The United States “is not good at counter insurgency and never has been”, according to George Friedman, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Forecasting. He also calls for an end to the limitedly successful Surge in order to redeploy troops to Kuwait or the uninhabited south west of Iraq, so that they might “flank” any expansive Iranian moves toward Saudi Arabia (for example). First and foremost, the lessons of 2003 to 2006 in Iraq show Iraqi and foreign resistance/insurgency is inversely proportional to the size of the U.S. or U.K. footprint. Dr. Friedman’s analysis calls for a reversal of successful policies in favor of those that demonstratively failed only months earlier. Dr. Freidman is so wrong as to deserve a full rebuttal.
HUMINT: The idea that the U.S. is not good at counter insurgency is flawed. The U.S. largely abandoned counter insurgency and guerilla tactics in the aftermath of WWII, in favor of a Cold War induced stalemate, intentionally encouraged by the infamous policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). But there’s far more to the history of American insurgency and counter insurgency than WWII and the MAD stalemate that followed it.
It would be disingenuous to suggest recent history [the last fifty years or so] encompasses all trends, or even the most important long term trends. Long term trends better represent the engine and its fuel that maintains economic growth and sustains American’s national morale.
While any long term outlook naturally calms average Americans familiar with their nation’s history, the genuinely calming effects of understating long term trends does not work on individuals with SDHSM syndrome. SDHSM is an acronym for the political disease known as Self Defeating, Hyper-Spastic, Masochism (SDHSM, also pronounced sdism)]. This rebuttal is not necessarily accusing Dr. Friedman of having SDHSM but his recent commentary shows symptoms of the disease.
Indeed, recent history and spectacular attacks can thoroughly distract policy makers and their advisors who suffer from SDHSM. The disease can be a debilitating to a nation at war, but rarely fatal. SDHSM is a contagious disease that spreads more rapidly among the true believers of the religious cult I refer to as Non-Confrontationalism.
Pfizer and Merck should seriously consider teaming up to find a cure for SDHSM syndrome. In the mean time, those with a natural immunity to SDHSM; historians, logicians, analysts, current and former members of the United States military, have a particularly important mission. Their job is to keep the nation on track. So consistent is the SDHSM phenomenon in fact, some contingent of politicians always insists on reversing their nation’s course at every nervous precipice. It’s like a socio-political twitch.
Washington DC, arguably the most powerful city in the world today, is particularly susceptible to distraction, political reversals, non-confrontationalists and sufferers of SDHSM. To its credit, or discredit depending on your point of view, Washington DC is a city of lawmakers who appear to hop erratically from one distraction to the next, rarely solving crisis with any observable coherent democratic consciousness. Instead, crisis mounts into an untenable situation and finally a group of technicians is called in to Get-er-done! It’s not pretty but it proven effective time and time again…
Therefore it’s wrong to suggest the United States has never been good at Counter Insurgency. Throughout its history the U.S. performed admirably as insurgents and counter insurgents. From the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Texas Revolution, Americans have shown their allies and enemies alike, great competence on and off the battlefield. The only argument to refute such gallantry comes from the perspective that all violent conflict represents failure and must be eliminated. It is an argument that stems from of moral relativism that makes distinguishing between gun wielding cops and gun wielding criminals impossible.
Nature is clear on this point. We are what we have to be, or we go extinct. The notion that the U.S. has not been good at counter insurgency is wholly separated from its direct and indirect need to be good at counter insurgency, at home and abroad. Free societies are always accessible to every disgruntled malcontent and are therefore ripe for insurrection. As an open society the United States must be on guard against foreign and domestic insurgent threats.
Throughout their history, Americans have performed admirably as insurgents and counter-insurgents; as revolutionaries and guerillas; as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. There is more fight left in Americans than Dr. Freidman might imagine. Looking at the trends, good or bad at counter insurgency is an issue of supply and demand. It’s not a choice. Insurrections will continue to occur and their occurrence will demand Americans be good at counter insurgency.
Consider this tactical forecast: Americans will continue to improve in the art war while they recall their legitimate legacy on the subject. Expect violent clashes around the world to continue without a break. Anticipate decisive American victories to come.