World Politics Review: COIN is Dead: U.S. Army Must Put Strategy Over Tactics


Categorie: Afghanistan, COIN, World Politics Review |
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2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2-173 Infantry in Dangam, Kunar, March 30, 2010. David Axe photo.

2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2-173 Infantry in Dangam, Kunar, March 30, 2010. David Axe photo.


There is perhaps no better measure of the failure of American strategy over the past decade than the fact that in both Iraq and Afghanistan, tactical objectives have been used to define victory. In particular, both wars have been characterized by an all-encompassing obsession with the methods and tactics of counterinsurgency. To be sure, the tactics of counterinsurgency require political and cultural acumen to build host-nation governments and economies. But understanding the political aspects of counterinsurgency tactics is fundamentally different from understanding core American political objectives and then defining a cost-effective strategy to achieve them. If it is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past decade, American strategic thinking must regain the ability to link cost-effective operational campaigns to core policy objectives, while taking into consideration American political and popular will.

In war, results count. And in Iraq and Afghanistan, the gap between promised outcomes and actual, meaningful results is enormous. In Iraq, Al Qaeda continues to carry out numerous, deadly attacks every month against Iraqi security forces. The fundamental political issues that divide the country’s ethno-sectarian populations have yet to be resolved, and America will leave the country with its regional adversary, Iran, in the driver’s seat. Afghanistan seems to be headed down the same road. Unfortunately these actual results have been obscured by the false promise of the tactical methods of counterinsurgency

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2 Responses to “World Politics Review: COIN is Dead: U.S. Army Must Put Strategy Over Tactics”

  1. JWest says:

    1. COL Gentile gets back to the core arguments I have heard from him in the second to last paragraph.
    2. No sane person can argue against a military structured to deal with the full gamut of threats: from low-level insurgencies to state against state meeting engagements.
    3. Do think we could have achieved our objectives in Iraq and still can in Afghanistan.
    4. The achievement of those objectives have proven too costly for our leadership to stomach. Very similar to Vietnam.
    5. Perhaps the most intimidating and intractable cost has been that of the time necessary for their accomplishment.
    6. In a word: generational.
    7. For political leadership whose thinking and objectives are of very limited scope, such demands are incomprehensible.
    8. The electorate are also accustomed to issues that are resolved quickly and simply.
    9. Gulf War I fits this mold -even if untidy bits and pieces have been popping up on the radar screen, ever since.
    10. Hope your stand on Big Army against the COINistas has not damaged your prospects.
    11. Suspect you wouldn’t care, anyway.
    VV/R JWest

  2. Barbie says:

    Please join us at Facebook! We tell it like it is!

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