From War Is Boring: U.S. Should Think Twice Before Rushing to an All-Counter-Insurgency Force Some U.S. military leaders are arguing that an over-emphasis on counter-insurgency is dangerous. U.S. âWeâve come to see counterinsurgency as the solution to every problem and weâre losing the ability to wage any other kind of war,â Army Colonel Gian Gentile said last year. Iâm not entirely convinced, but Colonel Gentile does raise an interesting issue. Even in this era of failed states and non-state actors, itâs not unthinkable that we and our allies could be pitted against conventional forces, albeit crude ones. Think back a few years to the Balkans, where heavily armed Serb military and paramilitary groups launched campaigns of ethnic cleansing and murder in Bosnia and Kosovo. These were not rag-tag guerrilla forces trying to blend in with the local population â they were well-trained and equipped forces, with artillery and armor. It wasnât until NATO hit these groups with missiles that they began to stand down. For a more recent example, recall Afghanistan in 2001. At the time, the Taliban were the dominant political and military power in the country. During the invasion, U.S. air power helped the Northern Alliance and U.S. ground troops break Taliban lines. Iâm not trying to be anti-COIN here. Far from it. It was our failure to shift tactics in the aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan (and later Iraq) that allowed the insurgencies to take root. COIN is the name of the game right now: soft power, training indigenous forces, civil development and winning hearts and minds. But we shouldnât forget that COIN is not the only kind of potential battle out there. Today the military is mostly worried about building stuff, but it could very well be called upon to break things later. We need to be flexible. Consider: In Darfur, the Sudanese government has used tanks and helicopters to de-populate villages, and is smuggling arms to rebel groups in neighboring countries. In Myanmar, weâve seen the Junta use conventional troops to ruthlessly hunt down political opponents and seize aid. In Zimbabwe, an unpopular, corrupt government clings to power through brutality and military might. In North Korea, we see an oppressive regime becoming a nuclear power. Increasingly, the worldâs âbad actorsâ mix conventional troops with insurgent tactics, in a form of âhybrid war.â (Marine General James Mattis has emphasized this point.) Tackling these challenges might mean an equally hybrid response, with fighter jets and destroyers lobbing high explosives, and COIN ground troops following up, post-combat. Itâs important that we recognize the wide range of threats we face today, and have the right tools and the strategies to deal with each.