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June 10, 2009
And Now Back to Introduction to Pre-COIN 101By Greyhawk
Okay, here's the complete quote that appears only in part here. To clarify what I'm about to relate: although I was in Iraq in 2007, when I use "we" in the following, I mean United States forces.
I may be wrong - but there seems to be some fundamental misunderstanding of COIN in general and "protecting the population" at play here.
The idea that those are somehow efforts that don't involve killing bad guys and blowing things up is wrong. I know this is obvious to 90% of the people who comment here, but there's also a growing number of people seeking understanding of this newfangled "COIN" business who may be under the impression that it's some sort of bloodless warfare - and some may scan these comments for illumination. If you aren't among that number skip this rest of this.
We killed bad guys ("irreconcilables") in droves. If they didn't come to us, we air assaulted (sorry - delivered troops via helicopter) to them. And if CAS (sorry - close air support, aka death from above via fixed or rotary wing aircraft...) was needed for TIC (sorry - troops in contact, meaning exchanging gunfire with the enemy), CAS was delivered. (Do not, however, take this to mean wanton, indiscriminate slaughter.)
I said we knew full well this would happen because we had a model: Anbar in '06. While much has been mentioned of the awakening (to which much credit is due), less has been said of the American efforts that preceded it. 1-1 AD cleared chunks of Ramadi, rather violently imposing themselves in the neighborhoods through the summer of '06. (Said violence was generally started by those who didn't like the new neighbors, and finished by the fine young men of the Ready First.) The awakening followed this demonstration of purpose. By Fall '06 they had "tipped the scales" in Anbar. (A longer comment would include Tal Afar '05/'06 as precedent for this...)
By late summer '07 we had pretty much tipped the scales in Baghdad too - check those death tolls* (or "life tolls", if you prefer) again. Part of the reason for that is that we initiated (repeat for clarity: we initiated) "the Awakening" movement there. (Ask me which was more important, the awakening or the surge and I'll ask you whether guns or ammo are more important.) But in less than two years we've forgotten about the eggs we broke to make that omelet - and the uproar back home against the effort at the time. (We couldn't put up a fucking T-wall without negative press.)
COIN is not a fluffy bunny warfare world where no one gets hurt and we all ride unicorns over rainbows. It is very much killing the enemy. Protecting the population requires it.
And for those who knew all that but read it anyway, sorry - but I warned you at the start.
*This is not an argument for death tolls as Metric; they're useful only once the perspective of time/hindsight has been gained.
I mention that by way of introducing these PowerPoint slides (in pdf format - and no, they aren't a joke) and this document. The two together serve as a fine introduction to Counter-Insurgency (aka "COIN") in execution - not theory.
I should note that the second document, relating the story of Anbar in '06 and the "Awakening" movement that began there, was not published until 2008. In between was the surge, tactics for which were being developed as this battle was being fought.
But the tactics employed would look a lot like this - in part because the guy who the Ready First relieved in Tal Afar went home to help write the book. But we'll get to that later.
For those seeking a bit more advanced info, I recommend actually reading the full comment thread here. Some remarks are true gems, some are just throwaways from smart people, some of pure garbage, and others define to some degree the core debate on COIN. If you can tell which are which you don't need this intro course, in which case thanks for reading.
Update a day later: I failed to provide the link to "full comment thread here" in the original post of this entry. Needless to say, this was a mistake, corrected now.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 10, 2009 3:27 PM | Permalink
Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link to any of these stories, add a ... Read More
"Anyone who thinks U.S. soldiers sit around passing out Snickers bars all day as part of counterinsurgency operations needs to visit the Arghandab." That's a quote from Andrew Exum, who spent some time in Afghanistan earlier this month. His is an opin... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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