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28 June 2011


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"I certainly understand the exhaustion with counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, but most of that exhaustion is with the Afghan war in general, not with the COIN strategy specifically."
Wow. "The American people aren't really tired of a type of expensive, grinding, manpower heavy, long-term war they're... just tired of war in general."
You were very gentle Colonel.
I also find it odd that a guy who runs an outfit called "LearningfromVeterans.com" isn't a veteran.




Just what US interests are threatened by those fighting the central government in Kabul? Has Sydney such a short memory that he has forgotten that of the 20 hijackers that were responsible for killing Americans on that September day none were Afghani or Iraqi?

To refresh his memory: Fifteen of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt (Atta), and one from Lebanon. I didn't see our country invade any of these countries nor do much to hold their government accountable for the conduct of their citizens.

If Sydney thinks our 'legions' need to be in Afghanistan and elsewhere then he and his fellow Journal employee - his wife -need to pay the bills. I for one want American money spent on American schools and American teachers for American children. It shouldn't take an insurgency to get our government to do that.

It might also do Sydney and his wife some good to should spend some time living outside of Washington D.C. so they'll have some idea of what the rest of America actually thinks is important.

FB Ali

It is obvious that Sydney Freedberg misunderstands what the COIN doctrine stands for.

He seems to believe that COIN just means operations against insurgents. He doesn't realise that the doctrine prescribes a particular strategy and tactics that should be followed.


Deadline Delayed published by the Over Seas Press Club of America in 1947 had a piece on the probable dire effects of the failure to hold elections in Indochina.


Re: "Are we really so much the status quo country that we instinctively want to support stasis?"

Only to the extent that Americans, in my view, are being consistently whipped into fear, fear of Saddam Hussein, fear of the commie under your bed (resulting in people who haven't met a commie in their whole life to stock up on ammunition and canned food), fear of Nicaragua, or whatever other bogeyman.

The sainted Ronald Reagan, and I keep cuckling over that, invoked a national emergency over Nicragua:

"I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, find that the policies and actions of the Government of Nicaragua constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."


Little did I know that Invasion U.S.A. was reality tv.


The Bush administration advised Americans to buy duct tape to protect their houses against Saddam's poison gas, because, well because ... in my favourite scenario, Saddam could send a freighter to the US and sneak attack the US with a poison gas tipped scud missile or two, or maybe ten.

When a scam worked once, it may just work a second time, and so the scenario was then recycled - the threat is now being posed by Iran, and the payload of fear is, naturally, since the allegation against Iran is that they build nukes, an EMP warhead.

And then, need I mention the DHS' colour coded mischief?



But joking aside, if Americans are being made sufficiently afraid of putative threats, and worse, speculative or putative future threats, they support Tory politics like propping up regimes to maintain the status quo. Indeed, once the dominoes fall, the world as we know it will cease to exist!

If COIN promises to hold these real, overblown or outright imagined goblins at bay, it will be supported.

Currently, the neo-cons and zio-cons are scaring the shit out of people by telling them that, if the regimes in the Middle East fall, the MB will come to power. That's underlying the ominous allusions that 'we might not like what comes out' if Qathafi loses. Well ... Booh!

There are people in America who have specialised in marketing fear of the future. And they're good at it. That's a bad thing.


"COIN is dimly understood today. It is, in fact, a counter-revolutionary doctrine, a doctrine for Tories." Well said Colonel. For a people so proud of it's own revolution we don't have a long track record of supporting others.


"The enemy is bullshit." Lars-Erik Nelson


"But our legions are going to have to march out against other barbarians in other places in the future." From Sidney's first comment. The idea that we need to civilize the barbarians seems to be the core, unstated goal of COIN. There are aspects of different cultures I find abhorrent but because they do not threaten the US or our vital interests, we should leave them alone. Ridding the world of evil is a concept W believed in and tried, resulting in the demise of US power. Unforunately many americans still believe it is our religious duty to purify the world and Bachman appeals to them by saying, "I will stand up and defeat terrorism." That is a scarey thought.


Ask yourself, who would you rather have as President? Colonel Lang or Obama. Seriously, ask yourself.

And while you're thinking read Taibbi on Bachman. Pure enjoyment.



"But our legions are going to have to march out against other barbarians in other places in the future."

The gentleman is an Imperialist. Wasn't that the fast-track career for the past decade in Washington, District of Courtiers? Times change.


"The idea that we need to civilize the barbarians seems to be the core, unstated goal of COIN."

In my understanding in COIN the goal is to pacify a place so you can maintain control over it (i.e. keep your colony). The French, the Brits were there in all those places where they developed COIN. They used it to maintain a hold on their colonies. It is indeed, counter-revolutionary warfare.

That is something other than Americans going out, actively seeking monsters to destroy. In stark contrast to the early practitioners of COIN, Americans are newcomers to the places where they COIN around.

They for one thing lack the loyalties of locals the French and British were able to develop over all the years and could draw on, and the US also lack the deep cultural understanding of French and British nationals who had lived in these colonies, among the population for decades. I gather that Americans who were born in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, and who had lived there all their lives must be rare birds (that, or terrorist suspects).

To use COIN for Sydney's goal of civilising the barbarians at the gates doesn't work. It's the wrong tool for that, since the basic implicit preconditions are not met. Americans don't want to colonise Iraq and retain it as part of their empire (think of a 52nd state (Israel being the 51th, uniquely, with veto powers)). Americans by and large probably don't want to live in Iraq. Contrast that to the British or French colonies (Algeria in particular).

The old idea of punitive expeditions appears more suited to what Sydney has in mind.

Mr. Lang, a question, since you mentioned the latifundista class: The classical definition of COIN reads: Counterinsurgency = political reform + economic development + counter guerilla operations.

I gather that COIN must have had a difficult time in Central and South America because of the unwillingness of local elites to do meaningful reforms (in rural south America that almost inevitably meant land reforms, to the dismay of the latifundista class). How did COIN fare without one of its basic elements?



It's an interesting article, but to paraphrase the author "In modern American politics" journalists like Matt Taibbi give 4 page write-ups to candidates they hold in contempt. Too bad he won't give 4 pages to someone he thinks would make an effective leader.

Roy G.

It is characteristic of public debate these days, especially in the political arena, to stage a forum in which both sides are presented as being equivalent, merely by the direction of their ideologies. Young Mr. Freedberg was clearly exposed as an operative pantomiming something he doesn't truly understand, but hopes to profit from. Bravo Col. Lang for succinctly putting him in his place by exposing his callow understanding.



He's a muckraker of the most hilarious kind. If he can make his favorite politician as funny as Bachmann, I pray he does it.


My mistake. Instead of goal I should have said the primary philosophical premise justifying COIN. The Left's correlation is the idea that you can get people to believe an idea if they are properly edumecated. The idea itself is inviolably true. And ofcourse the neocons think a certain political system is the best fit for all people.


I just found this quote from an interview with Michele Bachman's husband. "We have to understand: Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps," Marcus Bachmann said. He is talking about gays but is concept he would follow concerning all barbarians. Like Taoists.

It drives home my previous point and shows it isn't just a Leftist idea but a rightwing fundie one also.


Charles I

Fred, who actually rates 4 pages of respect? Surely such a worthy could be covered with "Look what they've done, can't find too many utterly nutty warts, this is a good leader."

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