The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Digital COIN

An interesting article on a relatively new army simulation at this link.

Has anyone worked with this sim and if so, what were your experiences? Positive, negative, in between? Does it benefit units and leaders preparing to go downrange?

September 30, 2011 Posted by | COIN, military history, Professional Military Education, Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Book Review: A Chance In Hell

A short excerpt of my review of the new book that covers the actions of BG MacFarland’s brigade in Iraq:

A Chance in Hell is one of the most important books written thus far on Army operations in Iraq.  The lessons in the book will be obvious and important to lieutenants and captains as well as colonels and generals.  It describes the close relationship between company and platoon tactics, brigade operations, and regional and national strategy.  It clearly describes the tactics, techniques, and procedures  of  the population centric approach to counterinsurgency.  Michaels demonstrates the criticality of cultural understanding to success at all levels of COIN operations. Finally, and most important, the book  highlights the importance of leadership to tactical and operational success.  The tough decision making, and the inspiring example of the leaders of the “Ready First” brigade come through as the critical element in the brigade’s success; a success that was the operational tipping point in the war in Iraq. 

For more information on this book click here for the book website.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | books, COIN, Current Events, Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Use of Force in Urban COIN –Conclusions from British Army operations in Northern Ireland

A major lesson to be learned for the British experience in Northern Ireland is regarding the use of force.  During the second phase of British operations in NI the British military strategy was a symmetric approach.  The PIRA used force (bombings, assassinations, sniper attacks etc.) and the UK forces responded with increased overt security operations (raids, check points, patrols, arrests and detention etc.).  British operations were focused on metrics which measured the military capabilities of the PIRA.  Though not unimportant, this was not the center of gravity of the of the PIRA.  The center of gravity of the PIRA was the support of the Catholic population of NI.  

PIRA attacks against British targets rarely garnered popular support from the Catholic population (A).  However, overt British security operations against the PIRA elicited great popular sympathy for the PIRA in the Catholic population (B).  Over time, this gradually built up significant sustained support for the insurgency and provided a friendly population that reliably provided recruits and resources.  This cycle could only be broken by systematically not responding to attacks with overt security operations.  Instead, the response had to be covert –precisely targeted with little or no public signature.  In addition, a very thorough information response had to be orchestrated.  This response emphasized the illegality and immorality of the attack and labeled the insurgents as terrorists (C).  This type of response decreases public support for the insurgency.  Over time this strategy gradually weaned the population from supporting the insurgents.  It also had the effect of greatly increasing the HUMINT provided by the population to the security forces (D).

The British security forces began to recognize this dynamic in the late 1980s.  By the early 1990s a change in British strategy began to have effects on the situation in NI.  By the middle 1990s Sinn Fein, the political arm of the PIRA, began to push for a change in strategy.  The PIRA recognized that armed struggle was causing them to lose the support of the population and therefore it was imperative that they change their strategy to one of negotiation while they still retained significant popular support.  Hence the negotiated cease-fire between the opposing factions in NI and the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Another aspect of COIN operations illustrated by the history of the NI “troubles” is the definition of victory.  Given that the current situation appears to be proceding to a democrat solution, who won?  Did the PIRA and Sinn Fein achieve their objective of creating a means of uniting Ireland (through democracy), or did the British government win because violence has ended and democratic process are dominant?






February 6, 2010 Posted by | H300, Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Reviews: Urban Warfare Books

The following are short book reviews done by students in A620, The History of Modern Urban Operations:


A Savage War for Peace, by Alstaire Horne.


A Savage War of Peace is an epic story of the history of the final eight years of struggle of the Algerian people for independence. 

After reading the book and then the modern reviews of the book one has to wonder how the press could give such an inaccurate account of the actions of our Soldiers in Iraq.  While there are parallels, likening the Algerian war for independence to the Iraq occupation differs immensely.

MAJ Blaine Wales


The Sling and The Stone – On War in the 21st Century, by T.X. Hammes


COL Hammes shows how we as a military are failing to address the challenge of 4GW (4th Generation Warfare) and that without major political and military reform we are destined to fail.  He uses historical references to show how, through minor adaptations, that small less powerful organizations have systematically defeated large conventional armies.  The book is extremely useful for all levels of command by bringing adaptations of Mao’s principals of insurgency to light in the tactical, operational and strategic environment.

MAJ Dan Kidd


Battle for Hue, by Keith W. Nolan


The Battle for Hue, as captured by Keith Nolan, is an extensive chronology of combat actions fought in an urban environment during the TET Offensive of 1968.  Written predominantly through the eyes of the Marines that fought in and around Hue, the third largest city in South Vietnam, Nolan uses both Marine Corps Archives and firsthand accounts from over 35 Service Members to present a very comprehensive view of one of the longest and fiercest battles during the US participation in combat operations in Vietnam.

MAJ Jason Marquiss


No True Glory, by Bing West


This Book No True Glory is about the American fight against the insurgency in the year of 2004. The Author, Mr. Bing West, wrote this book based on time spent with strategic Leaders and with the Soldiers and Marines in the Infantry Battalions at the final Battle of Fallujah. This book covers the Final Battle of Fallujah in-depth at the Company and Squad leader level.

MAJ Darren Keahtigh


November 7, 2008 Posted by | books, Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strategic Communications

Some interesting insights on the subject from the Army War College:

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Admin, H300, leadership, Urban Warfare | | 1 Comment

Mao Theory and Urban Insurgency

Mao’s three phase protracted revolutionary war theory can be used to analyze an urban insurgency’s strategy.  Even if the insurgent is not following a Maoist strategy, Mao is a useful analytical tool. 


View Mao’s three phases as three simultanious lines of operation.  Over the course of three temporal phases, different lines of operation become the priority, though the other lines continue to operate.

The LOOs are flexible.  The insurgent advances to the next phase when the previous is successful.  Should there be failure or lack of progress in a particular phase then the insurgent falls back to previous phase and begins again.

This is a deliberate process that can take years or even decades to achieve success.

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urban Insurgency Model

The basic elements of urban insurgency can be reduced to a model (see below).  This visualization of the dynamic elements of urban insurgency can help identify the elements in play in any given situation and the relative strength of those elements.  In the model the size object indicates the relative influence.

In the above model you have a relatively capable and important government institutions (police, fire, government etc. –dark blue) inside the urban environment (lighter blue).  There is a small but identifiable criminal element (black).  Also there exists a small but viable insurgency (orange) who are pursuing three lines of operations –political, guerrilla, and conventional military.  Their primary focus, at this particular time is military (outlined in blue).  The insurgency is supported by rural support areas (dark dark) as well as by nation states hostile to the city government (red).

In the below model, the insurgency is much more complex.  There are no friendly governmental institutions.  There are multiple insurgencies pursing different strategies.  A large non-state actor is supporting the insurgencies.  In addition, there is a large criminal element operating in the city.

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Urban Warfare | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Virtual Library

All military professionals should be aware of the huge amount of online resources that are out there that consitute a virtual professional library.  The cool thing about this virtual library is that it doesn’t take several hundred pounds of professional book boxes to move around with you and you can often access it while deployed.

My advice is to have a prof. library file in your favorites list that at a minimum contains the following links:

  1. The Strategic Studies Institute Publications
  2. The Center for Military HIstory Publications
  3. Google Books
  4. CARL Digitial Library
  5. RAND Publications

If you know of any other databases that can be considered essential for military professionals let me know.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Admin, H300, leadership, Urban Warfare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Successful Occupation Operations

In a class on the occupation of German cities by American forces during and after WWII the central question of the class was why was the occupation of the Germany (and Japan by extension) so successful, and current post-conflict operations in OIF and OEF so difficult?

Several alternatives were discussed:

  1. The U.S. army was very prepared for occupation in WWII –executing robust planning and resourcing of the mission.
  2. The culture of the WWII leadership were more aware of the necessity of occupation operations.
  3. The occupied populations were more politically sophisticated and thus more easily coached toward democracy.
  4. There was a greater cultural affinity with the German people than with developing world populations that are the subject of contemporary operations.
  5. More time was available to prepare for occupation operations.
  6. A common threat, the Soviet Union, united the occupied population with the occupying army.

All of the above probably had some impact on the successful occupation.  However, it would be my thesis that military experiences of the senior army leadership –extending in the case of Gen. Marshall all the way back to the Philippine Insurrection, made them very aware of the strategic necessity of robust post-conflict operations.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Urban Warfare | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UO Doctrine and FM 3-06

What is the UO Framework?  Is it a useful construct or does it just repeat concepts that are already well described elsewhere in doctrine?   If its useful, how is it useful? 

The Big question:  Do we really need specialized doctrine for UO?

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Urban Warfare | , , | Leave a comment