Air University hosts counterinsurgency symposium

  • Published
  • By Carl Bergquist
  • Air University Public Affairs
Air University officials hosted the 2007 Air Force Symposium on Counterinsurgency April 24 through 26 here and speakers spoke on counterinsurgency in the present day warfare environment and the Air Force's role in counterinsurgency operations. 

Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz said counterinsurgency, or COIN, symposiums such as this will change perceptions on how to fight the war on terrorism. 

"Winning an insurgency is bigger than Iraq and Afghanistan. Doctrine will change," General Lorenz said. "It's also going to involve economy, politics and interagencies." 

"Insurgency, or irregular war and warfare, are a global phenomena, and they always have been," said Dr. Colin Gray, the chair of international politics and strategic studies at the University of Reading in England. He is a political scientist with broad interests in national security policy, strategic theory and military history. 

Irregular warfare is "an old, old story" and so are the methods applied to waging it, he said. Today's motives for irregular warfare, supposedly so modern, even postmodern, lead some commentators to speculate about new wars as contrasted to old wars when they are not really different. 

"Irregular warfare, of necessity in common with its Thucydidean motives, is about power: who gets it, and as a rather secondary matter, what to do with it," he said. "COIN is about the control of people and territory, not the remaking of civilizations or even cultures." 

"The first real COIN doctrine came about in 1863 during the Civil War in the form of 'General Orders 100,'" said Dr. Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute and the lead author of the Army and Marine Corps' new manual on counterinsurgency, FM 3-24. "The problem was it was episodic and brief." 

The world really became aware of a coherent body of theory about insurgency following World War II when a number of empires deteriorated, and the result was revolutionary upheavals, Mr. Crane said. 

"Along with the propagation of ideas from Mao, Che, Marighella and Giap came a corresponding attempt by counterinsurgents to develop their own set of practices and principles," he said. Done by "mostly British and French writers, their tenets were a product of many years of struggle in theaters from Algeria to Malaya to Vietnam, along with observation of many case studies." 

When the Army/Marine Corps manual writing team began their work, they turned to these "sages of the past" to develop a baseline list of principles upon which to build the new doctrinal manual, Mr. Crane said. Past experiences, together with more contemporary observations, provided the framework to discuss the pursuit of a successful counterinsurgency campaign. 

Mr. Crane also talked about what he called the "primacy of political factors," which addressed the success of a new government resulting from counterinsurgency. 

"Rarely are counterinsurgents successful with purely military action. Usually peace is restored with some sort of political solution that addresses the root causes of the insurgency, or creates broad popular acceptance for the government," he said. "Counterinsurgents must stay focused on their vision for the political end-state that will establish a legitimate government." 

"COIN and irregular warfare are more about people, than platforms," said Maj. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, the assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. "It's about control of a population, not necessarily control of an adversary's force or territory." 

General Newton talked about the "Phoenix Cycle," referencing the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes. After WWII and the Korean War, he said, the country's irregular warfare capability was disbanded and had to be resurrected for the next conflict. 

"Today, what needs to be done is to develop concepts and identify technology that improves the Air Force's and partner air forces' capability against insurgents," he said. "Doctrine development; advising foreign air force leaders and staff on strategy and concepts; operational aviation training; advisory assignments in key countries; and working with other services and agencies to develop integrated COIN efforts are a real challenge." 

The Air Force's counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations go beyond training and advising to include close air support, air mobility, information operations, among others, plus new and enhanced concepts and capabilities, allowing a tailored force to respond quickly, General Newton said. 

"We need to acknowledge and embrace COIN and IW as major missions," he said. "We need to keep education, training, retention and recruiting among our priorities, while we recapitalize the Air Force. That makes us a more capable force." 

Other speakers included Gen. Ronald E. Keys, the commander of Air Combat Command, and Maj. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, the deputy commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. 

Intermixed with the speakers were 11 workshops designed to focus attendees on developing new ideas on counterinsurgency and the Air Force role in this mission. 

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