Tuesday, June 05, 2012
I'll post the article without commenting on it, beyond recommending that you read it, because it is thought provoking. The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the entire article at the end of the excerpt.
Since the article dealt with an alternative to counterinsurgency, for its Hot Stratfor babe I decided to look towards alternative actresses. On the website Hipster Runoff, which I'm not linking to because of its somewhat dodgy NSFW content (not to be confused with the website Die Hispter, which come to think of it also has dodgy, NSFW content, but is at least entertaining), I discovered Chloë Sevigny and decided she was a good fit for the honor.
At any rate, I don't know much about Ms Sevigny beyond the fact that she's appeared in a number of independent and/or avant garde films. That's good enough to make her an alternative actress in my book. She has a faithful following, so I assume she is a decent actress. Lately she seems to be transitioning to playing TV roles.
The End of Counterinsurgency and the Scalable Force
The U.S. military for years has debated the utility of counterinsurgency operations. Drawing from a sentiment that harkens back to the Vietnam War, many within the military have long opposed counterinsurgency operations. Others see counterinsurgency as the unavoidable future of U.S. warfare. The debate is between those who believe the purpose of a conventional military force is to defeat another conventional military force and those who believe conventional military conflicts increasingly will be replaced by conflicts more akin to recent counterinsurgency operations. In such conflicts, the purpose of a counterinsurgency is to transform an occupied society in order to undermine the insurgents.
Understanding this debate requires the understanding that counterinsurgency is not a type of warfare; it is one strategy by which a disproportionately powerful conventional force approaches asymmetric warfare. As its name implies, it is a response to an insurgency, a type of asymmetric conflict undertaken by small units with close links to the occupied population to defeat a larger conventional force. Insurgents typically are highly motivated -- otherwise they collapse easily -- and usually possess superior intelligence to a foreign occupational force. Small units operating with superior intelligence are able to evade more powerful conventional forces and can strike such forces at their own discretion. Insurgents are not expected to defeat the occupying force through direct military force. Rather, the assumption is that the occupying force has less interest in the outcome of the war than the insurgents and that over time, the inability to defeat the insurgency will compel the occupying force to withdraw.
According to counterinsurgency theory, the strength of an insurgency lies in the relationship between insurgents and the general population. The relationship provides a logistical base and an intelligence apparatus. It also provides sanctuary by allowing the insurgents to blend into the population and disappear under pressure. Counterinsurgency argues that severing this relationship is essential. The means for this consist of offering the population economic incentives, making deals with the traditional leadership and protecting the population from the insurgents, who might conduct retributive attacks for collaborating with the occupying force.
The weakness of counterinsurgency is the assumption that the population would turn against the insurgents for economic incentives or that the counterinsurgents can protect the population from the insurgents. Some values, such as nationalism and religion, are very real among many populations, and the occupying force's ability to alter these values is dubious, no matter how helpful, sincere and sympathetic the occupying force is. Moreover, protecting the population from insurgents is difficult. In many cases, insurgents are the husbands, brothers and sons of civilians. The population may want the economic benefits offered by the occupying force, but that does not mean citizens will betray or ostracize their friends and relatives. In the end, it is a specious assumption that a mass of foreigners can do more than intimidate a population. The degree to which they can intimidate them is doubtful as well.
An Alternative to Counterinsurgency?
There is of course another dimension of asymmetric warfare, which encapsulates guerrilla warfare and special operations warfare. This is warfare by which highly trained light infantry forces are deployed on a clearly defined mission but are not dependent on the local population. Instead, these forces avoid the general population, operating on their own supplies or supplies obtained with minimal contact with the population. Notably, either side could adopt these tactics. What is most important in considering guerrilla warfare from the perspective of the counterinsurgent is that it is not merely a tactic for the insurgent; it is also a potential alternative to counterinsurgency itself.
Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the U.S. military is not very good at counterinsurgency. One could argue that the United States should improve its counterinsurgency capabilities, but there is little evidence that it could master such capabilities. There is, however, another form of light infantry warfare to consider, and it is a form of warfare the United States is good at. The alternative does not seek to win over the population but is designed to achieve very definable military objectives, from the destruction of facilities to harassing, engaging and possibly destroying enemy forces, including insurgents.
Special Operations Forces are highly useful for meeting these objectives, but we should also include other types of forces. The U.S. Marine Corps is one such example. Rather than occupying territory, and certainly rather than trying to change public opinion, these forces have a conventional mission carried out in relatively small unit operations. Their goal is to assert military force in highly defined if limited missions designed to bypass the population and strike at the opposition's capabilities. This is exemplified best in counterterrorist operations or the assault on specific facilities. These operations are cheap and do not require occupation. More important, these operations are designed to terminate without incurring political cost -- the bane of prolonged counterinsurgency operations. The alternative to counterinsurgency is to avoid occupational warfare by rigorously defining more limited missions.
Read more: The End of Counterinsurgency and the Scalable Force | Stratfor