On Playing Nice
An article in the June 23rd Christian Science Monitor, “A US patrol gains trust in Baghdad neighborhood,” tells the story of an American unit that gets Fourth Generation war.
When the patrol (in Humvees) passes a busy street, Lieutenant Waters . . . tells his men to get out and start walking. As the foot patrol makes its way through the streets, an old Shiite woman in a black hejab invites Waters into her house. At the threshold, Waters politely waits.
"I don't want to track the dirt from the street into your house," he tells her. . .
Waters is trying to gain the trust of this tense district, where the US has previously been regarded with hatred and suspicion. . .
After long months in this sector of Baghdad, Waters’s company has not killed anyone nor has it lost a single soldier.
"We are not killing machines; we are men," Waters explains. "I think if we can deal with the separation from our families, and not become hardhearted, we might just be able to leave here changed in a positive way.”
"It's just like the Hippocratic oath," he says. “‘First, do no harm.’ "
What has enabled Lt. Waters and his unit of California National Guardsmen to get it right? Lt. Waters is a cop. Specifically, he is a sheriff from Sacramento. He is dealing with the people of Baghdad the same way he deals with the people back home, politely and with a genuine desire to help. His unit has not killed anyone because Lt. Waters knows cops succeed by de-escalating, not by escalating violence. Cops try very hard not to kill people. In fact, cops don’t want to fight at all.
Just as having soldiers who want to fight is important in Second and Third Generation war, so not wanting to fight is key to success in the Fourth Generation. Any fight, whether won or lost, ultimately works against an outside power that is trying to damp down a Fourth Generation conflict. Fighting ramps up disorder, and Fourth Generation entities thrive on disorder. Disorder undermines the local government’s legitimacy, because disorder proves that government cannot provide security. Fighting usually means that locals get killed, and when that happens, the relatives and friends of the casualties are then obliged to join the fight to get revenge. Violence escalates, when success requires de-escalation.
Great little snapshot. The commentary sums up some pretty essential truths too.
Not so sure about this:
Here we see another lesson for 4GW: Reserve and National Guard units are more valuable than regular troops. Why? Because they contain a lot of cops. Lt. Waters is not the only cop who has succeeded in Iraq. Other Guard and Reserve units have let their cops take the lead, working the same way they do back home to de-escalate violence and bring security. Like Lt. Waters, they have achieved some local successes.
I'm open to the argument being made here but Lind really doesn't demonstrate causality and I have to say that it runs contrary to my personal views on the issue.
First off, while the example employed by Lind is undoubtedly a demonstration of a small unit leader who Gets It, there's absolutely nothing to say that army regulars can't get it too. Of course they can - and they do. In the US Army although grasp of the issues is very uneven there are plenty of junior officers who understand the concepts involved just as well as a policeman might. In the British Army such an attitude is a commonplace - though with the resolution, allegedly, of the Ulster situation, it is an open question whether this situation will continue.
I'd also note that there are a number of factors that need to be considered alongside Lind's assertion regarding the suitability - let alone superiority - of reserve/Guard/TA forces:
- Ironically given the slant of Lind's piece, most of the abuse - abuse which Lind will tell you, correctly, can easily have "strategic" implications in this type of warfare - that has taken place in the GWoT so far appears to have been carried out by reservists.
- Staying power - both in terms of public support and in terms of forces being able to remain in country long enough without rotation to truly understand their areas of operation - is absolutely key to the type of war being fought. Reserve forces tend to degrade staying power in both its forms.
- Successful practitioners of pre-1991 "classical" COIN operations (an area that can be a very surprising blind spot for some 4GW theorists, in spite of its blatant relevance) rarely favoured reserve troops for reasons including the notable increased tendency to abuse and - in direct contrast to Lind's stance - insufficient discipline and nerve to adhere to very stringent and restrictive ROE
- On a more minor note, again somewhat ironically given that Lind sees it as a key plus point, the fact that a large number of "First Responders" are reservists/Guardsmen/Territorials means that extended reserve deployment abroad can result in the emergency services - police, firemen, medics, civilian NBC specialists - being strip-mined to provide troops for service in country, thus severely weakening homeland resilience. Graham Allison has pointed out, persuasively in my view, that one of the problems raised by the Iraq campaign has been that a large number of the people with niche skills who would be required in the event of a catastrophic terror attack in the USA (and in the UK - the British Army is especially reliant upon reserve medical troops, all of whom are drawn from equivalent civilian jobs) have been shoehorned into uniform and shipped off to the Middle East. In the big scheme of things it's a relatively minor point, but one well worth considering.