Small Wars Journal

Landpower: CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM and Discourse

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 10:38am

Landpower: CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM and Discourse

In this update we take the reader around the world ending with three thoughtful articles in Discourse


What Will Happen to Syria's Christians?” published 5 May 2014 by USAWC Press. USAWC SSI’s Dr. Andrew Terrill writes that Syrian Christians are, in most cases, sympathetic to the secular minority Assad regime which traditionally has given them security, although not democracy. The problem for these Christians is that most of them would prefer the Assad regime over Islamic radicals like the al-Qaeda linked Al Nusra Front, but they do not wish to move so close to Assad that they inevitably would be punished to the same extent as pro-Assad Alawites if the Islamist rebels eventually manage to win the civil war.


The Evolution of Los Zetas in Mexico and Central America” published 25 Apr 2014 by USAWC Press. Dr. George W. Grayson writes the United States has diplomatic relations with 194 independent nations. Of these, none is more important to America than Mexico in terms of trade, investment, tourism, natural resources, immigration, energy, and security. In recent years, narco-violence has afflicted Mexico with more than 50,000 drug-related murders since 2007 and some 26,000 men, women, and children missing. Washington policymakers, who overwhelmingly concentrate on Asia and the Mideast, would be well-advised to focus on the acute dangers that lie principally below the Rio Grande, but whose deadly avatars are spilling into our nation.


The POST "Post Cold War" Era in Europe” published 24 Apr 2014 by USAWC Press. USAWC SSI’s Dr. Jeffrey D. McCausland writes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reflects neither strategic wisdom nor military strength. It is important to realize that the longer-term threat posed by this new era does not herald a return to the Cold War.


How to Tell If America Will Remain a Global Superpower“ published 30 Apr 2014 in World Politics Review. USAWC SSI's Steve Metz addresses the US role as an international superpower and that opponents are capitalizing on America’s faltering will and confidence. Still, the rumors of America’s demise may be premature.

Doing More: Landpower and Alliances” published 6 May 2014 by War on the Rocks. USAWC SSI's John R. Deni op-ed in War on the Rocks provides an overview of the SSI publication “Augmenting Our Influence: Alliance Revitalization and Partner Development” that discusses:

  • Pursuing U.S. Strategic Interests in the Asia-Pacific: Pivoting Away from Disorder?
  • Military Soft Power in the 21st Century: Military Exchanges and Partner Development
  • Rebalancing and the Role of Allies and Partners: Europe, NATO, and the Future of American Landpower

U.S. Military Learns COIN Lessons, but They Might Not Be Enough” published 7 May 2014 in World Politics Review. USAWC SSI’s Steven Metz writes that Military doctrine institutionalizes the recent experience of the armed forces and identifies “best practices” for future operations. Now the Pentagon is determined to preserve at least some counterinsurgency capability and to continue refining its thinking with two new counterinsurgency doctrine manuals—a joint one released last November and an updated Army/Marine Corps publication that will hit the streets in the next few days.

We hope you will enjoy these insightful works and we always look forward to your feedback either through Landpower or directly to me.



Bill C.

Mon, 05/19/2014 - 8:12pm

In reply to by SteveMetz

Edited, added to and enhanced:

Dr. Steven Metz, above and re: the new counterinsurgency doctrine, states that he felt that:

" ... the current round of doctrine moved away from the idea that decisive, transformative success was feasible and hence always the objective rather than a rare, best case outcome."

Let us ask ourselves, therefore, the next appropriate question:

What then will become the new and more-common objective of our future intervention and counterinsurgency efforts?

Might the answer to this question be:

To support a government organized, ordered and oriented along whatever lines are deemed appropriate and necessary to maintain order and the continuity/integrity of the state.

This answer possibly stated more succinctly: To maintain the status quo. (Not to change it.)

Herein, efforts to transform the subject state and society more along modern western lines (1) to be deferred to a later date, (2) to be undertaken, ideally, by these rulers themselves and (3) only when these rulers -- and their populations -- have been made to become more receptive to this idea. (This "have been made to become more receptive to this idea" being where we will, now and in the future, apply the bulk of our effort.)

Thus, our political objective -- the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines -- to be achieved via ways and means other than counterinsurgency and/or war.

Why? Because such approaches to transformation (via counterinsurgency and/or war] we now know to be as likely -- or more likely -- to cause, feed, fuel and sustain an insurgency (rather than to "cure" it); and to potentially lead to even graver consequences, such as, the destruction, disintegration or division of the subject state or the re-ordering of its way of life and way of governance along lines that are even more detrimental to US interests.


a. The China/Russia/Vietnam approach to state and societal transformation. (Established leader/leadership makes the decision to transform and undertakes the mission; state and society remain intact during the transition.)


b. The Iraq/Afghanistan/Egypt/Syria/Libyan approach to state and societal transformation. (Establish leader/leadership is or may be overthrown; state and society threatened with chaos, division, disintegration, destruction or with becoming organized along, for example, Islamist lines.)


Fri, 05/16/2014 - 11:21am

Bill C. and I are actually thinking along similar lines. (I only have 1000 words to work with in my World Politics Review column, so often have to leave a lot unsaid).

What I was implying was that the previous versions of US COIN doctrine, which were heavily influenced by British and French thinking from the 50s and 60s, focused on a decisive outcome which largely consisted of creating a partner with an essentially Western organization, priorities, and capabilities.

I never thought that was realistic and believe that in most instances, when the US or any Western nation gets involved in counterinsurgency support, the best it can hope for is containment or management of the insurgency, not its decisive defeat.

I felt that the current round of doctrine moved away from the idea that decisive, transformative success was feasible and hence always the objective rather than a rare, best case outcome. I do realize that each iteration of doctrine can only move so far away from previous iterations, but I was heartened by the direction of change.

From Steven Metz's:

“U.S. Military Learns COIN Lessons, but They Might Not Be Enough"

"But despite the sophisticated thinking in the new doctrine, there are deep problems with the way the United States undertakes counterinsurgency that the military alone cannot fix. One is the possibility that future policymakers will opt to support a regime that is unable or unwilling to take the actions required to root out the political, economic and social pathologies that allow insurgency to take hold. For the United States, a worthy partner in counterinsurgency must be both viable and compatible, meaning that it shares Washington’s interests in eradicating the insurgency and changing the factors that empowered it. Regimes facing insurgency often are unwilling to make these sorts of deep systemic changes and only want to do enough to cling to power and keep aid flowing. Sympathetic U.S. policymakers serve as enablers, leading recalcitrant partners to believe they can cling to power with only superficial reform."

In reading this, one might come to the conclusion that Metz -- like the United States -- sees insurgencies as being caused by:

a. "Political, economic and social pathologies" which require

b. "Deep systemic changes" in order to effect a cure.

Stated in more clear terms, what Metz and the United States seem to be saying is that:

a. The "nature of the disease" (pathology) of insurgency is a lack of western political, economic and social norms. And that, accordingly, the manner in which to "cure" the disease of insurgency is to

b. Institute "deep systemic change" -- along modern western political, economic and social lines.

This is where Metz -- and the United States, I believe -- get it wrong.

The "nature of the disease" (pathology) of insurgency today can more easily be traced to (1) attempts made by the United States and others to (2) transform other states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

This suggesting that -- in order to effect a cure to said insurgencies -- the United States et al. must halt (or dramatically improve upon?) this amazingly (and inherently) disruptive and destabilizing practice.

Here I would agree that this (my concept of insurgency -- as outlined in my last two paragraphs above) represents a "deep problem;" one which the US military alone cannot fix.