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

The Use of Force in Urban COIN –Conclusions from the British Experience 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?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan….. Vietnam?

The American situation has dramatically changed in Iraq.  Daily the end state seems to gain more clarity and the Administration has just announced that troop strength by the end of 2010 will be approximately 50K.  Given that, attention is shifting to Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is dramatically different than Iraq.  A quick look at geography, history, and demographics, not to mention the nature of the adversary and the geopolitical setting all describe a completely different operating environment.  Also, with the change of political parties in the U.S. and with the U.S. facing significant economic challenges, the domestic U.S. scene is completely different.  Some analysts believe that these circumstances make Afghanistan a more significant challenge than Iraq ever was.  Commentators Ralph Peters and French MacLean have described their views on the strategic situation.  Is Afghanistan more like Vietnam than Iraq?

February 21, 2010 Posted by | H300 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Regular army or militia


If you look at the American Revolution as a People’s Revolutionary War, the revolutionaries had two military tools –the militia and the continental army.  Both served important political purposes.  The continental army forced the British to keep most of their forces consolidated thus limiting their mobility and ability to control ground.  They also represented a conventional military capability that won international allies. The militia controlled all the ground where the British regulars were not physically present and thus ensured revolutionary political domination of the colonies.

Which of the two roles was more important?  Could one have been successful without the other?  Was it impossible for the British to be successful politically, given the problems and limitations of 18th Century military power?

February 2, 2010 Posted by | H300 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

What Counts in Foreign Policy

As I recently have been watching the release of CIA memos and who said what when briefed by the CIA, it underscores the point that the quality of the analysis and recommendations of regional and global foreign policy experts; the professionalism of generals; and the bravery of soldiers matter little in comparison to the ebb and flow of domestic politics. I illustrate this in my paper on the American experience occupying the former Confederate states after the American Civil War. The momentum of domestic politics, dominated by domestic economic and social issues, really are the main influence on the general thrust of American foreign policy. Domestic policy trumps national security most of the time –especially after the emotion of combat has past and the country is faced with the tough and thankless business of post-conflict operations. Soooo… that begs the question: what is the current direction of American domestic policy and how does that effect American foreign policy? Specifically, how does the current economic fiasco and other issues effect our military operations in Iraq and Afghansitan?

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Current Events | , , , | Leave a comment

Dynamics of Urban Control

An interesting discussion in urban operations class today.  It revolved around how do you “control” a city after “seizing” it.  Part of the discussion revolved around what is meant by “control.”  Doest that mean physically control terrain, or does it have a broader meaning which includes the voluntary cooperation of the population.  A similar concept to that of “seizing” and “holding”  as discussed by a recent guest speaker.  The below diagram resulted from the discussion and may illustrate the dynamics of “controlling” an urban area. 


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