21 December 2008

Eating Soup with a Knife. And a Fork. And one of those things you whip eggs with. What the hell is that called, anyway?

Two articles from Small Wars Journal today talk about asymetric threats to our national security, and they're well worth the read.  One's an Op-ed piece about Somalian pirates, and the other is a historical piece regarding America's love-hate relationship with fighting "small wars".

The historical piece first.  After the Vietnam War, the US military largely turned its back on combatting counter-insurgencies.  Many military historians, including retired Lt. Col. John Nagl (whose doctoral thesis, Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife:  Counterinsurgencies Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, provided some of the groundwork for the Counterinsurgency Field Manual) noted that after the Vietnam War, the US military completely purged itself of counter-insurgency doctrine, attempting to push aside its bad memories of that conflict.  Instead, the US military, save for small organized pockets of resistance, focused on the "Fulda Gap" battle that never happened.  Many in the US military simply believed that they would never fight another insurgency, with several policy aspects backing this shift in doctrine.  But unfortunately, throughout the history of the US, small wars have been the rule, not the exception.

Despite the fact that small wars are so prevalent in the US military's history (a nation born of insurgency, no less), the impetus to wipe out counter-insurgency theory was so strong, that instructors at the Command and General Staff Course started to throw away counter-insurgency theory documents, even as the US was dealing with insurgencies in Latin America.  Thanks to the efforts of a small, but dedicated team of individuals, these lessons were saved, and they have since been applied to the current conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world.  You can read about them in the Sword Model of counterinsurgency at the SWJ Blog.

Additionally, there has been much written recently about the emergency of piracy off the coast of Somalia.  One retired Marine discusses the threat and advocates seizure of the ports from which the pirates operate, denying them a safe haven.  He also advocates a multi-national approach to a threat that affects globalized trade.  Check it out.  

And finally, the editors at Small Wars Journal are having a contest to see who can best describe "irregular warfare"--with the prize being a bottle of Scotch.  I'd enter this, but they can't ship Scotch to Iraq.  

Edit:  Last minute add-on--thinking of reporting from Somalia?  If so, use this flowchart from the London Times.  The security situation in that country has deteriorated drastically in the past year.  (If that were possible)

1) Have you been to Somalia before? If yes proceed to 2. If noproceed to 3

2) Were you kidnapped on that occasion? If yes proceed to 4. If noproceed to 5

3) Have you been to Iraq or Afghanistan? If yes proceed to 7. If noproceed to 6

4) Then you should know better. Don’t go

5) Then your luck is probably about to run out. Don’t go

6) Then what are you thinking of? Don’t go

7) Then you are probably under the impression that you can hide in the green zone and wait for an embed to go somewhere interesting. In Somalia there’s no green zone, and the only embeds are with Ethiopian or African Union soldiers who are being blown to smithereens on a daily basis. There’s no-one you can trust. And no-one who can guarantee your safety. Don’t go


Small Wars Journal said...

To clarify --
a) We could ship it to Iraq. You just can't get it and drink it.
b) Frank Hoffman is the man driving the Craggamore throw down.

Stay hard and safe, Starbuck.
- Bill

Starbuck said...

I'll be sure to try to weigh in on it, but I've got tough competition when Lt. Col. Nagl is weighing in.