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UK Academic on UK Hearts and Minds COIN Strategy

#1
This professor opines that the British "hearts and minds" strategy is ambiguous and that the real discussion needs to more properly be regarding the "justness" of the COIN campaign as well as "government policies, the legitimacy of various tactics, the rules of engagement and the accountability of soldiers, as well as their rights." While this may be correct, what are the "markers" to tell us what is the right course and what are the metrics we are to use to determine that?


Hearts and minds versus ultimate force

September 21, 2009 12:00 am
British and American counter-insurgency strategies are very different. Paul Dixon explains why

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, recently announced the American military’s conversion to a more British-inspired “hearts and minds” approach to counter-insurgency. This aims to concentrate on winning over the Afghan population by, for example, avoiding civilian casualties and promoting reconciliation rather than concentrate on engaging directly with the Taliban.

This change of tack implies the failure of the Americans’ more conventional and violent approach to counter-insurgency, which has caused tension with Britain and other allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US military was inclined to regard Iraq and Afghanistan as existential threats and this reinforced a tendency to the excessive deployment of force with disastrous results. The US assault on Fallujah in April 2004 went ahead in spite of opposition from leading British politicians and soldiers.

One senior British Army officer criticised the US military’s rules of engagement for allowing the use of excessive violence and US soldiers for viewing Iraqis as “untermenschen” – a term used by the Nazis to refer to

“under-people”.

In 2004, General Sir Mike Jackson, stated: “We must be able to fight with the Americans. That does not mean we must be able to fight as the Americans.” This view was endorsed by his successor as head of the British Army (2006-2009), General Sir Richard Dannatt, who in 2006 argued that the British should get themselves out of Iraq “sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems”.

The British Army has drawn a distinction between its more hearts and minds approach and the conventional tactics deployed by the US military. This implied the use of minimum force and a more political approach to managing the insurgency. The British concern in 2004 was that the aggression of US operations in the north of Iraq would hinder British attempts to manage the south in a more consensual way.

In recent years, both the US government and military have been highly critical of the British hearts and minds approach to counter-insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007 the Daily Telegraph described “a minor crisis in Anglo-American military relations’, In Iraq, the British were criticised by the US for their withdrawal from the south, leaving Basra in the hands of the militias.

In 2008, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary under George W Bush, criticised British, Canadian and Dutch troops for their lack of progress in the south of Afghanistan when compared with US success in the east. There have been other criticisms that the British are becoming “Europeanised” – favouring peacekeeping rather than making war, with its operations subjected to the “tyranny of the lawyers”.

The Americans were unprepared for a counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq. The experience of Vietnam had left the US military highly reluctant to undertake a counter-insurgency campaign or even to prepare for one. The British military, drawing on its counter-insurgency experience in the retreat from the British Empire and Northern Ireland, attempted to influence its US counterpart to adopt a less coercive, conventional approach to counter-insurgency.

General David Petraeus, the instigator of the “surge” in Iraq in 2007, was a driving force behind the adoption of the US Army and Marine Corps’ new Counter-insurgency Field Manual (2006), which was influenced by the British approach. In 2008, Petraeus was appointed commander of all Middle East forces, which included responsibility for operations in Afghanistan. He recently replaced the more ‘conventionally minded’ General David D McKiernan with General McChrystal, who is signed up to the new hearts and minds strategy.

While the British approach implies a less coercive and violent approach to counter-insurgency, the phrase is so widely defined that it conceals very different interpretations about how much force is legitimate and in what circumstances.

General Sir Gerald Templer coined the term to describe Britain’s apparently successful counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya (1948-60). He stated: “The answer [to the uprising] lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people.”

“Classic” British counter-insurgency doctrine states that a successful campaign is predominantly a political rather than military battle to win over the people. The government must demonstrate “political will” to succeed and thereby undermine the opposition and win over the local population. Good governance, the use of “minimum force” and propaganda are all deployed to help to persuade the local people to support the side of the government. Local security forces are used because they have local knowledge and are more sensitive to the indigenous population. Finally, all strands of the counterinsurgency effort should be co-ordinated to bring the full force of the state to bear against the insurgents.

The phrase “hearts and minds” does not accurately describe Britain’s highly coercive campaign in Malaya, which – particularly in the early years – was not fought within the law and led to abuses of human rights. The British resorted to high levels of coercion. The Briggs Plan forcibly resettled 500,000 people – about 25 per cent of Malaya’s Chinese population. There were mass arrests, executions, detention without trial, deportations, movement restrictions, control of food, arson against insurgent sympathisers, censorship, collective punishments and the indiscriminate shooting of rural Chinese squatters fleeing army patrols. The most notorious massacre was by Scots Guards at Batang Kali in December 1948. Twenty-four unarmed civilians were shot “while attempting to escape”. Recently, the British Government refused to hold an inquiry into the massacre.

There is considerable ambiguity over what a “hearts and mindsß” approach means. The British preference implies a less conventional and violent approach to counter-insurgency than that practiced by the US military. Other Nato members criticise the British for being too coercive and “macho” in their approach. But different interpretations over what levels of force are acceptable also exist within these various militaries.

A more focused debate on whether force is legitimate and in what circumstances it is legitimate should go beyond the generalities and ambiguities of “hearts and minds”. This means discussion of the “just war” tradition, government policies, the legitimacy of various tactics, the rules of engagement and the accountability of soldiers, as well as their rights.

Paul Dixon is reader in politics and international studies at Kingston University, London. He edited the special issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies on “Hearts and Minds”: British Counter-Insurgency from Malaya to Iraq
http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2009/09/21/hearts-and-minds-versus-ultimate-force/
 
#2
It is no good kicking the hell out of the indiginous population one minute and then adopting a 'hearts and minds' strategy the next. It fails to achieve results and is then abandoned doctrinally as 'unworkable'. You cannot bomb a population back to the stone-age one minute and then expect to make friends with it the next. The doctrine has to be applied consistently and uniformly by the civil and military contributers from the very outset.

Moreover, it cannot work when applied to the lower strata of a society unless it is also applied to that society's 'elite' since the latter is often threatened by the emerging political aspiration of the former and vice versa. It eventually leads to political polarisation. It a country's elite is corupt and remains corrupt with a selectively applied rule of law, then the doctrine achieves little.

Neither is the doctrine of any use where the population is united in uniform hostility to what it regards as an invading and occupying force. There has to be at least a significant proportion of the population that does not regard it as such. This was certainly the position in Northern Ireland where a significant proportion of the population supported the presence of the security forces. If the population is uniformly hostile, then there is no civil suppport, consent and co-operation. If a significant sector of societal support is either not forthcoming or is withdrawn, no amount of force level will ever elicit it. You cannot subdue a unformly hostile population wh has withdrawn its consent no matter how many boots there are on the ground.

The doctrine of little utility when conducted at a purely military level, it has to operate as a component part of an overall political and economic strategy relating to the country's recovery and re-intergration into the international community. It took thirty years for the political and social inequalities which gave rise to the civil rights movement to be addressed in Northern Ireland.

The doctrine does not work overnight. It does not materialise with the building of a new school, hospital or road. The time and sustained effort takes years and is often intergerational.
 
#3
The phrase “hearts and minds” does not accurately describe Britain’s highly coercive campaign in Malaya, which – particularly in the early years – was not fought within the law and led to abuses of human rights. The British resorted to high levels of coercion. The Briggs Plan forcibly resettled 500,000 people – about 25 per cent of Malaya’s Chinese population. There were mass arrests, executions, detention without trial, deportations, movement restrictions, control of food, arson against insurgent sympathisers, censorship, collective punishments and the indiscriminate shooting of rural Chinese squatters fleeing army patrols. The most notorious massacre was by Scots Guards at Batang Kali in December 1948. Twenty-four unarmed civilians were shot “while attempting to escape”. Recently, the British Government refused to hold an inquiry into the massacre.

It worked though, didn't it?!

I would also suggest that if academics and decision makers wish to debate the legitimacy of the use of force/certain tactics, we ought not to be there. Although the article suggests we have adopted a 'Euro-trend' towards peace-keeping only, i strongly disagree. We have a high-end warfighting capability and if, in the course of a counter-insurgency op, a militant group decides to take us on then they are going to get smashed with every method available to us. We are not policemen, and sometimes it is entirely appropriate to kill a fly with a sledgehammer. Perhaps academics with limited real-world experience should make use of a little more empathy from time to time.

Edited to add apologies JJ, my quote function seems to have gone haywire.
 
#4
Iolis said:
The doctrine of little utility when conducted at a purely military level, it has to operate as a component part of an overall political and economic strategy relating to the country's recovery and re-intergration into the international community. It took thirty years for the political and social inequalities which gave rise to the civil rights movement to be addressed in Northern Ireland.

The doctrine does not work overnight. It does not materialise with the building of a new school, hospital or road. The time and sustained effort takes years and is often intergerational.
And that is where labour, via the DFID really shafted the UKs efforts in AFG. They ordered the military not to do any reconstruction activity, and didn't do it themselves because it was too dangerous. (except for some womens rights lectures to some of the tribes!)
 
#5
Good points. While the author might be an academic, the article can give rise to an informed debate and good ideas coming forth.

In any heart and minds campaign, there also needs to be political will. People will not change if they see corrupt leaders in their country being supported and feted by outside powers, and no real change in the way the country will be run once the foreigners leave. All the good work done by the soldiers can be undone in one instance of brutality or abuse of power by the incumbent government the moment our soldiers go home.

And the governments in the countries sending the soldiers should give all the support and time necessary to effect such a strategy. It's no point changing the goal posts every few months, or panicking and prosecuting the moment an incident occurs, as it invariably will in war.

The West seems to be pinning it's hope on Karzai in Afghanistan, a man viewed by almost all the population as corrupt, greedy and a tool of the US. The West should be brave enough to look at alternatives no matter that that choice might not be so amenable to their views but whom the local populace can see as a champion for justice and social change in their country.

After all, it's their country.
 
#6
An interesting article but I think, after a quick reading, that it ignores one critical point. In Malaya, Kenya and to a lesser extent Cyprus, the British were able to "win" because ultimately they were able to promise independence which is what the rebels wanted.

Besides, in Malaya the rebels were from one racial group whose only claim to legitimacy was independence. Once Malaya was granted independence the country has legitimised racial discrimination so the Chinese there are no better off. In Kenya the violence was confined to one tribal group which got the power it was seeking after independence.

This could not apply in Iraq where the violence was often inter-denominational or because there were foreign troops there who were vilified as invaders. Besides, political power was handed to the Iraqis in 2006 but the violence continued on all fronts. I suspect Afghanistan is in the same boat although violence is indemic to the locals.

While it is easy to say that an earlier model should be applied to a new situation the reality is that each conflict has its own characteristics and these should determine the approach. To claim that the UK or the US approach is better is merely cheap point scoring.
 
#8
The aspects of COIN that are relevant today are far bigger than the imposition of the military instrument upon a willing or unwilling population. Given that we (the British) and arguably ISAF, lack a coherent cross governmental consensus and will to take the bull by the horns and push hard across all lines of operations, it seems likely that the military, in Afghanistan, will always struggle to separate the population from the insurgent. Without some form of demonstrative incentive or improvement and whilst we lack the pan-Governmental "War Footing" we will always be fighting (and winning) tactical battles without achieving any measurable operational success. The whole goverment needs to put up and commit or shut up and disappear back into obscurity. We can't walk a middle line on this. This is not even about money any more - just the political will across ministries to see AFG as something bigger than just a problem for MOD. We invented the Comprehensive Approach but seem unable to implement it - the Americans on the other hand, at least seem willing to understand and resource it.
 
#9
Whilst in Theatre, I remember hearing that US Commanding Officers are given substantial budgets to use on reconstruction and goodwill projects in their AORs. This seems to have huge merit because the troops will start to be seen as being a force for good, building schools, med-centres, repairing infrastructure as the local ground commander sees fit.

I am sure the Foreign Office and bean counters will scream in protest but it seems to me that COs are in a far better position to decide how funds will best support the hearts and minds campaign. It should not come from the defence budget but from the Overseas Development funds. In fact why not take all the money that we throw at China, India and other "wealthy" countries and use it to win the support of the Afghan people. I bet Infantry COs will not pish money away on gender and equality issues which ultimately just emphasise our lack of understanding of Afghan culture. They don't need awareness training - they need schools, medical facilities, housing, roads and wells.

COs will need some technical support - there must be specialist TA and Reservists around who can be pulled in to supplement the Regular experts.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#11
US Officers do indeed have large sums to spend on reconstruction, but we do not. Our country is broke, due to 12 years of staggeringly incompetent government.

The use and ‘effectiveness’ of CERPS and other reconstruction funding has been studied at length, and the conclusion reached by one study was that it was entirely worthwhile - but only in respect of force protection (i.e. it keeps the locals sweet, limits IDF, etc). It had minimal, if any, impact on the medium or longer-term views of the population. This raises the valid question of whether it is 'development' work - and therefore a justifiable call on development and aid budgets – or ‘force protection’ – in which case it should come from the Defence vote. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing – less dead soldiers are always good – but not really going to affect the longer-term views of the locals, and if defence related would have to get in line for money along with everything else.

As an example: one CO builds an irrigation system for an important local. Six months the incoming next CO builds a road cutting through it. One CO buys a generator for a local bigwig. The next ... buys a generator (as the previous one was sold). Locals in Iraq and especially Afghanistan are adept at getting the very last cent from all foreigners; they've had many many years of practice and experience.

By the way, both the above examples are true, and from Iraq, but I’ve seen similar cases in Afghanistan. Oh, and in the end it was decided to keep going, as most of the money was American anyway.
 
#12
SkiCarver said:
BaronBoy said:
To claim that the UK or the US approach is better is merely cheap point scoring.
Arguing of whose bucket holds more water while the barn burns?
...or whose holds the least naphtha?

There are of course multiple governments involved rather than simply the single (Imperial) authority as was the case in terms of Malaya, for example. Arguably the military bankruptcy which accompanied the UK withdrawl from Basra pre-COTK, was a result of a lack of moral courage on the part of HMG, not only in respect to a contemporary willingness to sustain casualties, but over generations leading to a situation in which defence was so attenuated that there simply weren't the 25,000 or 30,000 British troop which it would have taken to adequately police the place in the light of joint criminal and Iranian backed militias.

In so far as the UK approach to COIN is concerned, I'm not sure that I subscribe entirely, but there is an argument to suggest that we never did actually get it completely right: simply that over the course of a couple of generations of withdrawl from empire, a few instances were always going to go better than others - and it is these few that we have subsequently come to eulogise as our own successes.
 
#13
Herrumph said:
Whilst in Theatre, I remember hearing that US Commanding Officers are given substantial budgets to use on reconstruction and goodwill projects in their AORs. This seems to have huge merit because the troops will start to be seen as being a force for good, building schools, med-centres, repairing infrastructure as the local ground commander sees fit.

I am sure the Foreign Office and bean counters will scream in protest but it seems to me that COs are in a far better position to decide how funds will best support the hearts and minds campaign. It should not come from the defence budget but from the Overseas Development funds. In fact why not take all the money that we throw at China, India and other "wealthy" countries and use it to win the support of the Afghan people. I bet Infantry COs will not pish money away on gender and equality issues which ultimately just emphasise our lack of understanding of Afghan culture. They don't need awareness training - they need schools, medical facilities, housing, roads and wells.

...
I'm not entirely convinced. Don't get me wrong, the unwillingness of non-mil personnel to de-bus in the face of, 'aggressive sand-flies', is reprehensible and begs the question of why they as individuals are there in the first place. However:

Cast your mind back to the infamous example of the hospital washing machines: an NGO provides white goods to a local clinic which has no facilities for laundering medical linen but DfID refuses permission for the RE to dig a well and provide power to them. Much harrumphing in messes later, it came to light that a significant proportion of the income for three local families resulted from the widowed mothers taking in the laundry from the clinic.

The bigger picture here showed a PR (in the widst sense of the words) and humanitarian issue which was completely below radar. Hardly the Hearts and Minds winning enterprise which was envisaged - with the very best of intentions by the military on the ground.
 
#14
Herrumph said:
I am sure the Foreign Office and bean counters will scream in protest but it seems to me that COs are in a far better position to decide how funds will best support the hearts and minds campaign.
I would heartily disagree with this one. How can a CO with his eye on 'succeeding' over his 6 month stints and his next CR ever in mind be the best person to oversee spending on long-term development projects?

IIRC from 'A Million Bullets' one of the 'success' stories from early Herricks was the number of wells dug by enthusiastic COs as H&M activities. 2 years down the line, the local aquifers had been drained and drought was a major problem.

The Army isn't set up to think in terms of decades at the BG level, let alone the sort of indefinite sustainability that's called for. Tour length, both in country and in post, is the predominant timescale.
 
#15
smartascarrots said:
Herrumph said:
I am sure the Foreign Office and bean counters will scream in protest but it seems to me that COs are in a far better position to decide how funds will best support the hearts and minds campaign.
I would heartily disagree with this one. How can a CO with his eye on 'succeeding' over his 6 month stints and his next CR ever in mind be the best person to oversee spending on long-term development projects?

IIRC from 'A Million Bullets' one of the 'success' stories from early Herricks was the number of wells dug by enthusiastic COs as H&M activities. 2 years down the line, the local aquifers had been drained and drought was a major problem.
From the same book is the story of the washing machine. 3 Para's CO makes much the same point about the army not being given cash in this Times interview:

Equipment shortages aside, Tootal thinks the greatest mistake in Helmand was the failure of government agencies – particularly the Department for International Development – to carry out reconstruction. He says he could have achieved far more with money than weapons.“I was allowed to spend just $250 a month [on reconstruction], then I even lost that, but I could expend millions of pounds’ worth of ammunition in a single day. Just one Javelin missile cost £60,000-70,000,” he said.
He then goes on to tell the washing machine story:

“My biggest regret about Afghanistan is over a washing machine,” says Stuart Tootal. The machine in question was in a hospital in Gereshk in the south of Helmand and was discovered by Tootal’s men on their first patrol in May 2006.

“The hospital sheets were filthy and the doctor said they couldn’t wash them,” he explained. “But we said, ‘You have an industrial washing machine sitting there in cellophane.’”

The US aid agency that had donated it withdrew when the British arrived so it had never been installed.An engineer with Tootal said that could be rectified, but they had not reckoned with the Department for International Development. It saw aid as its area and disliked “quick impact” projects.

“They didn’t want the military going into hospitals and they said we would tread on the toes of an aid agency even though it wasn’t doing anything,” said Tootal. “I said, ‘It doesn’t have to be done under the cloak of 3 Para. We can dress ourselves up as Afghans, do it at night. We just need to fix it.’”

The government officials refused, so for the whole of 3 Para’s six months in Helmand, the machine sat there in its plastic wrapping.
What he doesn't point out is that there was (a) no one in the hospital to maintain the thing, (b) little or no electricity to work the thing, and (c) he'd be putting the ten women who did the washing out of work. DfID may be slow and ponderous, but pondering, as SAC has pointed out with the well story, has its upsides.
 
#17
General Lamb's view is that the Taliban might be 'turnable'.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8261442.stm

He's probably right, in a sense, but the old joke about 'How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the light bulb must want to change' come to mind.

Do the Taliban want to change? Or are they happier in their medieval jihadi fantasy land?

What can we offer them that the warm glow of Islamic self-satisfaction doesn't give them?
 
#18
HectortheInspector said:
What can we offer them that the warm glow of Islamic self-satisfaction doesn't give them?
Personally, I think the only answer to that one would be 'a better crack at power than wrestling it from a Western-backed Kabul government'. Unfortunately, it has to be a credible prospect that the wrestling will take a lot longer than taking our offer of peace. The signs ain't currently good that this will be the case.
 
#19
IIRC from 'A Million Bullets' one of the 'success' stories from early Herricks was the number of wells dug by enthusiastic COs as H&M activities. 2 years down the line, the local aquifers had been drained and drought was a major problem.

The Army isn't set up to think in terms of decades at the BG level, let alone the sort of indefinite sustainability that's called for. Tour length, both in country and in post, is the predominant timescale.[/quote]

Quite right. Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, but I posted some stuff on the 'Afghanistan resources' thread on the horrendous problems of the Afghan water situation.

Concerns over roads, telecoms, healthcare, even basic electricity, aren't the primary problem for your average Afghan farmer. Water is the problem, more so than in some Arab countries, which can desalinate sea water. Water supply and cleanliness would win us more good opinion than anything else, but the problem is so huge it would take decades to put right, and a rotating military presence just isn't set up with the long term institutional memory to do it.
 
#20
One big challenge we faced, at the coy/bn level, was the total absence of any COIN doctrine. The extant manual was quite old and NI specific. As we prided ourselves on being the experts at COIN, we were in for a bit of a shock when the old ways no longer worked. It became clear very quickly, we needed doctrine for the 21st cent.

Whilst we faced increasingly difficult challenges on ops, no progress was being made to get new doctrine written.

In late 2006 a new manual was being drafted. The author, a 70 year old brigadier who was in NI in the early 70s. His 2 year effort ended in failure as the generals at LWC and LAND voiced extreme displeasure at the end result.

A new draft was undertaken by late 2008 and it should be published soon.

That fixes the doctrine failure...now, we need to get DiFD up to date, plus the other aspects of government to assist the Army with winning the hearts and minds. It can nt all come from the barrel of a gun.
 

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