Just wanted to flag this graf from Stephen Walt’s post on the suspect merits of COIN. Makes a few good points, I think. COIN is the best answer if one wants to continue the bad policies and decisions we’ve made over the past eight years. We can do COIN effectively now, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
In short, the current obsession with counterinsurgency is the direct result of two fateful errors. We didn’t get Bin Laden when we should have, and we invaded Iraq when we shouldn’t. Had the United States not made those two blunders, we wouldn’t have been fighting costly counterinsurgencies and we wouldn’t be contemplating a far-reaching revision of U.S. defense priorities and military doctrine.
The obvious question is: Does the United States really want to base its military strategy on two enormous blunders?
Read the whole thing here.
On a slightly related note, I watched The Battle of Algiers last night. I think the last time I saw it was in the pre-9-11 days when my brother was at film school.
Now, those who’ve been following the COIN debate will know that one of the great COIN thinkers is Frenchman David Galula, who developed his influential theories during that war. I’ve always wondered how his lessons can be taken in isolation from the larger context without raising red flags–ie, sure, he was tactically successful, but he was using tactics required to maintain a seemingly unjust colonial enterprise. Shouldn’t we, as Americans, stop and think: hey, if we’re using his tactics, maybe there’s a chance we might be involved in something slightly unjust and colonial ourselves? Or at least shouldn’t that possibility be considered?
Watching Battle of Algiers and deciding to adopt the French’s tactics is akin to watching Star Wars and deciding to study the formations of the Storm Troopers, no? (I’m probably being unfair here, as the film is much more complex than that, but I stand by my point for the time being.) But watch the trailer–and if you’ve ever been to a military briefing in Iraq or Afghanistan, Colonel Mathieu’s presentation will seem quite familiar.