April 28, 2007

Air Force Symposium on Counterinsurgency

Air University hosts COIN symposium

By Carl Bergquist
Dispatch Staff Writer


Air University hosted the 2007 Air Force Symposium on Counterinsurgency Tuesday through Thursday where speakers shared their views on counterinsurgency, or COIN, in the present day warfare environment, and the Air Force’s role in COIN operations.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Lorenz, Air University commander, predicts counterinsurgency symposiums such as this will change perceptions on how to fight the global war on terror. “Winning an insurgency is bigger than Iraq and Afghanistan. Doctrine will change,” General Lorenz said of the symposium. “It’s also going to involve economy, politics and interagencies.”
Among the speakers during Tuesday opening day presentations was Dr. Colin Gray, who is the chair of International Politics and Strategic Studies at the University of Reading, United Kingdom. He is a political scientist with broad interests in national security policy, strategic theory and military history.
“Insurgency, or irregular war and warfare, are a global phenomena, and they always have been,” he said. “I am providing an Anglo-American perspective because that is what I am and know best.”
Dr. Gray said irregular warfare is “an old, old story” and so are the methods applied to waging it. He said today’s motives for irregular warfare, supposedly so modern, even postmodern, lead some commentators to speculate about new wars as contrasted to old wars when they are not really different.
“Irregular warfare, of necessity in common with its Thucydidean motives, is about power: who gets it, and as a rather secondary matter, what to do with it,” he said. “COIN is about the control of people and territory, not the remaking of civilizations or even cultures.”
Following Dr. Gray’s presentation was Dr. Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Titling his presentation “Minting COIN,” Dr. Crane spoke about the principles and imperatives for combating insurgency. He also spoke on his role as the lead author of the Army and Marine Corps’ new manual on counterinsurgency, FM3-24.
“The first real COIN doctrine came about in 1863 during the Civil War in the form of ‘General Orders 100,’” he said. “The problem was it was episodic and brief.”
Dr. Crane said the world really became aware of a coherent body of theory about insurgency following World War II when a number of empires deteriorated, and the result was revolutionary upheavals.

“Along with the propagation of ideas from Mao, Che, Marighella and Giap came a corresponding attempt by counterinsurgents to develop their own set of practices and principles,” he said. “Mostly British and French writers, their tenets were a product of many years of struggle in theaters from Algeria to Malaya to Vietnam, along with observation of many case studies.”

Dr. Crane said when the Army/Marine Corps manual writing team began their work, they turned to these “sages of the past” to develop a baseline list of principles upon which to build the new doctrinal manual. Past experiences, together with more contemporary observations, provided the framework to discuss the pursuit of a successful counterinsurgency campaign.

Dr. Crane also talked about what he called the “primacy of political factors,” which addressed the success of a new government resulting from counterinsurgency.
“Rarely are counterinsurgents successful with purely military action. Usually peace is restored with some sort of political solution that addresses the root causes of the insurgency, or creates broad popular acceptance for the government,” he said. “Counterinsurgents must stay focused on their vision for the political end-state that will establish a legitimate government.”

Dr. Crane said his team had less than a year to write the new manual, which will probably require a revision in the next couple of years.
“To the best of their ability, the writing team attempted to combine the wisdom of the past with an appreciation for current realities in an attempt to shape the future,” he said. “But, in accordance with the imperative to learn and adapt, these ideas can’t be locked in stone. As the Long War continues, they must continue to be perfected and refined.”

The last to speak Tuesday was Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
The general spoke about the Air Force’s role in COIN and irregular warfare.
“COIN and irregular warfare are about people, not platforms,” he said. “It’s about control of a population, not control of an adversary’s force or territory.”
General Newton said the United States has a tendency to build things, then destroy them, then re-build them, and he called this tendency the “Phoenix Cycle” in reference to the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes.
After WWII and the Korean War, he said, the country’s irregular warfare capability was disbanded and had to be resurrected for the next conflict.
“Today, what needs to be done is to develop concepts and identify technology that improves the Air Force’s and partner air forces’ capability against insurgents,” he said. “Doctrine development; advising foreign air force leaders and staff on strategy and concepts; operational aviation training; advisory assignments in key countries; and working with other services and agencies to develop integrated COIN efforts is our last real challenge.”
General Newton said the Air Force’s combat and support roles go beyond training and advising to include close air support, air mobility, new and enhanced concepts and capabilities, and information operations that tailor the force to respond quickly.
“We need to acknowledge and embrace COIN and IW as major missions,” he said. “We need to make education, training, retention and recruitment priorities, and institutionalize and re-capitalize the Air Force. That will make it a more capable force.”
Some other speakers during the three-day workshop were Gen. Ronald Keys, commander of Air Combat Command, and Maj. Gen. Donald Wurster, deputy commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.
Intermixed with the speakers were 11 workshops designed to focus attendees on developing new ideas on counterinsurgency and the Air Force role in this difficult mission.
“We are honored to have these great speakers at the symposium because they provide stimulating thought,” General Lorenz said.

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