October 27, 2007

Counterinsurgency 101

The Economist has as good an introduction to COIN and the debate surrounding it that you're likely to read anywhere. This is all old news and familiar names -- Hammes, Nagl, Kilcullen, etc. -- to Abu Muqawama's readership, which is probably why Charlie didn't post this despite sending it along last night. (In the absence of Red Sox games, that woman has no idea how to spend a Friday night. Ten bucks says she spent the evening curled up on the couch with a dog-eared copy of Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.) This article is well worth reading, though.

Although most armies have now relearnt the limits of force and the importance of the “comprehensive approach”, commanders complain that other branches of government have not. In a recent article, General Peter Chiarelli, an adviser to Robert Gates, America's secretary of defence, says more money has to be spent not on the Pentagon but on the “non-kinetic aspects of our national power”. He recommends building up the “minuscule” State Department and USAID development agency (so small it is “little more than a contracting agency”), and reviving the United States Information Agency.

As the American army expands, some thinkers, such as Colonel Nagl, say it needs not just more soldiers—nor even linguists, civil-affairs officers and engineers—but a fully fledged 20,000-strong corps of advisers that will train and “embed” themselves with allied forces around the world. The idea makes army commanders blanch, but they do not question the underlying assumption. Insurgencies may be the face of war for the West in the years ahead. Even if America cannot imagine fighting another Iraq or Afghanistan, extremists round the world have seen mighty America's vulnerability to the rocket-propelled grenade, the AK-47 and the suicide-bomber.