I know, the title makes the article sound boring, but hang with me. The Article takes a lot of thinking, but here are some key paragraphs:
In an effort to get some perspective on at least one major aspect of American military strategy, I decided to plot out all the authors of (public) counterinsurgency policy over the last decade, and the relationships between them.All of these relationships are depicted in this graph, which depicts the degrees of separation amongst the key players.
The resulting network shows that the Obama administration is relying heavily on the talents of a group called the Center for A New American Security (CNAS), which has close ties to the authors of the most recent US Army counterinsurgency manual. This means that Obama is unlikely to break with the current military strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan — but even if he wanted to, could he? Counterinsurgency is difficult, and many, many people die when you do it wrong; you can’t simply make this stuff up, so the choices are necessarily among existing clusters of people and policy.
The graph also suggests that the only quasi-independent body of COIN policy is centered around the RAND Corporation, who may not hold a terribly different opinion. If this analysis is correct, then Obama cannot rapidly change the military’s course in fighting these wars, because there simply do not exist credible alternative policies at this time. His only options for change in America’s handling of Iraq and Afghanistan lie outside of the scope of military strategy — perhaps through high level political or economic interventions.
- President Barak Obama is in BLUE.
- The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is in RED. Notice Michele Flournoy, who was President of CNAS and co-founder, along with Kurt Campbell. Now Ms Flournoy has been nominated for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy--a key appointment.
- The authors of the Army's FM 3-24, the Counterinsurgency Doctrine, are in Green. (This is also the USMC Doctrinal manual). Note General David Petraeus, current Commander of US Central Command is here. Missing is Dr Conrad Crane.
- The chap in YELLOW, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. John Nagl was also one of the authors of FM 3-24, so could be in GREEN, but he got out of the Army to become a commentator.
- In LIGHT BLUE is the RAND Corporation, which has been writing about COIN since French Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) David Galula produced Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice while on assignment to RAND in the early 1960s.
- The GRAY represents the other players, some of whom are important (or may be important), such as Samantha Power, who is working on the State Department transition. Dr Steven Metz is at the Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute. Andrew F Krepinevich is a retired Army Colonel and defense critic at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. I think the Sarah Sewell mentioned is really Sarah Sewall, at the JFK School at Harvard.
Then there is always someone to say that this is all wrong. That honor could go to Spencer Ackerman. Mr Ackerman doesn't like this kind of analysis, and with some reason. Still, it is a way of looking at the new Administration and helping to see where it is going.
So, what do I conclude from this? Counterinsurgency is still "in" for the US Military and it looks like we will be in Afghanistan for a while. But, we will be pulling our combat forces out of Iraq (where they are much less needed these days). How does that French phrase go? "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Wait, that can't be right. Isn't it all about hope and change?
Seriously, thought, we need to have a national talk about Afghanistan, but it may be exactly the right place to double down, given all the problems in the area. And, we need to understand what withdrawal from Iraq means. And, most important of all, we need to know how all this racks and stacks against what is going on in the United States of Mexico.
Regards -- Cliff