Pat Lang on COIN

In case you missed it, COIN’s Siren Song:

In its fullest form the doctrine can be reduced to three basic elements: 1-Political warfare designed to eliminate the symbolic causes of revolt. This would include such efforts as a reduction of public corruption, adequate representation in government for all parts of the population, etc. …

IMO, the whole counterinsurgency thing, if applied successfully in Afghanistan will require a commitment of a century of effort by dedicated civilian and military personnel and many, many billions of dollars.

You might compare to Boyd’s counterguerrilla (not counterinsurgency) chart, Patterns 108.  Here are the first two bullets:

Undermine guerrilla cause and destroy their cohesion by demonstrating integrity and competence of government to represent and serve needs of people-rather than exploit and impoverish them for the benefit of a greedy elite.*

Take political initiative to root out and visibly punish corruption. Select new leaders with recognized competence as well as popular appeal. Ensure that they deliver justice, eliminate grievances and connect government with grass roots.*

Pat also hints at a fundamental point, that governments can do these things while invaders cannot, or at least have not since the end of WW II:

“Counterinsurgency” made some sense for the European colonial empires. They “owned” the places where they tried this method.

Pat notes that the COIN concept, in its modern form was created by the French, based on their experiences in Algeria and Indochina, and by the British.  As a method for preserving foreign or colonial rule, it was unsuccessful in every place but Northern Ireland (which the British own).

I have no idea whether COL Lang has ever heard of Boyd.  The parallels probably represent agreement on basic principles that they uncovered independently through deep study and in Pat’s case, personal experience.

The asterisks are not typos.

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6 Responses to “Pat Lang on COIN”

  1. Oldpiloton 15 Jul 2009 at 11:15 am 1

    The asterisks are not typos.

    Indeed they are not.

    Blue skies! — Dan Ford

    [CR: Dan — people who want to know what the asterisks reference should download and read the original, as you did.]

  2. seydlitz89on 16 Jul 2009 at 1:02 am 2

    Hi Chet-

    The parallels are severly limited by the contrasts.

    Your John Boyd quote includes,

    ” . . . Take political initiative to root out and visibly punish corruption. Select new leaders with recognized competence as well as popular appeal. Ensure that they deliver justice, eliminate grievances and connect government with grass roots.”

    Isn’t this basic COIN? A very active attempt to impose, yes impose, a new political identity on a foreign culture that sees us as a foreign invader (at worst) or an uninvited guest (at best)? There “government” is as we have consituted/defined it (“select new leaders . . .)

    Pat Lang (by my reading) is arguing against Boyd & COIN here:

    “As I wrote earlier this week, there is a massive subterranean fire burning in the US government between two factions. These are; those generals who have now embraced “Counterinsurgency” and nation building as an acceptable and “clever” think to do, the neocons (still seeking the path to revolution in the Islamic World), and various pseudo-academic “experts on counterinsurgency.” On the other hand there are those who think a US Counterinsurgency War in Afghanistan makes no sense at all. Why? Too much money! Too long! Too much blood! We are now too poor for such foolishness. And for what? So that American can further beggar itself?

    President Obama should think long and hard about General McChrystal’s conversion to nation building.

    It would be sad to see Obama leave office as a one term president. As the man said “Look homeward angel.” Look homeward.”

    Is not Lang’s message on COIN, to give it up? It’s a pipe dream? So how is that linked with Boyd’s message as presented in your quote?

    [CR: Thanks. You continue to miss the key point: COIN is possible, with high probability of success, by local governments. But as van Creveld notes in
    The Culture of War, it is extremely difficult for invaders and occupiers.]

  3. Duncan C Kinderon 16 Jul 2009 at 6:37 pm 3

    For another perspective, read Europe Has No Exit Strategy in the Balkans


    “In the Balkans, the EU is trying to pursue a policy that the United States has just abandoned: nation building. Inzko’s task is to transform this odd, artificial nation of four million people into a constitutional state, a market economy and a parliamentary democracy. But while control of Iraq will gradually be handed over to that country’s elite, the nations that have been created in the Balkans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, remain deeply dependent on the armies of officials, soldiers and skilled personnel brought in by international organizations. There is no timetable for the gradual transfer of power to national governments. In other words, Europe has no exit strategy.

    Artificial Constructs

    As a result, these artificial constructs remain dependent on their creators indefinitely. But dependency leads to addiction. Dependency creates the very things it is intended to stamp out, such as corruption. When a prime minister in Sarajevo died unexpectedly a few years ago, it was discovered that he had €20 million ($28 million) in his bank accounts — despite a monthly salary of just €1,000 ($1,400). But corruption is not just endemic among the domestic elite. In Kosovo, members of international organizations apparently siphoned off €60 million ($84 million) in funds during the construction of an airport and several power stations.”

  4. loggie20on 16 Jul 2009 at 9:00 pm 4

    Neither the Turks nor the Austro-Hungarians got it with the Balkans in hundreds of years.

    NATO won’t last as long as the Austrians.

    Siphoning, sounds like Halliburton learned from Bosnia…………….

  5. senor tomason 18 Jul 2009 at 6:47 am 5

    “NATO won’t last as long as the Austrians.”

    William S. Lind has written that the trouble in the Balkans is not over. No doubt fighting will re-erupt in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo as soon as the NATO “babysitters” leave both places. All NATO is doing is keeping the lid on an ethnic pressure cooker, like the Communists under Tito and his successors did for 46 years after World War II. Not only will NATO not last as long as the Austrians – they won’t even last as long as the Communists.

  6. Maxon 26 Jul 2009 at 7:38 pm 6

    This may not be ideal coin tactics and stratigy, and yet the USA let it happen.

    Talk is indeed easy and cheap, read on for a dose of reallity.

    *”The US government did not want the question asked,
    ‘Why do they hate us ?!'”

    *Chalmers Johnson

    Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq.

    “Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” said Daniel Freeman. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley,” an armored fighting vehicle.

    With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions “and just light the whole area up,” said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. “If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.”

    Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.

    “You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong,” he said”