COIN Thinking on a Larger Scale Might Work
by Senior Fellow Ivan Eland
After years of “firepower-based slaughter” in Afghanistan and Iraq, taking their toll on local populations, the U.S. military had to re-learn the hard lessons of fighting a guerrilla war in Vietnam: using high-casualty strategies against possible terrorists “alienates indigenous populations, already very unhappy with foreign occupation”.
These same local communities then serve as a support base for enemy combatants, making an approach to “win hearts and minds” all the more crucial and difficult.
Terrorism is crime, yet given that the primary drive to radicalism in the Muslim world is foreign invasion, initially, “police, rather than military action ought to be the action of first response”.
The results of this strategy have been successful in Iraq and are gaining progress in Afghanistan. So the important question, asks Ivan Eland, “is whether a more restrained approach, which has shown some promise as a strategy in various theaters of war, might not also work as a better national grand strategy.”