January 23, 2009


The Expeditionary Imperative: America’s national security structure is designed to confront the challenges of the last century rather than our ­own. (John A. Nagl, Winter 2009, Wilson Quarterly)

Our overly militarized response to Al Qaeda’s attacks, the global war on terror, could be more sensibly recast as a global counterinsurgency ­campaign. Insurgency is an attempt to overthrow a government or change its policies through the illegal use of force; Al Qaeda’s stated ­objective—­to expel the West from the Islamic world and re-establish the ­Caliphate—­can be usefully conceived of as a global insurgency. It would then take a global counterinsurgency campaign to confront this challenge. ­Counterinsurgency—­a coordinated use of all elements of national power to defeat an ­insurgency—­is a slow and difficult process, often requiring years, but it can succeed when well resourced and executed. David Galula, the great French counterinsurgency theorist and veteran of the Algerian War, estimates that a successful counterinsurgency strategy is 80 percent nonmilitary and only 20 percent military—­requiring not just armed forces but assistance to the afflicted government in the areas of politics, economic development, information operations, and governance. An ability to deliver such a coordinated response would be useful not just in the campaign against Al Qaeda, but also to confront emerging threats ranging from terrorists in Pakistan to 21st-century pirates.

Unfortunately, more than seven years into a global counterinsurgency campaign, the United States still lacks many of the nonmilitary capabilities required to secure, assist, and reconstruct societies afflicted by insurgency and terrorism. Prevailing in today’s conflicts will require more than just a few additional resources. It will require an expanded and ­better-­coordinated expeditionary advisory effort involving all agencies of the executive branch, and it must include a ­re-­created U.S. Information Agency to make the American case in the global war of ­ideas.

Defeating an insurgency requires winning the support of the population away from the insurgents, and unlikely as it seems, the “hierarchy of needs” propounded decades ago by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow is never more applicable than in a combat zone. After obtaining basic security, people want to live and work under the rule of law, with a chance for economic progress. Many of the insurgents I fought as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Iraq in 2004 were not motivated by Islamic extremism but by hunger or at worst greed. At the time, Anbar Province was suffering from 70 percent unemployment, and the leaders of the insurgency were offering $100 to anyone who would fire a rocket-propelled grenade at one of my tanks. They would pay a $100 performance bonus if we were forced to call in a medical evacuation helicopter as a result. In this kind of conflict, development and reconstruction aid are perhaps our most valuable weapons. As the new U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (which Ihelped to develop) puts it, “Dollars are bullets.”

Unfortunately, many of the people who are firing America’s dollar bullets today are untrained in that task. Because of a shortage of U.S. diplomats and U.S. Agency for International Development officers willing and able to deploy to combat zones, American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are making daily decisions about the comparative economic benefits of giving microloans to small businesses and investing in water treatment plants. The military trained me well in how to coordinate close air support, artillery strikes, and tank and machine-gun fire, but I was left on my own in determining how to coordinate economic development in Anbar. Since my corner of Iraq included critical enemy support zones between the provincial capital of Ramadi and Fallujah, epicenter of the Sunni insurgency, my mistakes had strategic ­consequences.

In partial recognition of how badly my ­well-­meaning but poorly informed peers and I were conducting this critical aspect of counterinsurgency, the State Department developed provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), first in Afghanistan in 2003 and two years later in Iraq. There are currently 26 PRTs in Afghanistan, each led by a lieutenant colonel (or Navy commander) and composed of 60 to 100 personnel. More than 30 teams now operate in Iraq. They focus on governance, reconstruction and development, and promoting the rule of law. In Afghanistan, several other nations in the International Security Assistance Force, including Britain and Germany, now contribute PRTs of their ­own.

Although the creation of PRTs was an important step in the direction of building the government we need to win the wars of this century, they lack sufficient resources. The team I visited in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in November was composed almost exclusively of U.S. Air Force personnel, with a sprinkling of civilian experts. In Iraq, the absence of civilian specialists is also a chronic problem.

The State Department is in the midst of further efforts to establish effective civilian control of the political, economic, and social dimensions of ­nation-­building operations. In 2004, it created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to oversee these efforts, but this office remains a poorly staffed and funded institution with fewer than 100 people assigned to accomplish its tasks of predicting, planning for, and mitigating the effects of state failure around the globe. To provide more muscle behind this new office, the Bush administration proposed a $250 million Civilian Response Corps, with 250 development and reconstruction experts from different parts of the government ready to deploy to a crisis within 48 hours and many more in ­reserve.

These are noble efforts, but they lack the required scale. Today, there are more musicians assigned to military bands than there are Foreign Service officers in the State Department. While a rousing rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” always did wonders for my morale in a combat zone, having the economic and political expertise to persuade the people of Anbar not to shoot at me would have been even better.

Not to quarrel with anything that follows, but wouldn't terrorism likewise be defined as "an attempt to overthrow a government or change its policies through the illegal use of force"?

On the other hand, just changing the names and jiggering a few procedures of the parts of the WoT that are "tainted" by association with W makes sense for a President Obama who doesn't plan on changing anything substantive, 6 signs Gitmo policies may not change (JOSH GERSTEIN, 1/23/09, Politico)

There may be less than meets the eye to the executive orders President Obama issued yesterday to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and prohibit the torture of prisoners in American custody. Those pronouncements may sound dramatic and unequivocal, but experts predict that American policy towards detainees could remain for months or even years pretty close to what it was as President Bush left office. [...]

Here are a few of the delays, caveats and loopholes that could limit the impact of Obama’s orders:

1. Everyone has to follow the Army Field Manual—for now…

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2009 7:48 AM
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