March 17, 2008

Exum on Learning the Right Lessons from 2006

Right on cue, the new March edition of the U.S. Military Academy Combating Terrorism Center's Sentinel has been published and is on their website. Why do you need to read this edition? For Andrew Exum, responding to the misguided notion that Israel lost in 2006 because they had "overlearned" COIN:

The 2006 war was not evidence, then, that Israel had over-learned the lessons of counter-insurgency, but rather the opposite: Israel has never effectively learned counter-insurgency in the first place. Even in the West Bank and Gaza, the IDF continues to approach the fighting there as a counter-terrorism mission instead of a counter-insurgency mission. Moreover, while the presence of both a radicalized settler population and historical animosities might preclude the application of an effective counter-insurgency strategy in the Occupied Territories, Israel has never developed and applied counter-insurgency doctrine along the lines of FM 3-24 despite years of experience in irregular warfare dating back to Jewish guerrilla groups in pre-state Israel.


In some wars, history teaches us that you cannot shoot or kill your way to victory. As U.S. Army Colonel H.R. McMaster has written, “the principal lesson of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and southern Lebanon might be that military campaigns must be subordinate to a larger strategy that integrates political, military, diplomatic, economic and strategic communication efforts.” Guns, bombs and tactics from the Second World War are simply not enough. This has been the harsh lesson of the U.S. military’s counter-insurgency campaigns since 2001, and this is also the enduring lesson of Israel’s war with Hizb Allah.