Ralph Peters goes after the new counter-insurgency doctrine here as “dishonest and cowardly.” He argues that it “would be a terrific manual if we returned to Vietnam circa 1963, but its recommendations are profoundly misguided when it comes to fighting terrorists intoxicated with religious visions and the smell of blood.” This is true, but I think Ralph still misses the point.
Counter-insurgency warfare is based on the idea that not everyone in a given country is an enemy combatant. If everyone were, all we would have to do is kill and destroy. That would be very easy (if terribly bloody). But many, many people aren’t, and so you try to win those people over to drain the combatants of support, making it easier to kill them or negotiate with them, depending on what makes most sense (in Iraq, some combatants just have be killed, others might eventually be convinced to give up the fight short of that).
Ralph pours scorn on the notion of talking to tribal chiefs. But if they can determine how much hostility you are going to encounter in a given area, why wouldn’t you talk to them?
Finally, he says in his conclusion that the counter-insurgency doctrine shows “we’re afraid to fight.” This is very unfair. No one is saying we shouldn’t try to kill the bad guys in Iraq, only that it is also important to try to influence the fence-sitters with positive inducements as well.
And counter-insurgency isn’t for cowards. It is what has our very brave soldiers out patrolling in Baghdad rather than sitting in their large bases.