Winslow Wheeler: Two Thought-Provoking Pieces on Counter-Insurgency and 4th Generation Warfare

Cultural Intelligence, Peace Intelligence
Winslow Wheeler
Winslow Wheeler

There are some interesting and provocative materials on counter-insurgency and 4th generation warfare at two very different websites.

The Fabius Maximus website has an essay, with many important links, titled “How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game.”  Find it at http://fabiusmaximus.com/2013/09/18/4gw-insurgency-55320/.

George Kenny’s very different and diverse website at electricpolitics.com has an interview with a thinker in the Army, Col. Gian Gentile.  It addresses the various fallacies of the Petraeus/COIN dogma that resulted in the surge in Iraq (the action that allowed some in the US to pretend that “we won” there and the catastrophe now occurring there is some sort of separate event) and that has prolonged the agony in Afghanistan (while we pretend we are preserving something worth preserving). While this interview starts slowly, it becomes very interesting and thought provoking, I believe. Find it at http://www.electricpolitics.com/podcast/2013/09/wrong_turn.html.

I highly respect all the discussants in these two pieces and I defer to much of their knowledge on the subject, which is deeper than mine.  However, there is an element on which I dissent.  They focus much of their energy on how to “win” these conflicts.  I am not at all sure that is the correct focus.  These conflicts (call them whatever you want) occur mostly in very alien societies with massively corrupt, wantonly un-empathetic, and/or grotesquely incompetent governments.  Not only is “helping” the government side the equivalent of pushing a very wet string, but also why is it that we feel compelled to take a side in those conflicts where one side is repulsive and the other is hideous?  Trying to win by taking one of those sides is a fool’s errand, and it has proven our undoing since the end of World War II — and especially in recent years.  That we pretend ourselves to be superior to the culture in these countries, and behave accordingly, does not exactly help either.

The situation in Syria, where we side with one of the many insurgents, is merely a variation on these themes.

There are alternatives; we should be exploring them.