Adam L. Silverman
Earlier COL Lang referenced Bernard Fall's COIN equation. Fall was very prolific - writing both books and articles, as well as lecturing right up until the time of his death while on patrol with the marines in Vietnam on the Street Without Joy. In his "Theory of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency", originally presented as a lecture and then transcribed and published in Naval War College Review, Fall posited his equation for Revolutionary Warfare and presents in the narrative the basis for the equation that Col Lang referenced and which he would present in equation form elsewhere. For everyone's convenience, I'm attaching the pdf of the article below the post. Its not long, but its well worth taking the time to read it. One of the most prescient portions is just before Fall's conclusion:
Civic action is not the construction of privies or the distribution of antimalaria sprays. One can't fight an ideology; one can't fight a militant doctrine with better privies. Yet this is done constantly. One side says, "land reform," and the other side says, "better culverts." One side says, "We are going to kill all those nasty village chiefs and landlords." The other side says, "Yes, but look, we want to give you prize pigs to improve your strain." These arguments just do not match. Simple but adequate appeals will have to be found sooner or later.
It was Col Lang who advised me to read Dr. Fall's works as part of my preparation for the work I do for the military. In reality he told everyone in that classroom back in December 2007 to do so and it was excellent advice. Sadly I have found too few have read Fall and to many overly rely on more modern/recent scholars and practitioners of COIN. In many ways I find that Fall is like Sun Tzu. If you read him carefully and take his lessons to heart, you will never try to conduct counterinsurgency.** Just as the careful reader of Sun Tzu learns that the only real Taoist way of war is to never fight one.
I recently had reason, about two weeks ago, to go back and reread Fall's article and among the things that stuck out at me was the block quote I pulled out above. In that one quote Fall encapsulates the key point that too many seem to miss when they try to develop a strategy to defeat revolutionary movements - the tactical solutions that seem to work and are easily counted cannot and will not get you to victory.* Another key point that jumped out at me two weeks ago is Fall's remarks about the spreading oil slick, now called the spreading ink spot, concept. I've read and reread this piece at least ten times in the past eight years, but its always jarring to see Fall explain that this could only work in the Sahara as the center of the slick was to be the oases. If you could clear and hold the water supply, and then connect your points of control from oasis to oasis, eventually everyone would have to come to you or die of thirst. There were no oases in Vietnam. There are no oases in Anbar Province...
* I think it was three or four months ago that Tyler was deriding the idea of the need to create jobs in Iraq and Syria to remove an economic driver of support for DAESH. From a strategic perspective Tyler was spot on - tactical level economic development is not going to solve/resolve this conflict. And while we would probably see some success if the economies in Syria and Iraq improved, the lack of jobs and opportunity is a symptom, not the actual problem. And as Fall indicates that problem can't be fixed by building roads or sewer systems or toilets, etc.
** This, as he has made clear many times here at SST, and Col Lang's very informed view of COIN as well.