26 July 2009

Diggers and Counterinsurgency

(Courtesy of Small Wars Journal)

Earlier, we talked about a crisis in leadership and organizational culture within the British Army. In short, the British appear to be experiencing many of the same pains that the US military had three or four years ago when we started the "Counterinsurgency Renaissance" in earnest (Thomas Ricks comments here and here). Unfortunately, as a number of writers point out, the British Army has yet to produce reformers on the order of a Nagl, Yingling or Petraeus.

Australia also seems to also be finding itself in the same predicament. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled "Our Soldiers Are Not Trained for the Wars They Are In" states:

Many other officers and NCOs, including many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, wonder whether the [Australian] Defence Force has undergone the same level of reform as the US and British armies. And coalition commanders are wondering the same thing.

Marston says: "The questions some coalition commanders are asking is when is Australia, as in senior commanders and politicians, going to become embedded within this huge debate that has occurred within the US and British militaries about what went wrong and what went correct in Iraq as well as what needs to be done in Afghanistan?"

The Defence Force, at the Howard government's direction, did not join in the counter-insurgency fight in Iraq, and so was not forced by its experiences there to undergo the tough self-examination its main allies have.

There is evidence the lower ranks want to begin this process now. All they need is some support from the top.

Add this to Australia's latest defence woes, which include the apparent inability to deploy Black Hawk helicopters to Afghanistan due to a lack of missile defence systems and the surge capacity of only a thousand troops and you might have…well…a crisis similar to the one the US military a few years ago. Not only was our Army trained mostly for high-intensity conflict against an imaginary and obsolete Soviet-style foe, but we also had our own procurement problems. Hedging all of our bets on aircraft like the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter and F-22 Raptor, we paid scant attention to the survivability features of an aging rotary-wing fleet of helicopters which were, in many cases, older than their pilots and crew chiefs.

But we managed to begin to turn ourselves around--not only with the new counterinsurgency strategy, but also with a few more survivability features for our vintage aircraft that keep them and their pilots flying day in and day out. Surely, with a little know-how, the Australians can do the same.

Join the discussion at the Small Wars Council.

I know I have a few Aussies who check out this page—please join us at SWJ for a discussion.

Addendum: The Australians are apparently finding themselves in the middle of the same body armor debate that we in the US have had for the last few years. That is to say, the Australians are weighing (no pun intended) the benefits of the added protection of body armor versus the amount of tactical mobility and endurance they want from their infantrymen. It's a sticky subject among troops. Feel free to weigh in. Again, no pun intended.

1 comment:

Boss Mongo said...

Starbuck--Mr. Ricks' comments notwithstanding, I'd say it's going a bit far to declare we have started or are in a Counterinsurgency Renaissance; I'll give you that parts of USG, DOD, and the Army have identified the requirement, and have begun to initiate some incremental change, but Renaissance? I'm thinkin' No.