15 October 2009

Clear, Hold, Build...in Fayetteville NC

Tom Ricks opened the field to a debate in his blog regarding the merits of light infantry leaders in counterinsurgency operations. In The Gamble, Ricks mentions the merits of commanders in the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions, noting that it was they who participated in the "small wars" and peacekeeping operations--Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Haiti, Sinai, etc, as opposed to the tank divisions which merely sat in Germany the entire time.

It prompted a response from an armor officer who noted that many of the early COIN successes came from armor officers such as now-Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, a particularly brilliant counterinsurgent who, nevertheless, won an important tank battle during the first Gulf War at the Battle of 73 Eastings.

Now, I hate to break it to Tom, but this debate isn't exactly new, having been done before in Kings of War, where they posited the "Boots Beats Bolts" hypothesis, a sentiment echoed in this thread in Small Wars Journal's Council. Nevertheless, many of the respondants in these articles and threads note that, in many cases, armored divisions did well with counterinsurgency, while light infantry divisions did poorly in some cases--leadership played a critical role. (With many armored leaders, such as McMaster, doing better than some light infantry commanders, such as Col. Michael Steele).

Tom Ricks brings up the example of the 82nd Airborne Division's tour in 2003-2004, during which they allowed the city of Fallujah to become a cesspool of insurgent activity as an example of poor counterinsurgency being practiced by light infantry. It shocks me that the 82nd would be unable to comprehend COIN as well as they did. You see, the city of Fayetteville, NC--just adjacent to the 82nd Airborne's home at Fort Bragg--has had its own experiences with the principles of counterinsurgency.

About twenty years ago, Fayetteville was a cesspool. Violent neighborhoods (with ethnic and sectarian tensions), rampant car theft and vandalism, you name it. Downtown Fayetteville, with seedy bars, streetwalkers, and the like, was a walled citadel of Dis from one of the lower levels of hell itself.

But, according to legend, Fayetteville cleaned up its act. You see, the city of Fayetteville revoked all of the liquor licences of the vendors downtown. That allowed the city to clear itself of seedy elements, who quickly went out of business and were forced to vacate. The city then bought up all of the property, holding it so that the aforementioned seedy elements would not come back. Then, the city sold the property to businesses who built microbreweries, decent restaurants, an art-house theater, the Airborne and Special Ops Museum, and so forth.

Clear, hold, build. It's classic counterinsurgency theory, except instead of ridding downtown Fayetteville of insurgents, the downtown area rid itself of crackwhores. Same thing, really. (Note: COIN hasn't hit every area of Fayetteville, as Boss Mongo has astutely pointed out in a post not too long ago)


El Goyito said...

This has gotta be the quote of the day: "Fayetteville...was a walled citadel of Dis from one of the lower levels of hell itself." Ah yes, that's the FayetteNam I remember.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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