Tomes revisits a number of classical works on counterinsurgency warfare to reveal common lessons and themes applicable to the current situation in Iraq. He warns that that America's experience in Vietnam offers little for those planning or engaged in counterinsurgency operations and concludes that it will require more than just dusting off the classics of America's military is to fully understand and inculcate the lessons-learned, insights, and perspectives required for successful counterinsurgency operations.
Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare
© 2004 Robert R. TomesThirty years after the signing of the January 1973 Paris peace agreement ending the Vietnam War, the United States finds itself leading abroad coalition of military forces engaged in peacemaking, nation-building, and now counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq. A turning point appeared in mid-October 2003 when US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's memo on the future of Iraqi operations surfaced. His musings about whether US forces were ready for protracted guerrilla warfare sparked widespread debate about US planning for counterinsurgency operations.Little attention has been paid to the theory and practice of counterinsurgency warfare in mainstream strategic studies journals. Discussions of the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA) and RMA-associated technologies for battlefield surveillance and precision targeting dominated defense planning discourse in the 1990s. Nation-building and peacekeeping discussions rarely addressed counterinsurgency warfare, perhaps because nation-building operations during the 1990s did not confront a determined, violent insurgency. Meanwhile, with knowledge about counterinsurgency warfare waning among policymakers, resurgent terrorism scholarship and counterterrorism policy initiatives avoided the issue of a strategic terrorist campaign to destabilize nation-building. More recently, vague historical references and misplaced analogies to Vietnam have muddled discussions of the Iraqi counterinsurgency effort.Lessons and insights from past low-intensity wars deserve revisiting. They provide perspective as well as context for what...