Thursday, November 26, 2009

Back to Basics

Any good soldier makes a good counter-insurgent. If led by leaders who understand counter-insurgency and can give the appropriate orders. So sayeth Strategypage, as it notes the Army's commitment to preparing for counter-insurgency and conventional high tempo combat:

Now it is committed to training for both types of combat. The key to this is training the commanders. One discovery in the last decade is that the troops can switch from conventional combat, to irregular type operations, more quickly and efficiently than their bosses.

Strategypage is singing to the choir on this one, as I've long held:

If directed by officers who understand counter-insurgency, supported by special forces, and bolstered by some specially trained troops to train indigenous forces, any well trained troop will do well for the bulk COIN work of patrols, hunting insurgents, and interacting with the people.

And if done right, we will have trained allies to fight instead of having to use our forces. At worst, if we must fight a counterinsurgency, we'd retain institutional knowledge of fighting insurgencies that will outlast this generation of officers and senior NCOs.

So instead of thinking we need troops specially trained for COIN, we should really look to making counter-insurgency a separate career path in the officer corps like armor, infantry, and artillery (among many others) are now. If those who lead regular troops (and who require far more time to train) are ready from day one of a war, we can adapt our campaigns quickly.

Well trained troops can fight any enemy they face, if well led. Our modern ground forces are in general of the quality that in the past distinguished good COIN fighters from average rabble infantry that did more harm than good "interacting" with the population.

To me, the danger of creating separate conventional units dedicated just to counter-insurgency is that leaders would forget that they aren't equipped or trained to face conventional foes yet those leaders will send them into such a fight because they sure look like any other soldier--and then they'd die in large numbers and fail to accomplish their mission. Call them a constabulary corps or whatever hip new term you want to come up with, but they would still just be second-tier soldiers--mere para-military forces that would be chewed up in high intensity combat.

Any good soldier can be a good counter-insurgent. All we need to do is make sure they're led by good counter-insurgent leaders.