War, Counterinsurgency and Prolonged Operations

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 12 months ago

Sun Tzu, ”The Art of War,” II.6:

“Thus, while we have heard of blundering swiftness in war, we have not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged.” 

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” II.21:

Hence what is essentialy in war is victory, not prolonged operations.  And therefore the general who understands war is the Minister of the people’s fate and arbiter of the nation’s destiny.”

The “Small Wars Manual,” 2-9(d):

“The initiation of a campaign before adequate preparations have been made, may well be as fatal in a small war as in regular warfare.  Prolonged operations are detrimental to the morale and prestige of the intervening forces.  They can be avoided only by properly estimating the situation and by evolving as comprehensive, flexible, and simple a plan as possible before the campaign begins.”

Letter from al Qaeda high command to Zarqawi:

” … prolonging the war is in our interest.”

Concerning timeliness and adequate force projection, the counsel to us from the “Small Wars Manual” is clear and without compromise:

? … when forced to resort to arms to carry out the object of the intervention, the operation must be pursued energetically and expeditiously in order to overcome the resistance as quickly as possible.  The campaign plan and strategy must be adapted to the character of the people encountered.  National Policy and the precepts of civilized procedure demand that our dealings with other peoples be maintained on a high moral plan (sic).  However, the military strategy of the campaign and the tactics employed by the commander in the field must be adapted to the situation in order to accomplish the mission without delay.?

“The force must be of sufficient strength and so proportioned that it can accomplish its mission in the minimum time and with minimum losses.?

We turn now to contrast this point of doctrine with the recently released draft U.S. Counterinsurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24.

Section 7-11: “Military leaders emphasize to subordinates that, on the battlefield, the principles of honor and morality are inextricably linked.  They do not allow subordinates to fall victim to the enormous pressures associated with the strain of prolonged combat …”

Section 7-12: “Leaders remain aware of the emotional toll that constant combat takes on their subordinates and the potential resulting psychoneurotic injury.  Such injuries can result from cummulative stress over a prolonged period, witnessing the death of a comrade, or killing other human beings.”

Section 8-51: “COIN forces may have to provide logistical and security support to judicial activities for a prolonged period …”

Section D-3: “Because Congressional support is necessary to the success of any prolonged involvement of U.S. forces in actual operations overseas, the central legal basis for such involvement within domestic law is often provided in a Congressional resolution.”

Section D-26: “Even when judicial functions are restored, COIN forces, (sic) may still have to provide logistical and security support to judicial activities for a prolonged period of time …”

In our best efforts to date, are we still failing to learn the art of war from the warriors who have gone before us?




You are currently reading "War, Counterinsurgency and Prolonged Operations", entry #359 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Small Wars,Weapons and Tactics and was published October 30th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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