Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

COIN theory stated with brutal clarity

Old Exum makes this very clear (below). For example, a census is conducted not to be nice, but to figure out who is supposed to be where. Col. Gentile, if you are within the sound of my voice, I’d be interested in your comment. For the rest of you, file his third paragraph below in ...

tazmobile/Flickr
tazmobile/Flickr
tazmobile/Flickr

Old Exum makes this very clear (below). For example, a census is conducted not to be nice, but to figure out who is supposed to be where. Col. Gentile, if you are within the sound of my voice, I'd be interested in your comment. For the rest of you, file his third paragraph below in your "Revisions to be made to FM 3-24" file.

Where U.S. and allied officers, diplomats, and development specialists persist in thinking they can earn collaboration through the provision of services, counterinsurgency operations are fated for heartbreak. Winning "hearts and minds" does not mean what it is widely assumed to mean but rather what it actually says in FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency

"Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts.

Old Exum makes this very clear (below). For example, a census is conducted not to be nice, but to figure out who is supposed to be where. Col. Gentile, if you are within the sound of my voice, I’d be interested in your comment. For the rest of you, file his third paragraph below in your "Revisions to be made to FM 3-24" file.

Where U.S. and allied officers, diplomats, and development specialists persist in thinking they can earn collaboration through the provision of services, counterinsurgency operations are fated for heartbreak. Winning "hearts and minds" does not mean what it is widely assumed to mean but rather what it actually says in FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency

"Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts.

Hearts and minds is about power and control. And if you actually study the way the U.S. military went about its counterinsurgency operations in Iraq in 2007 and continues to go about them in Afghanistan, it’s less about doing good works and more about both killing the enemy and establishing control measures over the population. This kind of counterinsurgency is not as fun to talk about with non-governmental organizations or aid workers (Mike Miklaucic being an exception), but it works better than the softer, kinder alternatives.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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