While unwinding at the hotel and jacking into these here Internets on its complimentary wifi service (a splendid practice which I hope will become universal), I happened across this article (.pdf) on the Small Wars Journal Magazine. It deals with the nature of the global conflict in which we are engaged, and the methods which we must bring to bear in order to prevail in that conflict. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here's a key graf:
The nature of the international enemy is not terrorism, but a globalized insurgency, which demands the methods of counterinsurgency to defeat it. Those methods emphasize not just military force, but the entire array of tools at our disposal. We must engage in the overhaul of our national assets and structures to defend our way of life. We must do so under a new national security and foreign policy paradigm: The Global Counterinsurgency.
The beauty of conceptualizing this conflict as a global counterinsurgency is that it implicitly recognizes the multimodal and flexible approach which that conflict requires. One of the central tenets of COIN doctrine as I understand it is the context-sensitive nature of its approach to the exigencies in the battlespace. Engaging with the host population on social, economic, cultural, and yes 'kinetic' warfare levels is the nature of the beast.
One of the indications that the COIN strategy and its accompanying surge in troops has been successful thus far in Iraq has been the degree to which coalition forces have been able to secure increased cooperation from the Iraqi population in combating Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), as illustrated by this graph of weapons caches secured (and thus, by implication, of Iraqi tips as to their locations).
The judicious use of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and the moving of troops from big, fortress-like FOBs into community stations in closer contact with the host population has proved to be of incalculable value in reassuring the Iraqis that we are allied with their fundamental wishes for a normal life and for the stability to ply their trades and raise their families and go to Mosque or Church etc., unimpeded by the forces of chaos and brutality. AQI showed itself again and again to be inimical to those hopes and wishes, and the Awakening movements among the Sunni populations, as well as their Sons Of Iraq organizations are living proof that Iraqis are fed up with the vicious and lawless vision offered by the Jihadis.
Therein lies the main value of reimagining the GWOT as a global counterinsurgency. In essence, we are implementing a strategy which views stable, rule-governed sovereign states as watertight compartments against global insurgencies like AQ, et al. Such a vision is very much in line with Thomas Barnett's view of shrinking the "Gap" by [re-]connecting lawless, chaotic, and disengaged regions with the Global, interconnected network of rule-set-sharing, politically and economically stable states which he calls the "Core." The theory is that, as people experience the benefits of being able to trade and otherwise reliably interact with the rest of the world, the attractiveness of militant ideologies begins to drop away. If you can rely on the State to enforce laws and contracts, to keep the peace and punish those who encroach on what you can, with a straight face, refer to as your "rights," then it makes more sense to go through the courts than to take up your trusty Kalashnikov against your errant neighbors. Say what you will about frivolous law suits and unscrupulous lawyers, but they betoken a society in which I would much rather live than one in which matters are settled by glorified gang wars.
Contrary to the claims that the "Bush Doctrine" is antithetical to the ideal of the sanctity of national sovereignty, a Global COIN doctrine is very much supportive of strong, stable States which hold a monopoly on the legitimate exercise of force. It is within such states that people can build their lives and rely on stable political and social and economic structures as the scaffolding for dealing with each other without the need to resort to violence.
Security also involves isolating the insurgency from external support networks. Strong borders are crucial to disrupting the insurgent communications and logistical networks. At the same time, we must recognize that unstable societies and weak states are contagious, regional threats. Where the insurgency finds safe-havens of chaos, instability and the lack of sovereign territorial control– such as Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—threats against our security can metastasize. It is because of this need to contain and compartmentalize the movement of the insurgency, that the stability of remote and seemingly “insignificant” countries are relevant to America’s most basic national interest.
In this, I am reminded of a marvelous article by Ralph Peters in which he lays out the characteristics of failed or failing states. Here's the short list:
- Restrictions on the free flow of information.
- The subjugation of women.
- Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
- The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
- Domination by a restrictive religion.
- A low valuation of education.
- Low prestige assigned to work.
To the degree we are able to shore up a society against the encroachment of these symptoms, we are making an investment in future allies against the spread of the radical ideologies which spring up like opportunistic infections in regions whose social 'immune systems' are compromised by these seven factors.
The upshot here appears to be striving to make the world a more lawful place in general, a kind of global "broken windows" doctrine. Much as you needn't be a Believer in Anthropogenic Global Warming to think it is a bad idea to dump immense amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere when viable options exist, so one needn't be a flaming Neocon to see the expansion of stability and liberty as a good in itself.
Such is the kind of society whose emergence we are currently engaged in midwifing in Iraq. And it appears that the contractions are coming closer together. It is vital that we see this new Nation through its turbulent rites of passage, and that we welcome it into a global community in which its vibrancy will spread like a vaccine through a world increasingly populated with such healthsome members.
I, for one, will drink to that!