COUNTERINSURGENCY….The Army’s new counterinsurgency manual is nearly completed, and military sources say that this time they’re really going to adopt its principles wholeheartedly:

The doctrine warns against some of the practices used early in the war, when the military operated without an effective counterinsurgency playbook. It cautions against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees. Instead it emphasizes the importance of safeguarding civilians and restoring essential services, and the rapid development of local security forces.

….The new doctrine is part of a broader effort to change the culture of a military that has long promoted the virtues of using firepower and battlefield maneuvers in swift, decisive operations against a conventional enemy.

This is good news as far as it goes. Needless to say, though, there are several questions still remaining:

  • Is the Pentagon really serious about this, top to bottom? Or is this new doctrine the work of a small cadre of counterinsurgency acolytes, destined to be adopted reluctantly if at all by most battalion and brigade level commanders?

  • A manual is good, but how long will it take to actually train combat brigades to get good at this stuff? A year? Five years?

  • Do we have enough troops to make it work? Do we have enough time?

I have my doubts on all three scores. Still, this is a necessary first step, and since George Bush has made it clear he plans to stay in Iraq it would be nice to hope that it will make some difference. And even if it doesn’t, it’s almost certain to improve our fighting capability in the future.

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