Mono-Focus on COIN?

Mil/Law blogger Phil Carter has a spankin' new blog home over at WaPo, go check it out.

In his most recent post he highlights the thoughts of an Army officer who thinks that his service is taking its Counter-Insurgency strategy too far.

He argues that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars....

"We've come to see counterinsurgency as the solution to every problem and we're losing the ability to wage any other kind of war."...

More fundamentally, Col. Gentile, 50 years old, worries that the military's embrace of counterinsurgency - limiting the use of heavy firepower and having soldiers focus on local governance - means it isn't prepared to fight a traditional war against potential foes such as Iran or China.
I would tend to agree with this statement, and had intended to blog something about my thoughts a while back, but never got around to it. Many have decried the 'Cult of Technology' that left us unprepared to fight the fight we are in, but I simply think that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Perhaps it is a factor that the Army is "all in", and everyone has to learn COIN at the expense of some forces remaining prepared for a conventional, 'force-on-force' fight.

As Carter states, both Gentile and Petraeus are right. In the end it will be a matter of strategic emphasis. My concern is that after so much time in the forefront, COIN will become the "conventional" strategy, and the Army fields that have shed their traditional missions to become defacto infantry in this war, will be unprepared to re-assume those traditional missions. COIN may well reign in the 21st Century, but to prepare for it at the expense of other contingencies could leave us wondering in the future why we were unprepared for a 'heavy' fight.

Carter would also do well to add a major Army name to those who agree with Gentile's thesis. that name would be Barry McCaffrey. In his 18 Dec 07 'After Action Report' (See PDF), he states "We are digging a strategic hole for the US as we mono-focus on counter-insurgency capabilities ---while China inevitably emerges in the coming 15 years as a global military power. "

Lets just hope we can find a way to focus on two things at once.....

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