31 January 2010

The New Counterinsurgency Era: Day One

I decided to read Dr. David Ucko's "The New Counterinsurgency Era" a little bit backwards. Why? Well, looking through the book, I noticed that a certain Army Aviator's article in Small Wars Journal is used as a reference in Dr. Ucko's book.

Wait, does this mean I'm credible? :)

In all seriousness, I found out that I'm quoted in a portion of Dr. Ucko's book which dealt with the US military's professional educational programs and their reluctance to embrace counterinsurgency. This is certainly one of my greatest concerns. Indeed, Major Neil "Cavguy" Smith weighed in on the issue recently at SWJ, noting that, particularly for junior officers, the level of COIN training can be hit-or-miss, depending on the institution.

Dr. Ucko refers to some research by a number of military experts which document the total number of hours spent on topics related to conventional war-related topics versus those related to counterinsurgency. Although, as he remarks in the endnotes, such studies can be somewhat problematic.

Although I have some issues with the metrics involved, I certainly agree that my professional military education thus far has largely concentrated on conventional war. While I agree that we can't assume that the conventional battlefield will go away--such thinking was a fatal flaw and contributed to the IDF's failure in Lebanon in 2006--we need to focus primarily on counterinsurgency for the time being. The reasoning is simple--we're in the middle of two insurgencies. When these wars wind down, we can then discuss how we re-balance our military. But for now, let's focus on the wars we're actually involved in...

Overall, I have to admit that there's excellent research and plenty of salient points in this book thus far. If you like reading about the US military's other "Transformation"--that from a conventional war fighting force to a counterinsurgency force--you'll really like this book.