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Critical, Forward Thinking and Patience: Recipe for Success in a Counter-Insurgency Campaign

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Critical, Forward Thinking and Patience: Recipe for Success in a Counter-Insurgency Campaign

Paul R. Kinsey

United States Army, Sergeants Major Academy

H-100

22 July 2010

Abstract

In this essay we visit three factors, that if combined, contribute to success in counter-insurgency operations. Patience, forward thinking, and ability analyze all situations and operations using critical thinking are the factors that are reviewed. Contributing to the "argument" are two campaigns. The 3rd Armored Cavalry's campaign in the Sunni Triangle, which proved successful at applying these three factors and the Cuba campaign of 1900, which with one factor missing, resulted in eventual loss of a critical U.S. interest.

Critical, Forward Thinking and Patience: Recipe for Success in a Counter-Insurgency Campaign

The debate is over. Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations are difficult and complex to conduct and there is no single manual proven to have all the answers on how to win a counter insurgency campaign. The question is however, what is, if any, the winning combination for COIN success? The legitimacy of this question has been validated by the fact that the Army still must adjust and update it's tactics, techniques and procedures in today's theatre of operations. Today's Army leaders are constantly using examples from lessons learned in theatre to adjust their training regime as they prepare their units to deploy. Factors that lead to success of individual units must take into account many complex details, but what are overriding themes for that have contributed to success from past campaigns that the Army can turn to guide it through today's COIN operations? The combination of three ideals that have proven to contribute to tactical and strategic success in past campaigns are, having leaders at all levels who are forward thinkers and planners, leaders who use critical thinking to analyze and conduct today's complex operations, and having leaders and policy makers that have the patience to see it through. The Iraq campaign, specifically the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the troubled Sunni Triangle, is one example where the combination of all three ingredients eventually resulted in success. The Cuba Campaign of 1900 is an example where one missing ingredient resulted in the eventual failure to establish U.S. interests in that country.

The Campaigns

To thoroughly analyze the root causes for success or failure in a particular campaign, a brief history of how the campaign was conducted is a must. As we re-visit these campaigns, keep in mind that one of the keys to any COIN operation is to focus on the people, not the enemy (McMaster, 2004).

Something is Missing in this Soup

In 1900, as the war against the Spanish was drawing to an end, Cuba found itself in an utter state of chaos. Local government had long since become an empty shell of it's former self and had soon become virtually non-existent. Basic infrastructure and along with all commerce was so destitute that shambles is the only way to describe it's state. Agriculture suffered tremendously. Of course, the result was an extreme rise in unemployment, which in turn propagated an extreme rise in criminal activity. Enter a forward thinker. Maj. General John R. Brooke. He became the first commander and military Governor of Cuba. His mission, and the mission of U.S. forces, was to create a safe and secure environment where a stable, U.S. friendly government could take hold. The U.S. forces designated for this mission numbered at 11,000 Troops. M.G. Brooke's first order of business was to establish a local government. While this government was in it's beginning phases, the forward thinking Brooke was able to pay, the now unemployed Cuban Soldiers, a salary. This tactic began a snowball effect where the locals felt a sense of security. Soon M.G. Brookes began to create employment and with the assistance of U.S. Troops, commerce services started to spring up throughout the region. With all the positive programs in place, Brookes was able to demonstrate America's ability to improve the quality of life, thus keeping any thought of an insurgency at bay.

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