency. The Vietnam study can include the diplomatic and domestic fronts as part of the ‘comprehensive’ approach to the conflict by both sides, the high-end air war fought over North Vietnam, the high intensity infantry conflict fought within South Vietnam, the special operations campaigns fought not in South Vietnam but Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam as well, and finally the OGA/NGO aspects of the conflict. Vietnam is one of the few conflicts that draws all these threads into a single narrative.

Mention must be made of Soviet approaches (see note 1) to counterinsurgency in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Chechnya; and Chinese approaches in places like Tibet, with mention of what worked for them and what did not.

A modern study of counterinsurgency must include Iraq post-2003 as this would ‘prove’ or validate the principles derived from the previous case studies in a contemporary context. Until the Afghan campaign is actually concluded, it will remain unclear whether it will stand as an example of how-to or how not to conduct a campaign.

Some thought may also be given to the 2011 campaign in Libya as means of countering an insurgency, in this case the one that was developing against the Gadhafi regime with scope to further destabilise the region if not addressed one way or another. The point derived from this, possibly as an adjunct to discussion on ‘colonial counterinsurgency’, is that the effects of an insurgency may be mitigated by actually supporting it. In terms of counterinsurgency/irregular warfare principles, this would support the principle of each and every potential campaign being examined against its own merits i.e. to avoid the cookie-cutter approach.

I considered the 2010 Rand study, Victory Has a Thousand Fathers, for  this list but I have concerns about its veracity noting the limited period selected to review and the limited campaigns examined. It’s really a shame because the idea was sound – just let down by a flawed execution, ironically, just like many COIN campaigns…

 A key takeaway from this is to decide what you really want out of your COIN, or more accurately, your Countering Irregular Activity campaign – ultimately stability will be of greater importance than niceties like legitimacy and governance…realpolitik is such a bitch…
Note 1. This approach I started to refer to as the coercive approach when Josh and I were developing the Irregular Warfare paper for Massey in 2013. (added August 2017)

2 thoughts on “COIN Questionnaire Part 1

  1. Pingback: COIN questions | Travels with Shiloh

  2. Got some good feedback on this one from the FB link…

    ‘Dusty’: Interesting & suppose has some merits. Funny was thinking of an incident just this morning where the rules of engagement saved us from any further investigation, unlike some US troops whom have international arrest warrants out for them.

    If you look at the Soviet Union during WW2 there were a lot of people reading & waiting to ehlp the Germans, but they turned them against them by actions the same as the Japanese.

    think you will find the same with the Japanese. Had they got the locals on side for example in China it would of freed so many more troops up.

    then you look at IRaq. Had the US military been more culturally aware & treated the locals as equals most people were ready to suport them but were turned off by their actions & so the insurgency grew.

    The cry of we are soldiers not policemen doesn’t wash in modern warfare.

    I know for the first few years the Southern Areas controlled by the British were much more accepting(& the Iraqis noted the vast difference in the way things were handled) of their presence.

    It changed over time as one British CGS said “we stayed too long”.

    I know that the US treasury & at least some parts of the CIA (believe it or not) prefer the British way of doing things. Low key, work along side, not overrule the locals & stick to the rules
    9 April at 09:34 ·

    Me: Cheers, Dusty – I think that the biggest problem in Iraq was that the post-Saddam transition administration immediately got rid of all the Baathists who actually ran the country – one of the all time great Homer Simpson ‘doh!’ moments of history – and so the lights went out, the sewage stopped pumping and the law stopped being enforced (let’s admit it, Saddam ran a pretty tight law enforcement system)…from there everything just went down hill…
    9 April at 09:39

    Me: Re the UK approach, it has its merits but only where the environment allows it i.e. generally where a semblance of law and order remains…
    9 April at 09:40 ·

    ‘Dusty’: Well actually there was a great example when I was first there.

    The British only gave out contracts for the first three months to foreign companies to oversee. After that they gave them out to Iraqi companies & to foreign companies to work along side them.

    The US though gave contracts out prior to US companies to oversee.

    there was a ministry where we escorted clients & in this case it was to be one of the few to be handed over prior to the new interim govt been in place. They were told to come back with costings etc on surveying, building etc of new buildings for this ministry.

    When they meet a week later the Iraqis had not only done it all but had started building & said all they needed was the money to pay the contractors. the US delegates told them they could not let the contracts as they had already been given to US companies prior to the invasion.

    This caused massive upset where as in the British case they were showing some sensivitiy to the locals & it worked. The US actions were turning people against them whilst in the South the locals were beating up insurgents who came into their towns & handing them over.

    They still used Bathist in some places such as the BIAP as yes otherwise it didn’t work.

    The Iraqis acknowledged they needed assistance getting things back up & running, they acknowledged that there was definitely a place for private security to protect those internationals who came to help. Ideally a mix of local & international security.

    But as one Iraqi said “in Iraqs history we have never had a civil war. though one group might be on top, in the end Iraqis always are aware we have to work together. HOwever if the US remain for one more year then you will see divides begin to appear & it will be the US that caused them. they must go & let us sort our own problems out”.

    Instead you have an illegitimate govt the nation is ready to blow apart from what we see.

    From a soldiers perspective yes it would be easier if it was all clear cut, but often we win the battle but loose the peace & therefore the war.

    there was a young Irish woman there working for the British Government. She had been the PA for both Ian Paisely & Martin Mcguiness .

    Her comment was she had always resented the presence of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland, but working in Iraq had made her aware of how good the Britsh army was in comparison & how hard they worked at hearts & minds which was much better than the other options.

    the other thing that worked in Iraq was having lots of us Kiwi’s there in private security. The Arab/Iraqi views on things including land ownership were the same as Maori so even if guys didn’t agree with it they understood it which was more than most others did.

    The British were very good both in their private security & govt in employing a lot of Irish(there was even a former member of the IRA in one company) Kiwis & Fijians, not to mention Ghurkhas who understood the local thinking a bit better.

    We had an incident where the British govt representatives (backed by one from the US army who loved the Brit style) had worked for something like 8 months to move up a rung in trust. the morning that move took place a US army unit arrived (the US army rep been late had to use them much to their disgust) & just put it alll back 8 months by gung ho attitude.

    Whilst in two other incidents, one where we were at, first an arms cache was handed over & in the other(where Aussies & Kiwis were present) explosives all because of the British approach(in one case actually by an american/arab).

    there were many more & even the suicide bombers seemed to be aware of the more respectful Brit way compared to the full assault US way.

    Other big issue was the US troops without the training or learning from the experience of the the likes of the british at times applied rules of engagement & other times didn’t.

    You did notice though that after about four months in country most US troops preferred the British way. Harder of course for the Marines & army units in constant battles.

    It is hard applying those Rules of engagement as one of our team members used to say “if someone has killed my family then I would be prepared to be a suicide bomber, so you must be prepared to shoot at elderly or young ones” or words to that effect.

    He was on leave when one of our team had to Kill & wound two old men that just kept coming in a very highly suspicious manner in highly suspicoius circumtances.

    It was at a time when the Iraqis were kicking up a stink about too much shooting of innocents by PSD’s & soldiers & in fat two PSD’s from memory had been held for a period just prior. By sticking to the rules of engagement & our individual reports reflecting that, we not only had no dramas but had some support from Iraqis.

    they certainly don’t like you killing locals as you can understand but if you are known to be respectful, have carriedout your actions in a set manner & the circumstances warrant then they will understand.

    If you just spray the area then they are not so happy.
    9 April at 11:09 ·


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