March 19, 2009

Brian Burton (and some other guy) on COIN wars

Brian Burton (and his co-author) is just stone cold settlin' some scores (.pdf) in the latest edition of the Washington Quarterly.

Despite the clear need for change from a Cold War military to one that can deal with the threats of the current century, numerous military officers and civilian experts have challenged the U.S. military’s development of improved theory and practice for irregular warfare. ...

Such arguments are born of a misunderstanding of the role of irregular warfare in the international system of this century. It is true that military power should not be the tool of choice for resolving complex contingencies involving failed states and internal political violence, and it would certainly be preferable if the U.S. military could focus on conventional interstate warfare and not have to worry about the messier business of counterinsurgency and nation building.

These observations, however, do not offer much help in dealing with the current and most likely future security challenges that the United States faces, which include counterinsurgency and reconstruction missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as efforts to build the capacity of partner countries in the wider campaign against lethal al Qaeda-type terrorist organizations.

Although military force is not always the tool of choice for complex contingencies, the U.S. military has the responsibility to address those challenges to the best of its ability, particularly since other government agencies do not currently possess viable crisis response capabilities. While preserving its major combat capabilities, the military must continue to improve its ability to conduct post-conflict reconstruction, counterinsurgencies, and train and advise allied security forces.

Read the rest here.