SWJ ran a great article today entitled “Flawed Doctrine or Flawed Strategy” from Sergeant First Class Morgan Sheeran, who has served in Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan Police. Sheeran, like many of us COINdinistas, disagree with Lt. Col. Gian Gentile’s assertion that the entire US military has completely embraced counter-insurgency (COIN) at all levels. You can read the article in full at SWJ, but I want to touch upon two high points.
- Sheeran is just one of many Soldiers from a number of backgrounds who has noted that basic COIN doctrine is still not being taught to our Soldiers in many military schools. I'd go into greater detail, but I've beaten this dead horse enough--check the links if you need to catch up. Indeed, as Ken White at Small Wars Journal is quick to point out, assignments as instructors at military service schools are typically seen as short, comfortable assignments, designed to serve as a “break” in an officer’s career. Although there are many excellent instructors at our professional military courses, there is no discriminator when it comes to assigning quality instructors to officer basic and advanced courses. Anyone is seen as qualified to instruct any military course—in many cases, it seems that the Army feels that all an instructor needs to do is to dig up a PowerPoint presentation (many of which are obsolete) and read the script that goes along with it. Our courses greatly need to be overhauled to be much more relev
- Sheeran also talks about the inherent contradiction in our management of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). On one hand, 4GW (and Third Generation Warfare, or “maneuver warfare”) requires highly decentralized operation and empowerment of junior leaders (insert the typical Boydian remarks on schwerpunkt and auftragststaktik) who might have to operate as de facto viceroys in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevertheless, Sheeran notes that we sometimes use our impressive array of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to micromanage our own forces. This has been discussed a number of times before, but it bears reiteration—instead of empowering junior Soldiers to make decisions at the senior level, our new ISR assets sometimes allow Senior leaders to make decisions at the junior leader level. Sheeran brings up the example of a sergeant major who admitted to using a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle to covertly inspect the uniforms of Soldiers at remote combat outpost. I might also add that our ISR assets have also been known to catch Soldiers in the act of urinating in public or unsuspecting couples enjoying a little midnight delight. Granted, too little leader involvement is also a danger (i.e., Abu Ghraib), but there's obviously a middle ground somewhere between these two extremes.
Sheeran brings up a few more great points, including the manning and treatment of Military Transition Teams—small groups of Soldiers who train the Iraqi and Afghan militaries. The article is well-worth a read, and has been getting dozens of responses at SWJ.