Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dr. Kilcullen, or How I Will Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Surge

Whether you believe the 2007 Iraq war troop surge was effective or not, it is evident that the strategy embraces many of the counterinsurgency tactics advocated by General Petraeus adviser David Kilcullen. The strategy changes the focus of the military from inflicting heavy enemy casualties to winning the hearts and minds of the local population. To win the hearts and minds, Kilcullen suggests, among other things, a higher emphasis on infantry education and more troop presence in towns among the people the insurgents want to recruit. The technique also means a longer presence in country, and soldiers in harm’s way for a longer time. In his 28 Articles, Kilcullen argues that daily deployment of heavily armored troops from remote bases alienates the soldiers from the population. His strategy is to man more outposts among the people and patrol more heavily to build connections and prevent the insurgents from winning popular support.

Journalists in the United States, covering the war from Duluth and Denver, rarely have a background in military strategy or history. They are unfamiliar with General Westmoreland’s strategy of attrition in Vietnam. They expect short wars, fought with minimal American casualties using shock and awe techniques. As a result, what appeared in the media most often was that more troops were needed to put down insurgency. What was missing from popular consciousness was understanding of the way the troops would be used, and how it differed from previous strategy.

If our newfound commitment to Kilcullen’s counterinsurgency articles is to be the foundation of future military strategy, then one of the DoD’s most important goals should be to better explain the techniques to American journalists, and by extension, to the American people. Otherwise, peace through “long war” techniques won’t receive the domestic support required to use the strategy effectively. The DoD needs to give us reasons to quit worrying and love the surge.

1 comment:

Slim_Charles said...

Yes, but do we really want to be going around the world nation building? Where else are we going to fight counterinsurgencies? These seem to involve, for us, overthrowing some foreign government, with the insurgency developing later. Where else do we plan on doing this? I'm asking these questions seriously, not rhetorically.

Do we really want a US military posture geared toward these kind of long, bloody, dirty wars? Do we need to do this whether we like it or not?