Further Links to the Post-COIN Era

I appreciate the time and attention that folks put in on commenting about or linking to the previous post, whether it was by blog or bulletin board. Here are a few more:

Thomas RicksToasted Eikenberry?  Gives ZP a quick nod  (and a great flow of traffic). Thanks!

Thomas P.M. Barnett – The Zen of COIN

Dr. Barnett was annoyed by my use of Col. Bacevich as a foil. I can sympathize because I don’t much agree with Bacevich either, but used him because he represents a policy constituency. I recommend taking a look at how Tom walks through the DoD institutional meta-picture that encompasses the narrower “domestic politics/fiscal woes hitting COIN” approach I took yesterday:

1) Remember the larger distinction between the operating force (out there in the regional commands) and the institutional force back home (which trains up and equips the operating force). The “ascendancy” of COIN as the reinstatement of long-discarded tactics and operations has occurred overwhelmingly in the operating force. Why? Simply the compelling need created by insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There has been no real ascendancy of COIN within the institutional force, where advocates like John Nagl have argued long and hard for more appropriate training and force structure. While the training has come, as had the doctrine (the two are deeply linked), no serious observer would subscribe to the notion that US military force structure has been subverted to the small-wars orientation….

2) There is a natural frequency/load rate associated with U.S. military interventions abroad, something I explored in PNM. Generally, there is a combined capacity on the part of the regional commands to be able to put troops in countries and do things. Pick a generic level of effort, like 20k troops engaged in security ops and humanitarian assistance and training of local militaries (which, in sum, is very COIN-like). If you add up the combined capabilities of the regional commands, you can come up with a general sense of how many such ops they could collectively mount and maintain at any one time. For purposes of discussion, let’s say it’s a dozen such sized ops, with Pacom owning several, Eucom a few, Centcom probably the most, etc. If we’re in Iraq and that’s using up seven such units of capability (an out-of-my-ass estimate), and Af-Pak eats up four more, then, at any one time, we can mount something small on the side (like 10k troops in Haiti right now) and not much else, meaning, once the system hits near-capacity, there’s no logical discussing of additional units of effort. That’s been true for a long time, really since the Cold War’s end, when our frequency of contingency ops inside the Gap took off in both absolute frequency and length of operations (a subject I explore at length in PNM)…..

T. Greer“COIN, Meet Democracy (And Your Doom)” | T. Greer — The Scholar’s Stage

Greer OTOH, sees much more of what I perceived the other day – the feedback loop between economic problems, domestic political angst and strategic policymaking:

….But the political situation back home never seemed to be a real concern for the COIN theoreticians. Fascinated by case studies, distracted by factional debates, and anxiously engaged in developing “new paradigms” and operational approaches, politics fell to the wayside. It was quite astounding to see men who were so acutely aware of the political dynamics of foreign locales so completely disregard Washington’s own political constraints. Domestic politics was simply not a part of the discussion.

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