COIN - four choices, no more

It's still interesting that COIN (counter insurgency) offers so many challenges to Western Forces and that they rarely seem to be successful as the British were in Malaysia (their COIN campaign allowed Malaysia to become an independent nation, kind of democracy instead of a Maoist state dominated by a Chinese minority).

There are really only four major paths for soldiers in control of a foreign nation:

1. They treat the indigenous population badly. The result is an insurgency that's fought against with many troops.
Result: Now they're not liberators or ambassadors of freedom - they're occupiers, oppressors...bad guys.

2. They treat the indigenous population badly. The result is an insurgency that's suppressed by killing many people. This is the Mongol version of COIN, which was also used in ancient times by Alexander the Great and many times more in history. Anyone who uses this method is a barbarian and guilty of genocide.

3. They treat the indigenous population badly. The result is an insurgency. The will of the indigenous population is stronger because their own country is the battlefield and the occupying nation's will is weak because the costs far outweigh the benefits of a continued COIN campaign. Now the occupiers are losers.

They don't want to be bad guys, mass murderers or losers? Then the 4th variant should be their choice!

4. They treat the indigenous population with respect. If nevertheless an insurgency arises, the population is considered rather to be an ally than the foe. Violence is so strictly limited against identified insurgents that the occupiers have probably even more casualties than insurgents and civilians together (as the British had in Northern Ireland).

Why is it so difficult for some NATO armies to maintain discipline and good behaviour once they're in a (previously) hostile country? It's the NCO's job to keep the discipline.
It's easy to predict what happens when you treat people different than you would treat your own people. If you shoot people unknown to you 100m in front of your checkpoint just because you believe they were too fast ... well, that shows that you don't value their life as you would if you were at home on checkpoint duty. Soldiers should always ask themselves "What would I do if they were my people?"

Driving through a city, ramming civilian cars with an armoured vehicle to force them to change the lane just to allow you faster driving is simply insane.
Crazy tings like this happen, and it's too obvious that neither a "hearts and minds" campaign nor the clash of wills (wills to support an ongoing war by either nation) can be won in such a style.

There are so many COIN strategies available, but none of them is both acceptable and promising without dependence on disciplined soldiers that limit their violence and respect the population.

Many COIN strategies focus on dividing civilian population and insurgents and to drag the population on your side by offering them real, lasting economic and/or political advantages ad protection. Enlisted soldiers and NCOs who disrespect the civilian population using depreciative nouns like "Haji" or "Skinny" for them and behaving like feudal or colonial masters do easily and reliably sabotage their general officer's strategy and therefore mission success.
They waste the taxpayer's money, their comrade's and possibly their own health and life and lots of time spent by the soldiers in that country.
Ultimately, they'll fail because of lack of decent behaviour and discipline.


1 comment:

  1. You points are valid and true, but you are flat out wrong for asserting that NATO forces do not have discipline nor respect for indigenous people.
    If anything, they are too respectful, and let things slide that they should not, such as pedophilia, rape and corruption among the locals, not to mention aiding, and actually being the enemy.
    Too much politeness makes for weakness. They plant IED's behind our backs, we pretend not to notice, all the while building things for them and giving them billions of dollars.
    No bueno from a strategic perspective.