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25 April 2006


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Col., It is virtually impossible to believe the tale you just told about,"The Battle of Algeries." It is pathetic, disgusting that we have have a military worth hundreds of billions and the officer corp knows nothing about the enemy that in part defeated them in VietNam is now tearing Iraq apart, murdering young Americans who probably never even heard of the FLN or Viet Cong, Che. Malaya, the Tupemaros. It is sickening for the loss of life out of ignorance. West Point, VMI, etc. ought to be "forced" to teach the History of Insurency to every cadet for four years running. This criminal tragic lack; it is just another nail in the coffin of American hegemony. Michael Singer

W. Patrick Lang


The man who said that to me was quite sincere. He was also a civilian.

I heartly agree that "Counterinsurgency" should be a major study at all service schools, including the service academies (West Point in this case).

As a matter of possible interest, my alma mater, VMI, is a state college and not the property of the armed forces.



I am not as versed in military affairs as many of you all seem to be. But, I was wondering if any of you all has read the article, "THE LESSON OF TAL AFAR," about Colonel H. R. McMaster.


I have been in favor of a withdrawal of troops for some time, but this article gave me pause as he seemed to be making some "progress" in his area. Perhaps this is just a drop in the bucket...


When I was in Iraq, challenging our dogmatic mindset and questioning our tactics was seen as disloyal. Nobody ever listened or even cared- I hate the f*&ken army


This is deja vu all over again. Someone said that Iraq is Vietnam on steroids and this is right out of the American war in VIetnam. The same sorts of cluelessness. The passionate love of acronyms.The search for the silver bullet that will turn it all around for us. The utter inability to understand the enemy point of view. The Sunni tribesmen hate us for religious reasons, nationalistic reasons, and cultural reasons. No amount of painting school houses, distributing soccer balls, or making nice with the local sheiks is going to change the fact that we are infidels who invaded their country to put a government in power that would do our bidding.The Al Anbar tribes have fought us to a standstill and they are begining to see victory on the horizon.They have no reason whatsoever to give up now.They sense that it is only a matter of time before the Shia turn on the Americans too.
There is a bizzaro nuttiness to much of what passes for thinking by the Counterinsurgency types that springs from the sincerely held notion that we are good people doing the Lord's work and once this has just been properly explained to the benighted heathen, they'll fall right into line. I suspect that this is a uniquely American conceit. Americans want to be loved and admired by the "little brown brothers" wether they were Phillipinos who needed Christianizing, Vietnamese who needed saving from Godless communism, or the various Central American peoples we've saved from honest government, decent working conditions,dignity, and real independance.
I don't imagine for one minute that the British, the French, the Spanish, or the Romans ever had a need to be liked; feared, respected, and feared worked well enough for them. If we are going to be the new Evil Empire our centurions are going to have to start thinking like Darth Vader. To quote an American military axiom that was popular for a while in Vietnam " If you have em by the balls, their hearts and minds are sure to follow,". We'll just have to take it on faith that, though our ideas didn't work in Vietnam, they will in Iraq. All we have to do is close our eyes and wish real hard.

W. Patrick Lang


coupla things

-The guys who wanted to get'em by the balls were not the counterinsurgency types. they were the ""big army" guys who were fighting the NVA army out in the woods. They had very little to do with anyone's balls except the NVA.

- The author of this paper is an Australian.

- He rightly observes that in insurgency/counterinsurgencythe struggle is for control of the minds of the population. Means to that end are varied and they are never always nice. They are usually mixed. The VC/NVA did not control the parts of the country that they owned by being "nice." They were sometimes "nice," but their AGITPROP teams usually combined that with a program for the extermination of small property owners, school teachers, mayors, etc. One of their favorite techniques was a people's court in which everyone was required to vote as a jury, the accused was then required to dig his own grave and stand in it while someone chosen by lot from the village shot him/her (equal opportunity) in the head. The VC were local, not foreigners. Let's keep it real. pl


I think we need a reseve force of the best and brightest, light infantry (not elite) crosstrained. My solution no federal funds to elite colleges for research or anyting unless they reserve 50% of their slots to veterans (of all forces) or those who will make a committment. We need to be able to field significant numbers with high IQs who can learn languages and figure complex technical problems.

The regular forces would act as backup for heavy military problems and support infrastructure for these units.


What is considered examples of successful counterinsurgency campaigns where the conflict was won by winning the hearts and minds? The only campaings that comes to my mind as successful in fighting an insurgency are the spanish-american war in the philippines and the boer war. Both which used methods that I suspect wouldn't be politically or morally possible today.

Also there seems to be a contradiction in Iraq in that if we win the 'hearts and minds' of the sunni insurgency we will certainly piss of either the kurds or shia elites.

Is it the case that the real conflict comes from a sunni political elite that never accepted defeat or being turned into second class status in what they considered their country? That would make the whole winning one village at a time a pointless exercise.


"Engage the women, beware the children."
Certainly was true in Belfast; kids were always a menace. But Basra isn't Belfast. I do wonder if a Sheila trying to turn Muslim women against their husbands is a recipe for stability.


Col. Lang,

I don't doubt the veracity of what you have said here. I just find it a little puzzling, at least at far as the Marine Corps is concerned.

The Small War Manual dates back to 1940s. Counter Insurgency is to date part of the cirriculum at the Basic School. There were several publications and a fair amount of training that were developed as an ammalgamation of the Corp's counter insurgency experience in Vietnam.

While it's true that the late seventies and early eightees saw a move to prepare for a confrontation with the Iron Curtain (and as part of a NATO force), the Marines did not ever totally abandon their operational capacity or their orientation to engage in counter insurgency campaigns.

Perhaps in the ninetees counter insurgency was further de-emphasized? Again, puzzling, but maybe explains what you see as their faster learning curve today.

W. Patrick Lang


The US Marine Corps has done a better job in this.


I admire Chesty also.


W. Patrick Lang


How about the campaign against the Huks or the Malayan Emergency? How about the British campaign against the Revolt in Iraq in the 20s or the British Campaign against the Palestinian Revolt in the 30s? How about the Guatemalan govenment's suppression of the rebellion in Yucatan in the 60s? I can go on... pl


Col Lang,
The VC were engaged, as they saw it, in a war against the American Imperialists, another war against the quisling ARVN government, and, last but not least, class struggle against the running dog, reactionary, feudal land owners and other class enemies. They were busy little killers.
The fighters we are dealing with are, for the time being at least, Sunni tribesmen who are fighting to retain their traditional role as the rulers of Iraqi society with the aid of various Salafi religious fanatics. We are fighting against a fairly cohesive group of people and as the ethnic cleansing gathers speed they will become more cohesive. The Iraq conflict is in the process of degenerating, in part, into a religious war between the Sunni and the Shia. This is happening in conjunction with a Jihad against the American crusaders and, coming soon, a war with the Kurds over Mosul.
A counterinsurgency campaign in, theory at least, would be directed at convincing the Sunni community by a combination of violence, bribery, and diplomacy to give up armed struggle against America and the Shiite government in Baghdad. There is nothing we can offer the Sunnis that would make this acceptable. They hate us as the new crusaders, the enemy of God himself. As for the Shia they consider them ignorant heretics in the pay of the detested Persians. We have no real leverage over the new Iraqi government to induce them to give anything to the Sunnis. The money to rebuild Iraq has already been wasted and we know and they know that nothing more will be coming. The Shia government in Baghdad will be perfectly happy to have us fight the Sunnis for them. Our threats to leave are just that. The Bush administration can't leave without the complete collapse of the whole Neocon agenda.
A classic counterinsurgency program would include carrots and sticks. We’ve only got sticks and the sticks haven’t worked so far. As time has gone on and the death squads, which may have started as part of the so-called Salvadoran Option, have done their grisly work, more and more Iraqi Sunnis are being forced by the ugly realities on the ground to align themselves with the resistance. The original idea behind the Salvadoran Option was to terrify the Sunni supporters of the resistance into passive or active cooperation with us against the insurgents. It seems to be backfiring very badly. The Sunnis in Baghdad have formed neighborhood militias, often in alliance with the resistance, to protect themselves from the Shia police/police commandos/whatever death squads. I suspect that in Salvador when this tactic was used the killers were not facing a society as highly militarized and as heavily armed as Iraq. Butchering thousands of unarmed Salvadoran labor leaders, peasants, teachers, priests & nuns, along with the odd archbishop gave some fool the idea that this was a winning strategy for Iraq. It doesn’t seem to work as well when the intended victims are heavily armed and, in many cases, veterans of 8 viscous years of trench warfare.
In the final analysis, I believe all we have to offer the Sunnis is death. We have people planning the second “ liberation of Baghdad” which will consist of American troops attempting to forcibly disarm the Sunni neighborhoods. This will quite likely succeed in ethnically cleansing Baghdad of its Sunni inhabitants.
You don’t need fancy new acronyms or arcane theories for this. Like Agricola’s campaign in Scotland our counterinsurgency doctrine is “ to make a wasteland and call it peace.”

Happy Jack

Col, for the purpose of this discussion, wouldn't we have to focus on your first two examples? As per the methods used that is.

The Huks were dealt with by an indigenous force. Might that make a difference in understanding the enemy?

As for Malaya, it's my understanding that the British required a longer tour for foreign service, at least 2.5 years(?). Can we be successful rotating people out every year,like McMaster?


Col Lang please correct me if I'm wrong but I understood counterinsurgency as mainly a war for the support of local population and being able to enforce a prefered political solution. I cant see that in any of the campaigns mentioned. At best a political compromise with a local elite like in malaysia or at worst total withdrawal but no political victory.

W. Patrick Lang

Happy Jack and CKRANTZ

Ckrants - Not for the SUPPORT of the local population. It is a struggle for CONTROL of the minds of the local population. For that reason the propaganda of both word and deed is critical; hence both "land reform" and people's courts. You won't understand this phenomenon by over-idealizing it. This is war, nasty, cruel war on both sides. Pretty it up as you will but it is still war. You will never win in this kind of war if you think that nation building is a goal or end rather than a means.

In Malaya, the enemy was limited to the Chinese community and the British successfully wooed the Malayan majority, then isolated the Chinese Terrorists from their own people and hunted them down. In the Phillipines Magsaysay had the active support of the US with money, supplies, advice, etc. In Greece after WW2 the Greek governemnt had the active support in the field and with money of both Britain and the US. I see "a war for the support of local population and being able to enforce a prefered political solution" in all these campaigns. If you list some I will tell you how in each case.

As for the point that indigenous forces were the major element in many counter-insurgency campaigns, that is the preferred way to do it. Foreign advisers and money - local forces. That is the preferred way to conduct such a campaign. It is exactly what we did all over Latin America against leftist insurgencies led by the Cubans. Our effort was symmetrical to theirs.
We had great success in this. That is why you have never heard of it except in the form of memorial T-shirts. pl

W. Patrick Lang


"Counterinsurgency" is a "Term of Art" developed in the 20th century revolving around theories and methods largely worked out by the French in combating "Wars of Liberation" as they used to be called.

Your comment, althought interesting, is more about war in general and not particularly about "counterinsurgency" in this sense.

In any event you give the people who screwed up Iraq more "credit" than they are due in imagining that they actually planned to apply whayt you call the Salvador Option against dissidents in Iraq.

Firstly, they really are not as beastly as imagination is free to paint them.

Secondly, they never saw somethiing like this politico/insurgent mess coming and for that reason did not plan anything. pl


Canadian troops in Afghanistan would probably approve of the Australian strategy. They do circulate among the people using them as a resource against the Taliban. No longer are they strictly peacekeepers, they are also prepared to kill the Taliban.

It has been suggested that one of the ways to defeat the Taliban is to ensure the economic prosperity of the population. A recent assessment of the http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/media_centre/modules/media_centre/media_events/2006_london_insurgency_press_conference/documents/insurgency_assessment_field_report> insurgency situation in Afghanistan:

How are the people to support themselves if their crops are destroyed and there is nothing to put in its place? If innovative suggestions such as licensing the production of opium isn’t acceptable what is a long-term solution? Troops can’t stay in Afghanistan forever!

Yes I did read there is resistance to the plan, but all I saw was criticism of the plan without any other solution proposed.

W. Patrick Lang


what "plan" are you referring to? pl


Counterinsurgency after losing the populous. Nice.

By now the Pentagon should be preparing for a low level war with Iran and major regional wide instability. The way Bush is doing the diplomatic move, we are certianly will go to war against Iran one of these days.


Col Lang,
I stand corrected. I'll try and learn to take comfort from the thought the our national leadership are not a cabal of evil geniuses but a pack of evil morons.


Colonel Lang,

The plan to license opium growing in Afghanistan for legal medical usage so the population won't be lured by the Taliban insurgency or come under the influence of radicals in Pakistan.

http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/008_publication>Feasibility of Opium Licensing

Even if all the opium crops weren't needed for medical usage, it serves five purposes: gives the farmers an income, thwarts the drug lords, it's a much cheaper way to control illegal drugs in the world, it weakens local support for the Taliban. And it wins the hearts and minds of the people in Afghanistan.

W. Patrick Lang


Don't know what you mean by "low level." Looks like pretty frisky level to me if it happens. pl


Given the immense profits to be gained from the *illegal* opium trade it is hard to imagine the Afghanis opting out of that revenue stream even with opium growing for legal purposes permitted.

Why not enjoy revenue from both legal and illegal consumption?

Also, I would think that allowed growing for legal purposes would make it difficult to distinguish which plants are destined for which market. No?

Thus confusing the control of opium production even more.


As is the usual case with farmers, it is not the grower that gets fat and rich:

"In 2003, the average income from poppy (US$12,700 per hectare) was much higher than from wheat (US$222 per ha) or other agricultural products.

The average net income for a ‘poppy farmer’(cultivating poppy and other crops) was some US$2,520 in 2003, against US$670 for a non-poppy farmer.

The average net income for a ‘poppy farmer’(cultivating poppy and other crops) was some US$2,520 in 2003, against US$670 for a non-poppy farmer.

However, not all poppy farmers can be considered rich; the highest proportion of poppy farmers (31%) earned only between US$200 and US$500 in 2003; and the highest proportion of non-poppy farmers (29%) earned between US$500 and US$1000. This reflects a concentration of poppy farming both among small-scale
farmers and large-scale farmers, while non-poppy farmers tend to have medium size landholdings.

More than 60% of the income of poppy farmers is from opium, followed by cereals and wages earned."

http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afg_fis_report_2003-2004.pdf>Poppy growing


Pay them what they would get for the illegal crop to grow it legally. The farmer couldn’t care less who the buyer is as long as they get the same amount of money. My government pays some farmers NOT to grow crops like tobacco.

Eradicating the crop is the worst choice. Trying to divert them to growing different crops doesn’t work, because there isn't enough money in it for them.

Keep your eye on the goal of eradicating the insurgency.

The amount of money to buy their crops is peanuts compared to the street price and the damage it does to society, not to mention the cost of enforcement, arresting dealers, putting them in jail, etc. The economic cost benefit of buying their crops is much less.

I agree there is no difference between an illegal and a legal poppy.

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