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February 05, 2007

Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Edward Luttwak of CSIS has a piece in this month's Harper's called "Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice." Luttwak begins with a critical analysis of the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24 DRAFT, written by David Petraeus, among others, then moves on apply this to Iraq. He concludes that the new counterinsrgency manual's "prescriptions are in the end of little or no use and amount to a kind of malpractice. All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principles and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents...."

Read it (it's not available online-- you'll have to buy the magazine! Sorry).


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Appropriate counterinsurgency warfare would blend into appropriate democracy promotion.

You'd give the insurgents the clear option to meet their political needs by persuading a majority of the voters. And you'd let the public make it clear that they don't like political parties who use military force in place of campaign promises.

Insurgents are mostly citizens who don't believe the political process can work for them, who think it's rigged against them.

Sometimes you get people who really believe in their minority taking over the government and ruling the public against the public's wishes. You have to fight *them* until they put that idea aside and try politics instead. Persuade them the game isn't rigged against them and they'll want to play.

The main competing ideology is the one that says the people who put their lives on the line to overthrow the preceding regime deserve to run the new government. People have some respect for that idea, but less when it's putting their lives on the line to overthrow a functioning democracy.

There are the examples of Hitler and Mussolini. I'm not an expert on those times, but I have the strong impression that a whole lot of germans believed that the Weimar Republic government had sold them out, that it was not really democratic, and that it was too weak to protect them even if it intended to. When nazi thugs beat people up on the street and nothing happened, that only confirmed the opinion and made them more sure they needed a change. Similarly with fascists making people drink castor oil -- the government was weak and nobody stood up to stop them.

As for US counterinsurgency in iraq ... our MOUT methods were heavily influenced by the israeli methods. I think maybe this was not what we needed. We would have been better served by israeli MOUT designed to use in israeli cities. But the israelis have no more experience with fighting insurgents in their cities than we have in ours. They have a functioning democracy with an armed population and so they don't get insurgents trying to overthrow the government. If an israeli citizen doesn't like the israeli government, voting is easier, safer, cheaper, and more effective than armed rebellion.

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